Four New Year’s Resolutions for SEO in 2013

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO New Year’s Resolutions for 2013.”

2013With a new year ahead, it’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions. What do you want search engine optimization to do for your site in 2013? The most likely goals for any ecommerce site revolve around driving more traffic and converting more visitors. Let’s look at some steps for analyzing, planning and implementing stronger SEO programs in 2013.

  • Drive More SEO Traffic
  • Convert More SEO Visitors
  • Implement More SEO Actions
  • Build Better Relationships

Each resolution includes details and links to articles for more practical SEO tips. Enjoy!

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »


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Ecommerce Product Facets and Filters for SEO

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: When Product Facets and Filters Fail.”

Ecommerce sites rely on filtered or faceted navigation to make their product catalogs more easily digestible for customers. Depending on how filters and facets are implemented, however, they can either be fantastic for search engine optimization or a big failure.

SEO is based on three pillars: crawler access, keyword relevance, and authority. Filters and facets affect the first two of these pillars, access and relevance. Depending on which platform is used and how it’s implemented, faceted navigation and filters can act as crawl barriers for search engines or produce tremendous amounts of duplicate content. That’s the access issue. If a search engine’s crawler can’t or doesn’t access certain pages on the site, those pages have no chance of being indexed, ranking or driving organic search traffic.

On the relevance front, pages created by filters and facets are often treated as subsets of the unfiltered page. As a result they aren’t allowed to display unique title tags, headings meta descriptions and other textual signals that would alert search engines to their unique content. Filtered and faceted pages may contain subsets of products that have high search value, but if the page isn’t allowed to display keyword signals targeting unique keywords, the page looks to a search engine nearly identical to the unfiltered page and all of its other filtered variants.

  • Example: When Facets and Filters Work for SEO
  • Example: When Facets and Filters Fail SEO
  • Comparing Crawler Access

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »


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The Overlap between SEO & Accessibility

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog: “Better Accessibility, Better SEO.”

Mention web accessibility and digital marketers tend to sigh, flash back to alt attributes on images and envision a small handful of vision-impaired people using screen readers. In reality, accessibility standards benefit nearly 12% of the U.S. population, from people with hearing and vision impairment to people with repetitive motion disorder, developmental disabilities or ADHD. And the growing population of senior citizens online represents another important reason for brands to embrace accessibility standards, with 53% of American adults age 65 and older using the Internet.

As an added benefit, what’s good for accessibility is also typically good for search engine optimization. The accessibility standards that focus on providing textual alternatives and navigational guidelines have the most overlap with SEO because the search engine crawlers that index the Internet for ranking are traditionally bound by similar restrictions as screen readers.

The most obvious example of overlap between accessibility and SEO is the need to provide textual alternatives for non-textual content such as images, audio and video. On the SEO front, alt attributes are not a very powerful keyword relevance signal, but they do have a small benefit. When combined with other SEO best practices, using relevant alt attributes that agree with the keyword signal on the page when it’s possible will give the page an extra boost. Following the following guidelines will enhance both web accessibility and the keyword signals that feed SEO….

Read the article in full at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog »


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SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign,” part one of a two-part series on identifying, assessing, and mitigating the risk of site redesigns on organic search traffic.

Site redesigns can create a period of intense instability for organic search traffic. Predicting which areas of the site will be most vulnerable to that instability and creating an SEO launch strategy to mitigate the risk in those areas decreases both the length and the intensity of the disruption to organic search traffic.

Hasbro’s anxiety-laden board game “Perfection” comes to mind when I think of redesigns. The game features a spring-loaded playing surface and a variety of plastic shapes. To begin playing, you push the blue, spring-loaded tray down and set the embedded timer. Then you have 60 seconds in which to accurately place all of the little yellow pieces into the matching holes in the tray. If you fail to place them all in 60 seconds, the tray springs up with an awful suddenness, spraying plastic pieces all over the place. I hated that game.

A redesign is not unlike that moment of sudden change at the end of the game Perfection. When a site redesigns, a number of elements that search engines use to determine the relevance and authority of the pages on a site tend to change suddenly and all at the same time. The world of a site as the search engines know it is suddenly different and must be carefully reindexed and analyzed algorithmically to determine its place in the rankings.

URLs typically change as pages are added and deleted, content is merged or split into new pages. The URLs that existed previously had some amount of authority and link popularity associated with them. When the URLs change, how that change is handled matters a great deal to the search engines, and thus to the organic search traffic the pages will drive after the redesign goes live.

Navigation is another major disruptor when a redesigned site launches. In addition to the URL changes that tend to accompany navigational changes, the flow of link juice throughout the site can be dramatically altered by just a few changes to the links included in the navigation. Categories may be merged together or split apart. Links to subcategory pages may be added or removed based on design constraints. Navigational labels may change so that the anchor text for the navigational links is different, sending different keyword signals across the site post-launch.

Keep in mind that not all navigation is found in the header and footer. Cross-linking features like tagging and related products also serve as navigation. Be sure to analyze changes to these features as well.

Finally, content that was plain text may be reworked into a less indexable format like images or video. Text is a dying component in modern web design, much to the detriment of organic search traffic. Designers and brands prefer the clean look of image-based content where fonts and other design elements can be controlled more easily. Unfortunately, without space in the template for a couple of lines of plain textual content, many sites risk becoming nearly mute in the redesign process, unable to send strong keyword relevance signals.

All of these changes, very common in site redesigns, send extremely disruptive signals to the search engine. The marketing and development teams have been planning the redesign for months, but literally overnight Googlebot and Bingbot are surprised with an entirely new site without any advanced warning. Helping the bots understand the changes quickly is the secret to mitigating the risk to the site’s organic search traffic.

Read the full article for tips on what questions to ask designers and developers, how to identify the SEO-critical changes in a redesign project and more at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Identifying the Impact of a Site Redesign.”


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Is Your Store Locator Hiding?

Excerpts from my latest article at Practical eCommerce: “SEO: Can Local Searchers Find Your Stores?

Store location pages fill a need much larger than the physical address of a store close to the individual user. Many customers already know where a store is based on their everyday routines. What they don’t know and are seeking are the hours, holidays that the store is closed, services offered, manager’s name, phone number to call for questions about items, etc. The store locator, then, needs to answer these individual store questions.

Now consider searchers: For all intents and purposes they can drop out of the sky from Google or Bing and land on any page on the site. That makes every page on the site a potential landing page that needs to be able to command customers’ confidence and convert searchers to some next step.

The ideal would be to search Google for a store location, like [northbrook furniture store], and get the exact store locator pages for the relevant stores. This rarely happens, however. Read on to discover why and what you can do about it.

Read the article in full at Practical eCommerce »


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