Around the campfires late at night, old Leeds GeekUppers tell tales of the legendary SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) clash of Hodgson and Rushworth at a Leeds GeekUp many moons ago. Apparently Hodgson is (I’m hoping someone can fill me in). Apparently Rushworth is (not sure, I wasn’t there). Anyway, it was heated, let’s just leave it there. At BarCamp Leeds 2007 a gauntlet slapped down on the York stone steps and was accepted, scores were to be settled, the stage was set.
The session with Mark and Dom was going to be interesting, two SEO experts giving advice from different perspectives and experiences. It was an informative and entertaining session, and one I’m glad I attended. The central lessons I took were that SEO is not a precise art, that black hat just isn’t worth it anymore, that being clever just doesn’t work when you’re up against PhDs on the Search Engine (SE) side, and that, broadly speaking, common sense and grafting (along with some professional advice) can carry you a fair way.
Dom and Mark wanted sites to critique on the fancy SmartBoard the room was kitted out with, and I was happy to place Startershop under the spotlight. After some
clicking board banging, and when the on-screen keyboard had been located, Mark and Dom had some suggestions. (Forgive me if my attribution is a little inaccurate here, my notes on this fast moving session are a little sketchy.)
“Good that you’ve got semantic HTML” (Dom), “but it won’t make any difference” (Mark), “it doesn’t hurt though” (Dom), and Mark conceded there was no harm. Looking at the content, Mark was keen to see greater keyword density in the content. Dom wondered whether we had a news area and was pleased to see we did, in his view frequent updates is a positive sign for the search engines… Mark disagreed, pointing out that he had several pages which hadn’t changed in years and which still ranked very highly (I wonder if this is domain age weighing in here?)… both agreed though, that incoming links were vital, and I’d guess that a side effect of updated news posting is the increased likelihood of incoming links?
Both Dom & Mark felt that we weren’t getting the full advantage of the incoming “this is a Startershop” links at the base of our customer sites as they were all on the same IP address as our main website. In order to gain full link juice force, we’d need to have them on separate IP addresses.
Some other quick tips from throughout the session: It’s worth setting the region for your website through Google Webmaster Tools, particularly where you’re using a non-UK domain. Visitors from MSN Search, have a higher conversion rate. Yahoo visitors are typically skewed more toward females (or as Mark put it, “chicks dig Yahoo!”). The effect of an inbound link fades over time. Use Feedburner both to track feed consumers and for the additional inbound link (did I note this right?). Don’t duplicate content on listing pages (e.g. the front page, category archive, month/yearly archives and so on should all show excerpts of the content, not the full content), slightly embarassing this one, as I was debating earlier in the day that this didn’t make much difference… oops!
All in all, a whirlwind of advice from two passionate professionals and interesting to hear two points of view on some SEO specifics. I came away feeling not that there wasn’t clear way forward, but that there was a lot to do. Mark & Dom don’t agree on everything which made for a more interesting session, and one which accurately reflects the SEO profession. Thanks both, and let me know when you’re next on together – I’ll book a ringside seat!