The best session at WebmasterWorld Boston had site reviews of nine websites by Matt Cutts of Google, Tim Mayer of Yahoo, and SEOs Thomas Bindl and Bruce Clay. Jake Baille did a fine job moderating, keeping the reviews fast. Here's a summary which I'll add to during the day as I recover from the conference here in Concord, MA.
1) Britannica.com Problem: Brittanica's subscription content is behind the pay firewall and therefore not crawlable. They don't want to change this model too much. They rank poorly for many terms for which they think they are authoritative. What should they do?
Matt Cutts: Wikipedia gives people all the information they are looking for and therefore ranks above Brittanica. Paid firewall snips are NOT enough information to attract inbound links. Consider picking a few articles in highly searched areas and making 100% of that content crawlable. It's tough to rank a page with just a paragraph of text and even tougher to get links to that content.
Bruce Clay: Check your "Expertness" by analyzing inbound links, outbound links. Check technical factors related to weighting and content rankings. Check server issues including accidental replication of content which can lead to duplicate content filters.
Tim Mayer: Consider a more colloquial writing style (I understood this to mean that that SE's are looking for natural conversational styles over formal or automated content though I don't think Tim said that specifically). Talk to the Search Engines about an information feed program.
ResumeRabbit.com He wanted optimization comments on a new home page here: edirectpublishing.com/newlandingpage/ BUT in a fun moment at the start of this review Matt said he'd gotten a LOT of unsolicited emails from ResumeRabbit and felt that may have "tainted" the brand. "how about ResumeAardvark?" suggested Matt in perhaps his *worst* piece of advice during the conference.
Matt: Links look good, you've made the site crawlable.
Thomas: Links, links, links (I think he meant one always needs more quality inbound links)
Tim: Use keyword tags! They matter in some SEs
Bruce: Drop id= which is in the source code for some/all pages.
InternationalLiving.com Problem: We are one of the best sites in the niche, but don't rank high.
Tim: Lose the flash download at home page. You are losing people immediately by forcing them to download stuff to see the whole site.
Bruce: Put the postcard thing in an IFRAME, consider more consistent home page text rather than regular changes.
Thomas: Consider CSS style sheets for better look. Use of H tag is good.
Matt: The site feels "thinner" than it really is. Emphasize the detailed content and the fact the project predates the web and has been online for a LONG time. Try to buy Internationaliving.com, a similar URL that could be taking some traffic away due to spelling confusion. If you do this use 301 redirect to send them to the real [canonical] site. People make weird queries you can't predict so cast a wider net [using emphasis on more keywords] to pull in long tailed searches.
As the big flash home page …. slowly ….loaded …. the crowd erupted into laughter. [Note to all my friends in Travel and tourism STOP HIRING PRINT AGENCIES TO BUILD YOUR WEBSITES and STOP USING FLASH as a key component of any part of the site – it does NOT index well and often confuses the search engines!]
Problem – they get 80% of the traffic from terms "Cherokee" and "Cherokee NC"? and want more long tail searches to deliver traffic. How to optimize.
Tim: Build another site that is static and optimized for search. Flash is a BIG disadvantage.
Matt: Do not build a separate website but do a text version of this one. Note that if you select a text blurb on your site and can find it elsewhere you may be under a duplicate content penalty/filter. [he mentioned tripod.com because I think he found some duplicatation of this site there?]. Flash: You are not getting link credit in the index for [the flash based links?] but duplicate content is probably more important.
Separate navigation links from Flash. Matt: I turn off Flash. You may be losing 5% of traffic just by using Flash.
I don't think Big Mouth asked for this, rather somebody wanted Matt to explain why and how they got dropped and then back in the index so fast.
Matt: Turn off CSS to see if hidden text is a problem. Look at internet Archive (or Alexa Wayback Machine) for page history [?] They had 13,000 characters stuffed into a small box, this was considered hidden text and they were banned. They cleaned it up and filed for reinclusion and are now back. Matt indicated they are not "out to get you" and this was a simple case where he did not go back in to fine every possible violation, rather when they removed the offending hidden text he felt they deserved back in. PR7 indicates a "robust" site.