Are we focusing too much on chasing the shiny new tactics that apparently work and giving up too easily on old tactics for which there is far more evidence that they actually do work?
The technology behind search engines has improved over the years to the point where sometimes their ability to determine relevancy between the phrase you searched for and the results shown is impressive. If you combine such observations with what you read in the webmaster guidelines from either Bing or Google, you might infer that a lot of old-school SEO just isn't necessary anymore. While there are indeed multiple paths to success, if you want to drive the most organic traffic to your site as possible, it's worth taking your eye off the shiny new SEO tactic you just read about and instead consider the following boring, but proven tactics.
If you have a product site and those products number in the hundreds or thousands, there are probably many different ways to group those products using attributes. An attribute can be any feature such as a size or color. The SEO tactic is straightforward in that you create individual pages, each of which lists products with attributes that have the same value, and then optimize the content around that attribute value. You probably recognize this approach as what most e-commerce sites do, but with a little creativity you can extend the idea to other types of sites. Note that these sorts of pages are essentially internal search results and, if they don't provide much value, Google has told us to block such pages from being indexed.
Figure 1: 100 percent increase five months after attribute pages deployed.
Geographic Location Pages
Similar to attribute pages, geographic (geo for short) location pages group things together, except in this case the grouping is based on proximity around a location - e.g., Zip code, city, coordinates. If you've worked in the local SEO space you already know that when given a search phrase with a location, Google will likely favor local specific results that are an exact match on the location. But what if your location is well within an acceptable driving distance, but happens to be located in another town? Where I live I cross three towns to get to my nearest Costco! Should this Costco be excluded from results for grocery stores in my area?
The SEO solution to this is to build out geo-specific pages that target the locations around the area in which you have a physical listing. Aggregator sites are famous for doing this sort of thing and I bet you've already encountered an aggregator in your industry that you know is being rewarded by Google. My own recent tests suggest that such pages do indeed deliver additional traffic, so your intuition about aggregators is spot-on.
If your business is one with multiple locations, you've probably created a page for each location. And you've probably included the same content on each of those pages with only the address being different. This makes sense, as any user landing on one of these pages will be given a description of your business while also being shown an address, which is likely everything she needs. Would you believe me if I told you that you can increase organic performance of these "duplicate" pages by varying the content? A recent experiment where I mixed up the content without providing any truly new information resulted in increased traffic.
Figure 2: 31 percent increase four months after varied content deployed.
Don't Believe Everything You Read
My "proof" is arguably weak based on sample size and lack of repeatability. And the usual correlation vs. causation argument applies here, too. Some might even suggest that I'm just on the winning side of the Panda and Penguin updates. I can't refute any of those here. However, my intention is not for you to blindly follow me, but rather to question what you hear the experts and search engine representatives say. I think we focus a lot on chasing the shiny new tactics that apparently work and give up too easily on old tactics for which there is far more evidence that they actually do work.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Marios Alexandrou is the East Coast Director of SEO for Steak's Search Marketing team and has a background in web development and project management. While he loathes to tell people just how long he's been working with computers, he will admit that his first computer had just 16KB of memory.
His SEO experience includes work with both in-house and agency teams ranging from one-man shows to 20+ dedicated SEO strategists. He has worked with organizations of all sizes and across multiple industries including hospitality, financial services, publishing, and healthcare. He particularly likes to use his combination of skills to identify ways to scale SEO activities through process standardization and automation.
In addition to writing about SEO for ClickZ, Marios also writes on the broader area of Internet marketing for Infolific.
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