Bing WMT had a great time this week presenting at Women 2.0 in San Francisco. It was exciting to see so many startups moving forward and to watch the prizes awarded for the pitch competition. Well done to everyone!
Before we get too far into this post, just a quick reminder that Thursday, January 21st at 9AM PST (12 noon EST) will be the last in our six-part webinar series. This one will cover Tomorrow’s SEO and we’ll look at what you should be focused on for tactical SEO, as well as review the skills an SEO will need to maintain their careers as the space evolves. Sign up here for this next webinar, and the earlier ones are available right here in the Webmaster Tools blog.
One of the areas that was of particular interest this week in SFO was the areas a business should invest their time in online, and how to prioritize them. Startups and established businesses often face the same issue, which is the need to do less with more. Drive traffic, yet spend less time doing so. Drive sales, but cut marketing costs and so on. It’s a tough spot to be in, but we’ve all been there. If you’ve got suggestions of your own to help cure this problem, drop them in the comments below. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown from our point of view, in order of importance.
This is number one for an excellent reason. Content is what searchers are looking for. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that searchers only want log pages of text, either. They may only need snippets of content – such as the temperature, which hardly requires paragraph after paragraph to illustrate.
But in most cases, you will need to provide some depth of content. The days of “thin content” (using the minimum amount of text to cover a topic in an effort to cut the time it takes to create content) are largely behind us. Those types of sites simply don’t provide the value searchers are looking for.
Ecommerce sites often suffer from issues around this, as much of their content comes from external sources and it’s not realistic to write 500 words for each of 10,000 products. What they can do, however, is identify the high value content (high value to the website AND high value to searches as identified through their analytics). By doing so, they often find the number of actual products they should craft unique content around becomes much more manageable.
There’s no denying social is here to stay, and for good reason. We are all social animals, as human beings. We seek positive feedback from peers, we seek affirmation for decisions and so on. Social blended with search helps engines bring forward more accurate results. By understanding searchers better, we can better serve them.
From a business POV, there now exists the unique opportunity to leverage the “online word of mouth” that social encourages and tap into those feelings that drive most of us every day. If a business encourages people to engage and friend them on Facebook, for example, their “friends” may show up under their SERP listing. If I recognize one of my own friends as someone who has liked that business, I’m much more inclined to engage that business myself. My friend may never have mentioned your business to me, but their thumbs up via social spaces is a clear signal I can trust you, too.
Another reason social is so important today is due to the timing. Social signals around a topic, item, or product that’s going viral get seen very quickly by engines. That’s a signal to use that something is up and we should investigate.
Further to this, like a crow don the beach draws others to see what’s happening, a social crowd around your brand draws the engines to investigate. If you’re popular with a group of people, we may opt to rank you higher to see if you’re a quality result for our searchers.
Too many businesses skip this step, but here it is in plain view: usability will affect how people engage with your site. It can affect their experience, their perception and their desire to recommend you to friends or follow you socially. It can affect how they navigate, what they see and how they buy…or don’t buy.
Given a choice between paying a consultant for SEO advice, or doing usability testing, opt for usability testing. It’s far more enlightening and often you’ll see greater up front returns from this work that with SEO (remember, SEO is a long game).
We did usability testing before launching the new Bing Webmaster Tools back in June and it opened our eyes. People who were actual webmasters were mystified by our old navigation, labels and had little idea how to get work done in our tools. That usability testing changed how we labeled buttons, how we grouped content, what content we produced, the visual layout of the page, the colors used within the tools and more.
Oh yeah, it might be obvious, but we’ll say it – if people love your site, and squawk about it, the engines see that and want in on the action, often ranking the site higher to test it with searchers. Prove to be a searcher favorite and you’ll enjoy high rankings for a long time to come.
This one is pretty simple. If you’ve nailed the content, invest in social and have an excellent user experience, you’ll get all the link you’ll ever need. Buying links is a dead end, a waste of money and potentially dangerous, so avoid that practice. Pretty much all the link building you’ll ever need will be accomplished indirectly.
If you’re stuck in history thinking “links shall save thee”, well, you need to get with the times.
At the back of the pack is SEO. It’s still important to optimize a website, so you should cover the basic best practices around SEO. Would I rewrite the code base of my large site to allow the use of H2 tags – nope. Would I make sure that same site has H1 tags that can be edited if needed – yes.
The basics of SEO are well known, so there’s no need for any business to invest in poor consulting (which happens way to frequently). If you’re in charge of SEO for your company, you’d better get up to speed enough to at least know if that consultant you hired knows their stuff. Tools like our SEO Analyzer can help by giving you reports of what SEO work is needed. Talk to your consultant to see if what they suggest covers the same points. If they’re good, they’ll cover a lot more than we show you.