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LunaTV Ep. 03 – SEO – Best Tools, Canonical Hostnames, and Consolidating Domains

This week’s topic is SEO. In this episode we answer:

- What are the best tools for SEO?

- How do you deal with and segment (not provided) data?

- What to do with canonical hostnames (www.example.com vs. example.com)?

- If I have multiple domains, but one is doing really well in organic search, should I make the others subdomains of the successful domain?

LunaTV is a weekly segment where LunaMetrics team members answer your questions from across the web. Got a question you want answered? Tweet at us at @LunaMetrics with #lunaTV and we’ll answer your question!

Christina’s Recommended Add-on’s:

Christina’s (not provided) tools:

Christina:
Hi my names Christina Keffer, I’m the head of the SEO department at LunaMetrics. Welcome to this week’s installment of LunaTV where we answer your questions from around the web.

This week we’ll focus on search engine optimization specifically a couple questions that came to our attention. This is my partner in crime Reid Bandremer.

The first questions that well address is one we got from Quora,

“What are the best SEO tools for a personal website?”

The question was sort of phrased in a way that made me think that somebody was taking a preexisting blog and perhaps adding a little more to it and creating a little more of an online presence for a small business and so I’m phrasing my answer accordingly.

There are a lot of free tools out there. With regards to CMS’s I would definitely choose WordPress over any other one, especially if you’re not used to web development and things like that.  WordPress is a really simple way to set up a website on a variety of different hosting platforms. It’s also one of the most search engine-friendly CMS’s out there and one of the easiest to deal with. The set up itself is fairly quick you basically just pop it up on a serve wherever you choose to host. There are some things you might have to do to allow WordPress to write to the serve files but there’s tutorials everywhere, that’s the thing about WordPress, it’s so well supported and that support is largely free. Occasionally there are some security concerns. I wouldn’t be using WordPress if you were going to have a checkout system on the site and were receiving payments of any kind. That would cause a little bit of an issue in which case I would go with Joomla or Drupal or another open source option for CMS.

Sticking with the WordPress situation, there are a couple really great SEO friendly tools out there that make the site even more SEO friendly. For instance there’s All-in-One SEO pack that lets you add titles and Meta descriptions and things like that to your posts, which may be different than the post or page names. It also offers enhanced permalink customization so that you can make really search engine friendly URLs that are sort of static appearing. The default for WordPress is actually not that great, so you’d actually have to go into the settings and change it to be more keyword rich URLs.

There’s another plugin called Redirection, if you do have another site out there that you’re going to be transferring to WordPress, this plugin is an absolute must-have. You can go through all the pages in the previous site and redirect them in a very search engine friendly way using 301 redirect and you can do batch redirects.  Redirection will also scan the new site and make sure you have all those broken links taken care of, especially if you’re importing a blogger.com site to a WordPress site. There’s also a plugin for that, it’s called the Blogger.com plugin. That’s really great for importing blogs, but you’ll still need to change the links over as well through this Redirection tool.

Other tools concerning keyword research and things that aren’t really necessarily related to the setup of the site, SpyFu, which has a free version which offers you somewhat limited information but still useful. Basically it can be used to spy on your competitors, see what they’re doing and what keywords they’re using.  It’s no information you can’t find on your own but SpyFu tends to make the process a little more simplistic and answer your needs.

Obviously Google Keywords tool is still a viable option although use those metrics “with a grain of salt.”  They’re definitely very broad, sort of numbers that you shouldn’t take into consideration exactly as they appear there.

In addition to that, if you’re not already using FeedBurner to keep track of posts and things like that, it would be a really great addition to any improvement that you’re making to syndicate your content.

Another question we had that has absolutely nothing to do with tools or WordPress whatsoever, is something that’s come up quite recently; in October of last year Google announced that they were encrypting the search results pages, which basically means that keyword data from a variety users that are signed in to any Google product online, whether it be their Gmail account, Google Analytics, or just signing into Chrome, their keywords are becoming obfuscated under this great big ‘(not provided)’ keyword bucket, you can see it in Google Analytics and any other analytics program that you’re using. The question was,

“How to deal with that issue, where we’re not able to see the number of branded search terms versus non-branded search terms?”

which is a pretty big SEO KPI, the increasing quantity of non-branded search. We have a tool that we developed that can be found on our blog here.

Basically what it does is it overlays a ratio of branded to non-branded from the provided keyword segment, onto the non-provided keyword segment. We can do that on a specific date range. So basically we import the keywords into excel and go through calculations to provide a pretty good idea of the actual increase of non- branded keywords month over month, which is the way we’ve been dealing with it for the majority of our time.

There is also a really great spreadsheet on seo.com’s blog here. That provides enhanced information, in a little bit different perspective, but equally as awesome, developed by Clay Spokes. It’s a Google Document, it’s really great. So a combination of the two should take care of most peoples media needs where this is concerned. Unfortunately none of these solutions gives us granular insight into the keyword data that we’ve lost through this change. That’s just kind of our tough luck as SEOs.

Reid:
Hi! Our first question is from Neal from the Nodia India and he asks via LinkedIn,

“What is the difference between ‘www.XYZ.com’ and ‘XYZ.com’? Please tell me about this.”

So basically it appears that he has the same content one page but there are two different URLs, one has the “www.” prefix and one does not. They are considered by the search engines to be two totally different pages. This happens anytime you have different URLs, search engines consider them to be 2 different pages. So what happens is you have duplicate content issues, which you definitely want to fix. You’re going to have link juice divided between each version of the pages you want to consolidate that for maximum SEO benefit. You definitely want to force redirects from the non “www.” version of the URL to the “www.” version of the URL. That way you will always have one version of the URL indexed. Sometimes you may want to redirect the “www.” version to the non “www.” version, only if the non “www.” version has much higher authority already. But usually people tend to link to the “www.”  version more often. Also make sure you use the 301 redirect for maximum SEO benefit that is the permanent redirect.

Our next question comes from an anonymous user on Quora. The question is,

“Say I have many websites that do well in Google rankings, but one that does extremely well and has a lot of content should I put all the others as a subdomain of that major site?”

The answer is “Maybe.”

This definitely depends on a lot of factors that you want to consider including relevance, power of your brand and the overall user experience. If you move those websites to the main website, I would hope that the content on those sites is extremely relevant to the content that’s already on your existing main site.

Also, do you have a very strong brand, are people very familiar with the brand of the larger main site and will they be more likely to trust and view the content that currently exists on the smaller sites if you move it to the larger main site? Finally does it benefit the user experience, is it going to make things easier to find for people? Those are all factors you want to consider.

Now for SEO you need to remember that when you move something to a subdomain, the pages on the subdomain the authority and the link juice from those pages is not automatically passed on to pages on a different subdomain, even if it’s the same root domain. Authority is conferred via links. If you link from one subdomain to another separate subdomain then you’re passing authority and link juice but that’s occurring just as it would if you’re linking to a completely separate group domain.

So if you’re looking at it from an SEO perspective you might want to consider moving it to a subdirectory instead of a subdomain. For example it would be “www.subdomain.xyz.com” instead of moving it to that URL maybe use, “www.xyz.com/subdomain”. Again when moving things to a subdirectory from a completely different site make sure it benefits the user experience, it’s highly relevant to the content that already exist there and that hopefully helps you.

Christina:
Thanks for joining us for this week’s installment of LunaTV. Obviously if you have any questions you can contact us through Twitter “@LunaMetrics” we’d love to hear from you! See you next time.

http://www.lunametrics.com/blog/2012/05/16/lunatv-ep-03/

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