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SEO for Web 2.0

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On Wednesday I went to a Silicon Valley WebGuild event at Google on what I thought would be a discussion on SEO for Web 2.0. I thought I would hear discussions on optimizing Flex and AJAX and learning how we could make these Web 2.0 Technologies more search engine friendly. Instead, the discussion was more focused on how Web 2.0 companies were using SEO. Which is completely different, especially when you consider that the two Web 2.0 companies featured -LinkedIn and Engage - acknowledge their success to viral marketing as opposed to SEO.

However the panelist were great: Adam Lasnik, Google Search Evengalest (aka: MiniMatt) Andreas Mueller, President of Search Marketing Firm Bloofusion, David Hahn, the LinkedIn Director of Advertising and Joelle Gropper Kaufman, Engage’s Vice President of the Experience.

On to the discussion. The issue with user generated content is that you hand over the control to the community. Andreas advised that those of us working with Web 2.0 sites should harness the collective intelligence of the group by:

  • Motivating contributors
  • Offering guidelines
  • Creating a relevant hierarchy
  • Getting the community to focus on the keywords

While Web 2.0 sites deliver a rich user experience, the issue with Web 2.0 technology is that content can’t be indexed and search engines cannot get behind logins. Andreas advised that AJAX be used for non-essential, private or duplicate content.

Usually as SEOs we want to get as much info out there as possible to the search engines, but with Web 2.0 sites there are privacy issues, so some things must be kept from search engines. Joelle noted that “30% of all searches on Google are name searches” (Adam could not confirm this) therefore users of social networks “need control over their personal identities.” In the case of social networking dating site Engage, opening up too much content to the public is a matter of member safety (and online reputation management J ). LinkedIn, understands the need to not make all user information public because they “want to make sure that people are not open to all of the salesy types.”

However, to drive traffic to a site via Search Engines, Web 2.0 sites need to compromise between internal vs. public profiles. Search Engine Optimization can be used on content without “giving away the farm.” The Public Profiles vs. Private Profiles on LinkedIn is a great example of “slicing the data just right” to allow privacy while opening up content to the search engines. Joelle recommend the use of mashups as a way to share information with the public about a person without giving away too much information. For example, your playlists and your bookmarks tell the world a lot about you and help people get to know you.

Is your Web 2.0 SEO Simply Tactical or Holistic?

After giving a brief history of the “content to links” movement in SEO, Andreas wisely advises the audience to build link building into their mindset. He then asked each panel member if they have a specific linking strategy and what is the role of SEO in the Web 2.0 strategy. David of LinkedIn said that they didn’t have a specific linking strategy because they “had the luxury of having a high page rank before the public profiles.” While SEO was not an initial focus for LinkedIn, “optimization of the public profiles has brought more users,” though they rely more on viral marketing.

I love that Joelle from Engage told the crowd that they were in the process of developing a Linking Strategy. Not many new companies (or well established ones) think like that. I guess that stems from her previous experience at Reactivity. When Reactivity was redesigning their site they found an SEO company to help them reach users via search engines because they targeted a niche market. I especially appreciated that Joelle realizes that with Engage, “it is more important that you find the people as opposed to general keyword terms.” And thinks of general keywords such as “dating”, as being part of the head or tail of a long keyword search. This is exactly what Ammon Johns was talking about when he wrote about The New Model SEO Customer.

Finally they covered online competition for Web 2.0 companies. Is a Web 2.0 competitor different? What is their Strategy and are they spamming? Andreas brings up a screenshot of a spammy page from eHarmony (Scroll down to the links) and Joelle repeats it a few times to Adam so that maybe one of her competitors would be taken out and punished. (That was hilarious. I love her!) When someone from the audience asks if works, Adreas replies “Only as long as the search engine doesn’t find the mistake.”

Well obviously Yahoo and MSN Live Search have not found out yet, since eHarmony ranks #7 in Yahoo and #3 in Msn Live Search for the search query: Florida Online Dating. And when you check other queries by state such as: [state] Online Dating, they rank in the top 10 for both Yahoo and MSN Live Search for many of these queries. I wish I had done this search that night to see where they ranked in Google at that time.

While the meat of optimizing AJAX and Web 2.0 technologies weren’t actually discussed until I asked during the Q&A, it was still a great event with a great discussion. However many people afterward told me that they were disappointed for the same reasons that I was.

The What Have I Been Reading Reading List:

  • SEMPO: Top Execs Paying More Attention to SEM. Too bad The President of SEMPO doesn’t “have time to keep up with all the various blogs and forums these days”, because if she did, she would realize that Nick Wilson (Still miss ya NickW) left ThreadWatch 1 year ago!
  • Is the Meta Description Tag Worthwhile? – Umm only if you care about your click-through.
  • The I Also Glanced Over Reading List:

  • Checking the Con in PubCon
  • WWSD? (What Would SEOs Do?) The Future of Search Engine Watch
  • Beating Your Google Rap Sheet
  • Young favor Internet over TV - via: Marketing VOX
  • The Too Cool: Goes to my new “Cheers”, Amber Bar. (Of course I’m linking to the Yelp page since Andreas optimized that site.) Finally, I have found a bar in San Francisco that meets my slighty dive-y, slighty hip (but not too much), no guys with spiky hair and striped shirts standards. Cool bartenders, variety in patrons and good drinks. What more could I ask for? So I’m heading there tonight.

    We are young but getting old before our time / We’ll leave the T.V. and the radio behind / Don’t you wonder what we’ll find.” – Stepping Out - Joe Jackson

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    Natasha
    Robinson
    is an Online Marketing Strategist who helps clients
    implement holistic online marketing campaigns at href="http://www.webassociates.com">Web Associates, Inc.; a
    professional services firm that designs, develops, integrates and
    markets enterprise Web systems for global organizations.

    Natasha shares her daily reading list of online marketing, search
    engine marketing and social media marketing news at her Blog: href="http://www.thatgirlfrommarketing.com/">That Girl From
    Marketing.

    SEO for Web 2.0
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