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Second Page Poaching – Advanced White Hat SEO Techniques

2009 SEMMY NomineeIt is time that someone  put Quadzilla in his place. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a huge amount of innovation in the black hat and gray hat industries that simply is too risky for white-hatters to discover. Nevertheless, it is ridiculous to claim that white hat techniques have become so uniform and ubiquitous in their application that nothing truly “advanced” continues to exist. In today’s post I am going to talk about a technique with which many of you will not be familiar. Here at Virante we call it Second Page Poaching. But, before we begin, let me start with a brief explanation of what I believe to be “advanced white-hat SEO”.

Chances are, unless your site has thousands well-optimized pages in Google, advanced white hat techniques and many others will be useless. Advanced white hat SEO techniques tend to deal with scalable SEO solutions that bring higher search RoI for sites that seem to have reached the peak of potential search traffic. We are not talking about training a young boxer to become a contender. We are talking about turning a contender into a champion. When your PR7 eCommerce site is competing against other PR7 eCommerce sites for identical products and identical search phrases, all traditional optimization techniques (white, black, gray, blue hat, whatever) tend to fall by the wayside. Why buy links when you already have 100K natural inbounds? Why cloak when you have tons of legitimate content? This is where advanced white hat SEO kicks in. These are techniques which can bring high RoI with little to no risk when scaled properly. The example I will discuss today, “Second Page Poaching” is highly scalable, easily implemented, and offers a high Return to Risk ratio.

What is Second Page Poaching

the coordination of analytics (to determine high second-page rankings) with PR flow and in-site anchor-text to coax minor SERP changes from Page 2 to Page 1.

Why Second Page Poaching

We need to recognize that most on-site SEO techniques, especially PageRank flow, will only increase rankings by a single position or two. If you have a well optimized site, even providing a sitewide link to one particular internal page is unlikely to push it up 5 or 6 positions. Moreover, PR-flow solutions are unlikely to move a page from position 3 to position 2 or 1, where competition is more stiff. Instead, we would like to target the pages that will see the greatest traffic increase from an increase of 1 or 2 positions in the search engines.

Looking at the released AOL search data, we can determine which positions are most prime for “poaching”. We use this term because we are hunting for pages and related keywords on your site that meet certain qualifications.

Below is a graph showing the relative percentage increase of clickthroughs based on location in the top 12 in AOL’s released data. As you will see, there are spikes at moving from position 2->1, positions 11->10 and 12->11, 3->1, 11->9 and 12->10.

If we look at the data directly, you can see that the increases are in the 500% range or greater for moving from the top of the 2nd page to the bottom of the first. More importantly, as previously discussed, it is unlikely that PR-Flow methods will help you move from #2 to #1, given the competitiveness. But will that little bit of PageRank boost help you move from 11 to 10? You betcha! Simply put, if you can move hundreds of pages on your site from ranking #11 to #10, you will see a 5 fold increase in traffic for those keywords. If you were to do the same to move them from #7 to #6, you would barely see an increase at all.


Data Provided by RedCardinal

Now, as an advanced technique, it is important to realize that this becomes incredibly valuable when a site already has tens if not hundreds of thousands of pages. If you bring in 10,000 visitors a month from Page 2 traffic, you could see your traffic increase by 40,000 fairly rapidly. If you are a mom-and-pop shop and have 10 visitors from Page 2 traffic, you might only see 20 new visitors, as your site’s internal PR will be less capable of pumping up the rankings for those Page 2 listings.

Step 1: Data Collection

For most large sites, data collection is quite easy. Simply analyze your existing log files or capture inbound traffic on the fly and record any visitor from a Page 2 listing. Identify all inbound referrers that include both “google.com”, “q=” and “start=10″ Store the keyword and the landing page. Make sure your table also stores a timestamp as well, as frequency will matter when we make future considerations of which keywords to poach. If your log files store referrer data, it may be useful to go ahead and include historical data rather than starting from scratch. A suitable site should find hundreds if not thousands of potential keyword/landing page combinations from which to choose.

Step 2: Data Analysis

Because this step will be the most processor intensive, it is important to prioritize. In the Data Analysis component, we will judge the keyword/landing page combinations based on several characteristics. Because we only want to try to poach keywords for which we already rank #11 or #12, we will have to perform rank checks. In the interest of lowering what could potentially be a large computing burden, we should first consider the other metrics and then choose from that group which keywords we will check for rankings. We will consider the following characteristics”

  1. Frequency: Number of visitors driven per month, the higher the better.
  2. Conversion Rate: Why poach keywords for pages that convert poorly?
  3. Sale Potential: Why poach keywords for low RoI goods?

Now, assuming we have a set of keywords ordered by highest conversion, profit and frequency, we run simple rank checking software to identify those keywords for which your site currently ranks #11 or #12. Once that data point is added to the set, we use a formula to determine which keywords are most worth targeting. I will not get into it now, it is kind of proprietary, but you will want to take into account several factors to determine the minimum number of links needed to promote a page from #11 to #10 or #12 to #10. Once complete, you should now have our list of hundreds if not thousands of “keyword/landing page” combinations worth targeting.

Step 3: PR Flow Implementation

There are many creative ways to add these links across your site, the easiest of which is a simple “Other People Searched For:” section at the bottom of internal pages that list up to 5 alternatives. Your system would then choose 5 pages from the list and add text links with the inbound keyphrase as the anchor-text pointing to these landing pages. If you want to get really crafty, you can use your own internal search to identify related pages upon which to include the different landing page links that occur in your list. Ultimately, though, you will have added a large volume of links across your site which slightly increase the PageRank focused upon these high potential pages ranking #11 or #12. As Google respiders your site and finds these links, these pages will crawl up the 1 or 2 positions needed to quadruple or better their current inbound traffic for particular keywords.

Bear in mind that you risk very little with this technique. PR Flow tends to have little impact on your high-dollar, high-traffic keywords (where inbound links rule the day). Most importantly, because the system is automated, it will allow your internal pages to drop from position 6 to 7, where little to no real traffic is lost, but will capture and restore rankings if any pages ever drop from 9 or 10 to 11 or 12 due to the new internal linking scheme. You will lose PR on pages that have nothing to lose, and gain PR on pages that have everything to win. Magnified across 10,000 pages, and you can see the profits from a mile away.

Step 4: Churn and Burn

This is perhaps the most important part of the process. Continued analysis.

  1. the system needs to capture any successful poaches and make sure you continue to link to them internally. if the system drops pages once they move from 11 to 10, you have failed :)
  2. the system needs to determine non-movers, pages where internal linking is not improving their position, and blacklist them so you do not continue to waste extra PR flow
  3. the system needs to continue to replace non-movers with the next best solution, and continue to look for more keyword/landing page options

Summing Up

I know this is a long post, but I feel like it is worth reiterating. Advanced white hat SEO techniques do exist but no one wants to talk about them for the same reason no one wants to talk about advanced black hat techniques. Second Page Poaching is just one of many different options available to large-scale websites looking to gain an edge over their competitors. Many of these techniques are fully automated, easily implemented, and highly scalable. However, most of them are kept under lock-and-key.

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