SEO Millionaire: Who Wants to Be One?

SEO tips and tricks: "Add content, title tags, get some links and you'll be in good shape."

More SEO trips and tricks: "Links back to your Web site, that's the SEO bomb."

How many times have you heard that same old, same old SEO advice?

Sure backlinks are important, but what separates the winners from the search engine losers? That's the one question you need to ask SEOs who give you the standard advice you hear again and again.

It's SEO quiz show time. Let's see how you do. By the end of the show, you'll understand the overlooked factors in SEO: size and depth of site.

The player: You.

The big gun: Google.

The big three travel vertical search engines: Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity.

The challenger: Wikipedia.

Who Wants To Be An SEO Millionaire?

I often say that search engines try to emulate human behavior. So, imagine you're called to participate in "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," the TV quiz show that allows you to "phone a friend" if you need help answering a question (OK, I know my quiz show's a little outdated, but work with me people).

Your friend needs to be the world's best authority on a subject. Your friend needs to give you the most relevant answer to the question.

Your friend has to guess the exact intention from the database of intentions of the game show host. You don't get to ask, "Did you mean...?" (Sorry, Google.)

As the "human search engine" your database has two choices:

  1. Friends who are specialists within a given topic.

  2. A friend who "knows everything."

Who ya gonna call?

Wikipedia is your friend who knows "everything." It's an incredibly deep Web site with usually one page that happens to be specifically related to what you were searching for.

However, that one page belongs to your "friend" who knows it all. As of this writing, the Wikipedia Web site has over 221,000,000 pages indexed in Yahoo. That's damn big.

Then you have your specialists. These are Web sites (friends) that are only specific to a given category/industry.

Let's look at one of the most competitive search categories for SEO: travel.

If you do a search for "travel" on Google, you'll see the "big portal players" are Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. Let's see why these Web sites may be ranking for this keyword.

Travelocity:

  • 1,380,000 pages indexed in Yahoo.

  • 18,900 backlinks indexed in Yahoo.

  • Has the keyword in the URL. That never hurts.

  • Title tag of home page is "Travel: Airfares, hotels, vacations, cruises, car rentals and more at Travelocity.com." So, the first keyword in the title tag of the home page is "Travel."

Expedia:

  • 588,000 pages indexed in Yahoo.

  • 48,600 backlinks indexed in Yahoo.

  • Title tag of the home page is "Expedia Travel: Cheap Airfare, Hotels, Car Rental, Vacations & Cruises." Note to those responsible for SEO for Expedia: consider moving "Expedia" to the end of the title, to get the word "Travel" at the beginning of the title tag.

Orbitz:

  • 1,460,000 pages indexed in Yahoo.

  • 5,700 backlinks indexed in Yahoo.

  • Title tag of the home page is "Orbitz: Cheap Travel, Flights, Hotels, Vacations, Car Rentals, Cruise, Activities." Again, consider moving "Orbitz" to the end of the title tag. The search engines are smart enough to know a search for "orbitz" is probably meant to find www.orbitz.com.

First question: What do all three vertical search engines (or portals if you're old school) have in common?

Answer: Each Web site has the word we're searching for within the title tag of the home page.

OK, you win ... round one. Now you're ready to compete for the "SEO Millionaire" grand prize.

Bonus question: Which two of the above three vertical search engines has a canonical issue? For help, contact your gadgets, Google, and SEO friend, Matt Cutts.

Find out if you're right or wrong in Part 2. Yes, all SEO agencies and in-house SEOs can play.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.