The New Face of SEO
This may come off as a shameless plug for our annual Publishing Business Conference or for his company, Define Search Strategies, but Adam Sherk's search engine optimization (SEO) presentation at this year's event was simply brilliant. I've attended and participated on similar panels with Adam in the past, so my only concern was whether I would learn anything new this year. I did.
Adam is an engaging speaker who understands his audience and make a three-hour workshop seem to go by in 30 minutes or less. He provides real-life examples to most everything he recommends and doesn't come off as a "know-it-all" or someone merely there to pitch his services.
As publishers struggle to find time and resources to do more with less, I was surprised but happy to hear Adam cite research that revealed two-thirds of SEO best practices are now comprised of three main areas that don't require editors to use keyword research tools to any great extent: trust and authority of your domain name; the link popularity of your Web pages; and the anchor text of the external links hopefully driving traffic to your site (see chart).
He certainly didn't down-play tools such as Google Trends, Google Keyword Tool or Google Insight for Search, but Adam and his panelists, including Hearst's SEO guru Dan Roberts, cautioned the packed room on spending money on similar tools and devoting too much time to the massive amounts of data they can provide.
The session also served as reminder to make sure that we continue to use the best practices that have been around for a while, including HTML (and XML) site maps and working with editors on using link text that ideally comes from research, but at least should be more than just "click here." Other no-brainer ideas like removing dates from HTML title tags, and resolving duplicate content issues with the "rel=cannonical" tag often got either lost in translation or put on hold because of something else that came up.
Perhaps the most refreshing nugget from the workshop was something that Adam said quickly when he encouraged publishers to focus their SEO efforts on the goal of your Web site. It's important to understand that as magazine publishers we may want to increase the size of our house file or subscription conversion rates, but there still are plenty of us who have a nice advertising business that can continue to grow with more traffic from search engines.