Listen to the original MP3 of the SHOW:

SHAWNA: Hello, hello, and welcome everybody! We have such a great show for you tonight. I am so excited about our guest. Let me tell you, you are going to have so much fun. OK, so if you're listening to our live show, today is Monday, February 7th. If you are not in our chatroom, you need to get in here. Just go to the top of website. We have a great room of people in here. Let me tell you, the room is rocking. You can listen live, you can chat with friends, and really, you are going to have a great time, especially tonight.

Tonight you are going to have a very good time and you are going to learn so much. Let me tell you, you are going to learn so much, because our guest today loves to share education. And, you know, he's one of the few speakers that whenever I go and see him, I cannot write down notes fast enough. My hand hurts at the very end. My cheeks hurt because I'm laughing and smiling so much. He is just that awesome.

So please help me in welcoming our guest Rob Snell from Gun Dog Supply, from author of "Staring a Yahoo Business for Dummies", and also known as Sexiest Man of the Year. I cannot forget that! Hello Rob!

Rob: How are you doing?

Shawna: I am wonderful, wonderful. How are you?

Rob: Oh, I'm freezin' down here in Mississippi. It's like 42 degrees. I can't believe it.

Shawna: Oh, my gosh! 42 degrees! It's like negative something here in Michigan. Come on now!

Rob: I'm having to wear socks, you know?

Shawna: [laughs] I can't believe it. You're complaining about 40 degrees. That's crazy!

Rob: I know! Well how you been?

Shawna: So, you gotta tell me, what have you been doing lately? Because you have been doing some awesome speaking, and I've seen you in some great articles lately. So what's been going on lately?

Rob: I don't know. I've been doing a lot of speaking at some different shows. Coming up I'm doing something at PubCon with Brett in March, and then I'm speaking at Conversion Conference. Tim Ash has a great show that I went to as an attendee back three or four months ago, and then he invited me to speak. So I'm going to be doing that.

I've been writing for Search Engine Land. I've got a new column that comes out every four weeks called "Retail Smarts", and Elisabeth is cracking the whip on that. Having a good time with my fellow columnists.

I'm still doing stuff with Yahoo, and I'm still pimpin' my six year old "Dummies" book and having a good time. Selling some dog collars. [laughs]

Shawna: Wow, wow! I love it. But what's really great, though, is when you do these speaking engagements, you put so much into the education. I mean, you know, normally you've got these speakers and their slides are like 10 or 20, and you've got like 100.

Rob: Yeah. It's kinda like drinking from a fire hose, because, OK, they give me 30 minutes or 45 minutes if I've got a keynote, you know, to download everything in my brain than an online retailer needs to know in this very, very tight window. And I'm finally accepting the fact that, OK, maybe they'll invite me back, or maybe I'll be speaking at some other venues, so I don't have to tell everybody everything every time I speak.

So I'm doing a better job of... You know, I've only got like 112 slides in my current deck right now.

Shawna: Only 112. OK! Well we're going to pull all of that out in the next hour for our listeners, because we have a lot of people here so excited. I see Chris Malta [sp] even joined. Hello Mr. Malta!

All right. So what are the SEO mistakes that you're seeing that retailers are typically making time and time again?

Rob: Well, point it back at me a little bit. These are also mistakes that I have made in the past. I've been doing this online since '97, and I mean I really got into search engine optimization back in the HotBot, InfoSeek, Web Crawler days. You know, before Google even came on the scene.

And so, when I talk about mistakes the retailers make, I'm not pointing a finger at anybody. There are three fingers pointing back at me saying I've made these mistakes. But the main thing that I see folks make mistake-wise is retailers are not looking at the right numbers. When you're looking at your search engine optimization efforts for an online store, I think you need to look at revenue numbers, not just rankings. Not just traffic from Google, and Bing, and Yahoo. You need to look at what keywords and what pages are actually driving revenue to your online store and measure those pages and those keywords and focus on those and not get so caught up in the, "Hey, I'm not number one for this specific keyword phrase."

Shawna: Extremely important. And you even talk about you're doing like your navigation based upon revenue as well.

Rob: Absolutely.

Shawna: I've heard you talk about that as well.

Rob: Yeah, it drives me nuts! You know, I'll have a keyword phrase that the revenue per visitors is $20 in sales. For every new person that comes to my website using this really specific keyword phrase, I get $20. And then I'll have another high traffic phrase that only generates 20 cents in revenue. And I see people concentrating on these higher traffic phrases, these more generic phrases... And I mean they can drive a lot of traffic to your site, and they will drive some revenue. But as an online retailer, you kinda gotta pick your battles. I mean there are only so many pages you can optimize in a day. There are only so many keywords that you can chase. And if you prioritize your life by revenue, you're going to do so much better.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Now a great question that we're getting asked, and I think it's a great time to ask this too, is, Rob, what tool are you using for tracking conversions?

Rob: Well I'm running both Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics on my Yahoo stores. My good buddy Mike over at Monitus has got this cool tool that integrates with Google Analytics to make it work on a Yahoo Store. And there's so much more information that he's able to provide that you can't just get out of either one of those packages. So that's why I run both Yahoo Web Analytics and Google Analytics.

But I got an email the other day right after I sent out the email about, "Hey, I've got this new article online at Search Engine Land," this new column, which is why we're talking. You know, somebody is like, "How do you track converting keywords?" And I was like, "Oh, my God! Do we still have to talk about this?"

You know, it's like you go in your analytics and you look at the keywords that are driving traffic to your store. And in Yahoo Web Analytics, you actually can pull a conversion report and show the converting keywords where you have a dollar amount that's tied to a specific keyword phrase. You can see how many people came to your website on which search engine for that specific keyword phrase.

And today, to think that people don't know how to track that, oh, it makes my head hurt, you know?

Shawna: Well, I think the problem is people, they go into Google Analytics, they go into Yahoo Analytics, and when you first go in there, it is overwhelming.

Rob: It is. It is.

Shawna: So it's like, yes, it's easy... I think we look at it and we're like, "Well, you just do this and it's real simple." But for somebody who's new or they're in their first couple of months, or even first time just going into the software itself, it's overwhelming! [laughs]

Rob: it is, it is. And it Google Analytics, you know, when you are looking at these reports, you can just click on that e-commerce tab, and if everything's set up right, you are going to see the dollar amount that applies to the keyword phrase.

But one of the things that you need to look at as a retailer, though, is how many visits does it take for somebody to come to your site and buy something? If you have a shorter buying cycle like I'd say 90% of the retailers I deal with, they're getting... a person comes to the website, 50% of the folks buy on the first visit, another 30% or 40% of the folks buy on the second or third visit. Your analytics package is actually going to do a really good job of keeping up with what that original keyword was that got somebody to your website the first time, and that tells you, "OK, well I need to optimize for these keyword phrases," because you could say that is the keyword phrase that generated the revenue for the sale.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. It's important that you're looking at this data because the data will help you make informed decisions. And I think that's what people need to understand, that you will make informed decisions.

So what metrics are you using to really measure your SEO, and how are you prioritizing which pages and keywords you need to focus on?

Rob: OK, well that's really good. The thing I used to look at back in the day was rankings. I used like WebPosition Gold back in the...

Shawna: Oh, yes! I remember! I used it too! [laughs]

Rob: I found a report from 1999 the other day, like in an old box, and it was just awesome to see all these old search engines that have kind of gone by the wayside. But, you know, that was the first thing. And a lot of people do that. They either hand check their results by going to a searching engine and typing in their keyword phrases, or they use some sort of automated keyword ranking position tracker.

And that's a good place to start. But if that's all you look at, you're really selling yourself short, because it's not just about rankings.

The second thing I say is go in and look at your analytics and look at your converting keyword phrases. And if you have a long buying cycle, if it takes people more than three or four visits on average to come to your store and buy something because you sell something that's got like a high price point or whatever, look at a different metric. Look at the amount of time that the visitor spends on the page. Time on site is a great metric that's parallel to conversions. If the average person for a converting keyword phrase is on your site for 20 minutes, then that's almost as good as a conversion for some folks.

And then, the other thing is once you drill down, you're going to see that some keywords are more valuable than others. And I look both at quality metrics as well as quantity metrics. You know, quantity is like how many visitors are coming to my website with this converting keyword phrase? But the quality side of the equation is how much revenue per visitor am I getting?

And so, I would much rather take a $20 or even a $10 revenue per visitor keyword phrase and build out content on that, build links on that, optimize the page for that, and maybe move up one or two spots than two obsess over some of these really broad one and two word phrases that I see a lot of people kinda getting stuck on, you know?

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely, they're not doing them any good. All right. So, can you give us an overview of how you can optimize an online store? Because, you know, I'll be honest with you, I've been doing a lot of video reviews, and I'm sorry if this totally messes up your numbers. But when I start doing a huge thing content, about content, I always like to use your store as an example because...

Rob: Oh, you're killing me!

Shawna: I mean you really know how to do it and... You know, the content on your site is absolutely amazing.

Rob: OK, I think it's pretty good. I don't think it's amazing. I think we do an adequate job. And in our industry, I think we're one of the top retailers in the hunting dog supply niche as far as creating stuff. I really appreciate that. But we're still... you know, we look at our site and we go, "Ah, man, we got so much work to do." Steve and I were just talking about that a minute ago.

And every time I do an interview or have an article come out, it always just kills me because I get all this traffic to the website that totally screws my numbers up for the day. [laughs] So hopefully we're not testing anything this second. Hopefully Whittaker's going to pull back on the handle because he knows I'm on the radio today.

But one thing that I didn't get to a second ago as far as like when you're looking at your numbers, I had a really good buddy of mine, he probably gets five to 10 times the traffic we do on his website. He's not a client. He's just like a fellow Yahoo Store owner. He's a great SEO.

But when the Mayday update happened last year, he lost 15%-20% of his traffic. And he emailed me, and I covered this in the article, and what we kinda came up with changed the way I look at my SEO metrics.

And he was losing 15%-20% of his traffic from the shift with the Mayday algo change, because it seemed like big brands were picking up on keywords phrases where the modifiers weren't even on their page. Like Google was going, "OK, well this has got a brand term in it. I'm going to throw it to the manufacturer, not to a retailer who happens to have a well optimized page."

He had 5,000 of his best converting keywords and he, I'm assuming, automated and checked the rankings on these, and overall he lost no positions. You know, his rankings were still real solid, but yet he lost 15%-20% of his traffic.

And what we were able to figure out was most of the traffic loss was on long-tail terms that he wouldn't see because they are really, really specific keyword phrases that not a lot of folks are looking at.

And we changed the way we looked at SEO metrics. Instead of keywords, and instead of looking at visitors to a site using keywords, we actually used entry pages from Google. And so on his site, we measured the number of pages that had received Google traffic both before and after Mayday, and we were able to see what pages actually lost traffic. And from that we were able to figure out what to do, which was you want to beef up the pages, the links pointing to those pages, and sometimes you gotta cut ‘em loose. If a page isn't performing for you, you don't want to spend a whole bunch of time on it.

But we found out that most of the traffic loss that he had was from these longer tailed phrases, more obscure, and most of those were not converting. So it really didn't hurt him too bad in Mayday. And ever since then, Steve and I have been looking at the entry pages from Google, and that's a good way to measure your online store and say, "OK, what pages should I be working on?" And instead of working on all your pages, focus on the pages that are in Google now that are driving you both traffic and conversions, if that makes sense.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, so here's the thing, though. We know how important it is... And maybe we should do a quick break before we get into this, because I know that this is going to be a long answer. So actually, let's do that. Let's go ahead and take a real quick break. And don't go anywhere, because we've got some more great stuff. Like I tell ya', Rob Snell gives out the goods when he comes on. And that's why it's always best if you see him at a conference, go check him out. You gotta do this every time. You see an article, go read it.

But right now we're going to take a real quick break. Don't go anywhere. You're listening to eCom Experts on

[commercial break]

Shawna: Welcome back everyone, and we are here with Mr. Rob Snell. Not only the Sexiest Man Alive... yeah, it's true. Go look him up. [laughs] But also, author of "Starting a Yahoo Small Business for Dummies", and also with Gun Dog Supply, and speaker, and gosh, Congress too, am I right?

Rob: Yep. I'm running for Congress. No, just kidding.

Shawna: No! You spoke in front of... did something.

Rob: I did. I testified on our behalf, for all search marketers, telling Congress to leave their grubby paws off of search marketing. It's working just fine. Just don't mess with it.

Shawna: Yes, don't mess with it. OK, so here's a question for you, and I know you've got good answers about this. And we're talking a lot about this all week long on Webmaster Radio. We were talking about this last week on eCom experts about content. Content, content, content. Google makes another algorithm change having to do with content.

How can online store owners create that compelling content and unique content?

Rob: Basically, download your brain into your online store. As a retailer, you know more about what you sell than your customers ever will. And you forget how many cool things you know about that solve people's problems.

My brother does a great job of this. He basically says, "What are people emailing me asking about that the website's not doing a good job of educating them about? OK, I need to make a paragraph about that, or I need to write a review about that specific problem or that specific solution and put that on the website."

And one thing that we do sometimes is we'll go around the warehouse and we'll start with our bestselling product, and we'll say, "OK, what about this product does a customer need to do know to know that it's going to solve their problem, so that if they buy this from us, this is going to make their problem go away?"

And we'll outline that, and from that we'll get ideas for reviews, from that we'll get ideas for buyer's guides, we'll get ideas, you know, can you demonstrate it? It's awesome to be able to make a little 30 second product video. We get a lot of traffic on the view videos that we do have on Gun Dog. We get a lot of traffic to those videos and a lot of conversions on the pages where you have a product that you can demo. When you have a video you're going to have a much higher conversion rate.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And I know that you sit with your brother and ask him all kinds of questions.

Rob: I do, I do. I lock him in the room and I won't let him take a smoke break or go pee until he finishes his content.

Shawna: [laughs]

Rob: And, you know, that's just what it is. We turn the tape recorder on and we just start talking. I ask dumb questions. I ask him questions, because I am not a dog training expert. I am not a hunting expert. I have a dog, but I am not a dog expert. And so I can ask him questions that he just rolls his eyes sometimes and says, "I can't believe you're asking me this."

But, you know, I grew up in the family. I went hunting one time. It was, you know, 15 degrees. We got cold and wet. I'm like, "I want to go sit in the truck and eat sausage biscuits."

Shawna: [laughs]

Rob: "I don't understand this get up at four o'clock in the morning and go out in the freezing cold. You know, we could go by Wendy's and pick up a chicken sandwich", you know? And so the family decided pretty early on like, "OK, well Rob's not going to be the huntin' brother, so maybe he's got some other skills."

And fortunately for me, I got the marketing gene and the creative graphic design guy gene.

Shawna: Uh-huh! [laughs]

Rob: But, you know, it's like we... when it comes to creating content, you have to be the expert. And if you're not the expert, you probably have somebody working at your office who is a product knowledge expert, and you need to download their brain. And if you don't have that person, you don't need to be selling stuff online if you don't know a lot about what you're selling.

Shawna: Very, very true. You know, we talk to people and it's so interesting, because it's like, "Well, what are you selling?" And then for a long time there it was wedding favors, because they were listening to somebody or learning from somebody who was so successful selling wedding favors, and they were going to be successful selling wedding favors too. But yet, they knew nothing about wedding favors. But they were going to be that successful.

Rob: Yeah. And, you know, Steve and I were talking today about getting into another product line, and I was like, "Do we really want to get into that? Do we have street cred on this specific new thing?" And we decided that we didn't. And so I think we tabled that.

So you want to be real... I talk a lot about Gun Dog Supply and that we sell training supplies for hunting dogs, and that we sell dog tracking collars and dog training collars. And sometimes I'm going, "Man, I'm giving way too much of this info away."

But the reality is that these are very low margin products. And I'm not that worried about my competitors figuring out what I'm doing. Because if you look on my website, you can see what I'm doing. And if you're a super SEO... and there's some people in the chatroom who scare the hell out of me SEO wise. They're knowledge compared to mine... I mean there's some SEO geniuses in there right now—people that I go to PubCon to listen to them speak about SEO.

I'm not an SEO; I'm a retailer who does SEO. I'm not worried about those guys coming in because, like I said, the margins on these things are so small. It just happens to be the business that I grew up in and that my family was in—selling training supplies for huntin' dogs.

I mean they'll make a lot more money with, you know, mortgage loans. You know, the cost-per-click and the total traffic going to some of these sites, I mean this is a really, really, really small niche. Hunting dog training supplies is a small niche inside the slightly larger niche of dog training supplies. And so, that's one of the reasons why I can give away a lot of this information.

But you were talking earlier about creating content. We've had over $10 million in additional sales... and it's closer to like $12 or $13 million now since the last time I ran these numbers. Over $10 million in additional sales, since my dad passed away and my brother and I took over the company and changed the way we sold online, just by increasing our trust online with our customers, establishing rapport, and writing all this compelling content. And it's really, really good for SEO.

And I throw that number out there and people are just like, "Oh, my gosh!" But, you know, over six or seven years in sales, that's not that much compared to most medium sized businesses. But it's enough that retailers need to be serious about and come up with a content creation plan.

Shawna: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Now we've got a couple of great questions in our chatroom here, especially talking about Yahoo Stores. Does Google rank more off the Description field, Content, or Caption field content? Because browsers can't see the Description field content on category product pages. Great questions about the Yahoo Store. It's a great question, and something that the Description field hasn't always been there.

Rob: And it depends. It depends, are you using the version 3 templates out of the box, or are you getting somebody like Shawna or another Yahoo Store developer to customize your templates? You know, where are they putting that code?

And so, for us, I have, on my category pages, which I call section pages, but it seems like everybody in e-commerce calls them category pages, I make sure that I have 300-500 words of unique content in addition to my thumbnails and links of the products in that category. You want to have content on those pages.

But for me it's the Title tag. Whatever is generating the Title tag of your page, to me, if you had to pick one tag on a Yahoo Store, that is the most important tag. And in most Yahoo Stores that's either the Name field or the Page-Title field. Does that make sense?

Shawna: Yeah, that absolutely makes sense. And for those brand new, out of the box stores, you know, that Description field is supposed to be for that meta tag description, but it really doesn't tell store owners that in a clear and concise way. It's kind of confusing the way that they put that in there.

Now, Mary Geek has a great question as well, although Mary Geek has to call me Shawna from now on instead of Jackie. I love you. I'm sorry, but you gotta say the right name, though. I love you!

All right. So, "My wife and I own a small wedding videography business. Can you ask Rob if the strategy is any different for a service-based business?"

Rob: Actually, it is, because with a product-based business, you know, you're going to have shopping keywords. And so, if you're not in Google Products... In the past year, I've noticed on most of our queries now, especially the really specific shopping keywords, Google's pulling either three or five thumbnails from Google Shopping and either listing a specific retailer's product or that one SKU for all the retailers who sell it.

So if you used to have like a number four or number five listing on a keyword phrase, you were OK. On a normal browser's screen you were within the first screenshot of results. But now, because of the changes that Google's made to its layout, they'll have three pay-per-click ads above the first organic, and then you'll have like the first two or three organic listings, and then you'll have the shopping results, and then maybe below that the video results. And so number four or five, you're pushed way down the page.

And so there is a big difference between optimizing for a shopping business and a service-based business just from that alone.

Shawna: Absolutely. So, all right. What do you recommend that retailers do first when it comes to SEO? Because that's a big question. It's like, "OK, I've got my store open. What do I do now?"

Rob: Well I would say if you are a brand new retailer and you have absolutely no idea what your converting keywords are, you better get a Kevlar vest, and a bulletproof helmet, and a big machine gun, because, I mean, you are wading into a battle to get your pages ranked. You need to pick one really small sub-niche of your products and say, "OK, well I'm an expert about this really specific group of products. I'm going to develop some content about this specific group of products. I'm going to features these products on the homepage. I'm going to go out and build links to these interior pages using the keywords that folks are using to buy what I sell." And not focus on 50,000 different keyword phrases, focus on 10 different keyword phrases.

And the same thing applies to existing retailers; folks who already have an online store. You need to look in your analytics and see what subcategory pages and what category pages buckets of keywords around a specific group of products are driving the majority of your site's traffic and revenue. And from that you can get ideas for creating buyer's guides for every single category in your site. If it's generating any revenue at all, it needs a buyer's guide. Every single product launch, every time a new manufacturer comes out with a new product line, and a lot of folks launch products every single year, you need to write a buyer's guide and a review of this year's products and put that on your website.

Does that answer both of those questions?

Shawna: It does. And it all comes back around to good, solid content. Content, content, content.

Rob: Yeah, and you prioritize your content based upon the revenue that it generates for your company. And somebody posted in the chatroom a good thing: "Or the revenue that you think it should generate based upon the volume of traffic and the interest that that keyword phrase gets."

So you can sometimes, you know, kinda build something for anticipating an increase in search engine optimization traffic for a new product line.

Shawna: Absolutely. OK. Let's do this. Let's go ahead and take another real quick break. And if you have more questions for Rob, post them in our chatroom. You guys are asking really great questions. I love the questions you're asking, so let's keep it going and learn some more about SEO and e-commerce, because those two things got to go together! All right, don't go anywhere. You're listening to eCom Experts on

[commercial break]

Shawna: Welcome back everyone. We're here with Rob Snell, And we've got some great questions in our chatroom. All right. So let's start with a question from JLM, who wants to know, "At what point does Google penalize for repeating keywords. For example, when I'm putting in a phrase matching long-tails on a product, I might put bullets like ‘GPS carjacking, GPS dog tracking, GPS fleet tracking, etc."

Rob: I don't know why they're asking me, because I'm not Google. You know what I mean? And anybody who tells you exactly what Google is going to do, you know, either they are a former employee or something like that or they're making stuff up.

But, I mean, there are some things that are... You don't want to repeat keywords over, and over, and over again, especially if you have overlapping keyword phrases, like one of those is GPS. The modifiers in there... let me scroll up. Hold on. I was looking at it in the chatroom and it then it scrolled off the screen.

But basically, if you already have "GPS Tracking" in there, if you're going after long-tail terms, you don't need the "buy cheap Garmin GPS tracking for hounds". You wouldn't need to repeat the phrase in there if all of those little nuggets were repeated somewhere on the page, if that makes sense.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And you bring up an excellent point that nobody knows for sure what Google is going to do, and they're not talking. You know, you see all these interviews where people are desperately trying to pull this information out of Google whenever they're interviewing. You see it with Matt Cutts. You see it when they're trying to talk with Mr. Page. You know, and it's like they're constantly asking these questions, and they're not giving it up, because then, of course, spammers are going to use that information and they're trying to keep some of that.

But I think what really helps is to look at your content and to read it out loud. And I think that that's extremely important. Because when you read it out loud and you feel like you're stumbling and repeating words way too often, you know, [laughs] you know you've gone too far.

Rob: Yeah. And if it's not in the way normal people talk, visitors aren't going to be able to read it anyway. That's a really, really good rule of thumb to use. You just need to pay attention to what these guys say that they're going to ban you for. I mean, you know, in my book I say you need to buy links because buying links works. But links with the exact anchor text that you want. And then, you know, two, three years later they come out against paid links, saying that if you do that and you get caught, they're going to take you to Google jail.

And, you know, so you don't want to do that. You don't want to do things that are against their terms of service if you're not willing to live with what they say they're willing to do to you if they catch you breaking them.

But I gotta be honest. I mean I have had... I know of some competitors of mine who have passed hand checks for doing things that I would never ever, ever think about doing. You know? I mean they're doing like widget spam, they have multiple splog networks where they basically take an article and they spin it and they put it on five or six different Wordpress blogs from domains that they reclaimed when somebody forgot to renew their domain, and they're old domains. They bought a website that had absolutely nothing to do with what they're selling and now they're repurposing it into an online store.

And I know for a fact that these have gotten hand checked by the powers that be and they passed. And so it tells me that sometimes maybe we're not pushing hard enough in what we're doing. But I'm so afraid of getting shot that I am going to keep... Projects that are making my mortgage payment, you know, I'm not going to push them too hard.

Shawna: You know, what I think is very interesting, though, is you do have... I like to say SEO is like dieting—you keep seeing these fads like the South Beach diet or the Atkins diet. And there's all these fads—buying links, not buying links, no follow links, follow links, page link sculpting. I mean these are fads just like there are in diets.

But really, if you stick to the main parts... Just like dieting, if you eat less, work out more...

Rob: And exercise more...

Shawna: You're going to lose weight.

Rob: Yeah. I mean it's the same thing. There's some guys in the chatroom and they're saying some very valid things about Matt Cutts saying things to throw off the spammers. But the reality is, for most of the folks that I'm talking to, the online retailers, not superhero SEO's, not the super ninja guys who are competing in super, super, super competitive niches, for most online retailers, the things that he has to say, it's very much true.

It's like you need to create compelling content, a reason for folks to come to your site and look at what you have to offer. And then you need to have competitive enough prices and give good customer service to where you have a good online reputation so you can convert those visitors into buyers and build a relationship with them and keep on selling them stuff from now until the end of time.

And he has a lot of good articles on creating content. I actually did a transcription on my site of a thing he did... I can't remember if it's at Blog World. I had one of my transcription guys actually type it up it was so good. It was basically 17 different things you need to do to get your blog to rank. And most of that content applied to online stores, which is why I stuck it on, where I've got a bunch of other free content for online retailers.

Shawna: That was the URL I was going to ask you for! Thank you! I couldn't remember which site you had it on. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Rob: Yeah, we've got links in there to all the stuff that he talked about. And basically, I can read so much faster than I can listen to a video. If you go to my site and then the search box, I think you can search for "Matt Cutts" at It will come right up. Yeah, yeah, the first one...

Shawna: Straight from Google what you need to know?

Rob: Yeah. That's got the video, so you can play that, but it's also got the transcription. And I marked it up pretty good, so it's pretty easy to read.

But in that, I don't think there's anything that he's telling people that's trying to trick folks or throw SEO's off the scent of what they're doing. But at the same time, you need to take everything that somebody who works at a search engine says with a grain of salt. I mean it is coming from somebody who doesn't want to give away the keys to the kingdom to some of these super ninjas over here in the chatroom who, you know, they're looking for loopholes and they're really smart dudes.

I mean, you know, these folks are some of the smartest folks I've ever had the pleasure of hanging out with. And I mean there are all kinds of things you can do. And Google is always fighting the evil folks, the Black Hat folks, but there is stuff that kinda in between Black Hat and White Hat. And it just really depends on your comfort level and are you willing to deal with getting banned.

I mean I've been doing this for 13 years. I've had probably close to 200 domains that I've done stuff for that we've owned, and I've only gotten banned once, and that was when got banned from Yahoo, believe it or not.

Shawna: [laughs]

Rob: About nine years ago, yeah. I put some affiliate links on there...

Shawna: [laughs] We won't even go into that! We won't go there!

Rob: Noooo!

Shawna: That's ridiculous. You know, absolutely ridiculous. Especially because you used it to help educate Yahoo Store owners.

Rob: Yeah, you would think. But the people at Yahoo Search are not the people at Yahoo Stores. So I'm sure that's what the problem was.

Shawna: Yeah, well... But, you know, this is so important though, because like dieting, there are so many store owners that want to go to their local vitamin shop or GNC and say, "Give me a magic pill that's going to help me lose 50 pounds by next week, because I have a reunion to go to."

Rob: Retailers don't need to be cheap. If you are only willing to pay $500 a month for an SEO, you deserve what you get! I've got a revenue share deal with several folks that I do the SEO for, and so I get paid based on the amount of revenue that comes from search engines, and from pay-per-click, and from email marketing to their websites. You gonna pay for what you get, but you get what you pay for, if that makes sense.

Shawna: Absolutely. All right. Let's go ahead and ask another great question, because this one is really, really good, and I think I understand what he's asking. "How does Rob use the keyword space and description space in the Yahoo Store editor?" And I think, more importantly, what you're being asked is do you use meta description and meta keywords with your Yahoo Store?

Rob: Absolutely. I try to handwrite a meta description for, say, my top 200 pages on a Yahoo Store, mainly because those are the words that will appear, those are the phrases that appear when somebody does a search on Google in the snippet, most of the time, if the keywords that the customer is looking for are in your meta description, it will actually show the content from your meta description. So it's really important to write a nice snippet there to entice people to go ahead and click on through to your website.

So as far as the meta description, it depends on how your Yahoo Store is set up. But I believe in the Version 3 off the shelf the description field generates that tag for you.

As far as the keywords field go, I still do that. You know, back from [xx 44:26] school back in the day. I still do that, but I don't think anybody's using the keyword field anymore. So, I mean, that may just be an old... you know, it's my gills and my tail from the dinosaur days showing up.

Shawna: Yeah, I still leave mine in there and put them in there too. And, you know, it's nothing overboard. It's usually only maybe two or three keyword phrases in there. It's very focused, you know, because we want to try to focus, focus, focus. But, you know, I don't know. It's dinosaur days as well. I'm just thinking maybe, just maybe, they're looking at it.

We've got people talking about they hate writing product descriptions. You know what? You've just gotta do it. Write five a day. Five a day.

Rob: Yeah. Take a product and go, "What are three things that a consumer needs to know about this product to make a decision on whether or not this product is going to solve their problem?" I've got a list of over 200 questions that's kind of my top secret gravy, sauce, whatever that Steve and I will run a product through. And, you know, you'll see it on my slides sometimes; in some of my presentations I talk about some of the things that are in there.

But basically, you walk a retailer... this is the SEO in me talking... you walk your retailer through each product starting with your bestselling products. Don't start at the A's, start at your bestselling product and work your way down the list, and say, "What are three things I need to know about this product?"

And once you get that guy talking, you can tape it. You know, you take that digital recording of that and you send it to somebody to type it up in a transcription. And then you pop that into your caption field in your Yahoo Store and boom, you've got unique content on that product page.

Shawna: And if you can't afford transcription, there's these recorders now that come with Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Rob: Absolutely. Half my Dummies book was written on, you know, five years ago with Dragon Naturally Speaking. And today it's tons better than it was back then, which is a fantastic way to generate unique content.

But unique content alone is not enough. I got an email today from somebody freaking out. You know, half their Google traffic's gone from January of last year. And they have all these theories about why they think it's happening. And they're saying, "Well maybe it's the Yahoo Store IP addresses, or it's the lack of document type, it's not updated, it's not the most current version of the document... "

It's not. Google's not getting to those pages that are deep, deep, deep, deep down in their site because they don't have enough links pointing to the homepage. They don't have enough PageRank on their site to trickle down to their deep, deep, deep pages.

And so you have to make decisions when you're a retailer, what are you going to emphasize in your navigation? How are you going to structure your site to where the PageRank gets to the most important pages?

And the best way I've found to do that is called Revenue Based Navigation. You know, you look on my site and you'll see the run-of-site navigation is pointing to the categories and subcategories that generate the most revenue. And I don't care if Aaron's Aardvarks is the manufacturer, they're not going to appear in my sidebar at the top unless they're generating 1% of my sales or more. And so that's just a real easy way to decide what's going to get links on my site.

Another ting, Shawna, that we did is we took our bestselling products and we made like a bestsellers page. And I don't do this on Gun Dog as much as I used to, but on my newer sites, I'll take their top 100 bestselling IDs and dump them in a content field that's one click off the homepage. And sometimes I'll even put in my run-of-site navigation. So that's just another way to...

Shawna: To help bring it up.

Rob: Yeah!

Shawna: OK. Mary Geek, I think, had an "ah-ha" moment, I think, in our chatroom. I don't know if you noticed this, but he says, "I'm assuming that selling fewer products via dropshipping or whatever with good internal and external linking and good product descriptions is better rather than having thousands and thousands of products."

Rob: Yeah, I don't know. I mean we dropship some products. I'm too much of a control freak and I'm an old-school retailer. I grew up in retailer. You know, I mean we have a 12,000 square foot warehouse to where we have the product in hand so when somebody calls me at 3:55 and I know UPS is coming in 10 minutes, I can get that $99 order out the door.

But we use probably four or five different dropshippers as our backup so when we're out of stock on something, and that's awesome, the fact that you don't have to buy inventory, the fact that somebody else is... you know, they're charging you for it, but they're actually maintaining the warehouse and the person is able to stick that in a box. I mean dropshipping is a very viable way of doing retail.

As far as focusing on a product niche, I think you should focus as tight as you can. You can't be all things to all people. There's no way that I could ever launch something that could compete with an Amazon where you've got hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of products. And why would you need to? You know, I live in Mississippi. I don't need that much. I don't have to sell billions of dollars worth of stuff to be able to make it. You know, I think retailers should focus on what their area of expertise is, because there's only so much value you can add to a finite number of products.

Shawna: Absolutely. And you see these stores, you know, new people where they think they have to sell... "Oh, I can put 50,000 products in, so I'm going to put 49,000." And, "There's no way I can do this, but I have to sub-divide everything, so we're going to have categories that go eight deep, and there's the product. But hey, I've got 50,000 products and it should work."

Rob: Right. And that drives me nuts. Oh, I've been dealing with those folks since Yahoo Stores came online. You know, I seem to get one a month. And I know you deal with probably a hundred times that many folks.

But I think even with dropshipping you can find a niche inside one of these dropshippers, something that you know a lot about, and you can use keyword tools to find out if there's enough demand online for you to be able to make a living selling this kind of stuff.

Shawna: Absolutely. And now, another quick question that we had. I think you already answered it, but what about affiliate marketing? How do you feel about that?

Rob: I used to do pretty well back in the Yahoo Directory days, which that tells you a little bit about how long I've been doing this. I could make a site that would rank really, really well on the Yahoo Directory just off the Yahoo Directory listing. And I wasn't making a living off it, but I was making really good beer money off of all my affiliate sites back in the day.

And then when Google came around, it seemed to be like the tricks weren't working as much. And that's when I switched over to, "OK, I actually have to be creating great content." And like we were saying earlier, it's like if you don't have anything that you can add, if you're just using tricks to rank or temporary loopholes in Google, you better watch out because it's like things shift back and forth so much. I think when you do more generic, White Hat, vanilla optimization built around great content, things don't shift around as much.

Shawna: And I think also, like for somebody like you, this is you and your family's main source of income...

Rob: Absolutely.

Shawna: You know, this is it. This is your baby. And so you don't have room to play.

Rob: Right. And there's not enough time in the day. Steve was pitching me on this new thing that he was wanting to get into. And it's like if he gets into that as a hobby, then I think we have enough street cred for us to do it. But I'm not going to just sell something that's somewhat related to hunting and what we do... I just don't have enough bandwidth to do what we did on Gun Dog Supply over the past 13 years in another brand new niche where we don't really have a lot... We're not exactly sure what folks are looking for.

Shawna: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. And I think people need to understand that as well for themselves. [laughs] Know what you're getting into. And don't get into a new store just because you heard that it's doing well for somebody else.

Rob: Or just because your keyword research shows you that, you know, "Gosh, they're paying $10 a click and there are 50,000 people a month searching for this keyword phrase." You know, you just gotta be real careful and put your baby toe in there.

But at the same time, you also don't want all your eggs in one basket. And so, I'm a little nervous sometimes based on... We get 80% of our organic traffic from Google, which is about right percentage wise, but still, it's so much traffic that when Google is jumping all around, you get a little nervous. And so I'm fortunate enough that we have two or three different businesses... I mean, you know, we sell dog supplies, but we also sell a whole bunch of other stuff, some through the Yahoo Store stuff. We have local businesses that have absolutely nothing to do with the Internet. So if the Internet goes away, we've taken some of our profits from the Internet and actually used that to beef up our brick-and-mortar businesses.

And I advise all my retailers, "Don't be dependent on any one channel, any one supplier, any one keyword, any one search engine." It's just good business to diversify.

Shawna: Absolutely. I think that is what we really need to understand. I think we've got time for one more question, so I'm going to go ahead and get Ryan's question. "Could you ask Rob what he looks for when choosing a revenue sharing relationship with a merchant?"

Rob: Yeah, somebody who will let me sleep till noon and won't call and wake me up. [laughs]

Shawna: Perfect answer.


Rob: Somebody's who's aware of my lifestyle... And I've only got two or three really, really solid revenue share clients right now, mainly just from I don't have that much time in the day and I'm not looking to develop a huge staff to do tons and tons and tons of work. That's one of the reasons why I do a lot of teaching is because I feel guilty when people say, "Hey, can you work for me?" I'm like, "No, I'm kinda retired these days."

But I think you can partner with other good SEOs. There are good SEOs here in the chatroom. There's some Yahoo Store developers I know that do revenue share agreements with folks. You know, just poke around and ask. But you want a relationship. You don't want this to be something that you do with somebody that you've only swapped emails with or you know that they have a website. You want a relationship with a developer.

Go to trade shows. If you're an SEO, go meet the manufacturer. Go meet the retailer. If you are a retailer, go to SES, go to SMX, go to PubCon, go to Conversion Conference and meet the people that you are going to be doing this with. And then, you know, you develop a relationship over a few months and all of a sudden, wham, you know, you may have something that's working.

Shawna: Absolutely wonderful. Rob, once again you just light up all of our lives and give us such great education. And I'm being told by Beth to please bring you back a lot.

Rob: [laughs] Cool! Thanks Beth!

Shawna: [laughs]

Rob: No, don't buy me a beer. Buy me a Diet Coke and a Honeybun! If you see me at a show, that's what I need, you know?

Shawna: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, you need to not wait so long before you come back to us.

Rob: Yes, ma'am. You just give me a holler and let me know. I'm trying to work about four days a week now. I'm trying not to work on the weekends, trying to take more vacation...

Shawna: Trying not to work so much.

Rob: I'm getting old! You know? I'm getting old! I don't want to burn out.

Shawna: Oh, don't say that! Don't say that because I'm like right behind you. So don't say that.

Rob: Oh, man! I know these kids, these whipper-snappers who are coming up, you know, these billionaire teenagers. I'm like, "Oh, man, I'm into this 25 years now."

My Twitter feed is at I rarely tweet, but when I do it's usually a pretty good link.

Shawna: It is, it is. And make sure you go to Check out his new articles he's writing. They're absolutely phenomenal. I've got one right here I'm going to put into the chatroom. You can go to on Twitter it's RobSnell. And tomorrow on our blog at, I will have links to all kinds of good stuff, all Rob, all day, all the time. And also, we'll put up the links for the rebroadcast of the show.

So thank you everybody for being here. Really appreciate it. Don't forget to sign up for the New Life Event, It's the end of the month. 30 webinars, one weekend, and it's all free. All free, 30 webinars, one weekend, end of February. So sign up for that and I will see you all next Monday at 6 PM Eastern, 3 PM Pacific. Bye everybody!