Dec 6, 2007 115 reads by Navneet Kaushal

It turns out that just because a programmer can write a search engine algo it doesn't mean they can reverse-engineer that algo from a web page. Search engine's own people need some training and help getting pages indexed and ranked well from time to time.

This panel will discuss how and when search engines SEO their own sites and what optimizers and site owners can learn from their experiences.


  • Joseph Morin


  • Melanie Mitchell, Vice President of SEO/SEM, AOL
  • Dave Roth, Director of Search Engine Marketing, Yahoo! Inc
  • Maile Ohye, Senior Support Engineer, Google

First to speak is Melanie Mitchell the Vice President of SEO/SEM, AOL. While looking at SEO for a site it's not just about the search engine but how it is managed across the whole site. It's about:

  • large scale effort
  • content
  • product areas

Melanie says that it's hard to optimize for any site when the corporates of the company itself do not believe in the power of search. For this, you need the backing of the organization's corporates. A company like AOL has over a 100 million pages.

There is no one way to fix it. Sometimes you even have to be the wicked witch to be able to solve the issue. When she joined back in 2004 it was very disorganized. AOL was never meant to be a search engine company, not that it had to be. For this, she came up with a plan to change it all and to show how the corporates of the company could benefit from it.

The company's linking was weak and so were the titles. Melanie set out on a mission where she gave her bosses information on why Yahoo! was doing well and they were not. She stressed on how it was necessary for the company and how much they would benefit from it. Her purpose was t embed SEO within the company and not limit it to the team alone.

Melanie's 6 point plan:

  1. Create core search team: Team must have experts on subject matter(SMEs). These people keep their eyes and ears on the happenings in the industry and keep the company updated about it.

    System architects: keep system architects who can connect between the varied platforms of publishing platforms.

    Tech Head: This person is incharge of relating business requirements to the engineers.

    Front Liners.

    Program managers (overseer) and project managers (detail watchers).

  2. Accountability: Set priorities, goals and incentives. Make things urgent so that nothing gets leftover or just slides by. The target was 30% from search alone. These were tied into the incentive s program.
  3. Training: Melanie's team created an SEO certification. Keep testing the team-members and if they fail, they need a different job, after all, failure as a company is worse.
  4. Set internal standards: Fine-tune on what is important for SEO alone. St up best practices, throw away what is outdated and designate who is responsible for what.
  5. Provide Tools: Use free online tools that are available easily. However, Melanie's team also had an in-built Wikipedia and a running FAQ.
  6. Measure and Track (and adjust): Keep a track on what the people you have designated duties for are doing.

    Page indexes (percentage)

    Search referrals- is it growing or falling?

    User behaviour.

Lastly, it is crucial for you to have a Dashboard. This will include:

  • Report card
  • Progress
  • Search referrals
  • How everyone is faring

Final Thoughts:

  • You can't ignore search.
  • You need top executives who support and back you.
  • Without accountability, there's no success.
  • Be transparent with the data.
  • You have to be willing to do what it takes.

Next up is Dave Roth, Director of Search Engine Marketing, Yahoo! Inc. Roth says there'sa new breed of executives out there. These people were not VPs of search or directors of SEO or SEM at major companies. The future looks bright now as search is now going places.

SEO and SEM at Yahoo!

Yahoo! does it for the same reasons: acquire customers and make money.

Yahoo! Is involved with a lot of properties-



-small business


And business models-

-subscription models

-conversion models

-transactional models

-lead generation models

-CPM revenue models.

All except e-tail

Dave says you need one binding plan to engage all these models together. Vales are requires else it cannot be done. Their central groups do not get any special treatment, no algorithm insights from Yahoo! Search, receiving only limited data like Yahoo! Buzz. This team also works with Yahoo! Search in order to make tools that can spider better.

Quantifying Opportunity.

  • Their team motto is "If you can't quantify it, it doesn't exist." You have to quantify the moments so that the execs back you up.
  • Run ClickSpace for some properties.
  • Create a virtual model for SEO competition.
  • The previous step helps to Identify gaps.
    Attach values. Shoe me the money!

Make Search engine optimization a part of the process.

  1. Phase 1: CONCEPT: Concept: competitive research, strategies for attracting traffic and links, partner and affiliate SEO possibilities.
  2. Phase 2: WIREFRAMES: Site architecture considerations, URL structure planning, internal linking structure planning, Semantic setup and benchmarking.
  3. Phase 3: DESIGN: Wording, keyword usage, AJAX/Flash/CSS/iFrame considerations, content distributions and layout.
  4. Phase 4: DEVELOPMENT: Fuss-free URL implementation, robots.txt, indexing and feed creation
  5. Phase 5: LAUNCH: Set-up a datamart report, submit feed and URL, press release optimization
  6. Phase 6: POST LAUNCH: Reporting and analytics, optimization testing and tweaking.

Organizing SEO:

  • SEO program manager
  • SEO product development manager
  • SEO property managers (wireframe, design folks, people from properties)
  • SEO producer
  • SEO analysts

How To measure SEO success?

  • Use an SEO scorecard that tracks property, total SEO traffic, change, trending data, value assessments, and SEO health
  • Build index based on the same lines of predictive model

How To know if SEO failed?

  • Build 'clickspace model' based index
  • Identify competitors and compare traffic

Final Thoughts:

  • SEO for a large spectrum
  • Quantify & value
  • Train everyone in team
  • Make people accountable
  • Integrate SEO into the development process

Finally, it's Maile Ohye a Senior Support Engineer from Google. Her 2 topics include:

  • SEO how not tos – common mistakes
  • Opportunities in video/book/local search
  • Fundamental and SEO truths

SEO how not tos – common mistakes

A common mistake is translating content without making changes in site structure for international sites. Broaden your marketplace. If Googlebot saw different content for one URL this would cause problems as it would provide wrong information. This is cloaking and it's anti-Googelbot.

SERP can be manipulated by information in URL's language and location. A person in Germany needs choices for content in whichever language he chooses.

Designing for IP delivery:

  • Keep content mostly the same
  • For different content, create differing URLs too. For geo-location, refer to Webmaster Tools.

Designing for Web 2.0 Technology

  1. Flash/AJAX and videos are pretty but not properly crawled.
  2. Use HTML for content and navigation.
  3. Official statements are available for SiFR, Hijax, etc. for Flash.

Opportunities in video/book/local search

  • Video, Local Businesses, and Book Search can all be submitted via Webmaster Central.
  • Currently, Google is employing videos to connect with people. For eg: Matt's videos are a great way of reaching out to users & webmasters.

Fundamental and SEO truths

Google has design principles, such as:

  1. accessibility
  2. speed
  3. easy navigation

Available are many tricks and tips at the Webmaster Central blog.

Final Thoughts:

Build unique, compelling content, or a service (eg: Kango)

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
Navneet Kaushal
Navneet Kaushal
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