For the January 9th, 2007 refreshsd.org meeting, our topic of focus was how to gain website traffic. We touched on SEO, Social Media Marketing/Optimization, and possibly a few other methodologies.

Search Engine Optimization Related Matters:

Mostly we discussed links which are obviously the lifeblood of any attempt at high rankings for anything at least mildly competitive. We discussed what defines a natural link (1 - 2) , what are reasonable levels of anchor text densities, and article directories and syndication.

Some Conclusions:

  • Generally a natural link is something that doesn’t appear to be nepotistic; it should look like it was given freely and not paid for or commercial so to speak. There is so much grey area here it’s like the (rare bad) San Diego weather the last two days… but understand that I’m just being straightforward and telling you that this stuff is being looked at, and engines have/are finding ways to detect these relationships even when you think it’s so arbitrary they couldn’t. Have a look at Detecting Nepotistic Links by Language Model Disagreement by researchers at the Computer and Automation Research Institute, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA SZTAKI) and
    Eötvös University, Budapest.
  • Try to avoid submitting content you’ve published on your website as article syndications. Instead of submitting your articles to superezinemegaarticle-2007-best-articleweb.com you should try to find relevant, but obviously non-competing sites, which would consider publishing the article. If you can get it linked well (and remember you can also do link building directly to this pageA) internally from their site you could end up with a super relevant backlink for yourself (preferably to your homepage as well as a few deep links).
  • It’s hard to be really general as different tactics work differently depending on the sector. Also, things change relatively quickly, for instance there is some great advice and methods for a great “link equation” here. But even though Todd is an expert by all means, it’s near impossible to be a 100% accurate prognosticator in matters related to search (meaning, that post is only 5 months old but I don’t think it’s 100% on target anymore).

In reference to the last point above, somebody asked if we could define a few things that you could safely say “Always Do” and “Never Do”. That’s a dangerous line to walk, but I’ll try:

Always:

  • Try to gain links from relevant web pages in the body area with anchor text targeted to your page’s keywords and/or words which will draw click-thrus.
  • Have content that is worth linking to.
  • Implement the basic 301 redirects to prevent duplicate content issues. Here are some great examples of how to prevent duplicate content problems.
  • Use your targeted keywords in your title, heading and body text in a way that is legible and useful to the reader. Don’t write for Google, Yahoo or even MSNLiveSearchBadAlgo.
  • Also, if you’re going to be redeveloping a site, make sure to take the basic SEO precautions for relaunching a site.
  • Participate actively in forums, blogs, and other websites (social sites especially) that pertain to your area of expertise and which relate to your website. Use your URL where the opportunity exists but don’t be self-promotional. Just participate the best way possible, by adding great content, answering questions, and posing interesting questions to start debate, etc.

Never:

  • Go on a binge of reciprocal linking or go after tons of low quality links; especially user-generated ones.
  • Go link crazy linking to every site under the sun hoping they’ll link back to you.
  • Never link to any sites besides mine. Ahhem, sorry, that one just crept in. That should have been: never link to sites which are super unreasonably ad heavy, seem to be completely autogenerated (not in a good way, re: spam), seem to be engaged in search engine optimization or other practices that are blatantly nefarious.
  • Host content (we’ll give you this page to upload to your server) or do things which an SEO/Marketer approaching you suggests will “boost your rankings” unless you really understand what he or she is talking about and also understand what risks are involved and what gain/benefit they are after.
  • Have a high percentage of your site’s content appear on other sites which are indexable. This is debatable, although not with me. I’m a firm believer that you should keep at least 90% of your original content on your site, unduplicated elsewhere.
  • Create very thin-content pages which clearly have no purpose other than acting as doorway pages to attract search referrals.

Actually, I was a little surprised that I couldn’t come up with more Always/Never items. It’s just so hard to be that finite; afterall “always” doesn’t include “99% of the time you should…”.

Social Media Marketing/Optmization:

Most of this, as discussed at the meeting, overlaps with SEO. The other benefits are mainly branding, bursts of traffic, RSS subscribers, etc. In terms of getting links, which translates to getting traffic through search referrals here are some examples from Princess Neil Patel on how digg/social web can be effective, which was redelivered in-person at our group meeting.

I grabbed some coffee and was fidgeting with a meeting attendee form that I prepared so I missed a lot of this (oh and of course I had to catch an important call outside pre-meeting which made me late)… but some of the things I believe were suggested were to:

  • Write a how-to series of articles for various levels of users of a product/service/technology/whatever that you are familiar with. Include video.
  • Hold contests, scholarships, and anything with a Prize to get attention. If possible include prizes that most every person with a blog or website wants. Generally these start with lower case i’s.
  • Learn how your product/service can fit into the social web by exploring sites like digg.com, technorati.com, myspace.com, del.icio.us, and other tagging/sharing sites.

In any of the above scenarios, you should consider your audience when calculating the likelihood of the intended result coming to fruition. If you’re targeting beginner web users for your “San Diego PC Repair” business you should be aware that you aren’t likely to get a ton of backlinks as users who find this useful aren’t able to create links let alone open a browser in some cases.

However, and this is really the crux of understanding how to position your linkbait/potentially-viral-content, consider that if you can get that article series the attention of some advanced techies with the slant “Refer your mom, uncle, grandfather, boss, and auto-mechanic to this and never have to worry about being their “computer guy” again” (visit coppyblogger.com to figure out a way more “killer headline” than that, please) it just may get a good deal of link love.

If anyone can chime in and add anything to the SEO or particularly the social marketing side of this, it would be great!

Thanks to everyone who attended, for great questions and answers, and great conversation.