What a great start to our first Tea Time SEO (week two of lockdown in the UK ✅)! I hope you enjoyed all of the talks and sessions we had last week in our Tea Time SEO. For those of you who have been too busy to take a break with us, or would like to go back over the main points, here are some summaries from the main speakers, links to their slides and videos. Enjoy!
Helen Pollitt, from Arrows Up share some key points:
Google Analytics – Referral source
- Google Analytics is a fantastic tool and integral to SEO reporting for a lot of us
- Google Analytics isn’t always accurate out-of-the-box and over time, mismanagement of filters, UTMs and referral sources can make it worse
In this Tea Time SEO we discussed making sure your traffic is attributed correctly in Google Analytics before you start reporting on SEO.
This means checking through your referral sources to make sure any traffic from search engines is being classed as “organic” and not “referral”. This can be corrected with filters or the “Organic Search Sources” functionality. You’ll also want to check that your Google My Business listings have UTM parameters on the website links to enable traffic from them to be identified in Google Analytics as coming from a Google My Business listing and not just lumped in with all the other “organic” traffic.
Talking about UTMs, we also covered how UTMs can really mess up your Google Analytics data if used incorrectly. Google Analytics understands where traffic to your site has come from by looking at the data transferred when a visitor arrives at your site. UTM codes on a link will overwrite this data. That means, if you are setting up your UTM codes wrong and omit a crucial bit like the “medium” portion then Google Analytics will just label the medium as “not set” for traffic arriving from that link.
It is also key with UTMs to NEVER use them internally on your site. By doing this you will lose the actual data about where the visitor came from to arrive on your site and you’ll also end up with inflated session data.
Reporting to Add Value
Finally, we looked at how to report on SEO in a way that shows value. This means understanding what your client’s or boss’s own goals are and making sure your organic search KPIs demonstrate how SEO is helping achieve those. This will almost always exclude KPIs like “sitewide bounce rate” or “average time on site”. These KPIs that are too generic to actually give any meaningful insight into how SEO activity is benefiting the business. KPIs should look at progress in a more granular manner; i.e. how many more visitors to a particular page, or from a defined audience.
Also – report on keyword rankings at your own risk. Keywords fluctuate, and as such, reporting on every keyword you are tracking is likely to raise alarm from your uninitiated boss or client. If you want to report on keywords, only choose ones that you have actively been working to improve the rankings of as they will be a more meaningful demonstration of how SEO activity is going.
Shelley Walsh’s notes:
Every brand should review their about us page right now
Over the last twelve months, through an agency, I’ve had access to work on a lot of big brand content audits – top fashion retailers, insurance companies, travel companies. What I’ve gained from this is the time spent manually reviewing so many sites and pages – I can see what’s working and what’s not.
What this has shown me is:
- There’s still a lot of badly written content out there that offers no value at all
- A distinct lack of rich media content
- The quality of the content production is a bad reflection on the quality of the brand
During these audits, the same types of pages, with the same issues kept coming up over and again. The predominant page that gets overlooked is the page that tells your audience who you are and what you are about.
Your about us brand page should present on one page:
- The story of how the brand started and why
- Connect on the level of your audience
- Sustainability and ethical manifestos
- A timeline of events if relevant
- Any social initiatives or charity work
By addressing your about us page you can improve the trust for your brand which ties into Google EAT.
The other set of pages that have considerable value for delivering relevant traffic are product care pages.
Product care and support pages should be:
- A visually rich page of step-by-step instructions, images, diagrams and video
- Accessible from all key points on the site (such as product pages)
- Structured around keyword research for long-tail queries
- Include FAQ schema as appropriate
Pages that support the product are key pages that can not only bring in long tail traffic of a highly relevant audience but also support the user through the buying journey.
Rishi Lakhani’s notes:
Unlocking The Power Of Old Content
Sometimes you don’t need to put up “fresh” content in order to maximise SEO potential of a site. In my experience many businesses forget that they have banks of old content that has aged and may no longer be performing as well as it should. In fact, most brands and sites leave content to “expire”. Yet it’s a resource that can be used over and over again.
Breathing life into old content
One of the easiest quick wins for most SEO projects that we take on, is reviewing “old content” and assessing potential for quick wins while we scope out and work on the rest of the campaign. These quick wins help to cement new and existing relationships with clients and allows us to gain some low cost increase in traffic.
There are plenty of ways to breathe life into old content, here are some of the easiest ones:
- Update the date!
Search engines like fresh content, and one of the factors we have found that increases visibility is the dates on content. Changing dates on articles does give them micro ranking boosts which can then be used to assess whether the piece is worth developing further. The key is to make sure you don’t abuse this technique and make sure that supporting search signals such as sitemaps reflect the updated dates.
- Run a Search Console Analysis for untapped keywords
Often medium traffic pages are on borderline of becoming high traffic pages – the most common technique we use to boost these is to mine Search Console for keywords that this content ranks for in the top 30 (using impression and rankings count in search console) and optimising the pieces for the keywords that are missing and or are poorly represented. In our experience 10-30% boost in traffic can be quite common using this technique properly.
- Merge and redirect
Sometimes old content is just that, old. Sometimes its just not worth recovering, especially if the organisation has a series of similar pieces across the site that target the same or similar keywords. Often this leads to light “cannibalisation”. In these instances, we like to merge decent parts of the content into singular, longer form pieces, refreshed with new information if possible, updated dates, and redirect older pages to the newly merged piece. This reduced keyword cannibalisation, as well as creates a stronger piece to rank for.
- Use to power internal links
One mistake that publishers seem to make, is launching new posts, pages, products, but not maximising internal link equity and relevancy. Using site search queries, it is possible to find older pages that search engines see related to the keywords that the new piece is targeting. Once a list is built out, using a range of anchor text, building internal links from older content to newer significantly improves the new contents ability to rank.
With new markup being adopted by search engines often, its always worth considering what markup could help older content rank better or more aggressively. For example, add FAQ schema to older long form pages to deepen content reach, and takeover a larger portion of the search result pages.
These are just some simple quick tips that could make significant impacts on both, low budget and high budget SEO campaigns – just use them responsibly.
Looking for more content ideas? I have written a relatively large piece on content marketing ideas broken into 19 chapters. Feel free to give it a read! https://www.fastfwd.com/knowledge-hub/content-marketing-ideas/
Miranda Gahrmann’s shares her teams on working remotely:
Type of remote workers
So far I worked in three different remote situations.
- When I was working at an agency, we outsourced our activities to a team in India. They were directly reporting to me, and I had the authority to determine their roadmap and deliverables.
- After, I worked in an enterprise as their global SEO specialist where each market had to maintain their traffic growth goal year on year. Although the countries didn’t report to me, as they had to reach their target, we did have influence on what kind of actions need to be executed to reach the stated SEO performance.
- In my current work for Randstad, every country is operating monotonously. In such a situation there is little authority. To make sure that steps are taken to increase SEO performance, SEO is more of an advocacy role where supported with data and best practices we’re trying to influence the countries to take the necessary steps to increase traffic and conversions from SEO.
How to start
- Set clear expectations and make them accountable.
Especially because they’re not sitting in the same office, the more specific instructions you give, the better results you get. In line with this, it’s important to describe the process and provide regular training as on how to do keyword research or perform outreach activities. It’s very helpful to create template to make sure the outcome across different remote workers is the same. When asking for a keyword research, some colleagues were sending a list of 20 keywords whereas others of 5.000 with filters into different keyword types. Templates help to standardize the process and the outcome.
- Define the preferred way to communicate
For example, we use Slack as our daily communication tool for quick questions, have every day a short update call about what each of us is going to do, and have weekly one on one’s to check in how each team member is doing. Because every person is different and also influenced by their cultural background, it’s good to ask if the person prefers to have checkings along the way, or that he/she gets back when the tasks are finished.
Managing remote workers
At the start of the week, I prefer to communicate what tasks need to be finished by the end of the week. The managing along the way should be focused on goals to see if we’re on target, and efficiency is managed by if each team member is able to finish their stated tasks. As remote workers sometimes feel alone or distanced, it’s good to schedule regular video meetings to strengthen the bonding and team spirit. Along the way, communicate positively.
Cultural differences play a role
For example, in Arabic countries there is the loss of face, meaning that if you say something negative about a person in front of others, that that results in having no respect towards you. Another example is with Indian team members; if you’re not checking their work, it means that the work you gave them was not that important. On the other hand, if you would do that to a Western European employee, that could be seen as quite annoying. Therefore it’s good to spend some time reading about the cultural backgrounds of your teams to see how to best manage them.
Throughout the week, be responsive and available for questions so you’re not delaying remote workers to reach their deadlines. And important, besides the regular activities, also spend some time with them over virtual gatherings, for example informal call on Friday to celebrate the start of the weekend.
Pierre Far’s notes:
SEO is product management and brand building
By this I mean to think long-term and support the business strategy.
Let me explain: The goal of SEO is to support a business as it grows to be a top brand in its industry in the geographies it serves. This is a long-term ongoing activity – businesses don’t just magically become top of their fields and maintain that position. SEO needs to both help the business grow and to support its other activities. Sure, short-term tactics or even black-hat SEO may work for a period of time (and as we saw in the video, the period is always getting shorter), but in my experience is that the money and resources spent on these short-term activities are wasted.
Investing the same resources into long-term activities is always going to give better ROI.
This does not mean that you are not responsive to changes from search engines. On the contrary. If, for example, a new search feature is introduced, and that offers something valuable to your strategy or your customers, then by all means give it a higher priority over existing work.
And with this context, I gave the following tips:
- Don’t chase algo changes. Search engines, just like you, are always trying to improve what they offer their users. If you have the same goal, the algos now and in the future will pick up on the signals that come from your action.
- Assist the assistant to assist your customers. This has many dimensions that SEOs need to think about:
- Technical SEO, to get the right content indexed right
- Previews of your content in SERP: titles, snippets, Knowledge Panels, and more
- The actual content: question answering, content that is text, or images, videos, apps, and even podcasts
- Treat SEO as not about search engines. I define SEO as being the best answer for a specific user need at a specific point in their customer journey when they are in the organic search channel working in tandem with your other customer touchpoints. Or as a shortcut alternative definition: SEO is product management for websites.
- Map EAT to your business. EAT is a very good high-level framework, but you need to flesh it out and apply it for your business in your niche of your industry. How do you show expertise? What would it take for you to become the authority in your industry? Why should customers trust you? These questions give us my alternative shortcut definition: EAT is brand building.
Dave Davies notes:
Dave Davies of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, an SEO for the past 20 years, lucky husband to his business partner, and proud father of two great no-longer-kids.
The five SERP feature tips:
- Google isn’t stealing your traffic with SERP features and featured snippets. It’s their traffic not yours.
People are still buying stuff, so stop worrying about whether your clicks are up or down with a feature, and focus on the conversion.
- Within the features you’ll find the entities that Google views as relevant, and the questions and formats they know their users want.
Be inspired by these, for the are the breadcrumbs up the page.
- Copy your competitors … but better.
Look to the SERP features your competitors hold and ask if it’s the best result (if not – make it), is it the best format (if not – make that, and probably focus in the selected format too for good measure), do you have the authority to take the feature (and if not – put the best content on a site that does to at least take it away from your competitor).
- Google isn’t the only giver of traffic. Within their features we find YouTube (err – videos), Tweets, etc. Look to ranking there (often easier) and remarket or other wise draw the traffic to your own site. Or just get the branding … up to you.
- Be aware that the features can be different and almost always rearranged on mobile. So when you’re testing on desktop (where most of us do our work) be sure to check on yoru phone.
And further … look at what users are using based on the query type. Cater your SERP feature focus there, not on global rules.
Jason Barnard’s notes:
To get more than your fair share of Featured Snippets, if you have a WordPress site, use FAQ Gutenberg blocks (part of the free Yoast plugin). They trigger more featured snippets than is reasonable.
A client of mine switched from a one page accordion system for FAQ to one-page-one-question system using Yoast on WordPress… and voila – a hockey stick !
Sitelinks on Brand SERPs are wildly underestimated. On a brand search Google WANTS to give it’s users direct access to relevant pages on your site. That is what rich sitelinks are for. Optimise them. Many will be pages that aren’t part of your day-to-day SEO strategy because they are not going to attract valuable organic traffic outside brand searches. About Us, Pricing, Contact Us etc etc.
In your wider SEO strategy they are unimportant. In your Brand-centric SEO strategy, they are vital. Optimise them. Please.
Think in Blocks. Organise your content in blocks (if you use WordPress, Gutenberg is your friend).
Fabrice Canel (head of crawling and indexing at Bing) says that a well-structured site helps him help them. If he can understand the structure of a page, he can index your content efficiently and annotate it accurately. And that content becomes a prime candidate for ranking for any SERP feature – video boxes, featured snippets, images, events…
If you want to grab a SERP feature on a SERP for your brand, then the first step is make sure Fabrice can extract, index and annotate it accurately. Listen to the podcast episode here.
Think Darwinism. Gary Illyes from Google explained this – rich elements / SERP features live and die by the value they bring to Google’s user. If you want your content to appear as a rich element, then you have to convince the relevant algorithm that your content brings more value to its user than the equivalent blue link. If you can do that, then the blue link ‘dies’ and your content (in the form of a rich element) survives. Darwinism in Search (read more on Search Engine Journal here).
Engagement is the key.
Google have been dilly-dallying around the question. Bing are very, very clear. Engagement is the key in this Darwinistic system. There is a whole page team that oversees the environment and manages the exact anatomy of the SERP – the aim is, of course, to ensure the SERP corresponds to the needs of the user and satisfies the user in the context of their search query. And to measure that satisfaction, engagement is the strongest signal.
From a SERP anatomy perspective, high levels of engagement with a SERP feature ensures its survival (low levels kill it). From a marketing perspective, once you get onto page 1… high engagement with YOUR content on the SERP ensures its survival (survival of the fittest). Sign up for the Bing series here.
I will be back next week with summaries from some of the great speakers we have planned this week, if you’re interested in getting updates or speaking for us, you’re more than welcome to, just sign up here, we will see you at 4:00pm!