Accessibility and SEO: Where they overlap and how to optimize for both

The general misunderstanding is that web accessibility standards stand in a way of search engine optimization tactics preventing SEO experts from doing their job properly. Well, that’s not true. In fact, SEO and web accessibility overlap in many areas.

Web accessibility has recently become a hot topic in the digital marketing industry due to a wave of widely publicized scandals, that is, web users suing big and small businesses for failing to provide them with a smooth user experience.

Moreover, Google helps to raise awareness by helping web accessibility standards to be widely adopted. Google has official guidelines explaining accessibility and how they help create a better user experience.

Broadly speaking, when we say a site is accessible, we mean that the site’s content is available, and its functionality can be operated, by literally anyone.

And yet, while smart marketers have recognized the tangible benefit of making your site accessible (that is, making it possible for more web users to buy from your site), web accessibility seldom makes it to marketing priority lists.

What if I told you that by making a site accessible you can actually improve your SEO? Let’s see how:

1. Site and page structure

The foundation of web accessibility is very similar to that of an SEO strategy: You need a clear, logical site and page structure.

1.1. Site structure

Site-wise this includes:

  • Clear navigation
  • Sitemaps
  • Breadcrumbs

All of those elements are considered essential for SEO too to provide search bots with an easy way to crawl and understand the site structure. According to Google:

The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly  find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand  what content the webmaster thinks is important.

Although Google’s search  results are provided at a page level, Google also likes to have a sense  of what role a page plays in the bigger picture of the site.

For WordPress sites, an easy way to quickly improve navigation is to add breadcrumbs using a free Yoast plugin: It’s really one-click integration.

Image: Screenshot created by the author

1.2. Page structure

When it comes to page structure, this includes:

  • The meaningful use of subheadings
  • Clickable table of contents taking you to a specific subhead

Both are recommended for web accessibility purposes as they enable screen readers to navigate a page. From an SEO perspective these two elements have very important benefits:

  • Using your target keyword in subheadings improves its visibility (helping the page rank higher)
  • A table of contents generates “Jump to” links in search snippets improving its click-through

  • For guidelines on how to use subheadings refer to this detailed article on article structure
  • To create a clickable table of contents, use a plugin called “Easy Table of Contents”. It automates the process, so you don’t have to do anything apart from ensuring the consistent use of H2-H3 subheadings:

Image source: wpbeginner.com

Additionally, structured markup helps all types of devices to better understand and interpret information, so using schema never hurts. Here’s are a list of six free Schema generators to semantically structure your content.

2. Alt text for visual content

The basic SEO principle is that you need keyword-optimized alt text for every image on your page to make it easier for Google to understand what it is about.

This rule applies to web accessibility as well. The only difference is that when it comes to web accessibility, the alt text should make sense. Imagine going through your page without actually seeing any images but instead reading the alt text. Are you able to understand the full context?

People with visual difficulties are using assistive technologies that rely on image alt text to describe the image contents to the user. This makes alt text so important for usability.

The featured snippet tool may be of help here showing you which images are missing an alt tag and which images show a meaningless alt tag, on-page by page basis:

Image: Screenshot created by the author

If you operate a huge website and going from page to page is not an option, accessiBe can automate the process. AccessiBe utilizes AI image recognition technology to provide accurate alt text to images site-wide. This is a great way to make your site accessible (and SEO-friendlier) without too much money or time investment.

Check out multiple examples of how the tool works to better understand what it does:

Image source: Screenshot from the demo video

3. Video transcripts

Providing text context for your video page helps deaf users to still understand what it is about. In fact, when it comes to accessibility video transcript is the only required element.

A video transcript also helps the video page to rank for a wider variety of queries because text context is as important to Google.

Youtube video description is what Google uses to rank the page in organic results, as well as featured snippets and people also ask results:

Image: Screenshot created by the author

There are lots of automated solutions for creating video transcripts but I really prefer Speechpad.com.

4. Readability

Finally, another accessibility principle that can also boost your SEO, making your copy readable means writing in a clear way, using simple words. Basically, this includes:

  • Write in short sentences and paragraphs
  • Use simple short words
  • Provide definitions for any professional terms or slang

We don’t know exactly how Google is using readability level analysis in its algorithm but what we know for sure is that focusing on easier readability levels will help:

  • Get featured more: Google prefers concise, easy-to-understand answers to feature
  • Rank in voice search: Voice search devices are just screen readers. They need easy wording and structure to adequately transfer the message to a human being. Google knows that, so it is featuring easier answers and consequently those are the ones that are being read in response to a voice query.

Keep readability in mind when having your content created. Some smart content creation platforms already have readability integrated. For example, Narrato uses artificial intelligence to match content orders to content writers, allows them to select the writing style, specify the writer’s expertise, and upload content guidelines to keep your content quality and readability to the required level.

Image: Screenshot created by the author

[You can read more about Narrato’s process]

Again, Yoast has a reading level analysis integrated into its free plugin version, but there are also multiple tools to analyze and improve the readability of your content.

At the end of the day, web accessibility is basically about making your site easier to navigate and understand. It’s pretty much what SEO is about too.

Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on twitter @seosmarty

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The State of SEO 2019 – Infographic

Zazzle Media’s second annual “State of SEO survey” has assessed the value and ROI of SEO, looking at its impact in securing funds or resources.

The data suggested that 60% of marketers find that resources and a shortage of budget are the main reasons they don’t spend more on organic search activity. However, almost a third of surveyed marketers still don’t know how to measure the impact of SEO on their results.

The survey reviewed 70% of in-house marketers and 30% of agency heads from various companies. It called for marketers to develop a better understanding of attribution models, measurement tools, brand value, and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

The main reasons cited for marketers struggling to secure investment are competitor awareness, revealing that marketers are too aware of their competitor’s activity, even noting that their branded keywords were being targeted by their competitors.

The report noted that data-led objectives can act as investment enablers as they can easily quantify and measure consumer traffic. They also help marketers prove ROI, by reviewing how marketing practices are improving year on year.

Yet the survey revealed that there is still a lack of understanding around best practices for marketers to use. A quarter of those surveyed called for clearer guidelines on best practice from Google Webmasters, revealing that there is, in fact, a knowledge and skills gap around SEO.

Zazzle Media’s head of search and strategy, Stuart Shaw, said

“As an industry, we’ve needed to educate, educate, educate – at almost every level of client infrastructure. That challenge still remains, in fact, it probably changes monthly but now with more noise than ever.

However knowledge has always been power in this industry, keeping up with updates, marketing news and best practice guidelines across Google and Bing can be the difference in the results marketers need to secure that extra budget.”

You can download the full results of The State of SEO here, and check out the top-line stats on the infographic below.

State of SEO 2019 infographic

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From SEO to CMO: Self driving technology and the path to C-Suite

There is an incredibly exciting trend happening in the SEO community where more and more marketers are taking on more responsibility across multiple facets of digital marketing.

As digital marketing develops more nuanced and targeted execution, marketers see ways to diversify their skillsets and impacts on their organizations.

For search marketers, there has never been a better time to take advantage. According to BrightEdge data from CEO Jim Yu, more SEOs are taking on broader roles and having a bigger impact  – with 51 percent of customers expanding the role of SEO across all digital marketing and 23% become CMOs in recent years.

Last week at Share19, hundreds of digital marketers, SEOs, and content strategists gathered to collaborate towards a common goal – to driving growth and revenue to their businesses and progress their SEO and digital marketing careers. Attendees learned new and advanced techniques for keyword research, learned about the career journeys of chief marketing officers at Fortune 500 brands and were the first to hear the big news that BrightEdge is releasing technology that literally puts SEO on autopilot.

Self-driving SEO: Impossible or possible?

As marketers, we all get frustrated with lack of resources — not having enough time and people to have the impact we want. No doubt, right now you are competing for resources and fighting with barriers to communication with your web dev team, your IT team, and your paid search team. Doing the same thing day in and day out can get mundane – especially for those with a bias towards the creative.

Last year alone Google did 3,234 launches, 595,429 search quality tests, 44,155 side-by-side experiments, and 15,096 live traffic experiments. Simply, keeping up to date with change is a task unto itself. Add to that day-to-day content issues, broken links, algorithmic changes, and mobile issues, and you can see why sometimes progress is elusive.

What if it were possible for some parts of your SEO to run on autopilot? Just imagine if all those repetitive yet necessary tasks that are integral to SEO could be running in the background, freeing you up to focus on higher-impact initiatives?

With an average of  53.5% of website traffic coming from organic search, it is clear that there is a huge opportunity for marketers to automate and optimize their most important marketing channels with speed, precision, and scale.

Last week BrightEdge Autopilot was announced to tackle just that and automate SEO tasks so that they don’t require a human touch. Made possible through a series of technology investments and the recent acquisition of mobile technology developed by Trilibis, marketers can now auto-optimize mobile and fully automate the most critical and time-consuming of SEO tasks.

Within six months of deployment, over 1,000 brands are now using BrightEdge Autopilot to power Self-driving SEO.

Intelligent automation: Performance and scale

So, automation takes our jobs away right? This is a comment and objection we hear not just in this space but across the industry. Sure, if you are happy doing the same things day in and day out and have no desire to get the best results for you and your customer then fine, automation may not be for you.

For those who see the opportunity to spend more time on higher-level work, automation is here to help marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. Routine SEO and content tasks can be implemented with little effort, allowing you to focus on high-impact activities and accomplish more personal and professional objectives. In order to progress in a predominantly technically oriented space, you have to embrace technology.

Automated grammar and spelling checks may have eliminated a few proofreading jobs, but it improved the accuracy and quality of documents and allowed writers to invest more time in the research and articulation of their ideas. Assisted driving automation helps keep you safer on the roads and likewise, automated SEO keeps your site and content safer for Google and makes it more easily discoverable by your audience.

According to Yu, BrightEdge Autopilot technology is already delivering on automation performance promises with:

  • 60% increase in page views per visits​
  • 21% more keywords on page one rankings​
  • 2x increase in conversions​
  • PPC channel impact – 28% improvement in the “Ad Quality Score”​

Campbell’s Global SEO Manager, Amanda Ciktor was able to share the impact of automation with BrightEdge Autopilot showcasing a 204% traffic lift year-over-year.

With one day of implementation work Amanda and her team were able to compress 75,000 images and within a few weeks saw:

  • Move 4,000 keywords to page one
  • Improve faster mobile page load speed for 35% of pages
  • Improve overall load time by five seconds

In fact, brands across numerous industry verticals have seen dramatic performance improvement with up to 65%.

SEO and the CMO

According to Gartner’s CMO survey, SEO is one of the four digital workhorses that account for 25% of marketing investments. And, by 2023 autonomous marketing systems will issue 55% of multichannel marketing messages based on marketer criteria and real-time consumer behavior, resulting in a predicted 25% increase in response rates.

SEO, Automation, and the CMO were three themes that stood out at the launch of BrightEdge Autopilot at Share19 last week. The finale of the event was a roundtable discussion featuring marketing luminaries, including Kelly Hopping, Chief Marketing Officer for Gartner Digital Markets, Lauren Fyrefield, Chief Marketing Officer for WorldStrides and Armin Molavi, Vice President of Global Media Strategy of Hilton Brands.

As the CMO role becomes more results-focused and data-driven, we have seen a change in the skillset and perspective from one that is more brand and positioning-oriented to one that is more technical and technology stack-oriented. This draws on the natural skills SEOs use in generating profitable organic traffic. The problem for SEOs is that they can get buried in tactical execution. Automation allows them to free up time for planning, strategy, and relationship building that will help elevate their visibility and consideration for advancement.

From listening to everyone on the panel it was clear that was a linear progression path to the CMO position developing. A commitment to

1. Embracing technology innovation

2. Drives growth and revenue

3. Fuels digital career growth

As one CMO panelist put it “we are constantly looking at ways to get smarter, automate and scale. We manage everything in-house so if we are not automating, getting smarter then we can’t scale.”

Automation is definitely helping marketers, and especially those who want to unleash more creativity and, who knows, become the next CMO or CDO.

The underlying theme is to pursue opportunities and leverage technology to help you do that.

Andy Betts is a chief marketer, consultant, and digital hybrid with more than 20 years of experience in digital, technology and marketing working across London, Europe, New York, and San Francisco. He can be found on twitter @andybetts1.

The post From SEO to CMO: Self driving technology and the path to C-Suite appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

SEO is a team sport: How brands and agencies organize work

The importance of teamwork and workflow is often missing from discussions of SEO success.

So I interviewed 31 people, with titles ranging from Content Specialist to SEO Director, to CEO, and asked them about how teamwork and workflow affect their SEO operations and success.

Why did I do this? Because we can all learn from the experience of others. By understanding what works for others, we can hopefully avoid making their early mistakes.

Costs of poor coordination are traffic, conversions, working relationships

These costs are very real. Websites can suffer from less organic traffic and/or decreased conversions.

In the same way that people who run relay races practice how they hand the baton from runner to runner, the various team members working on a website need to work on how they interact and hand off work to each other.

Sometimes the technical SEO suffers, sometimes the design aesthetics suffer, sometimes the user experience suffers. Sometimes tradeoffs between the three need to be made. Something’s gotta give, and you don’t want these discussions to erode team cohesion.

How do agencies and brands coordinate SEO tasks effectively?

While there is almost universal agreement about what matters, there are interesting similarities and differences in how teams prioritize what matters. To use the relay race analogy again, there are differences in how people define a “smooth handoff”.

Can we learn something from each other in taking a high-level look at how we organize our SEO and content work? I think so. This belief is the basis of this article.

This article describes similarities and differences in SEO operations

When I started interviewing people for this article, I wasn’t sure what shape it would take. After several interviews, I realized people organize their teams around certain guiding principles. There seem to be a limited number of these guiding principles, and the order of importance varies from team to team.

As stated earlier, I interviewed 31 people, and the interviews uncovered seven guiding principles. Every guiding principle matters to everyone, but there are differences in opinion about which are most important.

There is also sometimes a need to make tradeoffs. For example, in order to properly use H2, H3, headers, they must appear on the page. For some pages, the designers may feel they don’t fit. So, it sometimes happens that to improve the page design aesthetics, you give a little in on-page SEO, and vice versa.

How conflicting priorities are managed also differs from team to team, and stems from which guiding principles are considered to be most important.

Disclaimer: A small data sample leads to some fuzziness in thinking

My data sample was only 31 people, and each organization was represented by one person. If I were to interview many more people, the distribution of the most important guiding principles might be different, and I might have uncovered more. If I had spoken to a different person within the organization, my understanding of their most important guiding principles might have been different.

Of the 31 people interviewed, 21 worked for agencies, and 10 worked for brands.

I believe there is something we can learn from each other through a high-level examination of how content and SEO teams organize their work and manage conflicting priorities.

The seven guiding principles around which people organized their SEO work

Below are the seven guiding principles, along with the number of people who considered each one to be most important. There is a brief description of each in which I explain how it’s different from guiding principles to which it seems similar.

Again, I wish to emphasize that everyone places importance on all seven. What’s different is the relative order of importance. Saying that six people are listed under “project management”  means that six people felt project management was most important, not that any of the others are unimportant.

1. Project management: A primary focus on objectives, milestones, and tasks

This is the tried-and-true project management we’re all familiar with. Objectives, milestones, tasks, and more. Six people spoke of this as being their most important guiding principle. That makes it the second most popular guiding principle, tied with context (see below).

2. Collaboration: Working together well is considered to be the most important

Collaboration is different from project management as the focus is more on working together, rather than on the structure in which the work is managed. This feels to me to be more fluid and to involve more give and take.

Of course, there is a project structure in which the work is done. It’s that the emphasis is collaboration first, then project management structure second. Four people spoke of this as their most important guiding principle.

3. Client management: An interesting way some agencies focus their internal staff

As you can imagine, this was exclusively the concern of agencies. The idea here is:

1. The internal team honors what the client has agreed to, and what the client has agreed to is spelled out in detail so as to provide guidance to the internal teams and any outside contractors they manage

2. By spelling this out in detail for the clients, the clients are educated about SEO. Two people spoke of this as their most important guiding principle.

4. Priorities: Where managing relative priorities take center stage

The focus here is on managing relative priorities. The core idea is a very structured way of determining how tradeoffs are made, which is central to how these people run projects.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is how I have been known to run projects, and this method has worked very well for me. Three people spoke of this as their most important guiding principle.

5. Education and knowledge: An interesting concept of a marketplace of ideas

The main focus here is that it’s not enough for people to tell other people what’s important, they must also explain and persuade as to why that point of view is important. Within these teams, team members “sell” each other on ideas to help streamline work.

SEOs teach designers why headers matter. Designers teach SEOs why templates matter.

Some of these teams also keep a shared knowledge base that everyone contributes to, which allows new team members to come up to speed faster.

This was THE most popular guiding principle around which people organized work, having been spoken of by seven people (five agencies and two brands).

6. Context: One of my personal favorites where everything is context-dependent

These last two are my personal favorites. The six people for whom context is the main guiding principle all work at agencies.

The concept could be applied in a more limited way for brands, but only agency people brought it up all, let alone described it as their main guiding principle.

The idea is that what matters most is context-dependent.

Are you working with a client who already has a lot of organic traffic and wants to increase conversion rates? Are you working with a blog post whose job is to attract readers and hand them off to a landing page, or a landing page whose job is to get the reader to download an eBook?

The context within a specific project, or set of tasks within a project, determines what matters most.

7. Experimentation: Or in other words, show me the data

Three companies, all brands, stressed the importance of experimentation as their main guiding principle.

It’s the standard methodology taught in the books: The Lean Startup and Running Lean

For those of you who haven’t read those books, the main ideas are:

1. Write down your assumptions

2. Translate those assumptions into a testable hypothesis

3. Structure experiments with which to test those hypotheses

4. Analyze the results of the experiments

If an experiment proves a hypothesis to be true, do more of that. If it proves a hypothesis to be false, stop doing that.

What is left out of the short descriptions above

It’s not the case that each team organized their work around only one guiding principle. That idea showed up in none of the interviews. That every team assigned different importance, or weight, to the different guiding principles IS the difference in how they organized their work.

Everyone settled into their patterns over time. Everyone had, at times in the past, experienced frustrations when work was coordinated and/or handed off poorly and/or simply done poorly.

As they encountered issues, they talked about how to solve them and made changes to how they worked. The guiding principles that came to be most important to them seem to be a result of the specific problems they needed to fix.

Who was interviewed and what did they say?

This section is divided into groups by guiding principles. It identifies who contributed which ideas and provides more about their thinking.

Front and center are principles of project management

The people for whom project management is the main guiding principle are:

  • Dean Cacioppo, Founder, OneClickSEO (agency)
  • Hamna Amjad, Content Marketing Executive, GigWorker (brand)
  • Juan Reyes, Digital Marketing Manager, Monkee Boy (agency)
  • Luke Wester, Digital Marketing Analyst, Miva (brand)
  • Mark Bruneman, Principle Digital Marketing Strategist, David-Kenneth Group (brand)
  • Thomas Pickett, Onpage SEO and Digital Design Specialist, FitSmallBusiness (brand)

Two of the companies above (GigWorker and FitSmallBusiness) make money through affiliate sales. As such, their websites are very large; their business objective is to attract a very high number of readers, some of whom make purchases that pay commissions.

Their websites and website teams are large. In both cases, most of the company is involved in web publishing in some way. They both have adopted rigorous publishing processes, as a result of the scale of their publishing efforts.

The other four companies (two brands and two agencies) find a strong process focus clarifies requirements upfront and prevents rework.

Dean expressed that scaling is achieved through task specialization, and fitting the various specialized tasks together requires a system.

Mark stated that everything done on the website starts with a team meeting, even creating and publishing a single blog post. These meetings can last up to two hours. Mark expressed that this greatly reduced rework as everyone understood what everyone else needed, before starting work on their part.

Juan expressed how their exacting process orientation is both their greatest strength and simultaneously keeping their processes updated to reflect industry changes is a significant challenge.

Luke expressed that every project starts with SEO requirements, around which everyone else organizes their work.

For whom collaboration matters most

The people for whom collaboration is the main guiding principle are:

  • Bryan Pattman, SEO Analyst, 9Sail (agency)
  • Nikki Bisel, Owner and Founder, Seafoam Media (agency)
  • Phil Mackie, Senior Digital Analyst and Owner, Top Sail Digital (agency)
  • Stephen Jeske, Senior Content Strategist, MarketMuse (brand)

To reiterate, collaboration differs from project management in terms of emphasis. Here, working well together can cause the project management structure to “give” a little when needed.

Bryan’s main points are 1) They work as an extension of their clients’ marketing department, so being close to their customers is critical, and 2) Clients need to understand SEO as they have some responsibility for their SEO effort.

Nikki has an interesting concept of a monthly cadence with each client, which consists of multiple touchpoints throughout the month.

Phil expressed that tradeoffs that must be made between technical SEO and design aesthetics are very nuanced, requiring close collaboration.

Stephen stated their focus on collaboration is less intentional due to the stage of their company. He implied that as they grow, the way they organize work will likely shift.

This group most values client management

The people for whom client management is the main guiding principle are:

  • David Carpenter, President, Connection Model (agency)
  • Lee Namoo, Digital Marketer, TK101 Global (agency)

Again, client management is where requirements are spelled out in detail for the client, which serves two purposes; 1) educates clients about SEO, and 2) informs the team as to what the client expects in detail.

David described how there is a “translator” between the client and the internal team, the client advisor. This client interface person enables others to focus on their specialized tasks, which improves the quality of what they deliver.

Lee took this idea further and stated: “It’s all about managing clients”. This is critical to them as some of their clients are so big, there are silos within marketing at the client firm, and the folks at TK101 Global have to manage conflicting requirements from different people at the same customer.

This group most values the managing of relative priorities

The people for whom managing relative priorities is the main guiding principle are:

  • David Sanchez, Founder and Chief Strategist, Mammoth Web Solutions (agency)
  • Markelle Harden, SEO and Content Specialist, Knowmad Digital Marketing (agency)
  • Stacy Caprio, Founder, Accelerated Growth Marketing (agency)

The managing of relative priorities has always been a bit of a sacred cow for me personally. While this is one of the most uncompromising guiding principles, in my opinion, it provides a solid framework for managing resources, whether that resource is a design template or the time of the people involved.

David stated the user experience is the new holy grail and relevancy is a critically important ranking factor.

Markelle expressed that the buyer (their client’s customer) is the anchor around which they build everything, and their priorities come from that.

Stacy strictly applies a prioritization of UX first, technical SEO second, and design third.

This group most values education and knowledge

The people for education and knowledge are the main guiding principles are:

  • Greg Lee, SEO Director, DRUM Agency (agency)
  • Kevin Whitbeck, Director of SEO, Results Repeat (agency)
  • Matt Erickson, Director of Marketing, National Positions (agency)
  • Michelle Loughry, Director of Marketing, Envision Creative (agency)
  • Quincy Smith, SEO and Content Manager, Ampjar (brand)
  • Shelby Liu, SEO and Analytics Lead, Brand Buddha (agency)
  • Steve Page, VP of Digital Strategy, Giant Partners (brand)

This is where telling others what matters is not enough, you must also provide evidence as to why those things matter.

Greg said everyone on his team is cross-trained. SEO’s learn the basics of design, and designers learn the basics of technical SEO. This builds empathy, making team decisions much easier when it comes to collaboration and priorities.

Kevin expressed the same idea in different words. He said creative teams need to be educated on technical SEO basics and SEOs need to be educated on the importance of design templates.

Matt has a saying he uses to help people focus: “It’s not personal. It’s SEO”. This starts a conversation about why the things that matter, matter.

Michelle considers that part of her mandate is to make sure everyone has a basic knowledge of technical SEO.

Quincy has worked to ensure technical SEO is taken into consideration when design templates are created and requires SEOs and designers to provide supporting backup when explaining to each other why something matters.

Shelby starts with detailed analytics of successful websites (of clients’ competitors and others) and uses that as a starting point to discuss how and why those websites are successful, and what their clients must do to compete.

Steve said something to the effect of “It’s all about education”, then expanded on the importance of SEOs and designers teaching each other.

This group embraces the idea that everything is context

The people for context this is the main guiding principle are:

  • Amine Rahal, Founder & CEO, IronMonk Solutions (agency)
  • Chronis Tsempelis, Founder, CEO, and SEO Consultant, SEOExplode (agency)
  • Joe Lawlor, CoFounder and Chief SEO Strategist, Digital Dynasty (agency)
  • Justin McIntyre, Director of SEO and Content, Perfect Search Media (agency)
  • Steve Mammone, President, Getfused (agency)
  • Tony Mastri, Digital Marketing Manager, Marion Marketing Agency (agency)

Context refers to people who believe what is most important is very context-dependent. There were a lot of similarities in how people spoke of this – a lot.

Amine focused on the importance of the competitiveness of the industry and the relative values the client places on traffic versus conversion.

Chronis spoke about how they prioritize with their client after examining the top-ranking sites within a niche.

Joe provided the interesting statement of “the client provides the catalyst,” then expanded upon how their clients business situations determine the focus of their efforts.

Justin said something similar, that their client sets the criteria by which they make tradeoffs, and stated they sometimes feel the need to push back and make a case for what they see as a better set of priorities and tradeoffs.

Steve stated that how priorities are set and managed starts with their client, and they structure their work from that.

Tony provided what I consider to be an interesting way of thinking about this. A very high-level rigorous structure provides the framework for free-flowing creativity at a more granular level.

These folks are not from Missouri (the show me state), but they want to see the data

The people for whom experimentation is the main guiding principle are:

  • Apu Gupta, CEO and CoFounder, Curalate (brand)
  • Chris Eckstrum, Head of SEO, Housecalls Pros (brand)
  • Nadya Khoja, Chief Growth Officer, Venngage (brand)

There are few, but interesting, differences in the way these people spoke about the importance of running experiments.

Apu made the interesting observation that short term ROI wins help fund longer-term efforts.

Chris stated that when their technical SEO people and their designers disagree, they don’t argue, they experiment.

Nadya and Chris both expressed the importance of how structured experiments based on testable hypotheses eliminate personal bias from these discussions.

The key take away for me, after talking with thirty-one people

SEO, like life, involves an endless series of trade-offs, and this is demonstrated by something as basic as how people prioritize the seven guiding principles uncovered through these interviews.

Not everything can be equally important, so you must decide which organizing principles are most important to you and your team, and how important they are relative to each other.

I recognize that as a “relative priorities” guy, the prior sentence reveals a personal bias of mine, but I don’t know a better way to describe the idea.

Success requires consistency, consistency requires some level of stability, and stability requires that the rules aren’t arbitrary and frequently changing.

So you need to know which organizing principles are most important to you and your team and organize the way you do your SEO work, around the principles most important to you.

The post SEO is a team sport: How brands and agencies organize work appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Using topic clusters to increase SEO rankings in practical

Topic linking comes under the wider term, internal linking. Internal links in SEO go to web pages in the same domain, internal links are considered to be of less value than external links. 

However, the topic clusters can be strategically used to significantly improve your site’s performance and increase rankings. 

What internal linking is

Internal links are useful for Google to identify content on your site. Google’s bots find new content by crawling websites and following links. It means that if you post fresh content and it is not linked to any other page on the web, it won’t be found, nor ranked. 

Google itself confirms that, saying –

“Google must constantly search for new pages and add them to its list of known pages. Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.”

How topic clusters work

While internal linking is quite broad, topic linking is narrower. Topic linking is simply linking posts with related themes on your website to one another. A simple way to explain it is to consider Wikipedia. For every article on the online encyclopedia, there are links to many other relevant topics. 

That is, among others, one of the reasons Wikipedia consistently ranks, not just on the first page, but as the very first search results for several queries.

According to Google,

“The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.” 

This very fact is why the homepage of any website ranks higher than other pages on the website, it contains more backlinks. Therefore, an important strategy would be linking to similar topics on your website to increase their value and push the rankings. 

Siloing and topic clusters

According to Alex Bill of ClothingRIC, topic clusters are a group of articles that support a pillar page, with a purposeful linking structure and content format. There can be two types of pillar pages, a resource page and a 10x content pillar page which contains a mix of external and internal links respectively.

Let’s assume that you manage a travel website. You might have pages giving a general overview of different countries. Also, you may have pages talking about different cities. Siloing comes in where each page about a country contains links to different pages about cities in that country. 

Even further, you may link the city pages to “places to visit” within each city page. On and on like that, that’s how it works. You are basically organizing your ecosystem. Think of your website as a web. 

Using links for siloing improve your site in the following ways

  • Easier search navigation for site users
  • Easier crawling by Google bot
  • Strategic value distribution

Siloing makes navigation around your site easier for visitors. Instead of having to search for items on their own, the backlinks are there to guide them. That would make each user spend more time on your site than they normally would.

In addition, value is rightly distributed across the pages on the website. I mentioned above that the homepage has a higher rank than other pages, and one of the reasons is that it contains more backlinks. What happens is that value is distributed equally from the homepage to each linked page. 

Organizing topics with siloing

By running an internal linking campaign using siloing of topics, NinjaOutreach was able to boost their site traffic by 50% within three months. Using the necessary tools, they sorted out all their posts (about 300) into tiers one, two, and three. Afterward, the pages were linked to one another by their values. 

To implement the siloing approach, consider the whole website as a pyramid with multiple steps. The homepage is the first tier, sitting at the very top, then each link from there falls to the second tier and each link from the pages on the second tier falls to the third and so on. 

The link value is passed from the top down and that means pages at the lowest rung will have the smallest value. The main point is that siloing, when done right, can be used to push your most important pages further up in the pyramid so that they can gain more value, rank higher and eventually attract more traffic. 

Here is what you need to do

  • Determine which articles/posts should be regarded as a “tier one”. Typically, these are the posts that bring in the most conversions and traffic. Using Google Analytics or any other analytics tool will help you identify such pages. New articles that you need to gain recognition may fall into this category too. 
  • Those pages classified as tier one should have links to them directly from the homepage. That guarantees maximum value. You may also include some in the page footer. Make sure you maximize every space available. 
  • Tier two pages are the ones next in value to the tier one pages. Add links to tier two pages from the latter. You may follow the one link per 100 words rule. Then link to tier three pages from tier two pages. 
  • While linking, be careful to make the anchor texts and links as natural as possible. That is, they should fit their immediate context. Google’s bots are really smart and throwing keywords and backlinks indiscriminately might earn you a penalty. 
  • In case you are unable to find a suitable way to add links within the post itself, a smart trick is to create a “related articles” (or whatever you call it) section. Then add a couple of relevant links to that section. 

Conclusion

Topic linking is a smart way to organize your site and strategically position web pages to attract more traffic. Certainly, implementing this using siloing would not result in instant improvements. But like NinjaOutreach, you may begin to notice slight changes after a month of doing so. If it is not yet, topic linking is an important method to include in your SEO strategy. 

Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency.

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