Movin’ On Up in Search Results: Link Building and Keyword Ranking

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Today’s Y!Store blog is another guest column by long-time Yahoo Store owner and developer Rob Snell of Snell Brothers. Rob blogs about Yahoo Store, speaks at search conferences about Yahoo Store, and is the author of the Yahoo Store book: Starting a Yahoo Business For Dummies.

Rob has submitted posts before but this time I asked if he could give his thoughts on the Search Marketing Expo: SMX Advanced earlier this month in Seattle. The following is a distillation of Rob’s takeaways from the sessions, parties and conversations. –Paul

Just back from Seattle and Danny Sullivan’s second annual SMX Advanced (Search Marketing Expo), and I’m writing this post on the plane and up in my hotel room at Internet Retailer 2008 at the McCormick Center in Chicago. A client was teasing me about how I go to more Internet Marketing shows and conferences than any other retailer he knows. The main reason I go is to soak my brain in this week-long conversation with friends. Someone, somewhere is going to say something that just clicks in my brain which gives me an idea that will increase my sales. I’m almost never seen without my notebook because I want to have that bottle ready when lightning strikes.

Most of my action items were ideas I got from something the speaker said which directly applied to one of my own stores. Many of these To-Do’s are the things I know I need to do, but it’s always good to get a kick in the head. Since SMX ended last week I’ve already implemented two SEO tests on a couple of my Yahoo Stores that could double the effectiveness of my SEO, which right now delivers about two million visitors a year to these sites. Cross your fingers!

Many takeaways were on what NOT to do – deceptive tactics to watch out for, many of which unethical competitors may be using on you. All were added to my list of sneaky blackhat SEO tricks. I would recommend NOT doing anything that’s against the Webmaster Guidelines of the search engines unless you are prepared to get banned from Google, Yahoo, and/or MSN.

The last class of Day 2 was the session called “Give it Up” where the most notorious and infamous of all SEO’s shared some ranking and link building secrets that no attendee can share until 7/4/2008. Ping me after the 4th for some awesome ideas!

SEO Gap Analysis

My favorite session was "Analytics Every SEO Needs To Know" moderated by Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz) with speakers: Brian Klais (Netconcepts), Laura Lippay (Yahoo), Jonah Stein (ItsTheROI) and Richard Zwicky (Enquisite). All of the speakers addressed the economic implications of moving up (or down!) in the organic search results (SERPs) for various keywords.

Click-through by Search Position

Most Yahoo Store owners know that the higher the position in the natural results, the more clicks they get, but since no search engine releases click-through rate by position it’s kind of hard to tell when your rankings are good enough! What’s the difference in traffic for the store ranking, say #7 for a keyword and ranking #3 for the keyword? Well, now we know…

Last year, AOL released a very large sample size of search user data and some propeller heads crunched the data and figured out click-through by search position. For more info see this post. Now, AOL users typically are beginners and n00bs and are much less sophisticated users than the average surfer using Google, Yahoo or MSN, but at least this data gives us a baseline:

From the AOL search user data (somewhat simplified):

  • ~90% of AOL users clicked on Page 1 results
  • Less than ~10% of AOL users clicked on Page 2 results
  • Almost no one clicked on Page 3 and beyond

So you want your Yahoo Store to be on the Page 1 for all your best keywords! But it looks like the 83% of the clicks go to the top 5. If you’re not in the top 5, you have some work to do!

Out of 100 organic clicks on Page 1 of AOL search results:

  • #1 position gets 47 clicks
  • #2 position gets 13 clicks
  • #3 position gets 9 clicks
  • #4 position gets 7 clicks
  • #5 position gets 6 clicks

And it drops off precipitously from there: #6 and #7 get 4 clicks each, and #8, #9, and #10 get a measly 3 clicks each. Yuck!

Laura Lippay had an Excel spreadsheet which was great for doing gap analysis. It showed your current ranking for a keyword, number of searches, visitors who clicked, number of orders, and revenue. With that information and the above click-though percentages by position, you can tell what keywords are worth chasing in the natural search engine listings on Google, Yahoo and MSN.

Also, you can make your own! If you know where you rank for a keyword using rank checking software (like Web Position Gold) and how many clicks you get from that engine for that keyword using your analytics (say IndexTools or Google Analytics) and if you track that on a daily basis, you have a pretty good idea of your own click-through rate by position.

Finally, when you know the number of searches for a phrase, there’s a cool tool you can use to see how the clicks distribute across the various engines. See http://seoblackhat.com/clicks-by-search-rank.html.

Here’s a real world example that I can share without giving away the store. For a given time period, my Mom’s Yahoo Store which sells dog training collars, pet containment systems, and dog houses got this real world traffic and sales:

KEYWORD: “dog first aid kits”

  • 400 visitors
  • $150.00 in sales
  • 4 orders (averaging $37.50)
  • Conversion rate was exactly 1%
  • That’s 37-cents in revenue per visitor.

I’m #3 on Google right now for “dog first aid kits” with the page www.gundogsupply.com/firstaid.html which is a section page. What would happen if I moved up in the search results? First, let’s look at the other guys to see how hard it would be …

The #1 guy has 29 backlinks to his page. (See: Yahoo Site Explorer results.) Ok. That’s an article page. Looks like he’s syndicating an article with anchor text rich links back to this article. Article syndication is a pretty easy way to get links, but it’s also pretty easy to beat.

The #2 guy has 223 backlinks to his page. (See: Yahoo Site Explorer results.) Yikes! That’s his homepage. He should be #1. If he just added “dog” to his TITLE tag, and/or got a couple of links to his site with “dog first aid kits” I bet he’d be #1. Hope he doesn’t read this blog post!

The #3 guy (that’s me!) has 314 backlinks to his page. (See: Yahoo Site Explorer results.) Most of those are internal links from my site navigation. I click the dropdown to “Show Inlinks: Except from this domain” to see only off-site or external links and I get nothing! I see a couple of old store.yahoo.com links, a link from one of my other sites, and the rest are links from a scraper site.

My section page has NO quality backlinks from other sites, yet I rank #3 for a decent keyword. This shows the importance of internal linking, especially when you have a trusted, older domain.

The text in those internal links comes from the text in the NAME field, so it’s very important to use good keywords in the NAME field. Also, maintaining good internal links is another reason why you have to be so careful when doing a site redesign or anything that affects your site-wide navigation.

Anyway, to boost my rankings, I could get some good external links (links from other Web sites) by paying for them (boo!) or by sponsoring a canine health site or sometimes just by asking for links.

Getting links is hard work, but is it worth it? If I jump up to #1, I’ll have a five-fold increase in traffic and (hopefully) revenue, so is the 5x extra profit worth it for the effort of link building? I think so…

Note: The 1% conversion rate tells me I’m not doing something right. Either our prices are too high or folks coming to this page are looking for something else, maybe not a hunting product. This is where you have to make a gut check to see what YOU need to do.

Hoo boy. That’s only one SMX takeaway. And I have 13,999 other keywords to check. And that’s just one store…

SMX Advanced was truly for advanced SEO folk. I think this is the first time I ever attended every single class at a conference. Usually I play hooky and skip a class or two and catch up on my sleep, but not at SMX Advanced. The SEO classes were unbelievably valuable. Over the two full days I took well over 30 pages of notes in my little black Moleskine. After digesting and rewriting them I now have over 13 double-spaced pages of action items and takeaways, some of which the kind folks in Sunnyvale are going to let me share with y’all hopefully in the very near future. Time to get to work!

Rob Snell
Somewhere in the Windy City…
Guest blogger for Yahoo Small Business

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Comments

Great info Rob. Thanks for sharing! I’ve got some work to do myself now with this information. A couple things I see related to “dog first aid kits” rankings:
1. You could add “kits” to the first keyphrase in the title tag and H1: “First-Aid Kits for Dogs”.
2. Don’t overlook Google Products. They hold the rankings above the organic results.
3. Conversion rate improvement… try a featured product/first aid kit on that page with a larger photo. If conversion rate improves for that product, maybe try larger photos on the category pages????

I know, I know, easier said that done with everything you have on your plate. Just my 2 cents.

Comment by HawksM — July 1, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

I have a weird situation. My site was once a PR 3… now my homepage has slipped to a PR of just one. I was under the impression that getting reciprocal links was a waste of time – Google will ‘see’ what’s going on and will reward neither site with ‘authority’ points.

Comment by Donald — August 19, 2008 @ 11:31 pm

To improve your conversion rate it’s necessary to see what kind of people are landing on your page in the first place . What keywords/phrase they used, did they came from the organic results, refers or PPC, bouncerate etc..

Only if you know these details you can try different versions and start testing with different items/pictures/colors on that page.

A very good an free tool to monitor your visitors click behavior is crazyegg.

Dave

Comment by Dave — August 22, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

Yeah, it is pretty interesting to see just how many people actually click on the top result. I think other studies show something like 56% click on the #1 result at Google. The numbers jump down drastically as you get into the #3 and #4 range.

Comment by pond kits — December 20, 2010 @ 2:18 pm