After a fantastic first day, I have returned for a second day of talks at SMX London at Stamford Bridge. On Day 2, I am attending mostly the Advanced Track, dipping into the Search & Social Track for one of the early afternoon sessions to discuss advanced technical SEO.
Links are still important as they’re one of the strongest signals for search engines.
There is no denying that bad links still work in some cases, particularly with big brand sites that have always performed well. However search engines are catching up.
There are niches where it is harder to earn links, but it’s never impossible.
Even PornHub have been earning natural followed links from huge sites with quality content (i.e. infographic on states that watch the most porn!)
Rather than creating content that you hope will work and be shared, first start thinking about the audience and the kind of content they would be interested in and genuinely likely to share.
Set up Audience and Interest Reports in GA to get a top level view of your audience to get a better idea of who they are.
Look at the demographics of the people who visit vs. the people who convert; is there correlation or are you likely to need different content for an engagement audience to that of your converting audience?
Facebook Power Editor is a powerful tool for getting some audience insight from you Facebook audience.
Other useful tools for audience insight include Tailwind, Quora, Compete, Follower Wonk, Quantcast and BrandLove.
With audience analysis you can group your audience by key demographics such as gender, age, etc. to work out what type of content will work best for each group.
TGI is a survey tool worth investigating to get even more insight into your audience and get a better idea of what’s important to them.
If you’re in a difficult niche for interesting content, think about stepping outside the box to create more interesting content tailored to the audience and more likely to be shared.
Link reclamation is a great tactic for getting easy, natural links. Outdated Content Finder, Image Raider, Broken Link Finder and Fresh Web Explorer are great tools for finding any mentions or references to you that could be linked.
Recipe rich snippets including reviews, ratings, preparation time, nutritional information, a picture and more.
A recipe needs to be the only page marked up and needs to contain full information about the recipe.
Even on Bing, the result will stand out because it uses the recipe image, if not the other additional structured data.
A huge number of recipe searches show rich snippet data of some sort.
The process starts with looking through the relevant Schema markup library to find elements that are relevant to the page.
Markup templates can be used for new content and UGC such as user-submitted recipes.
Schema markup should be implemented site-wide and tested thoroughly with the Structured Data Testing Tool.
In testing, the increase in organic search traffic 93.46% year on year.
Ranking increases were actually clearly seen too, even though Google claims that markup doesn’t affect rankings.
The potential issue with rich snippets is that poor reviews and ratings are displayed in the SERPs so you need to ensure your commenting system doesn’t bring down your average rating based on comments which are questions rather than reviews.
Be sure to check for errors in Google Webmaster Tools and fix them as they arise.
Barry Adams, SEO & Digital Strategy consultant, Pierce Communications
The forgotten Rich Snippets: job posting, products, events and music.
In the job industry, very few listings use structured markup and rich snippets so there is a great opportunity in that industry.
In order to get rich snippets for jobs you must have a number of key information on the page marked up, including title, date posted, hiring organisation, job location, base salary and salary currency.
Product markup is a huge opportunity. Data which must be marked up includes model, brand, manufacturer, item condition, description and offers (price and availability).
Event markup is perfect for any events or businesses in the events industry. Essential attributes include name, start and end date, performer, location and offers (again, price and availability).
Music markup is essential for musicians or sites in the music industry to give standout to music listings in the SERPs. Attributes needed include name, by artist, duration, album and image.
To get rich snippets shown in Google you need to be trusted by them. You are not guaranteed to get them even if you do use Schema or any kind of markup.
Equally, some trusted sites get rich snippets even when not marked up, including Amazon.
In general though, the more information you give them by marking up data, the better.
If you have structured data markup errors in Google Webmaster Tools, fix them. This can be the difference between not having rich snippets and finally getting them.
Technically Speaking: Advanced Technical SEO Issues
Google now looks at significantly more factors when ranking sites than it once did, meaning websites have to do much more to succeed
Technical SEO is about people; about optimising the technical aspects of your site for the benefit of users and thus satisfying Google.
Google hated the massive net approach of previous years, where creating loads of pages for keyword variations worked.
Every page should be included in a relevant site map to help Google navigate your site.
Your indexed pages as listed in Google Webmaster Tools should be checked regularly to ensure that you do not have too many or not enough pages indexed.
Make every single page awesome; audit every page regularly and ensure any low quality pages are developed or removed to maintain a high quality of indexed pages.
You must know, control and understand every page on your site.
With out of stock products, don’t keep pages indexed as users will almost always bounce back to search, meaning Google will see that your page isn’t providing any value to users.
If possible (tools required i.e; Sitecore) use personalisation to understand the visitor and improve their experience of your site.
Use reviews strategically to help boost conversion rate. Use a range of detailed and useful attributes for visitors to review products against.
Use a reward to incentivise reviews, i.e; a voucher.
Split test your review request emails to see which get the best response and the most reviews.
Get reviews of the service within 12 hours of the delivery or supply; then follow up those who were happy with the service to get a product review 14-30 days later.
Faceted navigation: make sure that everything you don’t want indexed are not indexed. Keep a tight control of category and sub-category pages.
Make sure that the pages you want ranked are the ones indexed: link to the correct landing pages and not to search results pages.
If you don’t upgrade your mobile site and overall experience on devices, Google will push your site down on devices. You could rank top on desktops but page 3 on mobile if you do not have a mobile or responsive site which works well.
Screaming Frog and DeepCrawl are two great tools for a technical and indexing audit.
Perform audit indexation and check page quality and link structure frequently.
In a case study, the client site took numerous clicks to find the right product and buy. The challenge was to reduce down to one page for sales with filters, etc. without losing traffic. The solution came with AJAX.
Because the purpose of the change was to improve the journey for users, the hope was that no major SEO issues would be encountered.
The recommended method for using AJAX is The Google AJAX Crawling Scheme. This is where you use a hashbang (#!) to denote fragments of content.
You then create a static snapshot of the dynamic content for Google to crawl and understand.
When Google sees the hashbang instruction, it “escapes from the dynamic content that the crawler cannot see and goes to see the static content.
You cannot use spaces, percentage characters, etc. in hashbanged URLs.
However, this causes huge numbers of duplicate content risks. The solution was to canonicalise URLs depending on how similar they were.
Due to the huge structural changes, monitoring was hugely important. This includes checking rankings, traffic and any other metrics that could be affected.
After implementation of the project, visibility drops dramatically in the short term, before learning about the site and new structure.
However, France and Spain didn’t pick up, despite the rest of the world’s site performing well. This was the result of English localisation being wrongly mapped.
Eventually, visibility actually grew beyond where it started, showing the success of the project.
Building Robust Ad Campaigns With Search & Display
The old ways in paid search aren’t enough: the paid search field has changed dramatically within the last year.
It’s no longer enough to have a standard text ad without extensions and other features. If you don’t, your competitors will.
There is a diminishing returns pattern when it comes to paid search: eventually your time becomes less effective if you are not concentrating on new areas and quick wins.
Lots of easy wins are the key to getting the most out of your time and investment.
Search and display, in terms of management and optimisation, are now very similar. They both share things like devices, locations, time, etc. This means that the strategy can often be applied to both types of campaign, without a completely separate strategy for each.
However, keywords is very different between search and display. Display keywords, matching words on a page, is far more predictable than trying to predict how people are going to search and what keywords they will use.
Review locations, time of day and day of the week comprehensively to identify what works best, where you should and shouldn’t be targeting, etc. to identify tweaks that could lead to quick wins.
Remarketing for search is an incredibly powerful opportunity and Remarketing for both search and display uses the same signals in terms of targeting.
Demographics data is incredibly powerful for ensuring you conserve budget and send relevant users to the most relevant landing page.
Third party demographic tools can be used with display campaigns and are incredibly powerful and detailed, providing a huge opportunity for more targeted ads.
Display is a great way to spark the consideration phase in a similar way to TV and reaches a huge audience.
Consider the most perfectly targeted audience to target highest with display which would be incredibly specific. Then think of the best audience, and the next. Target a wider range but focus more budget and refinement on the targeted audiences.
Persuasion = Remarketing. However, it’s not often the final click in the conversion path. This is why it’s important to continue raising awareness to that audience.
Get the basics right in search first before then seeding interest in your brand or product through display.
Next, consider messaging; a story to tell them at each step rather than continuously popping up at them. Give them something new at different stages of their interaction.
Lastly, prevent leaks from all the stages of the sales funnel using Remarketing.
When those fundamentals are in place, you can consider less important factors to find more quick wins, including extensions, video, rich media, Betas, dynamic Remarketing, PLAs and more.
Tracking is essential, particularly when combining search and display. You cannot get your value right if you don’t. You must know which channels were involved in any conversion and to what extent.
Use the same tool to manage your search and display data because that is the only way to get data on how the two compliment each other.
Testing makes perfect: ad testing is everything so split testing and refinement is essential.
Lastly, cap your frequencies! Don’t drive your customers round the bend by following them everywhere around the web constantly for a month.
The web innovation of recent years means that search must follow. It is no longer a case of simply sorting and returning documents, or about 10 blue links.
User interface has changed, as has the intent and the behaviour of users. It is no longer all about questions, it’s about actions.
Why would users continue to navigate to google.com or bing.com to run a search when they can talk to their device, use native search features built into device operating systems, etc.
Why should SERPs be 10 blue links when they can be interactive and augmented?
Search is now a database of intent and SERPs should be representative of that intent.
Ad extensions enable users to engage directly from the SERPs and provide more value
Sitelink extensions allow you to supply links to potentially more specific resources for broad searches where the intent isn’t clear.
Sitelinks are proven to increase CTR through both additional ad space and also through directing visitors to something more specifically relevant than the ad alone.
Video extensions can play videos within the SERPs, giving a huge amount of real estate to your ad.
In addition to more real estate from extensions and the resulting increased CTR, there is also the valuable decrease in irrelevant clicks by giving users more information to ensure that you are what they are looking for.
Fundamentally it’s a case of serving the right content to the right people at the right time in the right way.
Two free tools to turn search intents into smart marketing insights:
Bing Ads Intelligence Tool: a free tool that connects Excel to the Bing search database and gives you advanced keyword research insight including search volumes and demographics.
Power Map: another free plugin for Excel that allows you to map your data (exported from your ad campaign, etc.) and gain smart marketing and audience insight to aid both your online and offline campaigns. Includes dynamic heat map features and is well worth checking out.
There are a lot of fake signals out there, with 75% of tweeted content having not been read by the tweeter! As such, it can’t easily be used as a ranking factor.
Keywords are not being taken away from paid search, only from the paid search data in Analytics!
By bidding on a keyword you can then use organic comparable data through AdWords which is interestingly different from Webmaster Tools.
Tools have just made it easier for social communities to thrive, they have always been there – forums have existed since the very early Internet days.
Privacy online, particularly in a social networking capacity, could continue to increase as an issue.
Organic data can never be lost from a successful search engine completely as the market share would be lost when users don’t use the search engine, which they wouldn’t if it we’re completely paid content.
When it comes to PPC landing pages, a PPC professional needs a knowledge base that includes understanding what is needed from landing pages and the factors that are important for Quality Score. Plus they are able to fluently interpret Analytics data to understand performance, but not necessarily the ability to make the changes on site, etc.
In agencies it’s essential that everyone working on a project (SEOs, PPC managers, Content Marketers, etc.) meet and keep up to date. A project manager is needed!
“What frustrates you the most?” – the link cleanup work Google has created for us!
Don’t try to put out a news story every day for the sake of it: take time to research it and create useful content.
The key SEO takeaways are essentially that links do still count and good content is the way to get them. Engagement and behaviour is increasingly important for rankings which we need to be aware of moving forward.
You can still get keywords from Webmaster Tools and should use it for insights, even though it’s not fully accurate.
Social is just going to grow. It’s a great industry to be in!
We are still waiting for a backlash based on social, with more pushes for “get off the phone and get outside” messages starting to emerge.
When it comes to online data privacy, this generation generally doesn’t care: those with issues tend to be the older generations.
It is probable that the percentage of a website’s traffic which is organic decreases, with more sources including social playing a bigger part.
The SearchMetrics suite is good for adding insight in place of missing keyword data.
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