SEO Marketing Key Takeaways from DGS4

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Watch a replay of the SEO Marketing Panelists at Digital Growth Summit:

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Adam Piotrowski, Moderator, Demand Media - Matthew Young, Adobe - Jonathan Renteria, Mullen Lowe - Juan Cardoso, Demand Media - P.J. Leimgruber, NeoReach


SEO friendly content

The SEO landscape is constantly changing, but right now - what things are really working for you and where are you putting your focus?

SEO is constantly evolving and so should your website. - @MatthewAYoung

I think that there will always be a place for technical SEO, but we are coming to find out the technical SEO has a very short half life. There are only so many things that you can do to a site for technical SEO and then you have to move on. A lot of the growth that we see that is involved in SEO marketing is in content. Producing content for your site from a marketing perspective, from blogs, from video summaries, etc. is the biggest growth area that each individual site has. SEO is constantly evolving and so should your website. - Matthew Young

The best thing that works for our SEO is simply experimentation with concepts, strategy and content. - @JonRenteria

I focus on content and discoverability for a creative agency, so we look at creating content, producing content, social engines. Once we create certain hypotheses around what we should do, then we experiment. Search and social engines are becoming much more similar to one another. Come up with a hypothesis and distribute it to see which of the variables work the best for your needs. We do one to two week testing, where each variable lasts two to three days. This gives us a better understanding of what we need to do. The best thing that works for us is simply experimentation with concepts, strategy and content. - Jonathan Renter

Google prefers long content so you need to write a lot of long content. - @JDigitalCO

We are often asked: "What is the length of the content and what is the format of the content that I should be writing about?" The best way to answer this type of question is to test on different verticals to determine. For a particular media site that has to do with fitness and health, for instance, we take a quick assessment of what the competitors are doing and then we label our top 60. We take these top posts and try to divide those posts up so that there are varying amounts of content. We want to get quick answers to people and throw it out there to see how it is performing. One of the best things that we saw is that depending on the vertical, the UX on the page can help a lot. Google also prefers long content so you need to write a lot of long content. Experiment on the length of the content based on the vertical because that will give you a lot of insight into what you want to do. - Juan Cardoso

Focus on building a voice for your brand and positioning your brand as an expert in something. - @MisterPeej

That was some great insight from Juan, and what he’s referring to is Google’s new ranking algorithm, which is a means of processing links and content indexing. Rather than indexing keywords, they’re actually indexing phrases, what these phrases mean and how they are relevant to content. It's a nice juxtaposition to the length of content because obviously that is an important factor for marketers to consider. SEO marketing is a really interesting space, particularly since 2011, because I think the job of the SEO has shifted. Where it used to be about what keywords am I ranking for, that isn’t the game we are playing anymore. In 2015 and going into 2016, our focus is on building a voice for the brand and positioning the brand as an expert in something. That is the way that we like to think about how we produce content for our brand. Our brand has a service or product that is in the market and it is serving a need, and how do we give that brand a voice and make it consistent across all of our channels? Social, our guest blog content, outreach content and even our banner ads. Creating a consistent voice is really important as we move into the new age of SEO and marketing. - P.J. Leimgruber


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SEO to establish authority

What exactly does it mean to become an authority? How do you establish yourself as an authority and what should your expectations be?

SEO is about finding out where you fit in the web and finding out how you can be different, stand out. - @MisterPeej

A lot of small business SEO is doing business for plumbers and hair salons. It is hard to be a definitive leader in the space if you are simply a small business. Just being a curator of content and a voice of content discovery is important. If you are a chair website, show off chairs and talk about great chairs in your content about design or functionality, etc. You can even go one step further and talk about the whole field of design and showcase great chairs in cool designed spaces. Talk about your product, talk about how you are different. It's really about finding out where you fit in the web and finding out how you can be different, stand out, make people remember you, come back and ultimately care about your brand. - P.J. Leimgruber

Rankings are not the purpose of SEO, the purpose of SEO is visibility and traffic. - @MatthewAYoung

A lot of it really depends on who your audience is. It really depends on how you cater your messages to reach your target audience. You need to understand who your audience is in terms of what they want, what they like, what makes them tick, what is going to drive them to your website and/or convert. You also have to consider your space—are you local, regional or national? Targeting people with personal content in a particular area is important for businesses who are local or regional. When entering SEO whether on your own or with an agency, you have to go into it with the expectation that SEO is playing a long game. You are not going to rank first overnight. There are ways you could do it, but you would probably get penalized and that's not fun. You need to understand your trajectory and understand that SEO is a process and not a goal and not a prize. Rankings are not the purpose of SEO, the purpose of SEO is visibility and traffic. Rankings are just a measure of what relevance Google affords your website. - Matthew Young

SEO is one of the channels that you have and can use to tell a story. - @JDigitalCO

One of the biggest assumptions that people have about SEO is that they think that SEO covers the full spectrum of what they need, but really SEO is one of the channels that you have and can use to tell a story. When you have the expectation to tell someone, "I am going to hire an SEO person because I want to rank number one" then you need to first take a step back and figure out what the story is that you want to tell to your users. Currently, there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of websites that are getting a lot of traction basically telling a better story than other websites. That is where you need to focus on creating a conventional product first, creating something great and worth having first and then figure out what marketing strategy is best for you. Have a great story, have a great product and a great way to tell the story behind that product. Then you go to SEO and then you go to the technical stuff behind it. - Juan Cardoso


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Storytelling examples for better SEO

Do you have any real world examples of anyone who has told a great story, is doing a good job, and will see numerous benefits from telling the story well?

When you are building a story, you have to figure out the difference between interest and intent. – @JonRenteria

When you are trying to build a story, you have to figure out the intent and the difference between interest and intent. A good example is when I was working at a large agency on a campaign for Prius. We were trying to figure out the intent behind MPG versus hybrid technology. The hybrid technology is interest but with intent behind that. I think that there is a lot of confusion when pulling data on interest and assuming intent behind those metrics. You need to do a lot of testing. In terms of the storytelling, you really have to differentiate the interest from the intent so that you can't just build a lot of content around MPG saying that you have the best or highest MPG in the world, you have to first figure out what the intent is. What we did in our research is that we found that the intent for MPG was not the fuel economy but it was actually more of a story about what the MPG means to the consumer. Once you build a strong hypothesis around the intent then you can tell the story. - Jonathan Renter

When you have a fundamental story about helping a community, it triggers a lot of opportunity. - @JDigitalCO

One of the websites that is a part of Demand Media is called Society6.com. It is really interesting because it started in order to solve a particular need for a particular vertical. It was basically artists that wanted to market whatever they were creating, so the business came out from other artists to try to help them. I think that it is a good example for storytelling because first they looked at the story and the need and figured out who they were going to try to sell the product to, what kind of consumer. The story behind that is that consumers are not only buying products, but they are helping independent artists as well. It's a good story. When you have a fundamental story like that about helping a community and helping a particular group of people who are creating art, it triggers a lot of opportunity in not just SEO marketing but in all channels that you want to work in and sell in. - Juan Cardoso

You won’t keep your rankings long if you don’t have a story to tell and are not building your brand. – @Pitrow

For SEO there is only so much that you can do, and so much that you can control. You can control everything that is on your site: all your content, and all of your linking. However, the off-site piece is really the most important piece at the end of the day. If you don't have a story to tell, if you are not building a brand, then you won't get this stuff happening on your site. Any rankings that you do get, you won’t be able to sustain in the long term unless you really build that story and build that brand around it. - Adam Piotrowski

One of the ways to connect with people is to respond, interact and tell stories in real time. – @MisterPeej

I think one interesting example is that we are working with a new form of payment processing right now with a company called FatMerchant. Essentially, instead of paying fees for each transaction, they charge a monthly subscription fee and then all of the monthly fees are covered. It is a different business model, but to gain business we were competing with the banks and with Intuit and PayPal and Square. These companies have a much bigger budget than we have as this small start-up but we focused on developing a voice that spoke for the small business owners. We wanted to see where small business owners were asking questions and talk to them. We use Reddit and a site called Mention.com where anytime that someone messages one of the keywords that we put in there, we get a notification about it. We took a different approach and looked to see where people were asking questions about small business so that we could promote it, particularly related to small business finance. We responded honestly on behalf of the brand and then just doing a lot of that, responding and interacting and telling stories in real time, that lead to a lot of new ways to getting clients. It is a different way of telling a story and connecting with people on a one-to-one basis. - P.J. Leimgruber


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Common SEO mistakes

What is the most common technical mistake you tend to find when you are working with a new client, working on a new site?

One point to remember from technical SEO is that every page on your site is like an employee. - @Pitrow

The biggest one for me is that people tend to have a website that is a CMS (Content Management System) or similar type website, that is out of the box. These kind of notoriously create a lot of extraneous URLs, which creates a lot of problems. One point I always remember from technical SEO is that every page on your site is like an employee and you are allocating all of your site's resources to every single page so if you have ten pages that are doing the same thing, then you are really wasting budget on nine of them. For me, that is one of the biggest things - these duplicate URL sheets that you get from most out-of-the-box websites or SEO. - Adam Piotrowski

Website architecture is probably the one thing that I see most businesses do wrong. - @MatthewAYoung

Extraneous content is a problem. Architecture is probably the one thing that I see most businesses do wrong in terms of how they structure their site. Most businesses will just have this very flat and shallow structure without any depth to their site. Depth is absolutely critical to becoming a subject matter expert in whatever your niche is. Where Google would expect to have a depth of content on multiple contents, it is useful for your company to have that depth on one topic and most companies simply do not. - Matthew Young

The integration between desktop and mobile environments is important. - @JonRenteria

The integration between desktop and mobile environments is important because these are often separated into two servers and mobile traffic can be just as important if not more important than desktop traffic. If you are not maintaining authority on one architecture then you can lose a lot of valuable authority. - Jonathan Renter

With the technical aspects, I think the fact that people do not treat the website the same way that they treat their business when they have an actual product. Imagine that you have a warehouse out there and you have all these products in your warehouse, and then you create special editions of all of the products. Once you near the end of the campaign, you would try to get rid of those products and put them on sale, but businesses don't do this on the site. They have 200 different pages on the site and these pages just sit there.

People should treat their website the same way that they treat their business. - @JDigitalCO

The URLs accumulate, but these products are not reaching the customers. To be accountable and to treat your website like a warehouse where you organize and get rid of things to make more space for new things, that is key. There are common practices for this, but you need to keep in mind that you need to do something with the assets that you have sitting there. You need to either repurpose them or give them a different opportunity to do something else and give the links and the traffic to something else that is valuable on your site. You can't just leave it on there to do nothing. They should all serve a purpose. - Juan Cardoso

The most common mistake that smaller sites make is not submitting their site maps to webmaster tools. – @MisterPeej

One problem that I have seen more recently is a lot of bigger companies doing a big rebuild on their site and moving from traditional PHP (server-side scripting language) sites to a one page application, a JavaScript application. That is creating some nightmares for SEO people because of duplicate content due to fewer URLs, etc. More simply, the most common mistake that I see from the smaller websites that we do is the lack of a sitemap. It is the most elementary thing, but when you create your website you need to submit your sitemap in your Google Analytics and webmaster tools. It's slightly technical and a good SEO could help you with that, but it is something that a lot of people miss and it is one of the most elementary building blocks of SEO. Otherwise, the Google Crawler has no idea where to go when they go to your site. - P.J. Leimgruber


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SEO tools

What are some of the tools that you most recommend for being able to take a pulse of your website and finding some of these technical issues?

The two tools that I use the most are SEMRush and Majestic. - @MisterPeej

The two tools that I use the most are SEMRush and Magestic. Majestic will give you a breakdown of all of the incoming links so that you can run a report monthly because Google Analytics doesn't give you that with as much transparency anymore. It's very helpful. SEMRush is great for seeing some of the keywords that you are showing up for and Google Analytics hides that now. It's also good for doing competitor research. Those are two pieces of software on the link building side that we interact with all the time. There are five or six great tools out there that will do an on-site audit for you. - P.J. Leimgruber

Screaming Frog SEO tool is great for people who are in the small to mid website. - @JDigitalCO

Screaming Frog is great for people who are in the small to midsize website category meaning 1,000 URLs and not 100,000 URLs. You want to crawl to get the technical aspect. You will have to pay but Screaming Frog is a good starting point. If you are higher than 100,000 DeepCrawl is one of the better things that I have seen lately for these people. From a strategy aspect, it is very important. SEO Link Profile is the one that gives you the biggest amount of backlinks to your site and can work well with Google products such as Google visualizations. - Juan Cardoso

If the new code is too heavy and takes more than two seconds to load then it isn't worth it. - @JonRenteria

I think it's really important outside of tools to look at your page speed. There are a lot of page speed tools out there and going back to the focus on mobile, there is a lot of data on how slow your page loads and that matters. You need to be aware of how adjustments to your site affect page view, page loads, etc. If the new code is too heavy, takes up too much speed and takes more than two seconds to load then it isn't worth it. - Jonathan Renter

Google has a great page speed measurement tool called the Page Speed Insights Tool. - @MatthewAYoung

For page speed, there are a lot of tools out there but Google has a great one called the Page Speed Insights Tool. It assigns specific scores for desktop and mobile page speed. One of the most interesting parts of the mobile assessment that it provides is that it also gives you a UX score primarily based on speed, but also on the size of tag targets, render blocking Javascript above the fold. It gets a little technical, but it's a great tool. I personally use SEMRush, it's a great tool, and I use Search Metrics in tandem. If you are just into quick data pulls then you can use an Excel plugin called SEO Tools for Excel. It's free, you download it and there is a little annoying ad that pops up for five seconds. If you want to learn how to convert, you can learn from this because I happily paid to make it go away. It pulls a lot of data through Excel formulas and it has direct integration through Google Analytics API, Majestic API and others. It's really a full-service tool. - Matthew Young

WooRank is great for the first steps and building blocks of a successful SEO platform. - @MisterPeej

WooRank is also great for smaller sites so if you are a webmaster for your own business site then this app will let you know if you are missing a sitemap, if your meta tags or image tags are off, just kind of the basic DIY surface-level stuff. WooRank is great for the first steps and building blocks of a successful SEO platform.- P.J. Leimgruber

Moz is one of the most basic and easy-to-use sites that ranges from basic services to the most complicated services. They have tools for everything and they do a great job explaining how to use them. They give you a detailed understanding of what is going on with your site, so I think that for a starting point if you are thinking of hiring someone for SEO marketing or trying to understand issues on your own then Moz is a great resource. - Juan Cardoso

Moz is one of the most easy-to-use sites that ranges from basic to complicated services. - @JDigitalCO

Search Metrics gives you a visibility score, which is basically this keyword has x amount of search volume based on our data and the click through rates on the rankings go from 35% for the first ranking and down to 1% for number ten, etc. It gives you a visibility based on what is the rough estimate of traffic you can get. It's cool because it can give you an idea of how you stack up against competitors and let you look at how often your website is showing up in the search landscape. - Adam Piotrowski

Search Metrics can also assess the optimization levels of your content compared to the top 50 competitors or so in the space so if you find that you are not fully exploring a topic, Search Metrics will pull out specific areas in which you can improve your company. - Matthew Young


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SEO future trends

SEO marketing is constantly evolving. For people who want to work on their business now and also want to be preparing for success in five years with SEO, what should they be doing?

Grow your site by staying useful and creating the content that people are searching for. - @MatthewAYoung

I will start with the technical stuff because it's important to make sure that the technical SEO aspects of the site are working. I spend a lot of time devising content strategy for my clients and that involves doing audience research and crafting personas for those specific audiences. Then we have a creative services department and we get them involved to take it from there and go crazy with interactives, infographics, video, etc. based on our research. That really is how a site approaches growth in my opinion because you have to stay useful to your database and know how to create useful content that people are searching for and also ensure that the content mirrors the intent of why these people are searching for it. - Matthew Young

Look more at mobile search queries to get more hits and better test results. - @JonRenteria

Looking at different data sets and validating which data sets can actually answer someone's intent. A lot of what is out there now is social analytics or social listening so definitely when you have a social tool, you can use visualisations to see what it means for your business. I think these social SEO marketing tools can provide really clear answers around someone's intent. The confidence of the data in social tends to be higher than search data because you know more details about the people and the audience so I think it is important to integrate those two data sets. One good recommendation is when you are looking at search, when you are trying to really get to an audience's intent, you should look at mobile search queries. Look for specific intent on mobile because that data tends to be more precise so when you merge social data with mobile data you can find a strong assumption around a person or audience's intent. In the past when we have just used mobile or just used search or social, our experiments have failed but once we started looking at more mobile search queries, we started getting more hits and better test results. - Jonathan Renteria

Content is one of the greatest opportunities that you have to create growth. – @JDigitalCO

Content is one of the greatest opportunities that you have for growth. The most important thing that will help you scale faster in SEO is to hang out with the cool guys in the vertical that you are working. This is about links and links are what will give you more authority and help you rank for better keywords. Apart from the technical opportunities that you have and improvements that you can make, this is the best thing to do. The more that you have friends' websites in your vertical, the faster you are going to throw your network of backlinks. The more quality backlinks you have, the faster you are going to grow your business. - Juan Cardoso

A linkbuilder is great for building your brand online. - @MisterPeej

As a business owner, the best thing that you can do is invest in a good networker and get out there and make friends with the other webmasters. Find other sites that are like yours and find out where your customers are hanging out on the web so that you can not only build relationships but also build customers and profits. A networker or linkbuilder is great for building your brand online. - P.J. Leimgruber


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Tracking content views for SEO

What tools do you use to truly track content views and where they are coming from?

Use webmaster tools. In my opinion, it is not as accurate if you are tracking the entries to a page, but you are able to see clicks based on queries and by page as well. That is a backdoor to finding the piece of data that you are looking for. There are ways to research and get around referral spin to get closer to a true number. - Matthew Young


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Website architecture for better SEO marketing

You spoke about architecture and depth of content. Matthew, specifically, can you give a little bit more of an example on that?

Don't create a single page for the topic, better fully explore that topic with a series of pages. - @MatthewAYoung

So a site presumably would have multiple topics all related to a theme so if you think about it, you want to be an expert on one topic but you don't want to create a single page for that topic. You would want to fully explore that topic with a series of pages and by linking those together, you get what I refer to as "depth of content." The more content that you have and the higher quality that content is, the more topics will be explored and the better the architecture of the site will be. - Matthew Young


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Optimizing content for mobile

With the advent of mobile, things are getting more and more visual and less and less text. What does that mean for SEO?

The behavior of the user is different on the mobile and on the desktop. - @JDigitalCO

You want to serve your content the same way for every area in terms of the amount of content, but you have to lay it out differently. The behavior of the user is different on the mobile and on the desktop. Usually, users scan a lot of the content. One of the things that I have found really interesting is to move from those subtitles that are "Step One" or "Step Two" to something a lot more compelling and a complete headline so that people can scan faster. It is not necessarily that you serve less content, but the content that you serve has to be laid out in a way that you can scan it faster. - Juan Cardoso

People who use mobile consume the content differently and their attention span is shorter. - @MatthewAYoung

Google came out and said that if you are running responsive web design, you don't have to have the same content on the desktop as you have on the mobile. Most people do because that is just how it is done by default, but people who use mobile consume the content differently and the attention span is shorter. If you have a piece of content, you can essentially truncate it into the most significant parts and instill it down for the mobile site in order to serve the mobile experience a bit better. They also said that they judge the relevance of mobile sites based on the content that appears on the desktop. This way you do not have to worry about things like serving the same content across devices. - Matthew Young


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