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David Waterman is Director, Search Engine Optimization at The Search Agency
TSA: You recently authored an article that examined Google’s methodology behind its recently extended sitelinks. What were the results of your investigation?
DAVID: When the new extended sitelinks were first released, there was a lot of talk in the office in regards to how they may alter our best practices for Title tag and Meta Description creation. The immediate reaction was to be more cognizant of Title tag and Meta Description length specific to how they now show in the extended sitelinks; however, when I started looking into whether it was feasible to create a Title tag that was structured in a way so it was optimized for organic listings and extended sitelink listings, I realized that in many cases, the Title tag content is not always used as the sitelink Title text. This is what originally sparked my curiosity and led to a deeper analysis of sitelink Title text creation. After looking at a few sites and several different sitelink Title text results, I came to the conclusion that Google doesn’t use one content source for sitelink Title text creation. In some cases, they use the existing Title tag of the page and just cut off anything longer than 30 characters. In other cases, they’re using navigation text used to internally link to the page. In others, they are looking at external anchor text usage. And in some cases, it’s completely unclear.
TSA: How should marketers then view Google’s expanded sitelinks?
DAVID: What this means for search engine marketers and optimizers is that it’s difficult to know exactly how Google will create the Title text for you sitelinks and therefore difficult to control. The best thing to do is keep all page Title and linking elements in unison. For example, if you have a page about Dog Toys, you want to make sure:
- Title tag includes the term Dog Toys
- The navigational text says Dog Toys
- When you link back to the page, you use the term Dog Toys where possible
Of course, these are all standard SEO best practices when it comes to Content optimization, but it reinforces the need to be in unison. That means that for your Dog Toys page:
- The Title tag needs to lead with the term “Dog Toys” (not the brand/website name)
- The internal navigation should use “Dog Toys” (not just “Dogs” or “Toys”)
- The on-page Title (H1) should say “Dog Toys” (duh)
- When you link back to the site, you should include the term “Dog Toys” where possible (but don’t overdo it)
TSA: Between Google’s Panda Update, expanded sitelinks and Google Plus, it seems as if the importance of quality SEO content is rapidly increasing. Do you think there is a congruent trend to the recent changes to SEO content?
DAVID: The Search Agency’s Best Practices for optimizing content have always included quality as a factor. We never used content spinning programs to auto-generate thousands of nonsensical articles even when it was possible to get some decent rankings from such practices. Poor quality content creation does not lead to sustainable rankings; however, for years it was possible to get a website to rank using poor quality content and/or other people’s content. Since the beginning, Google’s advice on how to properly optimize a website has always been 1) make sure your website can be crawled, 2) create your own content and 3) if your content has value, it will naturally rank. Unfortunately for Google, it was possible to ignore points 2 and 3 and still rank well. Today, as a result of Google’s recent changes, points 2 and 3 are more important than ever. In my opinion it’s always been Google’s goal to improve their algorithm to the point where quality can actually be a factor. It looks like they finally got there.
TSA: Amidst all these changes, what best practices, principles or mantras do marketers need to keep in mind in their approach to content?
DAVID: The new mantras for website content should be the following:
- Leave other people’s content alone
- Quality first/keyword optimization second
- There is still value in optimizing your content with keywords; you just need to make sure your optimization doesn’t kill the quality of the article
- Everything you write doesn’t have to be Shakespeare; however, it does need to be Strunk and White.
- Only Kevin Costner can “…build it and they will come”. The best content ever written won’t get you anywhere if no one knows it’s there. So, promote it!
TSA: I’ve heard you are an avid frequenter of garage sales. Find anything noteworthy recently?
DAVID: Actually, yes. My most recent noteworthy garage sale find was a very large ceramic tiki planter. It’s about 4 feet high and hollow in the middle. The person I bought it from had no idea where it originally came from. All I know is that it looks good in my backyard.