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SEO Code-Breaking: How Smarter Content Leads to Better Search Rankings

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Presented February 27, 2020 at the Trendigital Summit in Sioux Falls, SD.

Content is the most important part of your website, but is often the last priority. This approach can lead to low search rankings and, even worse, poor user experiences.

In this presentation, Chris Prendergast shares actionable tips for determining what topics to include on your site, how to write SEO-friendly content around those topics, and how to uncover the biggest search ranking opportunities.

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SEO Code-Breaking: How Smarter Content Leads to Better Search Rankings

  1. 1. SEO Code-Breaking How Smarter Content Leads to Better Search Rankings Chris Prendergast | chris@clickrain.com
  2. 2. Enigma Machine
  3. 3. 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 Possibilities
  4. 4. Alan Turing: Nerd Hero Turing built off of this guy’s work, Marian Rejewski, but he’s not part of the story.
  5. 5. The Bombe
  6. 6. W E T T E R
  7. 7. 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 1,054,560 Possibilities
  8. 8. ● Invented the modern computer ● Solved for 159 quintillion codes by adding context to simplify the problem ● Helped save the free world ● Invented the modern search engine ● Solves for 130 trillion web pages by adding context to simplify the problem ● Has fun cartoons on the homepage!
  9. 9. The job of your content is to provide context for humans and search engines to understand your site.
  10. 10. Google Wants to Match Context to User Intent cardinal a cardinal the cardinal the cardinals
  11. 11. The job of your content is to provide context for humans and search engines to understand your site.
  12. 12. SEO Ranking Factors
  13. 13. Just Google? For the purposes of this presentation, Google represents search in general. These tips and tricks will help on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other organic search engines. SEO Ranking Factors > Google
  14. 14. SEO Is More Than Content Other ranking factors: ● Backlinks ● Technology ● Page Speed ● User Experience ● Local Signals ● “RankBrain” SEO Ranking Factors
  15. 15. Why Are We Focusing on Content? Content is: ● Powerful ● Totally free ● In your control But for most companies, content is not a priority. SEO Ranking Factors > Why Content
  16. 16. Priorities
  17. 17. What Is Your Priority? How much time did you spend on: ● ...your social media channels? ● ...your company blog? ● …your website content? Priorities
  18. 18. Posting on Social Media is Paying Rent Priorities > Social Media
  19. 19. Improving Web Content is Home Renovation Priorities > Web Content
  20. 20. Make content a priority to invest in the platform you own.
  21. 21. SEO Code-Breaking 1) Perform keyword research (12) 2) Find a home for your content 3) Learn tips to improve your web writing 4) Set expectations for what’s next Table of Contents
  22. 22. Keyword Research
  23. 23. Why Keywords? Keyword research is not about finding what words to stuff your content with. Keyword research is about using data to better understand user intent, so you can provide the right context. Keyword Research
  24. 24. The Keyword Research Process 1) Generate seed keywords (human) 2) Supplement keywords with your own data 3) Expand the list with free and paid tools 4) Record stats and intent for each keyword 5) Narrow your list to determine content targets Keyword Research
  25. 25. Generating Seed Keywords What non-branded terms might people search for around your business? Keyword Research > Seed Keywords business intelligence software bi software data visualization graphing tool analytics software business analytics
  26. 26. Use Your Data to Supplement the List ● Search Console ● Paid Search Ads ● Google Analytics Keyword Research > 1st-Party Data
  27. 27. Expand Your List with Tools ● Input your seed keywords into a tool to get similar and related keywords ● Input competitor websites to see what search terms they are ranking for ● Add all new keywords to your list Keyword Research > Keyword Expansion
  28. 28. Expand Your List with Tools Keyword Research > Keyword Expansion > Tool List
  29. 29. Record Statistics for Each Keyword Keyword Research > Statistics KEYWORD VOLUME DIFF. RANK QUESTION business intelligence software 1000 77% #15 N bi software 720 76% #12 N data visualization 18,100 69% N/A N graphing tool 2,900 75% N/A N analytics software 1,000 75% #6 N business analytics 40,500 84% N/A N what is the best bi tool 50 72% N/A Y data visualization tools 4,400 78% #12 N
  30. 30. The Missing Piece of Research: User Intent What type of content is Google rewarding on the SERP? (SERP = Search Engine Results Page) ● Brand size: local vs. national brands ● Content age: new vs. old URLs ● Page type: product, category, blog post, landing ● Relevant to your business? ● Can you even compete? Keyword Research > Statistics > User Intent
  31. 31. User Intent for business intelligence tool Keyword Research > Statistics > User Intent
  32. 32. User Intent for what is business analytics Keyword Research > Statistics > User Intent
  33. 33. User intent may be the most important (and forgotten) piece of keyword research.
  34. 34. Narrow Your List to What’s Relevant & Possible Start cutting and grouping your list. Keep keywords that: ● Are not too difficult ● Have some level of search volume ● User intent matches your site ● Make sense for your business Keyword Research > List Culling
  35. 35. Group Your Remaining Keywords With whatever keywords you’re left with, group them into logical buckets with a “parent topic”. These topics become a foundation for your new content. Keyword Research > List Culling > Keyword Grouping business intelligence [30] business analytics [16] data visualization [31] business software [25]
  36. 36. SEO Code-Breaking 1) Perform keyword research 2) Find a home for your content (9) 3) Learn tips to improve your web writing 4) Set expectations for what’s next Table of Contents
  37. 37. Find a Home for Content
  38. 38. Find a Home for New & Updated Content Write new content based around what people are searching for. But now where should you put it? 1) Conduct an SEO content audit 2) Map your keywords to identify gaps 3) Benefits of new vs. existing pages Content Home
  39. 39. How To Do an SEO Content Audit An SEO Content Audit is a spreadsheet with data about every page on your website. Start by crawling your site. Include columns for total traffic, organic search traffic, and organic search rankings from Search Console. Content Home > SEO Content Audit
  40. 40. Keyword Research + Content Audit = Mapping Match keyword groups with pages in your Content Audit. Content Home > Keyword Mapping https://moz.com/blog/build-content-keyword-map-for-seo-whiteboard-friday
  41. 41. Keyword Research + Content Audit = Mapping Keyword groups will fall into three categories: 1. Expected pages rank for expected keywords 2. Certain keywords/groups have no associated pages 3. Keyword conflicts a. Multiple pages for one keyword/group b. Pages ranking for the wrong keyword Content Home > Keyword Mapping
  42. 42. Write New Pages, or Update Old Ones? “Google likes fresh content.” “Google prefers older pages.” Content Home > New vs. Existing https://moz.com/blog/google-fresh-factor-new https://www.authorityhacker.com/how-long-to-rank-on-google/
  43. 43. Time Is the Hidden Variable for SEO Content Home > New vs. Existing https://ahrefs.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-rank/
  44. 44. Balance Old URLs With Fresh Content Content Home > New vs. Existing > Recommendation Google wants to rank pages that have authority and topical relevance. Old URLs already have authority, so add fresh content to old pages to increase topical relevance.
  45. 45. Biggest shortcut in SEO: Find pages with keywords ranking in Position 8 - 12 in GSC, and improve the content on those pages.
  46. 46. SEO Code-Breaking 1) Perform keyword research 2) Find a home for your content 3) Learn tips to improve your web writing (50) 4) Set expectations for what’s next Table of Contents
  47. 47. Write Better Content
  48. 48. Better Content Means Better Rankings How can you write better content? 1) Learn web-specific writing best practices 2) Structure your pages around SEO and UX 3) Understand the nuances of specialty categories 4) Pick up advanced SEO content tactics,tips, & trends Write Better Content
  49. 49. What’s Different About Web Writing? Web writing should account for the following factors: 1) General writing tips 2) Appropriate keyword usage 3) Headlines 4) Meta tags 5) URL recommendations 6) Linking best practices 7) Images, videos, and interactives Write Better Content > Web Writing
  50. 50. Make Content Easy to Scan and Easy to Read 1) Break up long pages to make content scannable a) Use headers and subheaders b) Use ordered and unordered lists 2) Simplify your content a) Use active voice b) Use simple language c) Keep sentences short d) Write short paragraphs Write Better Content > Web Writing > General Tips
  51. 51. Simple Content One of the best things you can do for your content is to simplify your writing. You can cut unnecessary words and not change the meaning of your content. It may be a good idea to find someone else to edit your content and help make it cleaner. Write Better Content > Web Writing > General Tips
  52. 52. Simple Content One of the best things you can do for your content is to simplify your writing. You can cut unnecessary words and not change the meaning of your content. It may be a good idea to find someone else to edit your content and help make it cleaner. Write Better Content > Web Writing > General Tips
  53. 53. The Hemingway App Can Help Write Better Content > Web Writing > General Tips > Hemingway App http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
  54. 54. Use Keywords Naturally In Your Content Provide a comprehensive answer to your topic. Your primary keyword should come up naturally at least once, but don’t force any specific keyword density. Supporting keywords may be part of your answer, but don’t get hung up on including them all word-for-word. Write for people, providing the complete context around your main point, and keywords will naturally be a part of that context. Write Better Content > Web Writing > Keyword Usage
  55. 55. Write Better Headlines and Subheadlines If you can, put the main headline in an <H1> tag and subheaders in <H2> and <H3> tags. Include keywords if it makes sense, but it’s more important that headlines are natural and appealing. Write Better Content > Web Writing > Headlines https://moz.com/blog/h1-seo-experiment
  56. 56. Write Better Meta Tags Write Better Content > Web Writing > Meta Tags https://www.authorityhacker.com/seo-title-tags/
  57. 57. All About Meta Title Tags The best <title> tag: ● Is not identical to the <H1> (but should be similar) ● May include the keyword, as long as it’s natural ● Keeps the important part at the front ● Should be 50-60 characters long Write Better Content > Web Writing > Meta Tags > Meta Titles
  58. 58. All About Meta Descriptions Meta descriptions: ● Are NOT used by search engines, so write for humans ● Include bolded words that match user search queries ● Can be 140-160 characters, but may get cut off Write Better Content > Web Writing > Meta Tags > Meta Descriptions https://www.portent.com/serp-preview-tool/
  59. 59. Shorter URLs Are Better URLs Shorter URLs are better. Use a short keyword only if it makes sense. Keep numbers and years out of the URL. Write Better Content > Web Writing > URLs /blog/12-seo-trends-for-2020-that-you-need-to-know/
  60. 60. Internal Linking Write Better Content > Web Writing > Internal Links https://www.authorityhacker.com/internal-links/
  61. 61. Internal Linking Write Better Content > Web Writing > Internal Links Internal links are a great way to connect your content and improve your SEO. You’ve got a page on that!
  62. 62. Improving internal linking is the easiest thing you can do right now to help your SEO.
  63. 63. Images, Videos, & Interactives Images: break up content, improve scannability Videos: increase time-on-page, but include a transcript Interactives: increase time-on- page, bring visitors back Write Better Content > Web Writing > Images, Videos, & Interactives
  64. 64. Content Structure 1. Recommended content length 2. Information architecture Write Better Content > Content Structure
  65. 65. Recommended Content Length Studies show correlation between longer content and better search rankings. Ignore those studies. Google rewards full context and complete answers, but your complete answer may be 5,000 words or only 200. Write Better Content > Content Structure > Content Length https://www.portent.com/blog/seo/how-long-should-your-blog-post-be-for-seo.htm
  66. 66. Information Architecture Two approaches to structure your content and resolve keyword conflicts: separate keywords into their own pages, or combine them into a single super-page. 1. Pillar Pages - Break your keywords into separate pages supporting one parent page 2. Fraggles - Target multiple keywords on a single page Write Better Content > Content Structure > Information Architecture
  67. 67. Pillar Pages A “pillar page” is one page for a big keyword that mentions specific keywords. Additional pages provide extended details on those specific keywords. All pages within this pillar should link to each other. Write Better Content > Content Structure > Information Architecture > Pillar Pages https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-pillar-page
  68. 68. Fraggle = Fragment + Handle ● Fragment: A “chunk” of a page addressing one topic ● Handle: An anchor link pointing to that specific fragment ● Fraggle: A linkable, indexable “chunk” of a page Any page with a good outline and at least three <H2> tags is a candidate. Write Better Content > Content Structure > Information Architecture > Fraggles https://moz.com/blog/fraggles
  69. 69. Fraggle = Fragment + Handle ● Fragment: A “chunk” of a page addressing one topic ● Handle: An anchor link pointing to that specific fragment ● Fraggle: A linkable, indexable “chunk” of a page Any page with a good outline and at least three <H2> tags is a candidate. Write Better Content > Content Structure > Information Architecture > Fraggles https://moz.com/blog/fraggles
  70. 70. Fraggle Examples in the SERP Write Better Content > Content Structure > Information Architecture > Fraggles > Examples
  71. 71. Fraggles will help your long content target more keywords and rank for more search queries.
  72. 72. Specialty Website Categories ● Multi-Location Business Websites ● Ecommerce Websites Write Better Content > Specialty Categories
  73. 73. Multi-Location Business Websites Every location should have: ● A unique web page ● Unique content ● Unique photos ● Structured data for hours & address Write Better Content > Specialty Categories > Multi-Location
  74. 74. Multi-Location Business Websites Every location should have: ● A unique web page ● Unique content ● Unique photos ● Structured data for hours & address But for local SEO, content is only useful if you combine it with local listings and reviews. Write Better Content > Specialty Categories > Multi-Location
  75. 75. Ecommerce Websites ● Product pages are important ● But category pages are arguably more important ○ 202% more traffic than product pages ● Informational pages: anti-case study Write Better Content > Specialty Categories > Ecommerce https://www.slideshare.net/jillkocher/scalable-ecommerce-seo-for-category-pages-smx-west-2020
  76. 76. Your best ecommerce ROI will come from improving category pages.
  77. 77. Advanced Content SEO Tactics Start with the SEO foundations. When you’ve got the basics right, consider these advanced tactics, tips, and trends to push your content forward. ● Structured Data & Rich Snippets ● Featured Snippets ● Voice Search ● Adding Context Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics
  78. 78. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets Structured data: hidden code on your page to tell Google what the content is about Rich snippets: bonus visuals in SERP to show off specific structured data https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/
  79. 79. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets Structured data: hidden code on your page to tell Google what the content is about Rich snippets: bonus visuals in SERP to show off specific structured data https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/
  80. 80. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets > FAQ Schema
  81. 81. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets > FAQ Schema FAQ Schema can be applied to any page—not just FAQ pages—and gives a massive increase to SERP real estate.
  82. 82. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets > FAQ Schema FAQ Schema can be applied to any page—not just FAQ pages—and gives a massive increase to SERP real estate.
  83. 83. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets > FAQ Schema FAQ Schema can be applied to any page—not just FAQ pages—and gives a massive increase to SERP real estate.
  84. 84. Structured Data & Rich Snippets Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Structured Data & Rich Snippets > FAQ Schema
  85. 85. FAQ Schema is the untapped trend for every business to grow your presence in the SERP.
  86. 86. Featured Snippet Examples Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Featured Snippets
  87. 87. How to Rank For Featured Snippets 1. Prerequisite: You have to rank on Page 1 already 2. Prerequisite: The SERP needs to be eligible to show a featured snippet 3. Answer the question clearly, concisely, and right away—get to the point and add clarity after the fact 4. Featured snippets love structured data Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Featured Snippets
  88. 88. Featured Snippet Examples Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Featured Snippets https://moz.com/blog/the-power-of-is- featured-snippet-case-study
  89. 89. Snippet Stealing: Find where you rank on the first page but someone else has the featured snippet. Write a better page than them.
  90. 90. Snippet Stealing Really Works Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Featured Snippets > Snippet Stealing
  91. 91. Ranking for Voice Search Facts about voice SEO: ● Similar to structured data & featured snippets ● Keep your answers human and direct ● The average Google Home result is 29 words ● Don’t worry about voice Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Voice Search https://backlinko.com/voice-search-seo-study
  92. 92. We Return to the “Context” Conversation Google tries to understand context through Natural Language Processing (NLP). You can test your page NLP with a Google tool. Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > NLP https://cloud.google.com/natural-language
  93. 93. Skynet SEO: How Google is Becoming Human Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > NLP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFvAqQPnl4g
  94. 94. Two Acronyms About Adding Context TF-IDF - Term Frequency - Inverse Document Frequency LSI - Latent Semantic Index Both of these basically mean this: What supporting topics have you written about to add context besides your original keyword and topic? Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > Acronyms https://ahrefs.com/blog/lsi-keywords/ https://ipullrank.com/ultimate-guide-to-tf-idf-content-optimization/
  95. 95. Adding Context: best iphone productivity apps Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > Example All the top results mention: ● Things ● Ulysses ● Dropbox ● Evernote ● free apps These terms add context to that search query.
  96. 96. Adding Context: best iphone productivity apps Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > Example Google tells you what topics add context: ● People Also Ask box ● Related Searches box ● Google Autocomplete Free tools to help automate: ● AnswerThePublic.com ● AlsoAsked.com
  97. 97. Adding Context: best iphone productivity apps Write Better Content > Advanced Tactics > Adding Context > Example Other tools to generate contextual topics: ● ClearScope ● Surfer SEO ● Seobility TF-IDF It’s not about adding more keywords—it’s about making your content deeper and more complete.
  98. 98. The #1 way to make your page better: Add relevant topics to make your context deeper and your content more complete.
  99. 99. SEO Code-Breaking 1) Perform keyword research 2) Find a home for your content 3) Learn tips to improve your web writing 4) Set expectations for what’s next (5) Table of Contents
  100. 100. What’s Next
  101. 101. What to Expect Next You’ve written great new content. What should you expect to happen next? 1) First, make sure Google sees your content 2) Set expectations for how quickly rankings change 3) Finally, generate an editorial strategy to plan ahead What’s Next
  102. 102. How to Make Google Index Your Content Tell Google that you have new or updated content in order to get indexed more quickly: ● Submit the URL to Google Search Console ● Update sitemap.XML with the new/updated page ● Build backlinks through PR and promotion What’s Next > Index Your Content
  103. 103. When Will My Search Rankings Change? ● Rank changes may take weeks (or months) to realize ● Speed up the process by building more authority What’s Next > Rank Changes
  104. 104. Develop an Editorial Content Strategy What’s Next > Editorial Content Strategy How often should you blog? Only as often as you: ● have time to make it great ● have budget to promote it (amplification plan) How often should you review your website content? ● Review every page on your site at least every 12 months ● Find opportunities to improve content, simplify writing, add context and related topics, or create internal links ● Make it better because it can always be better
  105. 105. SEO Code-Breaking 1) Perform keyword research 2) Find a home for your content 3) Learn tips to improve your web writing 4) Set expectations for what’s next You have everything you need. You have the power to add CONTEXT to improve your CONTENT, and give a better experience to search engines and your customers. We Did It
  106. 106. You have the tools. Now you can crack the unbreakable code.
  107. 107. SEO Code-Breaking How Smarter Content Leads to Better Search Rankings Chris Prendergast | chris@clickrain.com

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