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flightpath does sxsw - analytics team

How to Rank Better in Google & Bing

I’ve been to presentations in the past featuring Danny Sullivan (Search Engine Land), Matt Cutts (Google) and Duane Forrester (Bing). Collectively, these three will make for an entertaining and informative session, and their open Q&A on How To Rank Better on Google and Bing at SXSW was no exception. Nothing groundbreaking was covered, but still fun and interesting nonetheless, and did include some important reminders. 

Webmaster Tools
Both Google and Bing have their own versions. The tools are used to monitor the health of your site and to help see things from a search engine’s perspective. These are must haves to make your site as visible and crawlable as possible for search.

Fetch as Google/Bingbot
Within Webmaster Tools, this lets you see pages the way search engines would. Behind the scenes within all that heavy code is text that search engine bots are trying to find and crawl. You can also use a text browser or view the cached version of a page on a Google SERP, then click on “text-only version” at the top right.

Both search engines claim they can properly crawl simple JavaScript such as navigation or drop downs. But because this is not 100 percent, I still say avoid these. And large Ajax pages are an issue. In this case, provide alternate static HTML. Something we do here at Flightpath.

User Satisfaction
Is it fair that some sites providing poor a user experience can rank better than those that don’t? For example, an e-commerce site with great service is outranked by a competitor that receives many customer complaints. No answer to this just yet, but search engines are aware of this, and Google is trying to work this into its algorithm.

301 Redirects
301s are a SEO necessity. They pass PageRank from old pages to new. This can be a nightmare when dealing with legacy sites that tend to layer 301s in almost endless daisy chains. Clean up old links and you’ll be better off in the long run.
Yes, it’s good to apply structured data wherever possible. Will this directly improve rankings? No. It’s just there to help search engines better understand content on your website. But the more crawlable a site, the better its chances of ranking well. And if you’re already using microformats, there’s no need to switch. Google will understand.

It may seem odd to some that search engines are giving tips to help out SEOs. But in fact, it’s in their best interests to have well-structured webpages that they can better understand and therefore index properly. In fact, Google has their own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. And they even admit that they’re not perfect either. See Google’s Report Card.