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Some SEO Basics

I chatted with a guy named Dan Rosenbaum today.

Why? He knows a bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — he increased organic referrals for #1 women’s site iVillage by 30% in one year.

Plus, he and I used to work together at a then-amazing company called CMP Media; and he said he was looking for his next adventure (job).

If you know anything about SEO, you know that good SEO people are hard to find! Plus, I look out for CMP alumni!

Dan’s perspective on SEO is made all the more interesting because he has 30 years of experience in content (offline and online).

This is Dan Rosenbaum, feeding us SEO tips

This is Dan Rosenbaum, feeding us SEO tips

I decided to pick Dan’s brain on some basic SEO stuff and share it with you.

If you’re interested in hiring Dan, then check out Dan on LinkedIn.

Ok, so here are my questions in bold — the rest is pure Dan!

Ok, Dan, so what type of SEO professional are you?

There are three types of SEO professionals.

There are some people who are very code-based about it. They see things through a lens of technology. There are some who see it through a lens of analytics.

My lens is a lens of content.

None is better than any other. I like mine (content) because I spent 30 years in content, so I come to SEO on a content basis.

What’s a surprising thing about SEO that most people don’t know?

Ranking in the SRP (Search Results Page) is meaningless. Anyone can get to the first page for something.

What I always watch for is traffic, and changes in traffic.

I care about the conversion of what happens once someone hits my page…clicking the buy button or the ad.

I can rank #1 on a search of “cellphone”…but if they come to my page and don’t convert, all I’ve done is cost my company money.

If I can generate meaningful traffic to my reader, to my customer…that’s the win.

As it happens, Google is helping that. They are working very hard to eliminate the concept of the importance of the first page of results.

Such as with Universal Search.

What’s Universal Search?

Universal Search is searching not just Web pages but audio, video, user reviews — which is a new thing.

So instead of having ten Web pages on the first page, you’ll have four Web pages, two videos, a little blurb about shopping sites, a blog post and a user reviews.

And the result for the user in San Francisco is different from the result of a user in New York.

And, further-more, the results may differ based on what’s in your Gmail Inbox.

A sufficiently-targeted ad is not an ad, it’s content. They’re as valuable, if not more valuable, than what the room full of editors is churning out.

It becomes even more important…and Google helps that along by lumping more information on the SRP that isn’t necessarily in control of Google or the Content provider.

We believe Google rolled this out a couple of weeks ago.

What changes did Google make a couple of weeks ago?

It used to be that a Content guy can control what was on the SURP (aka SRP or Search Results Page) — not so much now. It used to be that it was 156 characters — there’s the page title, two lines of text (maximum of 156 characters) and then the URL — you can’t dictate what that will be any more.

Google is in control of what’s on that page — Google will present whatever serves its user better.

This makes publishers and big e-commerce companies completely nuts — cuz they’re in the business of controling their message.

Until a couple of weeks ago, you could be reasonably sure based on how you coded your page of what would show up in your listing.

To an increasing degree, Google is no longer listening to that suggestion.

It’s actually going into the page and saying these two sentences are the most relevant and showing the Google user that.

Google used to show what was in the description meta text of a page.

Was there an announcement about these new Google changes?

Google admitted they were doing this a couple of weeks ago…at Searchtopia…a glorified news conference.

If you look at a Google results page, at the top left, you’ll see a link that says “Show options.”

You click that and it flies out a whole column of options that didn’t exist last month — it controls how much you see, what content you see and how long the snippets are that you see.

Google is pretty invested in making that [Show Options] link as prominent as they can.

What are other secrets about SEO that most people don’t know?

That SEO is not rocket science.

SEO isn’t an event, it’s a process. If you’re going to do it right, it has to involve every department in the company — the tech staff, the marketing, the research, ad and ad ops, metrics and, especially, executives.

The reason that there are so few good in-house SEOs, and that they bail for agencies all the time, is that people involved in SEO don’t have the management experience to come into a company and do that.

The difficulty of [SEO] agency work, is that it is kept at arms-length — and it doesn’t work that well.

As for companies who hire SEO internally, too often the employers  aren’t emotionally equipped to understand what SEO really is — it’s a quality process…that involves the entire company.

When Toyota decided they were going to out-quality Detroit, they didn’t hire a quality guy and stick him in a cube.

They hired someone who would come in and look at the operations of the entire company and build a process that baked quality in.

And the best companies that do SEO, bake SEO in.

Thanks for sharing, Dan. What’s your ideal next gig?

My job is to help people build great sites with great information that serves appropriate readers.

I want to get elbows- and knees-deep in the next thing. If there’s a company committed to that and SEO, that would be a good fit.