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Trying To Figure Out Our Positioning In Results For Our Product Pages


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#1 Ludachris

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 12:03 PM

Since this is my first post I'll give a little intro... I've been working on websites for over 10 years now. I've built them, marketing them, and have run small businesses around them. I've had decent success with SEO early on when it was easy, and I still do very well with an automotive vbulletin forum site that I run as a side business. Over a year ago I took on a job to manage several shop websites for an electrical supplier. They're all e-commerce sites based on different platforms. Many of them need a redesign badly and will be converted to our custom CMS system at some point here. But even with a few of the sites being based on OScommerce, they ranked decently when I came in. We have 5 websites that I'm working on, trying to get them ranked higher. I've been focusing heavily on 2-3 of them, trying out different methods and keyword strategies.

The market they/we focus on is mainly new, used, and obsolete electrical equipment, primarily circuit breakers. I've done substantial keyword research for the homepage and main category landing pages, and also the product pages. It's all pretty straight forward for this industry. You get most of the searches looking for Manufacturer Name Product Type, like GE Circuit Breakers. It's pretty competitive and we have one competitor that essentially dominates the market for just about every top level and category keyword that we're competing for. They also dominate for virtually all of the product model numbers, which is where we feel we have the best chance at competing and converting.

I recently attended a week-long Bruce Clay training through my new employer - learned some interesting new techniques. Came back and tried to apply several of them and haven't seen the jump I thought I would. I ran a little test, identifying our top 5 products for each manufacturer and linked them on the landing pages, hoping to bring more juice to them and also help users find them. I went through the funnel, looking at the categories and products and made sure they were pretty damned optimized, rewriting much of the content and making sure the keywords were prevelant in all the right places... trying not to keyword stuff. The goal is to be in the top 3 of the results for our product pages and landing pages. It didn't result in much improvement. Any products where we are competing with that dominating competitor, we can't seem to do better than 7th or 8th in the results. Anything in the Circuit Breaker category, whether it be that keyword combo or anything involving that product type has proven very difficult to do well with. And we want to improve because that's the bread and butter of our business.

What I've been focusing on the past couple weeks is product page rankings. The nature of our business is that circuit breakers (and other electrical equipment) fail and need to be replaced. Most of the time, the customer knows the model number they need and they search for that model number on Google. Sometimes they include the manufacturer of the circuit breaker, sometimes they don't. But it's pretty safe to say that we want our product pages to come up when a model number is searched - both with and without the manufactuer name included in that search. I've been trying to compare the on-page SEO efforts for the following pages, with the keyword searched being "KA36200":

[Sites Removed as per [url=http://www.highrankings.com/forum/index.php?act=boardrules]Forum Rules[/url]]

I'm trying to see why some of our shop sites are doing so poorly compared to some of the top results. There doesn't seem to be much difference between our site product pages and say, result #6, which has less content than we do. I can see the top results having more content through the use of the tabs. That gives them the opportunity to stuff more text and more keywords in the page without it looking to spammy. Should I expect to improve by tripling the amount of text to the product pages and using tabs to hide the technique like they do? There's really only so much you can say about a product, but I can fill it up with information about Used vs. New, and more info on our warranty and other things. I just don't see how that alone would catapult us up to the top 3. I also did some backlink checking using MajesticSEO for the top result to see if they have links that help them - only one external link pointing to them, and it's from a site they own. So it would seem their on-page efforts are what is helping them most.

I'm really hoping to get some insight from other SEO folks. I've asked for help in other places online only to have people give vague and generalized SEO help and others want to be paid for consulting. It would be nice to have some peers give me some ideas and recommendations that I obviously am missing here. I'm starting to pull my hair out here. I'm expected to improve our rankings and I've only had a little success so far. I don't claim to be an expert, but most of the techniques that I've used on my other ventures and even the new ones I learned at Bruce Clay don't seem to be helping with our shop sites. Could their overall domain PR be playing a bigger role in all of their product page results?

Edited by Jill, 15 November 2012 - 04:13 PM.
[Sites Removed as per forum rules] Please read the rules for a site review as well.


#2 torka

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:17 PM

Ready for some tough love?

First off, there is no link checker anywhere that will show you all the links pointing to any page. Not one. Not anywhere. And even if you were somehow able to find a complete list, you still wouldn't be able to tell which of those links are actually counting in the favor of that page as far as the search engines are concerned. So it's potentially misleading to assume because you only found one link that means there only is one link. :)

Second, SEO is not an overnight fix for anything. It just doesn't work that way. It depends on how frequently the search engines spider your pages, how long it takes them to update the index after the updated pages get spidered, and what happened with both your competitors and the algorithm in the meantime. So just because you did something a few weeks ago, that doesn't mean the effect of that is showing up in the rankings yet.

In other words, it's also potentially misleading to assume that a change in ranking is because of something you did (or didn't do)... or that a lack of change in apparent rankings means your steps didn't work. It could be that if you hadn't made your changes, your pages would have fallen. Or they might have risen. Or stayed the same. A lot of the stuff that goes into rankings is out of your control, anyway. (Things like what your competitors do and algorithm changes.)

Third, while they're a handy and visible means of (apparently) judging your pages' performance, rankings are basically not all that reliable a measure. Search engines personalize the results you see. Even if you aren't signed in, they still attempt to show you sites they think you -- personally -- would prefer to see. And they do the same thing for everybody else. Which means the rankings you see when you run a report or search are not necessarily at all the same rankings anybody else would see, running the same report or search query.

So the basic problem is: you're measuring the wrong thing, and you're focusing on the wrong things.

A better measure might be your traffic. Even if you don't see changes in your rankings, if your site is appearing higher in the results for other searchers, you'll see increased traffic. (And even if the rankings you see don't go down, if you see a reduction in the site traffic, you'll know there's a problem.)

But even traffic isn't the best measurement. You can't pay bills with traffic stats any more than you can pay bills with rankings reports. What pays the bills is conversions. Sales and/or leads.

So, what's your conversion rate? Whatever it is, I guarantee you, it can be better.

Work on improving that, and you'll see more money from your site regardless of whether your rankings go up or not. I guarantee you -- management may be temporarily impressed with higher rankings, but they'll love more revenue. Conversion rate optimization is something that's completely under your control -- it doesn't matter what the search engines do or what your competitors do, you can still take actions that will increase your conversion rate. Unlike SEO, conversion optimization has an immediate effect. As soon as you implement improvements to your site, more customers will start signing up, requesting quotes, buying products (whatever your site allows them to do).

As a side benefit, many of the things that you do to increase your conversion rate may also have the effect of making your site better for the search engines, as well.

Just make sure your focus is on making your site the best it can be -- the easiest to use, the most useful -- for your human visitors and you'll automatically be doing just exactly what the search engines are looking for. You may find some useful resources at places like Grokdotcom.com, MarketingExperiments.com, Psychotactics.com and ConversionScientist.com.

Good luck! I hope this helps.

--Torka :propeller:

Edited by torka, 15 November 2012 - 12:19 PM.
Correct a typo

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#3 Ludachris

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 01:54 PM

I appreciate the feedback and the time you took to write it all out. I don't mind tough love, as I know our shop sites are far from perfect. I don't mind the criticism. The goal here was just to get some outside analysis on why one competitor pretty much dominates while our sites' product pages can't tough them. Is our on-page that bad? Is it likely they have some inbound links that are doing it for them? Whatever they did, they did it right because they tend to be the top spot for every popular product in our industry. Focusing on conversions doesn't really help me figure this out. We all know being in the #1 spot on Google is going to yield tons more traffic and conversions than being #10. It's a simple matter of numbers.

I was hoping that my intro would show that I'm not totally new to this and that I have a decent grasp on the big picture. I know the backlink tools aren't going to be totally accurate. I know that focusing on conversion is just as important as rankings and traffic. I've done a good amount of that work on our shop sites already and I know I can do more in that regard, and I will. You can always do better with conversions. But at the moment I'm focused on trying to make sure the product pages are structured as good as they can be. I also am aware that the results change all the time regardless of what I do, and I know that Google gives personalized results - I clear history and flush browser settings to try and get a neutral view of the results fairly often. Yes, I know this won't mimic what potential customers see, but it's the best I can do for testing. I am aware that it takes weeks to see results sometimes, I pay attention the page cache to see the last time the spider saw the page. I've been working on these sites for almost two years now. I just started revisiting the product page rankings again knowing that our sites still aren't doing much compared to our top competitor.

Again, I'm not saying I know it all or that I don't appreciate the input. I'm just trying to get the point across that I am not a complete noob when it comes to all of this. Sure, SEO is only one piece of the puzzle - it's not the ultimate measuring stick. It just happens to be the piece of the puzzle I'm focused on at the moment and am asking for help with. With as complicated as SEO can be I don't think it's possible to pay too much attention to the details. And that's what I'm attempting to do here.

Thank you for the overall suggestions on what areas I shouldn't forget to focus on. Much appreciated. I'm still hoping others might have some some insight that could help me improve our sites to the point where we can move up in the rankings, and find out why that competitor just completely dominates all the results in our industry.

#4 Jill

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 04:14 PM

I'd pretty much take anything you learned from the BC class and throw it away. (My personal opinion.)

#5 Ludachris

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:04 AM

I'd pretty much take anything you learned from the BC class and throw it away. (My personal opinion.)

Really? I thought for the most part he's been known to be one of the better resources? Feel free to share more (in a PM if you like).

#6 Jill

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:08 AM

Their methods are what I refer to as "SEO by the numbers" which is just not a good way to do SEO, imo. Especially with today's Google.

There are no specific number of words to use on a page or in any tag, nor is there any specific ratio of words to keywords. Unless they've changed their methods recently, that is what BC SEO is based on.

#7 Ludachris

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 11:07 AM

Their methods are what I refer to as "SEO by the numbers" which is just not a good way to do SEO, imo. Especially with today's Google.

There are no specific number of words to use on a page or in any tag, nor is there any specific ratio of words to keywords. Unless they've changed their methods recently, that is what BC SEO is based on.

What I learned in the training was not so much about specific number of words on a page or in a tag (thought that was discussed), but to pay attention to the competition's word counts and ratios. Do as they do and try to do other things better than them. If they're ranked highly and have a certain word count or keyword ratio, that should be taken into consideration. But outside of that philosophy, the emphasis wasn't too much on numbers, it was more on creating solid site structures, intuitive for the user, which is in turn also intuitive for the spider.

I can't say that there was much that they taught that didn't make some sense, if not some pretty good sense... at lease considering what I've already learned over the years. I don't think it's all about the word counts and the ratios, but I do believe that has something to do with it.

#8 Jill

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 04:28 PM

It sounds like, however, from your other thread, that what you learned isn't working for you. That's because it can't. It doesn't make one iota of difference to look at what your competitors are doing and then try add the same amount of words, or whatever.

Google actually prefers to show lots of variety in the search results.

#9 Ludachris

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 04:40 PM

It sounds like, however, from your other thread, that what you learned isn't working for you. That's because it can't. It doesn't make one iota of difference to look at what your competitors are doing and then try add the same amount of words, or whatever.

Google actually prefers to show lots of variety in the search results.

Point taken. However, I've been working on a variety of things meant to help SEO on our sites (as well as the overall user experience), only some of which came exclusively from the BC methods. Nothing seems to be helping our sites gain much ground on our competition. That's what has me baffled. I don't see how they've locked up the top spot for just about every search term(s) we want to be ranked highly for. In any event, I don't want to take this thread off topic with my issues.

#10 chrishirst

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 05:00 PM

What I learned in the training was not so much about specific number of words on a page or in a tag (thought that was discussed), but to pay attention to the competition's word counts and ratios.


Hope you didn't pay a lot for that "training", because if that is a sample of what you learned, it certainly was NOT "money well spent". Things like "Keyword density" are just myths and legends being kept alive by clueless "experts".

#11 Ludachris

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 11:33 AM

Hope you didn't pay a lot for that "training", because if that is a sample of what you learned, it certainly was NOT "money well spent". Things like "Keyword density" are just myths and legends being kept alive by clueless "experts".

That's a pretty strong/harsh statement to make without posting much information to support it. I know that Bruce Clay has been around for quite a while and has had some good success over the years based on testimonials and recommendations. Maybe his methods are not as successful as they once were. I don't know. I'm just like everyone else trying to find the right "experts" to listen to. The signal to noise ratio in the SEO industry can be a little crazy sometimes though, which makes it difficult. So if you consider BC to be a "clueless expert", who are the new experts to listen to these days? Who can we trust to have the best methods and philosophies out there? Or is the new approach to simply not even attempt SEO, to instead focus on building a content rich site? I've seen suggestions like that floating around, and honestly I think it's a cop out myself. I see my competition showing up at the top of Google for all the terms we want our customers to find us for and they don't have any more rich content than we do - just basic e-commerce sites. I can guarantee they are focused on it. The reality is, there are almost certainly still some good techniques to follow and not all sites are the same.

Problem is, this industry is full of self-proclaimed experts that come and go, many of which are only around to get people to sign up for blog newsletters in hopes of making money on affiliate referrals. Others are looking for consulting cash before they'll share any of their "techniques". Then you have all the vanilla e-book salespeople who sell crappy information that they collected from everyone else, likely not having even tried the techniques themselves. And then you get mixed messages from everyone else while they poke holes in theories and claims but don't really have a portfolio that would suggest that they actually know what they're talking about themselves. So again, who should anyone listen to these days? Who are the real experts that have the tried and true advice? Who's methods do you consider to be the best in the industry at the moment?

Edited by Ludachris, 19 November 2012 - 11:34 AM.


#12 Jill

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 12:49 PM

Ludachris, have you read my article Why SEO in All the Right Places Doesn't Cut It Anymore?

If you're looking for people who you should listen to today (beyond here) I recommend anything Lisa Barone writes. Ironically she used to work for Bruce Clay. (Don't pay attention to anything she wrote during that period, only what she currently writes!)

#13 Ludachris

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 01:30 PM

Ludachris, have you read my article Why SEO in All the Right Places Doesn't Cut It Anymore?

If you're looking for people who you should listen to today (beyond here) I recommend anything Lisa Barone writes. Ironically she used to work for Bruce Clay. (Don't pay attention to anything she wrote during that period, only what she currently writes!)

Thanks Jill, will do some reading - it's a slow week so I should have some time.

#14 chrishirst

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:09 AM

So if you consider BC to be a "clueless expert", who are the new experts to listen to these days?

People who DON'T declare themselves to be "experts".

Anyone who claims to be an "ExpertMasterGuruNinja" are usually full of crap and have to keep inventing new crap to maintain their "ExpertMasterGuruNinja" status.

Search Marketing would be so much easier if it wasn't for the "experts" inventing new ideas of what search engines want.

#15 Ludachris

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:09 AM

People who DON'T declare themselves to be "experts".

Anyone who claims to be an "ExpertMasterGuruNinja" are usually full of crap and have to keep inventing new crap to maintain their "ExpertMasterGuruNinja" status.

Search Marketing would be so much easier if it wasn't for the "experts" inventing new ideas of what search engines want.

Well that would probably knock out everyone, including Lisa Barone, (who Jill just suggested) that is posting articles on SEO these days. I can understand your rant, as I'm sure you can understand mine. But maybe making a few suggestions on who I can pull from instead of who I should generally ignore might be a little more beneficial for me and anyone else reading this thread.




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