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Is your SEO performance a dumpster fire? Here’s how to salvage it

January 6, 2023 No Comments

Is your SEO performance a dumpster fire Here’s how to salvage it

30-second summary:

  • A failing SEO strategy can happen to the best of us
  • No doubt it’s disheartening when your competitors are miles ahead and your business is struggling to bring in new leads
  • Founder of LSEO and best-selling author, Kristopher (Kris) Jones provides comprehensive steps and advice on how you can salvage your SEO performance

Dumpster fires: surely they can’t happen to you. Right? But before you know it, your website’s traffic has tanked, your competitors are getting all the organic love, and you couldn’t get a conversion if your life depended on it. Folks, if your SEO performance sounds like that, you might just have a dumpster fire on your hands.

A failing SEO strategy can happen to the best of us. There’s no doubt it’s disheartening when your competitors are all miles ahead of you and your business isn’t bringing in new leads.

The good news is that it’s never too late to turn things around.

When is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago.

When’s the second-best time? Right now, so let’s get to it.

Here’s how to salvage your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

1. Review and optimize all your current content

I’m going to talk about content a few times in this post.

That’s because content has long been and remains the most important element to focus on in your overall SEO strategy.

Websites are nothing without content.

You can see a website getting by with no meta descriptions, you can see them getting by without optimized images, but without content, what do you have?

Not a website!

But if you’re focusing on content first to turn around your SEO strategy, where do you start?

Yes, you optimize everything you already have.

You don’t want to get ahead of yourself by constantly creating new content when you have a whole slew of old pages and posts that may have fallen into SEO disrepair.

Google treats optimized content the same as new content, so to start out, you’ll want to audit your existing content to see what’s good, what’s bad, and what you can fix up to be good again.

You can use a content audit tool like that found in Semrush, or, if you have a more manageable load of content to work with, checking things out manually would work well, too.

This is about more than just deciding what content you like or do not like, although you should be able to tell at a glance which topics are still relevant to your website.

But to check out the SEO performance of each page and post, you can use Semrush as I said, or go manual with Google Search Console.

What I like to do is to put each URL into Search Console and check out how it’s doing as far as impressions versus clicks, click-through rate, and the average positions of its ranking keywords.

That gives me a decent snapshot of which pages need attention.

For example

A page with 10,000 impressions in a 30-day period but only 100 clicks will have a CTR of only one percent (not too great).

I would then go to that page to figure out what is causing the low CTR.

The page is obviously being ranked for the keyword, given its high impressions, but if few people are clicking, then maybe the page isn’t as relevant for the term as it once was.

If that’s the case, then optimizing the page for SEO could be a matter of creating new sections of content around that keyword, and certainly retooling what’s there already.

Optimizing your website’s content is a major part of improving your SEO strategy because it involves so many things that are going to help you.

For this first point, I focused only on the writing and editing part of the content optimization.

Let’s now move on to some other parts of an SEO strategy where you could update things (things that could nonetheless still be involved in content optimization).

2. Assess and update all meta tags

Your pages’ meta tags play an important role in your website’s overall SEO health.

Meta tags are also one of the easiest things to let slip by as you work on your website, because they’re so brief and simple, and there are so many of them.

The thing is, meta tags can go out of date as the landscape shifts around your industry and the keywords for which you were optimizing are no longer relevant.

Meta tags are a classic example of why you can’t set it and forget it with SEO.

Meta tags are another element to look at as you go through your content pages to improve their CTR.

Sure, a lot of your content itself could use updates, but retool the meta titles and descriptions, as well.

Remember, the meta information is what organic users see as they scroll a SERP.

If your title and description aren’t interesting or urgent enough to draw in audiences that are in the awareness stage, then those people will keep on scrolling.

Redoing meta tags could include using a new target keyword, rewriting the call to action, or making everything more concise.

Maybe start with a handful of pages only, say 20 or 30, and A/B test the old and new titles and descriptions to see how traffic and CTR change after your edits.

Doing that will confirm for you whether the updating you’re doing is worth it, and whether you should continue down this road with the rest of your pages.

3. Work on your technical performance

When you have to turn around your entire SEO strategy, you have to think about your website holistically.

That means focusing not just on your keywords and content, but also on how your pages perform technically.

I’m grouping issues such as image compression, site speed, mobile responsiveness, and Core Web Vitals all together under the umbrella of “technical performance.”

Although these factors are less “creative” and open-ended as compared to performing new keyword research or optimizing content, they matter just as well.

When people get to your website and are greeted with slow pages, a messy mobile appearance, and content elements that jump around as they load, their trust in you drops.

In a world as competitive as ours, you can’t afford to give people cause for distrust, because you can bet that there are a hundred competitors waiting in line to market to those customers if you can’t do so successfully.

If development work isn’t your forte, look into contracting out to someone who can clean up your website’s coding and otherwise speed things up while also optimizing for mobile.

Images should be compressed so they take up less space but don’t lose any of their quality, and each image should have optimized alt text.

Compressing and optimizing images is something you can definitely do yourself, either through a plugin (on WordPress) or manually if it’s feasible.

Even though page speed and load times aren’t always the most accessible kind of work to business owners and website owners, those are important issues to keep in mind as you labor toward turning around your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

4. Resume creating new content

You can turn around even the worst SEO strategy in the world.

Google isn’t going to hold you to the fire forever just because your SEO has been in the dumps even for the last few years.

Google crawls your site every so often whether you’re doing something with it or not, and as it sees that your SEO is improving, it can start to rank some of those pages higher.

So here is where we get into creating all-new, high-quality content.

Content in 2023 can mean a whole range of things, from blog posts to infographics to videos and podcasts and webinars and slide decks.

Whatever makes sense for your business and your industry is what you should do. Whatever types of media you know your audiences like to consume, give that to them.

In 2023, however, you have to be incredibly mindful of being comprehensive and useful for people.

If there’s anything that we’ve learned from 2022’s helpful content update, it’s that you just cannot skimp on content creation (not that you ever could, but Google is smarter than it was 10 years ago).

Gone are the days of skirting by on SEO-centric content, created just to score some ranking for this or that keyword.

Google is paying much more attention now to the intent and usefulness of a piece, and rewarding those web pages featuring actually helpful content (get it?) with higher rankings.

A perfect example of how Google is thinking these days is the product review update, also from 2022.

Google is now deprioritizing the ranking of low-quality product reviews in favor of more expert-level reviews where the reviewer has actually used the product or service and can speak to its pros and cons.

Why? Because Google wants to direct users to content they can actually trust to help them.

When you take the product reviews update and helpful content update together, you can see why content marketing has gotten so much harder over the years.

You can’t just rank after spending an hour on a 400-word blog post anymore.

You have to be a real expert, or at least put in the time and effort to create deep content if you work for a client portfolio.

These are all things you must keep in mind as you create new content for your website in the name of putting out your dumpster fire of an SEO strategy.

Now, of course, there are the nuts and bolts you have to remember, as well, when it comes to new content.

You have to mine the SERPs, develop the proper keyword strategy, and understand the correct intent behind those keywords to be sure you’re creating what people expect to see when they search that keyword.

That stuff you can all learn.

What I want you to take from this section is the idea that you have to work to create that new content. You have to put in that time and dedication to do it well.

5. If you’re local, focus on reviews

I don’t want to leave out the local businesses here: if you’re a local business, do you know that one of the single largest factors in helping your SEO is getting positive Google reviews?

Now, local businesses need to perform all the on-page SEO work that anyone else does, but what do you do as an ongoing SEO strategy?

The play here isn’t keyword-driven SEO content so much, because your local audience isn’t really going to find you that way.

Local audiences find local businesses by performing local searches and checking out the reviews in the map pack.

In fact, 77 percent of local buyers always read online reviews while checking out local businesses.

Your reviews affect the level of trust the public has in you. More people are likely to visit your website and use your business when they see that others have had a positive experience with you.

The cycle goes on when you encourage your customers to leave positive Google reviews.

The more reviews you have, and the more positive they are, the better off your chances will be of rising to the top of your local map pack.

Being at the top should translate into more traffic and better SEO overall.

6. Build natural backlinks

Finally, I want to mention another pillar of Google’s list of known ranking factors: natural backlinks.

Links are what unite everything on the internet together.

They’re also vital in keeping the ranking juices flowing to your web pages when it comes to your SEO strategy.

Backlinks to your website from other websites show Google that you’re an authority in your market niche since people want to reference what you have to say.

Link building, then, is really about building relationships to get your name out there as a trustworthy resource for others.

When Google sees your links coming from relevant, authoritative websites, it will assign more trust to your own site.

Just remember to keep the links coming from websites that make sense to your own.

The quality matters much more than the quantity here.

To do it, create content that people would want to link to, something with a lot of useful stats and other data.

You can also scout other websites in your niche to see where they may have content gaps, and then create content to fill that gap and ask for a link back.

It takes time and effort, and you’re not guaranteed anything, but it’s the natural way to earn backlinks that will actually help your SEO.

Give your SEO time to turn around

You can put out even the biggest dumpster fire when you know what to do and how to do it.

I’ll say again that SEO dumpster fires can happen to the best of us. Sometimes we go all-in on things we think will work, and they don’t.

Sometimes we get lazy and let our SEO go for years.

But it’s never too late to correct things.

It will definitely take time to see things start to shift for you, though; SEO isn’t an overnight solution. It needs anywhere from three to six months or longer to start showing a difference.

If you keep in mind both the broad strokes and the specifics of everything I’ve described here, you truly can reinvent your SEO strategy and be on your way to business growth.


Kris Jones is the founder and former CEO of digital marketing and affiliate network Pepperjam, which he sold to eBay Enterprises in 2009. Most recently Kris founded SEO services and software company LSEO.com and has previously invested in numerous successful technology companies. Kris is an experienced public speaker and is the author of one of the best-selling SEO books of all time called, ‘Search-Engine Optimization – Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing’, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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The post Is your SEO performance a dumpster fire? Here’s how to salvage it appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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The ultimate 2022 Google updates round up

December 24, 2022 No Comments

The ultimate 2022 Google updates round up

30-second summary:

  • 2022 saw nine confirmed updates (including two core updates,) five unconfirmed instances where volatility was observed in page rankings, and one data outage that caused chaos for 48 hours
  • Video and commerce sites were the biggest winners in the May core update, while reference and news sites lost out most, especially outlets without industry specificity
  • This theme largely continued and saw ripple effects from the helpful content update
  • What were these ebbs and flows, who won, who lost? Let’s find out!
  • Joe Dawson takes us through another round-up post that gives you the complete picture of Google’s moves

Only three things are certain in this life – death, taxes, and an industry-wide hubbub whenever Google launches an algorithm update. Like any year, 2022 has seen substantial changes in how the world’s largest search engine manages traffic and page rankings, with some businesses winning and others losing out.

Arguably the most significant change in 2022 is awareness of the rise of AI for content creation, becoming a hot topic in the world of marketing software. “Helpful content” updates have intended to bolster content written by human beings, penned with consumer needs in mind, over auto-generated articles designed to game the SEO system.

Has this been successful, or is the world of online marketing set for a rise of machines in 2023 and beyond? Similar to my last year’s column, let’s review the Google algorithm updates issued in 2022. I hope this helps you decide for yourself and build your business model around the latest developments in page ranking.

Complete list of 2022 Google updates

2022 has seen nine confirmed updates to Google’s algorithms, while an additional five instances of volatility were noticed and discussed by influential content marketing strategists across the year. We also saw one major data outage that caused a short-term panic! Let’s take a look at each of these updates in turn.

1) Unconfirmed, suspected update (January)

The core update of November 2021 was famously volatile, and just as web admins were coming to terms with a new status quo, further fluctuations were noted in early January 2021. Google remained tight-lipped about whether adjustments had been made to the algorithm, but sharp adjustments to SERPs were acknowledged across various industries.

2) Unconfirmed, suspected update (February)

Again, webmasters noticed a sudden temperature shift in page rankings in early February, just as things settled down after the January changes. While again unconfirmed by Google, these adjustments may have been laying the groundwork for the page experience update scheduled for later in the same month.

3) Page experience update (February)

Back in 2021, Google rolled out a page experience update designed to improve the mobile browsing experience. In February 2022, the same update was extended to encompass desktop browsing.

The consequences were not earth-shattering, but a handful of sites that previously enjoyed SERPs at the top of page one found their ranking drop. As with the mobile update, the driving forces behind the page experience update were performance measured against Google’s core web vitals.

4) Unconfirmed, suspected update (March)

Fluxes in page ranking and traffic were detected in mid-March, with enough chatter around the industry that Danny Sullivan, Public Liaison for Search at Google, felt compelled to confirm that he or his colleagues were unaware of any conscious updates.

5) Product reviews update (March)

March saw the first of three product review updates that would unfold throughout the year. As we’ll discuss shortly, ecommerce sites experienced a real shot in the arm throughout 2022 after the core updates, so this would prove to be a significant adjustment.

The fundamental aim of this product review update was to boost sites that offer more than just a template review of consumer goods – especially when linking to affiliates to encourage purchase. Best practice in product reviews following this update includes:

  • Detailed specifications beyond those found in a manufacturer description, including pros and cons and comparisons to previous generations of the same item.
  • Evidence of personal experience with a product to bolster the authenticity of the review, ideally in the form of a video or audio recording.
  • Multiple links to a range of merchants to enhance consumer choice, rather than the popular model of linking to Amazon.
  • Comparisons to rival products, explaining how the reviewed product stacks up against the competition – for good or ill.

The product review update did not punish or penalize sites that failed to abide by these policies, preferring to list a selection of items with brief (and arguably thin) copies to discuss their merits. However, sites, that offered more detail in their assessments quickly found themselves rising in the rankings.

6) Core update (May)

The first core update of the year is always a nerve-wracking event in the industry, and as always, there were winners and losers in May’s adjustments.

The most striking outcome of this update was just how many major names benefitted, especially in the realm of ecommerce, much to the delight ecommerce agencies around the world. Sites like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy saw considerable increases in traffic and prominence following the update, perhaps due to the product review update that unfolded two months prior.

Video sites also saw a spike in viewers and positioning following the May update. YouTube videos began outranking text articles while streaming services such as Disney Plus and Hulu rose to the top of many searches. Health sites began to see a slow and steady recovery after the May core update, for the first time since the rollout of 2018’s Medic update.

News and reference sites were the biggest losers in the May core update. News and media outlets suffered the most, especially those with a generic focus, such as the online arm of newspapers. Big hitters like Wikipedia and Dictionary.com were also pushed down the pecking order. Specialist sites that dedicate their reporting to a single area of interest fared a little better, but still took a hit in traffic and visibility.

7) Unconfirmed, suspected update (June)

Minor nips and tucks frequently follow when a major core update concludes. In late June, many webmasters started comparing notes on sharp changes in traffic and page ranking. Google failed to confirm any updates. These may have just been delayed aftershocks in the aftermath of May’s core update, but the industries that saw the biggest adjustments were:

  • Property and real estate
  • Hobbies and leisure
  • Pets and animal care

8) Unconfirmed, suspected update (July)

More websites saw a sharp drop in traffic in late July, especially blogs that lacked a prominent social media presence. SERPs for smaller sites were among the biggest losers in this unconfirmed update.

9) Product reviews update (July)

A minor tweak to March’s product review update was announced and rolled out in July, but caused little impact – while some review sites saw traffic drop, most were untouched, especially in comparison to changes at the start of the year.

10) Data center outage (August)

Not an update but a notable event in the 2022 SEO calendar. In early August, Google Search experienced an overnight outage. This was revealed to be caused by a fire in a data center in Iowa, in which three technicians were injured (thankfully, there were no fatalities.)

This outage caused 48 hours of panic and chaos among web admins, with page rankings undergoing huge, unexpected fluctuations, a failure of newly-uploaded pages to be indexed, and evergreen content disappearing from Google Search.

Normal service was resumed within 48 hours, and these sudden changes were reversed. All the same, it led to a great deal of short-term confusion within the industry.

11) Helpful content update (August)

The first helpful content update of 2022 saw significant changes to the SEO landscape – and may change how many websites operate in the future.

As the name suggests, this update is engineered to ensure that the most helpful, consumer-focused content rises to the top of Google’s search rankings. Some of the elements targeted and penalized during this update were as follows.

AI content An increasing number of sites have been relying on AI to create content, amalgamating and repurposing existing articles from elsewhere on the web with SEO in mind. On paper, the helpful content update pushed human-generated content above these computerized texts.
Subject focus As with the core update in May, websites that cover a broad range of subjects were likeliest to be hit by the helpful content update. Google has been taking steps to file every indexed website under a niche industry, so it’s easier for a target audience to find.
Expertise The EAT algorithm has been the driving force behind page rankings for a while now, and the helpful content update has doubled down on this. Pages that offer first-hand experience of their chosen subject matter will typically outrank those based on external research.
User behavior As a part of the helpful content update, Google is paying increasing attention to user behavior – most notably the time spent on a site. High bounce rates will see even harsher penalties in a post-helpful content update world.
Bait-and-switch titles If your content does not match your title or H2 headings, your site’s ranking will suffer. Avoid speculation, too. Attempts to gain traffic by asking questions that cannot be answered (for example, a headline asking when a new show will drop on Netflix, followed by an answer of, “Netflix has not confirmed when >TV show name< will drop”) suffered in this update.
Word stuffing Google has long denied that word count influences page ranking and advised against elongating articles for the sake of keyword stuffing. The helpful content update has made this increasingly important. 1,000 relevant words that answer a question quickly will outrank a meandering missive of 3,000 words packed with thin content.

12) Core update (September)

The second core update of 2022 unfolded in September, hot on the heels of the helpful content update.

This update repaired some of the damage for reputable reference sites that suffered in May, while those impacted by the unconfirmed update in June continued to see fluctuations in visibility – some enjoyed sharp uptakes, while others continued to hemorrhage traffic.

The biggest ecommerce brands continued to enjoy success following this update, while news and media outlets continued to plummet in visibility. Household names like CNN and the New York Post, for example, were hit very hard.

The fortunes of medical sites also continued to improve, especially those with government domains. Interestingly, the trend for promoting videos over prose was reversed in September – YouTube was the biggest loser overall.

13) Product reviews update (September)

A final tweak was made to the product reviews update in September as part of the core update, and it proved to be unpopular with many smaller sites, which saw a substantial drop in traffic and conversions. As discussed, it seems that 2022’s core updates have benefitted the biggest hitters in the market.

14) Spam update (October)

In October, Google rolled out a 48-hour spam update. This was an extension of the helpful content updates designed to filter out irrelevant and inexpert search results, in addition to sites loaded with malicious malware or phishing schemes.

Sites identified as potential spam during the update were severely penalized in terms of page ranking and, in some cases, removed from Google Search altogether. The most prominent targets of the update were:

  • Thin copy irrelevant to the search term, especially if auto-generated
  • Hacked websites with malicious or irrelevant redirects and sites that failed to adopt appropriate security protocols
  • Hidden links or excessive, unrelated affiliate links and pages
  • Artificial, machine-generated traffic

15) Helpful content update (December)

Early in December, Google began rolling out an update to August’s helpful content update. At the time of writing, it’s too early to announce what the impact of this has been. However, it promises to be an interesting time.

The August update faced criticism for being too sedate and failing to crack down hard enough on offending sites, especially those that utilize AI content and black-hat SEO tactics.

Many site owners will be crossing their fingers and toes that this update boosts genuine, human-generated copy created by and for a website’s target audience. The impact will become evident early in 2023.

This concludes the summary of 2022’s Google algorithm updates. It’s been an interesting – and frequently tumultuous – twelve months, and one that may set the tone for the years to come.

Google will always tweak and finesse its policies, and attempting to second-guess what Alphabet will do next is frequently a fool’s errand. All the same, it’s always helpful to check in with Google’s priorities and see which way the wind is blowing.


Joe Dawson is Director of strategic growth agency Creative.onl, based in the UK. He can be found on Twitter @jdwn.

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How much impact can visual identity have on your organic visibility?

December 15, 2022 No Comments

How much impact can visual identity have on your organic visibility

30-second summary:

  • A visual identity is all the graphic elements that represent your brand making it unique and recognizable
  • When visual identity is build consistently across several channels, it builds brand recognizability which in turn improves conversions
  • Visual branding elements often show up for brand-driven search results allowing users to remember them well
  • Commercial and informational queries often contain visual results as well, so they can reinforce brand presence if you brand all your visual assets consistently
  • To build a strong visual identity in organic SERPs, create lots of original images, cross-publish them on multiple channels and use best SEO practices when using them on your site

What is visual identity?

A visual identity is a collection of graphic elements that represent and differentiate a brand.

It can be a logo, a tiny element of a logo, a color palette, a unique font – or any combination of all of these visual branding elements that make a brand recognizable.

Creating a recognizable visual identity used to be a prerogative of big brands with huge budgets. Thanks to digital channels (social media, video, etc.), a visual identity is something every brand can and should have because it helps your past customers recognize you and become your returning customers.

Creating a consistent and cohesive visual identity is key to cross-channel marketing. People traveling from channel to channel and seeing your brand everywhere will finally start recognizing you and with recognition comes more trust and engagement.

How is visual identity reflected in organic search?

Historically, Google has loved brands because they are easy to understand and map together (hence the Knowledge Graph is based on entities, i.e. brands).

A few years ago, Google started featuring brands visually in SERPs too. So now brands can actually build recognizability through organic search results.

Let’s look at just one example.

Let’s search for a brand name first: Notice how many images show up in different search sections across SERPs, including:

  • The knowledge panel
  • Twitter carousel
  • Image thumbnails
  • Image carousels
  • Video thumbnails, etc.

Visual elements are all over branded search results.

Now, searching for something informational, like [room soundproofing] brings up a well-written guide on how to do it from Hubspot, and the best part is that its search snippet includes a well-branded image:

That’s when a searcher can immediately recognize the brand’s results and click through just because it looks familiar.

How to create a consistent visual identity

The key to building a visual identity online is being active and consistent.

It doesn’t mean living on social media sites. It means using social media strategically and regularly to publicize well-branded visual messages that keep reminding your target audience of your brand.

According to Namify, it takes five to seven impressions for people to remember your brand.

This means serving your visual message to the same person at least 5 times before you start looking familiar.

How can this be achieved?

Reuse the same image across several channels

Apps like Photoleap make it extremely easy to create effective visual assets that can be used across multiple social media channels. You can use it to apply advanced effects or minor touch-ups to existing images, or use the built-in text-to-image AI engine to describe whatever visual you want to see, and then edit from there.

You can find inspiration at the brand’s Instagram account, which is filled with creative images you can create using the app:

Once you have your concept created, you can easily fit it to multiple social media channels, and even animate it, which extends your possibilities even further allowing you to use it as Reels, shorts, and even stories.

Curate your own (and your customers’) images

Monitoring your customers’ reviews and turning them into visual assets (images and videos) is a great way to control your brand sentiment under control and promote your brand’s visual identity through user-generated content.

There are many ways to approach that, and you don’t have to choose once. Try several of them before your create your own UGC-driven visual identity strategy:

Visualize all you can

You need your brand-own assets to rank for a wide variety of brand-driven and generic queries to build recognizability, one search session at a time. This includes posting visual content on Twitter (which has its own carousel section in SERPs) and Facebook (that is usually granted visually rich snippets).

Make sure you stick to your brand-driven color palette for every asset you create (see the orange SERP example above), play with your logo elements, and add watermarks inside your videos.

Consider (but not limit yourself to) a few ideas below:

  • Create original images for every article you publish (and then re-use those images on social media when sharing your link)
  • Use image optimization tactics to ensure your images rank in organic search results. There are SEO plugins that make this step easier.
  • Embed videos on your landing pages to generate video-rich snippets in organic SERPs
  • Create infographics to visualize how-to guides or make steps easier to follow. There are quite a few data visualization plugins to make this easier.
  • Use illustrations: A brand illustration system is a collection of images with a cohesive mood and style that visualizes a brand’s promise

Use retargeting

Retargeting is a great way to reach people who are already familiar with your visual identity, and so they will respond better to your ads. Google offers dynamic remarketing ads within its display network. Facebook is another great retargeting platform that makes it easy to reach your past site visitors and let them continue their buying journey from where they left it.

Conclusion

Building a recognizable visual identity takes time and effort but it is well worth it because a recognizable brand brings higher conversions and more sales. Keep your visual identity in mind when planning your content and visual marketing strategy and you’re halfway there! All you need now is time and consistency. Good luck!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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Balancing paid and organic search strategies for optimum success

December 2, 2022 No Comments

Balancing paid and organic search strategies for optimum success

30-second summary:

  • Even though it is evident that SEO and PPC are great tools, these two disciplines work in silos
  • In fact, these teams and channels mostly work on their own in silos and are often handled separately
  • Accenture Song’s SEO Manager, Michael McManus discusses how businesses can combine paid and organic SEO to function as one value-add unit

SEO and PPC are a must-have in your arsenal when planning your marketing strategy. Depending on what they are looking to do, most companies tend to choose one over the other, if they are looking to increase their rankings and get traffic from organic search, then they will go with SEO,  whereas PPC focuses on getting instant “paid for” traffic from such areas as search, social, and display.

Both SEO and PPC are great tools to boost your site/brand’s authority as well as help generate more traffic and sales for your business. But these two teams/channels tend to work on their own in silos and are often handled separately.

Now while both of these options can and do work well on their own, having both teams work together can be a powerful strategy for any business. Instead of working apart and potentially fighting for budget, time, resources, and rankings. By bringing both departments together so that they can collaborate and work as one, they will benefit from different insights and learnings that they would otherwise not get on their own. These insights will allow them to produce amazing results in both campaigns.

These two marketing channels aren’t meant to operate independently, yet that is the case almost every single time. But instead of looking at both channels as separate entities and you bring them together, you’ll see that they can help you achieve better results across the board than having them work on their own.

The data and insights that you can get from PPC campaigns are extremely insightful and powerful. When you take that data and combine it with your SEO strategies, it will give you the insights that you can use to create content that will make a big difference to your organic search traffic.

Balancing organic and paid search strategies for optimum success is a key challenge and lots of businesses need to catch up as they are typically only using one of these strategies.

How SEO and PPC can work together to boost your business

Along with large amounts of keyword and conversion insights that SEO can use by working with PPC, another huge benefit that companies can achieve when they bring both SEO and PPC together is the potential to consume a large portion of the SERPs, where they can showcase ads at the top of the page while owning the organic listings below.

This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked as it gives you more chances to capture the user, who might be looking for your brand or something that your brand has to offer. For example, let’s say you are running PPC and SEO campaigns separately and a user does a search and your ad appears, but they skip over it and go right to the organic listings but you are not showing up for that particular search, you are potentially missing out on capturing that user.

So now if you are using both PPC and SEO together and you use your PPC data to gather insights as to what the users were and are searching for, where your ads are showing, but not your organic listings. You can then take that data and start to create great content for those terms and optimize your site for that phase of the user’s journey. Now you can potentially have your site’s PPC ads showing at the top of the page as well as your site showing up below those ads in the organic results. This means that if a searcher were to skip over your ad and go directly to the organic results, your site will also be listed there winning you greater brand discovery.

Bringing both PPC and SEO together and working side by side, and taking over the SERPs for a given keyword will not only allow you with getting more exposure than what you would get if you only used SEO or PPC, but you now also increase the visibility of your site and the chances that a user will click over to your site.

Another added benefit from combining both SEO and PPC and taking over the SERPS is that users, searchers, and potential customers are more likely to see value and trust in a brand that is well represented across the SERPs.

If you were able to help guide and encourage users to click through to your site, wouldn’t that be an effort worth the implementation?

Getting SEO and PPC to work for you

Well, you might be asking yourself “ok great now I know that I need to have both SEO and PPC work as one, how do I go about this?”

Here are some practical tips to have both SEO and PPC work together.

Keywords

Keywords are important to both SEO and PPC as each one is reliant on them to help with creating the proper content for each strategy. They are both going to want to target the proper and relevant keywords in order to show up in the SERPs when a user is searching for information, shopping, looking for a brand, etc.

Using the keyword data and insights from your PPC campaigns and providing that information to your SEO team, will allow them to then create content that a user is searching for and thus be able to be in front of the customer throughout their journey.

Creating ads

Paid social media ads as well as retargeting ads are a great way for you to get your content shared across different platforms that will help with getting backlinks that will help your site’s content rank organically. While this is happening, you can create retargeting ads that will help to capture users’ attention once they have left your site.

PPC data

As we mentioned earlier, PPC campaign data has a plethora of information that you can use to help create highly targeted content to help get your site’s pages to rank organically. From your PPC campaigns, you’ll be able to see things like keyword search data, impressions, CTR, and so much more.

This will allow you to better optimize your site’s content and create content that might be missing, as well as help with creating highly targeted and optimized page titles and descriptions.

Conclusion

It’s no longer about SEO vs PPC anymore, or at least it shouldn’t be after reading this article. Now that you are aware of the potential benefits of combing both your PPC and SEO efforts, it’s time to go out and implement this new strategy.

Armed with all the data that you have at your fingertips from your PPC campaigns, use this new data and insights to help with creating better SEO strategies, that will give you a competitive advantage and help you with reaching your customers at every step of their journey.

It’s time to stop treating SEO and PPC as silos and time to bring them together so that your site can benefit from the added data and insights so that your site can dominate the SERPs.

Remember SEO and PPC are each other’s most powerful tools.


Michael McManus is SEO Manager at Accenture Song. Michael has hands-on expertise in branding strategies, website structure/architecture and development, SEO strategies, and online marketing campaigns. 

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Six local link-building tactics for small businesses

November 23, 2022 No Comments

According to a study by Moz, backlinks are essential for local packs and localized organic ranking factors, in summary, it’s the backbone of any successful SEO campaign.

Unlike general link-building tactics, location has more impact on local link-building. Therefore, you need to get links from local sites which have locational relevance to your website.

In this post, I’ll be showing you 6 ways to find solid local link prospects that will help you rank higher on Google.

How to build local links

Since the goal is to drive more local traffic to your site, here’s how you can improve your ranking with local links.

1. Join your niche-relevant business association

One of the best ways to build local links is through niche backlinks. Niche backlinks are like targeted advertising. They help you reach your target audience and convert them in no time. You can get these kinds of links by joining your niche-relevant business association.

Conduct a targeted search for legitimate business association sites in your city on Google or any other search engine. This is because they have authority and the right local relevance.

Let’s consider the previous example of a pastry chef. To find relevant associations in your niche, type California chef association on Google. With an SEO tool, you’ll see the SEO metrics for each domain and page within the SERP. If you visit the page of any of the listed associations, you’ll realize that they do have URLs with outbound links to their members’ sites.

In the USA, there are trade associations that negotiate with the government, and unions to provide members benefits. These associations have insane link values because they have links to government sites. Becoming a member of one of these associations through an application or subscription can help you get the needed backlinks.

2. Valuable, meaningful guest posts on local websites

One of the best off-page SEO tactics to win high-quality backlinks is guest posting.

What you need to do is to source for local sites in your niche that you can pitch to.

Let’s say you’re a pastry chef, you can use an SEO tool to search through several pages of content. Then you filter prospects by their SEO metrics.

Target those local websites with food and pastries blog posts as they’re likely to accept a guest post pitch.

Afterward, set a word count filter to show pages with at least 500 words along with a domain rating filter. This process will reveal the sites that have reasonable website authority.

With the few blogs left, you can start pitching for a guest writing opportunity. Consider pitching blogs by sending a direct email to the editor.

3. Generate backlinks from social media

Social media is not only to showcase your product but also enhance your website’s visibility. The truth is, with social media, you can generate as many local backlinks as possible by using your profile.

This process involves adding links to your social media profiles, pages, and groups.

Let’s consider Twitter as an example. Statista reported that Twitter had 7.1 billion website visits worldwide this year. The United States currently has the most Twitter users of 77.75 million users. And states like California and Florida are in the top ten of active Twitter users. Then let’s say you’re in California, you’ll be lucky to get enough clicks.

With the statistics above, it’s clear that you can get a good number of backlinks on this microblogging platform by setting up a decent profile.

One of the most suitable places to get backlinks on Twitter is your bio and website field.

Do you know that your profile has an actual field for your website? It does and with its over 100-character bio space, you can share your link in both places. The benefit of having your site link on your bio is not only to appear straight to your profile visitors but also to show up in Twitter search results.

Sites like Klout help to elevate your Twitter bio information but unlike Twitter, it’ll only hyperlink website links with http://.

Other places to include your site link is your photo and video tweets.

4. Local resource page link building

This is one of the most popular link-building tactics that have been around for a while.

Resource page link building is the practice of getting your site featured on web pages that link out to useful industry resources.

Here are some examples of resource pages.

These are good resource pages because they link out to other related web pages.

To build links with this tactic, you must create a resource that will be of huge value to your local community (shopping guide, travel guide), then you find relevant resource pages. Search for websites with decent domain-level authority. Then visit the pages to check for external links to other websites. After you’ve reviewed the sites based on SEO metrics, scan the remaining prospects and reach out to suggest your resource. For example, Amit Raj got a link for a seafood business from a local university with a resource page.

5. Consider your top organic competitors’ backlinks

The idea behind this is to find backlinks that help your competitors rank well on Google. You’ll need to find common links between your competitors and reach out to those sites. Search for competitors in your niche that are within your city. Then gather a list of those websites domains using SemRush or Map Pack.

Ensure you’re dealing with your real business competitors’ sites and not directories.

Use a tool like Ahref backlinks tool or SEO spyglass to see websites that are linking to your competitors but not you. Look through the lists of sites and you’ll be able to find enough link-building opportunities.

6. Create content that caters to your local audience

This is another great local link-building opportunity. It involves creating relevant local content for a local audience.

Here, the first thing you should target is getting local keywords. For example, if you’re a pastry chef in California, you may search for the most popular cookie recipe in California.

Use keyword planning and research tools like Google keyword planner or SemRush to get the most popular local search queries.

Then your blog posts should be about local events and activities on a local scale.

It would be best if you also connected to local influencers and bloggers to get mentions from them either on their websites or social media. With this strategy, you can be sure to get local backlinks and clicks within your area. For instance, after reaching out to a local influencer, you can be listed among the top 10 pastry chefs in California, increasing your reach.

Final thought

Now, it’s over to you to put these strategies in place for your local link-building system. Even if the process seems challenging, take it a step at a time. You can’t predict the algorithm but at least you can try to be as creative as possible in building your brand’s SEO.

By using the tactics discussed in this post, start your journey to gaining local relevance and authority in your niche.


Guy Sheetrit is the CEO of Over The Top SEO, an award-winning marketing agency that provides customized SEO marketing solutions for ecommerce, local, and Fortune 500 companies. He can be found on Twitter @guysheetrit.

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Are these SEO rookie mistakes costing your search rankings?

November 18, 2022 No Comments

Are these SEO rookie mistakes costing your search rankings

30-second summary:

  • SEO has increasingly become a key area of practice for businesses to gain visibility, however, if done wrong can stagnate or even sabotage your online visibility
  • From optimizing your website for the wrong keywords to putting too many keywords in the meta keywords tag or creating lots of similar doorway pages
  • We have listed the most common SEO mistakes to avoid and be future-ready

Through SEO, marketers can improve their websites’ rankings in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) and thus reach top results.

While doing SEO, however, there are some common SEO mistakes to keep away from. In case of committing any of these mistakes, marketers might end up harming their search ranking and reputation.

Below are seven of the common mistakes that you must avoid.

SEO Mistake #1: Optimizing your site for the wrong keywords

The first step in any search engine optimization campaign is to choose the right keywords for which you should optimize your site. If you initially choose the wrong keywords, all the time and effort that you devote to trying to get your site a high ranking will go down the drain. What good will the top rankings do if you choose keywords which no one searches for, or if you choose keywords which won’t bring in targeted traffic to your site?

The good news is that there are some warning signs that say you’re maybe optimizing for the wrong keywords. Amongst these, we find the following:

According to Neil Patel, an SEO expert, and co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar:

If you go about optimizing site content for every keyword you can think of, chances are, you won’t rank highly in search engine results pages.

Worse, you’ll experience a high bounce rate, because search engine users who eventually find your web site will leave without doing anything that you want them to do.

….In fact, not optimizing site content for the right keywords will cripple your search engine rankings.

SEO Mistake #2: Putting too many keywords in the meta keywords tag

We often see sites that have hundreds of keywords listed in the meta keywords tag, in the hope that will get a high ranking for those keywords.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Contrary to popular opinion, the meta keywords tag has almost completely lost its importance as far as search engine positioning is concerned. Google does not use keyword meta tags directly in its rankings.

Hence, just by listing keywords in the meta keywords tag, you will never be able to get a high ranking. Since there is no correlation between the keywords you stuff into a Meta tag and your search engine rank. To get a high ranking for those keywords, you need to naturally add the keywords to the actual body content on page.

SEO Mistake #3: Repeating the same keyword too many times

Another common mistake that people make is to endlessly repeat their target keywords in the body of their pages and in their meta keywords tags.

Because so many people have used this tactic in the past (and continue to use it), the search engines keep a sharp lookout for this and may penalize a site that repeats keywords in this fashion.

Sure, you do need to repeat the keywords a number of times. But, the way you place the keywords in your pages needs to make grammatical sense. Simply repeating the keywords endlessly no longer works. Furthermore, a particular keyword should not ideally be present more than thrice in your Meta Keywords tag.

SEO Mistake #4: Creating lots of similar doorway pages

Another myth prevalent among people is that since the algorithm of each search engine is different, they need to create different pages for different search engines. While this is great in theory, it is counter-productive in practice.

If you use this tactic, you will soon end up with hundreds of pages, which can quickly become an administrative nightmare. Also, just imagine the amount of time you will need to spend constantly updating the pages in response to the changes that the search engines make to their algorithms.

Furthermore, although the pages are meant for different engines, they will actually end up being pretty similar to each other. Search engines are often able to detect when a site has created similar pages and may penalize or even ban this site from their index.

According to Google,

“…they (Doorway Pages) can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.”

Hence, instead of creating different pages for different search engines, create one page which is optimized for one keyword for all the search engines.

SEO Mistake #5: Using hidden text

Hidden text is text with the same color as the background color of your page. For example, if the background color of your page is white and you have added some white text to that page. That is considered a black-hat SEO practice.

Many webmasters, in order to get high rankings in the search engines, try to make their pages as keyword rich as possible. However, there is a limit to the number of keywords you can repeat on a page without making it sound odd to your human visitors.

Thus, in order to ensure that the human visitors to a page don’t perceive the text to be odd, but that the page is still keyword-rich, many webmasters add text (containing the keywords) with the same color as the background color. This ensures that while the search engines can see the keywords, human visitors cannot.

Search engines have long since caught up with this technique, and ignore or penalize pages that contain such text. They may also penalize the entire site if even one of the pages on that site contains such hidden text.

However, the problem with this is that search engines may often end up penalizing sites that did not intend to use hidden text.

For instance, suppose you have a page with a white background and a table on that page with a black background. Further, suppose that you have added some white text in that table. This text will, in fact, be visible to your human visitors, that is, this shouldn’t be called hidden text. However, search engines can interpret this to be hidden text because they may often ignore the fact that the background of the table is black.

In official guidance from Google, they state:

“Hiding text or links in your content to manipulate Google’s search rankings can be seen as deceptive and is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

Hence, in order to ensure that your site is not penalized because of this, you should go through all the pages in your site and see whether you have inadvertently made any such mistake.

SEO Mistake #6: Using page cloaking

Cloaking, which is against Google’s webmaster guidelines, is defined by Google as follows:

“Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content or URLs to users and search engines. Serving up different results based on user agents may cause your site to be perceived as deceptive and removed from the Google index”

People generally use page cloaking for two reasons:

  1. To hide the source code of their search engine-optimized pages from their competitors
  2. To prevent human visitors from having to see a page that looks good to the search engines but does not necessarily look good to humans

The problem with this is that when a site uses cloaking, it prevents the search engines from being able to spider the same page that their users are going to see. And if the search engines can’t do this, they can no longer be confident of providing relevant results to their users. Thus, if a search engine discovers that a site has used cloaking, it will probably ban the site forever from their index.

Hence, our advice is that you should not even think about using cloaking in your site and if you are already doing any cloaking and getting away with it, I guess you may have to be on the lookout.

SEO Mistake #7: Devoting too much time to search engine positioning

Yes – we lied. There’s another common mistake that people make when it comes to search engine optimization – they spend too much time on it.

Sure, search engine placement is the most cost-effective way of driving traffic to your site and you do need to spend some time every day learning how the search engines work and optimizing your site for the search engines.

However, you must remember that search engine optimization is a means to an end for you – it’s not the end in itself. The end is to increase the sales of your products and services. Hence, apart from trying to improve your site’s position in the search engines, you also need to spend time on all the other factors which determine the success or the failure of your website – the quality of the products and services that you are offering, the quality of your content, and so on.

You may have excellent rankings in the search engines, but if the quality of your products and services is poor, or you’re not producing high-quality SEO content, those high rankings aren’t going to do much good.


Jacob McMillen is a copywriter, marketing blogger, and inbound marketing consultant.

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How long does SEO take to show results?

November 9, 2022 No Comments

How long does SEO take to show results

30-second summary:

  • The only way to determine any time frames is to determine your client’s goals and flesh out a lot of “it depends” before a commitment
  • There are a lot of “it depends” you will need to clear out with your client before giving any time estimate
  • Factors that can influence how long SEO may take include the site’s age, its previous history with SEO and Google, its size, CMS, and any business specifics that may slow you down
  • The minimum amount of time required for SEO work to show obvious results is 6 months (but a 12-month period is more realistic)
  • There are certain credible strategies that can yield quicker results (if done right)

There’s no way to guarantee SEO results within a definitive timeframe, simply because we can never guarantee what we cannot control, and Google is not under our powers.

There can be rough estimates that should be clearly explained to the client as they are, that is, expectations that are not guaranteed.

Your client should understand that there are no magic bullets and you don’t know any secrets. All you can do is follow the best practices to ensure gradual growth. This is key to managing clients’ expectations properly.

But let’s get back to the question: How long does SEO take to show results?

What is it we are trying to achieve?

First of all, it is important to understand and adjust your client’s goals. What is it they are looking for when investing in an SEO strategy?

Most clients would insist on improving rankings for the keywords they already know they target. In many cases, these are unrealistic keywords that may take years to achieve.

This is where “adjusting” the goals comes into play.

By expanding those keywords to make them longer and less competitive, you can be more confident in achieving SEO goals within a realistic timeframe. Make sure the client is made aware that:

  • Long-tail keywords can actually bring organic traffic that converts much better: The more specific a search query is, the closer that searcher is to complete their buying journey.
  • Keyword gap analysis helps identify business gaps that can help a business stand out and find its unique audience.
  • Discovering new keywords and expanding existing keywords help diversify organic traffic sources which, in turn, helps maintain a more consistent organic visibility. If you lose one or two positions for a short-tail search query with a huge search volume, you risk losing 20 to 30 percent of your traffic. If you lose a few long-tail rankings here and there, your site will still be driving pretty much the same amount of organic traffic. Google’s SERPs are very dynamic and versatile: Losing rankings is inevitable, so diversification is key to stability.

Overall, the best way to set the client’s expectations right is to set a goal of gradual organic traffic (and conversion) growth. This way you focus on positive results that come from a big number of pages instead of stressing over rank monitoring for a few key pages that may be moving up extremely slowly.

What actually are the metrics “it all depends on?”

And yet, the inevitable “it depends” will still come up.

Every site is different: Some sites will benefit from active SEO work quicker than others, even if you focus on gradual traffic growth, rather than a few rankings.

The SEO time frame primarily depends on:

  • The size of the site: It is easier to achieve accumulative growth when the site is large and already has quite a few possibilities
  • The site’s history: If the site has been seeing a slow but steady decline in rankings and organic visibility for a few years, it may be difficult to flatten that curve and ultimately turn it around. Plus, if a site was affected by certain updates (like Product Review Update) requires Google to re-run that update for all the previous work to reflect (or not) on rankings. No SEO professional can ever be sure when the next refresh happens, so that will impact your SEO results to become obvious. And let’s not even talk about a pretty unpopular fact that none of the recent Google updates has any obvious remedy: You need to work on everything under the sun in hopes it will help and sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Current backlinks profile (and possible actions): Things like backlink clean-up may take quite some time for Google to recognize and react to the changes
  • The age of the site: New sites take longer for Google to finally accept the fact that they can be trusted.

There are more factors, of course. Whether a site is already an entity is another factor that can impact how fast the results will come. The current structure of the site is another big thing that can be challenging: Restructuring a site can cause Google to figure it out for quite some time, even if you do everything right.

Obviously, the client’s turnaround is another factor to discuss: Some businesses require a long process of approving any change that is needed to make their sites SEO-friendlier. New and optimized content may take weeks or months of the legal reviewing process. 

Other businesses simply have no development teams to help them with on-site work, so they rely on freelancers. This is another level of back-and-forth process slowing them down, especially when ongoing technical tasks are required. Additionally, some CMSs are easier to manage (these are Wix, WordPress, and a few others), while others require technical skills.

SEOs are seldom lucky enough to get the keys from clients’ sites allowing them to push all the required changes live within days.

So how long does SEO take?

With all of the above in mind, the minimum amount of time required for SEO to start delivering tangible results (i.e. relevant traffic that converts) is six months.

In most cases, you will need about 12 months to proudly report on the results you were able to achieve.

There are quick wins possible…

Of course, there are tricks to start delivering some results within a shorter period of time to keep your clients happy.

For example, optimizing for branded search is something that can quickly help your clients see more traffic that converts like magic (because people searching for a brand name are very likely to convert once they manage to land on that site).

Internal linking can quickly boost the performance of existing pages, especially if those are optimized for search queries with lower competition.

Exploring rich snippet opportunities and using structured markup (where it makes sense) will likely improve click-through without having to wait for the rankings to grow (which will be slower to happen).

Updating old articles that currently rank within the top two pages of search results may also deliver quick wins, if you do it right.

Those are the first steps to take when starting active SEO work.

It is actually an endless process

This is another thing to make clear when clients ask that inevitable question: How long will it take? 

SEO actually never ends. You cannot just optimize a site and watch your organic traffic come and convert. Google’s algorithm is evolving, current content becomes stale (so it needs to be monitored, updated, and re-optimized), and competitors keep getting backlinks, and other key boosts.

You need to always stay on top of your SEO efforts, develop new content and new link-generating assets and lead magnets, explore new searching patterns… the list goes on and on.

An effective SEO service will also always include exploring new tactics, detailed competitor monitoring (and learning from them), and ongoing investigation of new SEO opportunities (like new keywords, new rich snippet opportunities, and new media).


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

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The post How long does SEO take to show results? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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SEO doesn’t have to be scary: shift from a reactive to proactive strategy

November 1, 2022 No Comments

SEO doesn't have to be scary shift from a reactive to proactive strategy

30-second summary:

  • SEO is a reality that all marketers face and many try to steer clear of as they devise an all-encompassing digital marketing strategy that is reactive in nature
  • Begin by familiarizing yourself with Google’s Page Quality Rating Guidelines
  • Create a sound SEO strategy to use every time you start the content creation process, include – researching audience needs, keyword considerations, and internal linking
  • Make sure to clean up and update your existing content so that it doesn’t drag down new, SEO-optimized content

SEO can be vague. It is nuanced. It is always in a state of evolution. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a very real factor that impacts your marketing, whether you plan for it or not. 

Many marketers discover the powerful effects of SEO when it’s too late. Their content is already underperforming. It isn’t ranking for the right keywords. It isn’t retaining readers and has a low dwell time. 

Fixing the issue of bad SEO wastes time and resources. It’s also completely unavoidable.

The key to utilizing SEO to your advantage is to approach it in a proactive rather than a reactive manner. If you’re in a pattern of noticing the effects of SEO on your online content and trying to make adjustments after the fact, here are some suggestions to help you seize the reins and regain a sense of control over your organic search traffic.

1. Associate yourself with Google’s Page Quality Rating Guidelines

If you want to dominate with your SEO, you need to start by understanding it as much as possible. This is much easier said than done. SEO often feels more like an art form than a science. Algorithms can be difficult to follow. Results can be conflicting. But there are ways to bring some clarity to the chaos.

Google provides a number of pointers for how its search engine works via its Page Quality Rating Guidelines. This is a massive document that used to be privy to Google employees only. Now that it’s public, it enables marketers and SEO experts to better inform their proactive SEO strategies.

There are several key areas of the document that shed light on how Google evaluates your website. For instance, it’s important to understand key concepts, like YMYL pages. These are ‘Your Money or Your Life‘ pages, which contain important information to help readers make critical decisions. Due to their higher degree of importance, Google grades these pages with a more stringent, high-quality standard. That means you need to keep them impeccably informed and up-to-date (more on that further down).

E-A-T is another essential element of Google ranking. The acronym stands for expertise, authority, and trust — a trio of elements that help define how high to rank a web page.

Google’s Page Quality Rating Guidelines may be extensive, comprehensive, and a bit overwhelming. But you don’t need to read it cover to cover every quarter. Instead, familiarize yourself with many of the basic concepts. And, of course, keep it bookmarked for easy reference so that it can continue to inform your SEO strategy in the future.

2. Build each piece of content thoughtfully from the get-go

Everyone and their mother knows about the importance of keywords and linking in SEO. The problem is when you fail to address these critical content components in the planning phase — i.e. before you actually make your content.

Now, this is where things can get tricky. If you focus entirely on things like keywords, it’s easy to over-prioritize SEO at the expense of the reader — and that is always a bad strategy. 

Good SEO comes from putting the reader first and the search engines second. That naturally creates content that better satisfies the searcher’s intent. This has the effect of boosting critical SEO criteria, like dwell time …which ends up boosting your SEO in the long run anyway.

Even so, it’s important to factor things like keywords and linking into your initial content creation strategy. A good way to do this while still prioritizing your audience is by using the following steps:

  • Search for important keywords and phrases related to your audience: What is your target demographic searching for? What answers or advice do they need? One easy way to see this is by looking up generic keywords from your audience and checking the “Related searches” section at the bottom of the SERPs. Use this to guide what content you create.
  • Choose additional keywords: Use a keyword planner to add other keywords to your initial topic. Don’t be excessive. Just use a handful of additional terms to help your content stand out in search results.
  • Create complete content: When you go to create the content itself, try to make it as comprehensive as possible. Complete content refers to something that doesn’t just answer an initial inquiry but any follow-up questions, as well.
  • Add internal links: Finally, remember to link to other areas of your site throughout each piece. Consistently linking to important pages can tie your site together and help it perform better.

By planning keywords and links ahead of time, you can ensure that you optimize each piece of content right out of the gate.

3. Cultivate existing content

It’s tempting to dive right into creating fresh, new content that is SEO-friendly. But let’s stop for a minute and think things through.

If your current site is already performing poorly, creating better content is only going to solve part of the problem. Many chronic SEO issues are a site-wide affair. In fact, Google has clarified that thin content (that is, content without much value) doesn’t apply to individual posts. It’s a site-wide problem.

That means if you start the proactive SEO process by creating new content, it’s going to have to overcome the flaws of your past low-quality content before it can really start to lift your site out of the SEO gutter.

Instead, as you study Google’s search engine guidelines and gain a better grasp of how to improve your SEO, start the reformation process by assessing the state of your current content. Conduct a review of the existing content on your site by asking these questions:

As you go along, try to identify YMYL pages. Remember, those are the pages that contain high value for readers — and which consequently tend to be graded on a higher curve. Make a list of these and check in on them from time to time to keep them at peak value.

Don’t leave SEO to chance

SEO is a powerful tool that can make or break your online content. It’s not the kind of thing that you want to leave to chance. It’s also hard to overcome by reacting to poor SEO after the fact.

Instead, take control of your SEO by using the suggestions above. Start by familiarizing yourself with Google’s guidelines. Then create a sound strategy to guide each new piece of content. Finally, review your existing site (especially any YMYL pages) to make sure you’re offering value with both past and future content.

If you can stay proactive with your SEO, you can turn it into a key element of your marketing strategy.


John Rampton is a top marketing leader and founder of Calendar. Find John on Twitter @johnrampton.

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Balancing between paid and organic search for brand success

October 18, 2022 No Comments

Balancing between paid and organic search for brand success

30-second summary:

  • Relying on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for short-term gains and neglecting organic marketing will prove ineffective
  • Before pumping any money into SEO strategy, a business must ensure that its website is fully optimised for user experience
  • Once in a comfortable position, PPC advertising can be used to amplify brand reach by experimenting with new keywords
  • While short-tail keywords have a higher search volume, long-tail keywords remain vital
  • Search results drastically differ on mobile and desktop and mobile users have less patience, so allocate more PPC advertising budget for mobile

When trying to grow a business, the importance of SEO cannot be understated. If people are unable to find a business, especially as ecommerce continues to grow into an unstoppable force, then attracting customers is an impossible endeavour.

In a bid to fast-track brand awareness, an inexperienced business owner might be tempted to rely on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to get fast results. However, finding the right balance between organic marketing and PPC advertising is crucial for brand success.

I have broken down six ways to find the perfect balance between organic marketing and PPC advertising so that any business owner can build awareness for their brand the right way.

Fully optimize your website first

Before focusing on paid or organic search for brand success, having a fully functional website is imperative. If a prospective customer has a torrid experience using a website, the odds of securing a sale drastically decrease. All the logistics of a website should be thoroughly inspected, such as broken links, load time and the volume of customers which can be hosted at once. It’s also important to avoid over-optimising a website and using too many keywords. Keywords should be implemented subtly so that the untrained eye would never notice, otherwise, they might add negative SEO value.

Rely on PPC whilst waiting for organic SEO improvement

While it would be great to be able to rely mostly or solely on organic marketing to raise brand awareness eventually, doing so when starting out is virtually impossible. Historically, PPC advertising has been encouraged to be used whilst a business is waiting for organic SEO improvement to land. This is not a licence to neglect organic marketing – far from it – as the goal is to improve a business’s SEO value whilst using PPC initially. In the longer term, results from PPC advertising should be used to guide organic marketing efforts.

Experiment with brand-related keywords

Once in a comfortable position, a business can shift its PPC advertising strategy towards experimentation. As and when organic brand-related keywords drop in place, the corresponding PPC advertising budget can be reallocated to test new keywords, thus amplifying the total reach of the brand. When improving SEO value, a business needs to constantly explore and update its targeted keywords for organic SEO improvement. As mentioned, results from PPC advertising should be used to inform organic marketing planning.

Focus on both short-tail and long-tail keywords

A short-tail keyword or ‘head term’ is a search term with one to three words that cover a general topic. Landing on the first search engine results page for short-tail keywords borders on impossible due to the sheer number of results, so even though they typically have a higher search volume, long-tail keywords remain important as users are more likely to be closer to a point-of-purchase when searching them. Searching for “shoe shiner” would be a short-tail keyword, whereas searching for “how to shine my shoes” is a long-tail keyword, as it is three to five words and more focused on a specific subject. Naturally, the short-tail keywords will garner more searches, but ranking well for the long-tail keywords will offer a business a meaningful advantage over competitors in the same market.

Don’t just rely on Google

Most business owners, executives and managers will be inclined to focus all their efforts on Google – and rightfully so as it’s the world’s biggest search engine platform by far. However, it can also be worth testing ads on the likes of Bing to see what returns are achievable elsewhere. If the results are favourable, it might be worth splitting SEO-related efforts across multiple platforms.

Use PPC advertising for mobile, organic marketing for desktop

Search results drastically differ on mobile and desktop. At the risk of stating the obvious, using a search engine on desktop presents the users with more results because the screen is naturally bigger. As the window of opportunity – literally the size of the search window on a smartphone – is much smaller on mobile, using PPC advertising for mobile is critical. Furthermore, mobile users are less likely to make multiple searches using different keywords, than a desktop user with more patience might.

Growing brand awareness requires a streamlined and focused strategy for both organic marketing and PPC advertising. Solely relying on PPC advertising might seem like an easy solution, but slowly working on organic marketing will eventually allow a business to use PPC advertising to amplify brand reach. Business owners might underestimate the importance of SEO, but its importance can’t be underscored in the ever-growing digital marketplace.


Nick Swan is Founder of SEOTesting.

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How to effectively optimize content

October 16, 2022 No Comments

How to effectively optimize content

30-second summary:

  • By using a range of techniques to optimize your content, you can make it easier for both search engines and users to consume your written text
  • Taking the time to plan your content topics and conduct extensive keyword research can make a big impact when it comes to performance
  • You should always write for the user first, but you can still implement SEO best practices while doing so
  • Understand the role of accessibility in written content and the importance of providing as much contextual information as possible

Content optimization is essential because it helps users and search engines to easily understand your written text. In addition to this, there are a huge number of other advantages you can gain by optimizing content. You can increase engagement rates, obtain links, generate brand recognition, and appear as an expert in your field. All while improving your organic search rankings.

Sounds good, right?

Let’s find out how you can benefit from all this, and more, by effectively optimizing your content.

Think about your topic

Before you write content, you need to decide on the topic you’re going to cover. This might sound obvious, but it’s worth thinking about. Spending some extra time planning will help you to identify specific subjects and talking points you can discuss. This will help shape your keyword research, which plays a huge role in creating SEO-friendly content.

At this stage, it’s worth thinking about what you want to focus on. You want the topic to be broad enough that you can produce detailed content about it, but not so broad that you won’t be able to cover it all. It might be the case that you need to split the topic into multiple articles. Or if your topic is too vague, you may need to home in on something more specific.

Conduct detailed keyword research

Keyword research is and always has been an essential part of producing good content. It’s the basis for content production and making sure you’re ranking for relevant keywords that you have a good chance of competing for. When performing keyword research, you should be on the lookout for several different types of keywords.

Short-tail keywords

Also known as the head or main keyword, short-tail keywords are made up of a maximum of three words. These keywords will typically have large volumes, but because of this, they have high search difficulties and therefore are highly competitive.

Because these keywords have a broad search intent, they should be used alongside more precise keywords to make it clear to users and search engines exactly what your page is about.

Long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are terms made up of more than three keywords and are much more specific than short-tail keywords. These keywords generally have lower volumes, but they also have lower search difficulties, which means they are less competitive.

These keywords are important because they allow you to target a user’s exact search intent. A user who searches for the short-tail keyword ‘motorbike’ might be trying to buy a motorbike, find more information about a model or simply look at a picture of one.

A long tail variation of this search might be ‘Motorbike helmet with Bluetooth speakers’, which narrows down the user’s search intent to a very specific product.

LSI keywords

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are keywords that are loosely related to your head keyword. While these keywords are relevant to your main keyword and the overall topic, they’re not necessarily directly related.

Instead, they’re used thematically to build broader topical depth and make it clear to both search engines and users what the overarching topic of your content is. If your short-tail keyword is the trunk of a tree and your long-tail keywords are the branches, then the LSI keywords are the twigs.

LSI keywords branch out from the main keyword but are still relatable enough to provide additional context and information. These can be a bit trickier to find, but by using the suggested search feature in search engines, you can get your hands on them.

Local keywords

These keywords won’t always be relevant, but if you’re looking to boost your rankings for local terms, then including local keywords is essential.

Luckily, this is a lot easier than implementing other keywords. You simply add your location into your content along with your main keyword. But remember, don’t stuff in keywords for the sake of it! Try to mix it up, using different variations wherever possible.

People also ask (PAA) key phrases

Like the suggested search function, the people also ask feature is an excellent way to obtain relevant keywords and phrases. These are phrases that users have searched for before, so we know that they hold value and have good search volumes.

So, how can we use this to our advantage?

By creating content that targets these queries, you’ll be increasing your chances of appearing in Search Engine Results Pages for these terms.

And the best thing is, these questions are often different to the main keywords you would normally target. This means your content will be more varied and unique and will specifically target pain points that your audience is looking for.

Always write for the user first

People skim content more than ever these days, so it’s important to keep it short, snappy, and engaging. The days of writing solely for search engines are long gone, and Google’s recent helpful content update has really cemented this.

This update emphasizes the importance of writing for the user first. Your focus should be on creating engaging, informative and easy-to-digest content. You can always go through your work afterward and make tweaks and edits to optimize for SEO best practice.

Just be careful not to make it too robotic as search engines can spot keyword stuffing from a mile away! Keep it free-flowing and try to insert keywords in a natural way; both users and search engines will appreciate it.

Include alt-text for your images

If you’re including images in your articles (which you should be) then it’s essential that you add alt text. Alt text is the written copy that describes an image to users who can’t see them or if the image fails to load.

First and foremost, alt text is a core principle of web accessibility for visually impaired users. Its secondary function is to provide additional context and descriptions to search engine crawlers, allowing them to index an image properly.

As some images contain critical information or provide context for the rest of the page, it’s crucial to take the time to write appropriate alt text. By doing this, you are adhering to accessibility standards and improving your SEO at the same time.

Remember internal and external links

Another way to optimize your content is to include internal and external links.

Internal links can be used to take users toward relevant, closely related pages that will provide them with further information they might be looking for. This makes it easier for users to navigate your website and helps to create a strong site structure.

External links are also useful because they can be used to point toward external data and sources of information that back up your content. In the eyes of a search engine, the use of valuable external links improves the authority of your content.

Just make sure you have a healthy balance of follow and no-follow tags on your external links.

Consider site speed

Site speed is always important when it comes to performing well in search engines. No one likes a slow website, and users are more impatient than ever when it comes for waiting for things to load. Even an extra second’s loading time could put some users off and cause them to bounce from your website.

You should regularly review your site speed and make sure your website is performing well. Consider removing unnecessary code and compressing large images as these are common factors that contribute to slow site speed.

Break up your content

Imagine you land on a webpage and the first thing you see is a wall of text with no paragraphs, headings, or subheadings. It’s not exactly going to draw you in, is it?

Users are more likely to consume your content if it’s broken up into digestible chunks. This makes it much easier for them to quickly take in the information they’re looking for.

It also provides you an opportunity to weave keywords into your headings and subheadings, which are strong signals for search engines. It’s a win-win!

Keep things up to date

Remember, even when you’ve produced a well-written, SEO-friendly article, the hard work doesn’t stop there. Google LOVES it when you go back and update existing content because it shows you’re keeping your website up to date.

Has there been a new development that affects the topic of your post? Or perhaps some new data that you could use to explore a new angle? If there is some way that you can update your article and add information that will benefit your users, then it’s worth taking the time to do so.

Enjoy the benefits of optimized content

Now that you know how to optimize your content, you’ll have a better chance of ranking for your chosen keywords. In addition to this, your users will be more likely to stay on your website for longer, increasing your engagement rates and the time spent consuming your content.

As a result of consistently producing high-quality content, you may well find that your site is attracting more links from external sources. This will boost your domain authority and help you to appear as a trustworthy and authoritative source of information.

So, if you’re looking for ways to give your content a little boost, consider implementing some of these techniques into your writing. It won’t always be possible to include everything we’ve mentioned here, but if you write for the user first and take care with your keywords, you’ll be on the right track.


Rob Phillips is Digital Manager at Coast Digital.

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