SEO and Big Search

Melanie Mitchell Director of SEO/SEM at AOL:
She says that AOl can now find thir asses in the dark, they used to be in the business of sending out lots of CDs. They’re now giving away all their services and products, to generate an audience. They’ve changed their entire business model as a online network of properties and their new business goal includes SEO. They understand that the new AOL has to flip their topdown model, people don’t come in through the front door, they come in through their deep content, via search. They need to market the plays not the theater.
They had to establish a team to handle SEO by creating a person in each channel to be responsible for SEO and setting metrics and goals for them to aim at. Then they have to optimize their assets, this is very different from the way they used to work, because the search engines never before saw their content. Then tracking SEO metrics to justify the large amount of resources the SEO efforts have required. They created a monthly SEO dashboard, including pageviews and search referrals and financial SEO goals. The last thing they had to do was increase consistency by definiing “SEO complicance” training and guides.
Paid search is a much more centralized effort than SEO. They’re not very transactionaly based they look closely at number of pageviews consumed since their main model is advertising sales.
Their page views are increasing month vs month, and a 46% ad revenue increase ($151MM) since Q# last year. Using performance metrics as positive reinforcement to engineering and programming departments will lead them to believing in and being excited by SEO changes.
She brought up a ppicture of the new AOL homepage and the Yahoo homepage saying imitation is the sinceriest form of flattery.

Dave Roth Director of Search Engine Marketing, Yahoo!:
She thanks AOL for all the good ideas on the new homepage and says they’re flatrtered that AOL figured out they don’t have to charge for people to come to their homepage. He makes some jokes about David Lee Roth, but says that he’s really an “agency guy from way back.” He says “to anyone who works in SEM or SEO, this is our time, enjoy it, if you can find time to enjoy it.”
SEM is the best way to get customers.
The holy trinity of search marketing:

  • Paid Search
  • SEO
  • Affiliate

He says that if any unit in the company is spending a dime in paid search they have to do SEO. Managing SEM/SEO policies for afiliate is important. He shows a slide that shows a large number of parts of Yahoo that are doing SEO.
The things they measure in paid search:
What is the lifetime value of a conversion
What is the net present value of that revenue stream
What is the acceptable margin on NPV
and a monthly scorecard
Things they measure in SEO:
lifetime value of an SEO referral
SEO opportunity
how much of the total opportunoity can they realize
and they track that against progess.
they give properties a score on value.
Yahoo has central groups that provide traning and resources and business units/properties that do SEO measurements, execute SEO plans and evangalize SEO implimentation. Its the busines units that are on the hook for SEO performance and if they’re in the red they don’t get anymore money for paid search. He talks about centralize vs outsourcing, build vs buy and portable budgets. He says Yahoo does SEM just like anyone else, its just marketing, SEO is mostly about training and trying, they think a lot about trade offs, and they’re hiring.
Adam Lasnik Search Evangalist, Google:
His role is to work with webmasters to improve relationships between google and webmasters. They don’t have any fancy SEO tricks up their sleeve. SNACC: Speed, Navigability, Accessibility, Clarity, Comfort. They less concenered with getting attention than with improving experience to keep people coming back.
Speed: Throughput and latency count.
Navigability Users should be able to know where they are, how to get where they’re going, how to get back and how to share a page with a friend. We should all be past the “click here” anchor text. The back button should always go back and no two links on one page should go to the same place.
Accessibility Reasonables URLs, (common sense, memorable, and consistent URLs) useable alt tags, accesible search and audio captchas.
Clarity Don’t confuse your users, link should obviously be links (blue and underlined) and links on one line.
Comfort Make your site easy to use and simple, black text on white or gray screen. Italics are hard to read. Include hieght and width tags on all your images. No jumpy pages.
Consitency Routine can be rewarded. Put your messages in the same place, font and same color, like errors and alert boxes.
Google doesn’t do much SEO and its not Adam that does it. They don’t worry about page rank. Google does not rank for “search engine” in google. Actually they do, I just checked. They do not have a centralized group or person for SEO.
Treelike and web like structure
Simple pages
Same Domain don’t put different sections of a site on different domains, its horrible for SEO. “having more content on one domain will serve you better than having lots of domains”. If you have to, use subdomains.
Smart AJAX and Flash don’t include as foundation of your navigation.
301s use these for redirection, pagerank and “stuff like that” will be flowed over.
cheating sometimes they’ll add a link to the google homepage.

Questions:
Aol does not have a time line and different properties have different organic search goals.
For google: After a redisgn how do you keep your rankings: don’t go crazy doing everything all at once. Do things in groups and use 301s. Don’t redirect everything to the homepage with a 301. 301 like pages to like pages. It can takes days or weeks, pagerank and other raning measurements will flow appropriately when using 301s.
For yahoo and aol: what kind of SEO tactics where surprising: one of the yahoo engineers in the travel group was the guy who “moved the needle the most” up untill 6 months ago. Yahoo was surprised that there isn’t any tactics. Aol was surprised that each group had different ideas and ways about thinking about search. Instead of vying for aol homepage space the properties now have to vy for other sites’ traffic.
A questioner askes about 301 vs redirect permanant through ajax: first adam talks about bold vs strong, he says it comes down to really tiny factors and its not worth changing stuff. he says the ajax redirect permanant is the same thing as a 301.
Someone asks about a sandbox: “is there a penalty for new sites’ Adam “imagine that there is a breaking even and somehow after briteny divoreces k-fed, she determinds that purple hats are all the new rage and this gets to the news, it would not be in our interest or in our users in terest, we’re going to wait a few months to accept new pruple hat sites, but there are circumastances where it can take a whle for a site to be indexed and ranked the way they want, we can be better about balanceing these things, but as in terms of a flat sandbox that would not be in the best interest of our users, there are awhole lot of signals that can affect how long it takes your site to rank, if you have somerething that is timely and content rich put it up there and it is possible that it will be available to users in a good amount of time.”

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