Archives November 2019

Career Day: A Philosophical Curiosity Yields SEO Success – Raphael Raue // Mozilla

Episode Overview: The internet has become a massive forum, bringing people together to exchange knowledge, ideas and goods. This exchange is rooted in philosophical principles creating a marketplace of sharing news, information and strategies amongst the SEO community. Join Ben for career day as he interviews Mozilla’s Global Head of SEO Raphael Raue who shares how philosophy has inspired his passion for SEO and fostered his drive to solve problems posed by the SEO community.

Summary:

  • Raue’s passion for SEO arose from his experience with the internet’s philosophical capability of giving people the ability to share specific point of views, connecting people and the ways people use it to interact with each other.
  • “As an SEO you write for robots and people think you spam the internet via robots. But at the end you’re, most of the time, really an advocate for users.” – Raue
  • Raue identified with Mozilla’s mission to ensure that the internet remains open and accessible and found it matched his interest in sharing his skills and knowledge to create a bigger, better internet ecosystem.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to learn about the skills accumulated and lessons learned from a great SEO throughout the various stops on his career. Joining us for career day is an SEO veteran who works for one of the biggest and most important companies on the internet. Raphael Raue is the global head of SEO at Mozilla, which is a company and a foundation that’s mission is to ensure that the internet remains open and accessible. They’re best known for producing their Firefox browser. Beholden to neither shareholders nor investors, Mozilla Corporation is wholly owned by the non-for-profit Mozilla Foundation. And prior to his role working at Mozilla, Raphael held a variety of SEO-focused roles in the media and publishing industry.

Ben:                 But before we get started talking to Raphael, 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. And to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of these Searchmetrics services. That’s right, you can test the Searchmetrics or Research Cloud, the suite, the content experience, every little bell and whistle on the Searchmetrics Suite for free, no credit card required, risk-free. To try the Searchmetrics Suite, go to searchmetrics.com/freetrial.

Ben:                 Okay. Here’s my conversation with Global Head of SEO at Mozilla, Raphael Raue. Raphael, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Raphael:           Hey man, nice to be here.

Ben:                 Very excited to have you on the show. Thank you for staying up late. You are currently in Germany. I’m in the suburbs of San Francisco. It’s late for you, it’s early for me. And let’s just say I’m having my coffee and what are you drinking?

Raphael:           I’m having a beer.

Ben:                 Like a good German boy, it’s the 7:30 beer.

Raphael:           Of course, after work. Even though I’m on PTO today, so I just came in to talk with you and I thought a beer was a good choice.

Ben:                 Well it’s late in December. It’s appropriate. I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself and I really appreciate you coming in late. Let’s talk a little bit about your career. Obviously you’ve done very well for yourself. You have a very important role at Mozilla. Talk to us a little bit about the beginning of your career. How did you get into SEO?

Raphael:           At the end, I think most of the people back in the days, I mean I’m old, but it’s still like it’s back in the days when we had completely different search engines like we have today, it was just by luck and accident. So I studied philosophy, bachelor and master actually. And at the beginning, I really needed money to fund my studies and I worked in construction. And I’m a tall guy without much muscles, so construction work is really hard work for me.

Ben:                 Wiry.

Raphael:           But I always built websites. It was a fun thing. I don’t know, I did this in school, I think my first website was up when I was 16 or something. And at some point I found out like, “Yeah, you can earn money with this.” You can put advertising on your blog, you can build affiliate websites, focusing on a small niche and doing some stuff. And visitors come from, then Google, later it was a little bit about Facebook and stuff as well. But at the end I cared much more about SEO.

Raphael:           Back in the days when I started, we didn’t call it SEO, I’m pretty sure the term was out there already, but I just like optimized websites and I tried to earn easy money. With easy, I mean I can do it whenever I want. So I can study and at night I can build my websites and optimize a bit, write some codes, do some pictures, that stuff. So, it was sort of a hobby. In my studies, most people laughed about me because they read Hegel and Goethe and stuff like this and I was building websites and doing crazy stuff on the internet. The internet wasn’t that important, but now it is.

Ben:                 It’s an interesting start of a career where you’re a philosophy major, right? Very much liberal arts focused. And on the flip side, you’re working in construction, so a very physical and demanding type of role. And on the side you start working on websites, right? It seems like three different parts of the brain, one very theoretical, one very foundational and physical and one very technical and engineering focused. Why is it that you enjoyed building websites more than you enjoyed building houses? What was it about the software development process that got you interested in building websites and eventually into SEO?

Raphael:           At the end, I like knowledge. And the problems of the internet at the beginning was to be the biggest and most efficient knowledge base ever built by human beings. That was my step into the internet. Of course, I was chatting with friends on MSN and messengers like this, but it was you can read about basically any topic in the world and search engines have been the connector to this world. I don’t know, how do you find in these millions and billions of pages the right information. And that always interests me a lot. It’s like as a child, as a teenager, I hang out in libraries and read a lot of books. I was really like a bookworm, do you say this in English?

Ben:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Raphael:           I think so. So it was really about knowledge and finding out that you can earn money with it was an easy choice. I didn’t need much money, it was just, I don’t know, to pay my rent, buy some beer and study, right? We don’t have to pay so much for our studies in Germany.

Ben:                 Life in your 20s, cheap and easy.

Raphael:           Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what I did. And it was cheap and easy. It was easy to spend money and I was really always interested in the connection between content and technology. Because this is what’s the internet about, was not just people are sharing knowledge, it was always in a very specific point of view and way done. So it’s, I don’t know, at the beginning the internet was not the same like it is today, it feels a way more disconnected to me. Even though Google and other search engines are way better than they have been before, but the sheer mass of information and content put out there is a different thing. But it was always about the connection, man, because my brain works like this. If I cannot connect to things I’m interested in, I get bored. I get bored pretty fast.

Ben:                 Yeah. It seems like there’s a connection there between the thirst for knowledge and the understanding of philosophy and some of your studies. Why is the internet interesting in general? It’s the aggregation of information that people can share.

Raphael:           Exactly.

Ben:                 Talk to me about as your SEO career started, how did you get into SEO? What was your first actual role other than building websites where you actually had an SEO-related role?

Raphael:           My first role was really this job next to my studies. At the end I did freelance jobs for mostly local SEO, like the dentists around the corner, the florist, and the butcher, and the real estate agent and stuff like that. So it’s like I build websites, I optimize websites, so they rank and I got really good money for this. It was not just my own projects, I even have a business, I registered it.

Raphael:           But the first real role was then at the Rheinische Post, it’s a big local newspaper in Germany. And I knew when I did my bachelor I thought about, “Should I really do my master or just like, I don’t know, get a job?” And I saw that the Rheinische Post is searching for a head of SEO. And I was working for the university doing some front end work on the email clients and that was too boring for me. So I said like, “Okay, what am I good at? I don’t want to do my PhD. I want to go like real work, and at university is a little bit boring.” So I remember, “Hey, they have a head of SEO, so maybe they need somebody who is a little bit skilled.” Honestly, I was not much of a conference visitor back in the days, so I didn’t know much people, so I just wrote to him on Twitter and we talked and we matched.

Ben:                 So, you started off in local SEO, doing some consulting, some advisory work, right? And focusing on helping small businesses build their web presence. You finish your schooling, you decide you don’t want to get a PhD, you’re going to go into the working world. And you looked at the technical skills that you had and found a blend where you’re mixing content and your engineering background. You’re all self-taught here. And you mentioned you reach out to someone on Twitter. How are you packaging your services and skills? How did you actually land a full-time SEO job without any permanent SEO experience, right? Basically, this is your first job after school and you land an SEO role for a pretty significant newspaper in your area. That seems like a pretty sweet gig and it seems like something that would be relatively sought after. How’d you find that job and how did you actually convince someone that you had the experience to be able to do it?

Raphael:           It was really one phone call. I mean I wrote him a Twitter message because I knew like, “Okay, he’s the head of SEO.” I thought like, “Yeah, they’re super huge.” But I know journalism. My father’s a journalist. I wrote myself for papers and it was like, “Yeah, there I can connect both of the things.” And how I sold myself, I just told him how I optimize websites. And I showed him my portfolio, which have been back in the days like 60, 70 domains, all, I don’t know, with content, some more affiliate related, some more bigger, like travel websites and so on. And he was basically sold by they are ranking, they’re earning money, so I know sort of what I’m doing there. And the rest of it I never experienced, like Google News SEO, he will teach me, he told me. Always when you come from university, you get your first job, it wasn’t paid in first year very good. But it was a good start and I learned a lot.

Ben:                 But you had all of your affiliate revenue from your other sites still.

Raphael:           Totally. So, yeah. I mean nowadays I don’t have nearly any of the websites because updating them constantly is too much work, too much hassle. But yeah, it’s always nice to have a passive income on the site. And to be fair, always when you come from university, you have to prove that you are willing and that you are capable to learn and do. And I learned a lot there, but I did from day one a lot. Because I know how a newsroom works so I know how journalists tick, because I live for 20 years under the roof of one and my father is a quite well-known journalist in Germany, or he was. That was the perfect connection between doing technical SEO and bringing technical knowledge to the newsroom because journalists these days, and I still think that it is in a lot of newsroom, they lack sometimes to view of the internet as not just like, I don’t know, you send out your thoughts, your articles, your news, but it’s like it’s back channeling as well and there are rules which are completely different than the rules of the print business.

Raphael:           When I started my job in publishing, it was still the case. They have been doing mostly just journalists and they have some social editors. But to care about how Google is managing Google News, and in general information and how you can win with this was sort of new for this newsroom. That’s why I really loved the first job and the second job as well, that you can teach people who are already super knowledgeable, they are really great journalists, that you can teach them how to reach way more readers and the right leaders as well, just through caring about some technical limitations and opportunities.

Ben:                 So, you spent a good portion of your career working in journalism. Talk to me about what you learned going from working on local SEO for yourself to being in a newsroom and how did that help vault you forward in terms of your overall SEO knowledge? Why is media and publishing an interesting place to work?

Raphael:           That’s an interesting question. I mean doing this local SEO and doing websites to my own really teach me the basic of SEO. I mean, every week, every month, every quarter there’s a new big hype in the SEO scene, but at the end it comes down to basics. If you have a basic good working and crawlable websites and you have kickass contents, you will rank. That’s the thing. Because people will link you, people will write about you, they will like what you have. And maybe you need some ad dollars to push this at the beginning, but at the end, good content really wins. It’s not the only thing but it does.

Raphael:           So, having the basics how Google is crawling a website, how on-page SEO, off-page SEO and how the connection there works was really valuable going with quite a self-confidence into this newsroom. Because I came from university and there have been editors doing journalism for 20 years, and then I had to tell them like, “No, you have to write this headline different.” Because Google doesn’t understand what they’re writing there. I don’t know, back in the days when you wrote, “Land of like the new sun,” or something like this, Google doesn’t understand what it is about, so just write there what country you are talking about.

Raphael:           And you need to know your stuff to go into, I don’t want to say a fight, but I don’t know a better English word right now, but it’s like into do a conversation which is tough because they do their job as well for 20 years. And if you don’t know your things and if you don’t have quick wins at the beginning. So, if you convince them write a little bit different headlines and let’s implement this, let’s put the H1 into the breadcrumb and write the different, still journalistic one, for Google and Google News, and let’s keep the one you have on the website for website visitors because it’s a different audience, you need quick wins and if you get them you need to know where to start. And that’s something when you have a variety of different websites optimized, you know where to start. And this is still today one of the most important things you can learn as an SEO, how to prioritize.

Ben:                 It seems like your background working in local businesses sets you up for success in journalism because a lot of what you’re doing is writing locally focused content, right? If you’re writing a local SEO for the Berlin paper, obviously you want it to rank for people in Berlin. And so you have the understanding of local. And there’s also this notion of not necessarily writing evergreen content, but being relevant and being able to rank quickly. You’ve moved away from media and publishing. You’ve had a couple of different stops. Talk to me about the path moving from your first SEO job. What were some of the other roles that you took that led you up to Mozilla?

Raphael:           Yeah. After the Rheinische Post where I’ve been just an SEO editor, I started basically the SEO team at Spiegel Online, which is one of the biggest publishing houses in Germany. And honestly, don’t ask me how I got this job. I still don’t know it. It’s like, I don’t know, some of their product teams and editors came around because there’s a huge connection in the publishing business, everybody knows everyone. And they heard that we are doing quite a good job in Google News and in general in Google optimization they wanted to talk about us, about Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics. So, we talked with them. They said, “Yeah, we need an SEO.”

Raphael:           So, they hired me and I started my own team at Spiegel Online and it was one of the most fun times. In my team have been just journalists, I teach them SEO and they have been awesome at journalism, and that’s always what I and how I wanted to do that. It’s like, I don’t know, have a SEO mind but don’t over SEO things, because a publisher is a publisher and evergreen content should be still journalism as well, that’s my mindset. Because at the end you have one audience and you get it from different platforms and different sources and funnels, but at the end you need people who want journalism. So, don’t write about everything, write about journalistic views.

Raphael:           But journalism can do way more than just the news. Evergreen content is for journalism the same importance. I don’t know, most big publishing houses, for example in your country, The New York Times has one of the largest archive that’s in the world, and there’s so much knowledge inside. And optimizing this then is again a technical task, but do you need journalists organizing this with you. It is not just, okay, build out some folders or topic pages and make it crawlable, it is about make it usable as well. So, you need the UX people, you need journalists and you always need an SEO to look at it, and so this really working for a search engine.

Raphael:           So, what I really was interested in and what I learned is how to not just organize my way in a technical content way information, but how to do it so it is really of value to society. Moving to one of the biggest publishing players in Europe, and therefore in the world as well, was the biggest challenge in my career because I needed some new thoughts. Can you say that like that? It’s so huge and there’s so much information was built in 1948 or something, so the whole new Germany is in the archive there. And building this out with all these stakeholders, with everyone having an opinion about it moved myself way more from doing technical stuff, having an opinion about content and writing content into a management role and to really managing in huge parts knowledge and what which visitor sees when. And that’s still very important for SEO as well.

Ben:                 So tell me a little bit more about that transition. In your first role, you’re getting your operating experience, right? You’re learning the technical things and, again, getting an opportunity to work in journalism, do optimization, figure out what gets into Google News, figuring out what works. And in your second role you move to a managerial role. What were some of the challenges that you faced and what were some of the skills that you had to develop?

Raphael:           Patience. Patience. I’m still working on that. When you an expert and you do stuff on your own website or just for a client or something, you have to make one person happy. But the more stakeholders and the more people really, I don’t know, being passionate about their product you’re working on as well, what do you need to learn is real management skills. Even though in my first job at Rheinische Post I haven’t been a manager, I was just an editor, it was like managing because everybody was sort of a manager or their type of role in the newsroom. Because in minutes we had to do a decision on headlines and I was writing all the headlines there. Like for SEO, we had two different types of headlines. And moving to Spiegel Online, I was really a manager, I had a team, at the end I even had two teams because I did web analytics as well, the editorial part at least.

Raphael:           You have to figure out how people tick. You have to figure out what is the real interest of other stakeholders. Because sometimes you just get them wrong and you want the same thing, but you articulate in a different way or you talk in a different way because you have completely different point of views, because mine obviously is a more technical point of view. So, really figuring out how to get everyone in a room talk things through and yeah, move to HR, move to strung, do several sheets, all of that stuff to really figure out what’s everyone’s view on the thing and how can we leverage all this points of view to build the best product for our users.

Raphael:           That’s always a challenge as well, as an SEO you write for robots and people think you spam the internet via robots. But at the end you’re, most of the time, really an advocate for users. Because people searching for things show way higher intent than people just kicking on the link on Facebook, let’s say, or on Twitter or Pinterest or something like it. That’s valuable traffic as well, but the intent is not completely clear. The intent usually at search traffic is pretty clear, and when you know the intent and what people are doing, you can optimize a website way better.

Raphael:           It’s difficult. It’s not just data driven, but data can help you a lot with leveraging here. So, management skills and understanding statistics, user needs, via data, I will say that was the biggest challenge, and while doing all of this being patient, because it takes a lot of time, you have to convince a lot of people not knowing what you’re even talking about and sometimes you ask yourself, “Do I know what I’m talking about?” So, you have to be really confident all the time, even though you’re not completely sure. But trust your way and don’t be hesitant to fail sometimes. Just don’t fail at your first gig.

Ben:                 I think going from being an operator to a manager is: A, some of that is just inherent talent and it doesn’t surprise me that you made that transition smoothly, just thinking about what your background was going from a philosophy major to working in a relatively technical field. In SEO you clearly are able to use both the left and the right side of your brain, so the communication skills matched with the technical skills. That’s challenging for a lot of SEOs to bridge that gap. Eventually in your career you move outside of the publishing space into your existing role. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing at Mozilla and why was this the right place for you?

Raphael:           What am I doing? It’s like I’m doing SEO for Mozilla. I’m sitting in marketing. That was the first time in marketing. I think, I don’t know, almost the first questions you wanted to ask me is, “How did you get started in marketing?” Actually, I’m working in marketing since now two years nearly. In February, I will be two years at Mozilla. And it’s my first marketing job. But I don’t see it just as a marketing job as well, the whole marketing department that Mozilla is doing way more just marketing. It is the same in publishing. It’s like, yeah, of course it is marketing. You market your concerns of your publishers, of your journalists, but at the end it is more it is important. And that’s what I’m doing here as well.

Raphael:           I’m really into the mission of the Mozilla. Mozilla is the player on the web, producing a lot of code in open-source and always with the whole society and the whole internet and accessibility in mind. So, we’re not just building products, but we try to make the internet a little bit better place. Journalism tries to build transparency for societies, so I want to use my skills and my knowledge, not just to earn money and have a good career, but to do something what is my interest, what excites me, but what is at the end good for all of us. And Mozilla felt like the right place because I wanted to go bigger. I really like big websites.

Raphael:           And even though most know us just for our browser, at the end we have so many websites and they’re all together so huge. I think Ahrefs had lately a study and mozilla.org is the 30th biggest linked domain on the internet. By traffic, I think we are 110th place or something like that. Because there is a lot of interest in the browser, a lot of problems, a lot of open-source code, a lot of stuff to learn. Our developer network, for example, to learn HTML, CSS and I think JavaScript. So it’s a lot of content, a lot to organize. And as you listened before, I like to organize good content for a good cause. And it’s a huge player, I like the mission and I like the challenge. Because when I started we had a lot of problems with international SEO, and that was something I always wanted to go to. And fortune, the publisher, Spiegel Online has, or it’s now just Der Spiegel, they moved their brand, they have an English part of the website as well, but it is not huge, and I wanted to do SEO languages I do not even understand.

Raphael:           Sometimes I just like to overwhelm myself, so that’s why it was the right move. I was very sad because it’s a great team and I love Spiegel Online and I still miss my colleagues, even after two years. That was really not an easy choice, but at the end you have to grow. It’s like I said before, I get bored when I know what I will do the whole day.

Ben:                 So, I can connect the dots in terms of understanding why you’d be interested in Mozilla. One of the things that is interesting to me is how it’s a foundationally different SEO challenge, where you’re working in media publishing, a lot of the content that you’re producing is quickly consumed content, and then going into Mozilla, I actually didn’t think there would be a ton of content, I thought it was a browser and an email client and more like, “Hey, we’ve got these five to 10 products and we have a blog.” Why is there a lot of content on the Mozilla site and how is working on what you do now different than media and publishing?

Raphael:           Yeah, like you said, it’s the fastness. It’s completely different. You have to do decisions in journalism sometimes in minutes. Because you want to be fast, you have to be fast, people want to be informed, you want to keep them off from fake news sources, which, I don’t know, directly write something when something happens. You want to give them the right information as fast as possible. That was the challenge in journalism, that’s not the challenge right now anymore. And yeah, there’s a lot of content. There’s, for example, subdomain developer.mozilla.org, which is a huge knowledge base for developers, where it’s basically every function in HTML, CSS and JavaScript explained and we have examples there. That’s tons of content.

Raphael:           And because Mozilla’s mission, like you said before in introduction, is accessible for all, a free internet accessible to all, we have a huge community. So, it’s not just the foundation and the corporation, there’s a huge community, a Mozilla community, translating all of these articles and websites and there’s tons of content in, I don’t know, nearly 100 languages. And that makes it complex and I like complexity and I like to reduce it and make it usable for people all over the world, even for small locales where there’s maybe a community of three people, and in general not much people are living in, I don’t know, tell me a small country, Latvia or something like this. I’m pretty sure most of our important pages are translated into Latvian as well, let me check that later so I’m not talking something which isn’t true right now. But that’s super interesting. And to work with people who voluntarily work for your, not company, but for your mission and translate marketing content and knowledge-based content and even code, still we get a lot of contribution in code. And it’s awesome.

Raphael:           So it’s a feeling of doing the right thing and still learning so much about SEO. I never did international SEO and, as everyone will confirm, it’s a hell. I’m not sure why Google still hasn’t figured that out. If they would completely figure out languages and would not have a problem there, we would not have to work so hard to get it right. It’s honestly something that feels a little bit like, I don’t know, the beginning of SEO where you could spam, you can spam with every mechanic in the algorithm, but mostly you did it because Google doesn’t understand what you’re doing there. And so you have to translate it to a small technical child and international SEO feels a bit like that. But once you have it right, you see that your content is scalable. Wow, it’s amazing.

Ben:                 Lots of new challenges in the new role. The last question I have for you is, as you look back on your role, you started off as a philosophy major, you got your master’s, eventually transitioned into SEO from a hobby, a side business, it became your career, for the philosophy majors that are out there for the people that have different interests that are outside of SEO but are considering getting into the field, you’ve obviously had a successful career and this was not your original intent, what advice do you have for people that are early on in their SEO career to try to have the same type of success that you’ve had?

Raphael:           I think the most important part is always be curious. If you don’t like something you can make a career but you will not you happy while doing that. So, find your career where your real interest is and don’t be afraid to change your career sometimes. Yeah, changing from philosophy to SEO, even though I did both, but I did of course more university and more philosophy than I did SEO back in the days. When you are curious, when you’re interested, when you’re burning for a field, just go for it and you can teach yourself so much. It’s awesome. And I met so many great SEOs showing me so much things about management, so much about, I don’t know, tricks and tips. But at the end you can teach yourself, but reach out to skilled people. Most of the people really like to give advices and they will talk to you, even the big names. Reach out to me, write me on Twitter or something and I will try to help you. The community sometimes is a little bit weird, but most of the time it’s really helpful.

Ben:                 It’s one of the reasons why we do this podcast is the SEO community is one that is a vibrant and active and also very welcoming, right? SEOs just generally try to share best practices. It’s one of the things that I appreciate and I’ve really learned while doing the Voices of Search podcast. Well, Raphael, I appreciate you coming on the show, I appreciate you telling us about your experience. You’ve clearly had a lot of success and I love the mission that you’re working on and thanks for being our guest on the Voices of Search podcast.

Raphael:           Thank you, Ben. Was a pleasure talking with you.

Ben:                 Okay. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Raphael Raue, head of global SEO at Mozilla. If you’d like to learn more about Raphael, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can shoot him a tweet, his handle is Raue, R-A-U-E, again, it’s R-A-U-E, Raue, or you can visit his company’s website, which is Raue.it, R-A-U-E.it.

Ben:                 If you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast or if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes. You can send me a tweet, our handle is Voicesofsearch, or you can reach out to me personally, my handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:                 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/freetrial for a complimentary risk free trial of their Searchmetrics Suite and content experience tools.

Ben:                 And 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 soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.


3 Things an SEO Learned During Her First PPC Campaign Build

This SEO turned PPC for a very niche client project. We wanted more insights into what was converting for our client to stop guessing and start using data to make better keyword choices that resonate with our audience. So we paused our SEO engagement and pivoted to a PPC campaign.  

When I raised my hand to give this whole PPC thing a go, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that it would make me an overall better practitioner if I tactically knew how a PPC campaign was built, here’s what I learned.

Start With Keyword Research 

We had a head start on keyword research as the client approved our keyword proposal and matrix for a majority of the pages promoting our clients’ enterprise product. What I didn’t know was that a PPC campaign also starts with keyword research. I had the assumption that the process went: Campaigns >Ad Groups > Keywords, but more on that later. 

Knowing that both SEO and PPC start with keyword research made me think of a more integrated approach to sharing our data. At Seer, we do our keyword research together at the client kickoff. This made me think of other times we (SEO) iteratively do keyword research for our clients and how we could collaborate across divisions.

It could be a simple thing like tagging your PPC manager, “FYI seeing those keywords in striking distance for our client” when doing content audits and even metadata updates. Our PPC counterparts tweak, adjust, and add to campaigns regularly, insights into what we’re seeing on the organic side could make these money-saving tweaks an easier lift. 

Building Ad Groups 

I asked my PPC desk-mate, Emily Pollock, why PPC starts with keywords and not Ad Groups that focus on themes or benefits of my clients’ main enterprise product. Being in SEO, I thought: If I start with why this product could benefit users (audience first) and identify pain points, wouldn’t my keywords fall into place?

Short answer: No.

Long Answer: You work keywords into ad copy because depending on what the user inputs into their search, those keywords could be bolded if they match, like an organic meta description, enticing the user to click through. In SEO, we could leverage the Click-Through Rate (CTR) of PPC Ad Group performance and see which keywords in each Ad Group are getting the most engagement. You can use those keywords in your page copy and/or metadata (especially your meta description). 

In SEO, we look at the keywords a page is ranking for and optimize those keywords that are doing well, the keywords in striking distance, or keywords that competitors are ranking for where our client is not. We target keywords based on the content of the page or we suggest additional copy if we need to incorporate certain keywords. This is not necessarily the case in PPC. While landing page quality and relevance is a factor in Quality Score, you do not have to have the exact copy or keywords on the landing page itself. 

The more important aspect of a landing page is if users can convert easily. For SEO, this could be adding a CTA at the top of the page, above the fold, for my PPC counterpart to potentially use the page as a Landing Page.

While I gained valuable insights about PPC during my first campaign build, I also took note of better ways to integrate and collaborate with my PPC counterpart:

  • Share SEO keyword research with your PPC team for content audits and metadata updates. Our PPC counterparts tweak, adjust and add to campaigns regularly; insights into what we’re seeing on the organic side could make these money-saving tweaks an easier lift
  • Look at which PPC Ad Groups have a high click-through rate. Take note of the keywords in each ad group and use those keywords in your page content and meta descriptions
  • Optimize pages so users can convert, think CTAs at the top of the page as well as the bottom

Want more integrated tips? Read PPC and SEO Powers Combined.

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Open Graph Meta Tags: Everything You Need to Know

Are you wondering how to make your content more clickable, shareable, and noticeable on social media?

Open Graph meta tags are the solution.

Here’s how one of our posts looks when shared on Facebook with Open Graph meta tags:

Screenshot 2020 01 06 at 20.55.25 1

Screenshot 2020 01 06 at 20.55.25 1

And here’s how it looks without:

merged fb magic 1

merged fb magic 1

In this guide, you’ll learn:

What are Open Graph meta tags?

Open Graph meta tags are snippets of code that control how URLs are displayed when shared on social media. 

They’re part of Facebook’s Open Graph protocol and are also used by other social media sites, including LinkedIn and Twitter (if Twitter Cards are absent).

You can find them in the <head> section of a webpage. Any tags with og: before a property name are Open Graph tags.

Here are some examples from our guide to becoming an SEO expert:

<meta property="og:title" content="How to Become an SEO Expert (8 Steps)" />
<meta property="og:description" content="Get from SEO newbie to SEO pro in 8 simple steps." />
<meta property="og:image" content="https://ahrefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/fb-how-to-become-an-seo-expert.png" />

This is how those tags look on Facebook:

og tags 1

og tags 1

Why are Open Graph tags important?

People are arguably more likely to see and click shared content with optimized OG tags, which means more social media traffic to your website.

There are three reasons for this:

  1. They make content more eye-catching in social media feeds.
  2. They tell people what the content is about at a glance.
  3. They help Facebook understand what the content is about, which can help increase your brand visibility through search.

Let’s touch more on that last point, as it tends to get overlooked.

Here are the results of a Facebook search for “alternative search engines”:

IMG 0522 1

IMG 0522 1

It brings up popular articles that people have already shared on Facebook. Each title and image comes from Open Graph tags.

Even if there are no articles returned for the search, Facebook still shows matching content shared in groups or pages you follow, or by friends.

Sidenote.

 Open Graph tags also help create a snippet when someone sends you a link through direct messages using apps that support the Open Graph protocol—naturally Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp, but also iMessage and Slack.

Which Open Graph tags should you use?

Facebook lists 17 OG tags in their official documentation, plus dozens of object types. We’re not going to discuss all of these. Only four are required for Facebook to understand the basics of your page, and there are a couple of others that sometimes help.

Let’s go through these.

og:title

The title of your page.

Syntax

<meta property="og:title" content="Open Graph Meta Tags: Everything You Need to Know" />

Best practices

  • Add it to all “shareable” pages.
  • Focus on accuracy, value, and clickability.
  • Keep it short to prevent overflow. There’s no official guidance on this, but 40 characters for mobile and 60 for desktop is roughly the sweet spot.
  • Use the raw title. Don’t include branding (e.g., your site name).

og:url

The URL of the content.

Syntax

<meta property="og:url" content="https://ahrefs.com/blog/open-graph-meta-tags/" />

Best practices

  • Use the canonical URL. It helps consolidate all connected data, such as likes, across all the duplicate URLs posted.

og:image

The URL of an image for the social snippet.

Note that this is perhaps the most essential Open Graph tag because it occupies the most social feed real estate.

Syntax

<meta property="og:image" content="https://ahrefs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/fb-open-graph-1.jpg" />

Best practices

  • Use custom images for “shareable” pages (e.g., homepage, articles, etc.)
  • Use your logo or any other branded image for the rest of your pages.
  • Use images with a 1.91:1 ratio and minimum recommended dimensions of 1200×630 for optimal clarity across all devices.

og:type

The type of object you’re sharing. (e.g., article, website, etc.)

Syntax

<meta property="og:type" content="article" />

Best practices

  • Use article for articles and website for the rest of your pages.
  • Describe object types further where appropriate (optional).

og:description

A brief description of the content.

Syntax

<meta property="og:description" content="Learn about 13 features that set Ahrefs apart from the competition." />

Best practices

  • Complement the title to make the snippet as appealing and click-worthy as possible.
  • Copy your meta description here if it makes sense.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Facebook recommends 2–4 sentences, but that often truncates.

og:locale

Defines the content language.

Syntax

<meta property="og:locale" content="en_GB" />

Best practices

  • Use only for content not written in American English (en_US). Facebook assumes content without this tag is written in this language.

How to set up Open Graph tags

Choose your website platform from the list below, or follow these manual instructions.

Setting Open Graph tags in WordPress

Install Yoast’s SEO plugin. Go to the editor for a post or page, then scroll down. You should see a Yoast SEO box. Hit the “Social” tab, then “Facebook.”

Fill this in to set the og:title, og:description, and og:image tags.

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 22.46.26 1

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 22.46.26 1

There’s no need to set og:url manually. Yoast does this for you. It also adds other useful OG tags like image dimensions.

Sidenote.

 If you don’t set up an OG image and the post has a featured image, Yoast will use that by default. It will also add other Open Graph and Twitter Card tags that would be just a waste of time setting up manually—site name, image dimensions, etc. 

It’s also best practice to set a sitewide og:image tag. This is shown when no custom tag is set for a shared URL.

You’ll find the option to do this in Yoast’s settings.

Yoast > Social > Facebook

Make sure the toggle is set to “Enabled,” then upload an appropriate image. Brand images work best here.

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 22 37 47 1

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 22 37 47 1

Setting Open Graph tags in Shopify

Most Shopify themes pull OG tags from variables such as your title tag for og:title and featured image for og:image.

The only tag you can customize through Shopify’s UI is a sitewide og:image.

Go to Online Store > Themes > Customize > Theme settings > Customize > Social media > select an appropriate image.

If you want to see how it’s set up, go to Online Store > Themes > Actions > Edit code > Snippets > social-meta-tags.liquid in the scrollbar. You can edit the code if you need to.

Setting Open Graph tags in Wix

Wix pulls common OG tags from other variables, like the page’s meta title and description.

You can customize the OG title, description, and image for each page in the “Social share” settings.

You can also set a custom sitewide OG image. Go to Settings > Social Share on the main menu.

Overall, Wix makes adding OG tags easy, as there’s no need to hardcode anything.

Setting Open Graph tags in Squarespace

Squarespace uses the page title and meta description for og:title and og:description.

You can set a custom og:image on a page by page basis.

Just go to Page Settings > Social Image > Upload.

If you need to add other OG tags and customize the default settings, go to Page Settings > Advanced > Page Header Code Injection. Read the following section on adding the tags manually and copy-paste the code there.

Setting Open Graph tags manually

If you’re comfortable digging into website code, adding OG tags is as straightforward as pasting them into the <head> section of your web page.

Consider using a markup generator tool like Mega Tags or Web Code Tools to help reduce syntax errors.

How to test and debug Open Graph tags

Now that you’ve deployed all the tags, you need to make sure they’re working as expected and are ready for sharing.

For that, use these tools:

They all work the same. They pull tags from the page and show how it looks when shared.

Testing also helps prevent issues where OG tags aren’t displayed or pulled correctly.

TIP

Use og:image:width and og:image:height tags to ensure a perfect snippet the first time someone shares it. In WordPress, Yoast adds them automatically. This is their syntax:

<meta property="og:image:width" content="1200" />
<meta property="og:image:height" content="630" />

Here’s what the FB Sharing Debugger looks like in action:

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 23.31.50 1

Screenshot 2019 12 17 at 23.31.50 1

The most important thing is how the snippet looks. If you miss or incorrectly set up less important tags, it’s not a big deal. You can ignore warnings about unimportant tags like fb:app_id

If something looks amiss and you update the tags, use the “Scrape Again” button to pull fresh data. If you don’t see the change after the crawl, use the Batch Invalidator to clear the cache and repeat.

Repeat this process with the Twitter Card Validator and LinkedIn Post Inspector to ensure that your content looks as intended across all networks.

Sidenote.

 I’ve found that only Twitterbot follows robots.txt directives. Both Facebook and LinkedIn crawlers can scrape and show the content even if you disallow crawling. This was surprising, but even just for the sake of Twitter, make sure that all the URLs you share can be crawled.

If you already have a site with hundreds of pages and aren’t sure which already have Open Graph tags, you can use a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Audit to check your pages in bulk.

Just run a crawl, then go to the Social tags report to see all issues related to Open Graph and Twitter Card tags.

Screenshot 2020 01 12 at 23.16.01 1

Screenshot 2020 01 12 at 23.16.01 1

Click on a flagged warning to see the explanation and advice on how to fix it.

Screenshot 2019 12 18 at 00.39.44 1

Screenshot 2019 12 18 at 00.39.44 1

Click “View affected URLs,” and you’ll see the issue(s) affecting each URL along with relevant metrics. One of those metrics is organic traffic, which you can use to sort the table and prioritize URLs to fix. 

Screenshot 2020 01 12 at 23 19 24 1

Screenshot 2020 01 12 at 23 19 24 1

Remember, pages that get lots of traffic are most likely to be shared.

Final thoughts

OG tags are important for your social media presence, but there’s no need to spend a lot of time on them.

Focus on getting the basics down. Add tags, check social media previews, and debug.

Did we miss anything? Leave a comment or ping me on Twitter.


Before You Kill That Mobile Subdomain…

Most SEOs I know hate sites with separate mobile URLs. They served their purpose back in the early days of mobile browsers, but over time the maintenance overhead combined with the SEO uncertainty brought on by having two different sets of near duplicate URLs has caused many of us to advocate for migrating to a single set of URLs for both mobile and desktop. But maybe we shouldn’t be the ones advocating…

I have had the pleasure of working on several large M-dot URL migrations. In theory, these projects should be pretty straightforward – 301 redirect all the M-dot URLs to their desktop versions, maintain the redirects forever, and all is well. Too bad theory often runs into a reality brick wall.

When one argues for a big project like an M-dot migration, odds are someone with a nicer office than yours is going to ask for some proof that it’s worth doing. Here’s a handy tweet to whip out when the “Why would we want to do that?” question comes up:

Now I love John Mueller’s advice as much as the next guy, but SEO types often tend to think of themselves within the “scientist” Knowledge Graph, so we also like to see independent corroboration of our crackpot theories. Fortunately Sistrix has a handy tool to estimate organic traffic to subdomains. Let’s look at how some big e-commerce sites have fared with M-dot migrations:

TicketMaster Mobile Subdomain Migration

The Home Depot Mobile Subdomain Migration

If you believe the upticks were even partially caused by the M-dot migrations (and if you believe Sistrix’ data is directionally correct), then pulling the trigger on a migration seems like a no-brainer.

But as we SEOs know all too well, not everything always goes smoothly.

This is what it looks like when a large e-commerce site with an expensive IT consulting firm spends a year redesigning their site and kills their M-dot URLs without redirecting them because “it wasn’t in the original scope and would be too complicated”.

FUBAR M-DOT URL MIGRATION

And this is what it looks like (on SEMRush) when another large e-commerce site does their M-dot migration in phases and neglects to redirect some of the old m-dot URLs. Six months to get back to where they started from.

Phased M-DOT URL Migration

Now I know what you’re thinking – “I run the tightest SEO ship on the planet. Those kinds of screw-ups would never happen to us.” If so, good for you, but you might do well to consider the following conversation I had with the head of SEO at one of the largest retailer sites in the U.S.

SCENE: A networking event. Everyone standing around in business casual drinking corporate craft beers.

ME: (oddly proud) I’m working on a big M-dot migration…

EXEC: (stopped cold) Dude…I pitched a big M-dot migration last year. We estimated a big increase in organic revenue post-migration. After we pushed it live, we saw basically zero lift.

ME:


Google Update January 2020: Latest News and Analysis

A new year is often a time for new beginnings and Google has already announced the first major change to its search algorithm of 2020. Google’s January 2020 Core Update began rolling out on the 13th of January and is being implemented in the various Google data centers over the subsequent days. This sees a continuation in 2020 of Google’s more open communication strategy around updates. In summer 2019, Google initiated a policy of pre-announcing updates and then confirming the roll-out once they had gone live. Read on for the latest news and analysis of the Google Core January 2020 Update. By the way: All relevant news about SEO and Content Marketing can be read in our monthly newsletter – sign up now for free:

Don’t miss the latest news in SEO & Marketing!

Summary: Google Core Update January 2020

  • On 13th of January 2020, Google announces the roll-out of its first broad core algorithm update of 2020.
  • Over the coming days, the Google January 2020 Core Update is rolled out to Google’s data centers.
  • Impact of the January 2020 Core Update is not yet established.
  • Google continues to pursue its transparent communication policy for core updates, which started in 2019.
  • Google also releases another update to its SERP layout, which sees company icons (favicons) displayed in desktop search results.

Google announces January 2020 Core Update

Google set up its Google SearchLiaison Twitter account in November 2017, which it uses as a communication platform to provide information on Google Updates. This is where the announcement was published on 13th of January 2020, that stated that a new “broad core algorithm update” was being released that day.

Shortly afterwards, another tweet followed stating that the January 2020 Core Update was now live and that it would be distributed to Google’s data centers in the following days:

This sees Google continue its transparent policy for communicating the release of algorithm updates. They started to pre-announce Core Updates via Twitter in 2019 – or at least to confirm them after their release. This approach to communication was an attempt to put an end to the speculation in the SEO community following every (apparent) Google Update, which would normally begin with chattering amongst rank trackers and be boosted by SEOs entering the discussion with reports of drops or spikes in rankings and traffic. However, Google hasn’t been entirely consistent. The November 2019 Core Update was not announced in advance, and Google saw itself forced to confirm the update in response to the reaction of the community. Furthermore, Google attempted to clarify its communication strategy regarding the release of algorithm updates:

“Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis. In this thread, a reminder of when and why we give specific guidance about particular updates. Sometimes, a particular update might be broadly noticeable. We share about those when we feel there is actionable guidance for content owners. For example, when our Speed Update happened, we gave months of advanced notice and advice. Broad core updates are often broadly noticeable. That’s why we have shared about them since last year and even preannounce them, plus provide the actionable guidance that there’s often nothing to “fix” and emphasize instead having great content. Again, we have updates that happen all the time in Google Search. If we don’t share about them, there is no particular actionable guidance to follow nor changes to make other than to keep focused on great content as we’ve advised generally.”

Overview of Google Core Updates

After the Mobile Speed Update in 2018, which was the first time Google had announced an update (long) before its release, 2019 saw four Core Updates officially introduced via Google’s own communication channels, and assigned names. The BERT Update was also announced via this channel, but this can be considered separate from the Core Updates, as it deals more with how Google understands search queries. The most import Google Updates that were officially communicated are summarized here.

Update Name
Date
Features of the Google Update
Google Statement
Google January 2020 Core Update January 13th 2020
The first official Core Update of 2020 was rolled out on 13th January 2020. There is not yet any information regarding its impact. With this update, Google continues its communication strategy of (pre-)announcing Core Updates on Twitter.
Google’s announcement via Twitter
Google Update November 2019 November 7th 2019
Webmasters in the USA who run affiliate sites have observed massive changes in the travel, food and health sectors. Google has not commented on the changes, but SEO experts have described the update as “aggressive”.

» Google Update November 2019

Post-update confirmation via Twitter
Google BERT Update 24th October 2019
It’s the biggest change to Google’s algorithm for five years, affecting one in ten search queries. With the Google BERT Update, Google aims to improve the interpretation of complex long-tail search queries and display more relevant search results.

» Google BERT Update

Google’s explanation in a Blogpost
Google September 2019 Core Update 24th September 2019
The September 2019 Core Update was rolled-out globally, starting on the 24th of September. This Google Update focused on improvements in the content quality in the SERPs. For the second time, Google pre-announced a core algorithm update in advance.

» Google September 2019 Core Update

Google announcement on Twitter
Google June 2019 Core Update 3rd June 2019 Google 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. This update was the second major update of 2019 altering the core algorithm, and was rolled out on the 3rd of June, as preannounced.

» Google June 2019 Core Update

Google announcement on Twitter
Google March 2019 Core Update 12th March 2019 In this global core algorithm update, there were ranking shifts for keywords related to health and other sensitive topics. The algorithm was also adjusted to favor trust and expertise, as well as user signals.

» Google March 2019 Core Update

Confirmation on Twitter

Google January Update 2020: Analysis

Google has released its first Core Update of 2020 – the next step is the search for understanding, looking at which topics, clusters of kinds of search query have been affected. Which tweaks has Google made to its algorithm and how will this affect the way that web content is evaluated? So far, no impacts have been observed from Google’s January 2020 Core Update. We will, as always, monitor the situation and report on any findings. Have you seen your websites affected by the update? Then send us a message or comment underneath this post.

Google Updates: What Webmaster and SEOs can do

In the Summer of 2019, Google published a post on its Google Webmaster Blog. Here, they explained in more details which changes to the algorithm are made by Core Updates, and what webmasters and SEOs can do if they have been affected by a Google Core Update.

If you see your rankings drop following an update, then you “haven’t violated [Google’s] webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action”. The changes are more focused on improving the evaluation of content. These changes can, according to Google, mean that websites that were previously unfairly overlooked, or not given the credit they deserve, now perform better – and vice versa. One analogy of how these Google Core Updates can be viewed could be a list of the 100 best films, published of 2015. A few years later, in 2019, the list can be updated – and it will likely change because new films have been released and the way we view older films may also have changed.

Google’s recommendations for webmasters and SEOs whose websites have been affected by a Google Update are as follows: “We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can.” When auditing a website, Google suggests considering questions regarding the following four aspects:

  • Content & Quality: Does the website offer original, high-quality content that isn’t just copied from somewhere? Are the page title and description appealing and do they reflect the content? If you were a webmaster, would you share the content with friends?
  • Expertise: Is the content trustworthy? Does the page contain errors? Would you, as a webmaster arriving at the page via Google search, trust the website you find?
  • Presentation & Production: Does the content seem to be well researched and well produced – or does it seem to be mass-produced fodder? Are there too many ads? Does the page load appropriately on all devices?
  • Competitive comparison: Does the website offer added value when compared with its competitors? Does the content fulfil the user’s expectations?

A good place for webmasters to start is to try and answer these questions as honestly as possible – and compare their website alongside their competition, with a particular focus on the quality of the content they are offering.

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!


How to Find an Amazing SEO Consultant in 2020

Looking for an SEO consultant who can help you grow your company in 2020? Keep reading.

What is an SEO Consultant?

An SEO consultant is an advisor who helps companies improve their search engine rankings. This applies to every search engine including Google, Bing, YouTube, and even Amazon.

An SEO consultant can help you grow your company in few different ways.

1. General SEO Advice

SEO consultants can be called on to answer all your burning SEO questions. Sometimes you don’t need a full-on SEO analysis and roadmap. Sometimes you just need to get some targeted questions answered by an SEO expert.

2. Analyze an Existing SEO Campaign

he most common use of an SEO consultant is to analyze existing campaigns and develop a strategy for improving them.

Typically a consultant will perform an SEO audit and then create a list of actions based on what will have the highest impact.

All you need to do is execute on these actions, track performance, and stay in touch with the consultant as questions or challenges arise.

Having a second set of eyes (especially someone who’s probably already experienced whatever challenge you’re having) can take your SEO performance to another level.

3. Develop an SEO Strategy

Not every company has jumped on the SEO bandwagon.

That’s when a proven SEO consultant comes into play.

The consultant can develop a 6-12 month (or longer) SEO plan for driving more organic search traffic.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Abraham Lincoln

4. Train In-House Team

Some companies already have a digital marketing team in place and just need some additional guidance and SEO training.

An SEO consultant can come in, analyze your campaign(s), and guide your team members so they can drive better results.

This type of consulting is most common with digital marketing agencies that want to improve their team’s performance, so their clients can get better results.

Now you know what a qualified SEO consultant can do for your company.

Here’s what do you need to do next:

Think about what you truly want when you hire an SEO consultant.

Some questions to consider are:

  • Are your SEO clients getting the results they deserve?
  • Is your company’s revenue growing, stagnating, or declining?
  • Is your website getting enough qualified traffic?

But now you might be wondering:

How do you find a qualified SEO consultant?

I’ve developed an 8-step qualification process for hiring the perfect SEO consultant for your company.

Make sure you read qualification step #4 because getting it wrong could destroy your SEO performance.

How to Hire an SEO Consultant (8 Simple Steps)

Hiring an SEO consultant is a big step for every company.

  • Are your SEO clients getting the results they deserve?
  • Is your company’s revenue growing, stagnating, or declining?
  • Is your website getting enough qualified traffic?

These questions will bounce around in your mind. That’s okay because they should.

Hiring a qualified SEO consultant can explode your company’s growth, but hiring the wrong one, can be devastating. You SHOULD be asking these questions.

That’s why today I’m going to give you 8 steps you need to cover when you’re trying to hire an SEO consultant.

Let’s jump right in.

1. Audit Their Online Footprint

An SEO consultant should be able to demonstrate that they know what they’re doing. All that matters are the results that are being achieved TODAY. Not years ago.

That’s why I laugh when some “experts” claim that ranking for “SEO” keywords is “worthless”. If these keywords are “worthless”, then why aren’t these supposed experts easily ranking for them?

Well, the answer is simple. They can’t.

You’re hiring an SEO consultant to get you more traffic, leads, and customers from organic search.

How could you possibly trust someone or a company that can’t visibly do it themselves?

That’s why I’ve put in concentrated effort to rank for “SEO” keywords since launched Gotch SEO. From the very beginning, I wanted to PROVE to clients that I knew what I was doing.

Of course, getting client results is more important. But ranking for your industry’s keywords is further proof that you know what you’re doing.

How can anyone deny this?

One last important point here:

Be careful of “experts” that claim to have “achieved” results when they’re an in-house SEO.

All the results I’ve achieved for Gotch SEO and our clients are my own doing.

I didn’t have a massive team with an enormous budget pushing these results forward. I didn’t join an already successful company and claim that I was the catalyst for their growth.

Most companies I’ve worked with have virtually no organic search traffic or rankings. I grew them from the ground up. I didn’t jump on an existing rocket ship and claim I did some magic.

The TL;DR of this section is simple:

Only consider SEO consultants that have real results that you can see with your own eyes.

2. Know What You Need

There are variety of reasons to hire an SEO consultant. It’s a good idea to know what objectives you want to achieve by hiring an SEO consultant.

3. Make Sure It’s a Good Fit

I believe two people need to genuinely like and enjoy talking to each other for a business relationship to work out. It’s crazy how well principles in your personal life translate business world.

Would you be friends with someone who didn’t like? Then why do we do business with people who make us cringe even thinking about them?

I used to take on pretty much every client because I was money-hungry.

I’ve learned over the last 5 years of running an SEO company that this is a horrible idea. That’s why I always make sure it’s a good fit before engaging in any relationship. You should do the same.

When you speak to a prospective SEO consultant, you need to be thinking about a few things:

  1. Do you like this person? Seriously. Do you enjoy speaking to them or are you guys constantly interrupting each other, not listening, etc?
  2. Would you enjoy speaking with this person routinely for several months or years? Or would you dread every phone call?

Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. Every time I ignored “my gut” and all the warning signs, I ended up regretting it.

In fact:

I just recently I told a prospect (who was willing to pay $5,000/mo + for SEO) that I had to pass on the engagement.

Am I insane for passing up money? Maybe.

But in my eyes, my personal health and wellbeing in the long-term is far more important than money (or dealing with a nightmare client).

4. Discover Their SEO Methodology

There might be some situations that warrant sketchier SEO strategies such as companies in phrama, gambling, etc. However, most companies (in non-controversial industries) should use safe, long-term focused SEO strategies.

You don’t need an SEO consultant to say that they’re “white hat” to know whether that’s true or not. You just need to analyze what they’re saying.

A qualified SEO consultant will talk a lot about the following:

  • SEO Audits
  • Content Audits
  • Technical SEO
  • Site Architecture
  • User Experience (UX)
  • Keyword Research
  • Keyword Qualification
  • On-Page SEO
  • SEO Content
  • Link Prospecting
  • Link Acquisition

The most important element to ask questions about is link acquisition.

There are many SEO consultant (and companies) that still use high-risk link building tactics. Some of these tactics include Private Blog Networks (PBNs), public blog networks, web 2.0s, profile links (on irrelevant websites) or pretty much any link type that isn’t acquired through an editorial process.

These backlink types can work in the short term, but can get you penalized in the long-term. Then you’ll have to hire another SEO consultant to get you out of the penalty!

Avoid this at the on-set.

If a consultant tells you that their link building process is “proprietary” then run for the hills.

Qualified SEO consultants don’t have anything to hide.

In fact, they would be proud to show what they’ve done.

5. Get Clear Expectations

It’s the SEO consultant’s job to set clear expectations. These expectations will largely depend on what type of work is being done.

If they’re developing an SEO strategy from the ground up, they may say that you can expect to see improved SEO performance within 6-12 months (if you’re taking the necessary actions).

Just remember to be realistic.

SEO is a long-term game. It doesn’t have an on and off switch like paid media. It takes time to see results, but in the long-term, I believe it dominates all other channels (as far as CAC).

6. Trust Them (If They’re Qualified)

You’re hiring an SEO consultant because you’re not an expert in SEO. A qualified SEO consultant is. That’s why you should listen to them.

I’m not saying you should have blind faith in them and not ask questions.

But if you are micromanaging them and not giving them the freedom to do what they believe is best, then you will not have a successful relationship.

All you need to do is think in reverse.

Would you like the SEO consultant to tell you how you should fix the sewage backup at your client’s home?

I think we both know the answer!

7. Be Action-Oriented

The best SEO consultant in the world will fail if you or company doesn’t take action on their recommendations or plan. Unfortunately, this is very common.

Listen to this part very carefully:

Do not hire an SEO consultant until you’re willing and able to take action on their recommendations and game plan.

8. Don’t Wait

We all exhibit levels of procrastination in life. Some more than others.

Entrepreneurs and existing companies are on the low end of the procrastination scale, but it still happens a lot.

It happens to me when a “new” marketing channels comes into play like “chat bots”. The procrastinator in me starts asking:

  • “Is this worth my time?”…
  • “This probably a fad!”… or:
  • “I need to focus on ___ and this will only hurt my focus.”

These are excuses to avoid the pain of learning something new or trying something different.

I can tell you this:

Procrastinating on doing SEO or not hiring an SEO consultant to help you can be detrimental.

Getting SEO results takes time and I can guarantee your competitors aren’t going to wait for you. So, whether you need to optimize your existing SEO performance or need to start from scratch, today is the day.

Every day you wait to improve your SEO performance is day your competitors are getting ahead. Don’t wait.


Anchor text variations: Your key to link profile diversity

Anchor text variation is one of the best ways to tell Google what a specific web page is about. It is used to help readers find more information about a topic and also factors into ranking your web pages. While it is a great tool, it can be the downfall of your SEO efforts if not used correctly. 

Many people have tried (and are still trying) to manipulate search results. One way to do this is to link from specific anchor text in an attempt to rank for the specific word or phrase. Unfortunately for these folks but fortunately for those of us doing it right, we are no longer in the olden days of SEO and these types of black-hat techniques no longer work. In fact, they are likely to get you penalized. 

One of the best ways to stay out of a penalty is by practicing link diversity. There are many ways to do this – you could try linking from various domain extensions, different domain authorities, and using a mixture of “follow” and “nofollow” links. For the sake of this article, however, I want to focus specifically on varying anchor text. 

Why vary your anchor text?

Because. Google…

That’s the simple answer, but let’s go a little more in-depth. Google looks at your link profile when deciding how to rank your web pages. Part of your link profile involves the anchor text used to link to your website. 

Google's list of ranking factors

Source: SparkToro

So, you should have specific anchor text that talks about your web pages, right? Well, sort of.

Using specific anchor text is fine, but when you start to use the same anchor text, Google will get suspicious. It will make your backlink profile look unnatural and likely lead to lower search rankings, if not a Google penalty. 

When linking to your website, you need to vary the anchor text. Natural links will come from various anchor texts as webmasters link differently. There is no way all websites got together and decided to link to your website from the exact same anchor text. Google knows this, which is why you will be going down the road of a Google penalty if you don’t incorporate diversity. 

Using long-tail in your anchor text variations

So, how do you choose anchor text variations? There are many ways to do this, but I will show you some that will keep the meaning of your anchor text to best help with SEO. The first is mixing in long-tail keywords with your exact match anchor text. 

Example

Let’s use the keyword phrase “anchor text” as our example. Instead of linking from that exact phrase, use the following long-tail variations:

  • “using variations of anchor text in your backlink profile”
  • “how to vary your anchor text for better link diversity”
  • “how anchor text variations matter in your link profile”

I just made those up, but you can see how we use the exact match keyword within a long-tail anchor text. Google will still see the main anchor text and take that into account, but you also have a variation so as to show a natural link profile (and not artificial link building). 

Using LSI Keywords

The above examples I just made up on the fly, but you can get more technical if you want to vary your anchor text and ensure you keep the meaning of the term you are trying to rank for. What do I mean by that?

Sometimes people simply choose anchor text variations that they think are similar. While they may be similar in wording, they may not be similar in meaning. And yes, it makes a difference. The term “anchor text variation” and “exact match anchor text” contain the same keyword, but they will return very different results when you search Google. 

Example of using LSI for anchor text variations

Source: Google Search

That is where LSI keywords come into play. LSI stands for latent semantic indexing and is a term used to describe keywords that Google feels are similar to each other. And hey, if Google says they are similar, then they are (since Google is the one who determines where they rank). 

You can find LSI keywords in a number of ways. Use an online LSI keyword generator or go to your Google AdWords account and search for specific keyword variations in your ad campaign. You can also simply Google your main term and then look at the bottom of the page for similar searches suggested by Google. 

Using the last suggestion mentioned above, I found the following LSI keywords for “anchor text variation”:

  • “how to create anchor text”
  • “anchor text best practices”
  • “anchor text generator”

This means you can use all three of these to link to the same webpage and Google will see them as the same or similar, without penalizing you for using the “exact” same anchor text. Make sense?

Final word on anchor text variation

There are a number of techniques and strategies available to you when it comes to SEO, but building a diverse link profile is one of the highest impacts. Even within the context of diversifying your anchor text, there are multiple strategies, as you can see. For example, you can add advice such as isolating your current anchor text structure to ensure it is diverse. Without going too far and adding a layer of confusion, however, I think you get the main point which is you must vary your anchor text. By doing so you are creating a diverse link profile that will show Google your links are coming naturally, and you aren’t involved in any link building schemes. 

What variations have you used for anchor text diversity?  

Anthony Gaenzle is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm.

The post Anchor text variations: Your key to link profile diversity appeared first on Search Engine Watch.


5 reasons why your site isn’t showing up on Google

You’ve done all the hard work — got a hosting package, installed WordPress, picked a nice theme and wrote some content. You hit publish on your first post. Time to rake in that traffic, right? But, when looking for your own site in Google you can’t seem to find it anywhere. You throw your hands in the air: “My website isn’t showing up on Google, what’s going on!?” Well, here are five reasons that might explain why you can’t find your site.

1: It’s too fresh, Google doesn’t know about it yet

First, don’t panic! If your site is new, it might simply be a matter chilling out and checking back in a little while. There’s a lot of moving parts in getting your site crawled, indexed and ranked. Sometimes, it takes days or maybe even weeks for Google to discover your site.

You can look up your site with the site: search operator in Google. Type site:yoast.com and you’ll see a list of pages found on that domain. If you type in the full URL of a specific article, you should see only one search result return. If you see your pages, this means that Google does know about your site and has put — at least some of it — in its index. Once you discover that your page is in the index, but you think it is not performing well, you might want to dig deeper.

The site: search operator helps you find your site in Google’s index

Do install Yoast SEO and submit the generated XML sitemap to Google Search Console to help speed up Google’s discovery process. In Search Console, you can also use the URL Inspection tool to find out how specific pages are doing. It tells you exactly how Google crawls and views your site.

As you wait, please read up on how Google works and how to start with SEO. You can also run a quick SEO audit to see if you’ve missed something.

2: You’ve noindexed your site or the piece of content

One of the most common reasons for Google not indexing your site or a specific page is because it has — inadvertently — got noindexed. Adding the noindex meta robots tags to a page tells Googlebot that it can crawl a page, but that the results can’t be added to the index.

How to check if your page is noindexed? That’s easy, simply open the page and view the source code. Somewhere in the head of the page, you’ll find the code below. This tells search engine crawlers that the content of the page shouldn’t be added to the index and, thus, keep it from ranking.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

It happens! Even we occasionally make a mistake and inadvertently noindex a post. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. Willemien describes how to set a piece of content back on the right track with Yoast SEO.

3: Google can’t crawl your site

You might have told Google not to index your content, but it’s also possible you’ve told Google not to crawl your site at all! Blocking crawlers in a so-called robots.txt file is a sure-fire way to never get any traffic. Blocking robots is easier than you might think. For instance, WordPress has a Search Engine Visibility setting that — once set to Discourage search engines from indexing this site — does its utmost best to keep crawlers out. Uncheck this to make your site available again.

Uncheck this if you ever want your WordPress so end up in Google

From WordPress 5.3 on, WordPress uses the noindex approach described in point 2 to handle indexing of sites via the Search Engine Visibility setting. This change was necessary because Google sometimes still indexed pages it encountered.

Besides telling WordPress to block search engines, it might be that other technical issues generate crawl errors preventing Google from properly crawling your site. Your site’s web server could be acting up and presenting server errors or buggy bits of JavaScript in your code trip up the crawler. Make sure Google can easily crawl your site.

4: Your content is not up to par and/or doesn’t match users intent

There could be a number of technical reasons why your site doesn’t show in Google. That’s not the whole story, though. It can also be your content. Your content might simply not be good or authoritative enough for Google to pick for that specific keyphrase. Think about how you as a human being would find your site. Don’t focus on Google.

Content not showing up in Google might “simply” be the case of not matching with what the searcher is expecting. Your content might not fit the search intent of the user. In this case, you have to do keyword research and take a good look at search intent as well. What do people search for, in what terms and what do they mean to do? Once you know that, you can use Yoast SEO the help you write awesome content.

Keep in mind that maybe, just maybe, your site operates in a highly competitive industry. Without focusing on the long tail, it’ll probably be impossible to end up with good rankings.

5: Your content lacks high-quality backlinks

Way back when Google was just a fledgling start-up, rankings were determined in part by popularity. The thinking was that the more links a site or page got, the more people view this site as a valuable source and Google should put it at the top of the results page. While a lot has changed in over two decades, links still play a part in the discoverability and ranking of content. You can rank without links, but it’s just damn hard.

Creating incredible content is a good way to get links to your pages. High-quality content tends to attract clicks from readers who might also share the content far and wide via social media as well. All this helps to get those links. Of course, there’s more you can do to get links in a natural, non-spammy way: here are fifteen ways of getting high-quality backlinks.

Ps: Fixing your internal links also helps Google and searchers discover your content!

Bonus: Have you been hit by a manual action?

A quick one to cap off this article: if your site isn’t showing up on Google, it might be because of a manual action — a penalty. There are a lot of reasons why you could get a manual action, but the most common ones are because of spammy links or violations of the Google rules. Sites that get a manual action tend to try to operate in a shady way to misguide search engines into giving them a high ranking.

Normally, site owners get an email from Google telling them that their site has received a manual action. You can also simply check the Manual Actions page in Google Search Console.

There are more reasons

This is not an all-encompassing post as there are numerous reasons for a site or post not showing up in Google. This post gives you a quick idea of where to look when not seeing your post in a search engine. If you want to improve your rankings, there are ways to write high-quality and SEO-friendly blog posts.

The post 5 reasons why your site isn’t showing up on Google appeared first on Yoast.


Dixon’s January Webinar

On January 23rd 2020 – SEO veterans take on the Rising Stars of the industry to compare approaches new and old – Is experience from before 2010 beneficial or even relevent to Search Strategy in 2020? Dixon Jones will be joined by two generations of the Hunt SEO Dynasty and Special guests from the UK and US:

  • Jenny Halasz, President & Founder, JLH Marketing, Inc, former VP Search Strategy at Acronym with 20 years in the industry starting as Affiliate Manager at Art.com.
  • Bill Hunt Senior – Founder of Agency Back Azimuth and previously Director of Global Search Strategy at Ogilvy.
  • Bill Hunt Junior, SEO Manager – Flights & Rental Cars at TripAdvisor
  • Hannah Thorpe, Business Director at Found . Hannah is an SEO specialist, with experience working across multiple digital marketing disciplines. Hannah has presented at leading Search conferences, including Ungagged and Brighton SEO.
  • This months panel is rounded off with Tom Pool – Technical SEO Director of UK SEO Agency Blue Array and winner of the Young Search Professional of the Year at the Prestigious 2019 UK Search Awards held in The Brewery, London.

This 30 minute webinar will be held on January 23rd at:

  • Pacific – 9am
  • East Coast – noon
  • UK ( GMT ) – 5:00 pm
  • Central European Time – 18:00

Register for this exciting webinar on Eventbrite.