Lyndsay Walker joined WestJet, Canada’s leading low-fare airline, in February 2007. As web analytics & SEO coordinator, she is responsible for all data collection and analysis for WestJet.com and WestJetVacations.com. Lyndsay will be speaking at Search Engines Strategies Toronto on June 18th as part of the "SEO Don’ts, Myths, & Scams" panel on Day 2.
One Degree: What is the biggest SEO myth – the one marketers fall prey to the most often?
One of the biggest myths I’ve encountered since day one is unsolicited emails praising their site’s great PageRank ranking and what a great partnership a link exchange can be. The worst are the emails that are so obviously form letters. Just yesterday I received a link exchange request for my SEO blog (www.lyndseo.com) explaining how important PageRank is, and would I add their "Plus Size Dresses" site to my site? Don’t get me wrong – links are what make the web go round, but accepting every link exchange request from unrelated topics aren’t going to do any good for your site.
One Degree: How much can implementing an SEO "don’t" penalize a site? Is there an example you can share?
How much a "don’t" can penalize a site depends on the "don’t" being implemented. At a previous employer, I saw hours of work and thousands of dollars poured into an automated linking scheme that would take hundreds of microsites and interlink them in a "random" way. The problem is that anything automated is never random. The only penalty this company faced is the loss of that time and money – generally linking schemes like the one I’ve described don’t result in a search engine penalty – they just aren’t given any weight at all.
One Degree: Are there some search engines that are pickier than others about SEO "don’t’s"? If you’re following the rules for one, is it safe to assume
you’re OK for others?
No search engine has the exact same algorithm, so it’s natural to assume that some are pickier than others. I would suggest Google as the pickiest and it shows in the quality of results. In my experience, I have found MSN’s Live Search to be least picky, at least when it comes to launching a new site. Sites seem to get indexed faster with Live, but the traffic isn’t quite there.
When optimizing a web site, especially a new site, it’s important to follow the Webmaster Guidelines set out by the search engines. One can follow a set of principles set out by one search engine and have success with any. Generally it is the "don’ts" that have different effects on the different search engines.
One Degree: "My friend who has a friend who works at Google said" … What is
your advice to SEO marketers on how to identify myths or bad SEO
My number one piece of advise to SEO marketers is to remember who the site is there for – the visitors! You can develop a web site that’s great for the search engines and ranks well – but if a person clicks on your link, will they find what they’re looking for? If not, what’s the point of ranking well? The key is to find a balance between search engine bots and visitors. For example, a person may be very excited to get a PR 5 link from a craft site on his sports site, but will any visitors be interested in that link? Probably not. And because the two sites are relevant, it won’t do any good for the search engine either.
If I may offer one other piece of advice, it would be to remind SEOs to optimize for a PAGE, not necessarily for a site. PageRank is assigned to a PAGE, not the entire site. If you’re looking at a link exchange with someone else, don’t necessarily look to see if the sites are relevant – look at the page instead. If your link is going to be listed on a page with hundreds of other links, and no content, it’s not worth it.
One Degree: What are your three favourite resources for reliable, trustworthy SEO information?
Only three? I’d have to say WebmasterWorld is fantastic, especially for the more "techie" SEO like myself… and PubCon (WMW’s conference) is extremely valuable! I also love seeing what Rand and the gang are up to at SEOMoz, and Search Engine Land always has articles of interest on a broad variety of topics. As a "bonus" resource, I have come to rely on Twitter to find out what’s hot up to the minute!