22 – SEO Fundamentals & What’s Working Now in 2018 With Stephan Spencer
In the podcast:
03:58 – SEO Fundamentals05:57 – On-page and Off-page07:07 – On-page factors07:07 – Title tag10:33 – Keyword prominence16:11 – Topics or entities26:49 – Image alt attribute28:50 – Importance internal linking structure33:04 – Keyword Research Tools35:16 – Google Suggest39:29 – SOVL40:13 – UberSuggest41:08 – Answer The Public46:30 – SEMRush52:35 – Outreach for links
Stephan Spencer shares SEO fundamentals that every website should have which actually make a difference to SEO rankings. We also cover keyword research tools as well as tips on what is working now with SEO. LOTS of nuggets of GOLD!
Ilana: Ilana Wechsler here with another episode of Talking Web Marketing. In today’s episode we’re going to be shifting gears a little bit and we’re not going to be talking about PPC strategies or anything like that but we’re going to be talking about SEO and if you don’t know what SEO stands for instance for search engine optimization which many people optimize their website for to try and get some free traffic from Google they are the organic listings in Google.
And although I’m no SEO expert. The truth is actually before I started my PPC agency I used to do SEO for a bunch of my own websites that I owned but that was a really long time ago now so I would say I know enough about SEO to be dangerous but certainly not enough to be an expert on the topic.
So to talk about SEO I brought in Stephan Spencer who is a well-known international speaker on this very subject and who literally wrote the book on it a thousand pages worth. So I think could say he’s an expert on the topic. So in today’s episode we’re going to discuss the SEO fundamentals that every website should have that actually make a difference to your organic rankings.
And we also discuss keyword research which is no doubt relevant to PPC as well as what are some easy wins that are working right now in 2018. A quick word of warning before we start the episode. If you are a newbie to SEO and don’t even know the first thing about it I have to warn you this episode does get a little bit technical. Probably because SEO is quite technical but hopefully we manage to explain these technical aspects well for you. So let’s get stuck in today’s show.
Ilana: Welcome to today’s show Stephan Spencer. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on as today’s guest. You are no doubt a world expert in SEO so it’s a real privilege to have you come on today’s show so thank you.
Stephan: Well thank you. I’m excited to be here.
Ilana: Awesome. So I feel like this episode could go a number of different ways and if I sort of put myself into the mind of at least not I kind of think what would I, as a business owner want to learn and I guess what I want to touch on today is the SEO fundamentals.
I feel there is a lot of noise in the market even as a PPC person. I have to always keep my eye on the SEO world and I feel that there is a lot of noise and therefore I’d love to kind of tap into your expertise to cover the SEO fundamentals that really every business owner website should have. And then perhaps later on touch to what’s working right now with SEO because like PPC is a very fast paced changing world and it’s important to know what’s working now. So does that sound okay?
Stephan: Sounds perfect.
Ilana: Awesome. So let’s get stuck into the fundamentals. If let’s say someone’s going to do a little bit of DIY what would you say are the basics that they have to get right on their website?
Stephan: Yeah. So I’d say the first thing to understand is that not everything is worth doing. Just because it’s a best practice doesn’t mean it needs to go on your to do list. Yet so many SEOs and so many business owners and webmasters are putting it on the list because it was supposedly a best practice and they should be doing it well. Not everything yields the same level of results.
So if you instead you know you talked about the noise out there, there’s so much noise out there in terms of SEO but not just SEO. Noise about PPC, noise about Facebook advertising, noise about conversion optimization, analytics, e-commerce, email marketing it’s just rampant everywhere.
Too much information and too much of it is busy work and things that won’t really move the needle. So my recommendation is whatever you focus on, it should be something that is going to make a drastic difference to your business with the way that I would describe this to you is I learned this from Tony Robbins is being outcome focused rather than activity focused.
If your activity focused then you’re doing stuff like from an SEO perspective optimizing your each ones, you’re optimizing your meta descriptions, you’re changing URL structure so that there are no underscores only hyphens in between the words you’re doing all these things and they have varying levels of results or output or benefit.
And if you are activity focused then you’re doing all of them because they’re all supposed to be best practice and good but yet did you know that meta descriptions don’t help your rankings at all?
Ilana: Well this is what I wanted to ask you is what are some of the fundamentals which as you say are outcome focused and actually would move the needle from an SEO perspective for someone.
Stephan: Yeah. This is a framework that I would offer to your listeners. If you think of everything is either on-page or off-page. On-page things are things like title tags and body copy and image alt attributes and they are just even meta descriptions. Those are all on-page elements and then the off-page elements are things that are on other websites mostly not the page that we’re talking about but other pages that are influencing that page to either rank higher or rank lower.
So the off-page things could be things like the links that are pointing to that page, the anchor text of those links the words that are used the underlined words. Does it say click here. Well if it does is helping you rank for click here in Google instead of the important keywords that you’re chasing after.
But we don’t want to go over the top and have everything be a keyword rich text link that is going after your money keyword because that looks like it was engineered and looks spammy. So we have to do it in a legit way so we got off-page factors and we have on-page factors. So let’s start with the on-page factors.
- Title tag
What’s going to really move the needle for you. This can be outcome focused in terms of SEO fundamentals. Well how about start with the title tag. Start with the home page because that’s the most important page of your site and start with the title tag because that’s the most important element on the page that’s given the most weight by Google and it’s so easy it’s not like you have to have a computer programming degree or anything you just have to change some words out.
That’s the most important page and you work your way down the search rate then you’re going to work in order of priority because a page that is five clicks deep down and your site tree is probably not a very important page that you care a whole lot about but a page that’s one click away from the home page maybe it’s a featured product or service maybe it’s an effort page maybe it’s the learning center or the homepage of your blog or whatever it is about page that page is probably pretty important because if it weren’t why would you link to a directly from the home page.
So you start at the top you work your way down the site tree and you start by focusing on the title tags which are the most important element on the page as far as on page factors. So you see a title that says about us and you think wow that’s not very good. There are no keywords in that let’s say you’re a widget company. “About XYZ Widget Company” and then you have that keyword.
Ilana: So I guess there’s a balance really between you know having those keywords on the page but also avoiding keyword stuffing. Would that be, I think the term is a keyword density metric?
Stephan: Well I don’t tend to use that term because that’s a very old school SEO term. Keyword density is not a useful metric unless we’re talking about extreme edge cases. An edge case would be like oh you don’t have a single occurrence of that keyword on the page. Or you’ve got 15 occurrences of that keyword in a 500 word article. Wow. That’s really over the top.
- Keyword prominence
I mean imagine trying to read that page to a friend or colleague or a loved one. What’s you’re trying to rank for lawnmowers and all you’re saying is lawnmowers and every other sentence. Welcome to our lawnmowers page, we have so many lawnmowers, our lawnmower brands include XYZ and different styles of lawnmowers. There right land lawnmowers, there push lawnmowers, we have lawnmowers for every season for every style of person lawnmowers, lawnmowers, lawnmowers, we love lawnmowers. That deserve to get a penalty.
And yet there are pages out there that are like that. So the keyword density is only to identify if you’ve gone horribly off the rails with you there. No keywords or keyword stuffing spanglish. If you’re trying to track whether you’re doing a good job with keyword usage in a web page much better metric or concept would be keyword prominence rather than keyword density.
Well let’s say that you have a page that’s all about lawnmowers. Blah blah blah blah 500 words, a hundred words whatever and then oh shoot. Forgot to tell you this page was all about lawnmowers. That’s not going to rank whereas if you lead with, let me tell you all about lawnmowers blah blah blah etc. etc.. For eight hundred words you’ve had much more prominence for the term lawnmowers because you started off in the first sentence first paragraph with lawnmowers. So that’s your prominence.
Ilana: I understand. So how high that keyword is up on the page.
Stephan: Yes not just in the HTML but on the rendered screen. If a web user sees that the top of the page but it’s in the third column and it’s in the html very low in the html you still get credit for having it prominently positioned on the rendered screen.
So Google is smart enough to render the page and figure out where stuff is placed and conversely if you think you’re going to pull a fast one on Google and put something low in the page rendered near the footer but it’s high up in the html you’re using CSS to try and pull a fast one. Google is so onto you and that’s a great way to get a penalty.
Ilana: This is fine balance isn’t it?
Stephan: Well it’s not. It’s just as easy as would I feel uncomfortable telling a Google engineer what I’m up to with my optimization techniques. If I’m doing stuff that I feel feels a little sketchy what I’m doing I don’t want to tell a Google engineer at a conference that I’m doing this like hey I took that keyword and I put it in every single title tag across the site and then I added it to every single attribute of every image and then I like whoa whoa whoa.
You’re not going to tell anybody you did that right. Well no. Well then you shouldn’t be doing it because Google can easily spot it and give you a penalty even if you haven’t gotten penalized yet you doing that sketchy stuff will come back and haunt you at some point. Think of Google as keeping a rap sheet on you and your bad behaviors.
You might not get a penalty initially from their bad behavior but you better believe that Google is keeping track of all those bad behaviours and if you know what the best indicator of future behaviour is past past behaviour exactly.
If you have a habit of getting close to the line but not quite crossing it and then you back off when it gets a little too hot and you think oh I got away with it. I did this sketchy tactic and Google never caught me. I just got right to the edge and I didn’t go over Google’s so on t o you. Even if they didn’t catch you or penalize you. Now in the future they’re going to retroactively figure out what you’ve been up to and look at that past behavior as an indicator what you’re going to be up to in the future.
Ilana: Which I agree with and I say all the time obviously I deal a lot with business owners and people don’t realize the risks that they often put themselves into with you know they hire some not very reputable SEO because there’s damage done in the background that as you say it can be reputable that can cause a significant impact for that business that people just don’t realize. And I always say to people I know a little bit about SEO that I know enough to be dangerous to myself so I don’t even bother with it. I mean me personally like me doing it.
Stephan: Yeah. So this is a common problem. How do you hire somebody who is so gifted at SEO that we’re going to transform your business and yet you don’t know enough to be dangerous or maybe just enough to be dangerous. How do you work through that. It’s actually pretty easy.
I have a checklist and kind of a process that’s available on my website stephanspencer.com called the SEO hiring blueprint and company companion document called the SEO B.S. Detector I will not spell out that word B.S. But you know what I’m talking what I’m talking about. And that document gives you a bunch of trick questions that you can ask during the interview process and then the hiring blueprint walks you through the seven steps to screen higher and onboard the perfect SEO consultant or agency or in-house employee. It works for all three types.
Ilana: That would be very very valuable for even a lot of people I know personally because it’s an area that is such a black box and any kind of SEO person doesn’t reveal their secret sauce and it’s sort of this gray area of confusion for so many people. So yeah I urge all of our listeners to go and check that out because you know knowledge is power in this instance.
Stephan: So I’ll give you the links that you can add to your show notes to your episode page for those two things.
Ilana: That would be awesome. So let’s get back to what we’re talk about on-page stuff.
Stephan: So let me connect up what I was just talking about like trick questions from the SEO B.S. Detector and fundamentals of SEO. So you can clearly see this doesn’t necessarily have to be a black box. It can be very straightforward and a lot of common sense.
So one thing that a lot of people don’t understand or realize is that meta keywords never counted in Google. So if that’s something that an SEO is telling you that they’re going to do, then you know to turn and run. Because that’s not a fundamental that’s something that never worked never.
Ilana: And then the meta keywords, excuse my ignorance here. As I said I’m not an SEO person. They’re the keywords that are in conjunction with the title tags, right?
Stephan: Well meta tags let’s go in the same area in the head portion of the html where the title tag goes, you have a description. You also potentially have meta keywords. I never met a robot tag so there are these meta tags and then there’s the title tag.
There are other things too but those are some of the key components that you’ll see in a typical head portion of the head container the head tag and then the closing head tag, in between that you’ll have the title tag, you’ll have the description, you have the meta keywords and if you have meta keywords in there, why?
Just remove them because the only person you’re helping is your competition. Now they see the keywords that you’re targeting. I mean they could figure it out and other ways but why are you giving them that competitive intelligence? It doesn’t help you and it only gives information away to your competition. So if you have a meta keyword remove them, but this is a great screening question.
Let’s say that you’re interviewing candidates for an in-house SEO position and you ask this tricky question because now you know that meta keywords are a complete and utter waste of time and always have been. So what if the question goes like this. Tell me what is your process for optimizing meta keywords. How does that work?
See you sound really ignorant and like you don’t know anything and they can totally snow you over. But you’ve got the cheat sheet, you’ve got my SEO B.S. Detector. So that’s actually one of the questions in that document and the answer, is there is no right answer other than: What? Are you serious? Meta keywords those never counted in Google why are you asking me such a stupid question?
But you see how if you’re just armed with a handful of these trick questions you can ferret out the fakers, the posers, the charlatans so easily. Instead of hiring them and then finding if you’re spending all this money six months later it didn’t move your rankings up in fact. Maybe they hurt your rankings because they were buying links or building low quality links and now you have a whole mess to clean up and actually would have been better for you to do nothing.
Ilana: Exactly. It’s a sad state of affairs when we see it happen, sadly I see it happen all the time.
Stephan: So you want to go back to fundamentals?
Ilana: Let’s get back to fundamentals.
- Topics or entities
Stephan: So we talked about keyword prominence. We talked about the title tag. Let’s talk about topics and or entities they’re referred to as kind of interchangeably. Why do we want to talk about entities or topics and not just keywords? Well a topic is a collection of keywords in a bit of a space of relatedness.
So let’s say that we’re going back to lawnmowers again. And in that topic space we might have lawn, we might have grass, we might have a hedge trimmer, a weed whacker right. These are all topically relevant keywords that relate to lawnmower. Why do we want to know this. Because then we can create a much more comprehensive article.
It doesn’t look surface level to Google. If your article is all about lawnmowers, lawnmowers, lawnmowers like that Spanglish page I made up a little bit ago. That’s very surface level. It’s then content. It’s actually garbage content whereas if you read an article about lawnmowers and you talk about the lawn and grass and lawn furniture and gardens and landscaping and summer and all sorts of related keywords.
Not necessarily cause you’re just stuffing them in there but I’m not saying do that I’m saying write something that’s comprehensive overview of that topic space so you want to rank for lawnmowers. You should really do a deep dive on that topic and not just keep repeating the same keyword over again.
Ilana: Can I just ask one distinction on that. So I understand the concept of using related terms within that deep dive. Does the article length factor in or is it really just the expansion of the topic. Like if you could kind of go deep in the topic in say 800 words. Is that sufficient enough because it use that variety of keywords or does the length of the actual article? I’ve heard, once again going back to lots of noise in the market that keep that article link makes a big difference, would you say that impacts?
Stephan: Well not in the way that you might think or that in the way that listeners might think. It’s not like we get to a magic number like 1200 words and now Google is going to give it more credit. It doesn’t work that way. If your article because it’s twelve hundred words is so much better than the competitors keyword rich articles that are let say 800 words.
You have a better article if let’s say that your 800 word article is more succinct and more value added and conveys better stuff than the competition’s twelve hundred word article. Then your article should win. And it’s not because Google is looking at word count and ranking and figuring that in the rankings algorithm so heavily it’s that if it’s a great article whether it’s twelve hundred words or it’s 800 words it’s going to get more links links from outside websites.
Those are called deep links when they’re deep in to your site. Not just the homepage. So if you get deep links to particular let’s a category page or a particular product page or a particular article even a small number can make a profound difference in your rankings.
A lot of sites don’t get any of those deep links. People only link to their home page and then it’s up to that website owner and how they interlink their pages and set up their site structure their navigation and so forth to pass that link equity down into the articles and into the product pages and so forth.
And if they screw that up they don’t do it in a way where they’re linking pretty directly to the most important pages from the home page. Then they shoot themselves in the foot. So let’s say it’s a really important product page and it’s five clicks away from the home page. They just blew it.
They’re not going to rank very well if they make it a featured product and feature it on their homepage it’s one click away or it’s part of the pop now. That’s going to do much much better because it’s one click away it’s given a lot more. It’s inheriting a lot more of that link equity but let’s just say that you have a link or three links.
Small number that are deep links to that individual category page from outside, other websites, like oh my gosh. Check out this really really cool set of lawnmowers here or whatever and they’re linking to that one more page on your site, that’s going to be amazing for your rankings and so many sites don’t even get one deep link like that.
Ilana: Interesting. So going back to what I asked before, all this some commentary in the market about your article length needs to be a certain number of words.
Stephan: That’s all nonsense. It’s noise, it’s like saying you need to do an H1 tag. Oh you got font tag here, make it an H1. I know that, that actually doesn’t work. That makes no difference. You know H1s versus H2,6 whatever or font tag or anything else, no difference.
So you can test the SEO itself, that’s the beauty of SEO. It’s an empirical science. You can listen to me and take what I say as the gospel truth or some other SEO expert and that’s fine. But if you’re a proper scientist and marketers really should be scientists you come up with a hypothesis and you test that hypothesis. Is the hypothesis true or is it false?
You have a control group, you have an experimental group and you test it out. Try it yourself take your current site with a headline and say an H1 tag now and make it a font tag or if you’re too scared to do that make it an H6 and see what happens. I can say to you, no rankings drop from that.
Ilana: How long would you say it would take, like if you were to do such an experiment? How long would it take for that? You know once you make that change to see the effect, do you think?
Stephan: Well it depends on how long it takes for your all these pages to get in next. So that is yet to re-index that depends on the authority level, the amount of link equity that you have if nobody links to your site is going to take a really long time especially if you have a very large site because the crawl frequency and depth is dependent on your link authority, your link equity as other factors too about a lot of it has to do with your equity.
So if you are just a regular website with moderate amount of link equity your page rank flowing into your site and you have a smallish website maybe a hundred pages or whatever it might take a few weeks for every thing to get re-indexed and refreshed to show the most recent update in Google’s cache.
And by the way it’s a really simple way to see what is in Google’s database, in it’s index of any web page that shows up in the search results. You know how to do that?
Ilana: I personally do. But you go ahead.
Stephan: Yeah. Okay. There is a little green down arrow next to the URL in the search listing. So in the search results for each search listing you’ll see a little down arrow or green arrow. You click on that and it will show you similar and it will show you cached. Click on the word cached and that takes you directly to the cached version the stored version of the web page and at the top of that page it will show you the date and time that it was stored fetched and stored in the index in the database.
Ilana: I understand so this is next to the search results in Google.
Stephan: It’s part of the search results it’s next to each search listing. So next time you go to a Google search results and you get that dreaded for or for error. No I really needed that article or whatever right? Just hit the back button. Go back to the search results click that down Green Arrow and choose cached and there is the article.
Ilana: I like it. It’s very cool.
Stephan: But all sorts of ninja tips like that are in my other book on being a Google power search it’s called Google Power Search. So I don’t just have the art of SEO which is like a huge Bible. I see a thousand pages. A little overwhelming. This is a hundred and twenty page book on how to find anything in Google now. So that’s one of the tips from it.
- Image alt attribute
Ilana: So collection of keywords and I guess getting the breadth of a topic within article, kind of where what we were talking about before in terms of the topics. We also mention image attributes as one of the SEO fundamentals. Can you touch on that a little bit?
Stephan: Yeah. So if you mouseover an image you’ll see some alt text and depending on the browser that you’re using so let’s say that, that alt text says, spacer or place alter or image goes here or whatever right something useless. That’s a missed opportunity from an SEO perspective and it’s not very user friendly for people using screen readers who are visually impaired and having the web page read to them.
So you want to not make it spammy because oh here’s an opportunity to hide a bunch of keywords and not have it show up on the page while you’re ruining the user experience for people who have accessibility issues who are visually impaired so don’t do that.
So make it useful for the visually impaired and make it keyword rich and a good explanation of what that image is, and if it’s just a space or image or something that’s not adding any value it’s not a useful image, it’s just there to help frame things or whatever. Don’t even give it an alt attribute. It doesn’t deserve one.
Ilana: And this is for showing up in google image search, is that right?
Stephan: It’s not only for Google image search it is very useful for that for sure and it’s also useful for Google web search. It’s just another signal that Google uses in its rankings algorithm. It looks at the title tag, it looks the keyword prominence and I’m not dissuading people from using an h1 tag.
I don’t have any problem with that, just don’t expect that to be a magic bullet. The fact that you’re adding a headline that is in big font size and high up on the page, keyword prominent. In other words that’s fantastic that’s going to help.
But the fact that it’s an H1 and H6 or font tag doesn’t matter. So do all those things that we talked about and this is another thing to add into the mix, keywords and relevant keywords and doing it in a way that’s useful for the visually impaired and for SEO to the valuable images on the page. That will help you with Google web search and with Google Image Search.
Importance internal linking structure
Ilana: Interesting. So a lot of the stuff kind of a little bit about but I guess what I didn’t really appreciate with SEO is the importance of having those sort of main pages closer to the home page in terms of hierarchy. I never kind of appreciated the importance of that. So if I understand correctly having a page closer in terms of clicks away from the home page increases the importance of it, is that one way to explain?
Ilana: That’s interesting I guess in there in lines of the importance of important site hierarchies, sites structure.
Stephan: Yes very much so the internal linking structure conveys to Google what’s important and what what is unimportant within your site.
Ilana: Right. Which I mean I guess when you take on SEO client although I know you don’t do that hugely anymore. Is that kind of silly?
Stephan: No I do. They have to have a decent budget. But yeah I do and that’s my main thing is, I still do consulting, I did so my agency but I still do consulting individually.
Ilana: That’s what I knew that sold your agency so apologies for that.
Stephan: No worries, no worries.
Ilana: So would you like in an instance if let’s say you would take on a client which had sort of a site architectural substructure that was not ideal. Would you recommend rebuilding the site architecture or can you manipulate it out there?
Stephan: For sure. Well it depends on how it’s been built. Like let’s say that it’s integrated into the URL structure. So categories and subcategories are actually integrated into the URLs as well as the product. Oh my goodness that would be not good. Yes I would recommend setting up redirects in that case and moving things around so it makes more sense and is reflective of the new taxonomy.
In most cases the category subcategory and all that essentially the breadcrumb is not reflected in the URL it’s just the product. The product URL is just got the product name or product id and that’s it. Usually in many cases so if that’s the case then it’s a pretty easy task.
Let’s say that you have a category called snowsports. You know one of my clients was REI big outdoor gear and apparel company here in the States. So snowsports that’s not something I’m likely to type in Google as a user snowboards on the other hand and ski is both of those would be great keywords.
So if I were to optimize the taxonomy the structure the internal linking structure I would say well let’s get rid of this snowsports category and promote the skiers and snowboarders categories subcategories and make them categories and now they’re one click away from the home page and snowboards are going to start ranking better in Google.
And so will ski is. Their page well right because it’s getting a promotion. It’s kind of like they just got a pay raise and promotion they’re at the top level right alongside hiking or whatever. And in actuality they went the other way around. They had snowboards and skis as categories and against my advice they grouped them together under snowsports and I went like, no don’t do that and they did it anyways.
Keyword Research Tools
Ilana: Sometimes people just you know do what they want. So you know all this talk about keywords and optimizing for keywords I want to kind of touch on the fundamentals of keyword research because really regardless if you do PPC work or SEO or anything keyword research sort of lies at the core of both of those industries. And I know you know because obviously I’m a PPC person, they’re related and often we talk with SEO people saying right these are the keywords that are converting well from a PPC point of view let’s optimize for that.
So I’m just curious for you as an SEO person if let’s say you’ve got a client that is not doing PPC work therefore I don’t have such data in terms of the specially longtail converting keywords which Google Analytics doesn’t tell you. What are some tools and what some of the ways that you do keyword research?
Stephan: I love the question and this is a topic I’m very passionate about. I just keynoted at SEO day in Denmark on this topic. My presentation was on an advanced keyword research.
Ilana: I would love to see your presentation.
Stephan: I will be happy to share it with you. And in fact I will give you a link that you can share on the show notes page so that people can see the slides. I also will be presenting that same topic at Brightened SEO next month.
So let’s talk about keyword research tool. And I’ll break it down into two different categories cured brainstorming tools to give you ideas and keyword research for like coming up with the hard core data the numbers and even competitors keywords and so forth.
So we’ll start with the brainstorming. Let’s say that you are starting a new site and you don’t know how to structure it. You don’t know what categories to have what sections your site should have. Like when my oldest daughter started a blog about Neopets this was years and years ago to the virtual pet site that was very very popular in the day. Like tens of millions users while she is really addicted to that site and I tell her you know you can make money off of your knowledge right.
You can create a resource site or blog all about game hints and tips and tricks about Neopets and monetize that with Google Adsense ads. Make ad units and then every time people click on those ads you’re making money. So she would make up to eleven hundred dollar bills in a month US. Not bad, passive income. Whole months would go by where she wouldn’t even blog.
Come on you gotta put some effort into this. So you know kids, right? But she’s actually amazing at SEO and that was a decade ago. Now or more than a decade ago. She was just recently on MSNBC had a TV appearance, she got the state of South Carolina as a client from this treasure, the state treasurer is actually watching her on TV. Like wow smart lady we should hire her. I am proud Dad.
Ilana: Yeah, you should be. It’s awesome.
- Google Suggest
Stephan: So when she was starting this, she had to do research. You know what she turned to, for doing this she would research the brainstorming portion. It was as simple as going to Google and just starting to type in keystrokes like she would type in the letters Neopets and then she would see the search suggestions that’s coming from Google cause Google Suggest and near the top would be Neopets cheats and also near the top was Neopets avatars and then Neopets dailies and if you’re not a Neopets fan you don’t know what any of these things are but Neopets Cheetos are game cheats. Like how to get extra lives in these different games. How do I get extra bonus points etc.
So she decided to create different sections of her site based on what she saw showing up at the top of those Google suggestion. Auto suggest options so she just start typing the keystrokes even before getting to the search results. She would just notice what we kept showing up as popular searches and then she would create a whole section of the site dedicated to that topic and so that is the easiest free cured brainstorming tool that you already used and you just didn’t know it yet.
Ilana: So sorry just to ask one quick question on that. So you were typing almost like a single keyword as your initial search to then see that broad categories. Is that right?
Stephan: That’s right. So let’s say that you’re selling a car parts.
Ilana: So you go broad.
Stephan: Yeah you go broad. Let’s say you start with your topic space is car parts. So you start typing in the word car. Or here’s a great example, let’s say that you’re selling baby furniture online. So you start typing in the word baby and then you see one of the top suggestions even before you hit enter.
You just start typing that four letters b-a-b-y and you see right at the top of the list, baby names. Wow, that’s incredible. I could create an area of my site about baby names and get exactly the target audience that I’m looking for cause who is searching for baby names, only expectant parents. And that’s exactly the audience you want to reach right?
Ilana: I’ve done that search before.
Stephan: Isn’t that cool? If you didn’t do this brainstorming process you would never identify that opportunity and then you might ask, well how do I monetize that because I’m trying to sell furniture here, bassinets and cribs. I’m not selling baby names.
What would you do is you’re now influencing the buying criteria of the potential customer. And you can say here is an essential nesting checklist all the things that you need for the baby’s new room and these are the kinds of styles that are in style and these are the kinds of pieces of furniture that will last, that are safe, that won’t be harmful for the kid and everything.
And you set all those criteria for that customer because they trust you. They see that wonderful free download over on the right hand column. The all the baby names stuff like great baby names, cute baby names, overused baby names, baby names that would get your kid beat up on the playground. All that stuff is in the main content.
But over on the right column that’s the save column that’s where people look before they bail from your site. That’s where you put the irresistible offer. Like the essential nesting checklist, 33 essential things that you need for your baby’s room before he or she arrives, Free Download. Now you got their email address, because it’s an opt in and you’re building your list and you give them a valuable piece of content that helps influence their buying criteria. It’s just a match made in heaven.
Ilana: Awesome. So those categories are then going back to what we originally talking about, one click away in terms of the site structure.
Stephan: Exactly. If it’s not quite as important and it fits underneath one of those top categories then put it as a subcategory but just be mindful of how the taxonomy is set up influences what gets, what amount of link equity.
So that’s the most simple key or brainstorming tool. Now let’s take it to another level. And these are also free tools. There’s another great tool called Sovl. Have you heard a Sovl?
Ilana: No I haven’t.
Stephan: Oh my goodness you’re going to love this tool. So you go to sovl.com and start typing some keystrokes like b-a-b-y and watch it will pull in as your typing keyword suggestions not only from Google but also being Yahoo, YouTube, Answers.com, Wikipedia, Amazon, all simultaneously. And they’re all clickable. So you see something that looks interesting under the YouTube section there, the top ten YouTube suggestions, you click on one of it takes you right to the search results in YouTube for that keyword you clicked on.
Stephan: Yeah. And it’s free. So don’t google it, Sovl it.
Ilana: I like it.
Stephan: Yes and next I’ve got another awesome free tool that extends the capabilities of Google Suggest and that’s called Uber suggests. Uber suggest yes you’ve used that tool, right?
Stephan: And what that does, you type in the word baby for example as an example and it will iterate through all letters of the alphabet and the number 0-9 and it will come up with 10 suggestions for each of those iterations. So baby a, baby B, baby C and it completes those words.
So baby b, might be baby bassinet and nine other keywords. Baby C might be baby crib. And what else begins with a C?
Stephan: Baby carrier. Nice! So it’s easily just a huge time saver and you just click a button to download all of that data and put it right into excel.
Ilana: Wow, that’s awesome.
- Answer The Public
Stephan: And it’s all free. And there is one more. Google Suggest based tool that will blow your listener’s minds. And that’s called Answer the Public.
Ilana: Yes, I love that so it does with the questions.
Stephan: I do too. It’s such a cool visual great thing to put into a powerpoint deck when you’re trying to impress a client or boss or anything. You know there’s a data of you too, so you see all the data in tables instead. It’s a lot easier to read.
Ilana: That I didn’t know.
Stephan: Yeah. That’s very handy and you can export all that data. There’s an export button to pull that right into Excel. So here’s what the tool does. When people are searching a lot of times they’re asking questions at Google. They’re using who, what, where, when, why, how or they’re using prepositions which are kind of like implied questions.
Well this tool understands that and pulls from Google Suggest, you put in the keyword like baby or baby names and then it pulls from Google Suggest a bunch of who, what, where, when, why, how based search queries as suggestions from Google Suggest and then puts them either in that beautiful graphical circle format or in tables. And you can see oh wow look at these questions. These are great questions for my FAQ page, for my frequently asked questions page. Or Wow these are great questions to add to my product pages or to add to my category pages.
So these are questions that you can answer and get rankings for those questions when people type them in and pre-empt objections and answer the unanswered questions. like when somebody comes to your website and they’re wondering things like how much does it cost to work with you. How much do I need to spend on an Adwords ad budget? How much is your management fee? What do you base it on? Like all sorts of questions that you’re probably not that comfortable answering, right?
Not all of them. For sure, I feel the same way but yet if you answer them with an answer it’s going to help you with your conversion and it gets you more business. Even if you don’t provide the actual answer. So when somebody is looking for my prices they go to stephanspencer.com, now like cool what does it take to hire the best SEO. I want to see. Then they can see it. They’ll see, I have question, How much does it cost to hire Stephan. And then there’s an answer and then it’s going to be an it depends.
If it’s going to be, here’s why it depends and here’s why I am going to insist that we have a conversation, where I understand the scope before I’m going to give you a number. But if you want a number I’ll give you ranges. I’ll give you a ballpark but I’m not going to answer your question in the way that you want to get it.
But I will answer it to the best of my ability. So doing that puts you light years ahead of everybody else or your competition wanna be super cagey about it,they don’t want to put any information about that question on their website and that’s a big mistake. It misses the SEO opportunity and the conversion opportunity.
This is a great tip that I learned from Marcus Sheridan is to. I knew about answer the public but to create all these frequently asked questions and to put them on or your product pages I had my consulting services but also online courses. I had my coaching so on each of those pages there are questions that link off to the frequently asked questions page with the corresponding answer.
So you could see on my coaching page like oh there’s a good question like, What do you cover, do you cover stuff outside SEO and your coaching? Well yes I do and here’s more detail on that. There’s the question and then click and go right to the answer. So having that I learned that from Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. I interviewed him on my podcast marketing speak and it’s great podcast by the way.
It was a mind blowing episode. I made such huge changes to my website just from that one episode. It’s been one of the most impactful episodes for me personally and I’ve recommended it to so many of my clients and people I know. The ideas of for example creating problems, we solve page, creating a we’re not a fit for page. It’s fine to say who we’re a fit for but boy is it. Can I say the word ballsy. I don’t know how to have a page of who we’re not a fit for. That is so cool.
Ilana: It’s equally important I think to know who you do work with and also who you don’t work with because not everyone’s a fit for everyone.
Stephan: And it’s kind of like reverse psychology like well no no no I really am. I’m a good client. No you should definitely let me work with you. Let me pay you money. No no no no I am a good. It’s awesome. So all that sort of stuff the free class questions and everything I implemented all that stuff on my website. Marcus’s advice. He is so awesome. I love him.
Ilana: I definitely have to check out that specific episode.
Stephan: Yeah so Answer the Public. That’s just the most amazing awesome tool and a free. And also it allows you to identify keywords that question based keywords that you can target to get featured snippets. It’s a whole other opportunity.
Ilana: Wow. That we’ve got time to touch on featured snippet. I guess that sort of falls in line with what’s really working now. Component of this episode.
Stephan: Yeah. It also fits into the keyword research tools portion that’s not the brainstorming stuff but the hard core data type stuff. I’ll cover three.
Ilana: Okay let’s do that.
Stephan: So, using a tool called SEMRush, a tool I love. You can extract tons and tons of keywords from your competition and see what estimated volumes are of searches for each of those keywords and I’m talking potentially tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of keywords for some sites even millions. It’s amazing and it’s just a huge comprehensive dataset. You can filter down with just the click of a button down to a featured snippet keyword.
So these are keywords that the competition is ranking for and has a featured snippet for. Meaning it’s essentially an instant answer, it’s at the top above all the other organic listings and it’s an expanded answer. It might be a bullet list, it might be a numbered list, it might be a paragraph, it might be a table, but these are all featured snippets and it may or may not have an image.
It’s essentially the answer to the question, if you can be the answer to the question you are in such a powerful position because so many people are searching using voice search these days. They’re asking Siri, they’re asking Google, they’re asking Alexa, and getting an answer.
Ilana: Which is why Answer the public is such a good tool because it’s giving you those questions that people are actually asking.
Stephan: Exactly. And you can get great keywords to target by looking at your competitors and saying show me all the keywords that they’re already getting a featured snippet for. And then you can steal those featured snippets from your competitor for the featured snippets aren’t very good.
Ilana: So featured snippets just to cover the basics that’s where the answer is actually in the search results without someone having to click, right?
Stephan: Yeah, but there is a clickable link so you will get clicked for traffic from that. So imagine if your number one in the organic results and you’re at position zero. So your position 1 and position zero cause you’ve got the featured snippet you’ll get so much more clickthrough than if you were just at position.
Ilana: Position zero, being.
Stephan: The featured snippet, it’s like a preempting the first organic result. So you might have 10 organic results and you might have a featured snippet above all those organic results and whoever got that feature snippet that doesn’t have to be the number one result. It could be number eight. So they’re down near the bottom of the first page and yet they took the featured snippet because they had such a great succinct answer with nice bullet list, you know it’s just an awesome answer in the right format.
If I type in a how to query it should be in a number. That should be a numbered list type of snippet. It shouldn’t be a paragraph snippet because if I want to know how to boil an egg I want Step 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. So you have a numbered list and your competitor who currently has the featured snippet has a paragraph that’s a weak snippet you could go after then steal it away.
Ilana: And these featured snippets are featured in SEMRush, is that what you mean?
Stephan: Well the SEMRush tool scrapes all of these keywords in the rankings for all of these competitors. Sites all across the internet. Not just rankings in the organic results but ones that are ranking in position zero in the featured snippets as well.
So you could say I want to filter out not show me anything other than my competitors featured snippets what keywords are they getting a featured snippet for? And then I want to look through those for ones that stink, that are awful, that are not a good answer. They’re not in the right format and say I’m going after you, I’m coming after you.
And it’s worked like a charm I’ve had multiple clients use this strategy. I actually wrote an article on search engine land about this taking, stealing essentially the featured snippets spot from competitors using tools like SEMRush and then identifying weak ones that have a poor answer. A non-succinct answer or an answer in the wrong format and putting a better answer out there. If you’re on page 1 you have a really decent shot at taking the featured snippet.
Ilana: Does SEMRush also provide the associated search volume for that particular query? So that you can see which pages is worth going after otherwise it’s only.
Stephan: Exactly. Of course.
Ilana: So they rank by volume.
Stephan: I had so many other tools that I could have shared but you know what, people can go through that powerpoint that I’ll share with you for the show notes page. There’s tools like Moz keyword explorer and search metrics as search metrics has such cool tools like the topic explorer and the content and some of it is just mind blowingly awesome. So all of that is in the powerpoint that I’ll share.
Ilana: Perfect. So I guess that’s sort of an area of what’s working now in the world of SEO. What would you say is another action item that people could really implement to help them rank in today’s 2018 ever changing world?
Stephan: Yeah, there’s, it’s a constantly shifting landscape. So here here’s the thing that I would recommend people do is rather than focus on the stuff that’s fast moving and actually featured snippets are very volatile so you might get a ranking in position zero for a couple hours and then it goes away.
It can be very frustrating so that shouldn’t be your first thing that you focus on. Get the fundamentals right. The stuff that we were talking about. Get all the basic blocking and tackling. Get that right and then you can move on to the more advanced stuff like targeting featured snippets. Like look at voice search as an opportunity.
How to get rankings let’s say you have a podcast like you do, and I do. Get that ranked in iTunes, in Google Play, and podcast other podcast search engine. So there’s lots of more advanced stuff that you can do. But I would save that for once you got the fundamentals fully placed.
Ilana: Yeah I would agree with that. Fundamentals, I mean there’s just no getting away with it. You gotta get those fundamentals right and then start layering on the event stuff.
Stephan: Yeah, but one thing we’ll share as an advanced strategy that people need to be thinking about is doing outreach for links and not just creating link worthy content because you know the movie build it. Or what was the movie called Field of Dreams. Build it and they will come. Remember? That was the famous line from the movie. That doesn’t work, obviously.
Build some amazing easy content that’s really remarkable and worth linking to and somebody is just going to randomly think I haven’t been to so and so’s blog for a few months so let’s go check it out and see if there’s anything I can link to. Not gonna happen. So you have to do outreach and there are tools out there that will help you and do it in an amazing, scalable, non-spammy way like for example pitchbox. I love pitchbox. That’s a great tool for scaling your link outreach in a non-spammy way. It’s like salesforce.com for a link outreach instead of your sales team.
Ilana: Interesting. So can you give us a way that you use it?
Stephan: Yeah. So I have my team, we would say that they create a really remarkable infographic. I’ll have them outreach to bloggers in that topic space by putting in a keyword and the pitchbox will identify a bunch of bloggers in that topic space and prioritize the site owner contacts, the different email addresses that it finds on each of those blogs and my team will send an email using the tool to those website owners and webmasters asking for a link but in a way that doesn’t seem really self-serving because we’re tired as bloggers and podcasters and so forth getting these horrible pitches that are just essentially like a gimme gimme gimme.
Hey I’ve got a great infographics that your readers will love. Here’s the anchor text I would like you to use in the link. Yeah delete. Or submit them to a spam database. So you need to think of like how can I create a win win. How can I collaborate? How can I add value? Like maybe can be a collaborative infographic and I am, I don’t understand the PPC side like you do and I want to have an infographic about the intersection of PPC and SEO, because we’re using a lot of the same keyword research tools and were doing a lot of the same strategies to get people to buy and there’s a lot of overlap. Let’s do an infographic together. That’s a great pitch.
Ilana: It’s a great opportunity.
Stephan: So yeah. So different than saying, hey I’ve got a great infographic about XYZ topic and your tangentally related to that. So here you go and here’s the anchor text.
Ilana: I guess that’s a whole another topic to talk about link building strategy in the outreach component. So maybe we could just touch on maybe one more and maybe we have to get it back for another episode about that because it’s an episode in itself.
Stephan: Yeah, okay so I’ll give you one more strategy. Let’s focus on remarkable content. So let’s say you have something that is pretty successful. Let’s say it’s a blog post or an article, a list of things, a checklist, a worksheet, some sort of buyer’s guide or whatever. But it’s got some traction. It’s got legs. That’s great. And you’re not done yet. Most people think they’re done but you want to extend that.
Repurpose and repackage that and continue to wring more life out of that content piece by creating for example let’s say it’s a listicle. Like Top Ten 10 biggest myths about PPC, okay? 10 biggest myths about PPC in 2018. Boom that crushed it. Amazing. Well you’re not done yet. Now you can take that and turn that into an infographic and then you include an embed, html embed which include your text links so people will actually end up linking to you and not just using the graphic. And like, okay well we get some great traction on that well you’re not done yet.
That still has life in it. So now you’re going to create a slideshare deck of those top ten things and post that to SlideShare. Now the SlideShare links aren’t going to be worth anything from an SEO perspective cause all social sites no follow their links.
You get a link from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, any of it. It doesn’t matter. It’s no follow it. But what it will do is it will get you in front of people, hopefully influencers and bloggers who will then link to you, cause it’s like wow that is such an amazing top 10 list of myths and they didn’t see the infographic, they didn’t see the list i cles but they saw the SlideShare deck and so now they see in the description of that SlideShare deck that the full article is at such in such URL on your website and they want to attribute that awesome deck to you. And they do.
And so you get some links and think oh wow that worked really well. And then you can do another thing that turns it into something else. Maybe man on the street interviews and you’re at a conference and you’re asking people about you know do you think this PPC myth is true or false. I mean you don’t call him if like. Is this you know whatever insert in the blank is this true or so what do you think. And then you ask somebody else and you assemble this into a really fascinating video of like all the mythology that people still believe about PPC and you’ve just repurposed and repackaged your top 10 list of PPC myths on another form, pretty cool.
Outreach for links
Ilana: Pretty cool. Wow. Stephan, you have shared so much information with listeners and myself personally I’ve learned so much information. I’m mindful of the time and feel like I could talk to you for a lot longer but unfortunately I know you’re a busy person. I might leave it there. Thank you so much for coming on. It’s amazing resources you’ve shared an incredible knowledge. Where can people find out a little bit more information about you?
Stephan: Yeah. So the best place to go is stephanspencer.com. If they wanted to work with me or they’re looking for SEO knowledge or articles, archived webinars, videos, all that sort of stuff, white papers, it’s all there. If they’re into podcasts, I have two. Not just Marketing Speak which is awesome. That’s marketingspeak.com. I also have biohacking, life hacking, self-help podcast that is amazing called the Optimized Geek and that’s optimizedgeek.com. So those are the two podcasts that I would recommend to listeners as well.
Ilana: You are a prolific content creator. So congratulations on that front. It’s amazing.
Stephan: Thank you.
Ilana: Thank you again and I’d love to have you back.
Stephan: I would love to come back.
Ilana: Awesome. Yeah. So thank you again and I’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Talking Web Marketing. I know I certainly enjoyed chatting to Stephan Spencer who is a wealth of information.
So given all that we talked about on today’s episode which was so much and so many resources that you can use we’ve created a summary of the show notes that you can download if you go to talkingwebmarketing.com you’ll actually be redirected to my own website, greenarrowdigital.com. And from there you can just download the show notes and we’ll also provide some links to the content which Stephan was also mentioning about his articles that was written on the websites as well. So be sure to head over there and download the summaries. Don’t miss a beat. And stay tuned for future episodes. Thanks for listening.