Posted by randfish
December has been a surprisingly busy month for my email inbox, with questions on nearly every SEO subject imaginable. In answering many of these quandries, a common theme emerged – that many marketers engage in SEO challenges with a singular focus on the most common / best practice techniques and don’t stray into a creative, imaginative mindset to find alternatives.
Here, then, are six examples of problems I’ve seen where creativity might prevail over standard techniques.
#1 – High Budget Reputation Management Issues
Several SEOs I know are currently involved in high-budget reputation management, where a company, product or person is attempting to assert control of the search results for their name/brand. Most of the standard techniques involve linking to and/or creating positive or neutral content about the target to push down the negative content.
A creative, alternate methodology might be to create diversity by introducing multiple brands/people with the same or similar names. For example, if a Mr. Thomas Thompson is attempting to push down negative results for his name, you might seek to boost up the profiles/rankings of other Thomas Thompsons and generating buzz about them to make the engines consider applying diversity algorithms to the results. Similarly, you could create fictional profiles (pseudonyms) or characters for the same effect. Hollywood movies, TV shows, short films, authors and actors can even be persuaded through funding or other means to name characters or products a certain way.
#2 – Problems Getting Large E-Commerce Sites Indexed
A number of large e-commerce site marketers have experienced considerable challenges getting deep content indexed. The common solutions include optimizing XML Sitemaps, carefully crafting internal navigation and working to drive more links to deep pages, all of which are certainly recommended techniques, but eventually reach a point of exhaustion.
My recommendations are often to try a few alternatives, including:
- Eliminating a large number of pages, particularly faceted forms of navigation (making them accessible only to logged-in or cookied human users and employing rel=canonical), but also products that have very low search volume, no inventory, low margins or frustrating availability. By limiting your product catalog online, you can then achieve full indexation and build upon it.
- Creating product feeds, product category blogs and even category/product Twitter accounts to help send indexing signals to the engines. A blog about each of your main categories featuring posts about a few products each day via something like a Tumblr blog can, with a small amount of editorial effort, enable indexing of a few new URLs each day. Over the course of 12-18 months, this can add substantively to the bottom line and be reproduced. Ditto for Twitter and product feeds, though both will need to provide real value to subscribers/consumers (perhaps "deal of the day" type content) to earn subscribers/followers and show the engines they’re not just empty scrapers.
- Rewriting or adding to the written content on a few hundred sample pages that aren’t being indexed. I’m frequently seeing that what appears to be a lack of PageRank/link juice to earn indexing is actually a case of "not enough unique content." If the site is seeing regular crawling to pages that don’t make their way to the index, this is often a worthwhile exercise.
#3 – Generating Unique Content for Large Numbers of Pages
When you reach the tens or hundreds of thousands of pages and all need to be separately indexed, the resulting need for more "unique content" on each page can seem an overwhelming task. The common approaches are to either hire/contract/find in-house editorial writers or leverage user-generated content to help boost the content uniqueness, but other approaches are also available.
- Human labor using sources like Mechanical Turk or similar services, which I’ve written about extensively in the past
- Building content the Google way – by aggregating the popular words, phrases and sentences others use to describe it (with citation of course). As an example, see how Urbanspoon quotes restaurant reviews or Rotten Tomatoes aggregates critics’ reviews. You could even add multimedia content with YouTube, Flickr or other sources. Just be aware that editorial content and review is still critical to make sure these pages are adding value rather than just automatically scraping and re-purposing.
- Prioritizing. Many site owners seem to feel that a unique-content project means that every page deserves equal attention, when in fact, it’s likely that giving 80% of the effort to 20% of the pages is a much smarter play. Determine the pages that add real value, add your content efforts there, and see the impact before moving on to the long tail.
#4 – Overcoming a Competitor with a Much Stronger Link Profile
I see marketers banging their heads and their link building efforts against a wall, trying to outearn a competitor with a strong lead for a particular keyphrase (or a small handful).
Instead of trying to beat them at their own game, why not work around the system?
- Try alternative keywords that could get at the same audience before they’re conducting that specific, high-converting search
- Consider video content on the major platforms and your own site (using the Video XML Sitemaps protocol) to earn video rankings on the same page (which often draw as many clicks/visits as the first few results)
- Create news, blog posts and tweets to help trigger the QDF algorithm and get alternate content types you own in front of searchers and ahead of the first "organic" result
- Win the social, branding and "mention" battle, which will often turn to links and recommendations over time, eventually earning you top rankings.
- Influence search queries and content on the web through branding, news, social media, content creation, etc. to make Google’s Suggest/Instant feature recommend more targeted queries that you own in the rankings.
#5 – Earning Natural, Editorial Links with Optimized Anchor Text
Perhaps the most comment complaint I see in the white hat v. black hat back-and-forth is that white hat link building never earns ideal anchor text. Bollocks!
- Profile and biographical paragraphs are one of the best ways to earn the anchor text you want. My professional/event bio has made its way to dozens of sites, all of whom link back in the manner I’ve requested. These are 100% editorially given, white hat links, often from powerful media or event sites.
- Press releases that get picked up by news media sites will often leave the link anchor text you’ve
- Guest writing / guest blogging for a relevant publication often allows for a link back to your site. If you’re creative about the formation of that link, you can insure the anchor text is ideal (or close to ideal).
- Widgets, badges and embeddable content have fully controllable link anchor text at the time of production – so long as you’re not manipulative or appear spammy, the links will point back in the way you’ve chosen/created.
- Titling products, pages, posts and essays with the keywords you’re seeking means that those who reference the work will be much more likely to use those terms/phrases in the links others create.
- Requiring specific anchor text via citation when giving away or licensing content is another way to insure you’re building optimal link text.
- Finding friends, family, employees, co-workers, etc. who link to you and reaching out directly to have anchor text modified can result in substantive quantities of optimized anchors.
And, for posterity, I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that exact match anchor text for commercial terms is likely to get considerably increased scrutiny in the next year from Google (see my prior post on how this might be done).
It’s true that many times, the basic best practices are the right way to start, and may even be the right solution. However, more organic marketers need to be thinking outside the box, as classic SEO becomes more competitive and dominated by entrenched players.
Please feel free to share your own creative solutions in the comments!