This evening, search marketers from all across the globe will once again compete for the final spot in the ultimate SEO conference, SEOktoberfest. This is the one blog post that will give you solid, tested advice on how to be one of the top participants of the SEO Scavenger Hunt.
Claiming to have the “Ultimate Guide” might sound like a bit of a stretch, but let me show you why it might make sense for you to listen to my advice. One year ago, I almost won it all – almost:
Finishing in second place was obviously not perfect, but getting 12 months of free LRT Access did a lot to take the sting out of being the first loser.
Since I probably won’t be able to take part this year, I thought that my experiences from last year might benefit some of the participants of this year’s contest and started creating a blog post (originally titled How To Not Win A Free Ticket To The Greatest SEO Conference Of The Year In The Most Excruciating Way Possible, but edited for brevity).
Update: I wound up participating in the 2013 contest, and as they say, the rest is history … yay! To anyone who’s thinking about participating next year: you might want to bookmark this post. This stuff just WORKS!
This is my way of giving back to the SEO community – and maybe someone will do a similar writeup if there is another scavenger next year, just in time for my next try 😉
I dug deep and came up with all the things I wish somebody had told me last year – and this produced checklist and advice that make up this blog post. So without further ado, I present to you the
The 10 Step Guide
1. Sign up
First things first. You have to be on the SEO Scavenger email list to get the link to the questions. http://www.seoscavengerhunt.com/#register , now.
2. Get the Link Research Tools
Hunting without a LRT account is extremely hard. Buy an account (Starter Plan ), get a free trial (limited to 4 of 17 tools, though) or borrow an account if at all possible. If you absolutely cannot do that, ahrefs and opensiteexplorer have decent free versions – but seriously, it’s just a really bad idea to bring a sword to a gunfight.
3. Get your SEO browser up & running
You need to have an SEO ready browser on the computer you’re going to take the quiz with. I recommend Firefox with – at least – the following plugins:
There might be plugins which can do more / different things, but these worked for me last year. If you use a different browser, you should look for similar plugins.
4. Install SEO Software
This is not 100% necessary, but highly recommended. There was a question concerning a broken link last year which was easily answered by using one of the following:
Screaming Frog is much more flexible and easy to use, and even the free version lets you crawl 500 URLs which should be enough for most tasks. I prefer XENU for sentimental reasons, but any sane person should probably go with the Screaming Frog.
This tip comes from experience – I did last year’s quiz on a fairly new computer, and actually had to download and install Xenu during the hunt, which probably cost me 2-3 minutes. Don’t let that happen to you!
5. Download last year’s questions
You can get last’s years questions for a tweet or FB share at http://www.seoscavengerhunt.com/what-a-game/ (about halfway down the page, look for the blue “TWEET or FB Share for the Questions & Answers” – Button).
While you’re probably not able to answer all the questions anymore since some of them referred to very specific search results or time-sensitive data, it’s still a great way to prepare.
For optimal results, have a friend of you print out the questions and answers, and black out the answers. This will allow for a more realistic setting, since the answers won’t be waiting for you right below the questions.
6. Have your resources ready
If memory fails you, don’t let that be the end of the hunt. Each of the following links is required reading before the hunt, and should be open in a separate browser window during the contest for quick reference:
Moz Google Algorithm Change History – For update-related questions
http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html; http://moz.com/blog/25-killer-combos-for-googles-site-operator – some questions where easier when using Google search operators
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Searching#Syntax – There were some questions concerning information from Wikipedia, using their internal search might be a good idea
Whois.net – for finding domain owners, a nessesary skill
Of course, a basic tips only take you so far. Preparation, strategy and the right kind of insider knowledge will get you to SEOktoberfest. Here are my top bonus tips for ultimate performance
Warning: do not read unless you’re actually taking part in the hunt. If you’re not sure, go look at this year’s SEOktoberfest trailer. Waiting. Still waiting. … . Convinced? Let’s continue!
7. Zero distractions
Complete the hunt in a quiet place that allows for maximum focus. Turn off email notifications, log out of Skype and any other instant messengers; put your phone on silent. Not being interrupted is key for following the trail of each question. Take a break from your loved ones, sell your smoke detectors if you have to, this is your shot at SEO immortality! (Not proven to increase longevity. Results may differ. Void where prohibited.)
8. Take your time
This may seem counter-intuitive in a timed quiz, but you should take your time when looking for possible solutions and when verifying your path to a possible solution.
There was a question on the last quiz that asked you about a missing tag in a code markup transformation – and I could not find a mistake while scanning the code. Since the code was an image, it could not be entered directly into the Google Structured Data Testing Tool – so I actually typed the whole thing into the tool (I know, not my brightest moment – especially considering that the answer ended up being something the tool did not report).
I think there is no sense in rushing to an answer (by guessing or skipping steps) if you’re not sure you have found a credible answer. This is only valid for this specific case – when you have multiple credible answers, tip 9 comes into play.
9. Take risks
When you have narrowed down your choices, take risks. Taking time to figure out a possible answer is OK, but don’t spend ages on making choices. Making quick choices is key to not over think.
In last year’s hunt, there were one or two questions which, in my opinion, had two perfectly acceptable answers. This is the kind of crossroads you run into with most standardized tests – and this is where you should just pick one credible answer instead of wasting a lot of time. You will have to take risks and be lucky to some extent to win the SEOktoberfest ticket, plain and simple.
Last year, I actually wound up taking the answer I found to be less likely to be correct in one of the final questions. This was due to the fact that I had spend a lot of time on the question described in tip 8, and felt like I could only win the hunt if faster participants had taken the more obvious answer and I could become the fastest person betting on the other answer. This is where taking risks makes a lot of sense if all you’re really going for is the top prize.
10. It’s not that difficult
When it comes down to it, the questions actually aren’t all that difficult (at least last year’s questions were not). It’s really just a question of coping with time pressure, and not missing any important clues. Attention to detail is much more important than raw knowledge (just like in SEO in general, really).
You should pay attention to each aspect of each question and the details of the sites you are going to analyze. Perfect command of highly advanced SEO techniques is not required – and might actually be detrimental to your success if you miss the little things while looking for a spectacular solution.
If you have questions about these tips, last year’s contest or anything else concerning the scavenger hunt, feel free to ask them in the comments. More suggestions from previous participants are greatly appreciated, too.
Finally, there is only one thing left to say:
Best of luck to everyone participating, and enjoy every minute of SEOktoberfest when you win it all!
Oh, and if this massive write-up helped you, please feel free to share this blog post via the social buttons below!