The Mayday Update Skinny From SMX Advanced

At the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle last week, the keynote session with Matt Cutts has become an expected feature, but it’s also one of the most highly anticipated and attended sessions of the entire conference. The search engines love to take advantage of search marketing conferences to make major announcements, and Matt Cutts has been known to drop both major and minor bombshells during these sessions. For instance, during last year’s session, he stated that the practice of “link-sculpting” (using “nofollow” parameters on links to advantageously design the flow of PageRank within a site) was now pointless, because Google had implemented nofollow such that it did not conserve PageRank, but instead a nofollowed link merely evaporated PR.

Matt illustrates a point at SMX Advanced

It was clear at this year’s “You & A With Matt Cutts” that he and Danny Sullivan had planned in advance to launch directly into addressing one of the top most-recent issues of interest to webmasters: the “Mayday Update” — so-named because the algorithmic shift occurred roughly around the first week of May, and because affected webmasters were left with a helpless feeling after their pages dropped in rank for long-tail search queries.

DSCN9566Matt and Danny opened the session in a really jocular fashion by wearing inflatable life-jackets, as a nod to the Mayday algo change. They followed that up by handing each other caffeine-free sodas, which they quickly deprecated in favor of fully-caffeinated Coca-Colas. (As you may know, Google began rolling out an infrastructure/processing change this year, called “Caffeine”, which allows Google to rapidly absorb fresh content, process it for ranking purposes, and display the new content in SERPs. Some webmasters who were concerned over the Mayday Update had wondered whether it might have been caused as some side effect of the Caffeine change.)

After the lifejackets and soda hijinks were over, Matt stated clearly and seriously that the Mayday Update was separate from and in no way caused by the Caffeine change. His statements further underscored statements he’d made earlier online. According to him, the ranking algorithm development team had decided, after consideration and testing, to publish a change based upon some “quality factors”, reducing the rankings of some deeper content pages for longer-tail queries.

Just as Vanessa Fox had opined in her piece on the Mayday Update, the weighting for keyword relevancy factors was likely reduced some in comparison to quality factors.

One thing that Matt suggested to those who wished to counteract Mayday’s effects was Continue reading

Title Tag Tips To Get To The Top

by Chris Silver Smith

One of the most basic, and effective ranking signals used by all major search engines is the text put into a page’s TITLE tags. The element is so foundational, and so strong that it’s one of the first things that any organic search marketer recommends for non-optimized sites, yet few people know how to do it really effectively. Here’s a few tips for formulating titles that work for a great many common types of webpages.

TITLE Tags - A Top Ranking Signal

Continue reading

Hear Us Speak At SMX Advanced 2010

We are speaking at SMX AdvancedChristine Churchill, President of KeyRelevance, and Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization Strategies at KeyRelevance, will be speaking at various sessions at this year’s SMX Advanced conference in Seattle, Washington.

June 8:

  • Pump Up Those Conversions! (Christine Churchill)
  • Twitter, Real Time Search & Real Time SEO (Chris Silver Smith)

June 9:

  • What You Don’t Know About You Tube (Chris Silver Smith)

We’ll also be helping with moderation on a few sessions, yet to be determined.

SMX Advanced is known for the bleeding-edge search marketing tactics presented, catering to an audience of agencies and experienced in-house marketers, and we expect this one will be no exception!

Be sure to get registered right away if you haven’t already, since the organizers keep this one sharply limited and it’s expected to sell out.

Note added after publication:
Christine Churchill will also be speaking at SMX Advanced London scheduled for 17 & 18 May.

May 17:

  • Keyword Research: Beyond the Ordinary (Christine Churchill)

May 18:

  • The Art of Measuring Local and Mobile Search Results(Christine Churchill)

Christine will also be moderating the Top Ten Customised Search Analytics Reports and QA Moderating the Advanced Tactics for Promoting YouTube Videos and Search Ad Quality Under the Microscope Sessions.

Without Usability, You’re Not Doing Advanced SEO

My article covering how Google’s fixation with Usability reveals local search ranking factors published yesterday on Search Engine Land. In it, I described a number of common website elements which few-to-no marketers have ever cited as ranking signals. Some of these elements, such as whether or not a site may have employee profile pages, or whether a site displays prices for products and services offered, might be controversial in search engine marketing circles.

CNNs homepage checked with Google Site Speed

CNN's homepage checked with Google Page Speed - Google introduced Site Speed as a new ranking factor in 2010, and provided tools like this Page Speed extension in FireFox to assist webmasters with Usability improvements.

Other elements I described have been cited by other experts as beneficial for search marketing, even though they may’ve recommended them for reasons other than those I outlined. Inclusion of images, maps and locations pages make sense for multiple reasons in local business websites.

The thought and methodology behind coming up with these factors is sound, and has allowed me to successfully predict present and future search engine optimization factors where others have not. It makes logical sense that while Google is interested in Usability, they will seek ways to quantify and measure it on websites, just as they have done with Site Speed. And some very easy usability elements to quantify include common website elements such as the About Us, Contact Us, and Locations pages.

Back in 2006, I began predicting that the practice of Search Engine Optimization might become replaced by Usability. Unquestionably, this change is occuring to some degree right now.

I’ve known a lot of top corporations which are involved in very sophisticated paid search marketing and search engine optimization, but few of them are also including usability testing and user-centered design considerations when performing a site redesign. Google has tried to make the importance of user-experience abundantly clear by actually going public with their adoption of page load times in determining search result rankings, but many companies are still not connecting the dots.

Here at KeyRelevance, we have long prioritized usability in our assessments of web sites’ design. When companies contract with us to audit their websites, we offer both a Technical Website Review as well as a Usability Review. However, many companies eschew our Usability Reviews or dismiss them as less-important.

For some reason, people often react to usability recommendations from experts in an emotional way, rather like how a portion of the population avoids going to their doctors for a yearly physical. For some companies, there are already so many dependencies and requirements going into web design projects that they can’t include more without losing impetus. For others, individuals with authority over projects have egos which do not want to lose discretionary control over project decisions which could be altered if usability research ran counter to what they desire to do.

Usability testing can be the difference between a design that becomes highly popular versus one which is rapidly forgotten. Google itself is an example of how user-centered design will translate into success. More design options can be scientifically decided, honing down to interfaces which will maximize ease-of-use and enjoyment-of-use. Instead of being avoided, usability testing should be embraced — after all, in the business world we’re looking to increase the potential for success in our company projects, right?

Knowing Google’s heavy focus upon usability factors, consider that if you’re not doing iterative Usability testing and adjustment for User-Experience, you really may not be doing “Advanced SEO”.

If you’d like a thorough Usability Audit of your site, contact Key Relevance today to schedule our review and get a report of items to consider before your next sitewide redesign is completed.

Also, check out some of the free tools that Google has been providing to help you with portions of usability analysis. Try out Google Browser Size, Google Page Speed, and look at the Site Speed reports in Google Webmaster Tools for your website.

Texas Stadium Implosion Video – Example of Video Search Optimization

Yesterday, I went down to Dallas’s famous Texas Stadium to film and photograph its widely-publicised demolition. I often film and photograph events near me as practice and example for search engine optimization. In this case, my optimization work was fairly straightforward, and the results were spectacular. Here’s the video I shot of the Texas Stadium Implosion:

(This wasn’t the first Dallas Cowboys Football-related spectacle I’ve covered – I previously photographed the tragedy of the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys practice field roof near where I live.)

My video’s quality actually wasn’t all that hot, I must admit. The demolition was to occur a little after daybreak, at near 7:00 a.m., and it was cloudy. I did try to get a vantage point as close as possible where there was very little jockeying for position from the crowd of thousands who showed to witness the event. I also planned ahead sufficiently to prepare by bringing a folding chair, allowing me to stand above the crowd around me.

But, I was unsure how long the demolition would take – things like this can be unpredictable. So, I set my camera (a Nikon Coolpix S51 that I’ve used all the way around the world) to a little lower resolution, “small size 320”, instead of higher resolution. This gave me more minutes of film time, and allowed me room to shoot some photos as well.

Even considering that my video was not of the highest quality of those posted for the demolition, and even though some others had better vantage points, my video became one of the top two most popular posted on YouTube, ranking in searches there as well as within Google, under Universal Search. So, how did I accomplish it in one day flat?

It starts with the title – I predicted that people would search for both “Texas Stadium Implosion” as well as “Texas Stadium Demolition” to find this content. So, I included BOTH of those terms in the title. I also wanted to include “Dallas Cowboys” in it, and try to describe it compellingly to increase clickthroughs, so I mentioned “Epic”. Here’s the title I engineered to attempt to target many of the most popular search query combinations people might use in trying to find videos of the explosion:

“Texas Stadium Demolition – The Epic Dallas Cowboys’ Texas Stadium Implosion!”

Second, I gave the video a keyword-rich description which further reinforced each of the main keyword phrases I was targeting. I custom-wrote the description, mentioning a small amount of the facts outlined in the Wikipedia article for the Texas Stadium.

One subtlety of the description was my inclusion of a link over to my personal blog, where I’d written a matching blog post about the experience, “Texas Stadium Implosion – Huge Demolition Event“. This allowed people who came across the video to read up my longer description of the whole deal.

In YouTube, I did a few other things as well. I specified which of the three video stills would be used as the thumbnail preview for the vid when it appears in search results (oh, how I wish they’d allow more choices or would allow one to upload a custom image for that).

I also set loosest requirements for user interactions with the video page, allowing people to rapidly interact with the page with instant gratification. Allowing instant gratification in this manner can encourage more and faster user-interactions with the page such as comments, video responses, voting on comments, ratings, embedding and syndication. While setting loose requirements often makes major corporations very nervous, my settings show how enabling rapid interactions can push the success of a video, since many of these YouTube components are signals for user-interest and therefore rankings. Having these interactions appear rapidly is more vital under Google’s RealTime Search algorithms.

Finally, I also set the Date to display “Today”, and associated the video with the map location of the Texas Stadium in Irving, allowing the vid to essentially be geocoded to appear in local search results in Google Maps.

Outside of YouTube, I twittered about the Texas Stadium implosion frequently, and also posted my still photos of it on Flickr at “Texas Stadium Implosion“.

In my blog post about the demolition, I embedded the video. I also linked to the video from the Flickr images and from my Twitter updates. I later blogged again from another blog, posting “Texas Stadium Demolition Case Study – YouTube Still Tops For Video Promotion” on Natural Search Blog.

What were the results? Well, the video has had over 55,000 views yesterday, and over a hundred comments!

My Texas Stadium video appears prominently in various related Google Search results:

Texas Stadium Implosion in Google SERPs

It also appears prominently within various YouTube search results, allowing people seeking it to find it easily and interact with it further:

Texas Stadium Implosion search in YouTube

Google automatically is generating a Google Trends graph now, highlighting how “Texas Stadium implosion video” is now one of the top-five trending phrases today:

Google Trends: Texas Stadium Implosion Video

Google Trends - Texas Stadium Implosion Video - Detail

As further evidence that Google has found the terms to be important, Google’s Real-Time Search Results interface has automatically kicked in, scrolling away Twitter and blog mentions of the event:

Texas Stadium Implosion Video in Google's Real-Time Search

All this to show that achieving top rankings in YouTube and Google search results for video search is not rocket science! There are a few other subtle things that I did in performing the video optimizations, but I’ve outlined many of the most-impactful ones in this article.

To get Google Real-Time Search to sing in harmony with keyword search and YouTube search, it’s vital to post content as rapidly as possible as the related search terms first begin trending. It’s also vital to perform solid video SEO, and to encourage rapid/frequent user-generated content on the video’s main page in YouTube.

I know that many of you reading this who are building video optimization tactics for promoting major corporation websites are probably concerned about whether you are too vulnerable to malicious comments on your video pages – and this is a valid concern! If you read the comments on my video page, you’ll see that people have used foul language, insulted one another, gotten into arguments, posted conspiracy theories, etc.

Cool thing is, YouTube provides robust tools for controlling your video pages. You can delete these comments and also go back to change the setting to require that all comments and “video responses” get moderated and approved by you prior to publishing. So, for corporate work, I’d suggest initially allowing the loose interaction rules until your video really goes hot, then circle back around to delete comments you don’t want to appear and tighten the posting to enable your moderation. In this way, you can achieve popular content, then after your video is established, sanitize any content you dislike and lock it down to keep further from appearing. So, your risk of negativity is very temporary.

Using an interlocking strategy of social media, realtime search tactics, and solid video SEO will allow you to maximize the success of your video content, giving you a significant weapon to use in your online marketing arsenal.