Simon Heseltine will be speaking on the “Hardcore SEO” panel at SearchFest 2014 which will take place on February 28th, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.
1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.
Back in my past life I was a Software Engineer, working in Smalltalk and eventually Java. My last job as a coder involved me working with large Telco’s to put their yellow page listings on the web, both in a searchable format, and with the same look and feel as the book. These looked great, and once we implemented analytics we were able to tell that there was zero to minimal traffic growth. What to do? Well the CEO suggested that I take a look at this thing he’d heard about – SEO. I did, and off I went. I started out with SEO & PPC, then when I moved over to the agency side, I started working on Social optimization as well. A couple of years was enough on the agency side, and I decided that it was time to head back in-house where I could have a vested ownership in the success of some fairly well known branded sites.
I’ve been with AOL over 4-1/2 years now, and have had a great experience. I’ve worked with massive media properties, small niche sites, and pretty much everything in between. I’ve worked on merging sites, migrating across different CMS, and my team currently handles all organic audience development for pretty much every AOL brand. That doesn’t mean that we’re there day to day with every brand analyzing each piece of content, it means that we’re helping with strategy, with issues that arise, with audits, with training, and many other facets of the day to day operation of those sites. We have fantastic people working at our brands (including such sites as TechCrunch, HuffingtonPost, Engadget, Kitchen Daily, etc), who work hand in hand with my team.
2) When someone asks how one could SEO a massive media property, how would you respond?
Using a set of 301 redirects forward your entire site to an appropriate AOL property. 😉
Ok, serious answer. I’d attack it in 2 ways. The first would be to do a full technical audit on the site. From an SEO perspective it doesn’t matter if your content is the best out there if the crawlers can’t find and index it. Get any showstoppers fixed ASAP, then get the rest of the issues in the dev queue. Next you need to assess the level of the editorial staff. Look for any people who stand out, who are willing to learn and take on new responsibilities, they’re your front line people. Typically copy editors work well in this role. Develop a training plan for the editorial staff, and set up frequent meetings with your previously identified copy editors. Talk through any issues with them, identify areas for improvement, answer their questions, give them the tools they need to succeed.
3) Social sharing is clearly important in the brands you represent. How do those efforts assist your SEO strategy?
Typically Huffington Post shows up as the most shared media brand on social media (or if not, very close to the top), other brands are either doing well, or are working on improving their social sharing numbers. Social is a discovery mechanism that doesn’t care about the crawlability of your site, you can noindex your page and still be found on FaceBook if Aunt Betty shared a post. That said, given that the remit of my team is across both Social and Search, we do look for synergies when we can, making sure that we align on certain topics as they arise as much as we can. Search and social are fairly intertwined, but you do also need to make sure that you’re doing things the right way for the platform that you’re targeting. You need to always be analyzing the data, testing to see what works and what doesn’t, then going back a week later and testing it again as it’s probably changed…