Sometimes it seems like search engines operate a little bit like the Wizard of Oz. Who knows what the %$#* goes on behind those digital curtains. Wouldn’t it be great to get the real scoop from an insider? Mojo40 was able to do just that. Here’s our interview with Major Search Geek, author, and the person who runs Bing’s Webmaster Tools Program, Duane Forrester.
Duane: They get bogged down in too much detail. After researching search optimization, they become overwhelmed with all the advice. Worse, how do you figure out which advice to trust? The truth is, building a plan for optimizing your site can be pretty straightforward. Notice I didn’t say doing the work would be easy. I won’t lie, it’s a lot of work to optimize a website, but setting out the right plan ahead of time makes a big difference. So what should you focus on then?
- Quality content: Do some keyword research up front to understand exactly what phrases people are searching on that are related to the topic of your website. From that list, you can start building content. You can write this yourself. Around 300 words per page is enough content. You can go longer, but try not to go too much shorter – you want the content to reinforce the fact that you are an authority on the topic.
- Building relevant links: Your social media program can help here as you should be sharing links to your own content as well as to content from other websites your followers will find useful. I’d suggest maybe a 4-to-1 balance. For every one item you post about your own website, post four items to other related sites. You can offer to do some guest blogging for other sites related to your topic in exchange for a link back to your website. It’s a great way to turn 45 minutes of your time into a quality inbound link.
If you focus on these two main areas, the rest of the chatter around optimization becomes manageable over time. Don’t kid yourself, though. Producing quality content takes time and commitment.
Mojo40: Some of our users are sole proprietors (note: think lawyer, architect, dentist etc.) so they are only interested in getting local business. They know about search but they have very little time for that and even less budget. What are the three most important things they should be doing to get local business?
Duane: Here’s my advice:
- Set up or claim your local listing with the major search engines. Bing recently launched the Bing Business Portal allowing local businesses to claim their listing, partake in “local deals” (think Groupon and Living Social) and even snag a mobile website, if desired.
- Optimize your website. This helps the search engines understand your site is a quality product and they are much more likely to rank you favorably. As part of your optimization efforts, you should ask yourself what else you can do to offer your website visitors the best possible experience. The engines want to show the best results, so quality content and an excellent user experience factor heavily into this effort.
- Get social! Don’t be afraid of participating at Facebook and on Twitter as a business.
Mojo40: When I search on my smart phone, am I getting the same results as if I’m searching on my desktop? Is there anything I should be doing differently?
Duane: Yes and no. Due to the different user interfaces at play on a mobile device v. your computer, the results returned in mobile search favor websites targeted at mobile experiences. You can, and should, look into optimizing a website for mobile searchers. The differences are subtle and don’t really require you building an entirely new website. Don’t fear treading into the mobile space, as it’s the portal to local traffic. Most mobile searches are local in nature, so the two are very closely related.
Mojo40: How much do reviews– like for Yelp or Amazon– figure into search results?
Duane: They are signals. The engines use signals like these to help understand relevance and perceived value. If the reviews are positive, that’s a good indicator to the engines the result is trustworthy. It’s not the only, or even main signal applied, but certainly reviews can help.
Mojo40: For search– does wordpress.com or blogger.com make a difference?
Duane: What makes a difference is being able to control your web space. This means being able to access the root of your domain to upload items such as robots.txt files, sitemap.xml files and validation tags for services such as Bing Webmaster Tools. If a blogging platform can enable access for you to work with these elements, then you’re fine. Other than that, WordPress tends to offer greater control than Blogger, and there are a ton of great plugins available for WordPress such as Zemanta and the All-In-One SEO plugin.
Mojo 40: What search advice would you give to Mojo40.com?
Duane: Not much as it turns out. You guys are hitting the high points, the site looks pretty good and your social work brings useful items forward beyond just your own site content. I say, “Keep up the great work!”
photo courtesy of pharmamkting.blogspot.com
Got more questions? Tips? Tell us in the comment section below.
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