Skimlinks has partnered up with Adam Connell to answer frequently asked questions about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and help publishers of all sizes improve their organic traffic.
Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard and previously operations manager at a UK-based marketing agency specializing in SEO and CRO focused web design.
As a blogger with little time, what are the 2 most important SEO metrics I should focus on?
Rankings and traffic are the two most important SEO metrics to consider.
Both work to help you understand how your blog is performing. Rankings, in particular, are useful to track because they can alert you to issues before they take a huge chunk out of your revenue.
Rankings are also a good indicator that there’s nothing wrong when your traffic is in decline.
For example, it’s easy to look at your traffic on a particular day and wonder why you’re down week on week. Checking your rankings can validate that it’s a seasonal trend and there’s not a problem.
Traffic data is easy to come by with the help of freemium tools like Google Analytics.
As for your rankings, Google Search Console provides a great free way to track your rankings. This data is directly from Google and should be used regardless.
In addition, you could use a rank tracking tool such as SEMrush or SE Ranking. These are paid tools but they can be useful in the way they allow you to carve up the data. Specifically SEMrush as it allows you to view your rankings side-by-side with that of your competitors.
Now, even if you have little time on your hands, it’s incredibly important to dig into the data from these tools rather than just looking at everything from a top-level view.
Set aside some time each month to dig through reports and understand what’s going on with your rankings. This can alert you to problems with your content or changes in search behavior that need to be addressed.
For large publishers with thousands of pages, how do you do an SEO audit at scale?
It’s been a while since I’ve done any large scale SEO audits but I’d approach it in a similar way to how I would for any of the sites I run now.
But I’d be a lot more careful and have a developer to implement any technical changes.
My first priority would be focusing on the ‘under the hood’ technical stuff – running site auditors and checking for anything that’s not working right.
Google Search Console would also be a good thing to check at this point. GSC does a good job at highlighting issues with rich snippets, 404 errors, indexation problems, etc.
404 errors are a particularly important thing to look at – some will be nonsensical made-up URLs from scraped content that has done a bad job at parsing links. Other times it will expose a huge technical SEO mess up where URL structure has changed and nobody thought to implement redirects.
Then, I’d look for any immediate quick wins I could implement across the board. What this is depends on the site.
Backlink analysis is another critical part of the process. One of the fast ways that websites hemorrhage backlinks is because the content with the most links hasn’t aged well or has been removed entirely.
I see this a lot with large publishers. They’ll publish an article or resources and a few years later, it’ll get lost during a site redesign. The crazy thing is that sometimes these pages have hundreds if not thousands of referring domains. That’s a huge opportunity wasted and it can be compounded when multiple pages/resources are removed.
I also like to look for potentially toxic backlinks. Even though Google tends to ignore bad links now, they have been known to send out manual penalties for excessively abusive black hat link building – that’s getting rarer now.
Finally, I’d move onto a granular content audit. I say ‘granular’ because a lot of people will try to do content audits at scale without looking at the content.
That’s fine but it’s an easy way to miss the biggest reasons why content is failing to perform.
My typical process is to export all of the URL’s/titles, group content into pages/posts and pull in the referring domains and Google Analytics traffic.
When I manually check content, I’m not just looking at the content from an SEO perspective. Because SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum, I’m also looking at the content from a user-experience perspective.
If the people who land on your website have a bad experience and do not interact with your content, then you’ll likely also mess up your SEO as it will cause pogo-sticking.
Pogo-sticking is when people quickly leave your page after clicking on it from a search on Google.
This heavily impacts your SEO, which translates to lost revenue.
In my spreadsheet, I will decide upon an action to take for each piece of content:
- Keep – If there are no issues.
- Update – If the post has traffic and links but needs an update, we’ll fix it up, republish and promote it extensively like we would any new post.
- Remove + redirect – If the content gets no traffic and has no links with little chance of gaining traffic, we’ll consider removing and redirecting it to the next most relevant post.
Some content that fails to gain traffic may earn a decent amount of links that help support other content through internal linking. So it’s important to do a quick cost/benefit analysis when considering removing content. Thin and purposeless content will be prime candidates for removal.
But it’s important to not simply remove any article that fails to get traffic. If there’s a chance it can rank, work towards ensuring it does rank. And in some cases, it may not get traffic because Google hasn’t indexed it for some reason.
Even for large publishers, sometimes Google may not index a post. It’s not a perfect system by any means.
For example, Blogging Wizard articles are usually indexed within 1 hour. After 3 weeks we had an article that wasn’t indexed still.
I tweaked some of the content by removing some none-important words in sub-headings, republished it, and sent out a bunch of social shares.
Without changing the URL, headline, or anything else aside from sub-headings – the article was indexed within 40-50 minutes. Within two weeks the post was getting 150-200 visitors per day.
There is a level of finesse to SEO audits and content audits. For small publishers and bloggers, the traffic swing can be less substantial. But for large publishers, it can be significant.
Regardless, anyone doing an SEO audit should be cautious and think things through.
What is the best online SEO course for beginners?
It’s been a long time since I’ve taken an SEO course and the landscape has changed a lot since then.
I’ve heard great things about SEO That Works by Brian Dean and SEO Blueprint by Glen Allsopp.
That said, one of the best investments I ever made was buying a copy of a book called ‘The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization’.
What is the best SEO strategy for small/niche publishers?
As a small publisher, it’s important to understand that it will take time for your content to rank. But you can expedite the process substantially with link building.
And while you shouldn’t ignore high traffic keywords entirely, your focus should be on the long-tail.
Most keyword research tools will give you traffic estimations but these can mostly be ignored. They’re not too accurate, particularly at lower volumes.
And, your content won’t rank for one specific keyword – it will rank for a group of keywords.
Content volume will help. The more content you create, the more keywords you can potentially rank for, and the more traffic you’ll get naturally. Even if you’re not link building.
The more traffic you get, the more people will naturally share and link to you. As time goes on, this forms somewhat of a springboard and Google will begin to send more traffic your way. Eventually, this turns into a snowball effect.
It’s also essential that you take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Your competitors probably will be too. And if they’re not – you have an even bigger advantage.
Here’s what I mean:
Most outreach emails you receive should be binned or simply reported as spam, but every so often you’ll receive one from a legit person/website.
Naturally, they’ll want a link. But you can turn this outreach into an opportunity for yourself. Leverage the outreachers’ need for links to get coverage for your own site.
Do this enough times and you won’t be considered a ‘small publisher’ for much longer.
That said, you will need to be pro-active as well. Don’t just make use of opportunities that come to you. Make the opportunities come to you.
How do you write a good title for SEO?
For a good SEO title, you’re going to need your main keyword to make it easier for Google and searchers to understand the relevance.
You’re also going to want to make it as enticing as possible.
Granted, you don’t want to enter clickbait territory because that will lead to pogo-sticking, where readers land on your content and instantly return to the search results page.
But you do need to strike a balance between clickbait and the opposite extreme of a lifeless headline that isn’t enticing at all.
Give people a better reason to read your content than your competitors. Whether they’re above or below you in SERPs.
The additional ‘hook’ you use will depend on the content, what readers will find most useful and the resources you have available.
Let’s take the keyword ‘choose a website name’ as an example.
If I wrote a list post of ways to come up with name ideas, such as ‘10 Ways To Choose A Website Name’ – that’s a good starting point.
But, if I’m competing with similar content, I’m giving no extra incentive over the other articles.
So, there are two directions I could take:
- Expand the content with more naming methods
- Add something extremely useful that other articles don’t have
Let’s say we go with the second option. We could offer:
- A list of name ideas
- A generator tool
- A quiz
Then, we’d factor that into our headline to make it more compelling. For example: ‘10 Ways To Choose A Website Name + 100 Name Ideas’.
This makes the headline significantly more enticing, right?
If you have a good ranking, what do you have to do to protect your SEO position?
The first and most important consideration is that just because you reach the coveted number 1 spot, you don’t simply claim victory and move on – SEO is ongoing.
This means you need to keep developing your existing content. Keep it updated and ensure it’s better than your competitors’ content.
Keep publishing fresh content, particularly content that earns links so you can support your existing content.
Content that earns links and content that attracts search traffic isn’t always the same thing, so it’s crucial to continue publishing new content to cover additional keywords.
This means that if your existing content does lose traffic, rankings, or both – your newer content may be able to pick up the slack.
And, continue to build fresh links. You will lose links over time so fresh links will be helpful.
While you have more to lose at this point, you will likely have more resources to invest in SEO.
It’s also worth noting that SEO is continuously evolving so it’s crucial to devote some of those resources that will make you less reliant on SEO in general.
How does COVID-19 affect SEO strategy?
This depends on you and your business. In some verticals, SEO strategy won’t change at all.
In other verticals, it will affect the direction of your entire content strategy, including the keywords you choose and how exactly they are prioritized.
In general though, the biggest impact on SEO strategy is likely how the strategy is implemented. It’s all the work that goes on behind the scenes. For example, a lot of SEO experts have lost clients due to brands reserving cash or diverting resources into new initiatives.
What do publishers need to do when new Google updates impact SEO?
The latest Google algorithm update only dropped recently and while we can make some initial observations it’s not a good idea to consider any conclusions as definitive right now.
Especially considering how COVID-19 massively impacted what people search for, and search usage in general.
Many SEO experts usually post observations of what they’re seeing and that can be helpful.
However, it can also be misleading as they’re looking at different niches/industries.
What matters most is observations in your own niche. Your observations.
So, work at understanding your niche and your target keywords.
Who is ranking? And why are they ranking? What is the intent behind the keyword?
You need to be critical towards your own site and pragmatic towards competing sites.
Search behavior changes in time and Google will always try to serve the content that best satisfies searcher intent.
This is important stuff that people forget amongst the sheer panic that hits when a new update rolls out.
Once you can find why others’ content is ranking, you can put a strategy in place to improve your own content.
It’s also worth considering that to really understand why certain content ranks, you need to look at search results pages for specific keywords. Not just broad data sets with little nuance or context.
If you were hit due to an algorithm update, it’s equally important to remember that it’s not always that your content is performing worse, it’s often simply that a competitor is doing better, rather than your content doing worse.