Changing Value of External Links for SEO

Rand Fishkin clarifies Google’s stance on external linking — especially guest blogging. (video below). 

You may recall a huge swirl in January regarding the penalty Expedia received as a result of it’s link acquisition practices.  



Links from guest blogging relationships in particular were suddenly brought under scrutiny. It turns out that Expedia used a number of other link acquisition techniques that got them into trouble – but the lingering question of good vs. bad links remains. Rand’s Whiteboard Friday talk removes the ambiguity. Enjoy! 

Posted in Google Algorithm Changes, SEO Tips | Tagged , , ,

Halloween SEO – How about THEM apples?

Walmart Halloween SEO Visits
I’ve stripped out the actual numbers to protect Walmart’s data. I’ve been here long enough to handle 2 Halloween seasons so far. Feeling pretty good about the year-to-year SEO Visit comps :-).

Posted in Bragging Rights, Uncategorized, Walmart SEO

Quick Tips – SEO for Images

To start you off on the right foot, I am including 3 recent blog posts that contain everything you need to know about optimizing images for the major search engines:


  • Alt-Attribute: Use descriptive terms to describe what the image is about. 150 character limit.
  • Image Name: Use descriptive terms to name the image file.
  • Image Size: Reduce the file size as much as you can without sacrificing resolution. Google uses page load time in its algorithm, so fast-loading pages rank higher than slow-loading pages.
  • Image Titles & Descriptions: You can skip these! They may be useful for delivering a better user experience, but Google currently does not use them in their algorithm.



  • Describe the image in plain English. Use terms that search engines understand
  • Example: “Hardware Mounted Baby Gates – not “Hardware mounted”

alt=”Hardware-mounted” onclick=”s_objectID="

Image Name:

  • Use descriptive terms separated by hyphens. Follow with other information you need to keep track of images.
  • Example: Configurable-Baby-Gates-Imagexx353.jpg
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Google Hummingbird Release – 4 things to know

ImageLate September, Google announced an entirely new algorithm release called Hummingbird.  Below are 4 things to know along with links to a couple of early blog posts about the announcement.

1)      Content + Assortment Wins.

In light of Hummingbird, it is critical now for eCommerce players to dominate their categories with assortment, and relevant content about that assortment within a given category. The content and assortment organized in ways that make sense to consumers signals to Google that Website A is a better overall category destination than Website B.

2)      “Conversational Search” Favors Long-Tail – Especially on Mobile.

Hummingbird’s emphasis on contextual search over keyword search means that players who cover the category with assortment and comprehensive content will win the majority of long-tail queries. A purely head-term strategy will fall short in light of Google’s emphasis on “conversational search” queries – especially on Mobile. Deeper content that maps to more nuanced searcher intent will be increasingly rewarded in search results.

3)      Back-to-Basics Strategy Still Wins.

So – does Hummingbird signal a big change in how SEOs strategize to win traffic? Or would a back-to-basics strategy be more effective? The formula for SEO success remains the same – but with a few refinements. To win, SEOs need:

  • Clear landing pages –
  • Linked to with compelling content –
  • Shared through social influencers and advocates.

The goal now (as before) is to provide full coverage across the category  to signal to Google that your site is the best destination for consumers within your competitive market space. You can do this with assortment and targeted category landing pages, combined with top-notch sharable content.

An effective content strategy, then, should directly speak to the assortment choices in ways that create value for consumers (think buying guides, how to guides, and product comparison content for research-stage consumers). Also, that content can be more nuanced than before as Google uses contextual search technology to understand true user intent and return content that matches that intent.

4)      Mobile – “Conversational Search” allows Google to Compete with Apple’s Siri.

Mobile continues to displace Desktop, and Hummingbird is specifically designed for conversational search via phone (to compete with Siri). So accessibility from anywhere, and from any device increases in importance. Mobile and Tablet search will continue to displace Desktop search as voice-based contextual search technologies continue to improve the mobile search experience for consumers.

Sources & Notes:

  • Contextual search – conversational – for mobile – competes against Siri

Excerpt from Post:

Google is now looking at how you search instead of just what you’re looking for and this is especially true for complex search queries.

Overall, Hummingbird appears to be putting less emphasis on keywords and more emphasis on the context of your search.

Since Hummingbird strives to provide a more natural search environment, content on the internet that is more in-depth and naturally worded appears to have an edge over keyword-rich lines of text written solely for search engines in mind. Sites with well-written, high quality content and pages grouped together which are relevant will rank even higher than before with the introduction of Hummingbird.

It’s hard to dismiss the fact that Google showed off and announced Hummingbird on their blog by using mock-ups on mobile devices…not on a desktop or laptop screen. The internet is accessed via mobile devices by users more than ever; that trend doesn’t seem to be diminishing anytime soon and Google is keenly aware of this. The search engine giant wants it to be easier than ever to pull out your phone and find exactly what you’re looking for on the internet.

  • Google looks at how users refine search results to get the content they actually intend to find. These insights may play a role in Hummingbird’s ability to offer intent-based search results rather than keyword-based search results.

Excerpt from post:

Once a searcher types a query into the search box of a major search engine such as Google or Bing, the search engine logs related activity, which could include:

• What pages appeared in search results (and at which ranking positions)

• The result the searcher clicked on (if any)

• If and how the searcher refined the result (if the searcher didn’t click a result)

• If the searcher returned to the search results and clicked on a different result after clicking (and what that next click was)

• What query the searcher typed next

  • Conversational search (via phone / voice command) replaces shorter head-term queries as more users adopt mobile.
  • Optimizing for conversational search will deliver greater benefit – both in head-terms as well as in head-term queries as Google connects the dots and synthesizes the true intent of shorter head-term queries.
  • One impact of this: item pages and deep-long tail content may continue to surface is SERPS and replace top-level head-term pages (think product pages winning over category pages, and deep articles winning over blog home-pages.

Excerpt from Post:


What type of “new” search activity does Hummingbird help?

Conversational search” is one of the biggest examples Google gave. People, when speaking searches, may find it more useful to have a conversation.

“What’s the closest place to buy the iPhone 5s to my home?” A traditional search engine might focus on finding matches for words — finding a page that says “buy” and “iPhone 5s,” for example.

Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words.

In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

I thought Google did this conversational search stuff already!

It does (see Google’s Impressive “Conversational Search” Goes Live On Chrome), but it had only been doing it really within its Knowledge Graph answers. Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts, which may bring back better results.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Steadily Moving the Needle – Black Friday SEO

Walmart Black Friday 2013Slowly but surely, we are moving the needle on highly competitive terms including Black Friday and Black Friday 2013. We’ve won first page results. Shooting now to top 5.

Posted in Walmart SEO

SEO – Campaigns and Categories at


I have not updated my blog in a while.

Just a quick update, for the past 6 months, I’ve been busy as a member of the SEO team. I joined in July and have been busy working on all of the Holiday campaigns and top category pages.

Tons of interesting projects and issues to work on here. I’ll have some Holiday updates soon including some stories about getting first page results for “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, and now working on “Green Monday” and “Green Monday deals“. The Black Friday traffic numbers were huge! Exciting to lead that project.

For competitive reasons, I am a bit limited in terms of what I can share. But I will post an update soon with what I can share.


Posted in Walmart SEO

ZipRealty SEO Win! Increased non-branded traffic 460%!

I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished at ZipRealty.

Last year, I introduced a comprehensive SEO strategy, and 7 months in, we’ve really nailed it! The results far exceed my own expectations for what we could do. Here is our story:

Our Story:
I joined in August 2011 at a time when ZipRealty’s organic traffic had been declining steadily month after month. During the 6 months prior to implementing our plan, organic traffic had declined 27%.

The core objective of our campaign was to expose previously “closed” property detail content to Google, and hopefully triple traffic to those property pages. We set a goal to double non-branded traffic, triple traffic to Property pages (our equivalent to product pages), and increase traffic from long-tail 50% for a set of target terms.

7 months after beginning work on the campaign, we increased non-branded traffic 460% over the previous year. Here’s how we did it:

The Plan:
The site had virtually no blog content, had severe duplicate content issues, and Zip’s most salient content – their property detail pages – were hidden from Google behind a registration gateway. The plan was to…


  • Open up those hidden property pages
  • Eliminate duplicate content and consolidate URLs to concentrate pagerank


  • Produce hyper-local, link-rich, sharable content in 27 major markets
  • Introduce a Realtor blog and evergreen content


  • Provide social tools and training for Realtors to share our content
  • Methodically share content, increase fan base, and acquire natural links across social media channels

It was an ambitious plan, but at its core, also a simple one. Simple in concept and focus, yet complex to execute. We steadily implemented the plan in phases over the next several months.

Campaign goals:
Remember, the campaign goals were to double non-branded traffic, triple traffic to property pages, and attain a 50% boost in long-tail traffic from target head-terms within the first year. We Far exceeded those goals.

SEO Results:
7 months in, the results far exceeded our expectations. The campaign:

  • Increased non-branded traffic 744% to property pages and 460% site-wide y-y
  • Increased address traffic to property pages 942% year to year
  • Increased long-tail traffic for key terms “houses for sale” 201%; “homes for sale” 154%; and “MLS listings” 149% year to year.

I’m really proud of my team at Zip as well as my extended teams at Motionstrand, LeadQual, and Brafton for their support.

This was really an exciting project to lead – I had so much fun! I cannot wait for the next one!!

Charted Growth:

The following charts show growth in Organic Landing Page Visits across a few key KPIs.

Non-Branded organic landing page traffic increased 563% y-y and 445% from launch.

Address search (where users searched specifically for an address or MLS number) increased a remarkable 917%. This far exceeded expectations.

Total organic more than doubled – increasing 171% from launch. Most of our gains were in non-branded search. (Note, I’ve included percentage gains but omitted actual traffic numbers.)

Posted in Bragging Rights, Client News, Uncategorized, ZipRealty SEO | Tagged