This is the nineteenth episode of, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
In this episode, we have a special edition – looking at SEO for Comparison Sites, Affiliates Sites & Aggregator Sites.
DAVID BAIN: Hello, and welcome to another special edition of This Week in Organic. In this episode we’re looking at the different SEO challenges that the comparison site industry is facing, and also touching on aggregator sites and affiliate marketing too. We’re going to look at topics like how SEO has changed for comparison sites over the last few years, whether or not Google is now a competitor in the marketplace, and also whether product providers are now turning into competitors as well themselves.
Joining me today is Lukasz Zelezny, an SEO consultant, a speaker, and head of organic acquisition at uswitch.com. Lukasz, thank you so much for joining me.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Hello, thank you very much for the invitation. It’s great to be here. And you know I’m a big, big fan of TWIO, so it’s another time that you gave me this chance to present my suggestions, my opinions. And thank you very much, and welcome.
— Analytics SEO (@analyticsseo) October 15, 2015
DAVID BAIN: Oh, thank you very much, and I must use that quote somewhere in the website I reckon. Lukasz a big, big fan of TWIO. That’s staying on the site.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. So did I miss anything out of the introduction there in terms of who you are?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: No, you didn’t mention my addiction to travel around the UK random trains. Next time I will tell about this a little more.
DAVID BAIN: Are you still Periscoping about that?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: A little, yeah. I was Periscoping from Shanghai recently, and I was Periscoping yesterday when I was doing a webinar. So yeah, I’ve become kind of a Periscope addict.
DAVID BAIN: You mentioned Shanghai. You’re just showing off now, I think.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: No, this is something we have in common, don’t we?
DAVID BAIN: I’ve Periscoped a fair amount, but I’ve actually started experimenting with Blab.im, and I reckon for online chats for more than two people involved, I think it’s going to be my preferred broadcasting tool. But it’s early days, we’ll see how it goes.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Fingers crossed.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. So in terms of, I guess, what a comparison site actually is, would you say that a comparison site is an aggregator site, is an affiliate site, or is just something that’s completely different?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think this is one of the best questions I’ve ever had because you touched absolutely probably a hundred percent of what the comparison website should be created from. These are the three main ingredients. So you mentioned comparison. Obviously it’s a function that is available on the website. We’re comparing prices. You can compare deals. You can compare whatever. Then aggregator is another function crucial to the website, which is able to grab the offers from the suppliers. And no matter if we’re talking about mobile broadband or we’re talking about credit cards, there is an element of aggregation. And obviously aggregation itself, without comparison, is just like you would have an RSS aggregator, like a long time ago.
DAVID BAIN: Sure.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Lots of duplicate content, and nothing else. So when you have comparison and aggregation, that’s fantastic. And then obviously affiliate is this kind of commercial aspect, commercial model, and commercial relation between comparison websites and between suppliers, providers of the service.
So I think it works a little like in finance; you have a revenue profit, and a [beta – 0:03:42.9], and those are three guys who are living always together. You cannot rely on one, but you always need to think about them as a three answer problem element.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, well hopefully I can get other questions as good as the best ever question. So ever improving in terms of question level, I’m not sure. So aggregator sites. If you just talk about aggregator sites that don’t add any additional value, they used to be quite popular online, but obviously Google Panda came along. Is it still possible to actually run an aggregator site now without adding any significant additional value?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well, I think no. I mean you can be lucky. You can hide in the bush for a couple of years, but normally, as far as I am aware, what is the Google terms of service, and how they suggest, there must be added value. And I think Indeed is a fantastic example of an aggregator, but in the first place you may think well, that’s just job offers from different sources. But if you go deeper, this is such a well organised aggregator that no other service is giving first as broad because you’re getting a super broad view on whatever is on the job market. And second, you can start filtering this by salary, by region, and so on, and so on, and so on all these offers. So this is where the added value is.
For a comparison website, when you’re thinking about aggregating offers, lots of users like the fact that they can see all the market in one place. And obviously there are other things like reviews, like comments, like the fact that you can start comparing these aggregated offers, and so on, and so on.
However, I feel like there needs to be a nice balance between what we call the application of content, and the functionality. Ideally, in the online marketing utopia I would like not to have any duplication, and lots of websites are pretty good with this you know, or getting very close to this. It’s trying to rewrite content, it’s trying to do some clever stuff, but the functionality, like I mentioned, this comparison and other factors, filtering, digging into this data, that’s what’s giving users the added value.
DAVID BAIN: So you mentioned Indeed there, and I think most people were probably aware of them. Now they now offer, as far as I’m aware, the ability to actually post jobs on their site. So if that’s the case then they’re going to be getting the original content themselves. So that’s one more reason for Google to actually like them.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Sure.
DAVID BAIN: But you also said that the service is better than anything else out there because of the way that it aggregates content together. Now if a service is created from aggregated content, and if the service is fairly unique because of the content it manages to deliver, do you think it’s still possible for it to actually rank in Google based on user signals even though the content has been published elsewhere?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well, it’s a very, very broad question, and to answer it I would need to go very, very deep. I think this is the balance because one first option if you’re aggregating content, you can go massively. You can start covering lots of long tail keywords. You can cover areas that maybe you don’t know about that they exist, and you will find them looking on your Google Analytics – where the traffic is coming from – or Google Ad Master Tools, what keywords you’re ranking on, and that’s a surprise for you.
For non-aggregated content, it’s more about, well, I can mention Money Saving Expert, which is based more on the user generated content, which is a forum, and then offers. So, you know, to keep the balance there is no right answer to say that amount of duplicate content is where you should go. It’s rather, Indeed is a good example. There is a lot of duplicate content, but people like this because of the functions. You mention one function, I can mention the fact that people who are looking for a job can upload their CV there, and then HR or agencies can just login, and see who is waiting for a job there. That’s another function. I think I could answer this question that way. If the service is based on duplicate content in some people, but is done for people, it wasn’t written because we will saturate the SERPs, because we will saturate Google, then you can probably sleep well – or almost well.
DAVID BAIN: Sleep almost well.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I was reading as a kid a book about Microsoft, and they had this philosophy that even if you’d been brilliant in something, and you’d done something great, the task was done great, you should always feel this concern – maybe I could do this a little better.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. No, that’s a good way of thinking, certainly. But what you were basically saying there, I think, is that if you have an authoritative domain, and you probably publish unique content in other areas, then it’s kind of alright having aggregated content in other areas if it offers a unique decent service.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes, and I think this is what I believe Google is trying to suggest to people who are creating affiliate blogs, and so on. So you may have your own opinion in the blog posts, and below there are links to Amazon, where you can buy something. But what is giving the added value, it is there is someone’s honest opinion. And I love this kind of thing. There is a video of a boxing thing, then how I was using this thing, and then what I’m thinking about that thing I bought, and then a link to the product on Amazon. And then there is this kind of value.
DAVID BAIN: So a lot of opportunity for user generated content as well then.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: As well, yeah. Of course, of course. And, you know, even like you think about comments. Comments are very important. Comments sometimes are bringing as much value as the article you were reading about. I have this rule that I’m rather trying to avoid having a public discussion on forums or on comments, mainly because I really suffer from lack of time. But I like reading these, especially when you have this function of adding pluses for a good comment, and minuses for a bad comment. So probably after reading an article, reading two, three comments which are on the top, those are the additional value generated by users.
DAVID BAIN: So adding pluses and minuses. Does that mean you’ll be a fan of the Facebook dislike button if it comes out.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think it’s time. It’s time to do this. You know, it’s time to do this because there were too many ridiculous situations like it’s the saddest day, my cat died, and then 50 likes. You know, what does it mean? There should be either something else, or—likes is not the best way to go, I think. It was kind of a trademark of Facebook, everybody knew. And I remember when I said for the first time in 2009 about people who like your page, about likers, and everybody was like does this word even exist? And everybody right now these days is thinking about likers. Yeah, I will be a fan of the downside button probably.
DAVID BAIN: So looking at comparison sites, and also the mobile web, is it very important for comparison sites to be optimised for the mobile web? Generally, do people use comparison sites on their phone as they’re walking about, or is more of a desktop situation?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I can observe that it’s like a nice pivot right now, and every year there are more people using mobile devices. So according to what you said, what is crucial right now is the UX and UI to be just perfect, you know. There are so many things you can give people, and to make this [journey – 0:12:35.5], and the fact that they visited your website is absolutely exceptional. So I am a big, big, big fan of UX, and a big, big fan of UI because I feel like these days it is an integral part of SEO.
So I also made a little pivot. I found that my SEO is like a central hub; it’s not a silo. And UX, and social media, and even PPC, and content marketing, and even growth hacking, everything is together, and SEO is kind of influencing every discipline I just mentioned. So mobile is a must. I cannot imagine that there is any big comparison website that doesn’t have a mobile responsive design. And you can see that. I would even say that comparison websites are websites where other companies could learn how to do this well because, you know, bounce rate for example, page load for example, those are factors which can really, really positively or negatively influence your rankings. So in the competitive markets like for comparison websites, UX, and mobile devices are crucial.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, but for comparison sites in general, would you say that it’s more popular than average to look at a comparison site on a mobile device, just the average amount on the web? Or would you say it’s about the same as just an average site?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think it depends on what products. Some products will be more popular on mobile, and there will be more traffic coming from mobiles than any other websites you can think about. And then there will be some products that people are rather used to opening the websites on desktop or laptops. And I don’t want to lie right now, but think about this: there are car insurances where you need to give a lot of details before the offer can be generated. You need to specify lots of things about your car, and that may be a little time consuming, so people are rather thinking okay, I will leave this for later. I will open my laptop, and I will do this at home. When looking for credit cards, it’s very quick. You just open. If you’re looking for a balance transfer credit card, there are balance transfer credit cards, click, and you can apply online because the form is relatively simple. So the product is crucial when we’re thinking about the split between desktop and mobile.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. And you mentioned credit cards there. Credit cards is probably a very competitive keyword term when it comes to Google organic search. So if someone was starting a comparison site about credit cards, is it better just to focus on long tail keyword terms, or is it realistic to actually rank on the first page of Google for an ultra-competitive keyword term – I guess like compare credit cards?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I remember when Matt Kutz, in one interview, said if you want to launch an insurance company, maybe you should think twice. Again, it is very important to know what type of company we are talking about. If you would like to talk about a start-up that wants to become a price comparison website in the UK, I would be thinking that it’s very, very difficult to start, and I would recommend to target long tail keywords. But, you know, going somewhere abroad to the Philippines or Indonesia, maybe that would be a good option because making things right quickly, there is a big deficit of websites like that. It could be very, very successful. I think in any market right now targeting short tail keywords like credit cards, book, cars, and so on, and so on, that’s not the way to go. In my opinion it’s first what makes your website better than the website established on the market. If there is something better, sooner or later people will start visiting, and will start giving lots of signals. And you can see [Rob Genius – 0:17:12.1] is one example, or Pinterest. I was looking on Pinterest visibility. I was looking at Pinterest visibility. It was flat for a year or something, and then this kind of boom on newspapers, and magazines, and blogs, and so on, and so on – that there is a new brilliant social network, and the visibility spiked.
Same story can happen with the next generation of press comparison websites, however, like I’m saying, it’s very, very competitive.
DAVID BAIN: So if you were going to start out a comparison website, would you say that means that there’s no point for the first six months in even thinking about carrying out any kind of activity that will drive links to the site, and all you should focus on is usability and product before you actually get to a stage where you’re doing SEO?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I would also think about product, because you can compare anything these days. There are lots of untouched markets, I believe. You can compare lots of services that are uncompared, like the market is very segmented. I also like numbeo.com, I think. That’s a comparison of the cost of living in different cities. So you can say show me London and Jakarta, and how me how much bread and milk cost. It’s based on user generated content, and that’s also a type of a comparison website. It’s a big story, but I would definitely keep focused six months, or even a year, on user experience, and I would try to learn a lot about what my user’s expecting from my service.
DAVID BAIN: So for a new site starting up, would you advise them to build a thousand pages targeting keyword phrases that were only attracting a hundred searches per month, or a hundred pages targeting keyword phrases that were attracting keyword phrases for a thousand searches per month? So the same potential traffic, but more content.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Both options sound to me a little bit like doorway pages. But I would rather the owner of the website isn’t thinking obsessively about what keywords we’re going to rank on. First, let’s set up twenty pages, and let’s think why we’re setting up these twenty pages, and what will be there. So it’s more a philosophical question: what will be there? What will the structure of the website? At the end of the day, in the first month I would probably start with a hundred pages, and that includes some guides, that can include FAQ pages, that can include product pages, table pages, rather than artificially inflating the website to a thousand pages, and believe that we will cover more keywords, and we will start to be successful quicker.
It’s very easy to fall into this kind of craziness, and I remember myself when I was a kid chasing keywords, chasing search volume, and so on, and so on. Right now I’m a little smarter, and I’m like you know what? Chill out. Chill out. We will get there. We will get there. Trust me. But first, user experience. First, let’s learn about the user. First let’s answer the fundamental question of what we want to serve, and why we are better, what is our mission? Yeah, so a hundred pages rather than a thousand in the beginning because when you will get a thousand, and you are doing this right it will probably go like that. You won’t even notice that it was a thousand pages. You know what I mean? You will wake up one day, and it will be like oh my gosh, there are 16,000 pages, and we never had this as a factor. How did this happen? And then you will be like wow, because of this, because of blog posts, because of FAQs, because of guides, because of forums, and you know, this kind of way.
DAVID BAIN: So are you saying that the most important thing is usability because if you consider what a user does when they land on a page, and maybe they spend a decent amount of time on the page, and go further through the site, that’s much more important than getting more traffic that perhaps only stays for ten seconds, and then goes away?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: That’s correct. It’s about how to utilise this traffic we have in a better way. And that’s why thinking about UX is crucial right now because you can deliver organic traffic, but when your UX isn’t right then you won’t be utilising this traffic effectively.
DAVID BAIN: So you mentioned 16,000 pages there. I assume a big website could hope to get to that kind of size if they have a big content footprint. But if you do have that many pages, should you be tracking the ranking of keywords for all of those pages, or should you just be focusing on maybe the top couple of hundred?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: So that’s a very good question, thank you. You see, there are some people who really want to track every keyword that gives them ranking, and I am trying to push this back. There are infinite numbers of keywords that you’re ranking on. Some keywords have never been typed in the search engine, but you’re probably ranking on the first place. Let’s say your brand keyword is one, two, three. You still will be first, and you didn’t even know about this keyword until I told you.
So my suggestion is if you want to track, you can use a representative sample of keywords.
DAVID BAIN: Right.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Two, three keywords per URL. You know, you also can find it in Google Ad Master Tools, or Searchmetrics, or SEMRush these kind of keywords which are relatively popular, and that’s why they are there already in these platforms – so keywords with the search volume. But tracking all the keywords and all the pages, again that’s a little obsessional because the outcome, the added value from this is very little. So tracking a sample across the whole website gives you an ability to understand that oh, when there was an algorithm update then I saw no fluctuation, so probably everything is fine. And then maybe another update, and some keywords went up, but some keywords didn’t. Which keywords went up? Is this related to some specific type of pages, or maybe specific type of product? And this way you can have some conclusions, and instead of tracking thousands and thousands of keywords, and messing with this data, and having no clue what these numbers everyday mean.
DAVID BAIN: So we were talking about mobile traffic earlier on as well, and you said obviously that mobile traffic is increasing all the time. But is the conversion rate that you can get from mobile traffic generally just as good as desktop traffic?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, sometimes even a higher conversion on the mobile devices than on the desktop. Again, this is all related to UX. And you know, think about this: we are living in a world where we have great mobiles like Samsung, Python. Those are the smartphones which give you absolutely fantastic comfort of dealing with websites. It’s not like the nineties when you had WAP, and that was really challenging, and I don’t know how people could use this. I’ve just been on WAP once in my life.
DAVID BAIN: I haven’t heard of that for a long time, but I had a phone with WAP. That was a while ago.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: That was when we were playing Snake on Nokias.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. Wow, yeah. Blast from the past.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well, so you know, I feel like I may be wrong, but we are in this era where we are doing responsive and desktop layouts, and maybe three types of layouts – tablet, smartphone, and desktop. But something is telling me that there will be a moment of unification, and that the layout will be again very similar or the same on three devices, but in a different way than you remember this from 2010 or 2012, like you had pinching websites, and inflating this.
And you can see on some websites there is not much difference between tablet and desktop. It’s very simplified. I very much like Paperly. Paperly has this sidebar menu, and you click on these three lines. When you click the menu appears, and the user experience is very similar to tablet. And I think this is the right way to go because you’re giving the same feeling no matter what device the user is using, so they learn your website easier.
DAVID BAIN: I absolutely agree. I think it’s annoying when you actually view a website on a smartphone or a tablet, and you can’t find the same functionalities you can see in the desktop site. You’re looking for things, and it doesn’t exist because of whatever role in the responsive website has been taken out.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: This is why I’ve always had a problem with Twitter. Some functionality doesn’t exist on Twitter mobile website, and I had to go to desktop, which makes me quite uncomfortable because sometimes I couldn’t open the desktop because I was somewhere in the bus. So I think this is the way where we’re going, and I’m really excited about this.
DAVID BAIN: So something else in terms of where we’re going is Google wants every website to move to https, and you’ve got a lot of big established websites which perhaps of https functionality is part of an order process, or a signed in aspect of their site. And maybe they’re canonicalizing the https version the non https version, which makes it perhaps challenging from an SEO perspective to move the whole site, and change the URL structure. Do you think that comparison sites should think of moving to https completely?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think it will happen one day, but like you mentioned, it’s a little risky because theory is one side, but practice is the other side. And when you have lots of authority, and lots of history behind you, and all the backlinks, you ever earned in the history of the website – twenty years or fifteen years of existing on the market are pointing to http. And now we’re doing this 301 to https. You never know what will be in the future. Maybe this 301 will be passing value forever. Maybe it will be decreasing value. And that’s only one thing. There are other things. You know, there are lots of questions marks, lots of risks, and so on, and so on.
From the other side, Google is suggesting that websites should be https. It’s not like must yet, so again, I think lots of websites kind of are waiting, putting this on hold. However, if anybody would come to me, and say like, ‘Lukasz, I have this idea for a little online shop, and I will start doing this on WordPress and Woocommerce,’ I would be like, ‘Fantastic, and you know what? Let’s buy SSL because it will be so easy to implement. So easy to make it live with https.’ And that’s it, and you don’t need to worry about this instead of coming back to this after a couple of years.
But for established websites, and I saw a few case studies, this transition is not always as smooth as you would expect. So it’s a big debate right now between some people – what is the right way? I understand that sometimes there are areas like blog posts which don’t really need to be https. It’s good to keep them https, but there is not any data you would need to protect. But obviously some areas are a must. But turning on https on a whole website which has got lots of history, I’m always considering a little risky.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So generally the best thing to do is if you’re starting a business now, then just make the whole website https?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes.
DAVID BAIN: But if you have an established business, then just wait for six months, see how the situation evolves, and then make a decision in six months’ time.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: There is also one more; you can gradually start turning this on specific parts of the website. That’s also a way to go. However, it’s probably more resource consuming than turning this on across the whole website. But at least you can observe what’s going on, and what implication that has on your website.
DAVID BAIN: That’s a good tip there because you can test and learn. You can perhaps pick a few pages that you know bring a little bit of traffic, and you can see what happens – how quickly Google actually changes the URLs and the SERPs, and whether or not you retain the same rankings as you had.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: That’s correct. That’s correct. And you can kind of proactively react if something is going wrong, or you’re not risking the whole website, and the whole traffic.
DAVID BAIN: So you also talked about a blog there as well, and lots of websites have a blog as a way to actually publish new fresh content onto your site, and Google likes fresh content. But with a blog now you don’t see so much interaction within the comments section in general because obviously with social media people like sharing things on Facebook, Twitter, and commenting there. Do you think a blog in general is just as valuable as it used to be as a means to actually add fresh content onto a website?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think it’s not actually. It’s not. I think blogs very often present time sensitive content. What is accurate today, maybe tomorrow, but isn’t after a year. Blogs very often present information about this week or next week we’re going to do this and that, and so on, and so on, and so on. So they are right for today, but after a year it will be a past that nobody cares about.
So what I’ve noticed is it’s very often that blogs don’t rank as well as, let’s say, pages from WordPress. And if you would like to see some examples, I think Neil Patel’s blog about growth hacking. He’s got a nice section about growth hacking, and that’s a lot of blog posts that are just static pages without a date, without an author, I think, and with evergreen content. So he’s not referring like this 2015 year, blah, blah, blah because this 2015 year is only accurate today, and until December. But in 2016 he would need to change this, or he would need to rewrite, and so on, and so on.
So in WordPress, for example, you have two basic types of content – blog posts and pages. I think that pages have much stronger potential if you will be thinking about evergreen content. So FAQs, for example, they can rank quite well. Guide pages, they can rank quite well. Blog posts are rather for a shorter period, and when you have established traffic, when you want to engage on social media, that’s a fantastic type of content. But this is a different type of content to what pages represent.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, that’s intriguing. So do you think in general for a new business starting out then, they may be better off actually not having a blog to begin with, and using social media to make time sensitive announcements that you were talking about?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Definitely. People are doing this mistake that they’re spending too much time on writing blog posts, and then they are frustrated that they have no traffic. But the mistake they’re doing, the small companies especially, is that they are not promoting these blog posts the right way. They’re thinking that okay, we wrote, we covered this and that keyword when we will be ranking. I’m like it doesn’t work like that anymore. Why don’t you go on social media? Why don’t you go on Twitter, LinkedIn? Why don’t you promote this on Facebook? Maybe buy some little campaign on Facebook, and so on, and so on.
But the trend is like, you know, people are like oh, we need to have a very strong blog, and we need to blog a lot, and so on, and so on. And then frustration is coming, and I’m trying to educate people that well, it’s not this. However, I need to mention, if you are lucky with your website to get into Google News, obviously that’s our only reputable website with authority. But there are lots of them right now, like let me mention Tech Trader, for example. Then you will be there for, I think, 72 hours, but the traffic you can receive is tremendous. It’s a lot, a lot of quality visits.
DAVID BAIN: So I mean, one of the ways that people used the blogs in the past is they took the feed from the blog, and then submitted the feed to lots of different blog and RSS directories. Is that tactic not worthwhile doing anymore?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: No, it’s not worth doing anymore. It’s just a time waste. And again, if you write something really engaging, you will see that you don’t even need to rank in Google; the traffic will come. There are lots of case studies, you know, something a little controversial, and Basuma, I think, is very good in this kind of thing. I think they’re using WordPress in blog posts. Mashable is very good in this. But again, you see this kind of blast of traffic in the beginning, and then obviously the traffic is going down.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. But you’ve got to then have the call to action on your website, and make your website sticky for people to actually carry on, and give a mechanism for people to hopefully subscribe to your content maybe by email moving forward after that, I guess.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: True, true. That’s possible, however I mentioned Google News, and you need to be aware that Google News doesn’t allow you to do call to actions. It’s more about journalistic value, and content value rather than commercial value. So you need to be very careful when you’re in Google News what you are placing. I think email subscribing, that would be absolutely fine, but showing some commercial things on articles which are on Google News, that would probably not be a good idea.
DAVID BAIN: So do you think it’s fairly easy to get a blog that’s fairly well established accepted by a source of news by Google News?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, of course. You mentioned well-established. When you have a well-established website, and there is, let’s say, you and your five friends who are experts in, let’s say, an area of how to do a fantastic podcast – and I am considering you as an expert – then definitely you have your niche, and you’ve been online for a while, for a year, and you’re doing this right, and you’re writing for people, I don’t see any problems as to why Google would refuse to place your blog into Google News.
However, obviously there are a couple of rules worth reading in the beginning – that the URL structure must probably have numbers, there might be a couple of writers that the value must be in the articles, there might be journalistic value. And then, yes, you can rank on a lot of keywords or phrases which appear in Google News, which trigger in Google News, and there is lots of traffic as well.
DAVID BAIN: That’s an interesting tip that I wasn’t aware of actually, that your URL had to contain numbers, because a lot of people setup their WordPress posts not to include numbers at all, and just a keyword phrase. So that’s a mistake you think.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, that’s a mistake, I think. And, you know, if you’re starting a new website, and you’re thinking oh, one day I would like to be in Google News, it’s worth it to read those rules. It’s worth it to implement those rules that must be there because it will make life easier. However, I wouldn’t expect to appear in Google News in the next twelve or twenty-four months because first there needs to be this kind of period of proving, self-proving, and proving to Google that yeah, we are worth it to participate in Google News. Because again, this is like a free tool, and they are fully aware that it’s very luxurious to be part of this tool. So they really care about who is able to add a website to Google News. And just a little more, if people have already passed this period of they’ve proved themselves that yeah, we are worth it, we are good, then in Google Webmaster Tools, now called Search Console, there is a tool which will help you to add your blog into Google News.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great tip there. And so sticking with Google, but bringing it back to comparison sites, do you think that Google is going to become more of a competitor to comparison sites in the future? Should comparison sites be worried about Google starting to do things like comparing credit cards and flights?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well, a little history. Probably not everybody remembers that Google bought a website called BeatThatQuote, which was a price comparison website. And then I believe they used their engine to implement their own price comparison in the [surps – 0:39:09.5]. They are there, they are appearing there. It is very difficult to say if they will be a threat for other comparison websites. Definitely they are competitors right now; they’re looking for new channels. They’re looking to be active on different disciplines, and different markets. And that makes markets more competitive, and that’s probably a very good thing end users.
However, from the other side, Google is a fantastic search engine, and Google has fantastic tools like Google Docs, Drive, Chrome, and so on, and so on. But there are also a couple of tools, or activities that didn’t work quite well. So I don’t want to judge, and I don’t want to be like a prophet, but time will show how it will be going. You know, everybody was thinking that Google+ would eat Facebook very soon because it would be fully integrated with Google. It didn’t happen. You know, Google+ is not a leader of social media, but Google is still a leader of the search industry.
So it’s worth it to observe. You know, it’s fantastic to make sure that the market is competitive, and is giving better value to the customers.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. And so I would take from what you’re saying there as focus on usability; focus on delivering a great user experience within your industry sector, and if you do that you shouldn’t be that concerned with having Google as a competitor in the future.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes, that’s correct.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, and now I also see lots of adverts on television here in the UK from comparison sites like MoneySuperMarket, and GoCompare, and others. As an online marketer, do you think it’s possible to actually track the impact of offline marketing, and if so how would you go about doing that?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, there are tools, you know, which help you to do this. In a nutshell you just have a schedule of your commercials in the different channels and different regions of the UK, and then you can measure these kind of short time uplift generated right after the advert was shown on the TV. And these tools are pretty accurate. I don’t have a name right now because this is not my department, but I know that these things exist, and they’re doing a very, very good deep analysis of how TV is impacting your website. You always are considering traffic. Definitely TV can influence a lot about your traffic, and the awareness is going up to the roof.
But I think, again, without the right tools, without a proper analytical mind, that can be more about let’s try to guess. Offline marketing, or offline advertising is also well visible in the London Underground, as you probably know. And they’re doing lots of these kind of clever tricks like, you know, www.ourwebsite.com/underground, or /metro, and you will get 20% off for something. So people are remember this address because they want 20% off. And this 20% off is giving a little information of how popular this campaign in the Underground is. So using a specific URL related to the campaign, the offline campaign, may be very helpful.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. But at the moment you’re not finding yourself fighting against offline departments, and saying no, this traffic was brought in by organic traffic, not by your offline traffic.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: No, that’s even deeper. We’re touching the attribution model, which is crucial. But again, at the end of the day you’re playing in the same team. So, you know, there is only a certain level, this healthy level of how much you need to dive in this number to get a conclusion because if you remember Pi?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. We’ve done that before, yeah.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, but do you remember the movie Darren Aronofsky—?
DAVID BAIN: Oh right, yeah, yes.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes. So you see when you go too far, this is where we can all end up. It’s kind of a madness. So you know, I’m far away from fighting against, you know. Obviously when you know that there was an advert campaign, or there was some program, and your company was mentioned, you obviously know that this spike, that spike is generated probably because of the TV. And also you can see what pages received this traffic even if this is organic traffic. But the spike is on the home page. Probably it is because of the brand name. Yeah, you rarely expect a spike on deeper pages because of TV. Nobody’s typing URLs because of advert on the TV. They rather are typing in Google the brand name of your website. So it’s quite easy to justify.
DAVID BAIN: So in the future, can you see it being absolutely essential for offline and online marketers to actually work together in the same departments, and understand each other, or will it still be possible to actually have separate departments?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think we see more and more, like everything is less in a silo, and more integrated. And I love this, you know. I love working with people, I love working in teams. And I think this is a great moment – that everything is more, and more, and more integrated. So there is no more, like, that’s my department, that’s your department, and we’re playing different tracks. It’s more like we are a band, and I’m a drummer, and you’re a guitar player.
DAVID BAIN: I think I want to be the bass player. So obviously you have different comparison websites that have different products on there, and then you have those products probably separately trying to rank highly in Google as well. Do you think individual products like certain credit cards are becoming better themselves at optimising, and therefore becoming competitors to comparison websites as well?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I don’t understand the question. Can you rephrase?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, sure. Let’s pick a company, for example. If you have the Virgin Money credit card, and you have a comparison website having that credit card featured within their site, and then you also have Virgin Money doing optimisation on their page, and trying to actually be higher than the comparison site for competing keyword phrases, do you think comparison websites view these kind of products also as competitors, and try and actually make sure they don’t rank above them for certain terms?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: They will see them as partners because there is a commercial link, but in terms of what you said, we’re touching this user value, yes. So you need to be aware that as a comparison website, you need to serve additional value. That’s the only way you will be able to over rank suppliers. And I think, maybe I’m wrong, but it’s better for a user to see a price comparison website on the top because price comparison websites are very often giving a broader view on many, many other cards instead of a few cards from the same supplier.
The second thing I could mention is that lots of the suppliers for money products are banking websites and bank companies. And I believe that the process of being quick and flexible with SEO, and so on, and so on doesn’t work that simple as in a price comparison website because there are lots of rules, and lots of legal aspects that banks need to follow. So for them it’s extremely challenging to optimise content, and so on. It’s not like, you know, you’re going to WordPress CMS, and you’re just changing this and that, and everybody’s happy. Probably it’s like a couple of weeks’ process, and then another change will take another couple of weeks.
So yeah, quite a diplomatic answer.
DAVID BAIN: No, I’m aware of banks that use very old content management systems, and can’t update them because they have processes integrated with them, and it takes them years sometimes to make a single decision. But I guess that’s the advantage for quick moving comparison type websites, like MoneySuperMarket, uSwitch, Confused, all these other sites out there.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Definitely. And you know, when there is something like Mobilegeddon, this update about your website must be responsive, then I feel like it’s quite easy to implement that kind of quick change within a couple of weeks in your price comparison environment, and that would be quite difficult to implement in banking. So maybe that’s the reason why very often you see price comparison about banking websites or credit card providers.
DAVID BAIN: So I mean, price comparison websites obviously rely generally quite heavily on receiving commission for recommendation, and are unlikely, I think, to actually list products that they won’t earn some money from in general. So if that’s the case, and you have other companies, I think like Direct Line, who don’t want to be on comparison websites. Are there many companies out there that don’t want to give a commission, and appear on comparison sites? And if so, is that a problem for comparison sites?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I don’t think this is a problem, and I think there are a lot of companies, but we’re talking about very small local companies, sometimes companies which are helping people that are, you know, in very specific, narrow markets. And that makes, for me, sense that they want to rather stick with their small market, and do better phone marketing and telemarketing rather than going on comparison websites, receiving thousands of clicks, which they will find very hard to convert. You know what I mean. So, you know, the market, and especially the UK market, which is fantastic I feel, there are so many levels, and so many sectors, and so many of these kind of shoes you can wear that we’re talking about many different types of comparison websites. You know, I never saw so many comparison websites that really worked because, you know, I’m originally from Poland, and I know how difficult it is to make a price comparison website profitable in Poland.
So answering your question now, I don’t think this is a problem that they would like not to be with price comparison websites. Or even they would like to be offline, because sometimes it happens as well.
DAVID BAIN: So you mentioned you’re originally from Poland there. There’s a fairly strong Polish community in the UK. Do you think that it’s worthwhile, a big comparison site in the UK writing their site in a different language like Polish? And if so, is it possible from an SEO perspective within the UK to target other languages?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, definitely. Because you mentioned the Polish society. This Polish society who are right now, and who have stayed is a little settled down. Lots of people already have mortgages, lots of people started to have families, and maybe that’s the right moment to think about them – maybe other communities, and you know having a website in a couple of languages, maybe Lithuanian, and maybe Spanish, maybe Italian, or even Chinese would be good. That’s one thing.
And the other thing is to raise the awareness because lots of these communities are not aware that they can switch. The concept of switching, you know, it was quite exotic for me as someone who was writing in Poland. I didn’t know that you could do this that quick, that simple, that painlessly I would say. So raising this awareness, and having websites in the local languages, that’s an option to go a little broader.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, but I mean from hreflang perspective, you can obviously tell a search engine that a website is intended to actually target a certain country in a certain language, and you can say that this alternate version is here if this person speaks that language. But if you search within Google UK, for example, in Polish, would you actually easily be able to find a version of a comparison website in the Polish language within the Google search engine, or would you have had to actually be aware of the site beforehand?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: So right now if you write a Polish phrase, something like compare energy, or something like that in Polish, you’ll probably end up on a Polish website targeting Polish customers in Poland – .pl. If you’re thinking about Polish people who are living here in the UK who would like to switch energy, they will definitely use an English version of the term – 99% of them are fluent in English, so they would be fully aware. So that’s the minus of creating this kind of website in the local language here.
But there is an option to target people living in Poland, and who speak Polish, and present them the concept of price comparison in Poland. The question is, is this as easy to implement there in Poland as it would be here? That’s another question.
DAVID BAIN: But if you’re actually targeting people who speak Polish in the UK then, and they’re likely to actually type in then the search query in English, is it a good usability option to actually have an option within, say, the top right hand side of a website to change the language? Or is that going to put some people off? Or is that a good usability thing?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: That’s why I would like to have this website in the local language because it’s something different to typing a phrase, like price comparison of energy, and different thing to read about this kind of 500 words or 1,000 words explanation on how it works. So that’s the reason why, because I think we’re confusing the listeners a little. They would think that if everybody is fluent in English, why would you like to have a Polish version of the website? The Polish version of the website would not be to rank, it would be rather to give the explanation in the local language. And I would do the same, you know, with Gujarati, with Hindi, with Chinese. Maybe not the whole website, but the crucial pages that are the most popular in giving the most important things that could be translated to local languages.
DAVID BAIN: And you wouldn’t just rely on Google Translate for the translation?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: No, I wouldn’t.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. I’d like to talk a little bit about outreach as well. Now, I guess the challenge for comparison websites is they don’t actually own the products themselves – you can’t probably send products out to bloggers, for example, to review. So is it possible to get bloggers to review comparison sites, and then perhaps even link back to them?
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So a better strategy is to write amazing content, share it with your users, share it on social media, and then if it’s that great, then bloggers will naturally pick it up, and possibly link to it anyway.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Especially if you are an early adopter, if you are first, if you wrote about something that other people didn’t know about, you know. And you’re getting like a review of the phone that is just available for two hours, you know what I mean, because your guy was there at this conference, and could write quickly bullet points which you converted into an article, and bam, it is right now online. And when you go with social media, again, social media is a part of SEO strategy these days. Then other bloggers will pick it up, and if they see the photos that they have no other source except for your own, then even if you wouldn’t like them to use this they probably will copy these photos. And you should be happy because most of them will mention the source.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So earlier on in our conversation you talked about Google trying to challenge Facebook with Google+, but it not really managing it as a social network. For comparison websites, is it important to be on Google+, or are there better uses of your time to actually focus on from a social network perspective?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Everything depends on how much time you have. I would suggest two, maximum three social media networks are what you should deal with. If you want Google+, that’s fine. If you want Facebook, that’s fine. If you want Twitter, that’s fine. Those are three. But don’t then go additionally with Tumblr, Pinterest, and Flickr because that will take too much time. I personally, and I’m always telling this, I’m a fan of Twitter, and I think LinkedIn is the Holy Grail of my social media work. I’m also on Facebook because of the photos of cats of my friends.
So I would suggest to go with no more than three. And you know, the fact that I am not a big fan of Google+ doesn’t necessarily mean that some other person wouldn’t have a different opinion.
DAVID BAIN: So one tool that you didn’t mention there was YouTube. Is YouTube a social network?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Oh yeah, yeah. Definitely, definitely. YouTube has great value. I forgot about this, yeah. I think the majority of price comparison websites are definitely utilising YouTube in a very interesting way. Let me give three: first, you can review mobile phones, for example, and there are lots of reviews of mobile phones also from price comparison websites. Second, you can upload your commercial that you have in TV into YouTube. There are lots of people, especially when it’s funny and engaging, lots of people like to watch this video, how it was done, and so on, and so on. And the third one is like making of – so making of the advert which is right now in TV. So all these take outs, I think this is how you call this.
DAVID BAIN: Outtakes. Outtakes, yeah.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Outtakes. The bloopers, and all these things that make a little more human face, and it’s funny, and it’s engaging, and it’s also a good kind of viral potential. So those are three ways to go, and yeah, possibly there are a million others. But YouTube is definitely a channel.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, those are great YouTube tips there. But if you’re producing videos on a regular basis for your business, is it better than to have your own video player, and have a video sitemap as well, and perhaps get your videos listed within search results by themselves? Or is it okay just to go with a YouTube channel?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I would go with YouTube because you’re targeting an audience which is there, and you can start collecting subscribers, and so on, and so on, and it can be your additional channel. These internal players are more when you’re trying to put content behind a paywall. So when you are trying to make a course which people should pay first, and then see the video. So Wistia—
DAVID BAIN: Wistia, yeah, yeah. Wistia, and Vimeo Pro as well.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, I’m a big, big fan of Wistia, but obviously for this kind of price comparison website activity, I would rather use YouTube. And again, like there is Vimeo, but I think it’s more about let’s find maybe potential customers, and so on, and so on. Because there is also the potential to put adverts on YouTube, yeah. Before the specific type of videos, you can present your advert. And considering the amount of people that are on YouTube every day, that’s a fantastic way of at least bringing brand awareness, and also converting.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, no that’s a good strategy all by itself. I was thinking there for a second as a video publisher you don’t make that money from adverts, but as a publisher, of course you can actually select what videos you want to appear in front of, and that’s a completely different digital marketing tactic all by itself, possibly deserving another whole session by itself.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I feel invited.
DAVID BAIN: You haven’t been put off so far, have you? This is wonderful. I mean, we’re approaching about an hour or so that you’ve been on, and it’s a lot of incredible content that you’ve shared. So I reckon that just about takes us to a close for today. Do you think there’s anything that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: There was, I think, when you originally sent me this list, there was a question about part of the website that you wouldn’t like Google to index.
DAVID BAIN: Ah yes, that’s absolutely right.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: That’s a very, very good question.
DAVID BAIN: Sorry I missed that one, yeah. So yeah, obviously a few years ago page rank sculpting was very popular, wasn’t it? But you can do different ways of trying to get Google to index or prefer certain pages more than others. Do you think that’s still an important SEO tactic?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: In the last couple of years I just found very interesting cases. The first case I would like to mention was the website with six million pages, and they noticed that when they achieved these couple of million pages indexed, adding content became very difficult because they were adding one blog post, and they were waiting weeks to be indexed. Mainly Google was keeping kind of a budget. They have daily accrual, and they were never being able to find these one or two blog posts across these six million pages. Maybe they were trying to crawl ten thousand pages. But you know how lucky you need to be that Google would pick up these two new blog posts also in this ten thousand when you have six million pages.
So what did people do? They started shutting down a little different parts of the website, and keeping only the core parts. So it’s not about page sculpturing. Think about this: there is a type of page which is called a sandwich page. When you click a deal where you want to land, first there is like now you will be redirected to, let’s say, there is a company name. That’s a sandwich page which stands for two, three seconds, yeah? Next to this you can track a lot of things. There are thousands and thousands of sandwich pages generated because you have thousands and thousands of offers. And you don’t want Googlebot, or any other bot to crawl sandwich pages because there is no value to be indexed, that’s the first thing. And the second thing is there is no sense to let Google crawl, to spend their budget on some pages that don’t have—I mean, the value is there, but the value is about tracking. There is no value if someone would land on this sandwich page from the search engine, okay?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: And now, another thing, you can analyse your weblog. So you’re going to your server, cPanel or Amazon Cloud, you’re downloading the weblog, and where you have user agent, you’re only selecting the one which is Googlebot. And then you will see, let’s say, last thirty days how Google was crawling your website. And you may discover that Google is trying to crawl lots of 404 pages. When you start digging deeper you may see that these 404 pages belong to the folder /emg because three years ago you had /emg, and there are lots of backlinks from external websites pointing there. And Google is still trying to crawl over and over and over. What are you doing? Just disallow this emg, or redirect, or one on the home page. Do something that Google is not trying to be in this loop 404, 404, 404.
On BrightonSEO, there was this company called Botify. I think they are very, very good in terms of analysing this on the large scale. I am really fascinated to analyse this in Excel and SQL, but obviously I wouldn’t go with millions URLs. But I’m trying to be pretty good, if we’re talking about fifty thousand, or a hundred thousand URLs, just to give a little of context where Google is crawling, and why this page, or this sector, or this sector of your website shouldn’t be crawled. And it’s more like, finally, the outcome of this is like you never can say like, ‘Hey Google, today crawl this or this.’ But you can say the reverse. ‘Google, don’t cawl this, don’t crawl this.’ So technically, maybe, it will be easier for Google to find what you want Google to find.
DAVID BAIN: That’s a lot of great tips within there as well. I’m sure a few people will be replaying that section that you just discussed. Just a final question actually in relation to that and sitemaps. Is it worthwhile putting priority scores next to each URL in sitemaps?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I’m using priority scores, and I am using this tool xml-sitemaps.com, which is pretty good. And every time I am using this tool there are no errors. I had this question from my friend recently, and I answered him the same way. You know, if you’re going on these tools which are creating an XML sitemap automatically, yeah, use these priorities. I think there is not much impact to use them or not to use them, but if the tool is giving you this option, why not use them? Obviously one thing, make sure that they’re gradually going down because some people are doing this mistake that they put 1.0 across every URL.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. And it needs to be the zero to one scale is basically an indication to Google across the whole site as to which page is most important, and if you have every page at 1, then it won’t know which pages are most important.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yes, and there is also this parameter change frequency, so you can set this for a month or for a week, it depends. But if the page is not changing, or changing very rarely, then be honest, and use one month, for example.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, okay. A good indication is to—
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Also it’s good to mention for people xml-sitemaps.com, and if your website is not very big they are giving this to you for free. And if it’s big then the pro version costs something like $20, and then you can crawl thousands of URLs.
DAVID BAIN: Wow, okay. Well, you’ve offered us so much information there. Thank you so much for coming on, and of course you’re welcome to come back anytime.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Thank you very much. It’s always a pleasure to be here.
DAVID BAIN: Thank you. Please tell our listeners and viewers where they can find you online.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Oh thank you for the opportunity. So I’m always saying let’s stay in touch on Twitter and LinkedIn. My Twitter is @LukaszZelezny, and you type the same on LinkedIn, and yeah, you can add me, and we can have a conversation, or send me an email. And yeah, I will be happy to answer if you have any questions.
DAVID BAIN: And you can also type ‘SEO consultant’ into LinkedIn to find you, can’t they?
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, then you will probably end up on my LinkedIn profile. And there is also zelezny.uk, which is my Paperly page I was working today a little on.
DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. Well, and I’m David Bain, head of growth here are authoritas.com, and you can also catch me interviewing online marketing gurus over at www.digitalmarketingradio.com. So this has been a special pre-recorded webinar. Normally we broadcast a weekly live show at the debates, the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. So sign up to watch the next live show at www.thisweekinorganic.com. But until then take care, and well done for making it to the end. So I’m sure everyone thought it was worthwhile. Adios. Thanks again, Lukasz.
LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Thank you very much. Thank you, take care everybody.
Working as Content Marketing Director for Authoritas since March 2015, David also hosts our own weekly show – “This Week In Organic”, commonly referred to as #TWiO.