In an ever-changing industry like digital marketing, it’s important to stay current and implement practices that will give your business an advantage over the competition. With close to a billion blogs on the Internet, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. With so much competition, has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? The answer depends on a few factors.
The Importance of Content
Whether or not blogging for SEO is useful anymore is a complicated question. No matter what your goal, a blog post needs to be compelling to both readers and search engines in order to be effective.
Long gone are the days of writing blog posts stuffed with keywords for “SEO.” Now, blogs should focus on great, sharable content. An initial focus on blog content rather than intent can ultimately increase SEO value through the result of engaging content. Blog posts that are useful to readers are more likely to have a positive impact on overall traffic than those written with the intent to lure visitors to your website. Engaging blog posts shared on social media drive traffic back to your website, improving social signals picked up by search engines.
Search engines have become sensitive to the content itself, so a blog lacking rich content can be counterproductive. Search engines’ complex algorithms pick on up on the content as a whole. A blog with well-developed content can help leverage your business or brand as an informed thought leader in the industry, fostering an engaged online community. This thought leadership sparks engagement in the social space, resulting in improved SEO value.
Additionally, consistent blog posting helps keep websites fresh and up-to-date, something search engines like to see. Many business owners struggle with keeping their website pages updated. Sharing blog posts on your website provides a solution to keep the website fresh.
How SEO Can Help
But is great content enough? SEO best practices should always be utilized to leverage your content. Conducting comprehensive keyword research can help you write an effective headline, develop proper meta tags, and contribute to on-page SEO. An SEO-friendly blog post should also include internal links to relevant content, descriptive image tags, and more. While these steps are no longer the only thing needed to maximize a blog’s reach in modern times, they are still an important foundation.
Proper search engine optimization on your blog posts can help drive high quality traffic to your site. Good SEO practices attract links, general social signals, and allow search engines to pick up on more keywords.
Harmony is Key
So has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? Not at all! Blogging and SEO are integral and interactive parts of a successful digital strategy. Today, it’s less about blogging for SEO and more about learning how to blog with SEO.
Engaging content combined with good SEO practices is still a great way to enhance your digital presence. Be sure to anchor your blog on high-quality content, but increase the reach of that content by incorporating SEO tactics on select blog posts. Once that foundation is in place, social signals can maximize SEO value. Blogs are still a critical component in a comprehensive digital strategy, but it is important to make sure great content, smart SEO strategies, and social media all work in harmony with one another in order to make the effort worthwhile.
Recently, a respected veteran of the search engine marketing world – who also happens to be the head of search engine marketing for one of the largest and fastest-growing companies on the planet – asked something on his Facebook account that surprised me. I won’t give a direct quote, but the gist of the question was: What should I call my department?
Few would think that the head of SEO at one of the world’s largest companies would have such a basic identity crisis. After all, this search engine optimization thing has been around for a long time. I started doing “SEO” 15 years ago in 1998. There are others who I know who were in the profession well before then. And, very few people would argue that Search Engine Marketing is not important to most companies.
However, my friend’s identity crisis was real. In fact, I think it is a real crisis for many of us who are members of SEMPO and members of the search marketing community worldwide. It’s very rare that I meet a search marketer who describes the whole of their job as “getting stuff to rank in Google.”
We’re asked to be analytics experts, coding experts, content marketing consultants, conversion rate optimization specialists, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that we are the ones responsible for knowing about that latest thing that Google did, or the new mark-up language requirements that need to be followed, or how Bing and Yahoo! will react to the new website. Then there’s also the fact that many of us end up being business consultants, guiding our clients and employers on basic business principles – the same principles that, if presented without an online component, they would have no trouble understanding. But, put a piece of HTML code in the mix … well, you get where I’m coming from.
What do you do when your job description doesn’t adequately describe your job anymore? In the real world, most ask for a promotion. I think that’s exactly what many of us need to do. I believe that the company website should be the center of the marketing universe for most companies. Everything a marketer does should aim to drive consumers to properties you own and control. This has been a controversial opinion in some circles. Why not just convert the visitor on Facebook or Twitter? That’s great if you can, but those conversions should be considered gravy instead of the main course.
Sustainable and scalable marketing comes from a consistent flow of customers through a variety of channels. Over-dependence on any channel is a recipe for long-term disaster. Those of us in search have realized this earlier than many other marketers. We learned because we have a harsh teacher. Google has taught us that what works today may very well not work tomorrow. Those who survive in the ranks of search engine marketers don’t just expect change – they embrace it. Most SEOs I know have a near obsession with solving problems, and that is what makes them more valuable every year.
That’s why I think search marketers need more than just a seat at the table. We need to run the table. The time is right. No, Mashable, SEO is not dead. We’re just switching to the big, comfy marketing chair at the head of the table.
Here at SEMPO we’ve been thinking a lot this month about how digital has evolved so far this year and how we expect it to continue to evolve over the second half of 2014. There are many angles from which we could write about the topic—from Matt Cutts’ statements on the changing nature of guest posting, to Google’s de-emphasis of Google +, to the penalization of content networks and more.
With this article I want to focus on one specific way in which digital is changing, specifically, how we target and address our audiences.
The graphic below is from SEMPO’s State of Search research study. The ‘peaks’ in each section represent where marketers are developing a keyword strategy based on the position in the buying cycle of their audience. Although the degrees to which this is occurring vary widely based on the activity, the presence of the peaks—and the inclusion of the question in SEMPO’s annual report for the first time—reflect a mindset shift for marketers towards a more targeted approach in addressing their audience.
In 2014, what we are witnessing is the next step in the maturation of digital marketing. Carried by the renewed focus on content marketing, digital is evolving from the old ‘cast one wide net and see what lands’ to the new ‘cast multiple focused nets’ with a clearer expectation of not only what will land, but what will drive the prospect to the next step in the buying cycle, culminating in a conversion event.
The ‘multiple nets’ approach applies not only to content focused on speaking to your audience based on their specific needs based on their position in the buying cycle, but it applies to evolving from speaking to a broad ‘audience,’ to speaking to individual personas who each have their own unique pain points, desires, and motivations for evaluating your product or service.
Oracle Study Foreshadows the Future
In the same way the ‘peaks’ in the graphic above portend the writing on the wall when it comes to a shift from ‘broad’ targeting to ‘specific’ targeting, the chart below from an Oracle/Eloqua study foreshadows a coming shift to specific targeting.
Nearly half of marketers surveyed say they are in the process of learning to align content with strategy and better map it to the buyer’s journey. The fact that this group–those ‘learning to align content’–is the largest group of all respondents shows that change is one that is occurring now. Yes, respondents to an Oracle survey likely skew to the enterprise, but changes in the enterprise often foreshadow coming to mid-market and SMB’s and this is a case where all digital marketers should be aware of what’s coming.
What Does it Mean for You?
Certainly there’s no expectation that you transition overnight from broad to targeted digital marketing. But you can start thinking about who the personas are that you are addressing, what their pain points are, and how you might better map your content and SEO efforts to target them. If you do so, you are likely to find that better targeted content results in higher click-through, consumption, and conversions.
Most experts agree that local search should continue to be an area of focus for search marketing professionals in 2014. Google continues to pay attention to improving local search results, and expanded use of the Local Carousel is just one example of Google’s recent enhancements. How should your business — assuming it has a physical location and regardless of size — optimize for local?
Here are some tips:
- Claim Your Google Places Listing: Google Places are business listings that allow your business to be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. By claiming your Google Places listing, you’ll be able to ensure your address, telephone number, hours of operation, and contact information are correct, and you’ll be able to connect with customers by sharing photos, updates, news, and special offers. In addition, claiming your business allows you to respond to reviews that are placed within the site. Visit Google Places for Business to claim your listing.
- Build a Dedicated Local Page: When building a page for local, remember that people searching locally are likely to have a more immediate need for your services. Thus, it’s important to add elements that will easily enable visitors to find your physical location. Store locators, mapping technology, telephone numbers, and product/service reviews are essential to your dedicated local page.
- Identify Local Search Terms: Your market is generally coming from a geographic area that can be as narrow as a few-block radius or as wide as several counties. The geographic qualifiers depend on the size of your community and the competition for your service. Think about how far your geographic reach is and add those search phrases to your dedicated local page. For example, people likely travel a short distance for a grocery store but may travel a significantly larger distance for fine arts and accessories. Then, infuse the page with geographically relevant search terms including surrounding towns that searchers may include in their search to learn more about your business.
- Get Listed in Local Directories: Once you have a dedicated local page, getting listed in many relevant local directories is an important local search factor. It is vital to make sure your citation information (name, address, phone number, description) matches the information in your Google Places listing. Google will discredit your business if there are inconsistencies between the Google Places listing and those listed in other directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YP, and Patch.
You can quickly and easily manage your online business listings with a single click at Moz Local. Moz Local pushes your listings to all of the major local data aggregators, where search engines can access your information, ensuring it is correct, consistent, and visible across the web.
Be careful when using paid submission services. Some services will remove your listing(s) once you stop paying for the service. It’s worth noting that another advantage to manually submitting your business listing is that you’ll maintain control over your listing’s passwords.
- Optimize Your Website for Mobile: With mobile penetration expected to reach upwards of 75% this year, more consumers are likely to be searching for your business from their mobile device. “If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their mobile devices,” says Ben Oren, Director of SEO at WhiteWeb Technologies.
Businesses should consider site design from a mobile-first perspective. Content, navigation, and interactions must be carefully developed for mobile. For example, content order is important because of its tendency to restack on smaller screens, and logical navigation is important because people are tapping buttons or links with their thumbs.
One option for mobile that many businesses are considering is responsive website design. With responsive design, your site adapts to the screen size of the device on which it’s displayed, which means that you won’t need a separate mobile version for your website. According to Google, responsive website design is considered an industry best practice and is their recommended configuration.
From an SEO perspective, site owners can develop a mobile SEO strategy that includes location-based terms more likely to be used from a mobile device. Likewise, you won’t have to duplicate your link building, site authority, and social share efforts, as you’ll be able to dedicate your efforts to linking to a single site.
- Engage With Your Customers: Google Places, Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, and others are relevant because of the independent review provided by consumers. Engage your customers via social media or other methods, and encourage them to leave reviews on local directory sites. Positive reviews add credibility to your brand, increase your domain authority, and provide Google with clues that your business should appear high on search results.
Optimizing for local search is no longer an optional activity. It’s an essential part of your overall optimization strategy and should not be overlooked.
In our last blog post, we discussed optimization strategies for your video content. By providing visitors with compelling titles, descriptions, and tags, you are providing YouTube’s search engines with the triggers to support your optimization efforts. Like the content triggers discussed earlier, there are several engagement factors that are influential in getting your videos to the top of YouTube.
Much attention has been paid to Google’s ranking factors and algorithm and how they impact your positioning on Google. By becoming aware of YouTube’s ranking factors, you could improve your video’s rankings on both YouTube and Google. Here are some critical engagement factors that influence your video’s YouTube ranking:
1. Trust and authority of your YouTube channel
YouTube prefers video producers that routinely produce quality video content. Thus, it looks not only at engagement of individual videos but also at engagement of your video channel overall. Factors such as number of subscribers, number of channel views, and the overall age of your video channel are important in ensuring consistently high ranking videos.
2. Engagement of your videos
While the overall number of views is surely an important factor in a high-ranking video, it is more important for your video to be interesting to those who choose to view it. How long do your videos keep your viewer’s attention? Generally speaking, videos that capture 40% of the viewer’s attention (i.e., over two minutes of a five minute video) will help your video rank higher. YouTube looks at two audience factors – absolute (what percentage of your video is watched) and relative (how does this compare to other videos of similar length?).
3. Social signals
As with traditional SEO, social media links appear to be an increasingly important factor in the overall strength of your content. Factors that indicate video social sharing include embeds, external links, and the strength of the sites the video is being shared on. Particularly strong social sharing sites include Digg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ so be sure to prompt sharing to these and other sites when posting your video.
4. Comments, responses, and reactions
YouTube wants to gauge how much dialogue your video generates. The numbers of comments, likes, and responses are important factors in determining your video’s ranking. Note: video responses in particular are hugely important. After all, YouTube is a video sharing site. If your video is responsible for creating additional video content for YouTube, you’ve hit an SEO home run.
Likes and shares are also factors that determine level of interest in your video. YouTube gives significant weight to the number of shares.
YouTube has determined that engagement is a better measurement of quality and satisfaction than simple views. As Google has given greater importance to Quality Score, YouTube has given greater importance to engagement. In both, the common threads are quality and relevance. If you create quality and relevant content for your readers and viewers, you stand a much better chance of getting to the top of every search engine.
What’s the second largest search engine behind Google?
The correct answer, of course, is YouTube, which processes more than 3 billion searches each month. Additionally, since November 2011, YouTube video results are embedded into Google search results. Try typing “psy Gangnam style” into Google, and the first four results, ahead of Wikipedia, Facebook, and Billboard, are YouTube videos. (Psy’s Gangnam Style, incidentally, is the most watched video of all time with nearly 2 billion views as of February 10, 2014. Thus, it seems logical for search marketers to think beyond Google and Bing. Search strategies must include all aspects of digital marketing, including video. Let’s examine the key strategies for optimizing your video content.
1. Choose the most relevant content for your business – Context is equally important in video optimization as it is in search optimization. A simple tutorial on how to use your product is a great video for product marketers. Hosting a webinar that conveys your expertise on a particular subject is a great choice for service marketers. Remember, consumers like video because it gives them a better understanding of your product or service. It aids in the decision-making process. As you develop your script, put yourself in the mind of the searcher. Include phrases that are searched on often.
2. Select a keyword relevant title for your video – The title of your video is like a PPC ad. Its purpose is to gain a click-through. Choose a title that is relevant to the content of your video, but exciting and engaging enough to get that coveted click-through. Your title should include a key phrase that your research determined to be the most relevant search phrase for your desired action.
3. Include tags – Tags are keywords and phrases that provide the YouTube search engine with clues as to what your video is about. Think of them as hashtags for your videos. List your most relevant tags first, as order does play a factor in YouTube’s algorithm. Be as specific as possible so you can limit the amount of competition for your video. What makes your video unique? Try to include the same keywords you included in your video’s title.
4. Write a keyword-rich description – Make sure you use the same relevant keyword phrases that you included in your title and tags. This consistency will go a long way towards establishing the relevancy that is so important to both Google and YouTube. Be thorough and comprehensive. So many video creators cut corners when developing their video’s description, but you can really give yourself an edge if you provide YouTube visitors with an in-depth description.
5. Upload a transcript – Uploading a transcript to YouTube is an easy way to ensure your targeted keywords are interpreted correctly by the search engines. Simply create a .txt file of your video’s script, and upload it to YouTube via the Video Manager section of your YouTube account. When you name the .txt file, use the search term you’re optimizing for in your .txt file’s name. Additionally, by uploading a transcript, you automatically enable YouTube’s captions.
6. Create a video sitemap – Google Webmaster Tools provides simple instructions on how to create a video sitemap.
Each entry must contain the following pieces of data:
3. Play page URL
4. Thumbnail URL
5. Video file location or player URL
It is recommended that you host your video on YouTube and embed the YouTube video on your own site.
Optimizing video is a process, and like traditional SEO, will reap tremendous benefits to your business or your client’s business when followed correctly.
How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting the Search Marketing industry? What are some insider tips and tricks? SEMPO recently chatted with Bill Hunt, President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., about his views on Search Marketing and the latest industry changes.
1.What initially attracted you to work in the Search Marketing industry?
I got pulled into it indirectly by optimizing my own earthquake preparedness site to rank well in US and Japanese search engines. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, we did significant business with Japan and that success was reported by a number of business magazines. The phones were ringing off the hook but not for the earthquake kits or consulting but from companies. Most wanted us to help them enter Japan using search engines. I sold the kit company and my wife Motoko and I focused on localization and optimization of sites for large companies like AT&T, HP, and Western Digital.
2.Tell us a little bit about your approach to gaining keyword insights.
My process is a multistep process to segment the words by logical categories and let the data point us in the right direction. Keywords from different sources can tell us a lot about our consumer.
The first and primary insight I want to know is how are we performing for our products and services. It is not sexy but performance for all products, services, categories and their buy cycle attributes. These don’t need to be researched or supported by any data – they are your primary keyword universe and should be non-negotiable.
Once we have the products and services data all set, what does the data tell us? Do any patterns emerge when you look at a cluster of words? Do they use one over another; is there a price relationship or a lack of knowledge about the product? Some interesting examples I have found are:
Las Vegas Hotels – what do they really mean when they use that phrase? We found that 83% of the search volume for variations of this phrase were related to “cheap or discount” hotel rooms. That while they searched using “Las Vegas Hotels” they really meant “cheap Las Vegas Hotels.” So if the #2 ranking page has a snippet of “The premier Resort on the Strip,” which clearly does not sound cheap, you are not going to get clicked.
Cloud Computing – along the same lines, we found 87% of the variations of this phrase were “what is” or “what are the benefits” related to cloud computing and all the pages ranking on the first page were educational pages that described what cloud computing was. Once my clients changed the content they jumped to the first page.
Some other sorts we want to look at are:
By revenue – what keywords make you money?
By margin – where do you make the most money?
Misspellings – how many ways do they misspell different words?
Currently I am finding one of the best sources of insight is site search data. These are phrases that are being used on your site showing specific interest in the product or service. For one of our retail clients, we identified over $4 million in untapped opportunity to upsell and cross sell site searchers who wanted to upgrade or add to their products but none of the content supported these phrases. Simply adding the ability to buy up recovered the cost of the effort in less then two weeks.
Another big analysis I think people should do is to look at their top 20 highest CPC paid search terms and see if they rank in the top 3 organic and which page is ranking. So far nearly 200 people have told me that less than half of their terms are ranking for their most expensive words. Google research shows that as much as 66% of the paid listings that are clicked don’t have a corresponding organic listing. This is pure gold if you can fix this not only from a cost reduction but from a brand and shelf space opportunity.
3.What kind of tools do you use and recommend to gain keyword insights or research? Does this differ based on the size of the company and, if so, how? What can be gained from drilling down through keyword data?
I honestly believe the process is the same no matter the size of the site or company. I think that some search teams get overwhelmed thinking about keyword data modeling for an enterprise company with millions of words.
The #1 tool is your brain. I don’t think enough people spend time thinking about their keywords, their audience, and, most importantly, what did they want when they searched and why did they use a specific phrase when they did it.
As far as commercial tools, this is the interesting thing about our industry – there are not any available. Sure all the tools have keywords in them and give you data and a few even have some basic classification but none are really enabling you to do anything with the words and data.
I am obviously partial to the keyword management/mining tool that I have spent the last 2 years developing – it pulls in all your keywords and associated data and does the segmentation I have already mentioned.
For those without a tool like mine, I think a simple database or pivot tables in Excel can work wonders. Once you have tagged the words into classifications, you can sort them any number of ways to find opportunity. I am finding most advanced search programs, like those at SAP and TripAdvisor, require their Search Team members to be proficient in SQL to be able to mine for opportunities.
There is a lot of data that can be gleaned from the data. I have hundreds of examples of opportunity that was mined.
4.Has Hummingbird impacted your process for recommending/prioritizing keywords or phrases?
It has not changed our process but has been helpful to get companies to better understand the need for Searcher Intent Modeling. This is especially true with any phrase related to “how to” do something. Hummingbird is trying to deduce the intent of the search and we have seen a number of pages drop for companies that are not specifically answering the “how to” or don’t specially match the intent of the searcher. Also we are pushing content type alignment – for one of our clients that has a lot of cocktail recipes, many of their web pages were replaced by their YouTube videos on making various drinks. We have made some changes so that the video and the page are ranking, increasing their SERP shelf space.
5.In your opinion, when should you trust your gut instincts and when should you trust data in keyword selection?
I think you have to always trust your gut first since it is a great gauge of intent. Search Marketers rely too heavily on tools to guide them rather than instinct.
6.How important is it to reevaluate/review keywords? When should this be done?
It is critical to do it at least quarterly, and I have a few clients that review all new keywords on a weekly basis. It really depends on the turnover of your words and how many new products you have.
7.How has “not provided” impacted your process of measuring keyword optimization success? What metrics do you recommend for evaluating keyword success?
It has had a pretty significant impact but we are starting to work around it. I am well known for my “Missed Opportunity Models,” which use the gap between search volume and organic visits for a specific keyword. These models have been used by many companies to justify their search programs and they are nearly impossible to do now.
Most of the companies I work with still use rank and organic search engine revenue as their key drivers. While we cannot tie it to a specific keyword, we can show that overall non-paid search revenue is increasing.
We just built into our tool the ability to leverage PLP’s, rank, and page revenue data as a proxy for organic performance. How this works is every Tier 1 and Tier 2 keyword we have assigned a “preferred landing page” – the page we believe has the best opportunity for conversion. We then look at organic attributed revenue month over month and rank of the assortment of words month over month. This allows us to show that an increase in ranking or the swap of a PLP over another page has had positive impact. We can see the same when a word or a set of words drop in rank.
We also look at traffic based on Google Webmaster Tool data which we pull in but it is only a fraction of actual data.
8.Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future?
They are becoming even more important, especially since we have less data to support performance improvements with not provided. I have been advocating a Keyword Czar role for a number of years, and there are a few companies that are starting to adopt this at least as a part-time role. With the increase in social media conversational mining and the demands for content ideas, this is becoming more and more important.
It is a great tool for content creation efforts. We do a lot of modeling of words and opportunity and if you lay that out in a hierarchical flow it pretty much tells you exactly what content your are missing and how to better speak the language of your consumer.
How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting you? Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily SEMPO.
It’s January – a time when businesses focus on the year ahead. They determine what resources they’ll need to meet their objectives, and thus, hiring is heavy, and competition for talent is fierce.
We typically think of search as a medium for customer acquisition, but it is also widely used by candidates searching for jobs. Similar to the approach we take for customer acquisition, search for talent acquisition involves optimization and distribution.
Build a keyword list The first step in getting your jobs in front of the right candidates via search is to develop your keyword list. Your list should include:
1. Personal attributes of ideal candidates
2. Key performance indicators and success metrics of the most successful people in the position
3. Reasons candidates would want to work for your company (perks that make you stand out)
Put yourself in the mind of the job seeker. What terms will they be looking for when searching for the ideal job? Be as specific as possible by using appropriate industry jargon to help eliminate fringe candidates, and to give you the best chance for receiving resumes from the most ideal candidates.
Write a job description that is compelling, unique, and shareable If we’ve learned anything as search marketing professionals, it is that content is king. That content comes in many forms. Treat your job descriptions as you would your product descriptions. Include as many of your relevant keywords as possible, write compelling descriptions that catch the reader’s eye, and include audio or video to give your job description some personality. A small audio snippet from a hiring manager or company executive gives a candidate a sense of what to expect if he were to work at your company. It also gives your description a personality and gives readers a reason to like, share, repost. Your goal is to have a candidate say “this job is me,” or “I know someone perfect for this job.”
Create unique landing pages with optimized URLs for each job description Just as it is vital when creating product and other website pages, so too is it vital to create unique landing pages for your job descriptions. As with any piece of optimized content, your URL should have plain English phrases using the position title. For example, http://www.jobsite.com/jobs/online-marketing-manager-job-description would be a preferred URL for your online marketing manager job descriptions.
Establish links to your job description from relevant sites Where do your candidates search for jobs? An easy way to determine this is to do a general search for the position you are seeking and see what comes up. Most likely, the top sites are general job boards, industry-specific job boards, associations, colleges, newspapers, and more often, social media. Make sure you link to your job description from as many high volume sites as possible to give your site relevant link authority.
Leverage social networking to get the word out According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 72% of online adults use social networking sites. Networking, whether social or otherwise, is a vital component of the job search. You must be where the candidates are. Many candidates, in fact, may not be active job seekers. Social networking sites are a great way to find passive job seekers who may not be actively searching, but who would welcome a job change. Sites such as LinkedIn, allow you to search for candidates who match the qualifications and experience you are looking for. Other sites, such as BeKnown from Monster, and even Facebook are reaching out to job seekers and recruiters alike, trying to capitalize on the social networking phenomenon. Facebook’s Graph Search allows recruiters to find the skills, education, or experience that fits a particular job opening. Leverage to 100+ million users of these sites to find the ideal candidate.
Search is a built-in component of your marketing mix. It should also be a part of your talent acquisition mix.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Turkey’s first SEO conference, SEOZone. Since our agency, Ads2people, conducts a large number of on-page audits, from very large and often multilingual corporate sites to regular blogs, I thought it would be helpful to talk about some common on-page pitfalls we see over and over again. This is an exclusive write-up for SEMPO summarizing that presentation. I hope it helps you improve your on-page SEO.
#1 Crawl Budget
Given the fact that search engines such as Google assign a certain crawl budget per domain (and sub-domain), I’m always surprised at how often site-owners simply try to push all of their content into the index. And they also often seem to be completely careless in regards to which sites are crawler-accessible at all.
To assess and fix these problems on your site, a good starting place is Google Webmaster Tools (go to: Crawl > Crawl Stats), which gives a first impression of how a site is doing. A successful graph is slightly increasing – which usually reflects that Google picks up on content being added and therefore returns a bit more frequently. Conversely, if that graph is jumping or massively decreasing, you might have a problem.
There are two ways to control search engine crawlers: using a robots.txt directive and implementing a robots meta tag into the HTML mark-up (or serve it as HTTP X-Robots header). However, the issue with both directives is that they don’t solve your (potential) crawling-budget-issues:
- Robots Meta Tag: Implementing a proper “noindex” does prevent a given page from showing up in search results but that page will still be crawled – and therefore a crawling budget has to be used.
- robots.txt: Blocking a URL (or folder, etc.) does prevent the site from being crawled (and therefore does not waste crawling-budget); however, there are massive downsides. One is that pages might still (partially) show up in search results (mainly due to being linked from someplace else) and all inbound link juice will be cut-off. In other words, those links do not help your rankings.
Considering those points, you might think about combining those… but please – don’t! It simply cannot work. If a page is blocked using robots.txt, a site won’t be crawled and the meta robots tag therefore cannot be read at all!
Watch out for things like filters and sorting, pagination, and other potentially useless pages. We see so often that these are simply being pushed to the index but certainly never can or will rank for anything. Don’t waste Google’s resources on that!
As a rule of thumb: If you want to be sure not to waste crawl-budget, only have pages that really are useful (so don’t create others in the first place). If you have others you don’t want to show up, I’d go with meta robots to at least utilize the inbound link equity.
#2 Duplicate Content
I assume everyone is familiar with duplicate content (DC) issues, but it turns out that’s not the case (if you’re not, please read this first). It always surprises me to see how many sites out there are still not performing well due to a lot of internal (partial) DC. Even though most sites these days are OK in handling session IDs and tracking parameters, here are some “classics” I’d like remind you of: HTTP vs. HTTPs is considered to be DC, products available in multiple categories (and not using a single product URL) are causing DC as well, and sub domains (like staging servers) might get you in trouble.
That said, the rel=”canonical” meta tag (or X-Robots Rel-Canonical Header) can help you fix those issues, but I think this is the third-best option to solve DC issues. In my mind, it’s really all about efficiency – so the best way to solve it is to actually make sure that you only serve contents using one single (canonicalized) URL and not multiple ones. It’s as simple as that.
I’d generally not rely on something that Google calls “a strong hint” – because it’s a hint that they might or might not consider, but essentially it’s not a forcing directive like an HTTP 301 redirect (which they simple have to follow).
Again it comes down to giving Google as few choices as possible. Enforce single, unique URLs with amazing content and 301 redirect previously existing ones (e.g., old or multiple versions) to this (new) URL and you won’t suffer from DC issues.
#3 Proper Mark-Up
There are quite a few differing opinions on if and why proper mark-up is important. I don’t really jump into that discussion, but I’m a strong believer that doing clean and simple mark-up helps. That’s mainly due to the fact that I really don’t want to take chances that a crawler might have “issues” when trying to extract information from a site. And that’s also why I think doing schema.org mark-up is a good thing: It helps engines (not only crawlers) to actually understand (parts of) content and make sense of it. In short, to understand its meaning.
Obviously you have to consider which information you can and want to provide to Google (and others), but if you don’t give your data, they’ll get it elsewhere. So generally speaking, don’t miss out on this. It’s far more than just gaining more CTR due to more prominent results – which is great by the way – but if you combine structured data with rel=”author” and / or rel=”publisher” that the benefits are even greater. It’s basically Google moving toward understanding and assigning verified entities to sets of queries, and you surely don’t want to miss out on that. In my opinion, Google is massively moving to a point where you need to be a verified authority for a given entity and therefore will automatically benefit from all that long tail traffic that belongs to this entity – which makes a lot of sense given the fact that Google sees a massive ~20% of new queries per day.
So if you’ve not yet played around with Rich Snippet mark-up, I recommend you check-out schema.org to see what’s in store for you, get it implemented, and verify your domain and author profile with Google+ to get things started. Good luck!
Bastian Grimm co-runs Ads2people, a full-service performance marketing agency based in Berlin, Germany, where he heads the SEO department as the VP of Search. Having a passion for software development and everything “Tech,” he loves to challenge IT and marketing departments to come up with outstanding results in search marketing. Bastian is a widely cited authority in SEO having spoken at almost every major search conference including SMXs, ISS, SES, SEOkomm, LAC, BAC, and many more events around the globe.
Just last week, numerous SEO blogs and news outlets reported that Google is soon going to start encrypting all search activity both for users who
are signed in as well as those who are not. The only exception will be clicks on ads, which Google will not encrypt. As you can image, this has many marketers up in arms and others simply scratching their heads wondering what comes next. Are there going to be any benefits for marketers, or is this the end of keyword data as we know it?
The Quick Basics: What Does Google “Not Provided” Mean? Hubspot reminded us that the discussion of encryption actually started back in October 2011 when Google announced that any users who are logged in to a Google product (Google+, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) would have encrypted search results. Essentially, a marketer would not be allowed to see the keywords someone used before visiting his/her company’s website, so knowing which keywords to optimize for was a struggle. As any good marketer knows, keyword insights open the door not only for optimizing an actual webpage but also for improving content marketing, retargeting, identifying audience, and much more.
The Real Reason Why: Is Google Doing this to Enhance Their AdWords Sales? Google is claiming it is for extra protection for searchers—a completely valid reason that makes sense. However, many in the field are a bit skeptical. Marketing Land feels that Google might be attempting to block NSA spying activity, while Search Engine Watch threw out the idea that Google might soon release a new “premium” version of Google Analytics where users would pay a monthly fee in order to get access to full keyword data. A more popular opinion is that it could be to drive more people to use Google AdWords. Since ad clicks are not part of this new announcement, how can we not jump to that conclusion? Many are telling small businesses to use AdWords in order to gather this organic data. Consider some quotes from around the web:
- QuickSprout: “Even if Google goes with ‘not provided’ for all your data, you can still uncover new keyword opportunities by using keyword research tools or spending money on AdWords.”
- Search Engine Watch: “At this time advertisers still get full keyword referral data from Google, while there is speculation this could change sometime in the future, there is also the necessity for advertisers to be able to determine conversions from the traffic they are paying for.”
- Moz: “Optionally, we can use AdWords to bid on branded terms and phrases. When we do that, you might want to have a relatively broad match on your branded terms and phrases so that you can see keyword volume that is branded from impression data.”
You certainly can’t blame anyone for giving users this advice because it is good advice. In fact, we’d give that advice ourselves. In short, Google’s plan has worked perfectly. It’s clear that AdWords is going to benefit and privacy was just a secondary thought in Google’s mind that happened to work perfectly when informing the public. Nevertheless, for now all we can really do is believe Google and move on to the next part of any announcement—create a new strategy that works.
Your Reaction: What to Do With Google Not Provided The first thing to understand is that the new change isn’t going anywhere so it’s time to react, whether you agree with Google’s decision or not. Fortunately, there are ways to cope without falling into their trap and spending a lot more money on AdWords; there are still things that you can measure using search data that isn’t necessarily keyword data. Consider some of your options below:
- Other search engines. The keyword trends you will find with search engines such as Bing and Yahoo are very similar to those you would find on Google. These engines have not encrypted their keyword data, so put your focus here and on the keywords that work.
- Traffic from organic. You might not be able to see the exact keywords people are using to find your website but that doesn’t mean you can’t see your overall organic traffic just like you’ve done in the past. It might take a bit more work, but figure out what you’re doing in the way of keywords and how your traffic is performing and then find correlations.
- Use filters and track landing pages. You might not be able to see the exact keyword someone used, but if you can set up a filter on all of the ‘not provided’ traffic and see which landing page those people landed on, you can get an idea of what it was they were searching for when they came to your website.
- Google Webmaster Tools. You can view your top pages and top search queries in GWT where you get clicks. Although you can’t see anything past 90 days, it’s still something that can help you keep track of your progress.
- Google Trends. This will help you see quickly if you are improving or you need to ramp up your efforts.
In the end, this Google update is just something else that will force marketers to adapt, but it isn’t going to take away your job or ruin your chances in the results pages (after all, everyone is in the same boat). Many see this as a positive move for the industry because it will force websites to create great content and put a focus on things that will really produce a great website. As a user, you’re going to be a little bit safer. Do you think this change was for privacy reasons, or do you think Google was more interested in lining their pockets with some increased AdWords sales? What are you going to do in response? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: lumicall.org
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily SEMPO.