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Best practices to include in your final projects

electronic-best-practices

Making that final push to button up your projects can be a bit daunting. It’s kind of like the punch list on a construction project — add switch plates, fill nail holes in baseboards, screw in light bulbs, clean windows — that stuff adds up quickly. But having a set of best practices in mind throughout the development phase will cut down on that burden. [Caleb P.] just published a quick guide using a recent project as an example.

First and foremost is the label seen on the project box lid. How many times have you pulled out a circuit … Read the rest

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The inconvenient truth about passwords

Inconvenience makes people do strange things. Having to wait at traffic lights sees people run across the road, risking life and limb just to get somewhere a few seconds faster. People allow packages to be “hidden” on their doorstop rather than secured…

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Tool Review: Wordstream’s PPC Grader

Posted by JoannaLord
In paid search there are a lot of rough Adwords accounts out there. You've seen them I'm sure. I know I've worked on them. We get brought in to assess the situation and make some big decisions around whether an account…

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Industry group creates guidelines for issuing SSL certs

A consortium of certificate authorities (CAs) and software vendors has released the first industry standard for the issuance and management of SSL certificates.
The standard follows a series of embarrassing attacks this year against CAs, or companies t…

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3 reasons the feds are avoiding cloud computing

A New York Times article does a great job defining the issues around cloud adoption within the U.S. government — or, I should say, the glaring lack thereof. As the Times reports, “Such high praise for new Internet technologies may be common in Silicon…

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SEO Interview Questions – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

 We’ve all been in difficult interview situations – you get a hard question and go on and on and on without giving a solid answer. In our realm, though, there are some SEO best practices that are so well established that everyone should know and be able to describe them to other people. If you’re a business looking to hire an SEO (in-house, contractor, or otherwise), there’s no better way to gauge an SEO’s abilities than to ask them about basic SEO definitions and strategies. Similarly, SEOs looking for work should be prepared for a comprehensive interview that tests both their knowledge and their creative abilities. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand talks about some of the questions that might come up in interviews for SEO positions and how to answer them (as well as discussing why interviewees should ask these questions). Have a good question for interviewers? Let us know in the comments!

 

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re talking about SEO interview questions, how there are a lot of times in your professional life when you’re going to be either interviewing someone who might be working with you on an SEO team inside your company, who might be contracting for you, perhaps a consultant, you’re interview someone, you’re the CMO or the VP of marketing and you want to know who all these SEO people know their stuff. It can actually be kind of tough to know what questions to ask unless you’ve got some background experience. Likewise if you are someone who might be interviewing for an SEO position, if you’re someone who is a consultant and might be talking to some clients and you want to be prepared for the questions that they’re going to throw at you, this Whiteboard Friday is for you.

So in the SEO interview process, the questions that I would ask, these are very SEO specific ones. So in every interview, particularly when you’re bringing someone on to your team, you’re going to asking questions about cultural fit and background and their biography, like what have they done in their past. Are they going to be a good fit for your team? Are they going to be able to handle the responsibilities? Does their work/life balance work with sort of organization you’ve got? I’m not going to talk about that stuff. I am going to talk about the very specific knowledge kinds of things that you want to use with an SEO or that you want to be prepared for as an SEO when you’re going into these types of discussions.

So the first general section, the section that I start with is general knowledge. This is a great way to feel out whether someone is comfortable and capable. I would use these, honestly if we were doing this, I would be using these on phone screens or maybe even in the interview process, like right in the form field just to get a sense, like, "Does this person have a good sense of SEO? Do they know things like, what’s a rel=canonical? What does it do? How does it work? How do search engines treat the meta refresh? What’s an image title versus an alt attribute?" So you’ve got different properties of a particular graphic or an image, and you want to know that the SEO person understands. "Yeah, I know that image title describes the image, but it isn’t necessarily being used by search engines to the same degree that the alt attribute is. It doesn’t show up when you hover in Firefox. It’s not going to become the image label in Google image search, those kinds of things, versus the alt attribute that gets used as anchor text when the image links off to somewhere. So those kinds of things.

You might even have a question like, "How do you remove personalization from search results?" What you want to see is somebody goes, "Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s google.com/search?Q=whatever the search term is &pws=0." You find someone who can write off search strings and tell you, "How do I change the country language code?" "Well, you just add in &gl=uk. To get the UK or ‘us’ to get the US." You want to see that sort of knowledge that indicates that they’re really deep into the process of doing SEO. They live and breathe this stuff. They know it like the back of their hand. That’s what you want to see from an SEO, and this general knowledge section is a great way to get a sense of that.

Now next up, I like to get a little deeper and understand a person’s thought process and be able to explain your thought process to somebody else. That’s why we have a section on strategy and tactics. So this is asking questions that will elicit a response that indicates to you how well this person can really do the functions of SEO. A lot of this general knowledge stuff they should have a good background, but if they miss a few of these questions, it’s fine. They can always go learn them. They can go look them up. They’ll figure it out, it’s okay. But you really want to know things like, "Do they understand how to run a keyword research campaign? Do they understand how to run link building? Do they understand what’s involved in a content strategy? What does that mean? It doesn’t just mean a blog, does it?" It’s all sorts of different things.

So I like asking broad questions like, "How would you create a site to rank for give them a keyword or a set of keywords?" Like, "I am getting into the men’s fashion industry. Just imagine for me, brainstorm with me a site that’s going to perform really well in men’s fashion." And if you hear things like, "Well, I would like to build a site that naturally incents lots of creators, lots of designers of clothing, and lots of brands to put their stuff on our site. So it will be a big important site where lots of people will come to. They’ll put their stuff up and they’ll essentially promote it for us, but we have a lot of unique form fields and unique content that they have to fill out so that the content itself is unique and it doesn’t just look like the manufacturer’s suggested description across everything else, because we don’t want to have duplicate content problems." That’s shows some level of depth in terms of thinking. It gives you a sense of how they’ll tackle problems.

You can ask questions like, "What are some of your favorite scalable link building tactics?" And if they say something like, "Well, I really like contacting webmasters." No, like, "Nope, you’re clearly missing this word scalable and also probably favorite, because nobody really likes contacting webmasters." That’s the least fun part the SEO’s link building job. But if they say things like, "Well, I really like building up popular social accounts," or, "I like running a blog and building up content to attract a community," those are pretty good answers. If they say things like, "I really think that content syndication or image licensing or badges and embeddable widgets is a great link building strategy that’s scalable," those are great answers. You want to hear that kind of stuff.

"How would you get video content into Google?" More of a tactical question, but it gives you a sense of some of the knowledge and then how they do it. So if you hear a question like that and the person gives you a response and they say, "Well, Google has this video protocol." All right, they do, Google does have a video protocol. But what you really want to hear is, "Oh, it’s great! What I like to do is make content using YouTube or Wistia or Vimeo," or whatever it is, whatever their preferred video hosting service of choice is and let them tell you why that is, "and then embed it on our pages and we use the video XML sitemaps feed to send to Google so that appears as rich snippets in the search results." Perfect, this person clearly understands the tactical knowledge, and maybe they don’t even know how to craft it. I don’t know how to write a video XML sitemap. I couldn’t start writing you the protocols from scratch, but I can go find it online and copy what Google suggests it needs to be. I just need to have the knowledge of how to do that.

So that strategy and tactics section, also really important.

Last up. I do like to ask about some tools and metrics because this can give you a great sense of both an SEO’s depth as well as they way they think about a lot of problems. Because the field of SEO, granted, is some art, some science, and a lot of research and learning and trying new things, the tools and metrics, the statistics that we use, the correlation data kinds of things, the link data that comes out of Yahoo Site Explorer, or Bing Webmaster tools, or the Google link command, or Exalead, or Majestic SEO, or SEOmoz, you want to know that they’ve got a good grasp on, "Oh, here’s all the ways that I could potentially get that data and here’s why I like this one and I don’t like this one. I like the Bing or the MSN Ad Center or the keyword tool. I don’t like the Google keyword tool. I really don’t like some keyword tool here, but I think Keyword Spy’s great or SpyFu is awesome," or whatever it is. And you want to know, not just what those tools are, but how do they evaluate them.

That gives you a really good sense for how that person thinks about problems, how they’re going to attack things, whether they’re a critical thinker or whether they just take things on face value, which in the SEO world is not a great idea. Like even the things that I might be telling you on Whiteboard Fridays, you probably want to verify for yourself. So things like, "What data would you use to use to judge the value of a link?" And you want to hear things like, "Well, I’d try and gets some metrics around how important the domain is, how important that specific page is. I’d try and get some metrics about where is that link going to be placed, what sort anchor text will it use, how many other links are on that page, where do they point to, or they spammy or manipulative, or are they good and authentic?" Those kinds of things. "What tools do you use to measure competitors’ keywords and traffic?" And if they tell you, "Well, I really like this SpyFu or KeyCompete, or some of these other ones, Compete.com has a competitive intelligence tool. Hitwise has one, very enterprise level." Hey, yeah, those are good ways to measure keywords.

On the traffic question, if they say, "Well, I really like, Alexa." I’d be like, "You do? Why do you like Alexa? What do you find useful about it?" There are good answers, which is, "Well, for the top 1,000 or 5,000 sites on the Web, Alexa’s pretty good at saying what the relative difference is between them." Which is relatively true, most of the time at least. But for those sites in the tail, sites in the midrange, Alexa’s terrible. You kind of want to hear, "Well, none of the data sources are particularly excellent, but I like to look at Google Trends for websites, or Compete.com, or I like to look at Quantcast. I like to compare across the set. But I really like to look at maybe how many people are subscribing to their blog through Google Reader. That’s a great signal." It’s let’s you know that person is thinking more deeply about these questions.

"How do you measure social activity on a site?" That’s more of a broad based question. Like, "Do you just track tweets? Do you have some sort of an analytics tracking? What do you set up for that? Are you using something simple like a shared count? Do you have a statistics dashboard? Would you be using a Twitter client to be measuring that?" Whatever they’ve got.

If you ask these questions or you can answer these questions, I think you’re going to do a lot to cement a good relationship between things. If you’re in SEO right now and you’re thinking to yourself, "Boy, I’m not sure I can answer all those questions that Rand had on the board," I mean, these aren’t the toughest things that’ll get tossed at you at an interview. They shouldn’t be definitely. So you might want to spend some time having good answers to these questions, thinking hard about these things, researching them. And likewise, if you’re an employer or a contractor and you’re trying to find SEO people to work for you, do consulting work, you definitely want to amass a good set of these. I would actually recommend trying to ask relatively consistently again and again with the same people because having that consistency between questions let’s you really grade people on the same level. If you change up your questions every time, it can get tough to remember how well a candidate might have done against another one.

All right, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this addition of Whiteboard Friday. I hope you’re going to find some great jobs and some great SEOs, and I look forward to seeing you again next time. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How Google’s Panda Update Changed SEO Best Practices Forever – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

It’s here! Google has released Panda update 2.2, just as Matt Cutts said they would at SMX Advanced here in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. This time around, Google has – among other things – improved their ability to detect scraper sites and banish them from the SERPs. Of course, the Panda updates are changes to Google’s algorithm and are not merely manual reviews of sites in the index, so there is room for error (causing devastation for many legitimate webmasters and SEOs).

A lot of people ask what parts of their existing SEO practice they can modify and emphasize to recover from the blow, but alas, it’s not that simple. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses how the Panda updates work and, more importantly, how Panda has fundamentally changed the best practices for SEO. Have you been Panda-abused? Do you have any tips for recuperating? Let us know in the comments!

 

Video Transcription

Howdy, SEOmoz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re talking about the very exciting, very interesting, very controversial Google Panda update.

Panda, also known as Farmer, was this update that Google came out with in March of this year, of 2011, that rejiggered a bunch of search results and pushed a lot of websites down in the rankings, pushed some websites up in the rankings, and people have been concerned about it ever since. It has actually had several updates and new versions of that implementation and algorithm come out. A lot of people have all these questions like, "Ah, what’s going on around Panda?" There have been some great blog posts on SEOmoz talking about some of the technical aspects. But I want to discuss in this Whiteboard Friday some of the philosophical and theoretical aspects and how Google Panda really changes the way a lot of us need to approach SEO.

So let’s start with a little bit of Panda history. Google employs an engineer named Navneet Panda. The guy has done some awesome work. In fact, he was part of a patent application that Bill Slawski looked into where he found a great way to scale some machine learning algorithms. Now, machine learning algorithms, as you might be aware, are very computationally expensive and they take a long time to run, particularly if you have extremely large data sets, both of inputs and of outputs. If you want, you can research machine learning. It is an interesting fun tactic that computer scientists use and programmers use to find solutions to problems. But basically before Panda, machine learning scalability at Google was at level X, and after it was at the much higher level Y. So that was quite nice. Thanks to Navneet, right now they can scale up this machine learning.

What Google can do based on that is take a bunch of sites that people like more and a bunch of sites that people like less, and when I say like, what I mean is essentially what the quality raters, Google’s quality raters, tell them this site is very enjoyable. This is a good site. I’d like to see this high in the search results. Versus things where the quality raters say, "I don’t like to see this." Google can say, "Hey, you know what? We can take the intelligence of this quality rating panel and scale it using this machine learning process."

Here’s how it works. Basically, the idea is that the quality raters tell Googlers what they like. They answer all these questions, and you can see Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts were interviewed by Wired Magazine. They talked about some of the things that were asked of these quality raters, like, "Would you trust this site with your credit card? Would you trust the medical information that this site gives you with your children? Do you think the design of this site is good?" All sorts of questions around the site’s trustworthiness, credibility, quality, how much they would like to see it in the search results. Then they compare the difference.

The sites that people like more, they put in one group. The sites that people like less, they put in another group. Then they look at tons of metrics. All these different metrics, numbers, signals, all sorts of search signals that many SEOs suspect come from user and usage data metrics, which Google has not historically used as heavily. But they think that they use those in a machine learning process to essentially separate the wheat from the chaff. Find the ones that people like more and the ones that people like less. Downgrade the ones they like less. Upgrade the ones they like more. Bingo, you have the Panda update.

So, Panda kind of means something new and different for SEO. As SEOs, for a long time you’ve been doing the same kind of classic things. You’ve been building good content, making it accessible to search engines, doing good keyword research, putting those keywords in there, and then trying to get some links to it. But you have not, as SEOs, we never really had to think as much or as broadly about, "What is the experience of this website? Is it creating a brand that people are going to love and share and reward and trust?" Now we kind of have to think about that.

It is almost like the job of SEO has been upgraded from SEO to web strategist. Virtually everything you do on the Internet with your website can impact SEO today. That is especially true following Panda. The things that they are measuring is not, oh, these sites have better links than these sites. Some of these sites, in fact, have much better links than these sites. Some of these sites have what you and I might regard, as SEOs, as better content, more unique, robust, quality content, and yet, people, quality raters in particular, like them less or the things, the signals that predict that quality raters like those sites less are present in those types of sites.

Let’s talk about a few of the specific things that we can be doing as SEOs to help with this new sort of SEO, this broader web content/web strategy portion of SEO.

First off, design and user experience. I know, good SEOs have been preaching design user experience for years because it tends to generate more links, people contribute more content to it, it gets more social signal shares and tweets and all this other sort of good second order effect. Now, it has a first order effect impact, a primary impact. If you can make your design absolutely beautiful, versus something like this where content is buffeted by advertising and you have to click next, next, next a lot. The content isn’t all in one page. You cannot view it in that single page format. Boy, the content blocks themselves aren’t that fun to read, even if it is not advertising that’s surrounding them, even if it is just internal messaging or the graphics don’t look very good. The site design feels like it was way back in the 1990s. All that stuff will impact the ability of this page, this site to perform. And don’t forget, Google has actually said publicly that even if you have a great site, if you have a bunch of pages that are low quality on that site, they can drag down the rankings of the rest of the site. So you should try and block those for us or take them down. Wow. Crazy, right? That’s what a machine learning algorithm, like Panda, will do. It will predicatively say, "Hey, you know what? We’re seeing these features here, these elements, push this guy down."

Content quality matters a lot. So a lot of time, in the SEO world, people will say, "Well, you have to have good, unique, useful content." Not enough. Sorry. It’s just not enough. There are too many people making too much amazing stuff on the Internet for good and unique and grammatically correct and spelled properly and describes the topic adequately to be enough when it comes to content. If you say, "Oh, I have 50,000 pages about 50,000 different motorcycle parts and I am just going to go to Mechanical Turk or I am going to go outsource, and I want a 100 word, two paragraphs about each one of them, just describe what this part is." You think to yourself, "Hey, I have good unique content." No, you have content that is going to be penalized by Panda. That is exactly what Panda is designed to do. It is designed to say this is content that someone wrote for SEO purposes just to have good unique content on the page, not content that makes everyone who sees it want to share it and say wow. Right?

If I get to a page about a motorcycle part and I am like, "God, not only is this well written, it’s kind of funny. It’s humorous. It includes some anecdotes. It’s got some history of this part. It has great photos. Man, I don’t care at all about motorcycle parts, and yet, this is just a darn good page. What a great page. If I were interested, I’d be tweeting about this, I’d share it. I’d send it to my uncle who buys motorcycles. I would love this page." That’s what you have to optimize for. It is a totally different thing than optimizing for did I use the keyword at least three times? Did I put it in the title tag? Is it included in there? Is the rest of the content relevant to the keywords? Panda changes this. Changes it quite a bit.

Finally, you are going to be optimizing around user and usage metrics. Things like, when people come to your site, generally speaking compared to other sites in your niche or ranking for your keywords, do they spend a good amount of time on your site, or do they go away immediately? Do they spend a good amount of time? Are they bouncing or are they browsing? If you have a good browse rate, people are browsing 2, 3, 4 pages on average on a content site, that’s decent. That’s pretty good. If they’re browsing 1.5 pages on some sites, like maybe specific kinds of news sites, that might actually be pretty good. That might be better than average. But if they are browsing like 1.001 pages, like virtually no one clicks on a second page, that might be weird. That might hurt you. Your click-through rate from the search results. When people see your title and your snippet and your domain name, and they go, "Ew, I don’t know if I want to get myself involved in that. They’ve got like three hyphens in their domain name, and it looks totally spammy. I’m not going to get involved." Then that click-through rate is probably going to suffer and so are your rankings.

They are going to be looking at things like the diversity and quantity of traffic that comes to your site. Do lots of people from all around the world or all around your local region, your country, visit your website directly? They can measure this through Chrome. They can measure it through Android. They can measure it through the Google toolbar. They have all this user and usage metrics. They know where people are going on the Internet, where they spend time, how much time they spend, and what they do on those pages. They know about what happens from the search results too. Do people click from a result and then go right back to the search results and perform another search? Clearly, they were unhappy with that. They can take all these metrics and put them into the machine learning algorithm and then have Panda essentially recalculate. This why you see essentially Google doesn’t issue updates every day or every week. It is about every 30 or 40 days that a new Panda update will come out because they are rejiggering all this stuff.

One of the things that people who get hit by Panda come up to me and say, "God, how are we ever going to get out of Panda? We’ve made all these changes. We haven’t gotten out yet." I’m like, "Well, first off, you’re not going to get out of it until they rejigger the results, and then there is no way that you are going to get out of it unless you change the metrics around your site." So if you go into your Analytics and you see that people are not spending longer on your pages, they are not enjoying them more, they are not sharing them more, they are not naturally linking to them more, your branded search traffic is not up, your direct type in traffic is not up, you see that none of these metrics are going up and yet you think you have somehow fixed the problems that Panda tries to solve for, you probably haven’t.

I know this is frustrating. I know it’s a tough issue. In fact, I think that there are sites that have been really unfairly hit. That sucks and they shouldn’t be and Google needs to work on this. But I also know that I don’t think Google is going to be making many changes. I think they are very happy with the way that Panda has gone from a search quality perspective and from a user happiness perspective. Their searchers are happier, and they are not seeing as much junk in the results. Google likes the way this is going. I think we are going to see more and more of this over time. It could even get more aggressive. I would urge you to work on this stuff, to optimize around these things, and to be ready for this new form of SEO.

Thanks everyone for watching. Look forward to some great comments, questions, feedback in the post. I will see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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MS11-042 – Critical: Vulnerabilities in Distributed File System Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2535512)

Bulletin Severity Rating:Critical – This security update resolves two privately reported vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS). The more severe of these vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution when an attacker sends a…

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MS11-048 – Important: Vulnerability in SMB Server Could Allow Denial of Service (2536275)

Bulletin Severity Rating:Important – This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability could allow denial of service if an attacker created a specially crafted SMB packet and sent the packet to an …

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MS11-042 – Critical : Vulnerabilities in Distributed File System Could Allow Remote Code Execution (2535512) – Version: 1.1

Severity Rating: Critical
Revision Note: V1.1 (June 14, 2011): Moved Windows 7 for 32-bit Systems Service Pack 1, Windows 7 for x64-based Systems Service Pack 1, Windows Server 2008 R2 for x64-based Systems Service Pack 1, an…

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