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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 30, 2010 at 2:17 PM

SEO tips: Twitterific words, scoring a Google 7 pack and more

Grand wizards of the search marketing world were sharing secrets today at a seminar hosted by SEOmoz, the Seattle search marketing software provider.

Here are a few search marketing (and Twitter) tips and tricks from the sessions I attended at the Seattle Westin today.

SEOmoz Chief Executive Rand Fishkin talked about how marketers can take advantage of new types of search results.

Google’s new image search results, for instance, display a blend of images so getting the top two or three results isn’t as important.

More frustrating is the new “overlay” result that pops up a Web page image, obscuring the rest of the page.

“Basically this is an invitation to, yes, right click and steal this image,” Fishkin said.

He suggested websites add a few lines of code to “essentially break this functionality, so people get full page results instead of overlay.”

If other sites are getting higher search results with images taken from your site, perhaps you need to add more surrounding text and page titles to better catch Google’s attention, Fishkin said. This happened to Seattle’s BuddyTV, which was being outranked by other sites using images taken from BuddyTV, he added.

Odd image search results can also be traced to Google’s Image Labeler game, which asks people to help tag images.

To get higher results in video searches — which mostly happen at YouTube — one trick is to take advantage of the popularity of “how to” and tutorial content. Fishkin suggested using Reddit TV to see what people are finding popular from video searches beyond YouTube.

Fishkin said search marketers may find less competition in video search than standard search.

“If you are someone who can stay on top of this, you are going to have a big win,” Fishkin said of the various new search types.

There’s a huge new opportunity in local search, according to David Mihm, a consultant and chief executive of GetListed.org, in Portland.

Mihm said local search is starting to display general search results in some categories. He predicted that soon Google will be returning localized product search.

It’s also an evolving category that’s not yet dominated by Google. Mihm advised search marketers to pay attention to Bing if they aren’t already. “I think they’re primed for a major play” in local search, he said.

Mihm explained that local search is about optimizing locations more than websites. Whereas traditional search was about content, local search is about location.

Businesses trying to improve their performance in local search results should claim their local listings at the directories that search engines are building, such as Google Places. Mihm said businesses should fill out all the categories on their listing, customize categories as needed and include compelling photos because the listing may be their first contact with a potential customer.

So far only about 2 million of the 20 million companies in the U.S. have claimed their spots on Google Places. Most of the local business information now comes from a few business listing aggregators that feed listings to smaller sites.

Key markers include the local phone number and address of businesses. The phone number in particular is a key way that Google identifies individual businesses.

“Think of your phone number as your fingerprint,” he said.

A goal is to become part of the “Seven Pack” of local listings that Google displays with a map on the first page of a local business search. There’s not a precise formula for getting there, but Mihm said getting more user reviews and newspaper mentions helps build authority and citations that Google draws upon.

In general, Mihm advises that companies claim their companies on listings such as Google Places and clean up outdated and duplicate listings. They should also make sure their website is “sending a strong geographic scent.”

I would have posted sooner, but another speaker, Dan Zarrella, said you’ll get more action on Twitter if you wait until traffic slows later in the day.

Zarrella, of Cambridge, Mass.-based Hubspot, also suggests asking people to retweet their messages — and say please.

“It’s obvious and if you do it all the time it looks cheesy, but it works,” he said, cautioning that constantly asking for retweets will annoy people.

“My fiancee has threatened to unfollow me for tacky stuff like this,” he confessed.

Simple steps that people can take to improve their Twitter traffic include filling out the 160-character biography field on their Twitter account. Zarrella’s analysis of 5 million accounts found that Twitter uses with bios listed on average have six times more followers.

Similarly, most users don’t add their own picture and use Twitter’s default avatar, and most don’t bother to add a link to their website. Zarrella said accounts with links have six times more followers, and those with a picture also had a “lot more” followers.

Other advice was almost counterintuitive. For instance, talking too much about yourself on Twitter tends to result in fewer followers.

“If you want more followers, don’t talk about yourself so much,” he advised.

Instead, use the site to “talk inclusively” about groups of people you’re talking to on Twitter.

Negative tweets also tend to decrease followers, perhaps because people are going on Twitter to be more hopeful, he said.

“If I want to get bummed out I can just turn on the television,” he said. “I don’t need to go on Twitter, right?”

More important than the aura of Twitter may be click-through rates, at least for marketers and others using the service for business reasons.

After analyzing click-through rates on high-traffic accounts, Zarrella concluded that click-throughs are affected by the volume of tweets. Accounts that tweeted twice an hour saw lower click-throughs, and it fell further for accounts tweeting three times an hour.

Click-through rates also improve when Twitter usage is slower — later in the week and on weekends.

The takeaway he offered: “If you want more clicks, tweet less.”

Zarrella also provided lists of words that get the most retweets and words that get retweeted the least. Refreshingly, large syllable words don’t retard retweeting, so you “don’t have to dumb down your content to get retweets,” he said.

His list of the most retweetable words and phrases:

1. You

2. Twitter

3. Please

4. Retweet

5. Post

6. Blog

7. Social

8. Free

9. Media

10. Help

11. Please retweet

12. Great

13. Social media

14. 10

15. Follow

16. How to

17. Top

18. Blog post

19. Check out

20. New blog post

The least retweetable words:

1. Game

2. Going

3. Haha

4. Lol

5. But

6. Watching

7. Work

8. Home

9. Night

10 Bed

11. Well

12. Sleep

13. Gonna

14. Hey

15. Tomorrow

16. Tired

17. Some

18. Back

19. Bored

20. Listening

“This is you talking about yourself when it’s extremely boring,” Zarrella said.

“Who tweets lol?” he asked. “I don’t use lol anymore. I use heh.”

Comments | Topics: Bing, Google, local search

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