Archives January 2019

Luxury marketing search strategy, Part 3: Integrated marketing communication

In the first two articles of my luxury search marketing series, we discussed the consumer mindset, what motivates and drives shoppers to purchase, and then the strategies and tactics that can be used to reach those shoppers and maximize results.

Now, I’m going to tie everything together. In the third and final article of the series, we’ll discuss the importance of an integrated marketing communication (IMC) campaign in the luxury goods industry and why it’s a must if you want to survive in today’s ultra-competitive and highly fragmented search landscape.

What is integrated marketing and why do luxury brands need it?

Today’s consumers are bombarded with messaging from many different marketing channels. Integrated Marketing cuts through the clutter by delivering a unified and seamless brand experience for consumers across channels. Integrated Marketing delivers a seamless experience with one clear message that is relevant to consumers no matter what channel they are using.

In the second article of my series, we discussed how the luxury consumer craves an experience. Luxury shoppers search online to find the luxury items they want, discover new experiences, and to engage with their favorite brands wherever, and to make their purchase whenever they want1. Therefore, creating seamless experiences along the customer journey is especially critical for luxury brands.

Understanding the consumer decision journey is crucial

The consumer journey is no longer a linear path-to-purchase. It has evolved into a complicated and dynamic process during which consumers interact with many different touchpoints along the way. Reaching consumers at the moments that most influence their decisions should be our goal as marketers. McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey applies touchpoints for these different opportunities to influence consumers.

The consumer decision journey is a circular decision-making process with four phases:

  1. Initial consideration
  2. Active evaluation – information gathering, shopping
  3. Closure – the moment of purchase
  4. Post-purchase – ongoing exposure to the brand

For search marketers to leverage the consumer decision journey, you need to find ways to get your brand into the consumer’s initial consideration set. We can do this through SEO and integration with other marketing channels.

Integrated marketing and SEO

Search marketers strive to maximize brands’ and companies’ visibility through top search engine rankings. This visibility is key to making it into the consumer’s initial consideration set. I’ll share some integrated marketing strategies that will help improve your SEO and overall business results.

1. Integrate organic and paid search marketing

Numerous studies2 have illustrated how SEO impacts the number of clicks that paid ads receive. Google has shown that when a site has strong organic results, the site is likely to see an increase their click-through-rate for paid search ads on the same search results page. Other studies have shown that the reverse is true – paid search can improve the results of organic search campaigns.

Putting it into practice

Align organic and paid messaging: You want unified messaging, not conflicting messaging. All messaging should be aligned and customer-centric. One way to achieve this is to include top-performing paid ad copy into your organic meta descriptions. For example, one of my paid search counterparts at our agency identified that the term “award-winning” performed the best in their ad copy. We have incorporated it into our meta descriptions to improve organic click-through-rates and to present a unified message to the searcher. This maximizes SEO performance while delivering a seamless experience for the luxury customer.

Improve pages with low-quality scores: Identify the pages where you have a low-quality score and work to increase it. Higher costs-per-click can be reduced by improving landing page experiences and page load times. Identify paid keywords that need organic support. Improving organic content for these keywords can help to drive your paid search campaigns and improve your campaign’s efficiency.

2. Capitalize on events

Leveraging event marketing3 is another way to reach potential customers and build brand awareness. You can leverage specific event types based on your industry to build brand awareness, and as an additional benefit, drive direct and referral traffic. Recurring seasonal events, fashion shows, and international fairs are likely to have strong search volume. These types of events present a great opportunity to increase your brand’s visibility during key moments throughout the year among a highly engaged audience.

The luxury watch brand, TUDOR, created a dedicated page on its website for Baselworld, an international watch and jewelry industry event. This dedicated page is optimized for “New TUDOR Watches – Baselworld 2017” and the content speaks to the new models of watches that would be debuted at the show. This type of page offers another avenue to generate organic visibility and traffic to the website.

Putting it into practice

Create a dedicated event page: You can create a page on your website that’s dedicated to a specific event type. For example, This page can be used for PR and shared on social networks to help build search authority and brand awareness. Make sure that the brand message you share is consistent across all customer touchpoints.

3. Utilize visual social networks

Don’t limit your SEO to just Google. Visual and social networks4 like Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube present a significant opportunity for brands to generate awareness and visibility. Pictures and videos are powerful mediums capable of evoking the aspirational emotions associated with luxury purchases. Don’t forget, one of the primary reasons people buy luxury goods is to display status. Brands should be taking advantage of this by publishing content that helps luxury consumers fill this need.

CHANEL frequently creates this type of content. The “Inside CHANEL” campaign is a great example of how you can leverage images and videos. “Inside CHANEL” gives people an exclusive look into the brand’s history and it does this by sharing the brand’s story through pictures and videos. In addition to the “Inside CHANEL” website, the campaign’s videos are hosted on YouTube making it easy to share them among your social networks.

Putting it into practice

Create visual, aspirational content for social networks: Think about the type of content that people will want to share to impress their friends and peers. When creating this content like pictures or videos remember that it should evoke the types of emotions that make people want to share it.

Content creation tips

  • Define your target audience and ensure that they are searching on the channel where you want to publish your content – Are they females and/or making the buying decisions? If so, Pinterest can be a good fit.
  • Ensure this content has an exclusivity aspect to it. Ensure that people feel like they have access to something special. It should be original and unique.
  • Make the content easily sharable across your social networks. The last thing you’ll want is to have a great piece of content that’s difficult for people to share.
  • Ensure that the messaging is seamless across channels. Remember, the hallmark of an integrated marketing campaign is messaging that is consistent across channels.
  • Ensure your content is optimized using descriptive image alt text. Make sure you are using the right image format and file size that is optimal for the channel. Each social channel has different tips to maximize visibility within their platform. Make sure you consult their guidelines.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this luxury marketing search strategy series. To wrap things up, let’s summarize some of the key points for successful SEO and search marketing in the luxury industry.

The first article discussed the reasons why we buy luxury goods—because of how they make us feel and because we crave an experience along with the exclusivity. Let’s not forget about the role of dopamine in the process, which is where the anticipation of the reward comes in.

The second article covered the SEO importance of creating emotionally fulfilling content and keyword intent research. We also discussed why you need to invest in your meta description to make it more enticing. It’s important to win the click and entice consumers to learn more about your brand, and ultimately, convert.

Finally, the third article covered the role of integrated marketing for luxury brands and the benefits of a consistent brand theme/message across all customer touchpoints. Aligning your paid and organic search efforts, capitalizing on events, and creating visual, aspirational content that can be shared across social networks is a must.

Final thoughts

As marketers, our goal should be to support the organization’s vision, mission, and values, and work hard to improve the company’s bottom line, regardless of the channel. It’s a collaborative effort between multiple marketing channels. It’s all too easy to default to a siloed approach, so we constantly push ourselves to think outside the box and develop inventive solutions for the challenges facing our customers. That’s where our real value as SEOs will shine through.


  1. The Meaning of Search Engine Optimization for Luxury, LuxeDigital –
  2. How Organic SEO and PPC Impact Each Other, Brightedge –
  3. Why Luxury Brands Should Capitalise on Events, Luxury Society –
  4. 10 Marketing Strategies for Luxury Brands that Deliver Results, VentureHarbour –

Jennifer Kenyon is a Director of Organic Search at Catalyst (part of GroupM). She can be found on Twitter @JennKCatalyst

The post Luxury marketing search strategy, Part 3: Integrated marketing communication appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Yoast SEO 12.1: Snippet preview updated

Yoast SEO 12.1 is out today! It features a couple of changes in order to match the design of Google’s search results pages, this includes those shiny new favicons. In addition to this, we added a number of new filters for our Schema implementation. See what else is new in the latest release of your favorite SEO plugin.

Updating the snippet preview

Google is always testing different iterations of its search results pages. Sometimes a test sticks and ends up as the new default. In Yoast SEO 12.1, we’re adapting our snippet preview to match two of the latest changes: favicon in mobile search and new font sizes in desktop search.

In Yoast SEO 11.5, we added the default favicon Google uses when it can’t detect a correct favicon on your site — or you simply don’t have one. Now, we pick the one you’ve added to WordPress and show it right in the mobile snippet preview, just like Google would. You now have a good sense of how your site will appear in the mobile search results.

The mobile snippet preview now shows how your favicon would appear in the results

Here’s how to add a favicon to your WordPress site in order to get it to show in both search results as well as our mobile snippet preview.

The other new tidbit we have for you is matching Google’s new font sizes for the desktop search results. Google now uses slightly larger letters and we’ve followed suit to make the desktop snippet preview appear exactly right. Go check it out.

New Schema filters

We’ve added a couple of new filters to allow for a more granular control over a site’s Schema output. Julià Mestieri suggested the first one. He made a filter called wpseo_schema_organization_social_profiles to filtering an organization’s social profiles in the schema output. You can use this filter to modify social profiles (sameAs attribute) in the Organization schema object.

Andrew Gillingham suggested two other filters. His wpseo_schema_company_name and wpseo_schema_company_logo_idfilters make it possible to filter the company name and company logo from the theme options whenever it hasn’t been set in the Yoast SEO settings. This way, both can still be used by the schema output without having to set it manually.

Last but not least, we added a filter called wpseo_enable_structured_data_blocks that makes it possible to turn off Yoast’s structured data block editor blocks.

Find out all about our structured data implementation and how you can enhance it by reading our Schema documentation.

Other improvements

The WordPress Gutenberg project keeps chugging along nicely, but sometimes stuff changes or breaks. In one of the latest releases, our structured data content blocks hit a little snafu, which we fixed in this release. The styling of the How-to and FAQ blocks is now compatible with latest version of the WordPress blocks editor.

Our latest community additions are a new method suggested by Brady Williams and a bug fix by David Herrera. Brady’s get_robots method retrieves the robot HTML without it being output, while David fixed a bug where the primary term selector would not display HTML entities properly.

As mentioned in the Yoast SEO 12.0 release post, we’re actively working on improving input validation in the plugin, among many other things. We’ve continued that in Yoast SEO 12.1 and improved the validation on the settings page. We’ve also updated the plugin icons to be more consistent.

Update now to Yoast SEO 12.1

That’s it for Yoast SEO 12.1! We’ve updated our snippet preview to the latest changes by Google, including those shiny favicons in the mobile search results. We’ve added new Schema filters, fixed several bugs and rolled out several other enhancements. Go test the new version and update whenever you’re ready!

The post Yoast SEO 12.1: Snippet preview updated appeared first on Yoast.

Gutenberg block editor improvements, and integrating plugins

Today’s WordPress Watch has a strong focus on the Gutenberg block editor. Two different tweets prompted me to focus on what you can do with the editor a bit more. We’ll discuss improvements to the editor, as well as useful plugins that integrate with the block editor, so I hope you enjoy this edition. Don’t forget to check out the bonus links!

Block editor keeps on getting better

This December is the one year anniversary of the merge of the Gutenberg project in WordPress core. If you’re still postponing moving to the block editor, it’s good to know that it keeps getting better. Not just better at certain things it does – like speed and settings – but also when it comes to options and possibilities.

Gutenberg plugin improvements

The improvements to the block editor can be noted in the stand-alone Gutenberg plugin. For those of you who are unaware, the Gutenberg plugin sees continuous improvement, with new releases every other week. You can read up on the kinds of improvements that have been made here.

So, if you want to try the latest and greatest version of the block editor, you can install the Gutenberg plugin in your WordPress site. If you’ve tried it before and it didn’t take, I can guarantee you, you’ll now see a much-improved version of the block editor with the latest version of Gutenberg.

Plugins integrating with the block editor

Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a lot of powerful improvements committed to the Gutenberg plugin, but, we’ve also seen a lot of plugins integrating with the block editor in extremely interesting ways. I’ve already mentioned several of these plugins in some of my previous WordPress Watch posts. Today, I’d like to highlight two specific plugins that have become part of my favorite block editor enhancements. Namely: Editorskit and Atomic Blocks.

Atomic Blocks

Atomic Blocks is one of those plugins that gradually keeps getting better at what it does. This tweet, for example, demonstrates quite nicely what kind of improvements you can find:

Just have a look at what kind of blocks it makes available in the block editor and what you can do with it.


Editorskit, just like Atomic Blocks, adds an array of interesting blocks to the editor, but it has a slightly different focus. Find out what they are and what they do here. Technically, you could use both plugins side by side. Editorskit also shared an interesting tweet last week demonstrating their progress:

If you’re still putting off switching to the block editor and you haven’t played around with it lately, now’s a good time to try again.

Bonus links

The post Gutenberg block editor improvements, and integrating plugins appeared first on Yoast.

I feel good! Because I can plan and measure success – a look back at the 2019 DMEXCO

It’s important to feel good. That’s why we made sure there was plenty to do at our DMEXCO stand in Cologne, Germany, on 11th and 12th September 2019: Prizes to be won, cocktails to be drunk and exciting demos to get a hands-on look at the new Searchmetrics Suite. But feeling good isn’t enough – without planning, the largest digital fair in Europe wouldn’t have come to much, and plannable actions are a key issue for all digital marketers. But which other trends were buzzing around the fair in Cologne? In this post, we’ve put together our thoughts, impressions and highlights from the 2019 DMEXCO!

Did you miss the 2019 DMEXCO? Don’t worry – you can arrange a software demo today and get your personal look at the new Searchmetrics Suite:

Request a Demo!



The Searchmetrics Team ready the big event. Not long now…

The motto of this year’s edition of Europe’s largest digital trade fair was “Trust in You!” For us, this means listening to you – our users, and responding to your needs and reflecting this in our software. This is the approach we took to the development of our new Searchmetrics Suite, meaning that we were able to present a platform at the 2019 DMEXCO that addresses many of our customers’ business problems. Probably not all 41,000 fair visitors came to our stand, but we did manage to have engaging conversations with more than 250 people, and enjoyed countless interesting discussions with digital marketing industry experts.




Everything else is just Alt.*

The Searchmetrics Suite, with its seamless integration of all data and features from the Search Experience, Research Cloud, Content Experience and Site Experience – all in one single platform – raises the bar in terms of user experience and functionality.

*Alt (literally German: “old”) is a beer popular in Düsseldorf, which has a traditional rivalry with DMEXCO’s host city, Cologne. The stand slogan emphasized the new features of our software, whilst showing our support for the local (clearly superior) beer “Kölsch”.

A few highlights that DMEXCO visitors were able to try out at our stand:

  • More conversions with search intent: Searchmetrics identifies the search intent for every keyword and supports companies in increasing their conversions, as Searchmetrics is able to provide recommendations for the creation of successful content that is tailored to its target audience’s needs
  • More traffic with SERP Features: Searchmetrics analyzes and identifies important SERP Features. This enables companies to see what is relevant in their market, generate traffic and optimize their SEO performance.
  • More transparency by measuring success: Searchmetrics’ hierarchical tagging makes it possible to categorize reports into market segments, product categories or specific products, providing a highly detailed keyword performance analysis. Businesses get all the data they need within the Suite.
  • More insights with live content audits: The creation of effective content based on real-time analysis that compares your draft copy with the online content that is currently performing best for your chosen topics.

Our team was on-site from the early morning to late in the evening, demonstrating the advantages and applications of these features. Malte Landwehr, VP Product at Searchmetrics, also used his talk to underline the importance of a solid data foundation for effective decision-making.



Our Chief Operating Officer, Britta Mühlenberg, also held a daily presentation, in which she introduced the company Searchmetrics. You can watch the mood video here:


DIE NEUE SEARCHMETRICS SUITE. Alles andere ist Alt. #KÖLSCH #DMEXCO19 #SEARCHMETRICS #seo #content #marketing

Posted by Searchmetrics on Thursday, September 12, 2019


In the beginning was the Word. Not long after there was Data.

This year, we wanted to live up to our data-driven principles in our branding concept. Before even entering the fair hall, visitors could see that the word “Banner” has a number tied to it: 17,327 – that’s how many Google users (in Germany) search for this word every month: No words without data.



Even the outfits our indefatigable stand staff gave visitors a small insight into our data. While waiting for a “Juicy Content“ or „Searchirinha“ cocktail, people learned that 76,404 people in Germany google the word “T-Shirt” every month.



DMEXCO trends for 2019 and views on the new Suite

Besides ourselves, there were, according to the fair organizers, approximately 999 other exhibitors at the 2019 DMEXCO. SEO and Content are obviously the most important digital marketing topics, but there were other trends capturing people’s imagination this year. Here are a few views, including some opinions on the Searchmetrics Suite, that we gathered from the floor:

  • “I think that 2020 will be the Year of Tik-Tok. Tik-Tok are here but I think that many people don’t have Tik-Tok on their radar yet.” – Thomas Knüwer, Partner at kpunktnull
  • “For me, the biggest trend this year will be seeing how the digital marketing industry tackles the subject of sustainability – and how they incorporate this into their operations.” – Fabian Lahl, Manager of Product Marketing at Productsup
  • “I like the way the new Searchmetrics Suite is so self-explanatory. I can easily show it to colleagues and we can all work with it. We use the data and the API a lot – both quick analyses and more complex data integrations are highly valuable.” – Maike Schultze-Rhonhof, Senior SEO Manager, Axa
  • “The Searchmetrics Suite is the most user-friendly Search and Content platform that I have worked with.” – Bert Winterfeld, Team Lead Marketing, Newsletter2Go



“The Searchmetrics Suite is the limousine of software platforms in the Search and Content space. With the insights available from its comprehensive data, it gives online marketers the perfect basis for their decisions.” – Daniel Furch, Head of Enterprise Marketing, uberall

From data to insights to strategy

One major challenge facing online marketing teams, even once they’ve recognized the importance of data, remains working out effective measures to take based on this data. In his presentation, “From Data to Insights to Strategy”, Michael Dziewior, Team Lead Content Services, explained how to gain understanding from data and how to use this understanding to develop a strategy. And not just for search and content activities – but for the entire range of corporate communication.



One core focus of the presentation was search intent data. Searchmetrics’ data science models determine the search intent of keywords and provide insights into what users need that can be used as the basis for content and other marketing measures.

Cost-benefit analysis of the 2019 DMEXCO

As data and reporting enthusiasts, we’ve summarized a few KPIs for you in the following input-output report:


  • 27 staff
  • 12 hours per day
  • 2 days on site
  • Total of 648 hours in action.

Outputs (precise quantities are a business secret):

  • Blood
  • Sweat
  • Tears.

Thank you and till next year!

Most of all, we were happy to have so many interesting discussions with customers and other interesting conversation partners. The whole Searchmetrics team would like to say a big “thank-you” and a “till-next-time” to all visitors who made the 2019 DMEXCO such a success. We’re a little tired, but we’re extremely happy to have met so many people, and we’re looking forward to our continued dialogue and cooperation. Looking forward to seeing you soon – if not before then at the very latest we should meet up back on the banks of the Rhine in 2020. See you there!

Did you miss the 2019 DMEXCO? Don’t worry – you can arrange a software demo today and get your personal look at the new Searchmetrics Suite:

Request a Demo!

10 Takeaways from the state of SEO survey

Here at Zazzle Media, we love surveys – we run them every year to help us better understand the challenges facing both SEO Managers and Agencies alike. Each year we look to prune the questions down and build others out as trends and future opportunities dictate (for example in 2018 we asked more questions around mobile-first preparation).

This year we looked to gain insight into more recent smaller topics such as the impact of Medic or the ease of protecting branded search terms.

In this article we explore the top 10 takeaways from the survey data – think of it as a TLDR version of data collection from hundreds and hundreds of interested parties. See some topline stats or explore the full survey results by clicking below and downloading them.

On-page content creation remains the most effective activity

Any digital marketing professional with a few years of experience in the game has likely dabbled in the disciplines below. While certain practices take far more technical expertise (think, IA and CTR Optimisation) it’s reassuring to know that the marketers still find content creation to be the best approach in acquiring traffic and hitting KPIs.


SEO survey 2019 - Stats on competitor research

Likewise, it’s easy to focus on moving forward, many content strategies do just that, and that alone. However, auditing existing content and making tweaks or tests where needed is almost as important, that’s why it shows up as the second most voted for discipline.

A few years ago I would have expected the “creation of new content” and “link building” to have utterly dominated this chart. It’s fantastic to see professionals finding more and more value in other avenues with “Brand mentions” and “CTR optimization” gaining a not insignificant seat at the marketing table.

I’ve long advocated a need for SEO professionals to blur at the edges, merging with other teams and marketing/web-development disciplines. This wider and more holistic view of digital marketing is fast-becoming the rule instead of the exception. A big part of this is how news and knowledge sharing sites have diversified and so helped inform both agencies and managers alike.

Link-building may be losing its appeal

…and I for one, couldn’t be happier with that! Link building by quantity has always been a bugbear of mine. The demand for the service has created sites that sell links by DA as casually as if they were sweets. These companies are still inexplicably in business despite the wider community knowing full well that many of the sites used have been “blacklisted” by Google. Oh yeah, they do that…

Imagine spending hundreds, maybe even thousands of such links without ever really knowing if they’ve made any kind of impact. It’s no wonder that marketers are more unsure about the value in link building over anything else in an SEO agency’s arsenal.

As happy as I might be with the headline the lack of confidence in Non-branded PPC vs Technical SEO is somewhat worrying. I’ve dabbled in paid (largely on social) and found that it provided me with exact costs for cost per acquisition, cost per conversion – all the stats I could digest. It’s also concerning that UX is still so much of a mystery, in the next few years I hope my CRO/UX brethren can educate marketers to close this gap. Platforms and CMS’ have never been easier to split test, and while I appreciate truly putting the user’s experience first is something of a rarity in sites, the benefits of doing so are well documented.

Sites still waiting for the move to mobile-first

It seems like years ago that we were talking about the mobile-first index… probably because it was ( Despite all the time to prepare, it seems Google hasn’t completed the full rollout quite yet, or perhaps have yet to inform webmasters, I’m not sure which would be worse come to think of it.

Whether you have a notification or not, there are a slim non-zero number of sites that can afford to ignore mobile users entirely – possibly sites still optimizing for IE6? It’s great to see over 43% have been positively impacted by the shift to mobile-first. For the slim two percent that has been hit hard by the changes, I imagine they’re seeing their market share eaten into, or have dropped due to a legacy CMS that could do with a shakeup. In any case, there are hundreds of articles around that help you optimize for mobile – not least of all, Google themselves (

Fixing technical issues within the blink of an eye

Each year we run our surveys we find that the implementation of technical fixes gets faster and faster. Whether this is due to development teams taking sprint-led approaches, businesses feeling under pressure to squeeze as much value from their sites as possible or just a growing understanding for the need to have a site that is “technically fit for purpose” we don’t much care – 75% of marketers are getting technical fixes implemented within a month. Get in.

If you’re still having to put together business cases for changing H1s or adding alt text to images – I feel for you son, I’ve got 99 problems but a technical glitch ain’t one. You may want to read this great article from Rory Truesdale on building a business case your boss can’t say no to.

Users still clamoring for best practice advice from Google

We make a lot of demands from Google, if you’re like me then more often than not is the adherence to its own policies and not rewarding bad practice… or longer battery life on my phone. However, I’ll keep those grudges inside for now.

Interestingly, aside from the standard request that rolls out on these questions (that of more keyword-specific user/click data), there are a significant number of marketers who aren’t clear on all of Google’s guidelines.

I feel much of these are perhaps just managers and executives just not having the resource or time to give Google’s webmasters forum and help center a good readthrough. You can find the basic guidelines here, the article has links to more information content, quality, and snippets too.

It’s clear that the overhaul of the search console is relatively positive (if a little segmented) and I’m sure we all welcome new innovation and insights within WMT/GSC. Something I expect will come soon is the visibility around voice searches – data suggests nearly 50% of searches will be made by voice in the next few years, but right now strategies to capitalize on this are focusing almost exclusively on featured snippets as they are the only thing we can really measure with a modicum of accuracy.

Many professionals still without access to rich media

Here’s the catch, Google and users reward content that is unique or content that utilizes the most appropriate format for the message/information. Trouble is, the production of certain formats are costly, the main reason for all the “no” responses was just that – the cost, the second was people finding a reliable artist/animator/SFX professional.

There are a number of sites around where you can find appropriately priced artists that can provide such services but it’s perhaps easier to ask any agencies you work with for their recommendations. After all, we cross paths with a huge number of digital professionals that might suit your needs. For something more affordable and entry-level you can often find amateur or startups willing to work for realistic rates within Facebook or LinkedIn groups.

It’s important to be realistic with your desire for rich media, it takes far longer than you might expect to become truly proficient with many of the tools and software platforms required for a quality result. Don’t be afraid to give it a shot. But make sure you aren’t producing video or podcasts just for the sake of it, if you miss the mark with a blog post you lose a few hours, do that with a video and it’s far harder to explain it away in your next appraisal.

Markets are at saturation point, few innovators blazing trails

In a recent training session, I ran on Content Strategy at BrightonSEO, this was one of the biggest problems felt by both in-house and agency professionals. The skyscraper approach works best when you are “one-upping” the competition. However, many markets are just seeing content duplication over and over – backed up by basic link building to gain the edge.

My advice to those of you looking for an answer will be the same as those at the training session.

Be magnetic

Aside from the habitual checking of Facebook and Instagram stories, what sites are you drawn back to? Can you figure out why they have such an attractive appeal to their content? Is it the tone? Is it imagery? Can you work out what would make your audience feel the same way about your site?

You don’t need a funky brand or hip product to be magnetic, you just need to service the most critical needs of your audience better than your competitors. Do everything right, from UX in the checkout process to follow-up emails and nurture campaigns. It might sound like a big ask and if you’re struggling with the scale of it all, try to do less, but do it better.

50% of marketers still don’t understand their competition

This for me is unforgivable. A sailor is nothing if they don’t keep one eye on the waves around them.

It’s critical to innovate and try to lead the way but the chances of you always being at the front of your market are zero. Instead, you need to be mindful of what the competition is doing and utilize third-party tools to monitor them effectively.

If you’re reading this with a sinking feeling of guilt, it’s not too late. Competitor research is a well-documented discipline in both organic and paid search. The vital point is to learn from both the victories and the mistakes made by the competition. If you spot a campaign that flopped but clearly had significant investment, it’s important you tear it apart and work out how you could have done it better.

If you’re working with an agency and feel that your level of competitor insight isn’t great then consider it as a research project that you can undertake collaboratively in the next quarter. Remember, that you have lots of different types of competition:

  • Our perceived brand competitors
  • Your actual organic competitors
  • Your actual paid competitors
  • Competitors for audience attention
  • Competitors for audience income
  • Similar product competitors

These groups aren’t mutually exclusive and you might find two contrasting competitors that crossover due to your position in a market (an averaged priced womenswear brand would crossover with both Primark and ZARA, despite the two having minimal product/price overlap).

Brand terms are becoming a battleground

There was a time when brands felt confident that with an “about us” page they were relatively well protected in the SERPs, perhaps a few subdomains thrown in for good measure. However, it’s clear that there is no honor among marketers anymore. Bidding on other brand terms has never been more popular. Organically we’ve responded to the clear user demand for “brand vs brand” terms, creating fresh content to target both competitor brand traffic and users in the consideration stage of a purchase journey.

SEO survey 2019 stats on brand term searches


Let’s be honest though, this is just good business sense in most cases. I recommended the production and optimization of a comparison page for RAC to target AA terms and the results generated both traffic and revenue despite the clear user intent for “aa breakdown cover”. The RAC site still ranks in third position for the head term with 600+ other keyword rankings and estimated the traffic of over 10k accordingly to Ahrefs.

Example of Google serp for aa breakdown


Of course, that’s an extreme case, in an industry where there are only 2 ½significant players (sorry GreenFlag) with substantial branded traffic and searches. If you want to find out more about how to protect your brand from this sort of activity, you can check out a tool I created here, to help organize your branded traffic results and make sure they are tip top shape.

People are spending less than ever on SEO

Always end on a negative? Our survey suggested that more and more marketers are spending their budget elsewhere, the results felt a little too open-ended so we followed up the question to dig into why they’re spending five percent less on SEO than last year.

Interestingly, 60% of marketers state that resources and a shortage of budget are the main reasons they don’t spend more on organic. However, just over 30% still find proving the value of SEO to be a critical factor in securing funds or resources, further pushing the need for agencies, freelancers and in-house professionals to be aware of attribution models, brand value and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

SEO survey 2019 stats on SEO spends


As an industry, we’ve needed to educate, educate, educate – at almost every level of client infrastructure. That challenge still remains, in fact, it probably changes monthly. But now with more noise than ever (think CRO, Social, and EDM).

It doesn’t make you a poor search professional if you’ve struggled to educate your manager, in my experience they can be quite resilient to tutelage.


These are just 10 of what I felt were the most interesting results from a survey containing over 40 digital marketed questions asked hundreds of digital marketing professionals. If you’d like to end your day with a little more insight, the results are all available to download.

Stuart Shaw is Head of Search & Strategy here at Zazzle Media.

The post 10 Takeaways from the state of SEO survey appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

How to lead SEO teams and track its performance effectively: Experts’ tips

Leading an SEO team is not an easy task, whether it’s an in-house or an agency one. Moreover, tracking and measuring results is a critical part of any SEO campaign. You need to make sure that your work provides the results.

In this article, you’ll learn how to effectively guide your SEO team and assess their performance from nine outstanding experts in this niche.

People we’ve asked

Julian Redlich

1. Julian Redlich @JulianRedlich

Product Manager (SEO) at Leading the product vision and development efforts for all of our over >100M landing pages for all demand channels (paid/organic) with a team of developers, designers, and copywriters.






Braden Becker2. Braden Becker @BradenBecker

Senior SEO Strategist at HubSpot. Writer, editor, marketer, photographer, athlete, environmentalist, and SEO strategist.







Vytautas Palovis

3. Vytautas Palovis @VytautasPalovis

SEO & International Growth Lead | Oberlo at Shopify. An experienced ‘T-shaped’ digital marketer with strong skills across a broad range of Digital disciplines such as SEO, Web Analytics, A/B & MVT testing, PPC campaigns, content marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing.





Chris Makara

4. Chris Makara @ChrisMakara

Senior Digital Marketing Analyst at Insperity. A self-taught SEO expert with more than 15 years of digital marketing experience, who helps business owners reach their goals by building and implementing an effective digital strategy.





Marcus Miller

5. Marcus Miller @marcusbowlerhat

SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing Consultant and Strategist at Bowler Hat. SEO, PPC & Digital Marketing consultant with over 18 years experience.






Rodrigo Stockebrand

6. Rodrigo Stockebrand @spanglishseo

Vice President, Digital Analytics & SEO at Univision Communications Inc.  A professional search engine optimization and marketing (SEO/SEM) and digital analytics practitioner, trainer, and consultant with over 15 years of experience in the industry.






Artem Melikian

7. Artem Melikian

Team Lead of SEO at Netpeak Agency. A professional SEO specialist and digital marketer.





Sean Si

8. Sean Si @SEO_Hacker

CEO and Founder at SEO Hacker. An SEO specialist, Growth Hacker, internet marketer, Copywriter, and blogger.







Eren Kozik

9. Eren Kozik @ErenKozik

Founder and Head of SEO at SEOPT. He has been in the online industry for over 15 years now. In digital marketing, especially in the field of search engine optimization, he feels particularly at home.




Questions we asked and they answered

1. How do you measure the results of your SEO team and individual members?

Julian Redlich

At, we do not have SEOs in the traditional sense; rather my team consists of Backend Developers, Frontend Developers, Designers, Analysts, and Copywriters. All of them contribute to a collectively designed vision in our agile environment but approach this from a different angle. As a Product Manager, I prioritize the tasks for the team in alignment with business priorities, although this isn’t without input from the team. At, we put the customer at the center of everything we do, and all of us are working together to leverage their own special skill sets to accomplish this collective goal.

Braden Becker

We use organic traffic to measure our SEO team’s performance, and this extends to multiple properties belonging to our website. However, a variety of factors can drive the results we see, and we go through a process of elimination to diagnose issues and attribute successes. When analyzing a period of low performance, for example, things like seasonality, international traffic, and updates to Google’s ranking algorithm are often the first to be looked at.

Individual employees are rather measured by where they’re spending their time, how they’re thinking about team challenges, and what they’re doing to address them. Everyone here has pretty specific focuses, and this makes it easy to hold ourselves accountable when things go particularly wrong or right.

Vytautas Palovis

We have monthly goals, as well as projection for the rest of the year. There are two main KPIs which we track as a team:

  • Organic traffic
  • Conversions from organic traffic

Also, we have a bunch of individual metrics for each SEO area we work on:

  • On-page SEO optimization, we check before/after improvements in terms of organic traffic change.
  • For off-page SEO, we do track how many unique referring domains we gained (when it comes to off-page SEO, we create a different type of content – linkable assets, as we call them). We also check how powerful are these links, DA/DR metrics, are these links contextual, did they move the needle and helped that page rank better.

Chris Makara

Sometimes it depends on the overall goal of the initiative, but it usually can be done by keeping track of a spreadsheet or looking at results in Ahrefs.

Marcus Miller

We try to take a more holistic approach to SEO than others do. Which is, we don’t just look at organic rankings for a handful of keywords. We really try and look at various KPIs which are typically customized to the needs of each client. I talk about this in some detail in this post.

We tend to have two sets of primary KPIs:


These are KPIs that show us that our SEO health metrics are all going in the right direction:

  • Rank for main converting keywords (local/organic)
  • Rank for secondary benchmark keywords (local/organic)
  • Majestic Citation Flow
  • Majestic Trust Flow
  • Majestic Trust & Citation Balance
  • Moz Domain Authority
  • Moz Page Authority
  • Moz Spam Score

Real-world SEO KPIs

We then track what we call real-world KPIs designed to tell us if the improvements in the SEO metrics are tracking to real-world results.

  • Increase in organic traffic
  • Increase in the number of pages on the site that generate traffic
  • Increase in non-branded search traffic
  • Percentage increase in organic conversions
  • Percentage increase in traffic from specific geographic regions
  • Organic Impressions (Search Console)
  • Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) (Search Console)

Rodrigo Stockebrand

At Univision, our team’s goals are aligned with business objectives for Digital and we measure results based on macro, micro, and nano SEO metrics. Macro would be things like growth in traffic, conversions, revenue, etc. Micro would be things like improvements to page speed, lower bounce rates/exits, and growth in keywords in the top three. And nano metrics would be the positive movement of each individual page for its core keywords, as well as victories like capturing position “0” or getting premium placement in news, video, or image carousel.

For individual contributors, I measure their results in terms of completion of key action items as well as the contribution that those activities had towards performance growth. And while I do help with the assignments and prioritization of tasks, each team member is encouraged to come up with their own assignments, tasks, and performance KPIs.

The main things that I’m looking to accomplish with this method are:

• Empower everyone to create their own performance and task roadmap – you may know far better than I, what’s important and when it should be done. I want people to have the flexibility and freedom to choose.

• Reward value where it’s due – some of the most important tasks in our department have no impact (at least not directly) on organic search performance. Nonetheless, they are critical in getting other things (that do have a direct impact) moving forward. Therefore, for those individuals that are great at moving these particular pieces, we put less importance on the traffic growth side of performance. In general, I want people to do what they do best and measure them fairly for those tasks, whether they impact performance directly or not. Because in the end, it’s even the stairs to the ship that makes its voyage possible.

Artem Melikian

Of course, we measure the result of teamwork in the number of growing projects and in the volume of growth based on data from the analytics of organic channels. But there are other metrics important to the team:

  • Number of projects (the number of old projects should not decrease, and new projects should come)
  • Work with budgets (projects should increase the budget if it’ll be useful)

A very similar process is for individual team members. Each specialist is interested in the growth of his/her project. For juniors, it’s a little more complicated.

Sean Si

Through our KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). We have different teams that specialize in the various facets of SEO – content, tech, links, strategizing. Our team’s results are measured by being able to produce a set number that coincides with their monthly quotas. So, that’s the primary way we measure results, but for other select teams, we measure results through rankings since that is what we specialize in. So, if a client does not rank well, that means the team in charge of coming up with strategies/experiments/tasks to make a client rank are not performing well.

Eren Kozik

Here we use a variety of systems and SEO tools, not only to record project progress and communicate but also to record the results of the team (before / after). As we have no programmers and no need for custom development, we mostly use systems from valued tool providers. Sistrix, Ahrefs, ScreamingFrog, Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the most important tools for us to measure and log the progress and (partial) results of our work. The toolset may change, depending on the requirement and the target.

2. Which CRM systems do you use?

Braden Becker

HubSpot uses its very own HubSpot CRM, and we recommend it to others! It’s completely free, forever.

Vytautas Palovis

We usually use these two tools:

  • Ahrefs
  • Google Search Console

Chris Makara

For SEO, I usually use a combination of tools. These are Serpstat, Ahrefs, Google Sheets, Website Auditor, Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and

Marcus Miller

We don’t use a dedicated CRM at Bowler Hat and we tend to manage most of our projects within the Asana work management platform. We track leads and sales for Bowler Hat within Asana and we manage all client projects within Asana. Great tool. 🙂

When working with clients we have worked with a huge range of CRM systems – everything from Salesforce and Hubspot to bespoke CRMs.

Julian Redlich

I’m using Jira as a project management tool with my team, but this isn’t the only tool used across

Rodrigo Stockebrand

Mostly Salesforce.

Artem Melikian

We have an in-house ERP system in our company, which covers almost the entire work cycle of a specialist. And what it does not cover, we connect with external services.

So, for tasks we use Planfix. We also build communication with the client here (tasks to and from him/her).

To fix SEO metrics (such as positions), we use Serpstat. Its multi-user mode allows us to add and remove specialists when needed. It is convenient to monitor the activity and volume of monitoring. Through the Serpstat API, we pull up information on the positions of customer sites in ERP. Based on this + analytics, we determine the success of the project. In such a way, we can immediately see if a project has any problem and fix it quickly.  Well, using the same API, we pull this into the client dashboard. So the client can at any time see the situation on the project, not only the analytics of visits but also the dynamics of the positions.

Sean Si

For CRM, we mainly use Pipedrive and Aweber.

Eren Kozik

We currently use a combination of different tools:

  • MeisterTask for project management
  • Todoist for daily task management
  • Harvest for time recording
  • Slack for digital communication in the team

It has been shown that we are currently riding the best with the combination of these tools.

3. How do your team members provide reports on their results?

Julian Redlich

Objectives are crucial to reporting and results at As a team, we continuously align on objectives, spending time to regularly discuss how we are delivering against the objectives and whether these are still the most impactful priorities for us to work on. We really do believe that our performance is based on what we deliver, but also how we deliver it. That may include factors like quality, velocity, and resilience. But I think it also encourages an environment where everyone is empowered to bring their ideas to the table to anticipate issues and solve problems. When we do this, we really are showing our best talent and feel more invested in a given project. As a Product Manager, I am not in the line of management of the team and within this structure, we are able to build trust and improve performance across the team because people are encouraged to raise their hands when they have an idea or solution.

Braden Becker

We’re a highly transparent team when reporting on performance. Because we’re scoped on monthly traffic targets, we meet regularly to update a single slide deck and share our progress. Depending on an employee’s focus, we also dig into page-level traffic, lead-generation data, and updates to projects that make our SEO strategy more proactive.

Vytautas Palovis

One-on-one weekly meetings is a good way to touch a base and see the progress. We also track monthly updates.

Chris Makara

This is usually done by pulling reports from Ahrefs and/or Google Analytics.

Marcus Miller

We use Raventools to provide a report that includes some manual feedback on jobs done and how these benefit the client to the traditional metrics and KPIs relevant to that client. The key point is that we customize this for each and every client.

Rodrigo Stockebrand

We generally measure results in terms of the following: Ticket status, task pacing, and performance dashboards (macro/micro/nano) that we configure via APIs to bring in data real-time and with alerts to capture flags/issues as they occur. We also use to monitor site changes which are pivotal in understanding the ongoing evolution of the site. It’s amazing to see the changes that happen to the site daily that would otherwise go undetected.

Artem Melikian

Our ERP captures the results of work on projects. Team members are good enough to work and monitor the vital signs of projects.

Sean Si

We have a monthly reporting system for all the teams where they input all the tasks that were done for a specific client and we treat that as a progress and client report. It helps us keep track of every team’s progress and it also enables us to know which teams are under-performing. It’s also a good tracker to use to see if our efforts for a specific client are working and it allows to know if our current strategy for the client is really working.

Eren Kozik

Two to three times a week the project progress is discussed. In the end, it’s all about team performance, because that is the only way we can actually achieve the defined project goals. This only works through a well-rehearsed team that has worked together for several years. Productivity, effectiveness and efficiency increase with team experience.

To be honest, there is a lot of personal conversation going on. That is what binds and welds more together. Granted, from a certain size so certainly not possible.

For me, the personal contact with my employees is currently very important in order to relate to the achievements and results. That way I can do even better the mentoring role that I, as the Head of SEO and CEO, will take on.

4. How do you build an incentive system and determine salary rates for SEOs?

Vytautas Palovis

Well, that’s a great question! We offer a very competitive salary in the market, and I’m not talking specifically only about our SEO team, at Shopify as a company, salaries are on a high level, as well as a bunch of perks and benefits on top.

As for promotions in my team, we try to be a results-driven team. But when a team grows, all soft skills also become important – the ability to work in a team, culture fit, eager to learn, take ownership and get shit done – everything becomes important. As a team lead, I try to evaluate all these things and reward my team members when the time comes. Also, it’s very important to set the right expectations to direct reports in the first place. What do you expect from them? What must be achieved in order to get a salary increase or promotion? I must say, sometimes it could be a tough decision to make.

Chris Makara

I haven’t really built out an incentive system yet, as I typically pay for hours worked (provided tasks are completed in a reasonable time). As for the rates, it will depend on the level of work needed. For example, if someone is doing an SEO audit, that can take more skill than researching link opportunities.

Marcus Miller

Client retention throughout the business is our primary metric for the bonus scheme and salary is always based on experience and performance.

Rodrigo Stockebrand

We use general market rates for salaries. For incentives, we take into consideration a variety of activities including rank-a-thons and point-based “achievement unlocks.”

Artem Melikian

The incentive system is built on the results of projects conducted by our team. (Except for projects in which the result is difficult to measure or not measured in specific numeric KPIs).

There is a fixed part and bonus. The last one consists of several subparts:

  • Bonus for project management – Usually more than the fixed part
  • Bonus for achieving the result – More the bonus for project management

Bonus for project management depends on the project’s budget. Bonus for achieving the result depends on the result itself (the better the result, the bigger the bonus).

The win-win-win strategy: The client receives the result, the specialist – a good reward, the agency – satisfied customers and specialists, and LT.

Sean Si

  • Since we have a dedicated sales team, we offer incentives/commissions to them every time they make a sale or close a client. For our regular team members, we don’t really like the idea of overworking and we strongly discourage overtime since a healthy person can do a lot more than someone that has burned themselves out. This is why we have a relatively generous vacation system and we really encourage our team members to take a break once in a while since it’s an important aspect of staying healthy.
  • The salary rate in the Philippines is pretty straightforward and we work around or use that amount as a standard/baseline since we never hired SEOs outside of the company. All our SEOs have been internally trained and started out as a normal team member.

Eren Kozik

I go individually to the wishes of the employees and try to fulfill them if the wishes are not completely beyond the scope. Listen, appreciate and be honest. Especially in our fast-moving time, it is important to take time for the employees.

No one needs a football table to feel comfortable in a company. For example, instead of a foosball table, we have the option of a job bike, which I fully finance as an AG.

Of course, flexible working hours, job tickets and options for HomeOffice days are must-haves, so that employees can spend a little more free time. Amenities that make work more enjoyable, because only a co-worker who feels comfortable and does not have to worry can concentrate fully on the work and perform at their best.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section.

Inna Yatsyna is a Brand and Community Development Specialist at Serpstat. She can be found on Twitter @erin_yat.

The post How to lead SEO teams and track its performance effectively: Experts’ tips appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Penalties & recourse for grey hat SEO practices — Joe Sinkwitz // Digital Heretix

Episode Overview

In the final episode of Grey Hat Week, we take a look at the how to diagnose, define and adjust to the full range of penalties doled out by Google as they catch up to Grey Hat tactics over time.

Topics covered include:

  • The impact of Google’s shift from manual penalties to algo updates and the concept of ‘ghost penalties’
  • The importance of monitoring site and SEO performance when it comes to penalty triage
  • Penalty severity levels, from death sentence to slap on the wrist and the tools at your disposal to remedy the penalties

Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome back to the last episode of Gray Hat Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to discuss the balance of ranking optimization and risking your domain’s reputation. Joining us again for Gray Hat SEO Week is Joe Sinkwitz who is the Principal at Digital Heretix, which is a brand reputation management agency, and he’s also the owner of the Advanced Search Summit and a co-founder and CEO of Intellifluence, which is a SAS tool that helps brands discover the right influencers for the right products to pitch them and get honest reviews that turn into content and sales. Today we’re going to wrap up Gray Hat SEO Week by Joe talking to us about some of the penalties that he’s seen for gray and black hat SEO practices.

Before we hear from Joe, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic, where a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to

Okay, on with the show. Here’s the end of Gray Hat SEO Week with Joe Sinkwitz, Principal at Digital Heretix. Joe, happy Friday and welcome back to the last episode of Gray Hat SEO Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Joe:                  Thank you for having me. Let’s talk penalties.

Ben:                 We’ve covered a ton of ground, and we’re going to get just into that. The take away for me for the entire week is there’s lots of ways that you can use sort of the big buckets that people consider to be gray hat SEO, whether it’s buying links, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, your content strategy and keyword stuffing, and even using personalization, which some people might consider cloaking. At the end of the day, the line is moving constantly. What have you seen be the penalties for gray hat SEO tactics? What is definitely a black tactic, and how do you avoid getting yourself into trouble, and what can you do if you do get in trouble?

Joe:                  Wow, so that’s a lot of questions all rolled into one.

Ben:                 That’s like six questions in one. Maybe I should take it back.

Joe:                  No, that’s all right. Actually I want to start with the penalties themselves. We used to see it shift where it was very heavy on manual penalties and it’s kind of rolled more into algorithm penalties. The reason that is important is because with a manual penalty, you generally knew about it. You might have a message. You might have a very specific action that’s taking place. As Google started to mix in the filters and the specific penalty pieces of the algorithm into the core algorithm, it’s become a lot harder to necessarily say, “Hey, I think this particular site was hit by this particular penalty on this particular day.” Because it becomes harder to do that, fixing it becomes hard. You ended up having to spend a longer time at analysis and recovery trying to fix all the things that might have been a problem.

Now the worst that happens, pure spam. If your putting out pure spam, your domain is dead, burn it, move on. Beyond that, the worst that I had was Penguin 1.0, because with Penguin 1.0 on April 24th, 2012, a day that will live in infamy within my companies, it basically just torched it and it torched it for over four years. I mean, we were able to get out with 1.1 by doing a redirect trick, and then we were able to get out again doing another type of redirect trick, but ultimately they caught up. The penalties were passing domains. We just couldn’t get out anymore. It took a long time. Even after the linked profiles were cleaned up, they refused to rescind that penalty. With the more algorithmic penalties that have kind of shifted now, like Penguin and Panda are essentially pure algorithmic now, as they’re assessed, you end up having to be more scalpel-like. You have to look at it and say, “Okay, where did this go wrong?”

Ben:                 I guess my takeaway here is that there’s a couple different types of penalties, right? You can have a manual penalty. If you’re marked as spam, you’re dead, it’s done. There are some manual penalties which are pretty clear when they happen. Hopefully there’s some messaging. The algorithmic penalties are the ones which are like the ghost penalty. You just all of a sudden see that your traffic goes down and you don’t know why. What do you do when you start to see your traffic decrease? Whether it’s manual or an algorithmic penalty, how are you evaluating it and how do you figure out what the right course of action is?

Joe:                  This actually goes back to the importance, I think in the first episode we talked about it, on monitoring. If I’m constantly using something like Searchmetrics for visibility and I see a big drop in visibility, you jump on it. That’s where the analysis starts. Then you start looking into the Google search console data, because of course you’re going to want to see, do I have any messages? Do I see that I’m no longer being shown for phrases I expect to be shown for, yet alone clicks? Do I see fewer clicks but same amount of impressions? Do I see even more impressions and fewer clicks? Maybe that 410s to another type of problem. Then I also look into the analytics as well to try to determine whether or not that the traffic patterns have changed, if the source of traffic has changed, trying to get to the root of that.

If I cannot determine that there’s any noticeable change in terms of like the traffic I’m getting other than I’m just getting less of it, then I have to start looking at, okay, let’s look at the site itself. Does the site look like that it’s grown too much? Does the site look like I have pages that are not supported by external links? Maybe I tripped a line wherein I had 1000 pages, but only 10 of those pages have really good links. Everything else is just kind of essentially orphaned. Well, crap, that kind of goes back to usage signals. It shows that it may be not relevant. Maybe I need to go and get more links. If I go and I take a look at the links themselves and I start to see that, okay, I have too much bad stuff, maybe I tripped a keyword filter. Maybe I just simply tripped a quality filter. There’s too many untrusted links coming in.

Then I have to determine, okay, now am I going to go ahead and load these up for like a reconsideration request, put them into a disavow file? Am I going to contact Webmasters and make a big show of it for Google, say, “Here’s all the extreme effort I went into to get into your good graces, my liege,” bow and scrape the ground? It all starts though with looking at the actual user data that we have that we’re collecting because of our analytics, and then from there taking a look at the site itself. In doing so, that’s when you start to notice like, “Was I hacked? Is this whole problem because of a hack? Is it because of someone else’s work versus my own incompetence?” If it’s not my own incompetence, then it goes in that direction.

Otherwise, if it’s concert related, we can fix it. If it’s link related, we can fix that too. Nothing outside of pure spam is completely permanent. It just becomes an ROI calculation of, “Am I going to be better off creating something new or should I go through this temporary pain to get back to where I once was?”

Ben:                 I understand that the first step in evaluating your domain is monitoring and figuring out what actually caused the penalties. You mentioned that if there’s a linking problem, you can fix it. If there’s a content problem, you can fix it. Walk me through once you understand and have evaluated your site and know what the problem actually is, how do you go about fixing it?

Joe:                  Sure. Well, I guess it depends on what the problem actually is. If it’s the case of Panda, there was a simple calculation we talked about a couple of days ago where I look at the totality of the domain and I break it down on a page level basis of, does this page answer a query that’s answered somewhere else better? I start tabulating all this in like an Excel spreadsheet because I don’t use Google Docs. From there, I could start to say, okay, it looks like I have too many pages that are essentially, effectively duplicate content from the consideration of a user’s query and expectations. If so, then I need to collapse the site somehow. I’m either going to fold that content into a better page and set up a 301 or [inaudible 00:08:59], I’m going to just kill the page and 410 it, remove it from navigation, I might just need to expand the page quite a bit to make it more authoritative.

If I look at it and say like, “Wow, my entire domain’s really thin. I need to really, drastically create more content for each page,” that is a very time intensive and expensive process, but that’s how you could get out with that particular penalty. If it’s more link related, then I’m probably running linked research tools. I’m looking to see like, okay, [Christophe 00:09:29], what do you have for me today? How much of this is because of extremely low trust links?

Here’s the beauty of this. At the time that you got those links, they might’ve been perfectly fine, but what happens five years later if those domains got expired and some nasty gray hat Joe Sinkwitz buys those domains and turns them into a [inaudible 00:09:51]? Now all of a sudden the quality of those links is going to be way lower if they even exist still, and they probably would because I like to retain the history as much as I can. Then all of a sudden like you’re potentially no longer on the right side of this line. You have to go and get those links removed. You contact the webmaster, try to get it removed, take screenshots of your conversations, put it into a disavow file with a reconsideration request. It’s not a sexy process and it’s not a really difficult process. It’s just a really time consuming process.

Ben:                 I think the thing that sticks out to me the most about what you said is that there’s an evil version of Joe Sinkwitz running around buying domains and repurposing them for payday loans, which brings up definitely a black hat strategy that we haven’t discussed, which is what happens with expired domains.

Joe:                  Yeah. There’s no getting around it. Where I have a problem with Google, and I started to have this problem about the time Vince rolled through right before Panda, they shifted from a positive perspective to a negative perspective, meaning that all things being considered equal, that one point in time they assumed that every domain that they first encountered was benign and positive. That has shifted to now assuming it’s no longer benign and it’s possibly negative. That simple philosophical shift has resulted in a situation where you’re not in control of all the signals that come into your site. They can be manipulated and they can be manipulated in such a way where it’s easier to tank a site than it is to link a site. That’s scary because domains expire.

We all went, well, not all of us, but most of us went through this stupid period of time where we just had a ton of domains. I know that we had over 5,000 or so like payday sites for a period of time. We had a very large portfolio there. A lot of those have expired. I don’t know who owns them now. I bet a lot of them got picked up. Did they become payday sites again or do they rehab and turn them into dog treat sites? Who knows?

Ben:                 Probably payday.

Joe:                  You don’t have control over it.

Ben:                 Yeah. It’s an interesting SEO practice and definitely on the black hat side, but it brings up the point that your linking strategy is not constant, right? Some of the domains, mostly if you’re using PBNs and some of the more gray hat strategies, can come back to bite you. I guess going back to how do you fix the problem, there’s this process of monitoring, of evaluation, and then testing. At some point you have to go back to Google and say, “Look, here’s what we’re doing to try to remedy the problem,” and you’re going through Webmaster Tools. What’s the right process for begging for forgiveness?

Joe:                  Ah, yes. Everyone has a slightly different philosophy when it comes to the reconsideration requests. When it is a manual penalty, that’s the only time it really matters, because for algorithmic penalties, they supposedly do not care about the reconsideration request. When you are going through it, and I like to make the work seem more extensive than it might be, even though it’s already a big process, simply because I get the sense occasionally that they want to see a level of capitulation. Let’s say that you were essentially disavowing a unique linking domain coming into you, but there’s seven pages. I might put those seven pages as different points within a disavow file to make the disavow file seem larger instead of just disavowing the domain itself. Within the process, like showing them, “Here’s all the work that I went through. Here’s all these screenshots I did. I spent 200 hours doing this and writing all these webmasters and begging them to take down this link that I no longer wanted even though I never paid for it. I’m so sorry to be outside of your graces.”

I hate to sound facetious talking about this process, but it’s not a clean process and it’s not a particularly fair process. They want to sit on a throne and then allow you to move across the ground to get back into their court. Sometimes you’re lucky and you have a penalty rescinded on the first try. In most of my cases, that has not been the case. Usually we have to go back a couple of different times and they say, “Well, we still see bad links.” Well, crap, what now? That’s where it is handy to have like the LRT style tool for the detox to say, “Okay, we’re going to detox all the really bad stuff first.” Then you go through that process and they say, “Nope, not good enough.” You say, “Okay, well we took your advice to the heart and we went back through. We found this stuff too so we went through the same process. We worked real hard. We got these removed manually. Then here’s the ones that we need to dispel for the rest. Thank you for taking the time to look at this.”

Nope, still not good enough, and then you go through the process again and again and again. I don’t like the process but that is the process for manual stuff. For algorithmic, you can skip the whole reconsideration. You just keep playing with the disavow.

Ben:                 I think the big question here is at what point when you are penalized is it worth you going through that process? Where can you hire a brand reputation firm and when should you just move on and start thinking about opening and operating another domain? Talk to me about how to evaluate how much effort goes into resolving a penalty.

Joe:                  I think that is determined right after the analysis, where if you’re doing this analysis you say like, “You know what? We have 100,000 links coming in but it only looks like 10 are bad. We’re going to go through the process to get out because what’s the cost associated with creating a similar site and getting that level of linkage coming in? It’s going to be very, very difficult.” Those are the types of variables that come into it. If, let’s say, we have 100,000 links but 90,000 are bad, we might just be better off saying, “Okay, we’re going to disavow, but at the same time we’re going to start a new site.” If it’s so bad that we know that we’re never coming back, just drop all effort on it and start a new one. I think it happens somewhere along that continuum, but every case is going to be slightly different.

Ben:                 Last question for you, Joe. You run Digital Heretix. You run into lots of people that need domain help. What’s the most effective thing you can do when you get into trouble, when you think you’re being either manually or algorithmically penalized? Where do you go, even if you’re evaluating whether you’re going to be the operator or whether you’re going to have somebody else try to fix the problem for you?

Joe:                  What I would do is, unfortunately you’re going to need to educate yourself. The SEO industry is very large. There are good actors. There are bad actors. You’re going to have to do your research to try to determine who’s going to be able to do it. There are quality agencies, ourselves being one of them, that can assist in penalty recovery as well as reputation help when you’ve done something wrong. The first thing you can do if you’ve done something wrong is to just stop whatever bad behavior it was and try to apologize. If you’re not successful getting back to where you were going through that, then you need to bring in a fixer to start cleaning it up, but it takes very little effort to stop whatever the negative activity was, if you can determine what it was.

Ben:                 Okay. Joe, I appreciate you sharing all your thoughts. You’ve got a wealth of experience with a lot of brands that have run into some troubles and helped resolving them. You’re the perfect guest for us to have on Gray Hat SEO Week. I appreciate your time and thanks for being our guest.

Joe:                  I was happy to be here. Thanks a lot, Ben.

Ben:                 Okay, and that wraps up Gray Hat SEO Week on the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversations with Joe Sinkwitz, Principal at Digital Heretix. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Joe, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile on our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is CygnusSEO, C-Y-G-N-U-S-S-E-O, or you can visit his company’s website, which is, If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P, or if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed next week. Okay, that’s it for Gray Hat SEO Week on the Voices of Search podcast, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Yoast SEO: don’t just set it and forget it!

Some of the things Yoast SEO does are pure magic. Lots of things are just taken care of after you’ve installed the plugin. You don’t have to do anything about that. Simply installing Yoast SEO will fix a lot of important technical SEO things for you. The content side of SEO, though, is something you should always do yourself. Yoast SEO will help you, but you’ll need to make an effort. So there’s a lot of work in it for you. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the things you need to do yourself, in order to make your SEO strategy successful.

Configure Yoast SEO properly

First of all, you need to configure Yoast SEO correctly. You should be aware that the plugin can’t perform to its full potential if the settings of Yoast SEO aren’t optimal for your specific website. So, make sure that the configuration of Yoast SEO is, in fact, in line with your website. The configuration wizard helps you take care of a lot of these settings.

Keyword research – always

The second thing you need to make sure of is doing your keyword research right. You need to know that you’re focusing on the words that people actually search for. If you’re optimizing for a term nobody uses, you can rank number one, but you still won’t have any traffic. And, if you’re optimizing for a term that’s so competitive that you won’t ever be able to rank for it, then you won’t get any traffic as well.

Doing your keyword research means that you need to get inside the heads of your audience. It also means that you should know your competition and estimate your chances to rank for a certain keyword. Yoast SEO will help you optimize your content for your keywords, but figuring out what the right keywords are, is your job.

Read more: How to choose keywords that’ll attract traffic »

Write awesome content

The third thing you need to do yourself is to write awesome content. And that’s something you have to do manually. Of course, you can outsource this, but it’s something somebody has to do. Yoast SEO actually helps you to write both SEO-friendly, as well as readable texts with the content and SEO analysis. So, make sure you use this feature in order to make your text well-optimized for the search engines. But adding great content is still something you need to do yourself; it won’t happen magically.

Internal linking

Another thing you’ll need to do yourself is to take care of your internal linking structure. This is very important because a proper internal linking structure will make sure that Google understands your website. And, you want Google to understand your website. Otherwise, you will be competing with your own content for a place in the search results.

Yoast SEO (Premium) will help you to do that, with our internal linking feature. But it’s still something you need to be actually doing yourself. Yoast SEO will make suggestions for articles you could link to, but you still have to put them in your article.

Social previews and redirects

Social previews and redirects are features in Yoast SEO that’ll help you improve your SEO. Your effort is needed in order to gain an SEO advantage from these features. Part of your SEO strategy will be a strategy on social media, so Facebook and Twitter. And Yoast SEO can help you make those posts on Facebook, but you still have to hit that button and write the content. Same goes for the redirects. If a page is outdated, you want to redirect it to another page. But it won’t happen just magically; you have to create those redirects yourself.

Don’t forget your competition

Even if they’ve done all the things I talked about, some people are unable to rank for a specific term. Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with competition. Some search terms are so competitive and dominated by high-authority brands that it’s terribly hard for a starting out blog to rank between them. If you want to rank for ‘holiday home Florida’ and you’re just starting out as a blog, you’re probably not going to rank right away. You need to have a whole strategy, in which you focus on long-tail search terms first. So, part of why you’re not ranking has to do with the competition.

On top of that, SEO sometimes takes a long time. Don’t despair if you’re not ranking overnight. It can take a little while before you start ranking for specific search terms. It’s a process that requires a strategy, and it takes some time before you see the results.


SEO is a lot of work. Yoast SEO takes care of most of the technical SEO stuff. The content side of SEO is a different story, though. You’ll need to make an effort to set up a successful content SEO strategy. There are a lot of things you should work on, in which Yoast SEO can actually help you and take you by the hand. And don’t forget: whether or not you rank for specific terms also depends on your competition in your specific niche. 

Keep reading: What does Yoast SEO do? »

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