How to “Recycle” PPC & Analytics Audience Data for SEO

Day after day, I’m hearing (and seeing) a common refrain in Seer halls, at conferences, and on Twitter: we love data! The more you have, the better. Keep the new data sources coming.

I don’t completely disagree with this (it’s all about big data after all), but I think that by asking for more and more data, we’re ignoring opportunities to “recycle” data we already have to find new and different insights. Think about it–if you’re working at a full-service agency, your overall team may have access to a client’s Google Analytics and Adwords, SEMRush, STAT, HotJar, SurveyMonkey, SpyFu, Twitter Analytics, etc. While you may only look at a handful of tools, your team overall is probably inundated with data that we’re only half using. It’s not the end of the world to not leverage data as best as it could, but what if you could find potential SEO content opportunities that PPC is spending over $165k on that could be a waste. That’d be worth reading on about, right?

Mozcon meme


Evaluate the Data You Already Have

To get started on connecting utilizing other teams’ data, you have to pay attention to what the other teams are doing. As digital marketers, you probably have a few clients or projects on your plate, competing priorities, a full inbox, and a limited amount of hours in a day. So, it’s easy to tune out once you’ve gone through your portion of a client call and get back to answering emails. No harm, no foul, right?

If you’re doing this (I definitely have), you’re missing the key to integration: awareness. If you don’t even know what your counterpart PPC and Analytics teams are doing, you won’t be able to understand a client’s full business, develop a holistic strategy, and, for the sake of this post, recycle the data they have.

To find opportunities for recycled data, you’ll need to work collaboratively with all teams on the project: SEO, PPC, and Analytics. Start by asking each team to create a list of all the data sources they regularly access and the intent of each. Once that’s completed for each team, set up a meeting to clarify any questions and brainstorm ideas to recycle the data for other projects. You can even come to the meeting with problems you’ve been trying to solve and see if any of the available data can help.

For this post, we’re going to focus on opportunities to use “recycled” data for SEO strategy. This isn’t meant to serve as a “how to” of the process (if you’re interested, leave a comment below!), but as a thought starter to, well, get you started.

The Power of Search Queries for SEO

WHAT IS IT?: Search queries are the exact terms users searched before they clicked on a paid search ad. Reports on search query performance are available in both Google Adwords and Bing Ads and include information like the exact search query, campaign information, click data, conversion data, etc. If you’re an SEO, this is similar to the organic keyword reports back in 2008 before “not provided” began.

These are used by paid search teams to find irrelevant keywords to negate, uncover themes that need to be improved, or discover queries that perform well that we should purposefully target in campaigns.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?: You do keyword research for any SEO or paid search campaign, right? Why? Because you want to know what people are looking for, so you can actively target their searches and be present with the information, product, or service they need.

Search queries give you the exact queries people search into search engines. What more of an indicator of what someone needs then getting the data right from the source: the user. At Seer, we spend hours on SEO projects conducting audience research into the motivations, needs, questions, and concerns of people as they go through their journey to purchase our clients’ products and services. We’re now using search queries (if the client runs paid search) to get a better understanding behavior before we start interviews to get early insights faster.

HOW DOES IT WORK?: To analyze search queries for SEO, there are four steps in the process:

  • Export the Search Query report
  • Prepare the search queries by extracting modifiers and organizing into ngrams
  • Visualize the data in PowerBI
  • Analyze the search terms, modifiers, and ngrams to find insights into the top words people use, their considerations when searching, information on themselves, and more

For one of Seer’s clients, Fender, we did this analysis to get a better understanding of the words people were using to search for their teaching app, Fender Play, to identify new content opportunities.

Uncover Which Modifiers Matters

For years, the adage “Content is king” rang through the halls of agencies and the ballrooms of conferences. I’m not going to get sidetracked into a post on how oversimplified that is, but I’d like to offer an alternative thought that’s not as catchy: “Words matter.” If you haven’t immediately exited this page (thank you for sticking around), I’d like to clarify by saying that for the majority of my 9+ years in digital marketing, I didn’t really consider the importance of the exact words in the content I recommended for clients–except in the keyword sense.

Now, as I’m mostly older and a little wiser, I’ve learned that the words people type into search bars are critical to understand what they need–and it’s just as critical to make sure we’re using them to speak the “language” of our audience.

For Fender, these were the top modifiers of the search terms:

Fender Adjectives

Since these are the words people used most when searching, it’s pretty clear that these terms mattered a lot to them, so we should be including them not only as keywords in title tags, but as part of our CTAs in meta descriptions, page headers, and body copy, and more. If we know that people searched for ‘easy’ over ‘simple,’ it’s a no-brainer which one we should use in our limited meta description space to get folks to click on our listing vs a competitor’s.

Find New Content Opportunities

Search queries allow you to find new content opportunities you may not have discovered before. While there are a lot of methods of content ideation, this one uses “indicator terms” as a way to gain insight into specific considerations people have when search that could indicate new content needs.

An “indicator word” is commonly is a word that specifies an explicit consideration when someone searches. For example, “for” is an indicator word: for parents, for students, for men, etc. It indicates a consideration of the searcher that can be targeted in both SEO and PPC.

Using PowerBI’s extracting options, I created a new column to capture the text after the delimiter “for” and sorted by top unigrams:

Fender For Delimiter

It’s easy to see that “beginners” and “beginner” stick out from the list, so it’s a clear content opportunity for Fender if they don’t have content on it already to help this particular audience.

Another call-out is for “kids;” similar to the last example, these users explicitly indicated the audience to which they’re searching for in their query, making it easy to target them with content targeted to their unique needs.

Bonus Time: Looking for PPC Wasted Spend

By using the scatterplot visual where count of Adjectives (or modifiers–not all words indicated are true adjectives) is the x-axis and CPA is on the y-axis, I was able to find adjectives with a high CPA that could indicate wasted spend.

Fender Scatterplot

Digging into the second-from-the-top bubble for the modifier “my,” the CPA is $850–way more than the baseline CPA of $53. Here’s what I found when digging into performance:

Fender My

I don’t know the “I Don’t Know My Name” ukelele song, but I can tell it’s popular and, for some reason, our PPC ad is visible for it. However, I do know enough after research (and a touch of common sense) that people searching how to play a specific song get video results front-and-center to teach them exactly what they’re looking for. They’re probably not going to download a full, paid app just to learn one song they could find on YouTube. Overall, “my” search queries cost almost $1700. They got two conversions, but most of the costs were for the song tutorial. Even if those terms wasted $1200, that could be a nice payment to a content writer to start writing the “for beginners” content we found above.

Mapping Out Content Improvements Based on User Behavior

WHAT IS IT?: Going to the Analytics side of the house this time, our team uses heatmapping for certain analyses to find areas of friction on client’s site.  

WHY DOES IT MATTER?: Heatmaps are great for finding areas of a website that elicit low engagement, potentially indicating an opportunity for CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization). Usually, there’s particular interest paid to CTAs and buttons within a heatmap to determine if users are or aren’t taking the next step marketers outline in their journey.

However, this data can also be used to understand what content is or isn’t resonating on a given page to inform content audit recommendations. Instead of just reviewing the actions on a page, we can use heatmaps and mouse tracking to understand what content users are engaging with more or less to see what they’re caring about.

HOW DOES IT WORK?: There are a lot of heatmapping platforms out there, including CrazyEgg, Inspectlet, and ClickTale, but we’ve used HotJar at Seer most often. The specific heatmapping options depend on the tool, but generally we use classic heatmaps and what HotJar calls “move maps” (similar to mouse tracking maps) to understand what content is and isn’t being engaged with and how that can inform our strategy.

The process is simple: once you have your platform of choice installed on the website, begin heatmap and move map tracking for the pages you want to investigate. For this tactic, I’d recommend using it on important landing pages (no surprise here), but, more interestingly, pages that will follow a standard format, like Services pages or a multi-series blog post. For pages that’ll follow this type of format, it’s important to add a heatmap to the first page in the series to see what content is engaged with vs not, so updates can be made in the template before all the other pages in the category go live.

For example, say you’re a Saas company, and you’ve decided to launch Industry pages to speak to the benefits your tool can provide to a variety of different verticals. After audience, keyword, and competitor research, you’ve decided that there will be a dedicated page for each industry that’ll include:

  • Overview of the Tool
  • Industry-Specific Benefits and Use Cases
  • Top Features for Each Industry
  • Existing Client Logos
  • Client Reviews

Analytics may add heatmap tracking to the page to understand why users are clicking one CTA over another, but SEO teams can utilize this data to look at what content sections are most engaged with. For example, the second section could have a lot of move map activity, but then it drops off for Top Features, then is significantly higher for Existing Client Logos and Client Reviews.

Based on this, we may want to test moving Existing Client Logos and Reviews higher on the page to give users what they’re looking for.

We did this a year ago for Seer’s Career page as an experiment and found that one of our elevated call-out boxes describing our $1k Kaizen budget for all Seer team members had less engagement that a standard paragraph about our compensation strategy. With that insight, I recommended elevating information about our compensation strategy into the call-out since users cared more about it.

The next time you’ll be working on content that will follow a standard template, ask your Analytics team what tracking they plan on adding and look out for an opportunity to recycle this data for SEO improvements.

Living Into Cross-Divisional Integration

If you work with different channel teams in your day-to-day, it’s easy to become complacent in your own world with your own data. By taking a look at what you have access to as a team, you’ll be able to get outside of your typical resources and can find recycled data opportunities to use for your client–without having to request more from your already strapped-for-time POC.

I’ll be continuing this series with posts on how to find similar opportunities for PPC and Analytics teams, so subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when they’re posted.

Do you have any examples of how you’ve used recycled data from other teams or channels? Please add them in the comments below–I’d love to discuss them. Don’t worry, I won’t steal them for the other posts in this series (unless they’re really good and I get your permission 😊).



June 2019 Core Update: Google Update Rolling Out

Google has set a new precedent with its “June 2019 Core Update” by, for the first time in the history of Google Updates, announcing the roll-out of a major core algorithm change in advance. Get news on the Google June 2019 Core Update here! If you’ve been affected by this Google Update, then you can request further information and a analysis of your website our experts:

Affected by the latest Google Update? Request a website audit

Google Update is live

After Google’s first-ever announcement that it was to roll out a Core Update, the Google Search Liaison Twitter channel was also used to communicate the ongoing status of the June 2019 Core Update. Right on schedule, on 3rd June 2019, Google announced that the Google Core update was now live. However, this doesn’t mean that the impacts on the SERPs will necessarily be immediately visible, as Google has various data centers where the update first has to be put into action. Google has indicated that it can take a few days before the ranking algorithm is fully updated:

Google pre-announces a Core Update for the first time

On the 2nd June 2019, something happened that had previously been unthinkable in the World of Google: Google announced – in advance – that a major Google Update, altering the core algorithm, was coming. Google did announce its Google Mobile Speed Update prior to its roll-out in July 2018 but changes to the core algorithm have so far always only been confirmed or announced after they have gone live. Until now. The news of the June 2019 Update broke on Twitter, where Google not only revealed the upcoming date of the Core Update roll-out, but also provided the SEO World with a ready-made name for the update. The non-specific Core Algorithm Update was announced as set to start on the 3rd of June 2019 – and the official name was to be “June 2019 Core Update”. This information was published on the Google Search Liaison Twitter channel:

Danny Sullivan, who is the face of the Google Search Liaison account, shared the reasoning behind this change in Google’s approach to its communication with the SEO and online market community, after receiving questions in response to the initial announcement Tweet. He explained that Google wants to be more pro-active with this kind of information – and let people know in advance to avoid them only finding out after the update has occured and then asking lots of questions. Here’s what Danny Sullivan said:

Second Google Core Update of 2019

The Google June 2019 Core Update is the second major change to the core algorithm to be released in 2019. In March of this year, the Google March 2019 Core Update created significant upheaveal in the global search results. Above all, the Google Update in March 2019 affected search queries that are covered by the acronym E-A-T (Expertise, Authoratitveness, Trust).

This meant that many websites in the health sector were amongst the biggest winners and losers from the March 2019 Google Update. For example, one of the biggest winners in our yearly winners and losers analysis of most-improved websites 2018, verywellhealth.com, was amongst the domains that suffered most from the March Update, whilst other health websites, such as draxe.com, benefited from the changes made to the algorithm in March 2019.

What is a Core Update?

Core Updates are Google Updates that do not have a clear specific focus on a certain kind of search query or particular website characteristics. Instead, they make more subtle changes “under the hood”. While other major, well-known Google Updates like Panda or Penguin specifically target things like content quality or backlinks, Core Updates tend to impact websites in a wide range of areas. These updates to Google’s core algorithm are released several times a year. The first Google Core Update was recorded by Searchmetrics in January 2016.

What can I do if my rankings collapse after a Google Update?

At the end of 2018, Google provided some explanation of its Core Updates, stating that there aren’t any specific errors that webmasters can correct to recover lost rankings after a Core Update. Instead, Google recommends offering users the best-possible content – this is the best way of improving rankings. Google’s recommended first step towards achieving this is to study the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines. This document is designed to help quality raters understand, in not inconsiderable detail, how to classify and evaluate content. If webmasters can understand how Google evaluates different kinds of content, and what the requirements are for content to be considered high-quality, then they will be better placed to react if they find themselves losing rankings and traffic in the wake of a Google Update.

Affected by the latest Update? Request a website audit


Image optimization for SEO: Everything you need to know for success

As of January 2019, there are more than 1.94 billion websites. That’s a lot of competition. What’s one great way to stand out? Great images. In fact, vision dominates all other senses when it comes to interacting with and absorbing information.

Here are three quick facts to help you understand how critical images are for people (and for SEO):

  • 90% of all the data the brain transmits is visual.
  • The human brain processes one image in the same amount of time it would take to read 1000 words. (Yes, turns out the old adage is indeed rooted in scientific fact.)
  • The recall value of visual content even after three days is 65%, whereas the recall value for written text is merely 10%.

With the majority of search volume coming from phones — and coupled with the fact that people’s attention spans have reduced to eight seconds — it’s essential for websites to be able to deliver a quick, frictionless, and delightful user experience.

Image optimization serves as a major part of this puzzle.

What can image optimization do for my users (and for SEO)?

  1. By shaving seconds off your site speed, it can reduce bounce rate and improve site retention.
  2. It helps improve page loading speed, which is a major Google ranking factor.
  3. It can help improve your keyword prominence. Read more on that here.
  4. It helps in reverse image search, which can be a big value add especially if you’re a product-based business.
  5. Many devices and desktops use high-resolution screens, which increase the need for good quality images.

Basic image optimization tips

These are some tips that anyone can apply for any type of site (even WordPress), so you’re not solely at the mercy of your developers and designers.

1. Choosing the right type of image: Vector or raster?

  • Vector images are simple, created by using lines, points, and polygons. Vector images are best applicable for shapes, logos, icons, and flat images. They have as good as no pixelation when you zoom in, making them apt for high-resolution devices. Additionally, you can use the same image file on multiple platforms (as well as for responsive website design) without having to use multiple variations.
  • Raster images, on the other hand, are images that are made of rectangular grids, each packed with multiple color values (pixels). Raster images provide depth to the imagery you would want to convey, giving it an emotional and psychological appeal as these images look real. However, if not handled well, these can heavily hamper your site’s loading speed! Plus, you might have to save multiple file variations to ensure they’re compatible on different platforms and fit for responsive designs.

Here’s a table that Google shared to help understand the pixel-to-byte relation. In short, you’ll get an idea of how heavy one image can get based on its dimensions.

Google's chart on image dimensions and file sizes

Source: Google

Google also mentioned that it takes four bytes of memory to deliver one pixel. Imagine if you had several images on a site with 800 X 800 pixels. our site would take at least something around 625 kBps. Or in simpler terms, imagine an elephant participating in a rabbit race.

Bottom line

I would suggest wisely using a mix of both. An ideal ratio could be 40% vector images and 60% raster images.

2. Picking the best image format – SVG, JPG, PNG, or GIF?

Best format for vector images:

SVG is the only, and the best, option for vector images. Due to its flat imagery, you also benefit from high quality that is easily scalable.

Best formats for raster images:

  • PNG: Produces high-quality images with heavy file sizes. It can be suggested only for times when you want to save every detail of the image.
  • JPG: Produces good quality images which aren’t heavy in terms of file size. However, these are lossy images, which means you’ll lose some minor image details permanently. JPG is undoubtedly the preferred image format, which gives you the convenience of hassle-free downloading and uploading of images. Because of this, they’re the most widely used — around 72.3% of websites use JPG image formats and most of the phones save images as “.JPG” files. They are especially suggested for ecommerce sites and social media.
  • Gif: If you’re looking for animation, GIF is an ideal choice as it supports 256 different colors chosen from the 24-bit RGB color space. As of now, just 26.6% of websites use GIF formats.

Here’s a chart that could help you take a call on which image format is best to use.

Chart on image formats and usage trends

Source: W3Techs

Note: The data in the above chart is of May 15, 2019

3. Resizing images

With a cloud full of devices it’s obvious why people get confused about ideal image sizes.

Note that image size and image file size are two different things. Here we’ll explain how you can get ideal image size (also called image dimensions).

As part of image dimensions, we’ll also discuss aspect ratios.

What’s an aspect ratio?

Aspect ratios tell the width and height of an image and are written in an “x:y” format.

Why is it important?

Remember the time when you tried scaling an image and literally blew it out of proportion? This is exactly what it saves you from. Referring to an image aspect ratio while cropping or resizing images helps you maintain the viability and beauty of the image’s dimensions.

You could refer to this image Shutterstock created to enlist some commonly used aspect ratios.

 Chart of best image aspect ratios

Source for the image and the table data: Shutterstock

Aspect ratio Typical dimensions (inches) Typical dimensions (pixels) Ideal for
1:1  8 x 8 1080 x 1080 Social media profile photos and mobile screens
3:2 6 x 4 1080 x 720 Photography and print
4:3 8 x 6 1024 x 768 pixels TVs, monitors, and digital cameras
16:9 1920 x 1080 and 1280 x 720 Presentations, monitors, and widescreen TVs

With reference to the table above, it’s best to focus on the 1:1 and 4:3 image ratio that are apt for social media, mobile screens, photography, and print.

You might have your own dimension templates based on the content management system (CMS) you’re using.

According to Squarespace, the most ideal size for image optimization on a CMS is 1500 and 2500 pixels.

Here’s a quick and simple answer to spot the most common image sizes for the web.

Chart on most ideal image optimization sizesSource: Shutterstock

Bottom line

From personal observation, I can suggest using 1080 X 1080 pixels and 1500 X 2500 pixels.

If you’re feeling too lazy to go through all these details, you could also try scaling the image from the corner arrow while you’ve pressed the “Shift” key. Works for some platforms.

4. Naming images – Best practices

Search engines have brains without eyes, so unless you name your images right, they won’t be able to  “read” your images nor rank you accordingly. This is where your keywords come into play. As I’ve mentioned above, if you name your images well, you can improve your keyword density and chances of ranking.

Let’s explain this with an example:

  • How people commonly save images – “Haphazard/random numbers and alphabets”, “Flowers can dance”, and “What was I thinking”
  • How  people should save images  – “five-tips-for-image-optimization” and “the-ideal-method-for-naming-images-in-2019”

Name your images in all small letters with hyphens in between and leave no spaces. As you’ve seen, I’ve used the keyword “image optimization” in the “five-tips-for-image-optimization” example. You’ll be surprised with how much that helps in ranking.

Bonus

You could also use the following to improve keyword usage in your site content:

  • Alt text (If your image is loading slowly, this text appears in place of the image so users can get an idea of what should be there.)
  • Captions (Text that gives a short description, helping users know more about the image.)

Plus, if you have an ecommerce site, you could even make good use of structured data to give the search engine more specific details about your products’ color, type, size, and a lot more.

5. Compressing the byte size of the image files

Compressing a file is possibly the simplest yet the most crucial part of image optimization as it directly relates to the website’s loading time. Points one to four prepare you for this final stage of image optimization.

Two live examples of how much load time can cost your bottom line:

  • Amazon.com observed a one percent decrease in sales for every 100-ms increase in the page load time.
  • Google experienced a 20 percent drop in revenue for every 500-ms increase in the search results’ display time.

What’s the ideal image file size?

A file size below 70 kb is what you should be targeting. In case of heavy files closer to 300 kb, the best you can achieve is a 100 kb file size. Doing so saves your images from taking extra milliseconds to load while it gives you lossy, compressed images that do not compromise the visual quality.

How can you decrease an image’s file size?

All you need to do is drop these files on a file compression site and you’re all set. These are some good, free image file compression online tools:

  • TinyPNG/TinyJPG – (Compresses .png and .jpg files – 135 kb reduced to 43.9 kb – Does up to 20 images at a time – Supports dropbox)
  • Image optimizer – (Compresses .png and .jpg files – 135 kb reduced to 49 kb – Only does 1 file at a time)
  • WeCompress – (Compresses .png, .jpg, and other files – 135 kb reduced to 48 kb – Only does 1 file at a time)
  • EzGif – (Compresses .gif and other files – 2MiB reduced to 1.77MiB – Only does 1 file at a time. It also lets you edit the gif before compressing it.)

Bonus tips

  • Use web fonts in place of images with text on them as they look better, do not need to be scaled with the image, take less space, and save loading time.
  • Use 72dpi resolution for your images.

Closing notes

You could be using all these image optimization tips and still get stuck with a site that loads in 13 seconds or even worse. This is when you might want to ask yourself:

  • Do I need all these images?
  • Which images are redundant?
  • What’s the best place to put images on the site?

Website content, both visual and written, has an intertwined relationship that stimulates emotions and inspires people to further engage with your product or service. People (or at least I) judge a business through its website so feel free to tell us, which was the last impressive website you visited? Or what have you done for image optimization?

The post Image optimization for SEO: Everything you need to know for success appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


Why and how to investigate the top tasks of your visitors

At Yoast, we continuously want to improve our website and our products. But how do you find out what makes them better? Sure, we need to fulfill the needs of our clients. But how do you know what your client’s top tasks are? Doing research is the answer! We love doing research because we get valuable insights out of it. Here, we’ll dive into one research type we use regularly: customer surveys and in this case, the top task survey.

How do you know what your customers need?

When we started working together with AGConsult on the conversion optimization of Yoast.com, they advised doing a top task survey. Research is always the first step in the conversion optimization process and you simply can’t get all relevant information out of plain data from, for instance, Google Analytics.

To know why your customers are visiting your website, you need your customers to talk to you. If you think, you now have to start a conversation with all your visitors, don’t worry. Luckily, there are several other ways to make your visitors talk to you. An example is setting up an online top task survey, which will pop up on your visitor’s screen as soon as you want it to pop up. For example, immediately after opening your website or after a couple of minutes.

The best question for your top task survey

To make sure you don’t influence your visitor’s answers, it’s important to ask an open question. By asking closed questions, you make your visitors choose between the answers you set up yourself. Although you can add an ‘other’ field, visitors are more likely to quickly choose a listed answer. That’s easier than putting their own opinion in an open field. So closed questions prevent you from getting to know all your visitor’s thoughts.

So, what question should you ask? Within the top task survey we perform on our own website, we always ask this question:

‘What is the purpose of your visit to this website? Please be as specific as possible.’

Popup top task survey which asks " What is the purpose of your visit to this website? Please be as specific as possible."

This pop-up will appear at the bottom right of the website, no matter what the landing page is. The above use of wording encourages visitors to really think about their specific purpose. Also the addition of ‘be as specific as possible’ often results in more valuable answers.

You could choose to only add this one question or you could choose to ask one more question to get more knowledge about your customers. For Yoast, within our top task survey, we always ask visitors a second question to tell us if they already use our most important product:

Example of an online top task survey which pops up on Yoast.com. It's a second question to know more about the customers

For other companies, it could be valuable to use this second question to get to know the age of visitors, the market they work in, etc. It all depends on what you want to do with the outcomes. If you’re not going to do anything with the answers on the second question, please use only one question in the survey. The fewer questions, the more visitors will participate.

What to do with all the answers

When you end the survey, you probably have lots of answers to go through. How do you start analyzing all these answers? We recommend to just start reading through the answers and try to set up categories while reading. Set up categories that cover lots of answers, don’t be too specific. You’ll need to find a pattern in your visitor’s answers. Only when you do this, you can create actional steps to optimize your website or your products.

To give an example, we’ve listed some of our own categories below:

  • Info/buying Yoast SEO plugin
  • Info specific feature
  • Info other plugins
  • Info about courses
  • Need help
  • Learn SEO

This might give you an idea when setting up your own categories.

The second step, after you categorize all answers, is setting up a plan. Now that you know which categories are the most important to your visitors, it’s important to optimize your website using that information.

For example, our own top task survey showed us that almost 25% of our visitors are looking for plugin related help. We already had a menu item ‘support’ which linked to our knowledge base, but after the survey, we had the idea of changing the name of the menu item into ‘help’ because lots of visitors named it help.

We set up an A/B test, comparing the menu item ‘support’ with the variant ‘help’ in the test. What do you think happened there? ‘Help’ was a winner! This shows again: knowing what your customers are looking for is the most valuable information you can get.

How often should you repeat this survey?

We believe it’s good to do a top task survey once a year. However, if you don’t change much on your website or in your products, every other year can be enough as well.

Every time you analyze the answers of a new top task survey, you get to know if you’re on the right track or if you need to shift your focus towards another product or another part of your website.

You can never do too much research!

Tools to start an online survey

There are several free and paid tools out there in which you can create a survey like this. We use Hotjar, but we’re planning to create our own design and implementing it with Google Tag Manager. Other tools we know for setting up online surveys are:

On their sites, they have a clear explanation of how to use these tools to perform a top task survey.

Have you ever performed a top task survey for your website? Did you find out anything that you didn’t know or what surprised you? Let us know!

Read more: Content SEO: How to analyze your audience »

The post Why and how to investigate the top tasks of your visitors appeared first on Yoast.


Search Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing for in 2019

It’s difficult to stress just how important the concept of search intent is to SEO. I’m not exaggerating when I say that if you want to rank in 2019, understanding and creating content with search intent in mind is critical.

Read more ›

The post Search Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing for in 2019 appeared first on SEO Blog by Ahrefs.


How to Write a Blog Post That Gets 304,392 New Visitors (SEO Case Study)

What do you need to do to write a blog post that attracts a ton of traffic?

That’s exactly what I’m going to show you today.

My blog post about “backlinks” has attracted 304,392 new visitors since I originally published it back January of 2016.

traffic growth

265,992 of those users are from organic search:

Organic search traffic

It’s also the most linked to blog post on my website (which has helped other assets perform well):

links

Now let me show exactly how to write a blog post just like the one I did:

How to Write a Blog Post (The Right Way)

Building a successful blog in any niche is based on how much unique value you can add. It’s not about how frequently you publish. It’s not about how many friends you have.

It’s 100% about the unique value you can add to the marketplace.

What if you don’t have any unique value to add?

Then you need to develop your skills by getting more experience. I believe that truly great content is created by people who have a ton of experience in their given field.

That said:

You can make up for a lack of experience with insane amounts of effort.

Believe me when I say this… the more effort, time, and capital you put into a blog post, the better it will perform. I know this seems obvious.

But the truth is that most businesses think publishing little 400-word fluff pieces is “content marketing”. It’s not. Blog posts that perform at exceptional levels (over the long-term) are the product of enormous amounts of effort.

If you’re not willing to spend an entire month crafting one piece of content, then you’ll never compete with the top dogs in your industry.

If you ARE willing to put in the effort, then keep reading.

Phase 1 – Identify a Keyword

I believe 80% of your blog content should target a keyword. While the other 20% can be structured as a linkable asset or content marketing piece. This strategy is going to focus on keyword-targeted content.

So, how do you find a good keyword to target? Let me show you.

Step #1 – Build a Keyword Database

Every blogger should build a keyword database because it will destroy procrastination and you’ll never need to spend a single second wondering what you should write about.

There are many ways to find keywords (I show over 30 inside Gotch SEO Academy), but my favorite technique is to:

Reverse Engineer Your Competitors

Go to Ahrefs and enter your domain into the Site Explorer.

Ahrefs site explorer

Then look under “Organic Search” on the left-hand side. Right click on “Content Gap” and open it in a new window.

Ahrefs Content Gap

Then while you’re still in the “Overview” section, click on the “Organic Search” tab and then on the right hand side you’ll see “Top 10 competitors”.

Top 10 Ahrefs

Copy your top competitor and paste them into the Content Gap tool. I recommend analyzing what competitor at a time.

Content gap

Once the analysis is complete, filter the list by the following criteria:

  • Volume = From 1000
  • KD = To 50
  • Exclude = Brand Names like “backlinko”

Ahrefs Filter

Export the list and these to your keyword database.

Export ideas

You can replicate this exact process with SEMRush as well.

Step #2 – Qualify Your Keywords

Finding keywords is easy, but it takes skills to know what keywords are worth going after.

Ask yourself this simple question when going through your keyword database:

Is my website capable of ranking for this keyword?

The good news is that you don’t need to guess. You just need to look at the data.

Just create a keyword list using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. This will give you a 30,000-foot view of your keyword targets.

Ahrefs Keyword Lists

You can then sort this list by KD, Volume, or any other metric.

Your goal at this stage should be to narrow your list to your top 5-10 keyword targets.

Use Ahrefs SERP feature to analyze the top 10 results for your keyword prospects.

Ahrefs SERP Feature

Ask the following:

  • Are there low-authority websites ranking? I define “low authority” as having a DR of 50 or below.
  • Are there YouTube videos ranking? This a good sign for two reasons. First, YouTube video pages are usually not content-rich (which means they’ll be easy to beat). Second, it means your brand can rank in both search engines (Google and YouTube). That means two search results for your brand and double the visibility.
  • Are there subdomains ranking? These include web 2.0s like https://basketballguy.wordpress.com/ or https://coolsite.blogspot.com/
  • Are there forum or Quora threads ranking? These are unstructured pages and can be beat easily.
  • Are there general article websites ranking? Niche sites crush general article websites like Ezine articles, eHow articles, etc.

If you answered “Yes” to these questions the keyword should move to the next phase.

Step #3 – Select a Keyword

Ahrefs gives you plenty of data to narrow your list. However, selecting a keyword requires a manual analysis. That’s what the next phase all about.

Phase 2 – Create Incredible SEO Content

After you’ve selected a keyword, it’s time to create your SEO content asset.

Watch this video to see exactly what to do:

I also recommend looking for opportunities to implement The Cake Technique. The Cake Technique is the process of consolidating similar content asset into a single mother asset.

Here’s how to do it:

Phase 3 – Acquire Links

Now that you’ve created your SEO content asset, you need to promote the heck out of it!

Acquiring quality links is critical your blog post’s SEO success.

Here’s what do you need to do:

That’s How You Write a Blog Post, but What’s Next?

You need to continue acquiring links to your new SEO content asset. Then, measure your performance over 3-6 months.

If your blog post hasn’t reached the top 100, then you either need more quality backlinks or you need to make your content asset better. The good news is that those two factors are always what you should analyze first (when blog post isn’t performing well).

If you would like to get access to a complete SEO blueprint, so you can get more organic search traffic from Google, then make sure you sign up for the Gotch SEO Academy 2.0 priority list.

We’re opening enrollment next week on Monday, June 3rd.

Talk then!


Career Day: Reaching 300M a month at one of the largest health publishers

Episode Overview

Senior Director at Healthline Media, Ryan Purtill runs SEO for one of largest and fastest growing consumer health publishers in the world, which includes the Healthline.com and MedicalNewsToday.com domains. Ryan shares the wisdom of his journey from studying psychology to becoming an SEO expert:

  • What did he learn about his marketing career path by working at an agency?
  • What’s his advice when creative culture is lacking?
  • What are the SEO and soft skills he learned in the world of psychology?
  • Does one need a sense of altruism to work in healthcare?
  • How does he work cross functionally with engineers, designers, and editorial?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                             Welcome to Career Day on the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to learn about the skills accumulated and the lessons learned from a great SEO throughout the various stops on his career. Joining us for Career Day is an SEO expert focused on the healthcare space, who has also dabbled in comedy and becoming a therapist.

Ben:                             Ryan Purtill is the Senior Director of SEO at Healthline Media, which is the second largest and fastest growing consumer health publisher in the world with domains including Healthline.com, MedicalNewsToday.com, and Greatest.com, Healthline Media reaches over 300 million people a month. Before we hear from Ryan 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.

Ben:                             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 three digital diagnostic, go to Searchmetrics.com/Diagnostic.

Ben:                             Okay, here is our interview with Senior Director of SEO at Healthline Media, Ryan Purtill. Ryan, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Ryan:                            Thanks so much for having me, Ben. As I was mentioning to you, we’ve been fans I think since episode number one, so it’s really cool and surreal to actually be on the podcast.

Ben:                             I am elated to have you here. It’s always great to have a member of the SEO community and a listener of the podcast join us. More than anything, I appreciate you reaching out and saying some kind words of the show, and sharing it with your team. It’s a love fest here, and I can’t wait to hear your story and learn a little bit about SEO from you.

Ryan:                            Awesome.

Ben:                             Why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit about how you got into SEO?

Ryan:                            Yeah, I think if I could track it back to the earliest, I was a senior at the University, and I think like most communication majors in their senior year, they’re very worried about finding a job. I had the dual kind of unfortunateness of being a theology minor as well, so I didn’t have a ton of employers knocking down my door, even though was an awesome university.

Ryan:                            At that time, what a lot of people used was CareerBuilder and Monster. And you’d put your resume in and you’d try to find someone to kind of connect with. I remember putting my resume in, and the cool thing about Monster and CareerBuilder was you could search either as someone who’s looking for a job, or someone who was looking to hire someone. So, I started trying to see if I could find myself, like if I was an employer could I find me? So I started typing in all these different things in their kind of search and seeing if my resume would pop up.

Ryan:                            More and more I’d be like, “I’m nowhere near this. I’m on page nine here.” So, then I started trying to optimize my job description, my resume to actually for what I thought employers would be searching for. A lot is very like… I didn’t realize there was a whole community of people doing this on a much larger scale. I just started doing all of the dumb tactics that you would see kind of how the SEO doing. So, I’m keyword stuff, I’m putting white text, I’m hiding things behind images to see if I can kind of manipulate the Monster and CareerBuilder algorithm.

Ryan:                            Over enough time of studying and the people who were coming up in search, I started ranking for all the things that I was trying to do, and job offers started coming in. It was kind of a cool first light bulb of like, “Oh, this is how in the future,” as the web kind of continues, “this is going to kind of be the future of all sorts of different industries.” So that’s when the first button started going off in my head. I ended up getting a job at an agency level. It was not SEO at all. It was like early branding PR stuff, because I’m a COMs major.

Ryan:                            But my roommate that I lived with right after college actually worked in paid search, and they were at an agency where they were just starting to do organic search, one of the first search agencies in Philadelphia. Then I started getting exposure through him, and eventually working at that agency, and then really started to cut my teeth on how professionals do SEO.

Ben:                             Incredible story. The fact that you are really a born SEO as opposed to one who decided to get it into a career path, that you were doing search optimization before even finding a job. You mentioned that you started off working in an agency, and I see on your LinkedIn page you were at Zero to Five, and then you went to unreal marketing and then back to Zero to Five. Talk me through that early point of your career. Were you bouncing around? Did you go back and forth to the same company? How’d that all happen?

Ryan:                            How that kind of happened was, so I’m working at Zero to Five. It’s really like a media/PR-type agency. They do some early brand stuff, working with very early tech education-type startups. I’m using some SEO techniques, but really in the realm of PR. So, this is at the time where you’re like, “Oh, you could optimize the press release to try to get more eyes on things,” or I’m writing up bids and I’m like, “Okay, how can I use search information to try to get this in front of more reporters,” and things like that.

Ben:                             You’re just an SEO hiding in a PR man’s skin.

Ryan:                            Basically, yeah. I thought I was being kind of hacky, and “Oh, this is just a creative way,” but realized I kind of liked that more than what I was actually doing. So, also a pitch process of PR, I hate it. I hated calling up people and kind of doing the schmooze of, “Hey, you should talk to my client about-” I didn’t like that. I liked it way more on the digital landscape, but I was able to get by, by doing these kinds of… I would call them hacks at the time, of getting reporters in front of press releases or whatever.

Ryan:                            Essentially what happened was as I got kind of connected with my roommate and his kind of agency, they offered me a job to be an SEO copywriter for them, because I was a good writer. That early job at Zero to Five really honed me as a professional writer, because your ghost writing for CEOs and CMOs and you’re 22 years old. So, learn how to write really quickly and well. Eventually, I started working as an SEO copywriter, and that’s where they really started teaching me SEO.

Ryan:                            Eventually, the original firm reached back out to me and said, “Hey, we’d like you to come back. We know you didn’t like the media pitching and media training side of things. ”

Ben:                             But none of our press releases are showing up in Google. Please help.

Ryan:                            Yeah. They reached out and said, “Why don’t you start up an SEO component at our agency? We haven’t done it before. You know our business. You know our clients. You kind of know where this might fit in, and now you have a little bit of chops on the SEO side. Why don’t you come back and start it up on the agency level?” At that time, on real marketing, which was a crazy, fun place to work and just oodles of talent in that group, I look back on the people I worked with and they’re directors at Google and Razorfish. It’s just an amalgamation of just really high talent.

Ryan:                            That agency was starting to go on its decline. They eventually got bought. It was right before they got bought, so I could kind of read the writing on the wall and was like, “I don’t think we’re going to be hanging around here much more.”

Ben:                             Talk to me about that experience. There’s a lot of people that have come onto the show on our Career Day segment that have had some experience both as an in-house marketer and jokingly what I call an out-house marketer, somebody that’s a consultant or works at an agency. A lot of the times the agencies either are acquired, or there’s some sort of dynamic shift in the business, or they try to expand too fast and something happens. How did you know, or what gave you the sense now looking back, that the agency wasn’t doing well and it was time to go?

Ryan:                            Yeah, so there were a couple things that were very clear. There was kind of layoffs in different groups, and you started seeing it being starting to get kind of streamlined in the sense of covering their expenses. Some other things, there were some certain big clients that we weren’t very well diversified, but they had huge brands. This is USA, and Chase Manhattan, and all these different groups, but they lost a really big client and didn’t really communicate that well internally but you could kind of hear… You saw different groups saying, “Hey, we’re not doing those calls anymore.”

Ryan:                            So, it was kind of more like piece by piece. It wasn’t super overly communicated to the group, but you could kind of feel it. It was also kind of a tail end in that development where it’s like, “Hey, I’ve learned a whole bunch about SEO, but I’d really like to own it from the start not just be kind of copywriting.” I kind of liked the… I was starting to get into RFPs and starting to understand technical SEO, so I’m like, “Hell, this is a cool way that I can start owning this,” and then that opportunity came at a really good time from it.

Ben:                             I think it’s really important lesson, and mostly for people that are early on in their careers, or at an agency and they’re not really sure about the direction they’re heading. At any agency, there’s a lot of volatility. It sounds like you were sort of using your instinct and saw some of the writing on the wall, but I feel like that’s an experience that a lot of SEOs have gone through. They sort of wait until the bitter end because they’re not really sure. They’re sort of heads down trying to do the optimization, and aren’t paying attention to how their business is doing because they are not working in-house. They don’t own the brand relationship.

Ben:                             It’s interesting to hear how you figured out what was happening. You went back to Zero to Five and you were now focused on SEO specifically. What was the reason you went back to the same company, and how was that experience?

Ryan:                            The reason originally was, is hey I kind of understand these guys. I understand their business. There’ll be less of lead-up. They’re giving me a big opportunity to just own something and kind of plug me into their sales pipeline. So I was like, “Oh, these are all really good opportunities for me.” There was also some other things in the terms of going back, I also had some… And I think this is a little bit about just being early on in your career. I think when you first go to a place, and if you see certain things that don’t really jive with your development style or your learning style, or how you like to be managed, you kind of think that’s the whole world. That’s how the world operates business-wise.

Ryan:                            You don’t realize, “Oh, every company has a really distinct culture.” If there’s certain things that don’t align perfectly, you have an opportunity to go to other places and test out different things. I think I was a little too naive for that, and I kind of thought, “Oh, I’ll go back to this place, but I bet things will be different. Things will feel different kind of culturally.” Zero to Five is a great agency. It just didn’t personally set up really well with me in terms of creating a development culture that I was looking for.

Ryan:                            When I came back, a good learning for me was, “Oh yeah, this is still here.” I wasn’t crazy the first time around. I wasn’t too young. Sometimes you can play those games kind of retroactively and say, “Oh wait, you know I was right out of college, and I was still learning. That’s why it was a struggle to really get developed there.” Then you go to a new agency, and you’re like, “Oh, this really works. Okay, it’s me. I’ve been maturing.” But your culture is so important early on in developing you. When I went back to Zero to Five, even though I had this new role, and the duties I liked a lot more, and there’s people there that I’m lifetime friends with, and there’s people I like, the culture of really developing and this kind of creative culture wasn’t there.

Ben:                             Yeah, there is a dating metaphor, and I’m probably going to get myself in trouble for this, but it’s like when you break up with a girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other, whoever it is, and you go away and date other people, and you come back and you start dating that person again thinking it’s going to be different, and it’s still the same underlying person.

Ben:                             Companies have their own identity, and because they are an amalgamation of a group of people, it’s really hard to change that identity. For better or for worse. You might want a culture that embraces sort of creative freedom and liberty, and they have a ton of structure. Not to say, they’re good or bad, but sometimes you just know that the relationship is or isn’t going to work.

Ben:                             Eventually you move on from Zero to Five, and you move pretty far across the country. Talk to me about how you landed your next gig. It’s a little different. Why don’t you tell us the story.

Ryan:                            Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. As I’m at Zero to Five, the culture’s not quite grasping for me. I’m finding myself unhappy, just fundamentally unhappy in work life and personal life, and all these things. I took a little time out and just kind of reflected, and tried to… What am I missing in this whole thing?

Ben:                             You needed more beer.

Ryan:                            Yeah, well that was part of it. A big part of it is I felt I’m not helping anyone. I’m doing anything that helps anyone. Actually between Zero to Five and my next career move, I went and got a master’s degree in clinical psychology. I was going to be a therapist. I did three years at Villanova. I stayed with Villanova, and did their graduate program in counseling psychology. It was just one of the best boot camps that you can possibly do in your life.

Ryan:                            The soft skills that I developed there had been fundamental throughout my success later on in life. It was such a core foundation of one, finding that something like I’ve got feel like I’m helping people. I’ve got to feel like I’m selling a product that I really care about. I think that’s missed on a lot of particularly young marketers. It’s like, “Oh, I want to be at this company.” It’s like, do you love that product? Could you actually put yourself in the user’s shoes? Could you actually execute on a tenth of way that a user would?

Ryan:                            I think part of that is knowing your product and loving your product. Being in a graduate program really helped me start solidifying what are my value systems, what do I care about. This is all in Philadelphia, right outside of Philadelphia. During this time, I also meet my now-fiancé who’s from Marin, from California. She’s at grad school at UPenn. We’ve been dating now for like four or five years, and she goes, “I want to go back to California. Would you come back to California?”

Ryan:                            Now, this made things really kind of interesting for me, because the rules for being a therapist in different states is different. When you’re all set up to be a therapist in Pennsylvania and you move to California, the rules change on you pretty quick. All of a sudden I have an apartment to pay for in San Francisco, and one of the rules in California was you need to acquire almost about three years of unpaid hours before you’re an MST. That’s their here.

Ryan:                            I was like, “Uh, oh. I can’t really afford to not work for three years with San Francisco rent,” so I found myself in this hard place of do I go into a PhD program? I had been accepted to USF PhD program.

Ben:                             U-S-S?

Ryan:                            U-S-F, University of San Francisco.

Ben:                             Okay.

Ryan:                            And do I want to go that route and continue schooling, and then when I’m out there’re less hours you have to do if you have a doctorate. Or, can I find some sort of middle ground where I feel like I’m helping people and kind of doing this other analytical kind of approach. Actually, for me SEO and psychology are… I’ve had so many interviewers who go, “This is an odd pairing. It seems like it’s a departure.” To me, it’s not a departure at all. It’s kind of like input/output systems. It’s like what new element can you introduce to a dynamic that you can’t really see how it works, and it’s going to be super complex like the human brain or Google’s algorithm, both very complex. Then, how can you get a result from that?

Ryan:                            From that result, how do you do it again? What would you change in the input to get an output? So this opportunity kind of came up… And again, in the meantime I had worked for a brewery just because I was trying to find… That was kind of my time of what do I do? Do I go into the PhD program? Do I try to do something else? So I worked for a brewery and distillery for a little bit doing marketing for them. Really, the big opportunity came with Healthline.

Ben:                             Before we get into your current role, I do want to hear what you’re doing at Healthline, the interesting thing to me is you said that there is a sort of obviously correlation between becoming a therapist or understanding human psychology and being an SEO. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with that. To me, just as a marketer in general, understanding human behavior, understanding who your customers are, what their value systems are, and being able to predict and adjust your marketing campaigns to their behaviors, is something that is very much tied into human psychology.

Ben:                             Now, using Google and manipulating the words that you have on a page, and your tactical SEO to get it to rank is a tactic, but at the fundamental level we are all marketers listening to this show trying to understand how to provide our users with relevant content. I do think that there’s absolutely a correlation there.

Ryan:                            I absolutely agree. Really, and to clarify what I was getting from employers or people I was talking to was, “Your clear path seems to be-”

Ben:                             Well, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Ryan:                            Yeah, and that’s how I felt. At the heart of all marketing is human psychology, so having to grasp at that is huge. Also, the world I kind of was in, in psychology, is a bit of branch of psychology, which is all user-centric. It’s all about how do you focus on the relationship with the client? They found out, “Hey, actually the most curative factor that you can have here is a relationship with your therapist.” So, this kind of user-centricity, even in the School of Psychology that I was most interested in, to me was a direct correlation in that it’s marketing. How do you become super user-centric, and then how do you deliver on that promise for your user?

Ben:                             So, you’ve developed some technical skills early on in your career. You’re learning SEO. You have some writing skills based on your work out of college. You decide you’re going to take a step back and learn a little bit about human psychology. You start slinging some beer, working in PR and marketing for a brewery to pay the bills in San Francisco. Tell me the story of how you connected the dots and ended up at Healthline.

Ryan:                            I had a friend reach out to me, and this is just a good queue for anyone listening, of keep your contacts alive from all these agencies. Frank, who really taught me SEO is now one of the leaders at Bodify, reached out to me and said, “Hey-” they’ve asked me to go for this senior SEO role in San Francisco. I live in New York, so I’m happy to do that. But I told them, “I know an SEO in San Francisco if you’re interested.”

Ryan:                            I looked at it and I said, “You know what? I kind of like where I’m at right now, and I kind of like, but the idea that if I do my job really well, I can help a lot of people kind of scratched this double itch for me. Like, this curiosity itch I always had on the SEO side of figuring things out. But, this other therapist side that was I want to help people. I want to help people have a better life. As I was kind of looking at health content around, and I wasn’t ultimately familiar with Healthline, I just like everyone else just kind of Googling around, I just felt content-wise, the content was just so much more empathetic and just so much more usable, that I was like if I do my job well I can save lives here.

Ryan:                            That’s really cool. So, it kind of worked out because kind of fell on my plate and someone said, “Hey, here’s this opportunity,” and I said, “Yeah, this seems to scratch both itches,” and went and interviewed.

Ben:                             Okay, so you find a role that sort of scratches both itches as you mentioned, sort of the satiation of being able to put the puzzle together and understand how to use the technical skills that you’ve developed, and also this sort of sense of altruism that you want to be able to do something to help the people around you. Talk to me about what your role is at Healthline. I see that in the what looks like four years that you’ve been there, you’ve been promoted twice. You’re obviously moving up very quickly. Talk to me about the responsibilities you had, and how those changed over the time you’ve been there.

Ryan:                            Yeah, absolutely. I came in as Senior SEO Manager, and it was a pretty small team. I reported directly to our Senior Vice President, and there was just one other person on the team and they really worked in a building capacity, like reaching out, doing outreach and trying to gain links to the site. It started off pretty small. Since then, now we have a team of 10, and we have two new domains since that time in Medical News Today and Greatest.

Ryan:                            The company has really been growing incredibly fast. The roles, to our management’s credit which I think really allowed me to flourish, they gave me a lot of room to say, “Hey, we do pretty well in search. You have a good head start here but build a process around this. Build a team around this.” They let me build my own team, let me really try to figure out where I wanted to send the direction of the company which was really awesome, especially as someone who’s just coming from a place where I didn’t really have that opportunity to scale, do these things.

Ryan:                            It was like a breath of just pure energy, and I was like, “Oh, okay we can do this.” One of the first kind of things that we did was really get into a data-informed process. The SEO data that we had prior to this was more of just, “Yeah, we check out rankings and we check out organic search,” but we didn’t have this huge kind of demand process that we have now. That took years to kind of get set up. Once that started moving and started doing really good. So, I manage now like a team of 10. We span three domains, and our job is really… There’s lots of different things.

Ryan:                            I always say, “SEO is the amalgamation of making sure lots of people at Healthline are doing a really good job,” and that includes our engineers, and our designers, and obviously our editorial group. I’ve kind of been emerged in all these groups, and kind of as a consultant and part team member for all of them. We do everything on the technical side of things, but really our primary drive is we pick the topics that we’re going to write on in the future, and we execute on those in a way will rank really well, and will drive traffic.

Ryan:                            There’re all sorts of little side initiatives that are attached to that, but that’s the gist of it.

Ben:                             As you think back on your career going from being a student at Villanova as a communication and theology major, developing your skills, deciding to take a departure and learn about human psychology, and now back into SEO and moving from an operator to a manager role, what advice do you have for other people who feel creative, want to solve solutions in the way that you did when you found your job? What can you tell them to encourage them to sort of drive down a path that they feel is right for them?

Ryan:                            Sure, great question. The first thing I would just say as advice is there is hope. I remember this feeling when I first started out, and the kind of lacking on the technical skills, and lacking on the upfront stuff, and just feeling like, “Okay, there’s no real place for my creativity to shine. There’s no real place for culture building to shine.” I find as I’d gotten further on in my career, that technical kind of stuff, which you need and you’re going to get anyway if you’re starting off, but it becomes less and less important the higher you go.

Ryan:                            Your emotional intelligence gets more and more important. Your ability to talk to people and influence people, and really listen and understand problems, those kinds of soft skills will shine later on. I remember having this feeling of if I never got out of the entry level kind of roles, I would never have had a chance for these skill sets to shine. The other part of is find people that value that. When you interview with companies or you’re thinking about going somewhere, bring those questions to an interview. Talk about, “Hey, what sort of culture do you have here in terms of development? Can you give me an idea of how you’ve allowed employees to kind of build influencing skillsets later on in their career path?”

Ryan:                            Those kinds of things, there’s people out there that care about it. There’s people out there that will foster it, and are looking for that. First thing is don’t lose hope at all. The second thing is try to get I would say experiences on multiple levels. I tell everyone if you’re going into the SEO world, get agency experience and get in-house experience. They’re so different from each other. Both will help you be just a better SEO in general on the tactical side. The skills that you need, in my opinion, on the agency level are just so different than the skills you need on the in-house, both of them together just make you an unstoppable force.

Ryan:                            On the agency side, you’ve got to be able to politic. You’ve got to be able to sell a package. You’ve got to be able to understand customer needs on various different levels because you’re jumping into lots of different companies. In-house is where you start developing these long set skills. How do you test and iterate? How do you really understand your business, and how do effect it? I always say try to get experience on both of those sides, and don’t lose hope. If early on in your career you feel like you’re not being creatively used, that’s pretty common. Look for people that will use you. Stand up, and try to make a little noise and hopefully someone gives you an opportunity to kind of bring those skills home.

Ben:                             I think that’s all incredible advice, and I appreciate that you’re taking the long view and not just necessarily focusing on what people can do to start the career but finding the path for them. Ryan, let me just say, I want to reiterate how much I appreciate you listening to the show, how much I appreciate you reaching out and it’s great to have you as our guest, and as a listener of the show.

Ben:                             As the host and co-producer, let me just say thanks for sticking with us, and it’s great to have you here.

Ryan:                            Absolutely. Thanks for having me on, Ben. I’m looking forward to the next episodes. You guys are doing an awesome job. Tell Jordan I said hi.

Ben:                             Will do, okay. Okay, and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Ryan Purtill, the Senior Director of SEO at Healthline Media. If you’d like to learn more about Ryan, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a Tweet @RyanPurtill2. Or, you could visit his company’s website which is Healthline.com.

Ben:                             If you have general marketing questions, or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a Tweet @BenJShap. 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 Searchmetrics.com/Diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our Digital Strategies Team.

Ben:                             If you liked 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 later this week. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes Store, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Ben:                             Okay, that’s it for today. Until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.


A guide to implementing Google’s “How-to” schema

Google is always looking for the best ways to provide the most useful results to users. It’s what has allowed Google to dominate the search engine market for so long and, it has kept the SEO industry evolving.

In the beginning, there were quick answer boxes (remember those?) and, most recently, the introduction of “How-to” snippets.

“How-to” snippets aim to provide step-by-step instructions directly in the SERPs for instruction-based queries. There are two types of “How-to” snippets that you can find in the wild.

  • A standard, accordion list view of instructions.
  • A carousel of images showing each individual step.

This type of schema is mobile specific. And that’s important because it means absorbing huge amounts of SERP real estate. It has also been confirmed by Glenn Gabe, that you can capture both a featured snippet and the “How-to” carousel/list view.

This left very little space for your competitors but also, forced websites to now think more logically about how they structure their content.

Accordion vs carousel

The immediate question is “which type of How-to snippet is best for my audience?” You guessed right, it depends.

Take, for example, a crafting site audience. Visual and creative people. In this instance, you may consider using image rich snippets.

It’s like anything else in SEO, test it and tweak based on your results.

Here’s how it looks

carousel how to snippet example

Source: Google Search developer tools

Pretty eye-catching, isn’t it?

And then the accordion view (the standard “How-to” rich result).

accordion how to snippet example

Source: Google Search developer tools

My immediate preferred option is the accordion. For a number of reasons:

  • It’s easier to markup.
  • Each list item can have a few lines of text to explain the step.
  • It’s familiar. People recognize featured snippets and the standard “How-to” result, isn’t disruptive to that experience.

The only major difference which may influence user behavior after the click is the ability to anchor link to each step. The standard markup doesn’t allow for this to happen, however, the image carousel does.

Interesting to see how that changes user engagement in the future.

Understanding “How-to” schema objects

Your best source of information is Google’s search developer tools.

However, we often find that it can become complicated for those less-techy SEOs, which could dissuade implementation and testing.

We don’t want that. Which is why we’ve broken down each element of the schema and explained what it means.

how to schema objects example

Type

This solely defines which type of schema you’re using on the page. In this instance, we’re going to use the type “HowTo”.

Name

You can think of this as the title of your snippet. In basic SEO terms, it’s the equivalent to the page title attribute of a normal webpage.

Description

Here is your chance to describe what you’re breaking down into steps. Keep this short, precise, and interesting enough to still encourage the click.

HowToStep

The “HowToStep” is where we tell Google we’re about to outline a numbered step to appear in the SERPs. Google counts the instances of the “HowToStep” to understand how many steps are there in total.

Text

This sits underneath the “HowToStep”, “HowToDirection”, or “HowToTip”. This is your basic explanation of one of the three aforementioned “HowTo” elements.

HowToDirection

This is where it can get tricky. Using the “HowToDirection” allows you to bullet point your text, rather than use a single paragraph. In our view, “HowToStep” is the easiest element to implement.

URL

The best approach here is to add anchored links to each step of your “How-to” snippets. It’s only used for image-rich results. So, if you’re using the accordion, just add the main page URL to this element.

Image Object

This can be used to define the main image of your snippet. It can also be used to populate the carousel steps found in image-rich “How-to” schema.

Total Time (ISO 8601 format)

This is a critical element. The time defines, to your user in the SERPs, how long something will take to complete. If you’re not familiar with the ISO 8601 format, it’s worth visiting this Wiki page.

Creating your own “How-to” schema

We, as SEOs, are always looking for simple ways to complete complex tasks. Adding this markup to your pages should be no different.

We recommend letting Google do the hard work for you. You shouldn’t have to be a full-fledged web developer to start working with Schema markup.

Use the code generated in Google’s example to then tweak as you see fit.

creating-how-to-schema using Google generated code

Example image used for educational purposes, Ryan Roberts, Zazzle Media

You can easily change all elements of valid How-to Schema, generated by Google itself.

Some of the HowTo markups may not be relevant for what you’re trying to do, so, just begin removing sections which are relevant.

“How-to” schema example

Let’s say I own athomefitness.com and I have an article about how to do crunches.

I’d take the code generated above, and tweak where I see necessary. Here’s how that might look:

how to schema code example

Example image used for educational purposes, Ryan Roberts, Zazzle Media

And, to preview how this looks in the SERPs, you just select ‘preview search result’ in your code generator and it’ll give you two options to choose from.

  • Result type one (image carousel)
  • Result type two (standard list application)

In this instance, I’ve marked up my page to display a standard list.

how to schema preview search result example

Example image used for educational purposes, Ryan Roberts, Zazzle Media

Common markup errors

Unfortunately, Schema is a fickle character and will very quickly point out mistakes that you’ve made.

The most common errors normally come from missing required properties (known as class type) or syntax errors (uncategorized errors).

1. Parsing error: Missing “,” or “]” in an array declaration

common markup errors example missing , or ] in array declaration

Source: Schemaapp.com

This usually means you haven’t closed an open bracket somewhere in your code. Unfortunately, you have to dig into the code itself to find it. Thankfully, Google highlights the line in which the error appears on the Schema generator.

2. Parsing error: Missing “,” or “}”

Source: Schemaapp.com

Very similar to the syntax error above, this error means you have not successfully closed your {, or you have forgotten to add a comma before the start of your next opening {.

3. Incorrect value type

common markup errors incorrect value type

Source: Schemaapp.com

This type of error means you’ve omitted or mistyped the value of your “How-to” step. In this scenario, it could be:

  • HowToStep
  • HowToDirection
  • HowToTip

Note: A simple spelling mistake could throw your whole script out of sync.

Make Google crawl your URL

You can jump the queue and request that Google crawls your URL sooner to make sure it gets around to your content and (hopefully) finds your new “How-to” markup.

An easy way to do this is with the URL Inspection Tool (similar to “Fetch as Google”).

url inspection tool example

Source: Google Search Console for zazzlemedia.co.uk

From our initial testing, we’ve found that indexing happens pretty much immediately; irrelevant of the size of your site.

So, if you’re impatient and eager to see if your hard work has paid off, this is a great way to validate that Google has identified the changes to your URL.

Track your performance in the Google Search Console

After successfully implementing your Howto markup, it’s important that you track content performance.

Are clicks increasing/decreasing? Are impressions going up/down?

You can assess this within the Search Console’s performance report

search console performance report screenshot
url inspection tool example

Source: Google Search Console for papanicksdriving.co.uk

The likelihood is you’ll be a very early adopter of this markup, which will make it a quick way to eat up large amounts of SERP real estate.

However, it’s always important to monitor whether or not this markup is a real benefit to your site. This markup aims to enhance your content, not pay detriment to it.

In conclusion

“How-to” schema should begin making its way onto sites much more in the near future as clients (and SEOs) start to see the immense benefit of absorbing as much SERP real estate as possible. Despite the negative connotation of a zero-click search.

We’d love to hear about any tests and progress you’ve made, please feel free to leave any comments below to let us know!

Ryan Roberts is an SEO Lead at Zazzle Media.

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