July 11th, 2007 | 7 MIN READ

SEO Secrets for Online Retailers

Written by Dave Olson

The following is the slide deck for an Elastic Path webinar we presented with Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts with questions and answers from the webinar. Sorry, the webinar is not available for replay.

View full screen version at SlideShare

Questions and Answers from the Webinar

Q: What is a branded search?

A: Jason says, "An example of a branded search is someone searching for "Levi's" (or "levis") or "Levi's men's jeans" rather than just "men's jeans" or "men's demin jeans" which are not branded searches (call these "unbranded" searches)."

Q: Is a URL like this SE safe? www.domain.com/index.php/seo/interestingdata

A: Jason says, "It's safe but not optimal. Ideally the "index.php" would be removed and "interesting" and "data" would be separated by a hyphen (not an underscore) and ended with a trailing slash (which denotes a category or subdirectory to search engines)."

E.g.: http://www.domain.com/seo/interesting-data/

More on trailing slashes at: Slash Forward (Some URLs are Better Than Others)

Q: Can you name the companies just mentioned again for URL rewriting?

Gravitystream is "a turn-key solution that makes dynamic websites search engine crawler-friendly"

Note: At the risk of self-promotion, ... Elastic Path's ecommerce software allows customized URL rewriting by default for all pages (including faceted navigation pages).

Apache mod_rewrite "This module uses a rule-based rewriting engine (based on a regular-expression parser) to rewrite requested URLs on the fly. But all this functionality and flexibility has its drawback: complexity. So don't expect to understand this entire module in just one day."

See more info and tools at: Wikipedia Rewrite Engine

Q: What are inbound links? Are inbound links similar to backtracks? Reciprocal links - could you please provide a definition for this?

Jason says, "Inbound links are instances of another (external) site linking to your site. Reciprocal links are links exchanged between your site and another (again external) site. Backtracks (or Trackbacks) are (usually automatically generated) links created by blogs to acknowledge a referenced blog."

Wikipedia: Trackback & Linkbacks & Pingback

Q: What are link bait campaigns?

Link bait campaigns refer to posted content designed to attract many links by being extra funny, universally appealing, particularly interesting, somewhat surprising or fantastically useful. This barrage of links results in (theoretically) increased page rank and marketing buzz. Examples include Get Elastic's 107 Add to Cart buttons or Netconcepts' Word Press SEO plug-in. More from Matt Cutts, Google Engineer and Wikipedia on Link bait.

Q: Will the Million Dollar Homepage be an example for a "link farm"?

A: Yes. This (and many others like it e.g. Million Dollar Homepage etc.) sell "ad-space" by the pixel. The massive dilution causes the links to be worth basically nothing while making the site owner a few bucks.

Q: Do we get to choose IP range?

A: IP addresses (Internet Protocol address) are specific numbers (usually expressed in four-part dot-decimal notation) used by routers to exchange data on the Internet. IP range is assigned by your ISP who obtains IP addresses from ARIN or an upstream provider. When hosting multiple sites at one ISP (or internal corporate server), the content is all served from the same IP neighborhood and is (likely) discounted by search engines as they are considered affiliated. Be wary of ISP's who host 'spammy' sites or sites with questionable integrity.

More: Find IP of a Website + 'Old Skool' Internet users know they can use Ping and Tracert commands

Webinar Recap

10:04 - Heading to Q&A mode, there are about 35 questions so we'll tackle a few of them straightaway

10:00 - Add Jason and Stephan in Linkedin

9:59 - Key metrics to measure include: page yield, keyword yield, spidering behavior ...

Check out: Multi-channel magazine article "Beneath the Surface of Search" by Netconcepts' Brian Klais (Brian at Natural Search Blog

9:57 - Secret #7 - Check your pulse and benchmark

use: netconcepts.com/urlcheck, alexa, search results ...

Key indicators to track are search-fueled sales, orders delivered by keywords, conversions - Ergo: hits are NOT the critical metric

9:56 - Secret #6 - Influence the click decision

Make sure description entices click, people only look at first couple of words and listing, first page is implied endorsement - use heat maps to view where folks are looking - have Call To Action in beginning of snippet

9:54 - make multiple copies (canonical sites) of sites - e.g.: with/without "www" - multiple URLs, https version,

9:50 - Secret #5 - Make your URLs optimal


  • Multiple parameters and complex urls are not good, weakens internal page rage flow
  • session ids are very bad
  • hyphens are cool, underlines are not
  • rewrite URLs using keyword (use proxy if needed or ecommerce which allows this (like Elastic Path ;-))

9:48 - Secret #4 - Rejig your site structure

Tag clouds are awesome! passes page ranks between pages - spend it wisely with relevant links, use faceted internal navigation and site search and rewrite URLs

9:45 - Hints:

  • Use Social media (digg etc.)
  • Embed links in press releases
  • Use blogs (multiple, groups, employees, customers, more ...)
  • Spend as much time commenting to a-list blogs as you do posting

9:43 - Matt Cutts Google Engineer [mattcutts.com/blog] blogs about building page rank by link bait (funny, useful, interesting content with mass appeal) to encourage many to link to build page rank (and buzz). e.g. Netconcepts gives out at Word Press SEO plug-in

9:41 - Searchlight : An SEO Blog by Stephan Spencer

9:40 - Use caution with internal links, reciprocal links, footer links, site-wide links which are likely to be discounted (use "nofollow" as needed to not dilute page rank)

9:38 - Don't link to "bad neighborhoods" + link farms, free for all

Netconcepts uses a database with millions of sites and page rank, category, title to show sites which are good to link back and forth too. Note: .edu and .gov have higher authority and result in better page rank

9:36 - Find link targets, Anchor text is very important, use Netconcepts' Link Popularity Checker - Offer link-worthy content, Use an RSS feed (Note: Dave O loves RSS)

9:32 - Google Webmaster guidelines say less than 100 links. Fewer links weight each more strongly. Lots of tools to measure link popularity Yahoo, Google Webmaster & Toolbar, SEO Chat, SEOBook (Firefox plugin)

9:31 - Secret #3 - Build Links to Improve Page Rank

Not all links are created equal! Links from popular and authoritative sites are worth more - each page in site might have different page rank - not just about quantity, quality is also key

9:26 - Title tag is numero uno important! Home page is most important! - Have at least 200-250 words per page (Quality Content rules!)

Also key are:

  • Header Tags are useful (H1, H2)
  • Contextual links (make the keyword the anchor) e.g. use "men's clothing" as link anchor rather than just "men's"
  • Graphical links get less search spider love (be sure to use image "alt" tag to describe
  • meta keyword tags don't help improve ranking (be wary of using duplicate meta tags on multiple pages - give secrets to competitors and flags as 'spammy' site)
  • meta description helps determine what gets displayed in results

9:25 - Jason advises avoiding tables and using CSS for layout ("where it belongs," says Stephan + great for user experience as well as search engines)

9:23 - CSSZenGarden.com - Learn Cascading Style Sheets to keep text and code separate and clean

9:21 - Secret #2 - Make your pages sing to the search engine

With keyword focus per page in html (search spiders don't care if it's pretty - keywords must be high up in the code, call this keyword prominence)

9:18 - KEI score = Keyword Effectiveness Indicator - higher the KEI , the more attractive the term is to your audience

9:16 - Tools: Google [Keyword, Google Trends, Google Suggest] Word Tracker.com, Overture, Keyword Discovery

9:13 - Hint: Be aware of plural/singular difference - can make a huge change in rankings!

9:11 - Secret #1 - Improve your keyword portfolio

9:10 - Long Tail is a great book/blog by Chris Andersen - Long Tail of Etail with Chris Anderson - Get Elastic #21

9:08 - Chasing the Long Tail of Natural Search - Netconcepts report (free)

9:00 - we are underway with Jason and Stephan - be sure to ask questions in the Webinar Q&A section

8:55 - Hello All, Dave O here, ... just getting fired up and online.

Questions? Comments? Fire away either in the GotoMeeting chat window or in the comment section below and I'll ask the esteemed panelists, Jason and Stephan, to chime-in.

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