8 Tried & Tested Tips for Improving SEO & Developer Relations

My Post - 2019-11-26T182227.675.pngThe relationship between SEO professionals and developers is one typified by frustration and misunderstanding.

From an SEO perspective, it can be difficult to communicate the value and importance of search-related initiatives and to get them prioritized in development pipelines.

From a developer’s point of view, SEO can seem like a never-ending source of tickets and annoyance that delays them from delivering their work on time.

As web technologies become more advanced, SEO is becoming more technically sophisticated, which means it is increasingly important that we actively examine ways to work more harmoniously with development teams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been speaking with some of the most experienced and respected people in SEO and digital marketing to find out how they’ve built and nurtured relationships with development and engineering teams to achieve success.

In this post, I’m going to share some of the best insights from these conversations.

1. Heal the Wounds Left by Bad SEO Experiences

While a large part of SEO is now focused on meeting the user intent of searchers with high-quality content, developers and other teams may still have a lingering mistrust of SEO pros.

The days of keyword stuffing and bulk link buying are no longer seen as popular or sustainable SEO practices by most, but it may take time and relationship building for an SEO to win the trust of developers because of their prior experiences.

At a previous job, JP Sherman, Manager of Search and Findability from Red Hat, needed to gain the trust of developers who had been burnt by a bad SEO agency.

Rather than going into the business and making demands of the developers about what needed to be changed from an SEO perspective, Sherman made a point sitting down with the company’s developers to establish their common goals and put a plan in place to achieve these while overcoming shared frustrations with the website.

After a year of this approach, he managed to build a level of trust with the development team and turned an audience of skeptics into SEO advocates.

2. Involve Developers by Hosting a Hackathon

One novel way to get developers interested and engaged with SEO initiatives is by hosting a hackathon.

Polly Pospelova, Head of Search at Delete, organized a hackathon and invited the agency’s developers to participate.

The sole aim of the hackathon was to get a perfect score in Lighthouse for the agency’s own website.

The event was a massive success, as the developers were not only able to achieve a score of 100 in Lighthouse but this shared objective laid the blueprint for speed optimization work that Pospelova was able to roll to many of Delete’s clients.

Pospelova’s hackathon is an inspiring and original example of how SEO and marketing pros can work successfully with developers by working to achieve a common goal.

3. Embed Yourself in Your Client’s Organization

From an agency’s perspective, it often isn’t enough to simply provide a list of SEO recommendations off the back of an audit and expect these to be actioned by the client’s developers.

Without clear explanations and prioritization of your SEO recommendations backed by a close understanding of the client’s business, there is a fair chance your suggestions will get lost amongst other priorities.

Arnout Hellemans, Consultant at OnlineMarketThink, suggests making an effort to embed agency staff within their client’s organization for a fruitful long-term relationship.

He’s spoken with agencies who send their staff out to work from their client’s offices for a couple of days every now and again.

Rather than the relationship, largely existing only Slack and emails, the agencies are able to build much stronger relationships with their client’s developers by sitting with them and better understanding their priorities, challenges, and ways of working.

4. Pick Your Battles Carefully

While it’s clearly important for SEO pros to build strong relationships with developers, it can also pay to be strategic in terms of the recommendations that you push to be actioned.

It’s often the case that there are large numbers of actions resulting from an audit, but are all of them going to have the same impact?

Areej AbuAli, Technical SEO Manager at Zoopla, said it’s important to avoid overwhelming developers with too many recommendations at once.

She learned the hard way that it is beneficial to focus on getting the mission-critical items prioritized in development pipelines and actioned first before moving on to less pressing recommendations.

This approach helps to ensure that you’re maximizing your SEO impact, while not overwhelming developers with tickets of varying importance. – Read more

SEO Is Everyone’s Responsibility: 5 Tips to Get Non-SEOs Bought Into SEO

My Post - 2019-11-21T122222.514.pngNot to be pessimistic, but SEO can be an incredibly frustrating job.

It didn’t take very long working in the industry for me to realize that SEO professionals were the outsiders.

Our success often relied on other teams, not our own, so we were relegated to asking for favors.

At best, these requests would make it on the list (albeit usually close to the bottom). At worst, they’d be completely ignored.

I often referred to this as “yelling into a black hole.”

My advice and requests went in, never to be seen again.

That’s why I felt so validated to read Jessica Bowman’s book, “The Executive SEO Playbook”. In it, she says:

“The root problem is that everyone needs to do SEO, but the only people who have it on their performance review goals are members of the SEO team. This makes SEO tasks, for [other departments], more of a favor than a must-do activity. Most are avoiding this type of extra work in order to hit a timeline, knowing they can ‘fix it later,’ but not realizing it is often exponentially more expensive.”

That’s when it clicked.

For so long, so many companies have been thinking about SEO as its own channel.

In reality, it’s a consideration that can help search engines and searchers discover what your other departments are creating (i.e., code and content).

This means that SEO is everyone’s responsibility.

SEO as a Second Language

I recently heard Jennie Baird, SVP of Product & SEO Strategy at News Corp, explain SEO as “A second language that everyone in the organization needs to be conversant in.”

I love that.

We’re not trying to make everyone SEOs. We do, however, want non-SEOs in our organization a little more SEO-aware.

The byproduct? Our SEO metrics will likely improve.

To accomplish that, here are five tips you can try.

1. Give Them SEO KPIs

A lot of the conflict between SEO and non-SEO teams stems from opposing (or rather, seemingly opposing) incentives.

The project management team’s success is being judged on how quickly they can get something launched, but this is often antithetical to the SEO’s goal of preserving search traffic (e.g., a fast launch may mean there’s no time to do redirects).

Or maybe Infrastructure and Finance want to use client-side JavaScript because it’s cheaper, while SEOs want server-side rendering because it puts less burden on users and is easier for Google to access.

As long as non-SEO teams see your SEO asks as at odds with what they’ve been tasked to do, you have little hope of getting them to help you.

The trick is getting them to see your SEO KPIs as not only not-opposed to their goals, but even as something they’ll want to adopt themselves.

But how?

One way to get non-SEO teams to adopt SEO KPIs is for that directive to come from the top down.

Your Director or VP who oversees that department would need to see the merit of giving their team SEO KPIs and rolling it out themselves.

When possible, this can be a great option. It’s much easier to get other departments to care about SEO best practices when that’s part of how their performance is judged.

But how common is that? – Read more

Here’s Why Inclusive Web Design with SEO Wins 2020

Inclusive web design with SEO creates new opportunities for digital marketers and web designers seeking a competitive edge.

Website conversions depend on how well webpages assist people with decision making starting from search queries.

Your role as an SEO is making webpages appear in search engine results at the precise moment for the exact people requesting them.

Advanced online marketing considers the webpage user experience to stick the landing, which takes them into the realm of web design.

The fun is figuring out who those people are so you can target them in search engines and web design decisions.

Most of the time businesses have a fairly good idea of who they are trying to sell products to and who might benefit from their services.

  • What are the pieces we may be missing?
  • Why is there a spike in website ADA accessibility lawsuits?
  • Why study neuroscience and human behavior, behavioral economics and how people sort, search, and filter information?
  • How can we apply hundreds of research studies to web design and marketing?

The People Layer of Search Engine Marketing

If you are an SEO professional, your primary directive is to make webpages rank high in search engines for specific search terms.

This is not always an easy task if the webpages are not designed to the proper W3C standards or maintained properly, creating performance issues that search engines notice.

What happens when a person clicks into well-ranked webpages?

Holistic UX and SEO is the practice of optimizing the whole user experience rather than treating some of its parts.

It has been around for nearly 20 years but not applied universally and inclusive design was even less heard of.

The holistic approach includes:

  • Website accessibility.
  • Information architecture.
  • Human behavior.
  • Social media marketing.
  • Persuasive web design.
  • Content writing.

The parts that people can either see, listen to or interact with using a computer, mobile or assistive device contain opportunities tucked inside for search engine marketers to explore.

What’s simmering behind understanding people as users, in addition to search engine bots, are page performance, browsers, operating systems, machine learning, and lots and lots of code of varying flavors.

This exploratory road has no end – which is why SEO will never die.

Digital marketers who play with conversions design and persuasive architecture wrestle it all into a small cell phone device experience.

And then, if you want to be hip for 2020, you look for the people you forgot to target in your marketing strategies, such as those with disabilities or minor impairments that make searching or interaction with web sites difficult without some assistance or assistive software or device. – Read more

SEM vs. SEO vs. PPC Defined: What’s the Difference?

My Post - 2019-11-21T113743.899.pngAs someone who likes to think he is organized – or, as someone who at least likes to organize things – I’ve attempted to treat digital marketing terms similarly.

The same can be said for now-Googler and search industry pioneer Danny Sullivan when he began routinely using the term “search engine marketing” in 2001 to describe the overarching niche within the digital marketing industry that focuses on search engines.

As my thinking went (and as Sullivan admits he intended), search engine marketing, or SEM, would be (and once was) a useful way to summarize and classify both the paid and non-paid initiatives that go into digital marketing via search engines.

That would mean both the pay-per-click advertisements, or PPC ads, and the organic search initiatives commonly referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO, would fall under that SEM blanket term.

SEM would be the category of marketing through search engines. The paid (PPC) and non-paid (SEO) channels of SEM would both fall under it in terms of hierarchy.

And, even when you consider the literal terminology in coordination with this idea of SEO and PPC falling under that SEM blanket, it almost makes sense.

But, much like the English language, pop culture, and the Cleveland Browns, it simply can’t work the way it’s supposed to.

There will always be exceptions to the rule (like the aforementioned conundrums above).

So, confusing it may be. But the search industry shapes itself, and it has not agreed with Mr. Sullivan over the years, adopting the term SEM to fit strictly into the paid search sphere.

It surely appears it’s there to stay, too.

Difference Between SEM & PPC

PPC is SEM.

That is, pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the same as search engine marketing (SEM), or at least a vital part of it.

SEO is none of those things.

What likely evolved over time due to the multiple potentially confusing digital marketing acronyms, as well as the need to define specific paid initiatives outside of Google paid search, brought two heavily used cost-driven marketing terms to mean the same thing (leading to even more potential confusion from newbies).

I’ve always tried to make sense of the literal meaning of things, too, especially acronyms.

But from there, it’s easy to get even more lost in the idea.

While the breakdown of the abbreviation PPC is spot on — regardless if it’s called PPC, CPC, paid search, search ads – we know it is referring to paid search marketing, typically through search engines like Google and Bing.

Other terms and tactics used in digital marketing initiatives – especially those tied to search marketing tactics (both paid and organic) – may not be so simple and clearly defined, though. – Read more

How to Optimize Your Landing Page SEO

My Post - 2019-11-14T150701.433.pngOptimizing a landing page for SEO to bring in organic traffic is slightly trickier than ranking a blog post.

When creating a page with landing page software, the goal is to lead visitors to a call to action and ensure that they follow through.

When creating an SEO-rich piece of content, the goal is to engage the reader and have them spend as much time on page as possible, then leave with the answer they were looking for.

This means your landing page needs more content, more links, more compelling copy, and more calls to action.

Though this may sound like a bit much, organic traffic means warm leads – leads you may not otherwise have had if you weren’t ranking your landing page. These leads are worth the effort, but your copy still needs to convert them.

So, there’s a fine line to walk between optimizing your page for search engines and conversions. Here’s how to approach optimizing your landing page for SEO.

Determine the goal of your landing page

Before creating your landing page, you need to determine if you want your copy to focus mainly on converting visitors or if ranking your page in search engines is your top goal.

There is a major difference between the two.

Conversion-focused pages need to take visitors on a smooth path to a clear and prominent call to action.

SEO-focused pages tend to have more content. They answer all the questions someone might search for, there is a deliberate effort to cover topics in detail, and they have multimedia elements and carefully-positioned keywords.

Some landing pages can do both. It depends on where the user is in the funnel. Your main consideration needs to be where your traffic is coming from. If you have a large list in your email marketing software or will be running PPC ads toward a specific call to action, a conversation-focused page will do.

However, If your goal is to use long-term organic traffic for lead generation, you should optimize your landing page for SEO.

Determine the right tool to use for your landing page

We’ve tried every landing page tool under the sun and we have even surveyed our audience to discover their favorite tool for building SEO optimized landing pages. Based on our ConvertKit reviews, customers love that you can use the tool not only for landing pages, but for email marketing and automation as well. – Read more

SEO Keyword Research: 13 of the Biggest Mistakes You MUST Avoid

My Post - 2019-11-13T125626.456.pngKeyword research is an integral part of any SEO marketer’s job.

But according to a study compiled a few years back, few people actually love keyword research.

Keyword research was ranked as one of the top three most difficult tasks by SEO professionals (behind link building and content creation).

That might be because 66% of us perform our keyword research in-house as opposed to finding a specialist or outsourcing it.

Keyword research can also be a daunting task – as almost 44% of us only do it when we have to.

It makes sense.

When you do your keyword research sparsely, it can feel like a huge project, and there are quite a few pitfalls that make it feel even more laborious.

When I polled SEO pros on Twitter about what they think are the biggest mistakes businesses and marketers make when performing keyword research, I got almost 40 responses – but many hit on the same themes.

Here is a list of the top-named biggest keyword research mistakes to avoid:

1. Forgetting Searcher Intent

So many people mentioned that the biggest keyword research mistake was forgetting to truly examine searcher intent.

What’s the point in ranking your site or content for a query that doesn’t match what the user is looking for?

So many marketers are more obsessed with driving traffic than they are with the bottom line – driving conversions.

And that’s where the searcher intent comes in.

Searcher intent examines what the user is actually looking for when they look for something online.

If you have a recipe site, chances are people want the recipes – not a 2,000-word essay on what this meal meant to you in your childhood.

Match your content to what people are actually looking for or ensure that the right types of queries are driving traffic to your site.

2. Not Looking at Actual SERPs

 

Part of understanding searcher intent and what search engines understand the intent behind users’ queries to be – is to actually look in the SERPs.

Too many people spend too much time in the tools, and don’t look at what’s actually ranking for keywords.

You may see that the content that Google serves users for a particular query doesn’t match the content you have for that keyword. Maybe you’re writing a blog, but search engines interpret the query to need a product page result.

Look at what type of content is ranking for that keyword and model your content on that framework. – Read more

7 To-Dos Before Launching a Business Website

My Post - 2019-11-12T143714.170.pngThese seven steps will increase your ranking on search engines and boost conversions.

Launching your new website can be very exciting. You’re about to unveil a new look for your brand. It’s important, therefore, to have everything in place to ensure a successful launch.

There are several common mistakes that developers and business owners make when launching a site. You can avoid them by planning your launch carefully and well in advance. These seven tips will give your business a great new start as you launch your website.

1. Use calls to action.

A well-designed website with compelling content is ineffective without calls to action. CTAs give users something to do with the information they’ve received from your site. It makes their interaction on your website feel complete. It can also direct the user further along your sales funnel.

It’s important to place CTAs on nearly every page. You can use them to influence user behavior. It’s very common to ask visitors to read more content and stay on your site longer. You can also ask them to share a post or sign up on your site. Membership sites often use CTAs to convince people to sign up to access gated information.

You can use CTAs strategically to increase conversions. Launching your website without them leads to missed opportunities.

2. Add analytics.

When you’re creating a website, you may put off adding analytics until later. Very often, the front end of the website is a priority, which leads to back-end features being neglected. If you don’t add analytics before your website launches, you won’t have the ability to measure web traffic and glean other insights from day one.

Tools like Google Analytics let you know if your marketing strategies are working. It also tells you more about your site visitors so you can figure out what’s not working. If you have an online store, you need Google Analytics Ecommerce Reports to understand what products are making the most conversions. You can track your lead conversion rate or the changes and your website revenue in Google Analytics.

3. Create a Coming Soon page.

Build anticipation and create user engagement before your website launches. You can create an attractive Coming Soon page to give users information about your business in advance.

You can also use it to create an email list while your site is still under development. If you don’t have a Coming Soon page, you miss a lot of opportunities to make your brand memorable. Use a tool like SeedProd to create a Coming Soon page and to get analytics before your website launches.

4. Apply SEO before the website launch.

Incorporating search engine optimization before you launch your site saves time and resources later. Ranking on search engines matters, because 95% of people don’t search beyond the first page. You avoid having to redesign your website when you make SEO part of the design process.

Search engines rank websites that are well structured and offer good user experience features. By applying SEO guidelines, you get a faster-loading site and good navigation. SEO best practices also ensure that you use keywords appropriately in page titles, URLs and metadata.

It’s an enormous challenge to add SEO to your site once it’s done. Apply SEO strategies before your website launch, or you may find yourself redesigning your website. – Read more

6 tips to help you create content that will impress humans and Google

My Post - 2019-11-08T153107.332In partnership with the UK Domain, we explain how to create content that is pleasing to humans as well as Google and other search engines.

Quality content is central to a successful marketing strategy.

But what is ‘quality content’? Unfortunately, much of the answer lies in personal taste. The upside is that there are things you can do to impress both human and robot.

So, it isn’t merely a case of just writing something and shoving it out. The content creation requires some finesse.

We’ll share some tips to help you write posts that will rank high on Google and be a valuable resource for your readers.

Content for humans or for Google: which is more important?

SEO specialists will tell you to write for the human first. Though search engines scan your content for essential assets, it’ll be people that are relying on it for information that’s both informative and entertaining.

Google’s main priority is ensuring your content meets the searcher’s purpose. This flows on to the second tier of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

‘Google’s main priority is ensuring your content meets the searcher’s purpose’

One thing you must do is include information about who is responsible for the content with a byline or a link to the creator’s bio or website. Articles with generic ‘staff’ or ‘team’ credits will be down-ranked by Google.

Finding trending topics

The quickest way to find topics is to look at what’s in the news and on Twitter’s own trending topics. It can give you a hook for a more detailed explainer or feature.

For longer term pieces you need to know what questions people are asking around the topic which either aren’t being answered, or at least not from the angle of the demographic you’re looking to target.

Answering reader questions and pinning down keywords

As time becomes increasingly scarce for readers, they’ll want answers to their questions – fast. A lot of browsing time is spent asking questions in search engines, giving you the opportunity to drive traffic if you know what they’re looking for.

Search engines work in a simple way: people ask questions, the search engine finds webpages it thinks will answer the questions. If a reader clicks on your page and clicks straight off that generally means that you haven’t answered their question.

Google Trends will, of course, tell you what’s trending on Google in different parts of the world. You should also try websites like answerthepublic.com and Keyword Sheeter. They generate keywords and commonly asked questions around a topic of your choosing. If you want detailed results, use paid-for platforms like SEMrush and ahrefs which are more sophisticated.

Look for searches that are higher in volume and lower in competition. They’ll be more obscure, so it helps to know exactly who your target reader is to maximise the reach of your posts. – Read more

What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Page for Your Keywords

My Post - 2019-11-07T144916.470.png

It’s typically a good thing when you find out your website is ranking for a keyword you’ve been targeting, right?

But what happens when, upon further investigation, you learn that the page you wanted to rank for a particular keyword isn’t the page that Google wanted to rank? (And that it’s another page on your site altogether?)

Whether the page is irrelevant or just not the best fit in your eyes, means that all the traffic that’s visiting your site from this newfound keyword isn’t going where you want. This might result in less conversions or a higher bounce rate than previously anticipated.

But don’t worry – this problem is more common than you might think, and it is fixable. Here’s how.

How to Improve a Page’s Ranking Signals for a Specific Keyword

Step 1: Evaluate the User Intent of Your Focus Keyword

User intent is essentially defined as the goal a person has when they type in a search term into Google.

Over the past year or two, ensuring the page you want to rank for a query matches the user intent has become vital.

  • Is the goal to buy something? (Transactional)
  • Is the goal to find a particular website or page? (Navigational)
  • Is the goal to find helpful information to further answer a question you have? (Informational)

Tailoring your content to the intent is crucial.

For example, if your focus keyword was “best laptop computers” and you wanted your product page or category page to rank for this, you probably have no shot.

What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Page for Your Keywords

In the example above, you can clearly see that all the top ranking websites are from third-party aggregators and review sites where they list a comparison of the best laptops.

In fact, not one manufacturer or retail site is ranking on Page 1 for this so you need to shift focus away from this keyword altogether or understand what you are dealing with to better align.

Step 2: Evaluate the Content on the Page

Once you have ensured your content is matching the intent, you can then move on to ensuring the content on the relevant page is optimized.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself to further analyze are:

  • Is my primary focus keyword in my page title?
  • Do I reference my primary focus keyword in my description?
  • How does the length of my copy compare to that against the Top 10 or Top 20 ranking sites?
  • Do the competitor sites use shared semantic keywords that I need to incorporate into my page?
  • Does my page answer questions a user might have to understand more about this topic?

Two tools that both do an excellent job helping you analyze and answer the questions above are SEMrush Writing Assistant and Clearscope.– Read more

11 Reasons Your Website Can Have a High Bounce Rate

My Post - 2019-11-06T133015.218.pngThe dreaded high bounce rate.  It makes the shoulders of online marketers tense up and causes their foreheads to wrinkle up with concern.

What Is Bounce Rate?

As a refresher, bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that leave your website (or “bounce” back to the search results or referring website) after viewing only one page on your site.

Before you start worrying, consider that “high” is a relative term.

Most websites will see bounce rates between 26% to 70%, according to a RocketFuel study.

average bounce rates

Based on the data they gathered, they provided a bounce rate grading system of sorts:

  • 25% or lower: Something is probably broken
  • 26-40%: Excellent
  • 41-55%: Average
  • 56-70%: Higher than normal, but could make sense depending on the website
  • 70% or higher: Bad and/or something is probably broken

The overall bounce rate for your site will live in the Audience Overview tab of Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Audience Overview Bounce Rate

You can find your bounce rate for individual channels and pages in the behavior column of most views in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Landing Pages Bounce Rate

There are a number of reasons your website can have a high bounce rate.

Let’s review 10 common ones and how to fix them.

1. Slow-to-Load Page

Site speed is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so it’s just good SEO to focus on it.

Google wants to promote content that provides a positive experience for users, and they recognize that a slow site can provide a poor experience.

If your page takes longer than a few seconds to load, your visitors may get fed up and leave.

Fixing site speed is a lifelong journey for most SEO pros and webmasters, but the upside is that with each incremental fix, you should see an incremental boost in speed.

Review your page speed (overall and for individual pages) using tools like:

  • Google PageSpeed Insights.
  • Pingdom.
  • GTMetrix.

They’ll offer you recommendations specific to your site, such as compressing your images, reducing third-party scripts, and leveraging browser caching. – Read more