6 Easy But Stupid SEO Tactics You Must Avoid

My Post (61).pngWe all should know by now the top common black hat tactics to avoid. Most SEO professionals like to think of themselves as white hat, or at least gray hat.

However, did you know that there are several white hat strategies that can seriously hurt your long-term SEO performance?

The reason most of these white hat strategies can hurt you is that they’re often “too easy to be good for you.”

When we become complacent in the easy way out, our organic search performance can start to suffer.

For the TL;DR SEOs out there, here are my quick links to help you jump to the section you want to read.

The top six easy SEO strategies you must avoid:

  • Assembly line SEO strategy.
  • Blaming performance drops on algorithm updates (without evidence).
  • Copying location page copy.
  • Using automated auditing tools to drive strategy.
  • Paying for links.
  • Being too scared to ask questions.

1. Assembly Line SEO Strategy

I define “assembly line SEO” as when a person or agency uses the same exact tactics for every client.

Many of the larger SEO agencies use this strategy for their SMB division because it’s efficient to manage.

Typically, after the site goes through its first round of on-page optimizations, the routine tactics include blogging and paying for links.

However, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s always the best.

This type of strategy may be fruitful for a short period of time, but unless there’s zero competition, the website is bound to experience a growth plateau.

What to Do Instead

Instead of getting stuck in this routine “task-based” strategy, focus on finding out unique ways to deliver value to your website’s audience.

Investigate what your competitor’s top-ranking content is, and how they’re approaching their content strategy. Make a list of all of your competitor’s strategies and look for content gap opportunities.

Take these opportunities and make sure your content is built to serve your audience at each stage of their purchase funnel.

The continual research and content production may be more time-consuming, but it will inevitably be more fruitful. Another added bonus is that this will show your stakeholders that you truly care about their performance.

2. Blaming Performance Drops on Algorithm Updates (Without Evidence)

Performance drops can happen as suddenly and frequently as algorithm updates, depending on the website.

These days, algorithm updates happen so frequently that it could be easy to point fingers at Google and say they caused your rankings and organic traffic to drop.

Sometimes, it’s true!

However, more often than not, performance drops can occur for different reasons.

Some common reasons for organic performance drops include:

  • Newly discovered technical issues on the site.
  • Significant content changes.
  • Seasonality.
  • Competitor changes.
  • Manual actions.

Keeping those possibilities in mind, it’s important that we don’t take the easy way out and blame an algorithm update.

Disclaimer:

If you your website just recently took a hit, don’t panic!

Somethings things just happen, and your traffic will return on its own.

What you don’t want to do is start making significant changes to your site. This may lead to even more complications with your organic performance.

What to Do Instead

There are several SEO recovery guides out there that you can reference for more in-depth steps on how to bounce back from organic performance drops.

Here are some quick tips on how to investigate whether your site was truly hit by an algorithm. – Read more

3 measurement resolutions all marketers should make for 2020

My Post (47).pngPeople have been making New Year’s resolutions since the time of the ancient Babylonians. Usually those resolutions involve something along the lines of losing weight or saving money.

But for 2020, why not set some achievable goals for your measurement strategy? I have three suggestions to get you started. Accomplishing these goals will bring you professional joy and boost your company’s bottom line.

3 measurement resolutions all marketers should make for 2020

Resolution 1: Provide context for your metrics

We’ve all received one of those self-congratulatory emails from a colleague informing us that their latest ad campaign had 10,000 on-target impressions, or the six-second video they ran had a 60% completion rate.

Whenever I see one, the first thing I ask myself is: What do these numbers even mean? Are they good or bad? Should we be patting ourselves on the back or trying to figure out what went wrong?

That’s why the first measurement resolution I’d like us all to make for 2020 is this: Always provide context for your metrics. There are many strategies you can draw on to do this. The simplest is to use industry benchmarks.

This doesn’t tell us much: Our six-second ad had a 60% completion rate.

This tells us a lot: Our six-second ad had a 60% completion rate; the industry benchmark is 81%.

Ouch. But it’s a good “ouch.” Now, you’ll know you have to dig into your creative to see what could be improved, analyze your targeting strategy to find out what went wrong, and start researching great video ads to see what they have in common. And that will help you improve future performance — all from a tiny bit of context.

Once you have more experience, you can start setting your own goals. If your last email campaign had an average open rate of 20%, you can set a goal of 23%. Now, when you report performance, here’s what you’ll say: “Our average open rate for February 2020 was 25% compared to our goal of 23%.” Data with context — it’ll get you promoted.

Here’s one last favorite piece of context of mine: Cost.

So your fancy, contextually relevant, machine-learning based, dynamic landing pages generated 1.5 million engaged views in a month compared to just 1 million for your old static landing pages. Hurray?

Let’s add context: After factoring in development and maintenance costs, your new dynamic pages have a cost per engaged view of $5 and the old static ones have a cost per engaged view of $1.

That is the magic of context. A little bit of pixie dust that helps us make smarter decisions.

Resolution 2: Stop making common data reporting mistakes

Marketing analysts have to boil down so much complexity into simple stories. That’s why it breaks my heart to see our hard work undercut by common, easily avoidable mistakes.

So let me share my top two most-annoying reporting mistakes. They’re both easily avoidable, so you can keep your 2020 resolution accomplishment rate at 100%.

First, stop reporting percentages alone.

“Our new and improved digital campaign led to a 100% increase in sign-ups.” By itself, that information is almost entirely useless. Did the number of subscribers increase from 100 to 200? Or from 10,000 to 20,000? Slightly different scenarios, right?

Reporting percentages by themselves, without any baselines, is a mistake. At best, it suggests you’re lacking even a basic grasp of data and the role it plays in decision-making. At worst, you look sneaky, as though you’re trying to spin the data to tell a more flattering story.

Instead, marry percentages with the most relevant raw numbers. It is magical.

My second recommendation is to ensure your data reporting doesn’t contain misaligned altitudes. What do I mean by this? Here’s an example. In an analysis someone just sent me, there’s a table of metrics. In the column showing revenue, it has 12.3M, 3.5M, 145K, 2M, 12K, 674K.

Almost every number is expressed using a different altitude. This means the person reading the report will have to do extra work to interpret the data. What you should show is 12.3M, 3.5M, 0.15M, 2.0M, 0.01M, 0.67M.

Everything’s aligned at the same altitude, making the data easier to compare and reducing the processing load.

Here’s another, everyday example of misaligned altitude. We all watch YouTube videos. Check out the numbers for how many people liked or disliked this one, and how those numbers are at misaligned altitudes: – Read more

10 Important 2020 SEO Trends You Need to Know

My Post (43).pngIt’s time to take our annual look at what’s ahead for SEO professionals in 2020.

What SEO strategies and tactics will work and help you dominate in the SERPs and earn more revenue in 2020?

This is the question we ask every year here at Search Engine Journal.

This year, I asked 58 of today’s top SEO professionals for their thoughts.

Here are the top 10 trends you need to know in 2020, according to the experts.

Trend #1: BERT & User-Focused Optimization

In 2019, the launch of Google’s new BERT algorithm got a lot of attention. Naturally, every SEO professional wants to learn how to optimize for BERT.

Well, rather than focusing on how to optimize for that specific algorithm, take a page from Kelly Stanze, Search Strategist, Hallmark, who will be focusing on user-focused optimization and the technical delivery of content.

In short, that means reassessing user access points to search and aligning content with that.

“Look at the mechanics of how something is crawled, indexed, and served in a variety of different search settings,” Stanze said. “With users having more options than ever in how they search for things, it’ll be even more important for SEOs to bear in mind the fundamentals of clean architecture and content delivery.”

With the incorporation of BERT this year into the ranking and featured snippets algorithm, Google has taken a huge leap forward into making search really about intent matching rather pure string matching, according to Eli Schwartz, Growth Consultant and Advisor.

“Content will truly have to be written to user intent rather than just strings that a user might search,” Schwartz said. “Keyword research tools may even become less relevant with the primary dataset for content creation coming from suggested queries. In 2020, the really smart SEOs will get up from their desks to talk to customers so they can find out what their audience really wants from them.”

Frédéric Dubut, Senior Program Manager, Bing, echoed that, noting that keyword research, at least as we know it, is going to become obsolete.

“There’s no sign of [natural language processing] NLP and deep learning research slowing down anytime soon, and you can expect search engines to shift even further from keywords to intent in 2020,” Dubut said. “Both practitioners and tooling providers will need to shift their efforts towards ‘intent research’ and fulfilling user needs.”

As Jenn Mathews, Senior SEO Manager, Groupon, points out, Google is continually updating to optimize search results based on user intent rather than a focus on content/page to keyword matching.

“SEOs need to understand the nuance of what this means with their content as well as have a firm grasp on Google’s past updates leading to this trend.”

We’ve all wanted to focus on intent for the last several years, and better understand what the journey of our customers looks like, said Duane Forrester, VP, Industry Insights, Yext. Now it’s become such an important part of the landscape, it’s integral to the survival and growth for most online businesses.

“If you focus on the customer’s intent, you’ll clearly understand where you fit on that path,” Forrester said. “By providing the best answers for questions on that path, you can more reliably capture and convert customers.”

What does this mean for you?

Focus on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey much more, according to Keith Goode, Sr. SEO Strategist, IBM.

“Additionally, we’re going to have to extend our efforts far beyond the purchase in that journey to include content that addresses needs after the sale – support, opportunities to advocate, community-building and staying relevant for future purchases,” Goode added.

Always focus on your customers, said Sam Hollingsworth, Director of Search, Elevation Ten Thousand

“Too many brands forget or fail to realize what it takes to attract and impress potential customers. They want real value,” Hollingsworth said. “Just like in a brick-and-mortar establishment, customers want to know that you’re on their side, that they can trust you, and that you are a reliable partner in what is going to be a long-term – hopefully lifelong – relationship.”

Carolyn Lyden, Lead SEO/Owner, Search Hermit, hopes 2020 brings a change where we get back to the qualitative, human side of search.

“So many marketers market their products and services having never spoken one-on-one to their target audiences,” Lyden said.

Without talking to our customers and understanding why they are behaving the way they are, we are limiting our ability to create a smart and holistic strategy, according to Sarah Gurbach, Senior Account Manager, Search and Audience Insights, Seer Interactive.

“So, in 2020, I recommend you go and sit down with your customers,” Gurbach said. “Talk to them, ask them to tell you about their journey to purchase, how they used search, what they thought of your site. Use that data in every decision you make.”

User-focused optimization can only truly be done by integrating SEO into a holistic marketing strategy. Ryan Jones, SEO Group Director, Publicis Sapient, said this will be the biggest trend in 2020.

“Now, more than ever, companies are going to have to stop treating SEO as a condiment that they just add on to their digital strategy, and instead treat it as a key ingredient of their business plan,” Jones said. “SEOs are going to have to grow their skillsets to understand the full marketing and digital stack. It’s going to be less about fixing SEO issues and more about fixing marketing and business issues.”

Trend #2: High-Quality, Optimized Content

Anna Crowe, Assistant Editor, Search Engine Journal, said there is one thing that has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of SEO:

Content.

“Content affects everything in SEO,” Crowe said. “From your site structure and internal linking strategy to the types of links you build.”

To succeed in 2020, you will have to write something that is relevant and valuable, said Tony Wright, CEO, WrightIMC.

“This means that SEOs need to learn how to write or hire people who know how to write,” Wright said. “Google’s editorial discretion isn’t perfect yet – there will still be content that ranks that shouldn’t. But the day is coming when the best content will win.”

Make it your goal to have the best content on the web for your topic, or at least an important subset of your topic, said Eric Enge, General Manager, Perficient Digital. By doing so, you will be future-Google-proofing your business.

“This allows you to compete effectively for long-tail searches (which still remains about 70% of all search queries), will help build your site authority and demand for your content, and can be done in a directly ROI positive way,” Enge said. “In addition, this type of approach to content is exactly what Google is looking for to satisfy user needs and represents the type of market investment that Google will likely never make, because Google is about doing things with massively scalable algorithms.”

Jesse McDonald, Global SEO Strategist, IBM, and Jessica Levenson, SEO & Content Strategy Consultant, both said 2020 is the time to move away from the obsession with keywords. Stop targeting individual keywords, chasing pageviews, and “spraying and praying” with content.

McDonald said to focus more on topics.

“The goal of switching the mentality to more of a topic-focus is to create content that addresses an entire conversation holistically as opposed to just worrying about the single keyword a page should be targeting,” McDonald said.

Levenson said to adopt a deliberate and methodically organized cluster of content that delivers comprehensive and intuitive topical experiences while meeting business objectives.

“Know what answers the user needs next,” Levenson said. “Boiled down:

  • Understand who your audience is and how they search.
  • Understand the intent behind the questions they are asking or problems they need to solve.
  • Give them solutions or answers in the formats they prefer via on-point, quality, and authoritative content.
  • Execute in this fashion for every stage of their journey to create a satisfactory topical experience that serves their needs again and again.
  • Iterate because just because you do it well once doesn’t mean intent won’t change or someone else won’t do something better.”

Another thing to watch out for, according to Aja Frost, Head of Content SEO, HubSpot: content cannibalization.

“I’d recommend auditing all of your content for overlapping rankings and merging, redirecting, and archiving as needed so every page ranks for a unique set of keywords,” Frost said. “If your website covers the same topics again and again, even if you’re covering these topics from different angles, your pages are going to knock each other out of the results.”

In 2020, it’s time to take a hard look at the quality of your content – and optimizing that content for users rather than search engines, said Michelle Robbins, VP Product & Innovation, Aimclear.

“In a way, the key to staying successful in search marketing 2020 is the same as it ever was – put out good content, with consistent brand messaging, in all your channels,” Robbins said. “As the search engines become ever more adapted to natural language understanding, the best-written content – in all forms – will win the day.” – Read more

4 Ways to Prepare for PPC in 2020

My Post (42).pngFor many of us, December is a less busy time of year. People go on vacation and business slows down.

And as with many PPC marketers, I like to use this time to get caught up, regroup, and prepare for the coming year.

You might consider doing the same. Because the strategies you put into place now can continue to pay dividends throughout 2020.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are four suggestions for where to put your efforts.

1. Data Studio

Google’s Data Studio is a way to directly connect your data sources to your reporting.

It was rolled out in 2016. Since then, it’s only gotten better.

Data Studio is a must for marketers.

If you’re still reporting to your clients and/or executives with Excel, this one’s for you!

Not only do these reports look great, but they will also save you a ton of time.

You can customize reports to the interests and preferences of your clients and executives. And when you need to update your data, you can do it in seconds simply by changing the date range.

And because these reports on automated, you also reduce the risk of data entry errors.

Let me give you a couple of examples of how we’ve been using it.

Here, we used Data Studio to highlight leads, costs, CTRs, and impressions:

Google Data Studio Leads Report

Here, we used Data Studio to report on locations and devices:

Google Data Studio Top Locations Report

And here we used Data Studio to report on keywords:

Google Data Studio Keywords

In addition to pulling data from Google Ads, you can also pull metrics from Google Analytics.

You can combine those two sources of data in Data Studio to make one ultra-rich report.

We also use Data Studio as a data dashboard. It’s a quick way for us to check metrics without having to drill down into every account to find what we need.

Fortunately, Data Studio isn’t that complicated to set up. Once you do, you can use it over and over again.

2. Google Ads Scripts

Google Ads scripts have been around for a while. They’re a way to automate common procedures or interact with external data by using JavaScript in a browser-based IDE. (The IDE helps with syntax, highlighting, autocomplete and previewing.)

If the above paragraph made your eyes glaze over, don’t despair.

Many JavaScript-savvy people have written Google Ads scripts that you can use — so you don’t need to write them yourself.

Some scripts to consider are those that check for broken URLs, track quality scores, and identify negative keywords that are blocking ads from previously converting search queries.

Budget tracking scripts also look interesting.

If you’re trying scripts for the first time, start with something easy, such as a “pause or delete keywords with zero impressions” script.

This is a great way to trim excess fat from your accounts on a monthly or quarterly basis and get more comfortable with scripts in general.

Again, not all of these scripts will be useful to you, but it’s worth having a look to see what’s out there. You might find an easy solution to a long-standing challenge.

3. Revisit Audience Opportunities

Google recently rolled out two new audience targeting options:

  • Affinity audiences.
  • In-market seasonal event segments.

Affinity audiences have been available in Display and Video campaigns for years, but now Google is bringing them to Search and YouTube campaigns. (As you may recall, affinity audiences allow you to reach consumers based on a holistic picture of their lifestyle, passion and habits.)

Google brought in-market audiences to Search in 2017. In-market audiences are customers who are actively researching and considering the purchase of services or products similar to yours.

But now, Google is adding seasonal segments, such as Black Friday and Christmas, to Search and YouTube.

If you haven’t ventured into these targeting options yet, this is the perfect time to dip your  toe in. Add them to your accounts in observation mode and see how they perform. – Read more

6 Most Common Roadblocks to Link Building Success

My Post (31).pngWhen done successfully, link building can lead to some truly stellar results.

We know that links are extremely important for SEO, especially given all of the buzz in the search community around the November 8, 2019 Google algorithm update and how it may have been strongly related to site links (though Google’s John Mueller warned against jumping to this conclusion).

While link building should unquestionably be a part of your overall SEO (and business) strategy, it takes time, planning, and dedication to drive actual success.

For this reason, I’ll cover six of the most common challenges and roadblocks to link building success and how you can avoid them.

1. The Need for Quality Assets

quality assets

Don’t underestimate the need for quality assets on your site, particularly when it comes to link building.

Creating link-worthy content will help offer valuable information to your readers, reach and engage key targets, and strengthen your authority in the eyes of Google and users.

Assets include everything from articles to products and services pages, research and data, and even the people who work for your organization.

These all present the opportunity to generate links back to your website organically, or by reaching out about a link.

  • Influencer-based content: Create content centered around industry influencers and experts that share exclusive insights, perspectives, and opinions. This also presents the opportunity to reach out to them directly and encourage shares with their new and highly targeted audiences.
  • Research and reports: I’ve consistently found research, data and statistics-oriented content outperforming other types. What common questions are your customers/prospects asking? Do the research to get them the answers they are looking for and break it down in an easily digestible way.
  • Other strategic resources: Share premium assets that assist your audiences in their daily responsibilities and help combat common challenges. This includes how-to/user guides, tools, eBooks, whitepapers, FAQ material, infographics, and other multimedia collateral.

In today’s exceptionally competitive search landscape, SEO pros can no longer get away with generating links from mediocre content.

Site owners and managers have no shortage of information to leverage and link to, so you must offer something unique and, simply put, better.

2. Lack of On-Site Optimization

Too often people look to develop off-site website initiatives (i.e., link building) before optimizing on-site.

Link building is far more powerful when it’s supported by on-site optimization.

If your own site isn’t in good shape, it’s extremely difficult to get buy-in from other site owners.

No one wants to send users to a bad site experience.

Broken Page

This is why building trust and authority is essential.

Have a solid technical foundation for your website to get the most out of your link building efforts.

Doing regular technical site check-ins can help ensure this.

Here are a few key elements to consider:

  • Site architecture and URL structure.
  • Desktop and mobile experience.
  • Page load time / page speed.
  • Redirect paths.
  • Broken pages, links, and images.
  • Optimized page tagging elements.
  • Internal cross-link strategy.
  • And more.

– Read more

Don’t overlook these 5 quick updates to boost your search ranking

My Post (30).pngFocus on pages on the brink of page 1 ranking but don’t forget about quick fixes to 301 redirects, People Also Ask and FAQ structured data optimizations.

Most aspects of an SEO campaign take significant time to research and implement, but there are always a few relatively quick tactics to boost results. Here’s a list of low-hanging SEO fruit that to grab right now.

Mine the ‘People Also Ask’ box for content

“People Also Ask” has been dominating SERPs for some time. This makes sense since most searches are questions asking Google to answer them. However, not all searches are phrased as questions.

For example, the search query “Personal Injury Lawyer,” Google is returning the “People Also Ask” box in the number one organic spot. That’s because it’s throwing out several questions to find out more about the intent of the query. Look to the PAAs for questions to develop FAQs on relevant pages. It is also a great tactic to add more content to a page and align it with voice-related search patterns.

Utilize new FAQ structured data

Experiment with the new FAQ structured data to get answers to show up in search results.

One caveat: Your content may provide the searcher’s answer in the SERPs, so there’s no need to click through to your site. Test to make sure this won’t affect traffic and conversions.

Remove 301 redirect chains

A 301 redirect chain is when there is more than one redirect between a URL and its destination URL.

When creating a redirect, have a single 301 redirect from one URL point directly to the final location. Redirect chains happen when websites migrate to SSL without checking that all previous URLs end in a single step to the HTTPS version

Here’s an example:

HTTP://www.domain.com → HTTPS://www.domain.com → HTTPS://domain.com 
(where the final destination is non-www)

When the original URL redirects to the secure URL, but you want the non-www as canonical, it has to redirect again. This can lead to loss of link equity, create crawl problems for search engine bots, and affect page speed and server resources. The easiest way to remedy a 301 redirect chain is through your website’s host or download a redirect plugin.

Improve pages that can make the most impact

Look for pages ranking at the bottom of page one to the top of page two that would benefit from optimization to quickly improve in rankings.

The content can be updated by:

  • Adding a FAQ section with “People Also Ask” data
  • Increasing the word count of the page by at least 1,000 words
  • Adding different kinds of content, such as bulleted lists or images

After updating, submit the page to Google in Search Console to ensure it’s crawled quickly. – Read more

12 Reasons Why Every Link Campaign Is Unique

My Post (26).pngOver the years, I have worked with more than 150 clients and close to 200 unique link campaigns.

Not one of them has been the same as any of the others.

Sure, they all have similarities.

Everyone wants relevant links that will improve their rankings, send traffic, and give them conversions.

What’s different?

No one is starting from the exact same point.

1. Traffic vs. Rankings vs. Conversions

All clients want to increase traffic, improve rankings, and up their conversions by 1,000000%.

Not all of them really consider all three when it comes to wanting links though.

That’s why it’s critical to define your objectives before you build links.

Some clients are fine with getting a link on a site that has a high DA or DR (or whatever metric they are using) even if that site only gets 10 visitors a month because they think that will improve their rankings.

I’ve had a few clients who think that any site they get a link on should have roughly the same amount of traffic as their site because they think that increases their chances to get their links clicked on and hopefully convert.

2. Competitors

Some clients want to be found where their competitors are. Some don’t. Some like to track everything their competitors do and replicate it.

We’ve had clients who specifically want to have their links placed in articles that mention their competitors, as long as they have a link that’s higher up on the page.

I’ve had many clients who have sent me sites where they’d like a link because they saw their competition on those sites even though the sites were not ones I’d ever reach out to because they were so spammy.

Thinking about competitors can blind people at times.

3. Industry Competitiveness

If you have five brand new sites that have zero links and they’re in five different industries, each one will require a different amount and quality of links (among other things) in order to start ranking well.

One might not get into the top 100 with a year of link building while one might slide into the top 10 in a month.

If you’re going to try to break into an industry like finance, it’s going to be a lot harder than if you’re trying to rank well in the Rockingham County pet sitting space. – Read more

Why Technical SEO & On-Site SEO Are Rarely Enough

My Post (25).pngLet me start by saying that there is objective and significant value to have from well-done technical and on-site SEO.

Technical SEO refers to optimizing your site and site structure for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your site quickly and efficiently.

Having poor technical SEO while the rest of your site is optimized is like driving a shiny new Lamborghini without an engine.

On-site or on-page SEO refers to optimizing your content both for search engine rankings as well as for users (you want them to see you in the SERPs and be attracted to what you may have to offer).

With that said, you should view them both as a foundation to be expanded on. Without the basics, you’ll be stuck on an endless treadmill of mediocrity.

They Do Matter, But…

My frustrations stem from the idea that they are all you need or that “advanced” technical SEO course for three easy payments of $999 is going to make a significant difference for you.

This may be the case in some specific scenarios, but for the large majority of sites, they simply will not propel you ahead of the competition or fix your more important underlying issues (like poor content quality or a weak link profile).

What They Can & Can’t Do

Viewed as a foundation, there are a number of highly important components of technical and on-site SEO.

Here are the main pieces that can make a tangible difference:

  • Crawl/indexability
  • Site speed
  • Site structure/architecture (and strong internal linking)
  • Schema (in some cases)
    • Review and rating schema, pricing, sitelinks, NAP for local businesses, miscellaneous others (primarily those that can assist in displaying additional content in the SERPs)
  • Canonicals
  • Proper redirects
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Good meta content
  • Optimized H1s/H2s and body content
    • Avoiding “over-optimization”
    • Topics > keywords

It’s these “basics” that have the most impact – investing significantly in improving beyond this will often not make enough of a difference to warrant it as a primary focus.

Schema, for instance, is a great tool to have in your arsenal and employ strategically, but going overboard and tagging every single page with every schema element possible will simply not make a difference in your search rankings. Don’t let “industry experts” convince you otherwise.

Schema is not even a direct ranking factor that we know of (right now).

There are some great capabilities with structured markup, but you aren’t going to make your site rank out of thin air with it. – Read more

12 Ways to Build a Winning SEO Strategy on a Small Budget

My Post (24).pngWe’ve read the blogs, we’ve heard the talks, we’ve seen the case studies.

Big brands are winning at SEO.

They’ve got:

  • A team of experts working on fine-tuning their tech.
  • A world-class agency planning their next digital PR campaign.
  • A fund for stationery that rivals your entire year’s marketing budget.

It can feel demoralizing as a marketer with a small SEO budget to hear those stories. Their success can feel completely out of reach.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

If you are working with a small SEO budget for your brand or your agency’s client you can still have success.

The key to building a winning SEO strategy when you are low on funds is learning to prioritize.

Read on to learn the top 12 ways you can prioritize, structure, and run SEO campaigns that will bring exceptional ROI from your small budget.

1. Identify How Your Budget Limits You

This is a crucial first step. A small budget often means you are having to compromise in some areas. Regardless of whether you are working in-house, in an agency or as a freelancer, small budgets often mean:

Lack of Time

If your client has a small marketing budget then you are likely to be very limited in how much time you can dedicate to their SEO each month.

Similarly, if you work in-house for a brand with a small budget then your time is probably shared amongst other channels, too.

A small budget often means you are not given enough time to do all of the work you want to.

Less Resources

If you are working with a small SEO budget you might not have access to all the fancy tools you think you need. Extensive keyword trackers, backlink identifiers and log-file analyzers can be quite expensive.

If you are working for an agency you may have access to these, but in-house marketers on a small budget are unlikely to.

Knowledge

If you have a limited SEO budget as a brand marketer, chances are you don’t have an array of SEO experts at your fingertips.

Even as an agency marketer working with clients who don’t have much budget means your SEO team is probably not highly specialized. This can leave serious gaps in your knowledge that could be hampering your SEO efforts.

Money for Assets

A lack of money often means that you don’t have the budget for work outside of your skill-set. If you want to plan an outreach campaign, for example, you may feel blocked by the cost of asset creation.

For instance, you might have felt a designer, media producer and content manager would be crucial to get your idea off the ground.

Identifying what your SEO budget is, and is not, translating to in terms of your resources and knowledge gives you a good idea of what you should be prioritizing. It also helps you to stop wandering down paths that aren’t going to yield results.

2. Fill Those Gaps

If you know your budget means you cannot afford the best tools you may need to look at cheap or free alternatives.

There are ways to track rank, identify backlinks, and analyze log files without spending a fortune.

The options are usually just a little less shiny and require a bit more manual labor to get the same level of intel.

If it is time that you are short on then you may need to have a conversation with your team or your client about getting more.

I’ve heard of agencies who will sell SEO packages in at 3 or 4 hours a month. This is, in my opinion, hard to work with.

You may need to speak to your client about the limitations such a small commitment to SEO gives and perhaps show the possible increase were they to invest more.

Some in-house bosses are also unaware of how much time SEO analysis and implementation takes to carry out well.

If there is really no option to increase the time you have allocated to spend on SEO then you will need to be laser-focused on the work you do. See point 5 for more advice on that.

If it is a knowledge gap that you feel is holding you back then you need to know what your weaker areas are.

It may be that you are an excellent copywriter and feel that digital PR is your jam, but the technical side of SEO is still a bit baffling to you. This can be your opportunity to develop your skills. – Read more

Now is the time to position your site for a successful start to 2020

My Post (19).pngIf your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition, the end of the year is a good time to shift some of your efforts to other areas.

It is the holiday season again, and you know what that means… the year is almost over and it’s time to start preparing our SEO strategies for next year!

Along with eggnog frappuccinos, cooler weather, and people putting Christmas lights up (way too early), the end of the year signifies a time for reflection – and this rings true for SEO as well.

As your current SEO strategy winds down, now is the time to position your site for a successful Q1. Specifically, if your strategy has a heavy focus on link acquisition and manual outreach, the end of the year is the perfect time to shift some of your efforts to other areas – response rates to outreach are traditionally lower in November and December as people are away from their emails on holiday vacations.

I want to share some of the ways you can use this “downtime” to invest in strategies that will lay the groundwork for a successful start to next year.

Prioritizing the future

First off, I am in no way saying you should abandon your current link building strategy – backlinks are just as valuable in December as they are in March.

However, you should know website owners (the people who would link to you) are typically less responsive during the holidays and your time is better spent on activities that will prepare your site for links in the future.

Rather than making a desperate push to squeeze the last bit of ROI out of this year, I suggest investing in long-term initiatives that will pay dividends down the road. These initiatives include:

  • Competitive analysis and review
  • Content planning and creation
  • And auditing technical and onpage SEO issues.

Optimize your end-of-year SEO efforts by prioritizing activities that will impact the long-term future of your website.

Competitive analysis and review

As the year comes to a close, it’s a great time to check in on competitors and review what they’ve been up to in terms of search.

A good place to start is with your competitors’ content, analyzing which pages are helping them earn organic visitors. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush make it easy to compile a list of the top pages on competitor sites. Review these pages to determine if it would be viable or necessary to create similar pages on your own site. During your review, consider:

  • Is this topic relevant to my audience?
  • Do I already have an existing page that covers this topic?
  • What type of traffic would come from ranking for this term (top, middle, bottom)?
  • Do I have the resources and time to invest in creating a page that will compete?

It’s important to ask these questions rather than simply copying your competitors – not all top competitor pages will make sense for your site, audience and goals.

You can also use these tools to track keyword movement for your competitors over the past year. Comparing this data with your own site’s performance can help you identify areas where the competition might be overtaking you.

SEO isn’t just about earning new keyword rankings and sources of organic traffic. Search results are always changing, and if you don’t defend your rankings you will lose them. Keeping an eye on competitor keyword growth will help you spot potential threats before they become losses. If you see competitors making gains in areas where you’re slipping, consider:

  • Updating your existing page with fresh content and more depth
  • Optimizing onpage factors
  • Reviewing internal linking opportunities
  • Manual promotion for external backlinks

Whether you uncover new opportunities or identify potential problems, reviewing competitor strategies will provide valuable insight, and the end of the year is an ideal time to conduct this analysis. – Read more