Rob Snell Gives the Scoop on SMX Advanced

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Today’s Y!Store blog is yet another guest column by long-time Yahoo Store owner and marketer Rob Snell of Snell Brothers, located in sleepy Starkville, Mississippi. Rob is a retailer who has sold dog training collars on his Yahoo Store since 1997. Rob also blogs about Yahoo Store, speaks at search conferences about Yahoo Store, and is the author of Starting a Yahoo Store For Dummies.

Just back from Seattle & SMX Advanced

Search Marketing Expo (SMX) is one of Danny Sullivan‘s many search marketing shows. The Seattle show, SMX Advanced, is labeled that way so the speakers can dive off pretty deep into some pretty heavy topics without worrying about leaving the new folks behind. This show, like PUBCON, is for the heavy search geeks!

The programming at SMX Advanced was so intense, I couldn’t justify partying like a rock star and risk missing some new important nugget or idea. This was the first search conference EVER where I went to every single class. I only slept in through the keynote.

SMX Advanced is also a 2-day show, but I took 79+ pages of notes in my little black Moleskine notebook. More than half of my notes were ideas for getting links, or increasing conversions, or other marketing ideas triggered by something someone said in a presentation or during a bar conversation. Some of my SEO friends tease me about my little black notebook, but it’s ironic that they’re the first ones to call me to get copies of my notes!

Nothing is radically new this year

I’ve been going to search marketing shows since 2001, and the more I go to, the fewer brand new things I tend to pick up. For me, the major advantage of attending is seeing the same information in a somewhat different light, meeting like-minded folks at meals and in between sessions, and catching up with old friends. Search marketing shows are also great for getting out of your daily routine, letting your mind wander, and figuring out what you want to do next, marketing-wise!

A buddy of mine was bellyaching that “he paid $3500 for flight, hotel and tuition, and he didn’t learn anything radically new.” Did he get any ideas? “Yes, tons.” Great. Now he also knows his SEO chops are completely current.

In 2009, SEO is still all about TITLE TAGS and LINKS

As you probably know, on every page you want your best keywords for that page in a descriptive TITLE Tag. Yahoo Stores are SEO-friendly right out of the box because TITLES are generated by the NAME field, or PAGE-TITLE field.

You also want the same keywords you want to rank for in the anchor text of links pointing to that page. These links should be both from your Yahoo Store (navigation, breadcrumbs, links in CAPTION fields, and thumbnails/text links on category pages) as well as from lots of other sites. For more info check out some earlier posts of mine: Converting Keywords, Southern-Fried SEO, and How to Get Vendor Links.

What IS new in SEO for 2009?

Link diversity

Link diversity (having links from different domains and different IP ranges) is somewhat more important for SEO than it has been in the past. For example, 20 links from one site isn’t as good as 20 links from 20 different sites on different domains.

Want to see how many unique domains link to you? Check out SEOBook.com’s Aaron Wall’s tool here: http://tools.seobook.com/link-tools/backlinks/backlinks.php.

Want to see Ystoreblog.com’s backlinks? (May take a bit to load!)

I show 1 Unique Government Domain (*.gov, *.mil) with 1 Unique C Block Addresses and 74 Unique Commerical Domains (*.com, *.net, etc) with 59 Unique C Block Addresses.

One of the SEO superheroes, Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ.org, discussed the upcoming release of his 2009 Search Engine Ranking Factors report, which is coming out this July (here’s the last one). Every year or so, Rand surveys top SEOs and compares their opinions with real data from reverse engineering top-ranking sites for hundreds of popular keywords. This year, “Everything’s the same + link diversity” sums up my notes. Rand said he believes that even “nofollowed” links (links that don’t pass PageRank or anchor text) DO count towards domain diversity.

Nofollowed links are links that have the attribute “rel=nofollow”, which was something the search engines invented to stop blog spammers. Nofollowed links really don’t give you any SEO benefit because they don’t send PageRank (link popularity) or anchor text. For example, all the links in comments on this blog are nofollowed.

Duplicate content and the Canonical Tag

One new thing Google and the other search engines came up with earlier this year to help ecommerce sites battle same site duplicate content problems was to come up with the Canonical tag. Matt Cutts has a great post on everything you need to know about the canonical tag right here.

Ironically, Yahoo Stores don’t need canonical tags because we have SEO-friendly static URLs (like www.storedomain.com/page.html), so our stores don’t have the problems that a lot of other carts do like dealing with dynamic URLS with all these parameters.

Also, you should consolidate all your pages into one domain using the Store Manager’s 301 settings. This permanently redirects all store URLs and your non-www URLs to a single domain, which consolidates your link popularity. Read this helpful Domain Redirect Setting help file for more info.

Oh, yeah! One possible Yahoo Store use for the canonical tag is so you get SEO credit for links tagged with parameters like links from some affiliate programs, click track, internal campaigns, or even tagged banners.

For example, search engines would see a link to http://www.storedomain.com?s=affiliate&id=8675309 as a completely different link than http://www.storedomain.com. I have some SEO tests running right now, and I’ll report back if/when we find something.

PageRank Sculpting (Just say no!)

In the “you shouldn’t play with fire” category, was the PageRank Sculpting controversy. Sculpting PageRank is the practice of using NOFOLLOW tags to squeeze PageRank around on your site to maximize your link popularity on only your most important products and pages. That sounds like a good thing, right?

Nope! 99.9% of Yahoo Store owners shouldn’t even think of messing around with PageRank sculpting because it’s not unlike like shaving with a chainsaw. Horrible things can happen if you do something wrong. The best way to control what pages get the PageRank on your Yahoo Store is to put links to your most valuable products and categories right on your homepage. That’s so easy!

Google still hates paid links

Matt Cutts, Google’s Search Quality Engineer and the voice of Google to most SEOs, repeated that buying links to manipulate the search engine rankings is still a high-risk activity. He said anything sponsored should use a rel=nofollow tag or it’s high-risk. Any consideration (i.e., free products for links) to get keyword rich anchor text links with the intent to manipulate rankings is high-risk. Matt said you’re free to do as you wish with your sites and your links, but so is The Google.

Google also says they won’t penalize you for anything someone else could do to your site, only things that you do ON your site. Google can be pretty cryptic about what will and won’t get you in trouble! For example, if buying paid links got you banned from Google (or even penalized), all a competitor would have to do is buy paid links for YOUR site, report you, and then you would suffer and probably not know why.

My experience with buying paid links (from long, long ago!) was that the site that gets caught SELLING (not buying) paid links gets in trouble. Google most likely quietly turns off that site from any SEO benefits of passing PR and anchor text. Buying links from that site then is a waste of money, and you also run the risk of having your domain flagged as a possible spammer. This may lead to a manual review which is when a Google Quality inspector puts your site under the microscope to see if you’re doing anything else you shouldn’t be doing and gets to assess penalties if applicable.

(Now my dog is hiding under the bed, whimpering like it’s the middle of a Mississippi thunderstorm. It’s okay. Matt Cutts isn’t going to eat you!)

My own personal rule for SEO? I pretend Matt Cutts knows who I am, and knows all my domains and client sites. If you assume the Spam Cops are watching everything, keep your nose clean, and you should be fine.

Anytime I try to keep anything on the down low, it’s to hide things that work from my distinguished competition rather than trying to get anything past the PhDs in Mountain View.

I still have 73 more pages of notes I didn’t get to, so hopefully the Merchant Solutions gang will let me have another guest post pretty soon! Appreciate the forum, folks!

Until then, keep building great content and collecting links!

P.S. Here are some other posts: Pimping Your Product Page, SES NYC 2007, Free Conversion Rate Chapter.

Rob Snell
Guest blogger for Yahoo Small Business

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Comments

Thanks…very helpful post. I especially like your point about paid links.

Comment by joel — April 18, 2011 @ 9:30 am