A4U Expo Live Blogging: Search Optimisation Q&A w/ Dave Naylor

First question – Somebody asks Dave opinion on Google’s announcement from yesterday re: HTTPs & lack of keyword referrals in Google Analytics for logged in users

“How ridiculous is that?!” Dave opens with

Dave: It’s really bad for the webmaster. You will see you’re receiving 100,000 users from Google, and you might not be able to know how they found you. Dave just thinks it’s “shitty”.

There will be serious uproar if they launch Analytics premium

Next question is regarding keyword density, and whether it should be reduced on pages in some instances where it’s particularly high. They follow by asking for an ideal keyword density percentage.

Dave: Keyword density is a myth. It has to be natural. Look at what other sites are doing around you. It’s industry specific – look at what the competitor websites are doing, and see what they are doing. Measure against relevant sites, and not against completely random ones (i.e. the BBC or something). Different industry signals appeal to Google in different sectors.

Sometimes less is more. Use pagination if you have pages with large amounts of products.

Identifying the “right” link opportunity: Would you rather have an old post amended to put a link to your site in, or would you rather a site owner create a new article with the link?

Dave: Preference would be to work with the blog owner to create a new and updated version of the original article, then 301 that old one to the new one (containing link). There’s something wrong about only a link changing in an old article from time to time.

All link placements should be with an aim of getting referral traffic – not just for link value.

Let the blog owner do it how they want to. Don’t dictate how the link should be placed. If you’re going out trying to get links from websites – make sure it’s in keeping with the website. Relevance is key, and you need to be able to clarify a link if questioned (i.e. by Google). You need an exit strategy.

What would you tell a brand new affiliate to the game?

Dave: Don’t give up your day job. Research the industry and make sure you know what you’re getting into. Use SearchMetrics to look at the sites you think are doing well, and see how they have done historically (i.e. were they affected by Panda?).

When does it become hidden content when using AJAX or jQuery?

Dave: Make sure there’s a static HTML copy behind the Java. Think about using HTML 5/CSS for “read more” drop downs and that kind of thing – you don’t need to use jQuery for that.

Be careful of using “read more” blocks if your aim is to simply get more search engine traffic. There will be genuine reasons to show further products, etc. If the intent is for the user, Google should interpret that.

How do social signals affect search engine rankings?

Dave: don’t think of social signals as being that “ABC route”. If you’re only using Twitter to boost search engine rankings – it won’t work. Danny Sullivan tweeted some Google search quality guidelines yesterday, and Google will find that. The link might be “nofollowed”, but Google will be able to see this kind of thing.

Re: Facebook – it’s locked down, and very hard for a search engine to understand. Somebody might have 1,000 FB Likes – but from people with no friends. How could you trust that? If you can’t trust it, then it’s likely that Google won’t want to trust it.

Social is a signal – but probably not a straight correlation between number of retweets vs. number of keyword rankings.

There’s a lot of link spam in the SERPs. A lot of top ranking websites have a lot of spammy links. Is the problem down to the algorithm?

Dave: Unless it’s something that’s completely OTT (from a link buying situation), it doesn’t get overlooked; it just gets dampened.

If you’re a huge brand that’s established, with thousands of links, and you go out and buy a few more thousands of links – then these may be dampened, but they will still have an effect. It’s when you start doing it at such a huge scale when it becomes such a big problem. Think JC Penney.

Press release distribution is technically buying links. Infographic distribution is technical buying links, as is paying for bloggers to install widgets on their blogs.

Google will never get away from using links as a major signal.

How many links do you want to buy? Well how quickly do you want to be banned? Be careful when trying to compete by going out and just buying “10,000 links”.

If somebody steals all of the content on my website, what’s the best way of giving them a slap?

Dave: Go straight to the hosting company, and “be a dick with them”. As long as you have a good legal standing, then 9/10 a host will take action. Don’t even both with the webmaster, just get on the phone and keep phoning them until they sort the issue.

“Take it down, or we sue you”.

If the hosting is in Romania or somewhere tricky, submit a Google spam report.

What are the best types of links you really want to get?

Dave: I’ll take any link. The best links are the ones that other people don’t go for (i.e. sponsoring a local football team). Don’t be lazy and just copy competitor links by looking at their Majestic profile. Think outside the box – and find relevance within your industry where other people may not be exploring.

There’s a fear within the SEO industry, that if you link to somebody, you will be seen as being a link buyer. Look at how you can aid other websites to give you a link. Look at your friend’s websites and see if you’re able to get links from those.

Organic search results are become less and less visible (i.e. with PPC/local/etc). What will be the importance of ranking highly in the coming years?

Dave: it’s always going to be important – you want to be ranking in the 1-3 slots.

Start to think about the ways people are coming to your website and cater for them. Look at imagery, video, news, etc to gain more visibility for your website. If you’re an ecommerce website and you’re not using Google Product search then you’re insane. It’s free!

Natural, organic, SEO is lessening. Analyse the industry and find the best locations to promote.

Are mentions of a website (i.e. www.pushon.co.uk) seen as active hyperlinks by Google?

They may be a small signal – but certainly not within any weighting that standard links get.

How much is an IP address and WHOIS information used by Google (i.e. for multiple sites on same hosting and IP address)?

Dave: it’s a neighbourhood affect – you don’t want to be associated with a number of spammy websites on the same hosting that you are on.

If you’re being conscious enough to separate IP addresses of websites in order to link to them, then make sure you aren’t linking them together with Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, etc.

As long as you aren’t trying to do something particularly spammy, then you should be fine.

What’s the worst example of SEO work you’ve seen from other SEO companies?

Dave: a big UK brand was completely wiped off Google by an SEO agency using encoded links in WordPress templates to boost rankings. They lost all visibility.

They had to switch to a completely new domain and start again from fresh – the old domain couldn’t be brought back to life due to the nature of the links that had been established.

How good are social bookmarking tools, and similar?

Dave: don’t do it.

Can somebody buy lots of links to a competitor and get them punished?

Dave: selling links is worse than buying links. Google are known to reach out to speak to them

If you’re launching a brand new website and somebody buys a lot of spammy links – then it’s going to be hard to convince Google that it wasn’t you.

Sending spammy links to a website is going to cause them problems. If you’re the webmaster and you start seeing these links coming in – get on to Google. Use Webmaster Tools to spot the links and be proactive. If you’re honest and haven’t done anything stupid, then be open and speak to Google, they will listen to you and they have tools to track where these links might be coming from.