ContentBiz Summit 2006: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics for Premium Content Providers
NEW YORK – On Monday, Peter Morse, VP, Search and Advertising at ECNext Inc., presented a case study “Search Engine Optimization for Premium Content Providers”.
Getting your web pages ranked high in the organic (free) listings of search engines is important for generating greater traffic to your website. Especially when as much as 75% of clicks within Google are on organic listings.
So how do you do it? Depends on who you ask. Search engines want you to create a content rich site and build it so it works well for users – then let their crawlers and secret algorithms do the rest.
But what do you do when much of your website is behind a subscription wall or login box? It can be difficult for search engines to crawl and index your site. Further, it can be difficult to acquire inbound links because people generally deep link to free content. Finally, free pages within a premium content site tend to share similar characteristics, prompting search engines to exclude them from indexing, thinking they are duplicates. Net: fewer pages indexed and lower search engine rankings.
Let’s take a look at the essential elements of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – the process of improving web pages so that they will rank higher in organic search.
At the most basic level, search engines crawl, index and rank web pages:
First, search engines automatically crawl web pages and read content, revisiting periodically to look for updates.
Then search engines index your pages, creating a database of crawled web pages and making content of web pages available for people to search.
Finally search engines rank web pages, using top secret algorithms to decide which pages to show and in what order, for a specific search query.
Premium content publishers should: 1) leverage existing content; 2) create new content and give it away; 3) build relevant links; and 4) decrease page duplication; 5) catch long tail search term traffic; and 6) track progress.
Leverage existing content: Every piece of content is a marketing vehicle. Develop a product page for each piece of your content. And make sure crawlers can find this “free” content via text links and by avoiding dynamic URLs. Rather than one large page, create individual pages for each product page – more pages means more targeted search terms.
Create new content and give it away: You need some free content to entice links to your site. Some ideas for free content: blogs; user generated content; lists of useful resources and “how to” subject guides; and industry news and trends.
Build relevant links: If your content is worthwhile, someone will want to link to it. You want text links that are contextually relevant in nature and are one-way, not reciprocal (discounted by search engines). But all links are not created equal. Inbound links from content areas carry more weight vs. links from footer/navigation. As a first priority, pursue links from .edu, .org, .gov, .and mil domains (these are viewed by search engines as non-profit and authoritative, carrying more weight).
Decrease page duplication Search engines try to reduce too many similar pages being indexed. With limited free content available per page, it’s important to avoid pages looking too much the same. Morse’s rule of thumb: keep pages less than 85% similar.
Catch long tail search term traffic: Specialized content and search terms are very valuable to mine. To accomplish this, try using product specific keywords where search engine users land on the exact page that answers their question. Consider displaying author and publisher name prominently to capture additional search traffic. And display addresses and phone numbers for visibility in local search results.
Track progress As with everything direct response, it’s critically important to track results. Morse recommends monitoring the number of “important pages” indexed, ranks for targeted keywords, and conversion rates for search traffic.
Next Up: What Reuters Learned About Tech Platforms and Marketing by Launching Five Content Subscription Sites in 2005.