Thought of any other questions you didn't get a chance to ask us on the night? We're always happy to help, so feel free to get in touch!
Talk 1: How To Spot Important SEO Trends
Presented by Seb Atkinson, Search Marketing Manager
Hi everyone, my name’s Seb and I’m the search marketing manager at Selesti. I’ve been working in digital marketing for nearly 6 years, with the majority of that time specialising in search marketing.
I want to talk to you today about your new year’s resolution. Specifically, your new year’s resolution for your site’s SEO and content marketing
Times change, and it’s important your website doesn’t get stuck in the past, like these guys
You wouldn’t want your SEO looking like this!
In the next 10 minutes we’ll look at 4 things:
How to identify and keep up with trends in your industry
- How to get your website content in order for 2017
- Why mobile is more important than ever
- And why you need to supercharge your site’s speed
The first step towards a successful 2017 is to be able to identify growing trends in your industry. Could you be missing out on tons of relevant traffic in growing area because you’ve been left in the dark about it’s significance?
Let’s take fashion retail as an example. As Berian Reed revealed at Brighton SEO back in September, consumers start searching for next year’s hottest products around six months early.
Here, we can see Google Trends data for searches for Converse shoes. We can see that each year in August, people begin researching the Converse range for the following year.
So what can you do with this knowledge? If you were a shoe retailer selling Converse shoes online, you could set up a page about Converse’s 2018 range in July 2017, positioning yourself to capture relevant search traffic ahead of your rivals.
Next, launching a link building campaign to highlight the hottest Converse products due in next year, can help to boost your “authority” for this topic with Google. This means by the time January comes around, your Converse 2018 page has already built up a history with Google, while your competitors are likely starting at square one, giving you a great chance of nabbing top search rankings.
Clearly then, Google Trends can be a great way to uncover useful nuggets of information that can give you an edge on the competition!
Why not try experimenting with it and seeing what you can uncover for your industry?
Now let's look at content.
The phrase “content is king” is possibly one of the most overused phrases in the digital marketing industry.
What really matters though, is content quality.
The fact is, the requirements of on-site content have changed a great deal over the last few years, particularly as a result of the successive Panda updates from 2011 onwards, which penalise sites with poor quality or thin content.
Most marketers recognise this and go through great lengths to ensure when they’re creating new content, it’s the best that it could possibly be.
However, what about all the old content that used to be ok, but is now regarded as “thin”, “low quality” or otherwise in violation of Google’s guidelines?
Often, these are left as they are. It’s very daunting to delete a load of old pages.
Perhaps because, as marketers, it’s our nature to create things rather than destroy them?
In actual fact, deleting mountains of content can actually improve your results, which is something that Everett Sizemore laid out perfectly in his post on Moz.
He covered the case study of Phase Design Studio, whose site had countless low quality, outdated and duplicated pages dating back as far as 2006.
After collating all these and 301 redirecting them to a handful of newer, high-quality landing pages, traffic began improving dramatically and the company suddenly saw an eight-fold increase in leads in the space of a month.
Everett believes the reason this worked is down to three things:
First, the ratio of useful, quality pages verses poor quality pages improved
Second, the SEO value of the content went from being spread across vast amounts of pages to being concentrated into just a handful
Finally, Google is now able to find all the content with greater ease, making better use of “crawl budget”
We all know that spammy tactics don’t work any more, so if you manage a large site, a thorough content audit can uncover this kind of out of date content that could be stopping your site from reaching it’s potential.
Next, featured snippets
Back in May, I spoke about how audiences find and connect with content at the Content Marketing Masterclass. One of the things I covered was that Google is currently helping people find great content in search with featured snippets, such as this one here, which appears when you search for spaghetti Bolognese recipes.
These featured snippets have been showing up more and more regularly in “position zero” for a wider variety of search terms.
Data from STAT at the start of the year said that these snippets appeared on 9.28% of searches, however by July 2016, they reported this had increased to 15%.
Gaining featured snippets can really help to increase your search traffic, giving you a click through rate as much as 80%.
That’s more than double the 35% click through rate that you’d normally get from a position one ranking for a non-brand search term.
Best of all, you don’t even need to rank naturally at position one to get a featured snippet – the majority appear for sites that naturally appear below position 4, making it a way to bypass the competition.
So how can you get featured snippets for your site?
First, know what factual questions are being asked. You can do this using Google Trends or tools like Answer The Public
Next, adopt a Q&A format for content, which makes it easy for Google to pick out relevant search questions and answers
The next step is to make sure your article includes a short answer in the opening paragraph, before going into a deeper dive into the answer further down in the article. This gives Google something to put in your featured snippet.
Finally, be sure to look at your existing content. What can you adapt and update to increase the chances of getting a featured snippet?
Next – your mobile site.
At the start of November, Google announced that it was working on mobile-first indexing.
While Goole said that right now it’s just an experiment, it will soon roll out to the search engine, which means that Google will primarily look at the mobile version of your website to determine how high it should rank for specific search terms.
This is of particular importance to brands who use a separate mobile site, for example one that’s hosted on a subdomain or in a subfolder, or have a scaled down mobile site with fewer pages or less content on each page.
While Google have said they will fall back to your desktop site if a suitable mobile page is not found, it is likely that this could negatively impact rankings, particularly if your competitors have quality mobile sites already.
So what should you do next?
The first thing is to ensure your mobile website is in order. If your site is responsive, then you shouldn’t have too many problems, as this is Google’s preferred method of mobile optimisation.
Things can get a bit more difficult if you have a separate mobile site, as you’ll need to make sure technical things like structured mark-up matches up, and you may need to flesh out your content visible to mobile users, if it’s heavily cut down. Google provides a more detailed overview of important considerations at this URL. We'll send you all the slide decks from this evening so don't worry about copying this down now!
Finally, speed is an important area you should focus on. When it comes to loading web pages, users are generally a demanding bunch.
Research on the KISSmetrics blog reveals that 47% of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. Furthermore, if a web page takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of people will abandon it.
So that means if your site is taking more than three seconds to load, you could be missing out on a great deal of traffic, as well as enquiries or sales off the back of those lost visitors.
But it’s not just traffic and conversion rates that suffer at the hands of a slow site – your rankings potentially could too.
Brian Dean at Backlinko.com recently analysed over one million Google search results, comparing website load speeds verses rankings.
By comparing the median load time of one million domains and charting this against their Google rankings, Brian found a strong correlation between site speed and search positions, as we can see here.
Yes, correlation does not always mean causation – it could be that webmasters who manage well optimised sites just happen to have fast sites too.
However, given that a faster site delivers a better user experience and can lead to more traffic and enquiries as a result, doesn’t it make sense to aim for a faster site anyway?
So there you have it – a whole list of SEO trends to look at that could maximise your digital marketing results in 2017.
Start by getting fresh content ideas from Google trends
Audit your content
Format it to work with featured snippets
Audit your mobile site
And make sure the whole thing is insanely fast
Talk 2: 3 Easy Ways To Get More Mileage Out Of Your Content
Presented by Lily Bradic, Content Strategist
Hi, I’m Lily, and I’m the content strategist at Selesti. Essentially, this means I help clients to determine what content needs creating, how it will be presented, and how it fits into the bigger picture for their brand.
I want to talk to you today about how to clean up your content and get more mileage out of what you already have. If your site is CMS-based, everything I’m suggesting here can help you increase traffic without getting your developers involved.
In Search Metrics’ 2016 ranking factors study, content relevance was listed as a ranking factor for the first time. Google’s algorithm is always learning, and has got a lot better at recognising what a page is actually about, relying on context as well as keywords.
The more content relevance matters, the less value there is in average, bland content. But there are several ways you can boost the relevance and quality of your content to gain that value back — and then some.
In the next ten minutes, I’ll be covering:
- Using the merger method to centralise topical authority and resolve keyword cannibalisation
- Replacing poor-performing pages to increase relevance
- And why you should perform a content audit
The merger method is pretty straightforward. Take several pieces of similar underperforming content, combine them into one fantastic post, and redirect the old pages to the new URL. This consolidates backlinks and centralises topical authority.
Ahrefs have a great case study on their website that explains how they increased search traffic by 51% using the merger method.
When you create content without a clear strategy in place, you often end up with a lot of similar stuff, and it’s not always of great quality.
This tends to happen to businesses who want to blog regularly but don’t have a content schedule, so they end up blogging about something they know they can write about with ease. It’s natural to choose something you know well, but over time, you end up with a lot of content on the same topic, with a lot of overlap. And this content can end up competing against itself to rank. This is called keyword cannibalisation.
When you have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword, they can fight for position in the search results, resulting in lower rankings overall.
We use an SEO service called Linkdex, and they have a new tool called Ranking Flux that lets you see which of your pages are in competition.
Here, you can see how two pages from our client Moneyfacts — one titled “best savings rates” and one titled “best savings accounts” — are in flux, both ranking between position 4 and 6 for the keyword “best savings rates”.
Sometimes when this happens, it’s just a case of poor optimisation — but sometimes, the content on your pages is just too similar. Consolidating can make it worth more than the sum of its parts.
So, go back and read all your blog posts or pages on a certain topic. Then combine all these shorter pieces into one master piece. You might need to rewrite bits to make it flow, add in new research, and refresh any stats you’ve mentioned.
And then you should start seeing some ranking gains pretty quickly.
I find it really helpful to group keywords in Linkdex so I can monitor the overall performance of a topic or keyword cluster. A few ways I like to do it:
- Top traffic-drivers are terms you can always rely on to bring a significant number of visitors to your site from organic search
- Dropouts are terms I know to be tricky for a certain client — so, they might flit between the first and third page over the course of a month — and keeping an eye on them can often help explain unusual peaks and drops in search traffic
- Top-level terms are broad terms like “men’s shoes”
- Terms that reveal intent usually contain a verb, for example “buy red Adidas trainers” or “apply for a mortgage online”
- For a finance site, topic clusters could include savings, loans, mortgages…
- Branded terms contain your brand name, URL, or some variation of that — whereas non-branded terms don’t. For example, Hitachi LED TVs vs LED TVs.
This really helps to reveal the bigger picture when it comes to search performance.
It also makes it easier for me to spot situations where pages could benefit from being merged.
But what if you have content that’s unique, but still isn’t performing well? Let’s talk about what to do when Google is giving your content the cold shoulder. In this context, your landing page is the page people click on from search results.
You’ll need to export a list of your worst-performing organic landing pages from Google analytics.
Some pages don’t need to drive organic traffic, like your terms and conditions page. But if you have a subcategory that isn’t driving traffic, that needs addressing.
So in your spreadsheet, identify the pages that do matter — and then mark them for a total rewrite. When you tweak poor content, you don’t engage with it enough to make significant improvements. You end up changing a few words, maybe even switch a sentence out, but you’re following the pattern you laid out when you first wrote the piece. So set your objective (e.g. “this page needs to help [audience segment] to [objective]”), and start from scratch.
It might seem extreme, but these pages aren’t doing anything for you, so you’re better off starting fresh. I guarantee they’ll turn out better.
Because with content relevance and user intent increasing in importance, you can’t afford to have “okay” content that kind of meets the intent behind a search query. You won’t fool your visitors and you won’t fool Google. Your content needs to do exactly what it says on the tin, and it needs to do it well.
Several years ago, you could rank a page for not-particularly relevant secondary keywords just by having a well-optimised paragraph about it on the page. For example, with enough decent backlinks, you could rank for ‘where to eat seafood in lanzarote’ just by stuffing keywords into one section of a Lanzarote holiday page.
That won’t cut it anymore. Today, you’d need a seriously detailed, unique page dedicated solely to eating in Lanzarote. Google’s semantic search decodes meaning rather than relying solely on keywords. This doesn’t mean keywords are dead though. They’re just not enough on their own.
This is great news for content marketers, but it does mean you really need to commit to a keyword you want to rank for.
And, outside of your core offering, the only way to determine if a keyword or topic is really worth your time is with solid research and a content strategy. Committing to the wrong topics might bring traffic, but that traffic won’t convert.
If you’re only going to make one content marketing resolution this year, it’s got to be:
Stop creating content for the sake of it
If that means blogging less frequently, that’s fine. It’s quality over quantity, after all.
So, to recap:
If you have several pages on a similar topic, all targeting similar keywords — consolidate.
If your content is unique but still performing poorly, decide whether it's worth committing to, and if it is, scrap what you have and rewrite so it really satisfies the user intent behind the search query and focuses on the topic at hand.
We redesigned a client’s site this year, and consolidated and rewrote their content at the same time
They had about 10 pages for each of their top-level keywords, and we reduced that to 4.
Their organic sessions are up 44% year on year.
If you’re unhappy with your organic performance but can’t explain it, or don’t know where to start, you need a content audit.
Make sure to lay out an objective first — for example, to investigate a significant decline in organic traffic, or to find out why visitors are leaving your site too soon.
Here’s a quick look at the data for a content audit I did recently. I also produced a lengthy word doc to go alongside it, as a lot of findings won’t fit neatly into a spreadsheet.
Now — I love content audits. Every time, I find something significant that surprises me and it’s really exciting watching patterns emerge. I have a few golden rules for more effective content audits:
Crawl first, audit later
I use a site crawler called ScreamingFrog to pull in a list of URLs, along with their page titles, h1s, word counts and page sizes.
This provides vital context for your auditing, particularly if you’re looking at on-page optimisation, or want to increase rankings for a certain keyword.
Customise your template
There are loads of great content templates online, but they might not be suitable for your auditing objectives.
So you need to add in columns for what matters to you. For one client, I added audience type as a column, as they had two very distinct types of visitor – trade vs consumer.
For another, I added campaign type, as they had landing pages for PPC and Facebook campaigns.
This makes it much easier to sort through your findings later.
Use a sample
I recently did a content audit for a finance site with 18,000 pages. Their site content is organised around broad topics with similarly structured sections, so I only audited the savings section (and saved myself months worth of work!)
These findings were directly applicable to other sections on the site — for example, top-level pages were often over-optimised. Pages further down in the hierarchy often had no call to action, and the user journey effectively ended there.
Cover qualitative findings
Not everything will fit neatly onto a 5-point scale, or a yes/no option. You’ll have ideas and suggestions to improve the content as you go, so make notes and write them up afterwards.
You can also make suggestions about layout. I like using Chrome DevTools for this. If you know basic HTML and CSS, you can visually demonstrate how you think the page could be improved.
These “soft” findings make great talking points and long-term goals for your content.
So this year, if you want your content to perform better but you’re unsure what needs working on
You need to perform a content audit
And create a strategy based on its findings.
Talk 3: Backlinks, Algorithms And Bad Habits
Presented by Jordan Wilson, Earned Media Consultant
Hi everyone, my name’s Jordan and I’m the Earned Media Consultant at Selesti. I’ve been working in digital marketing for nearly 5 years specialising in outreach.
Today I’m going to talk to you about penguins.
Not the homewrecker penguin, but Penguin 4.0
Back in September, Google released the Penguin 4.0 algorithm update - almost two years since the last Penguin update, which adjusted rankings based on the number and types of links a site has pointing to it from other websites.
Penguin 4.0 however will be the last, as it is now calculated in real-time within the core Google Search algorithm.
But what does this mean for your SEO campaign, and how should you adapt your link building campaigns?
The first thing to know is there will be no more mass penalties for sites that break the rules, as was the case with previous Penguin updates between 2012 and 2014.
The impact of this is, twofold. In one sense, this is good for marketers and webmasters as no longer could your site be wiped out of Google overnight thanks to an over-zealous algorithm update.
However, on the other hand, this new set up means if your website is subject to an algorithmic penalty, it could be harder to detect.
Google’s Penguin 4.0 is now granular and operates on a page by page basis it can impact any level of your site such the domain, specific folders or individual pages.
As Penguin 4.0 is part of the algorithm, it can affect organic rankings on a fine level.
The result of this is means it will now be harder to diagnose ranking issues due to the negative effect of poor quality links.
Therefore, it will no longer be as simple as comparing organic traffic before and after the date of a known Penguin update because the data refreshes in real-time
So what do you need to look out for?
Because Penguin 4.0 can target different sub-sections of your site based on what links point to those pages, it can mean that specific pages that have been subjected to aggressive link building in the past could trip the Penguin filter and have their rankings suppressed, while other pages continue to do just fine.
This means you need to take a closer look at all the factors that could affect the rankings of certain pages.
Imagine you have two pages appear equally well optimised for their respective keywords, however, one is ranking on page ONE with 3 backlinks and the other is on page THREE with 20 backlinks.
So you ask yourself Why is this happening?
Well, it’s situations like this when you need to analyse your site’s backlinks.
Imagine each link to your site as a vote of confidence. By looking at your backlinks with a tool called Majestic, you can analyse how many sites are linking to you, categorising them not just by their SEO metrics, but also by how much authority they have on particular topic.
If a site has a high topical authority on a subject, this means Google is likely to place a high value on that link because the writers on this site obviously know what they’re talking about – they’re experts on that topic.
Meanwhile you could have hundreds of links from other sites with low topical authority. This would indicate they’re not really trusted sources on that topic – so their vote of confidence for your site is worth much less.
Google respects experts on topics, and so getting links from experts or leading sites have a stronger impact on your site’s rankings.
Going back to the two pages, by looking at the data in Majestic, you may find that the reason your low ranking page is underachieving is because your site has a large number of low quality links pointing to it from sites that cover that page’s topic – but do it badly.
Meanwhile, your high performing page could have a handful of links from a small number of respected sites in their field, which although less in number, are worth exponentially more.
So how does this all affect your SEO strategy for 2017?
The first thing you should do this year is to audit your backlinks. There’s a range of tools that you can use – Link Research Tools, Link Detox, Majestic, Ahrefs, Linkdex and many more.
It’s time for a good clear out of any toxic links that, based on your analytics data, could be hindering your search rankings.
Next, it’s essential to re-focus your link building strategies in the right areas. Obtaining hundreds of low quality links isn’t the most effective way to grow your brand’s reach on search – and as we’ve seen, it can actually negatively affect your rankings.
3 principles we focus on are...
Great Content –
In order to gain links from high quality sites you have to have great quality content on your own site. In order to persuade webmasters and editors to link to you, you need to have content that’s genuinely worth linking to, and in 99% of cases, this won’t be your services or product pages.
Great Content depends on How interesting it is and how useful it is…
You need to invest in high quality editorial content.
What can you write that others cant? For example, could you publish a survey on the state of your industry?
New research on an important issue that matters to your customers?
Or other insights that are of genuine interest to others in your industry?
Not only will investing in quality content make it much easier to persuade influencers to link to you, it also means you can begin to earn links organically, for example when other writers are researching a topic they can use your piece to cite and link to within their own piece.
The next principle is making sure you have unique assets to offer these websites you’re wanting to get links from. If they’re a big editorial site with a team of content writers at their disposal, why should they publish a piece of content by you?
To be successful, your content needs a USP – what can you bring to the table that their internal team cannot? For example, could you provide some exclusive research that makes a great news story? Could you give them an expert opinion or comment on the state of your market? Or do you have respected individuals in your organisation, such as a high profile CEO or founder, whose by-line would add value to a guest article?
Finally, think about how your outreach is conducted. Getting a link from a respected editorial site can be a long drawn out process, so be prepared to put in the groundwork to build a relationship with editors.
You may not get a link from their site straight away but making sure you put in the effort to check in with them every so often to let them know about new stories or exclusives will be well worth the wait.
Ensure the people working on your link building team have a great approach to outreach emails. Rather than sending out a non-personalised template email, ensure each is tailored to the editor you want to reach, which can only be done through thorough research.
Editors of leading sites get countless emails per day – make yours stand out.
So to round up…
Make it your new year’s resolution to ensure your site’s backlinks are in order, and to assess whether your link building and outreach strategy is good enough to compete.