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SEO: Crafting Rankable Content

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Presented at Social Media Shake-Up 2017 in Atlanta. Actionable SEO fundamentals for PR, communications, and social media professionals. How to write and phrase your message for maximum results.

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SEO: Crafting Rankable Content

  1. 1. SEO C R A F T I N G R A N K A B L E C O N T E N T BY C A R O LY N S H E L BY
  2. 2. “WHO AM I?” Carolyn Shelby - Presenter Director, SEO at tronc, Inc. I am a search engine optimization professional and webmaster with 22+ years of experience building and ranking websites.  Technical SEO  Organic SEO  Forensic Audits  Holistic Optimization  Rebuilding websites  Speaking & Training
  3. 3. WHAT MAKES THE ENGINES PURRRRRRRR Content/websites that are the most relevant to the user query. What is “relevant”? The content on the pages Performance of the site (Does it work? Is it fast? ) Authority/popularity of the site Good user experience
  4. 4. WHAT THE ENGINES DO NOT WANT Above all, the engines do not want sites that use “tactics” and tricks to snake their way to the top of the SERPs. If you have to resort to trickery, you’re probably lacking substance or utility.
  5. 5. KNOW YOUR SERP TARGET •Multiple types of Search Results •Not all search results show for all queries •Not all indices are right for your message •Keep the query in mind when crafting your message
  6. 6. • Use SEO tools to determine which keyword phrase you want to target (either based on search volume or value to your business in terms of conversions) • Determine how you want to compete (Direct Answer box? Top result? Video result? Image result?) • Plan strategy accordingly…
  7. 7. This is a direct answer box… in mobile, this is really the *only* result people will look at.
  8. 8. H O W TO B E T H E D I R E C T A N S W E R Title/headline closely matches the query. (Clearly indicates it will answer the question!) Question is repeated in the content. Answer to the query is in the first 20-25 words. If your image is not easy for Google to grab, they might use someone else’s image!
  9. 9. WRITING OPTIMIZED CONTENT C O M M U N I C AT I N G R E L E VA N C Y ( W I T H O U T B E I N G T E C H N I C A L )
  10. 10. COMMUNICATING RELEVANCY • Write for the robots as well as the people • You are unlikely to rank for words that are not on the page • Structure the message (in the code) so the machines can also understand weight and relevancy • Quantity of Copy (not too much, not too little) • Underlying Code (HTML)** • Provide “supporting” media (images, PDFs, video, etc.) – This also makes your stuff more shareable!
  11. 11. WHERE CAN WE OPTIMIZE? • In almost all forms of content, we can optimize – Meta Data – Content Title/Headline – Content Quantity and Quality (Lede, Focus Keywords) – Media (PDFs, Images, Videos) – Links (to a lesser extent) – Less/not important to internal search
  12. 12. ANATOMY OF A SERP LISTING Description Title Tag The URL
  13. 13. <TITLE>THE TITLE TAG</TITLE> • Every page *must* have a unique title • Build the title around target term for that page • This will be a 2-4 word keyword phrase • “Green Building Home Retrofitting" or “Chicago Cubs Rooftop Tickets” • Note… all keywords in descending order of importance, BUT they still read nicely. • Keep it short, attractive and enticing.
  14. 14. <TITLE>IF TITLE = HEADLINE</TITLE> • Every page still *must* have a unique title tag • The title usually matches the headline (H1), so • Write Good Headlines (see H1 guidance) • Keep it short, attractive and enticing. • Front Load the Keywords (when possible) • Be Concise, But Unambiguous.
  15. 15. So… this is good for print…. University Settles Dispute with City Better for online Purdue Settles Dispute with West Lafayette Most Clear, No Ambiguity Purdue Univ Settles Excise Enforcement Dispute with Govt
  16. 16. THE META DESCRIPTION • Every page of the site must have a unique meta description • Include details that are not presented in the <title> • Use proper English. It shouldn’t read like a bunch of keywords randomly slung together. • Accurately represent the content of the page. • If a press release, assume lede will be used for this purpose. Write lede accordingly.
  17. 17. META KEYWORDS • The Search Engines don’t really bother with this tag much. – Some internal search engines DO read meta keywords! • If you DO have this field and use it, make sure it is – filled in correctly (keywords are for the specific content on that specific page, not general for the website) – the fields are formatted correctly (keyword,keyword,keyword) • If it’s not right, just get rid of it or skip it. Better not there than wrong.
  18. 18. ON-PAGE: CONTENT TITLE/HEADLINE • This is (and should be) the <h1> on the page (in the code) –In most blogs, the “title” on the page is the <h1> and is also used to create the meta title. • There should be only one <h1> per page –How can you have more than one MOST important thing on the page? Wouldn’t that be confusing? • MAKE SURE the <h1> contains your target keywords. Pithy and/or clever w/o keywords will not help your cause.
  19. 19. TIPS FOR GREAT TITLES/HEADLINES • Limit use of filler/helper words – Write Tight! • Don’t bury the lede – Important things are always first • Remember there is NO surrounding context, so don’t leave anything to the imagination.
  20. 20. CONTENT IS EXAMINED IN A VACUUM We MUST provide context to ensure that the search engines know EXACTLY what we’re writing about.
  21. 21. HEADLINES/TITLES The President will be visiting us next week! President to visit next week Acme Corp welcomes President Johnson June 2nd President Johnson to visit Acme Corp June 2nd
  22. 22. HEADLINES/TITLES Trump to visit Saudis on first overseas trip Trump declines to wear hijab Acme Corp welcomes Obama June 2nd Oprah to visit Acme Corp June 2nd
  23. 23. HEADLINES/TITLES Trump to visit Saudis on first overseas trip Trump declines to wear hijab Acme Corp welcomes Obama June 2nd Oprah to visit Acme Corp June 2nd *President* Obama is assumed No need to clarify. There is only one Oprah!
  24. 24. CONTENT QUANTITY AND QUALITY • Have sufficient copy to help the engines understand the context and relevancy of the content. • BARE Minimum 300-500 words • Make sure you use the words you’re trying to rank for • Actually say the name of your product • Don’t rely on images to communicate branding or anything else • DO NOT link gratuitously or excessively.
  25. 25. REAL QUICK: GOOD VS BAD OUTLINKS • Ask yourself these questions… –Why are you including this link? –Does the link expand or enhance the reader’s understanding of the topic/words linked? –How many other links do you have on this page that go to the same destination page?
  26. 26. Story About Siamese Cats Cats Kittens Caring for your new kitten Feline Siamese Cats Meezers History of the Breed CHOOSE DESCRIPTIVE ANCHOR TEXT FOR LINKS
  27. 27. Story About Caring for Kittens Cats Kittens Caring for your new kitten Felines Siamese Cats Meezers History of the Breed CHOOSE DESCRIPTIVE ANCHOR TEXT FOR LINKS
  28. 28. WRITING THE COPY VITAL INFO Important Extra
  29. 29. IMAGES • Always define the “alt=“ attribute for images. • This is a valuable opportunity to add some clarity (and more keywords) to your content. • It’s an ADA and Section 508 compliance requirement. • Use CSS to display images when possible. It keeps your load times low. • Remember, images are pretty, but they’re only useful for communicating information to sighted humans. TELL THE ENGINES WHAT IS IN THE IMAGE.
  30. 30. THE BOTS DO NOT “SEE” KITTEN KITTEN
  31. 31. THE BOTS DO NOT “SEE” KITTEN KITTEN
  32. 32. PDFS • In the PDF creation process (using Acrobat, not Reader) make sure you fill in all of the “optional” author and meta data. The engines can see that stuff. • Make sure you’re creating the text portions AS TEXT, not as a giant image. • You may want to provide any supporting media in separate (larger) files, as supplements. – Especially if supporting media is an infographic or photos that might need to be sized for print.
  33. 33. VIDEO • There are an increasing number of ways video can be optimized for search. • Add transcripts • Add tags • Add descriptions. • ALWAYS add content AROUND the video ON the page itself. • Videos add an extra opportunity for appearing in the SERPs thanks to the new universal results.
  34. 34. FINAL NOTE ON CREATING CONTENT • Make them easy on the eye. – Use subheaders/section titles. – Break things into digestible chunks. – Use images that are relevant (and not stock) • “Front load” important things (esp. keywords) • Use the words for which you want to be found
  35. 35. PROTIP: IF YOU’RE USING WORDPRESS… Self-Host. Use Yoast’s “WordPress SEO” plugin. (Get the “Local” add-on if you have physical locations) Turn comments off. Go Secure (Https) Lockdown Everything (Wordfence) Use the AMP plugin
  36. 36. LET’S TALK CONTENT MARKETING CONCEPTS P R O C E S S , B E N C H M A R K I N G , A N D R E P O R T I N G
  37. 37. THE CONTENT MARKETING CYCLE Identify Goals and Benchmark Select Topics and Targets Write Amazing Content Distribute and Promote Run Reports to Show ROI
  38. 38. IDENTIFY GOALS AND BENCHMARK • What are we trying to accomplish? • Who are we trying to reach? • What do we want to happen?
  39. 39. IDENTIFY GOALS AND BENCHMARK • Pull current rankings (with KWPs) • Check the number of pages indexed. • Get access to GA, make sure you can see YoY data.
  40. 40. CHECK CURRENT RANKINGS Lots of tools available. Can’t do this in Google Analytics. Google Search Console info is sometimes off. This isn’t 100% accurate either, so use it for directional guidance, not as #truefacts
  41. 41. SELECT TOPICS AND TARGETS • Identify likely or desired consumer types (personas) • Determine topics based on personas. • Determine best keywords based on KW research + persona preferences. • Select/time topics based on the above.
  42. 42. DISTRIBUTE AND PROMOTE • Determine the best places and times to place and promote that content. • Answer questions like: –What publications have users that match your target demographic and when would they most likely be interested in your content?
  43. 43. DUPLICATE CONTENT WARNING It isn’t really a “penalty” Streamlining the index keeps processes fast, and Google <3’s speed. DO NOT USE THE SAME PIECE EVERYWHERE. Obviously, if the same article gets picked up by 100 outlets, you can’t help that… Try to tailor your message (at least 25-30%) to each specific audience.
  44. 44. RUN REPORTS AND SHOW ROI • YOY metrics (or campaign duration over previous time period) – Traffic overall (referrers, social, etc) – Traffic to specific content pages • Increases in total number of pages ranked • Increases in total number of pages indexed • Improvements in existing rankings (if applicable)
  45. 45. SEO AND SOCIAL MEDIAH O W O N E I N F L U E N C E S T H E O T H E R A N D W H Y T H E Y N E E D E A C H O T H E R
  46. 46. PROMOTING CONTENT DO NOT originate content outside of your own website (or client’s site). Always drive the traffic TO the site.
  47. 47. CONSIDER THIS • Search is a part of all social media platforms. –Name one that does not have the ability to search through it for something… • Social platforms send signals to the search engines that are used to help rank content in “regular search” • The goal of any online campaign is to be “seen”, and the first step toward being “seen” is being “found”
  48. 48. AND THEN THERE’S… • Ultimately, you don’t own the real estate you’re developing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. • If it isn’t YOUR domain… it’s not your property. • Would you spend $20k to renovate the kitchen in a rental? • Don’t invest money in things you don’t *own* –If anything happens, you can’t reclaim that lost search authority.
  49. 49. SO WHY WORRY ABOUT SEARCH? • If your goal is to just “be friends” with the people who already know about your business and are already customers, then don’t worry about it. • If you want to expand your user base/clientele and get in front of people who are not already aware of your brand, then you need to think about search.
  50. 50. FACEBOOK • Not only is Facebook a valuable source for search ranking signals (shares, likes), but it also has it’s own internal search (OpenGraph). • Make sure the words you use in your FB interactions HAVE YOUR KEYWORDS in them. Somewhere.
  51. 51. MULTICHANNEL OPTIMIZATION 59 SEO Twitter Facebook Pinterest LinkedIn Offline Email Use SEO to optimize your message and copy, and then make sure you use CONSISTENT messaging throughout all of the channels in your campaigns. Train the public to think of you (and therefore search for you) with the words YOU control. Don’t leave anything to chance.
  52. 52. THE 5 MUSTS 1.Thou shalt provide value. 2.Thou shalt provide context. Do not assume the reader already knows what you sell/do. 3.Thou shalt USE the words for which you would like to rank. 4.Thou shalt direct traffic TO thine own website. 5.Thou shalt be diligent and consistent.
  53. 53. PRESS RELEASES, CONTENT MARKETING N E W R U L E S TO B E A W A R E O F…
  54. 54. • Write something newsworthy AND unique. • Contact the appropriate news desk at newspapers you’d like coverage in to find out how they prefer to receive press releases. • Send press release (fax/mail/in person) PRESS RELEASES: SUPER OLD SCHOOL
  55. 55. THE OLD ONLINE WAY –Write anything. Literally anything. –Use a LOT of keywords. All over. –Insert lots of links back to client’s website with a variety of keywords for the anchor text. –Distribute EVERYWHERE.
  56. 56. PRESS RELEASES: THE NEW NORM • Write something newsworthy and unique. • Include keywords that are relevant to the story and your client, but don’t stretch or stuff. (The best keywords occur naturally) • Include one URL reference (and also spell it out) • Include supporting media (graphs, original photos, charts, video) • Contact the appropriate news desk/writer/editor at the news outlets you’d like to cover your story and ask them how they prefer to receive news ideas/press releases.
  57. 57. IS IT “REAL” OR IS IT MEMOREX? • Determine the value of your story (is it likely to get “real” coverage in a “real” news outlet, or is it going to be filler content?) – If “real” coverage is likely, offer an exclusive, and DO NOT release to anyone else until it has run there first. (Including your own site) – If probably filler content, publish on YOUR website first. Make sure it’s indexed. THEN release. But NEVER to free distribution services.
  58. 58. WHY THE CHANGES? • Spammy/spamming press release distribution services ruined press releases for everyone. • Using newswires as backlink builders contributed to the devaluation of keyword anchor text. • The new unnatural link profile penalties can EASILY be triggered by a widely distributed press release with optimized/keyword anchor text.
  59. 59. THANK THESE GUYS Penguin: Targets spammy/ unnatural links Panda: Targets low quality content sites/content farms
  60. 60. A “GOOD” UPDATE: PIGEON • Modified the ranking algorithm for local listings to more closely resemble the traditional organic rankings. • Appearance of the local pack has dropped 68% • Google+ Business Page no longer the only focus for local. We’re back to about 2 years ago. • What does this mean? Strong content pieces that cite a business will help that business perform better in local search. 5/23/2017
  61. 61. THE MORAL OF THE STORY • Do not write crappy content and expect it to help anything. It won’t – and now it could hurt you. • Do not pepper your press releases with links like a dirty spammer. Link when beneficial and useful to the reader. Backlinks can be DANGEROUS now. Know what you’re doing, or just avoid the issue. If you screw up, you could damage/ruin your website. • Be judicious about your methods of distribution. If you have a quality/compelling story, treat it like it has value and don’t just give it away to low value scrapers.
  62. 62. Carolyn Shelby Director, SEO Tronc, Inc Twitter: @cshel Email: cshelby@tronc.com THANK YOU!

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