It’s a busy time here in Chiang Mai with the Chiang Mai SEO conference just around the corner. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and hopefully meeting some of the next generations of SEOs.
I feel it’s important to share theories and data from tests we run. Personally, I try to share something each month as it fascinates me to read what others are doing and discovering.
It helps to keep me sharp.
Here are some of the articles that I’ve found of benefit from this month (see more).
SEO meta titles are still essential
I spend a lot of the time looking at the nuances of optimizing my pages because in most cases, the pages I’m working on are already optimized and ranking (they just need tweaking).
However, I definitely have the opinion that the 80/20 rule is in full effect when it comes to onsite optimization. That is, 20% of the optimization you’ll do will deliver 80% of the results.
As part of the 20% of onsite SEO, you’ll want to look at meta titles – they’re your bread and butter:
For example, it’s a good idea to have a keyword in a meta title. Recent research has shown there is still some correlation between keywords in titles and rankings and I would argue that it’s still extremely important now
The meta title also influences click-through rate (CTR). There is some debate over CTR itself as a direct ranking factor, I am of the opinion it is a factor so I take this metric seriously.
I’d also mitigate that it only really matters for positions #1-4 where you’re getting enough clicks to warrant worrying about CTR and optimization.
Google is definitely moving towards intent and user experience. This is not just from our experiences as SEOs.
We’ve also seen this in some of the patent changes (thanks to SEO by the Sea).
What’s clear is traffic is a ranking signal. If searchers are attracted to your site then others will probably want to find it and Google will push you up the rankings.
Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to rank so you get more visitors to see your content and CTR helps with that once you’re towards the top of page 1.
Gotch SEO does a nice job in covering the basics and explains some of the conversion principles and logistics of a meta title. Worth a read.
Site architecture and SEO go hand-in-hand
Site architecture is one of the key components for SEO. It’s like the foundations of a building, get them right and the building will last for years. Get them wrong and…
Cyrus does a good job explaining the importance of focusing architecture around user intent. He suggests that it doesn’t matter if you’re doing whitehat, blackhat or 50 shades of greyhat SEO, you still want to maximize for user experience and understand what they’re looking for, and have your site structured to help with that.
The 3-click rule.
On larger sites that might mean you have to go back and look at how you can flatten the architecture.
Creating content silos is another good point the article covers. You want to be very specific in how you link specific pages together to create keyword specific silos.
This is critical for multi-location sites, for example, dentists. You might decide to create a landing page for “dentist + location” and then under that, create pages for each service at that specific location. Then cluster them together to create location relevancy.
With the right architecture, you can point high authority links to landing pages for relevancy and get as much impact as possible, yet also have some of the link juice filter through to the home or category/location pages to increase the overall authority of the site. With a higher authority as a site, you’ll start to be able to rank for longer tail keywords with a limited (if any) need for off-site SEO.
Pagerank is still a thing…apparently
Way back in the day, Page Rank was one of the most important metrics in an SEO’s life. In fact, it was backlinks that made Google the go-to search engine and Page Rank was the score that Google assigned to the quality and quantity of those links. Page Rank has been critical to Google’s success.
Then Google stopped updating it as a metric. So for us, it stopped being a useful metric, and eventually, in 2016, they stopped the Page Rank toolbar altogether. Page Rank was dead.
- Moz brought about DA and PA (Domain Authority and Page Authority).
- Majestic took a different approach with TF/ CF (Trust Flow and Citation Flow).
- More recently Ahrefs made their own metric – Domain Rating.
Essentially trying to give us a metric that is a snapshot of the authority/trust a site has, in the eyes of Google.
However, it seems that Google didn’t retire PR, they just stopped allowing the world to see it.
Google representatives have confirmed this. They’ve discussed it on a number of occasions and have clearly stated, PR is still one of the ranking factors used in the algorithm.
If you have forgotten what PR is, or you weren’t in the SEO world when it was important, it’s this:
PR(A) = (1‐d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
That was its original formulation. Google looks at three factors when calculating the PageRank of a web page.
- The quantity and quality of inbound linking pages;
- The number of outbound links on each linking page;
- The Page Rank of each linking page.
The equation has changed significantly. Relevancy, authority… quality over quantity. But it’s a good mindset to have in mind that Google is still scoring your site and comparing it others.
A “little” update… So what of it?
On the 27th of this month, there was a “small” algorithm update. That’s official, as Google has confirmed it.
Don’t be fooled by the “small” though. Like any other algorithm, if it’s affected your websites it certainly won’t be feeling small. If you’ve dropped from #5 to somewhere on the 2nd page, it will feel like your site has fallen off the edge of the world.
By small, Google is suggesting that it will affect fewer sites and the amount of chatter seems to suggest that.
Fewer SEOs have been affected but it’s always important to remember, if you’ve been using SEO strategies that are forward-thinking and focused on user intent and where Google looks to be heading, you’ll have been a winner in this update.
How to run a basic SEO audit for small businesses
If you run client SEO or are thinking about it, and you’re looking for more local/regional clients then it’s always good to have a process in place for SEO auditing.
There are tools that do a good job.
Google changes and you don’t want to be reliant on a tool.
All you’ll need is Google’s Console and Google analytics. Other than that, it’s all about Screaming Frog. The good thing about screaming frog is that there’s a free version which gives plenty of functionality if you’re on a tight budget.
I have my own clear opinions and processes on SEO audits, especially for more complex sites, but as a starting point, this article does a good job.
You’ll want to run a crawl of your site with Screaming Frog. That should always be a starting point.
Once that’s run, you can look at response codes. You’re looking for the 404s and redirects, you’ll want to investigate each one and fix what needs to be fixed. Google hates messy sites.
Next, you can have a quick scan of all the URLs, make sure they are relevant and descriptive, perhaps with keywords when feasible. It would be a good idea to check the structure of the URLs, you want a logical structure which will make sense to Google and users alike.
Use Screaming Frog for checking titles, meta titles, and headers. They all matter and equally, they’re easy fixes and deliver results.
Once you’ve done the basics, and checked the http / https connection using Google’s tools, don’t forget to have a quick check of site speed. Both generally and specifically mobile.
Page load speed for mobile is an important ranking signal, and with Google moving to mobile first indexing, it really matters.
These are some of the core components to an audit for small business, there’s a lot more you could be auditing but as a starting point, these are some of the key things to be checking on your site audits.
You can’t just test it… it needs to be replicated
For something different, I thought this was a good read because it was looking at the role of testing and replication in SEO.
I like to think I am very much data-driven. I see it as essential to SEO.
Hopefully with a big enough sample size for the results to hold value.
There is a lot of value in that, but still, it’s not quite far enough. There should be replication. Science doesn’t take anything seriously until it’s been re-tested and retested, why should we?
You should look to replicate the test again to confirm it. If that’s not possible, then there is a lot of value in sharing your findings.
Not just for the community, but for your own SEO.
Back in the world of science and medicine, research that has been published is often found to be a false-positive. Researchers share their findings, other scientists try to poke holes into the testing and results and often it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but when it does, you can hang your hat on it.
That’s because the peer tests will use different test groups and methodology. But with peer tests confirming it, you can implement and scale.
That is until Google changes the algorithm and then it’s back to the drawing board.
But, when listening to others talk about tests they’ve run, you should look for secondary sources validating the process or if there aren’t any, you should look to run your own split test before totally rolling out the strategy on all your sites.
Getting your head around YouTube SEO
Both on the client site and the affiliate side, there’s a lot of value in exploring Youtube SEO and getting ranked in Google. Some SEOs are making a killing.
There are too few SEO resources for ranking Youtube videos. Not free resources from really reliable SEOs who you can trust.
Webris recently released one and it’s pretty epic.
Ryan takes the time to talk about sales funnels, or at least the decision-making process in relation to the types of videos you should look to create that can rank at different parts of the funnel and how they’ll convert.
For example, it’s hardly a surprise that product reviews work really well on video and are worth the time to rank because they are the type of video that pays.
Then it’s straight into the optimization process. Simple things like renaming the raw video file, as you would an image, to optimize the alt tags.
Titles matter a lot with Youtube videos, having keywords and secondary intent words, as well as enough “click bait” to have high CTR.
Write a pretty extensive description, as you would any other SEO optimized content, add some links to other resources, like social media or your website.
Finally, you need to concern yourself with how viewers interact with the video. Dwell time is massive. That’s for how long the average viewer watches the video for.
The longer the better, because this is a signal that your video is going down a treat.
Other than that, there’s social shares and embeds. Which can be syndicated.
According to the article, they still hold some value.
And finally, there are subscribers, however, YouTube has become pretty savvy at spotting attempts to manipulate subscribers so the article argues that you should keep them real.
Get all these steps right and you could find that video is a much more effective method for ranking and converting, depending on the products or services you’re promoting.
Advanced Keyword Research: Lesser known technique
Everyone has their own keyword research techniques.
Personally, I know that I’ve tested and refined my own keyword research over the years. What I’m doing now, is nothing like what I was doing even a year ago.
It’s always good to hear what others are doing.
The author had the revelation that when doing competitor research, a key piece of data would be the age of the competitor sites.
The theory is: if the keyword has sites 2 years old or younger, and those sites are ranking for fairly substantial keywords, there is a good chance you can outrank them.
You have to manually check each site on whois to check the domain age, but when you find a search term with a couple of sites 2 years old or younger and they’re getting traffic (checked using Ahrefs / SEMRush etc) you may have a keyword that is attainable with a new site
To speed up the process you can use SERP scrapers to collect the data in bulk, there are also bulk whois tools too.
The next step would be to look at the backlinks of those sites ranking that are pretty young. They’re ranking so whatever they’re doing you might want to replicate it.
Where are their links from? What types of backlinks are they?
You’re probably not going to see their PBN links, so that needs to factored into the process. A lot of that will depend on the niche but you should be looking at other signals that suggest the site is well optimized which might point to some potential PBN links.
But still, if you find some keywords in your niche that have decent traffic and you have some young sites with a handful of links, Glen argues that you have to be encouraged and target this keyword.