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A Lesson in SEO from the Presidential Debates

Politicians may be the ones using fighting words during debates for next month’s election, but it’s the search engines that are doing damage.

When you enter the search query “completely wrong” on Google Images, the results are dominated by pictures of the presidential candidate Mitt Romney. With a similar story, if you search on Google Images for “debate fail,” you will find pictures of President Obama.

Who is responsible for detonating what seems to be Google bombs? Find out.

What in the World Happened?
At first glance it might seem that someone had manually done some dirty SEO work to manipulate the search engine results page. However, these photos were attached to legitimate online new resources where Romney discusses being “completely wrong” about a quote. Likewise, Obama was associated with “debate fail” as a results of a variety of new sources analyzing his first presidential debate performance.

Technically, both instances are not traditional Google bombs and here’s why.

Traditional Google Bombs
A Google bomb is when someone attempts to make a webpage rank for a term that the page is not relevant for. The first Google bomb was back in 1999 for the search term “more evil than Satan himself,” which revealed results for Microsoft.

Here’s a look at some traditional political Google bombs:

  • Senator John Kerry was a target during his 2004 presidential campaign. Conservative bloggers used his name as a synonym and search term “waffles” to refer to his flip-flop campaign statements.
  • In 2007, the White House biography for former president George W. Bush was ranked number one for the phrase “miserable failure.”

As far as Google is concerned, they don’t meddle with the results page just because it may ruffle feathers. Google states, “we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.”

What This Means for Image SEO
With the clarification of a Google bomb, the Romney uproar and Obama outrage is not in the precise definition—but the instances still reveal a lot about SEO. The situations are natural results of the flurry of news articles associated with the candidates. The fresh content and images connected to the story happened to dominate the results. Both circumstances reinforce the importance of inserting title tags on images, and how the words surrounding the photos are very important. Not to mention the great power of credible sources.

Your Image SEO
Although we can see what the picture represents, search engines require help from SEO to determine the pictures relevance.

When it comes to helping your images grasp more attention for the search engines, here’s a checklist of things to do:

  1. Include keywords in the image filename, this also becomes the image title tag. For example, if it’s an image of a cup of coffee name the image ‘cup-of-coffee.jpg.’ Dashes work better than underscores.
  2. Use image ALT tags. Further describe your image in detail in the ALT text. For example, “drinking a cup of coffee.” Five words or less works best.
  3. Place the image close to the most relevant content. If you have a headline that reads “The Nation’s Best Coffee,” be sure to position the image nearby.

Now What?
The presidential candidates’ search engine troubles prove that images are more than aesthetics, and that brands should be leveraging their power for good. Images hold a fair amount of SEO weight and the right image SEO can open up new opportunities for people to discover your brand.

SEO Tip: Improve Your Checkout Process

After you utilize search engine optimization to pull in more website traffic and you’ve done what you can to your landing pages to encourage conversion, don’t stop there. Too often websites drop the ball on the checkout process, but the checkout process is still a very vital part of your conversion.

The checkout process is just as important as the landing page, if not more. If something goes wrong during the process, or it becomes too complicated, customers will leave and never turn back.

To drive better conversion rates for your website, show them that they can trust you. Consider the following techniques:

  • Showcase SSL certificates and badges. When it comes to an eCommerce website, this element lets customers know their credit card information is safe at all times, and protected from hackers. If you have a SSL certificate, put the security badge on your cart and checkout page. Buying a SSL certificate can start at around $50 and will increase depending on the level of security you need for your website.
  • Include Testimonials. Studies have shown that 57 percent of online shoppers look for reviews or testimonials prior to their purchase. It helps to place a powerful testimony close to the source of reconsideration—like during the checkout process. Putting client logos or pictures of the source of the testimonial will also add credibility to testimonials. Not very many customers will openly provide you with a testimonial, but do not be afraid to approach customers and ask them for a review.
  • Offer a Guarantee. Even after filling a cart, customers still need convincing your product is the right choice. If you can, provide a 100 percent money back guarantee to help pacify any anxiety. A satisfaction guarantee can give the customer an extra sense of trust.

These three suggestions are small and simple elements any eCommerce website can implement. Tweaking your checkout process can help you with cart abandonment issues and improve conversion rates. Addressing the customers’ fears and doubts will prove to go a long way.

Industry Events

ad:tech: New York; November 7-8, 2012
SES: Chicago; November 12-16, 2012
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