BigCommerce SEO: between myths, (not provided) keywords and a ton of tips

Manuel C. Published on 23 February, 2012

I guess everyone has heard of The Mythbusters. Well they exist even in the SEO world and each year they debunk old and useless tactics. Still, with every new wave of internet newbies those outdated tips simply come back from nowhere.

Well, they come from so called "gurus" who have barely discovered the difference between a meta keyword and meta description and jump in giving seo tips. A quick suggestion for BigCommerce: get rid of the meta keyword option from Settings - Store - Website- Search Engine Optimization and from the Other Details tab, when editing a product. Pretty please.

No, seriously. Many store owners fight long hours to get the right keywords there only to find out that all their work was in vain. In vain, as in "they might be seen as spammers if they simply stuff dozens of keywords there". So, if someone asks "How many keywords should I put in meta keywords?" the answer is simply: ZERO. Duh.

Why SEO done right is good? Well because if you make Mr. Panda angry you might lose over six million dollars if you are Demand Media. Low quality content was the target of Panda Algorithm and many have fallen victims. With or without their fault. This is why Search Engine Journal teaches us how to speak Panda Language and stay far away from the fear of a hit. In the following sections I'll post some of the best links about seo tips and myths that are floating around. And even some new Google Analytics goodies, especially when it comes to "not provided" keywords that cast a shadow over our statistics.

Straighten your knowledge about search engine optimization: kill the myths and follow the dead simple tips

Reading about the facts that need to be known but many do not take the time learn them, it seems that there are dozens of such myths that still float around. I will list only some here, but make sure to check the entire list of 36 seo myths from the link above:

  • higher PageRank means that you will rank better - higher PageRank will make sure you get your pages indexed faster, but has less that 5% or ranking importance. So, there is a no go here.
  • if you submit the sitemap to Google you will have better rankings - no, you will help Google discover faster your pages and nothing more
  • meta keywords will help with rankings - no, they are useless. Stop here.
  • Google doesn't take into account the CSS - another false thing. If you have the text with the same color as the background (one type of cloaking) then you will get penalized. Results: Google "reads" CSS, HTML, Javascript, Images and more.
  • SEO is done once, works always - false. You need to tweak and work a lot to get things done right. Continuously.
  • and many more...

After you read the explanations given in the above article form Search Engine Journal (dated 2010) you cannot wonder enough why, after so many years, people still don't know the basics.

The history with these false facts is not over. Recently I have been approached by some obscure media and seo company to publish a post on my blog with a link to one of their clients. Payed links still work, about $100 for a year on some small blog, like mine. I refused for a few obvious reasons I won't discuss here.

Regarding payed links and the fact that they still work, although they represent a shallow and questionable tactic, we have a nice article from Rand Fishkin. You will find out what prices are used by these seo companies that use link buying tactics and that buying a blog would be more beneficial. Better yet, as a BigCommerce store owner why won't you create and use your own blog? Now, that's a keeper.

Guess we're done here. No, You guessed wrong. Lots of other useful articles surfaced in the last week and I want to post them here too:

  • Spreading SEO Awareness & Knowledge - In this post Shari Thurow points out the importance of optimization and that you need someone to get the job done right. Awareness is the first step. Doing SEO can be hard and needs a lot or work. Well, nobody cares about how hard your life is. You need to deliver and that's the most important thing.
  • Submit to Index via Google Webmaster Tools - Google has introduced a nice new feature: you can submit a page to index. If you had some confidential information there and after that deleted that you can submit to index and that page will be updated sooner than normally ("instantly").
  • A Deeper Look At Robots.txt - A small piece of art work I might say. Knowing what to enter in robots.txt file is not as easy as you'd think. In this article you can learn how to stop the crawlers from crawling the site or exclude certain files from being crawled. You can stop Googlebot-Image from crawling your images. A nice feature if you want to keep them only for you. Disallowing certain pages from being crawled will save you a lot of pain in the future due to duplicate content issues, mostly because of the CMS (content management system: WordPress, Joomla, shopping carts) used.
  • How Many Terms/Phrases Should I Target on a Single Page? - Reading through I had a good laugh at the end. Instead of finding an all-in-one solution for how many keywords should you use in a page you find out that "as many as you need" is the right answer. Good one, Rand. There is not magic recipe. just make sure you're not spamming people around. Make the post as fluid as possible and try not to over-optimize it.

BigCommerce store owners afraid of (not provided) keywords have a big help in Google Analytics

Well, the situation was solved (somehow) at the end of 2011 using logic and some nice features from Google Analytics: filters, custom reports and dashboards. Google brought in a lot of goodies with the revamping of the UI.

Use Google Analytics the smart way and shed light over "not provided" keywords

Avinash Kaushik has done some research and put up a very nice article on how to find out what those hidden keywords are all about. The study reveals where they land and the percentage of branded vs non-branded keywords that might be in those not provided.

In his article he used custom reports from Google Analytics and put up some templates for us all to use.

As a summary of the above article you need to create a custom report in which select various metrics (like visitors, average time spent on site, bounce rate, etc. ), apply them to dimension "landing pages" and the use a filter to include the exact keyword: "(not provided)". You will find out where the customers have landed even though not actual keywords are provided. Still, it is a step forward.

Make use of your own dashboards in Google Analytics

I have several dashboards setup in our analytics account. Just press on Home then click on "+New Dashboard" and you are ready to create your custom dashboard with your widgets in it. Up to 10 widgets per dashboard.

The widgets are used as filters and so you can see results for branded keywords, non-branded keywords, general traffic and so on.

SEO Book has an article about setting up actionable dashboards from which you will learn easily the ins and outs of the widgets. Using our custom dashboards we could see what we need to change and if taking the endeavor to rank for a new keyword was effective. the answer was yes, with numbers and all.

Get into the world of sci-fi SEO tracking what social networks are your customers logged in while on you're site

Tom Anthony, guest poster at SEO Moz, has done an incredible work with putting together a nice tracking code with which you can see in what networks are people logged in while surfing your site.

Tom Anthony used the fact that Google Analytics code is flexible and accepts variables with which you can track pretty much everything on your site. A nice read and an incredible work. soon enough we'll implement this tracking on our site and test it.

A slew of SEO tips for any platform that apply nicely to BigCommerce

Frankly, I would write a mile long article about latest posts regarding SEO, but need to keep it kinda short. Since SEO is not a static activity and we all need to learn a lot to understand what happens there is always something new to report on. And i like it this way.

Below you will see 8 useful links regarding a ton of "how to's" that might help you a lot. Usually I read more than 70 posts from 6-8 SEO blogs just to keep me updated. Adn it never feel like enough:

  1. How to Use Internal Linking to Improve Your Website's SEO - It comes naturally that you have pages that are more important and get more attention than the others. What you need to do is to link to them. One of our most important page is Request a Quote for BigCommerce Templates and SEO and as you can see I link to that more than to other internal pages.
  2. How To Find Link Prospects Without Using Google - Getting backlinks might be easy, but getting quality backlinks requires more work. Usually getting high quality links is based on the relationships you can nurture and on your quality content and work. This article explains a simply walkthrough regarding getting link prospects. Some of them i used myself.
  3. Lessons Learned by an Over-Optimizer - Over-optimizing sound a lot like spamming, or at least, keyword stuffing so you need to avoid that. more interestingly is the fact that when people are emotionally attached into SEO work on their site it is easy to overlook the fact that you go overboard. I was talking to a client that she was simply spamming in her product page and she needed some convincing to see that she was actually spamming the page. Finally she got the point, but at first she wouldn't even accept that this is possible.
  4. You Don’t Have To Be Nuts To Worry About Changing Your Domain - changing your domain name is not always a good idea, especially if you have a brands established for years. It isn't anymore that easy to get back your rankings even though there are 301 redirects in place. Read this post if you ever want to change your domain name. Sometimes BigCommerce store owners wonder why their traffic simply drops after they have changed the domain name they were using. Well, here you got the answer: you did not prepare.
  5. 5 Critical B2B SEO Initiatives, In Addition To Developing A Google+ Page For Business - If you are in B2B business and want to do SEO you need to do all the steps all people are doing: analyze, share, create good content and keep in touch. Clean and to the point tips here.
  6. 7 Rookie Social Media Mistakes From Big Brands - Want to avoid making mistakes in social media? Then read through the article to see how to avoid 7 of the most common mistakes. People might tell to a friend or two that you have done a good work, but if you do a mistake they will make sure that everyone hears it. So be careful.
  7. Everything You Need To Know About SEO Web Structure & Internal Links - The takeaway from this post is that you need to make sure that the customer doesn't have to click more than three times to get to your products.Make your site structure streamlined and easier to use and you'll be on the good road to bigger conversions.
  8. Two Google+ SEO Guides You Should Read - Google+ is not just a hype, is is here and its impact is strong enough. This is why those two guides form the post will be of help if you want to take on that direction. Did you know that if you do not post any status update in your Google+ profile you won't show up in the suggested list in SERPs? This and many more in this interesting article.

Yes. It's madness to read all this this, but it's for a good cause. You do not need to read all the sections. I use these posts as bookmarks to be able to reference to clients and friends some important fact and SEO developments over the time. So do not forget to come here weekly and be keep up to date with all the goodies form the SEO world.

Manuel C. Published on 23 February, 2012