SEO’s used to talk a lot about preserving PageRank - I used to think of PageRank as like water, and building a good site archtecture was about funneling this into the right sections of the site in the right manner.
PageRank as a useful SEO term is pretty much redundant, but Aaron Wall now speaks in terms of link equity, which is an extension of the concept - it’s no longer about simply funnelling water, as much as watching out for a range of quality issues.
This week I spoke to Aaron about concerns I had about Platinax - over the past year, it’s seen a good growth in content, good growth in natural links: but traffic has remained flat. That means there’s a problem with the site.
I’d previously read his comments about blocking URLs that create supplemental content, and had already blocked a few main offenders with robots.txt.
However, he highlighted the fact that a lot of the directory pages are still being regarded as similar enough as to be duplicate, and this was creating a serious top-heavy problem for the overall Platinax site.
There were two main options - block regional categories, or set up the directory in a subdomain.
I could’t block regional categories without feeling like I’d be cheating paid listings in the directory, but I’ve already considered setting it up on a subdomain so his recommendation explained why it made sense.
The directory has some decent authority on its own, and by continuing to integrate it with the Platinax site - and considering Google’s approach to favouring subdomains on strong domains - I figure there should be minimal loss of strength to the directory itself.
He also highlighted possible problems with the forum content creating lots of supplemental content which I’ll get around to addressing. I’ve already nofollowed all links there - including advertisers - but I genuinely don’t see anyone losing out: the site advertisers have strong links in strong locations and look less like “spammy” sitewides, and most outgoing links in the forum are signatures which I believe to be pretty crap for SEO purposes anyway.
Aaron also underlined a good point about using the link equity of the homepage and main sections to push traffic and search engines into “featured” content, which also made a lot of sense - after all, “latest” news/posts are published under each article anyway, so why duplicate that in the navigation menu?
And most of all - the duplication of links on the homepage was weakening the overall brand because there was far too little emphasis on selling benefits to visitors and focusing on the site’s strengths (ie, featured content).
Overall, the points made were:
1. Block sections that lead to extensive creation of supplmental results, or set up offenders on their own subdomain;
2. Focus on sending traffic and spiders into featured areas and pages of the site;
3. Remember to sell the benefits of the site to human users
Discussion of link equity brings us nicely onto content value.
On the one hand, proper use of link equity can help leverage your content. But if you’re looking to convert visitors - for sales, sign-ups, or similar, then you seriously need to look at content value issues.
The bottom line is that some sites are too focused on developing content channels without looking at the overall impact that content will have in terms of delivering value - ie, conversions.
I spoke to a client this week who has an articles section on his site - one of his articles is immensely popular but converts traffic at zero, bringing down the overall site conversion rate.
The problem is that your content needs to be focused on the site purpose, and if a sales site, needs to be able to bring in people who may be relatively likely to make a sale. Simply publishing information means you’re likely to draw in information seekers who have no interest in a sale.
Another example is that I have a client whom we’re rebuilding a new site for on a new domain, and the type of content to have has become a critical concern.
He wanted articles on it - but if you’re Google and you see a site offering loan sign-ups, but most of the site is focused on loans articles, then there’s a good chance Google may view the site as a repository for articles and not a brokerage - which is not what we want.
We want to see the site viewed as a loans brokerage. This is especially as article traffic is not “buy now” traffic and converts poorly.
So we need to make sure what content he uses has real value. So it’ll be minimum pages with content focused on the sales process, not essays on loans.
Conversely, I have another client for whom I’m about to implement extra content channels on their site - a news section and forum.
Althought it’s a sales site, it’s well established and now we want to focus on brand development. By setting up a news section we can make the site a leading source of information for the industry in general, and push for brand marketing for the information seekers.
The same with the forum - there’s real potential for brand marketing for casual visitors, plus there’s the opportunity to build up a core userbase for permission marketing purposes.
Sure, developing the extra content channels will lower overall conversion rate for the site, but the value comes in not simply providing information, but in providing interractive opportunities to connect with both sales traffic and the overall industry.
I see that as a key difference between articles as a content channel and news/forums as content channels - people who want to simply read “how-to’s” that only vaguely relate to your site’s purpose can only brand your site as an information portal. And how many of us visit sales sites just to read articles?
News on the other hand can turn visitors into repeat visitors into customers - in theory, anyway. It’s not simply information - it’s information for the now, and there’s more that’s new tomorrow.
Same with a forum - a forum that builds a genuine community offers real permission marketing options, and a controlled area to seed viral marketing opportunities as and when required. Plus you also have the User Generated Content (UGC) advantage that means that the content is created for you.
Bear all that in mind with the previous section on link equity and you should hopefully begin to see that different sites require different approaches to delivering content, and that whatever approach is used, that the content channels deliver value in one or more marketing areas - SEO, branding, direct sales, advertising, etc.
Of course, care needs to be taken to apply link equity for your site in a considered manner - after all, your content only has value to those visitors you can send to it, and that means keeping a proper and careful eye on link equity issues.
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