It sounds like your just constantly reading material aimed at beginners rather than diving in depth into the subject.
The biggest issue that I see on client's sites is site architecture, organization and internal linking. Most commonly that means multiple pages with the same content and different URLs. Amazon is a good example of this:
This URL floats around internally - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1416571760/
But it's rel="canonical" is http://www.amazon.com/Greater-Journey-Americans-Paris/dp/141...
Amazon is essentially passing internal link juice around to non-canonical URLs, then "fixing" it with a rel canonical hack. Not that amazon needs the link authority, it's just an example.
Another good one is folks who append things like ?ref=category to a URL to track visitors through the site. That's a unique URL to google, though you can specify what url parameters are legit in webmaster tools. If you really need to do something like that, use onclick events and keep the href attribute to a pretty, canonical URL.
Those don't seem like big issues individually, but imagine a 3,000,000 page site that never links to a canonical URL anywhere internally (this happens).
Internal anchor text can also play a roll in what you rank for. If you happened to make it through all that stuff up there, here's an SEO gem: use breadcrumbs, but your home link doesn't need to have the anchor text "home". Instead use a keyword that's relevant to your site's purpose. If you sell dog food, use "dog food" as the anchor text of "home" breadcrumb link.
An example: do a search for "online shopping" on Google. You'll probably see overstock.com in the top results. Why? Are they really more well known and authoritative than Amazon in that arena? Every home breadcrumb on overstock.com has the anchor text "online shopping". Millions of internal links with perfectly optimized anchor text pointing to a single page.
I rocketed my forum community to the top of Google by generating backlinks. Some people consider it grunt labor, but I found it a lot of fun, especially if you get a program that keeps track of your rankings. It's addictive.
And this is forum software that is rife with duplicate content, has URLs like `/?forumdisplay=22952920&v=92348232`, and is so unSEO that a third party company started up to sell an expensive product that SEO's the softwre via plugin.
Guess what, despite all the little marginal tweaks and SEO obsessions I don't sweat over, Google miraculously figured stuff out. Backlinks are obvious and they work. It's the reason why you can overtake encumbent #1 rankings that have no backlink campaigns.
I get the point about duplicate content, that's something I had heard but not really delved into because, well, decent architecture usually means not having that sort of stuff around.
The more I hear SEO "experts" go on about things, the more I think it's a bit of a scam. Scam is probably the wrong word, as I'm sure many SEO people are well meaning, but the more I look the more it all seems like snake oil.
At one point I put together a pretty basic site with one backlink and barely any attention to content and accidentally ranked #1 in Australia for "make money". One particular page on that site is four paragraphs I threw together and it's made $24k in four years for no effort since. I've had a few other events along those lines too, mostly leveraging the past property I built up and using that as a backlink.
There are plenty of great search resources out there.
I would suggest to start at http://searchengineland.com to get a better sense of the landscape, especially everything Danny Sullivan writes
What you are saying is like saying architecture is just drawing diagrams or good journalism is just writing about stuff.
Like many industries, there's an art to SEO and plenty of nuances far beyond clean coding and user friendly design.
I think emphasizing statistics and analysis would make a bit better impression on some of us. It turns on a light that says "aha, there is something real there!".
it'd be nice if we could be completely transparent with analytics while iterating a search strategy for a large site, because the learning experience would be great whether you're a big-name, experienced SEO, looking to get further into SEO, or an anti-SEO hacker looking to just call us all out for being full of shit :) it'd be cool. too bad the economic reality of releasing complete analytics data to the entire internet makes this an impossible dream.
And by the way, there is one repeatable way to get high-ranked sites to link to you: produce quality content. So karma and SEO are not that far off.
Seriously, don't worry a single bit about SEO. Yet, if you make it so that your site's content, navigation and URLs are screen-reader friendly, then you've probably made a site that has solid SEO and is accessible to people with vision problems.
Yet, just doing SEO doesn't make for a very accessible site all the time.
Once this is done, make good content, be real and responsive humans to your customers and you're on your way to a good business model and website.
"Don't do marketing."
"Just make a good product and people will find it."
I think this is the downfall of many great products. The current startup world has an idealistic belief that better products always win and if you build something people want, they'll find it, when in fact, this has never been true. The "best" politicians consistently lose to those better at marketing and branding. The "best" ideas in organizations often fall to those trumpeted with more style or by those with more clout. Many great startups shut down because they couldn't find a repeatable, low-cost way to acquire customers (and SEO is exactly this).
More here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/i-disagree-with-fred-marketing-is...
And here: http://hackersandfounders.tv/RDmt/rand-fishkin-inbound-marke...
Too many posts about SEO get everyone obsessing over marginal website tweaks/details when a single backlink to their webite doesn't even exist outside of their HN account.
The only problem is that it isn't currently this way (despite what Google and Matt Cutt's might say). It is naive to think that this approach is going work.
Furthermore, you're competitors are going to do accessibility + SEO, and they are going to trounce you. randfish said this better than I could, so I'll leave it at that.
You can get away with what you are suggesting if you have staggeringly awesome content, but even then - why risk it. If you integrate SEO into your culture from the start, and have the right process then it doesn't have to be that hard.
e.g. I like going on motorbike holidays, like "Long Way Round" (but not as extreme) that's called "motorbike touring". Not motorbike holidays, or trips, or travelling, but touring. One step of SEO is to see what people are searching for, which will tell you what your customers call your service.
It's not hard. What is hard is navigating your way through the crooks/spammers/quacks who will try every trick in the book to try and sell you something you don't need. Startups do not need to hire experts to do it for them. What they need to do is solve problems like they solve other problems, with no money.
People who sell SEO usually:
- Have the gift of the gab
- Prey on peoples ignorance
- Prey on peoples greed
There are good SEO people out there, but they are rare. Also I struggle to imagine a situation where smart people just can't read up on it themselves and execute it themselves.
As a startup you should be focusing on good quality content and sustainable growth. So play to your strengths and don't pay a lot of money for magic potions that offer short term benefits. Play the long term game.
SEOMoz is a good place to start (their free blogs etc). Executing good technical SEO on your own website is pretty easy.
Tibbon made a good point, 'dont do SEO do accessibility`. I'm not sure I'd go to that extreme, but it's a good way of looking at it. Google is your most disabled user, it can't see very well, it can't really understand things very well either. If you make your site highly accessible you're well on your way to good SEO.
However, spending time does.
Most of the big wins on SEO are a combination of strategy and time. As in : have a strategy to get links, and spend time on that strategy.
Sure, you can pay someone to do this for you, but anyone who is smart enough to develop software is more than smart enough to do SEO.
The big mistake people make is thinking it exists outside of marketing. In fact your SEO strategy and your marketing strategy are just two dishes on the overall meal of gaining customers.
It has everything to do with your opening line: "We've spent a lot of time doing whitehat SEO on our website".
It always comes down to TIME. If you're a new startup, you're trying to work on your business, not in it.
Then you need to find someone who can help you with whitehat organic SEO. And as you mentioned, the hard part is navigating your way through the 'quacks'
Also your post smells exactly like the sort of sales pitch people seeking SEO should try to avoid. Big grandiose speculative statements.
"Grow 6 inch...errr times, or your money back! Real SEO!"
Not that there is anything wrong with that.
1. Blog on a subdomain.
Though sometimes easier for administration, subdomains might dilute your SEO efforts. Links to a subdomain don't count 100% as links to your main domain. A /blog/ could help with the generation of incoming links and addition of fresh content to the domain you want indexed a lot.
2. Employ Canonical
www. redirects to non-www. Trailing slashes get added automatically. So far so good. But it is still easy to create duplicate URL's by adding random dynamic variables.
Without Canonical an URL like /boats/?dupe=content will point to the same resource as /boats/. Here you might introduce a canonical problem. (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/02/specify-y...)
3. Optimize your site for speed
Though not that many search queries are affected by the site-speed algo, site speed remains very important for your visitors, and so indirectly for your SEO/marketing efforts. Google Site Speed plugin, Yslow or these guidelines (http://developer.yahoo.com/performance/rules.html) might help you fix some of these issues and gain a few seconds.
4. Robots.txt vs meta robots
/search is disallowed in robots.txt. If you disallow it on a page basis, with meta robots, you can specify: "noindex, follow". That way if people link to your search results, link juice will keep flowing through your site.
Add rich snippets mark-up. For product information and reviews, but an obvious contender is the breadcrumb. Link to your twitter (and future Google+ profile) with 'rel=me' to signify ownership of your graph.
Add an alt-attribute to the site logo. Specify the dimensions for faster rendering.
7. Don't critique ehow.com if you fill Google's index with 245.000+ automated results.
Or put less bluntly: Write more unique content to introduce bigger categories. Add more relevant content to your listings (reviews, search/trend data, price watch).
8. Make clear if an item is "already sold".
If I click on 10 entries and I get 10 times "item already sold" I start to doubt the usefulness of the application. I compare this to a job site, where the jobs are mostly filled: You happen upon
such a site through Google, because Google still thinks these listings are relevant.
The site is mostly void of trust factors. Due to some listings being in ALL-CAPS, some result pages can look a bit spammy. Add more trust factors, and try to repair spammy listings.
The amount of actual content on the priceonomics product pages is super thin. google is not going to be a big fan of throwing out every page of search results into the index - you're pretty much ONLY creating duplicate content at this point. also the taxonomy has a ton of copies of what is actually the same item, depending on how it was written in the listing.
Sorting the taxonomy into distinct products and then adding some sort of content to beef up at least the category pages, which right now are 100% navigation, would be a big step forward. Lots of things you can do going forward, in thinking about this vertical, it's an interesting market space for SEO, lots of challenges and possible strategies.
I'm assuming eventually some sort of comparable product cross-linking will be built into the system?
These issues were fixed by doing slightly more complicated proxying rules and by filtering the cookies as part of the proxying.
Reverse proxying is a really powerful technique (you could sit things like mod_security in front of your relatively vulnerable WordPress install, for example), but unless you have an experienced sysadmin on hand to help if it all goes wrong it's probably not something you want to try based solely on an infographic.
All the work is in producing great, relevant content and then link building.
Yes, setting up your site based on broad or long tail terms is good foundation...but you can rank your site for words that aren't even on your site. Why do you think disney ranks for 'exit' and 'leave'? http://blog.searchmetrics.com/us/2011/04/14/the-evolution-of...
Is that what you're asking?
But, one other thing I would strongly recommend is to never create extra or redundant folders unless they really add a lot of value to your site usability. And, never, ever, create empty folders ... it seems like a no-brainer but it happens a lot more frequently then you might think with people using them to force a specific heirarchy on their site or for the sake of stuffing keywords into their URLs or just because they think the final URL looks 'nicer' that way.
Last thought on why flat is normally better, homepages are likely to accumulate more links than any other page on your site and often more links than the rest of the site combined. So the closer an interior page is to the homepage the more benefit it will derive from the inbound links pointing to the homepage.
I like nested folders for a couple of reasons, some of which are:
- Clarity. A good structure will instantly signal what the page will be about, before a user or searchbot follows that link.
- Bolded keywords in URL in the SERPS.
- Using pages to flow juice to categories.
- Benefit of targetted anchor text, when using the URL for anchor text.
And search queries like: "pilatus mat" or "yoga accessories". Which will work better for these queries?
- Structure. Your URL's will reflect in your breadcrumbs, allowing users to navigate your site through URLs (By removing a folder and going to a higher level in the site).
- Silo's. After the Panda update, and this is speculation on my part, Google might lower the imporance of "parts" of your website. Let's say only your blog is of very low quality. Google could discount /blog/ when you have nested folders. With a flat structure your removed "parts" or higher level categories from your site, and don't allow for this.
Ofcourse there are benefits to going flat too. But nested folder trees are not neccessarily a bad thing.
It's also noteworthy that codecademy.com ranks higher than codeacademy.org in the google search for "Code Academy".
Well played indeed.
You can also lookup how many inbound links the sites have using different anchor text like "Code Academy".
Any decent marketing strategy is at least going to give a nod to SEO. Is your team is so consumed by your awesome product that you think it's more important than marketing and distribution?
I really hope that isn't true of anyone here. If championing product over marketing and distribution does sound like your team, I have GOOD NEWS! — you'll be too busy jerking each other off to notice that you're not making any money.