Skimlinks has invited Rand Fishkin to host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session exclusively for our publishers to discuss SEO for commerce content.
Richard G.: How often should I update my evergreen pages to keep them relevant to Google?
It really depends on the topic and the visitors. If you have a page about the history of the revolutionary war, it’s likely not going to need much updating. Once every 3-5 years probably works fine. On the other hand, if you have an evergreen page about the history of the microprocessor, updating every 1-3 months might make sense as new development (and new questions from searchers) are constantly arising.
Mario Y.: I manage a platform where users can browse through the best products of different categories. Should I take the time to write my own product descriptions or is it okay to use the ones available on the manufacturer’s website?
If you have time and energy to write your own descriptions, it can make a big difference, especially if you provide more value and greater insight for the searchers and potential buyers. This can not only help you be seen as providing unique value in Google’s eyes (which can help with rankings), it can also help with converting visitors into customers.
Anna M.: Can Google penalize my site for using a lot of affiliate links?
Yes, potentially they can. If they see a site or many pages with a heavy dose of advertising and/or advertising links that detract from a visitor’s ability to trust the site’s content or what it’s marketing, that can harm your rankings and traffic from Google, too. Searcher satisfaction is a bigger and bigger part of the engine’s rankings. Thankfully, sites like The Wirecutter have shown that less can be more — they make a lot of money with referral/affiliate links, but have trustworthy content and don’t spam or overuse those links.
Jean W.: Does buying Google Ads help organic search and SEO?
Indirectly, sometimes it can impact SEO. Google’s own research around ads shows that there’s even more likelihood a searcher will click on a website/URL/brand if it shows up in both the ad and organic results than just one of those. There can also be second-order benefits from the traffic you get via paid ads. There’s more on this topic in this Whiteboard Friday.
Amy B.: I found some tips online on how to write for SEO, changed the titles of my pages, used keywords in the first paragraph… but I don’t see any significant results. How long does it take for SEO to have a really positive impact on traffic?
Those kinds of very basic keyword usage tactics are unlikely to have any impact on your rankings and traffic. SEO is vastly more sophisticated today than 15 years ago, and just using keywords, changing titles, etc. while it can be a good practice (depending on how its done), won’t help you stand out in a field where everyone on page one of Google is already doing those things right.
If and when you do make substantive changes that massively improve your user experience, the satisfaction you provide to searchers, the quality of your material, and your brand’s reputation (through content, links, press, etc), it typically takes between a few hours and 2-3 weeks to see ranking changes. Usually that’s longer for newer websites and those that don’t rank as well and more timely for sites that have a lot of search traffic already, rank well, and get crawled+indexed frequently by Google.
Jan C.: I don’t know where to start with SEO optimization. What are the top 3 things to do that will make the biggest difference?
I have two resources that can help on this. First, this video on How to Rank in 2018 — which elements are needed to be competitive (bad news, it’s more than just three things). I also made a video a while back (that’s still relevant) on how to do Minimum Viable SEO if you only have a few minutes each week. Hope those are useful!
Jules S.: Can you give some recommendations for a Forum?
This is a very broad question, but generally speaking, I’d try to:
- Focus on the community first — make sure there’s lots of high quality people contributing good questions, topics, answers, and help to others. Nothing else will get you as far.
- There are some technologies that can suggest words+phrases to those who post forum topics, and you can seed that with the work from your keyword research, which may be able to assist.
- For topics that get lots of engagement, it may pay to create more full-featured landing pages and evergreen topic pages vs. forum posts. You can check into whether there’s opportunities to redirect/consolidate/republish and use this tactic to improve your targeting
Caca L.: I am using WordPress for my website and I have download an SEO checking tool. But so far, I have never got the good “Green Light”, only “OK” or “Needs Improvement” were shown. I wonder if you had tips to improve it.
Rand: Hmm… I’m not sure which WordPress plugin you installed, but you might try uninstalling and reinstalling (and/or contacting the creator of the plugin or looking for Q+A where they may have diagnostic tips). I will say that while some plugins for WordPress can be helpful, they’re certainly not going to transform your SEO overnight or provide a full solution. SEO is vastly more complex than what a plugin can solve or help with, and ignoring all the rest of the practice means you’ll never compete against those folks who do that stuff too.
Silvia J.: I am running a fashion blog, how can I have backlinks? Do the mentions I get on social networks count as backlinks?
No, generally mentions and links on social networks don’t count the way links from other websites do (because social networks usually use the rel=nofollow element, instructing Google not to count those links as votes in their ranking systems). In terms of how to get links, there’s thousands of techniques here, many of which will likely be applicable to your fashion blog.
Jules S.: We aggregate content snippets from our website on these “product pages” we frequently reproduce product descriptions from manufacturers. So there is nothing ‘original’ or unique content-wise on these pages. For this reason we don’t allow Google to index them. Is that wise? Or should we open these pages up to be indexed?
If there’s no unique content on those pages (or very little, and very little that’s uniquely valuable from what searchers could find elsewhere), I think you’re wise to keep them out of Google’s index. That said, you might try finding the most valuable pages like this that you want to be indexed and doing some work to add content, edit, and improve/upgrade the pages so they will provide that unique value to Google’s searchers and be seen by the engine as high quality.
Ben C.: Are there things I should do differently for Google, Bing, Duckduckgo… and is it worth it?
Thankfully, SEO for all of those is very similar, and Google’s 90% of the market anyway. Bing is a little more reliant on exact match links (that is, links with the precise keyword phrase of the search query) and a bit more sensitive to precise keyword usage (vs. Google’s broader searcher intent detection with language). So if you’re doing great with SEO on Google, but not on Bing, more of those two should help.
Andy F.:Apart from looking at Google Analytics, what should I use to check my SEO?
Rand: I’d recommend using both Google’s Search Console and a third party tool like Moz Pro (or similar from a number of their competitors). You want something that can show you the pages with crawl issues, give you a list of pages that need to do a better job with keyword targeting, help with link building suggestions, etc.