Pro SEO Seminar 2010 - Key Takeaways

So the Distilled Pro SEO Seminar 2010 is done and dusted; and we've just about recovered here :)

We've had some fabulous feedback from our attendees, but whether you made it along or not, hopefully you'll find this round up post featuring the key takeaways useful.

Hope to see you next year!

Day One

Session One - Duelling Laptops: Live Site Review

Mmmmmm, we love the smell of SEO in morning! Rand Fishkin, Tom Critchlow and Stephen Pavlovich kick off the Pro event with a live site review panel – looking at on and off page SEO factors plus conversion rate optimisation.

Key Takeaways:


  • Don’t forget your keyphrase research to ensure you’re targeting higher traffic phrases from the get-go, e.g., ‘flats’ instead of ‘property’
  • Don’t meta noindex results pages with no results – either try to consolidate / make them valuable or use robots.txt instead
  • If you’re using rel canonical, make sure the page you point to is actually indexed
  • Host your company blog on your domain – rather than on a subdomain or an external site.
  • Use UGC to make pages with very similar content more unique (e.g. where you have multiple pages for the same product because you stock different colours)


  • Do you really need people to ‘register’ or ‘create an account’ to buy on your site? Just take them through the checkout process. You can always give them the option to create an account login later on.
  • Remove the date of birth field from your account registration page – when you buy things from a shop they don’t ask for your date of birth.
  • Capture email addresses via ajax, and capture them early – you can then email people who dropped out of the conversion process
  • Don’t make ‘enter your voucher code’ too prominent on the checkout process – it’s distracting, and you may just be pushing customers to search for voucher discount sites.
  • Pre-populate the voucher code field, so people without codes still feel like they’re getting a good deal

Bonus Tips

  • Christmas gift ideas for the SEO in your life:





Session Two - Site Architecture & Faceted Navigation

Distilled’s own Duncan Morris delivers a facetinating (do you see what we did there?) presentation to guide us through how to deliver faceted navigation without creating a duplicate content nightmare.

Key Takeaways:

  • Your deepest facets should have no more than 100 products (for indexation)
  • For list pages, keep page 2 and onwards blocked
  • Ensure each facet list page contains unique, compelling content – otherwise these pages will struggle to rank. The more important the facet, the more effort you should expend.


Session Three - Overcoming Twitter’s Cannibalisation of the Link Graph

So, a change in user behaviour has lead to many people creating content and sharing links via social media sites rather than their own blogs / sites. The problem? Those links are nofollowed – social media is stealing our link juice. Bad times. Fortunately Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz is on hand – phew!

Key Takeaways

  • Get links via:

o   Embeddable content FTW –infographics, badges, widgets

o   Reference material –research & data, awards, citation-worthy explanations

o   Syndicated content

o   Look for niches with low Twitter adoption, i.e., where blogs and forums dominate the conversation

o   Friends / Partners / Customers / Vendors

o   Turn tweets into content

  • Twitter is almost certainly influencing at least some rankings – so there is some value in these pesky social links :)


Session Four - How Lessons from Sales can make you a Better SEO

Caitlin Krumdieck, Head of Sales at Distilled takes us through how to win budget, convince those SEO-sceptics and build links. Actually getting stuff done is often the toughest part of any SEO project so there are some great lessons here. Persuasive?  You betcha.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be nice & be genuine – build a relationship rather than a deal
  • Beware of the sceptical / conditional ‘yes’ you may encounter issues later on
  • A no is not always a no – make sure you know and understand what they said no to – is there another route?
  • Teach and empower SEO clients to get them more invested in the SEO process
  • In a good negotiation both parties walk away feeling like they’ve won – what are you willing to give?
  • After the win, you must deliver, or the relationship you’ve worked hard to build will crumble
  • Shout about the wins and share the celebration with everyone who’s helped you along the way


Session Five - Advanced Linkbuilding

Wiep Knol, one of the world’s leading link builders, takes us through a real-life link building campaign in the ultra-competitive travel sector and shares his learnings.

Key Takeaways

  • In terms of links you need, get ones that are relevant, authoritative and unique
  • Get more keyword-rich anchor text by:

o   Temporarily changing your page title or logo, e.g., ‘Staines Cleaning Company’ rather than just ‘Staines’

o   Find dead links with the same or similar anchor text

  • Mention your domain within the first paragraph of your press release
  • Use Google Alerts to find non-linking references then contact the site owner
  • Humour and disgust are strong triggers for sharing content
  • Flattery will get you everywhere... oh and some links
  • Create specific content to target high authority sites
  • Go the extra mile, e.g., create a top 70 list rather than a top 10

Session Six - Reputation Management in a Real-Time World

Will Critchlow and Rand Fishkin talk about the latest developments in online reputation management, the impact of real-time search, Google Instant and the recent changes to brand searches.

Key Takeaways

  • Check out Freebase – it illustrates the sort of entity association that Google may be using
  • Do a ‘Google’ – have press releases ready for a rainy day to push any bad news off the first page
  • Responding to bad press just fuels the fire and pushes it back up the SERPs – consider letting it go
  • Keep an eye on Google Suggest – you can influence it by creating and promoting new content externally

Session Seven - How to Hire SEOs

Tom Critchlow gives some tips on how to hire SEOs – also a very interesting insight into the interview process at Distilled.

Key Takeaways

  • Hire smart people who get things done – if they’re intelligent and effective, you can train them to do just about anything
  • Use application forms rather than just CVs
  • Ask interviewees to perform tasks – set tasks that will reveal computer literacy, lateral thinking, quality of their work, etc.
  • If their browser of choice is IE – don’t hire :p


Session Eight - SEO v Google

Dave Naylor talks us through the War of the SERPS – essentially how he sees Google locking down the SEO space in favour of their own properties. Before we all got depressed and started writing SEO is Dead posts, he then gave us some tips to help us adapt.

Key Takeaways

  • Google does appear to be gunning for specific types of sites:

o   Local directories

o   Price comparison

o   Shopping (particularly affiliate sites)

  • Fight Google by:

o   Going after the long tail (Google cannot police this)

o   Creating a brand that Google can’t touch – like Compare the Meerkat

o   Create a community – like FourSquare

  • If you’re site as disappeared unless you click “more shopping sites”, try changing your site layout.


Session Nine - Keyword Research – The Ultimate Process

Richard Baxter “gives away the farm” in this session, where he takes us through his in-depth keyword research process. Holy array formulas, Batman!

Key Takeaways

  • The long tail may be even longer than you think. Within automotive you’ll see searches which include:

o   Action (test drive, buy, etc.)

o   Condition (new, used, etc.)

o   Brand

o   Colour

o   Model

o   Location

  • Take very long tail keywords from analytics and break them down in order to farm new keywords
  • Make use of as many data sources as you can – e.g. site search data, analytics, hitwise, PPC, etc.
  • Mine your competitors’ keywords via Xenu, then manipulate in excel to extract the keywords from the title tag
  • Have a play with mergewords, and / or use concatenate in excel to create further keywords
  • You’ll then need to get search volume data (Rich recommends the Adwords API), plus your ranking data), and you can make some really intelligent decisions about which terms to target
  • If you can’t find the tool you want, you can get one built pretty cheaply by a freelancer
  • Go try out Rich’s keyword tool:


Session Ten - Integrating SEO into Development

Alex Craven talks us through the processes he uses to integrate SEO into the design and development process, dealing with sign-off, change to project specs and much more.

Key Takeaways

  • When us SEOs criticise websites, their developers feel kind of like you’ve just called their baby ugly. A little sensitivity can go a long way.
  • If there’s an inhouse SEO expert already in place – make them the hero of the project
  • Bring the senior decision maker into your kick off meeting, this will help you get things done
  • Avoid content problems by providing the client templates, guidelines and training on content production

Day Two

Session One - Data Journalism

Russell Smith from the BBC talks infographics, data journalism and the BBC’s external linking policies.

Key Takeaways

  • The BBC to double outbound links from 10m to 20m per month by 2013
  • If you have the original source to a great story the BBC will link to you
  • The BBC typically need 2 sources before they can break a story

Session Two - Sexing up your Reports

Will Critchlow shows off his excel ninja skillz once again, this time his focus is on making that pesky monthly report a thing of beauty...

Key Takeaways

  • You run reports to find answers, you write reports to cause change, and you send reports to build relationships
  • Ranking reports are often indecipherable – write executive summaries
  • Keep it simple – don’t use multiple axes & stacked charts – report your trends seperately
  • It’s good to talk – call your clients – don’t just rely on emailing out your report to get the message across
  • Remember, often email attachments are not read – make sure you include a short summary within the body of the email


Session Three - Understanding your Competitors’ Keyword, Link and Content Strategies

Sam Crocker talks ‘dynamic competitor stalking’ ... In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream *shudders*

Key Takeaways

  • Use Yahoo Pipes to combine feeds from industry sites / blogs
  • Check your competitors subdomains for test sites (use inurl *.domain.tld)
  • Find links to your competitor’s 404-ing pages, contact the link source and poach them for yourself
  • Password protect your test servers
  • Keep your blocking info out of robots.txt – use htaccess instead
  • Keep an eye on job boards, LinkedIn and patent applications for information on what your competitors are doing


Session Four - Top 10 Tips – Email

Tamara Gielen is a hugely experienced email marketer, and she’s here to share her tips on how to get better results with email campaigns.

Key Takeaways

  • Social networks are still not the primary way people choose to share content - 86% of people use email
  • Use Flowtown to identify social media users and influencers already in your email lists
  • Target social media users with exclusive content and encourage them to share it
  • Use email to help increase your conversion rates, e.g., abandoned shopping carts, etc.
  • Keep your unsubscribe message prominent in your emails – it reduces the risk of it being marked as spam


Session Five - Top 10 Tips – CRO

Stephen Pavlovich debunks some CRO myths and shares his CRO tips.

Key Takeaways

  • The process

o   Research and analysis (why aren’t visitors converting?)

o   Solutions (how can we fix this?)

o   Develop & Test

o   Review & Expand

  • Ask your customers what concerns did you have before ordering? Then try to address those objections head on.
  • Compare the online buying process to the offline buying process – what are you missing?
  • Punch anyone in the face who makes dumbass claims like “green buttons convert 25% better”.


Session Six - Top 10 Tips – Design for SEO

Distilled’s Leonie Wharton and Andy Davies bring us up to speed on the latest in design and development for SEO.

Key Takeaways


  • You can increase page speed by lowering image file sizes without compromising on the quality of the image
  • Calls to action should be:

o   Obvious – squint at your screen. The call to action should still be visible

o   In contrast to other website colours

o   Buttons should look clickable

  • Don’t clutter your pages with too many calls to action or they’ll lose their importance
  • Position buttons in a form in line with where the user is used to clicking. This is usually the left-hand side.


  • Check out – it tells you which browsers support features in HTML5, CSS3 and SVG
  • Use SVG to make infographics indexable

Session Seven - The Maths of SEO

SEOmoz’s Ben Hendrickson tells us just about everything he knows in half an hour... We struggle to keep up J

Key Takeaways

  • When you get something really interesting, it’s either – a) interesting, or b) a bug
  • Go and experiment
  • Consider buying a book on mathematical modelling


Session Eight - Building the Perfect Analytics Account

Will Critchlow takes us through how to build the perfect analytics account

Key Takeaways

  • Make sure you’re using the asynchronous code
  • Use to check Google Analytics is set up correctly
  • Use Jquery to track which form fields are causing abandonment
  • Segment your funnels
  • Weighted sort enables you to quickly and easily see the most important actionable data


Session Nine - SEO in Competitive Niches – Linkbuilding Problems & Solutions

Jane Copland of Ayima gets asked about link building. A lot. Here she shares her solutions...

Key Takeaways

  • There’s no such things as a perfect link profile, but natural is better than overly manipulated
  • If you see a site with a high mozRank, but low PageRank – chances are there’s something not quite right. Steer clear.
  • When it comes to your backlink profile you’ll need a combination of:

o   Quantity

o   Topic Quality

o   Authority

o   Noise

o   Editorial


Sessions Ten  - SEO in Competitive Niches – Paid Link Devaluation

Patrick Altoft of Branded3 shares his thoughts and research on the devaluation of paid links. His focus is on efficiency – as he thinks many people don’t realise how many links Google devalues.

Key Takeaways

  • Many major link sellers use Google Analytics, so chances are Google knows exactly what these sites are doing
  • Keyword links need to be balanced by brand links: they can act as a safety net
  • The more natural links you have, the less likely Google appear to devalue your unnatural links
  • Non-brands are using branded anchor text links to make Google believe they are brands
  • Analyse your competitors’ link profiles, and build up the parts that your competitors are beating you on

Session Eleven - SEO in Competitive Niches – Price Comparison


Sites with little unique content took a big hit after the Mayday update. Martin MacDonald shares the findings of his research into the ranking factors which seem to influence these types of sites. If you’ve a site that has struggled since Mayday, here’s Martin’s recommendations:

Key Takeaways

  • Content does not necessarily need to be unique, as long as it’s frequently updated and on-topic
  • Get stuff indexed quickly using ping-o-matic or PubSubHubbub
  • Make it obvious that your page has been updated recently – use dates in your text and META tags


Session Twelve - Big Budget Linkbuilding – Head to Head

Right folks, this is it. The big one. In the red corner Rand Fishkin; in the blue corner Will Crichlow. Who’ll bring the best big budget linkbuilding strategy? “Buy some links” just ain’t gonna cut it here...

Rand’s Tips

  • Don’t out-spend, out-think
  • Reverse engineer the rankings for as many search queries as you care about
  • Build a ranking model for your queries
  • Create a scoring system for comparative analysis
  • Don’t cater to demand, create demand (e.g., it’s an ‘iPad’, not a ‘Tablet’)

Will’s Tips

  • Spend money on ‘exceptional’

o   Exceptional content

o   Exceptional companies

  • Spend money on ‘eyeballs’

o   Advertising

  • Spend money on ‘encouragement’

o   Buy assets to get you ££’s and links


What Did the Attendees Say?

Feedback from Distilled's Pro Seminar Infographic

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