How tough is it to use SlideShare to rank for a keyword term? Here's my experiment with SlideShare SEO.
I selected the term 'what is bounce rate' because I see a number of questions surrounding this topic and had wanted to expand on my Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate blog post.
According to Google 'what is bounce rate' (exact match) gets 2,400 monthly searches. Not bad.
Using SEOmoz the keyword difficulty for 'what is bounce rate' is 59% or Highly Competitive.
Unfortunately I didn't capture this before my test. So what you're seeing is the current keyword difficulty including my own contribution at position 6.
Your presentation should be awesome. That's right, awesome. Don't start doing SlideShare SEO with the idea that you'll crank out a bunch of half-assed PowerPoint presentations and call it a day.
You are marketing your brand so you better put your best foot forward (and your brand in the header or footer on each page.) You want people to share your presentation on social platforms and you want them to click-through to your website as a result of being blown away by your deck.
Here's the presentation I created for this experiment.
Account and Upload
I started a brand new account for this test, which ensures that the strength of a SlideShare account (however that is measured) is not influencing the rankings.
You can upload your presentation as a document, PowerPoint Presentation or PDF. While I don't think the file name is used for ranking purposes, it can't hurt to make it a keyword rich file name.
It should also be noted that you can replace the file after the fact without completely destroying the SEO value you've built up.
I know this because I realized that part of my footer was text instead of an image and that my diagrams were too small. I made changes and replaced the presentation without losing any of the social signals I'd built up previously. This is a really nice feature.
On that first upload you are asked to fill out the Title, Description, Tags and Category for your presentation. These are important sections that can make a difference in whether your presentation gets seen on SlideShare or Google.
Title and Meta Description
The Title and Description fields of your SlideShare presentation match up with traditional browser title and meta description.
For the Title you should follow normal SEO guidelines and keep it under 70 characters. However, Google is appending the domain name to the title so you may want to keep it to 50 characters to ensure your title appears the way you want.
I chose to match the query with my presentation title. I strongly recommend you do this if it makes sense. In addition, the title of your presentation is the default link used in the embed code. That means very strong keyword rich anchor text for every embed.
SlideShare gives you a massive amount of space for the description. Perhaps this helps on SlideShare itself but it's not doing much for you from an SEO perspective. Instead I'd work on creating a meta description of no more than 160 characters that matched the query and user intent.
You get up to 20 tags so use a number of them to account for all the ways in which people might search for this type of content. Tags provide some added exposure on SlideShare since you'll be included on topic pages for these tags. As an added bonus, the tags also count as text on the page. They do not, however, translate into meta keywords, not that those would be useful any way.
The category is SlideShare specific and is only important to SlideShare SEO in that picking the right category ensures that your presentation finds the right audience, racking up views, shares and embeds. Frankly, the category selections are pretty weak and are too broad for any type of meaningful targeting.
SlideShare transcribes your presentation. This is how search engines are able to 'see' the presentations! Optimizing SlideShare for SEO starts with ensuring that your presentation is focused and contains keyword rich text.
From what I can tell SlideShare does not transcribe alt image text nor do they include text in notes fields. The latter seems like a way to prevent spamming and ensures that the user and search engine are seeing the same thing.
Social signals, the number of Tweets, Shares, Likes and +1s, play a part in ranking SlideShare presentations. How much is tough to tell.
I sent out Tweets and posted on G+ a few times. But I didn't exactly knock it out of the park with social unless you count the number of views, which at nearly 1,500 is pretty substantial.
Does the number of views play a part in ranking? I'm not sure, though I suspect it helps. Even if it doesn't, it does help you get more exposure on SlideShare (via the popular navigation) and you've gotten your brand in front of a lot more people.
Finally, the number of embeds is important since they both increase the number of views and produce back links to your presentation.
What about those links? After I uploaded the presentation I took a spin around Quora and answered a few questions on bounce rate and linked to this presentation. I also went back to my Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate blog post and linked to it from there as well. In all, I generated four links across two domains.
In short, I didn't do much.
I opened the account on August 17th, 2011 and uploaded the presentation on August 19th, 2011. The next day I ranked 10th for the term and for the next 6 weeks moved back and forth between 9th and 11th.
And then one day, out of nowhere, I began to rank higher. This is actually a very good lesson for any SEO. Time can be valuable and patience can be rewarded. Sometimes things have to cure for a while before they click.
At present my SlideShare presentation sits 7th for the term 'what is bounce rate'.
That's not bad, though I'd like to see if I can push it up farther over time. Looking at the downstream traffic from SlideShare I'm pretty sure I ranked well above 7th for at least a day.
Thus far I've received 125 visits from this presentation. Better than a sharp stick in the eye.
What I Did Right
I found a good keyword, created a valuable presentation (that was keyword rich), optimized the title and description and scraped together a few social signals and links.
What I Did Wrong
I used a lot of images in my presentation which reduced the amount of text search engines are seeing. I also botched my first upload which may have extended the amount of time it took to get things rolling. Finally, I didn't do nearly enough to market this presentation to obtain social signals and links.
SlideShare or Blog?
While I may have 1,500 views I only received 125 direct visits. I'm sure some people come back later to my site via other channels (based on viewing the presentation), but it still looks like I'm only getting ~8% of the post click traffic. I could upgrade to SlideShare Pro to get more analytics but I'm not keen to spend $190/year right now.
So is it really worth it to use SlideShare?
One thing to remember is that you're piggybacking on SlideShare's domain authority. So a good SlideShare presentation may be an easier way to land a high rank rather than your own blog. And there's nothing that says you can't target the same term, or an associated term with your blog. It would be interesting to see if you could take up shelf space on a SERP with your own blog and a SlideShare presentation. All roads lead to Rome!
There are also some topics that are best covered with a presentation versus as blog post, and vice versa. So don't fit a square peg into a round hole.
Finally, SlideShare is about marketing. Not just search marketing, but marketing yourself, your brand, your business and your services.