Measure More Than Visitors, Lean SEO Guru Tells Group

Michael_Gold dropped by a tech workshop at Mission Fifty (Hoboken) last week, where some 56 developers and website owners showed up for an introduction to lean search engine optimization (SEO) for startups taught by Michael Gold, president of Midtown Web Marketing LLC (New York) and an expert on the subject.

Unlike many short workshops that are merely window dressing, Gold’s provided actual tips the attendees could use to increase their standing in Google. He also discussed free and low-cost tools that can help people achieve business goals. Gold based his talk on the teachings in the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Key features of this kind of lean SEO include the ability to measure your search engine ranking results, to quantify what you’ve done to make the results appear where they do and to make changes when necessary.

The event was one of a series of workshops presented at the coworking space by NJ Tech Meetup. Past workshop offerings were Startup Best Practices, Protecting Intellectual Property, and Search Engine Marketing by Clickable, while a future workshop will be held on Patents and Trademarks for Startups. We recently learned Google and Facebook will be dropping in at Mission Fifty in 2012. Attendees are often permitted to work at the space for free on a workshop day.

Gold started out with some basics. First, everyone should have Google Analytics or Get Clicky code on their website, he said. Once you are receiving those analytics, you can begin to understand how the site is being used. “If the only thing you are measuring is hits or visits, you aren’t getting the whole story,” he said, calling them “vanity metrics.”

Analytics let startups track conversions, which include anything that makes users take action, such as filling out a registration form or going to a Contact Us page to complete one. Using the tools, startups can find out what people were searching for that led them to the site and caused them to take action.

Gold’s second major tips category involved how to influence the top-ranking factors used by Google: visibility, trust, engagement and search engine results page (SERP) snippets, also known as metadata. Every Web page contains a title, description and URL. The actual page’s URL is important to the search engine. Developers should create a Web page for every search term they think people will use to find their site, Gold advised. The title, which should contain 60 characters or fewer, should relate to the search term, as should both the URL, which shouldn’t exceed 25 characters, and the website description (no more than 125 characters).

“Keywords (as part of the metadata) are no longer used by search engines, and I recommend not using them completely,” Gold said. Tools like Screaming Frog for Windows and Mac will crawl through a website and tell you if any of your pages is missing titles or includes descriptions that are too long, he said.

Later in the workshop, Gold discussed bounce rates, a Google Analytics measurement that lets you know when users are “so uninterested, they don’t interact with any content on the site.” If your pages have high bounce rates, you should see if you need to improve the content or, if content is good, whether the users were trying to find something else, he said. Gold also recommends startups put blogs on their websites to help reduce bounce rates. Blogs are an easy way to engage users, he noted.

Gold said website owners should be able to find out which search terms are their top performers at driving conversions, and they should optimize content for them. Create a small batch of similar search terms, write content for them and test them out to see if they drive conversions. Tools to help with this include Wordtracker and the Google AdWords Keyword Tool he added.

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