[Note: the below transcript is edited to make for easy, stand-alone reading. Thanks to Reach, Relevance & Rice for producing the video!]
Christian Geissendoerfer: Today we have our SEO expert, Eric with us. And I would like to say, hello and welcome. And Eric, please introduce you to our audience.
Eric Van Buskirk: Sure. Good to speak with everyone. I’ve been doing SEO for the most part, I would say 15 years. That’s been the thrust of my work for 15 years. Probably the most noteworthy things I’ve done that have helped where I am now, and what I do now include that I worked for SEMrush in their Philadelphia office. They are one of the two biggest software suites used by SEOs.
And of course, being inside of a tool company or a software company gives you a lot of insights. And the other one was that I did a lot of the largest SEO data studies in 2016 and 2017, actually the largest. And after that time, there’s been a lot more data studies being done on Google Search.
Christiaan: With the changes of environment, did that have a big impact on digital advertising and digital marketing? What do you think the current situation is with different digital channels.
Eric: Obviously there’s always this balance between paid media versus, you can say earned media. My area is more content marketing. I couldn’t really say that paid media is necessarily better or worse in a climate like this. We need to take into account how coronavirus is making certain activities and certain spending habits become more prevalent.
So, anything to do with the home. Anything to do with the home, you obviously have a lot of opportunities and you should be taking advantage of that. If your products, if your services, if your informational products are related to the home and all the other things that have become increasingly important during this time, that’s a no-brainer.
Christiaan: The right balance is important, right?
Christiaan: Between paid and organic. So let’s get a bit more into this organic part, right?
Christiaan: Search engine optimization gets to more organic visitors, but what are the key challenges most websites are facing in order to get the best organic search results?
Eric: The first thing I would say is that during normal times, and right now, without taking into account the coronavirus, one of the biggest differences between paid and organic is that organically takes time, right? So, you don’t necessarily see the big results until three or four months.
And that’s one of the reasons why AdWords in particular is a great fit with SEO. They have an overlap with SEO, because it’s Google, it’s text, it’s search. Results from one can inform the other. Typically, brands that are just starting out, will start with AdWords and then as they build a bigger audience, they’ll move towards SEO. Or of course, anyone that just needs traffic now and just isn’t able to take a bit of a longer-term approach.
In terms of onsite, I tend to break it into two components. One is, you could say Technical SEO, and the other is Content, which is mostly about the written word.
Technical SEO Basics
Eric: So, Technical SEO means scanning through the site with software (a crawler). And there are many different levels that somebody would have the expertise to look at. Most SEOs, they’re not coming from a programmer background. They’re not coming from a background of really understanding all these very, very esoteric areas of what makes a website work better, both in the eyes of Google, but also what Google is looking for as a user experience.
So, they may do a more quick overview and scan using an automatic scan program. But with Technical SEO, you can get very into the weeds. A good example of that would be a large website, like an eCommerce, will pull in information from external resources. And a lot of times that will slow down the site a lot. And it may have a lot of bad code because of the complexity of the CMS.
Eric: Google doesn’t want to see a thousand of extra lines of code that shouldn’t be there. All of these things need to be optimized. So, Technical SEO is optimizing, making these things work better, making sure that these external resources are functioning properly.
But in addition to those being quite technical, there are 50 other things that may or may not be working quite right. Some audits are more simple and they’re not technical in the strict sense of the word. It may be, for example, are you using meta descriptions on your pages, most websites that I’ve seen at best do it 20% of the time. It’s not a ranking factor, but it’s a very important thing to know about because it’s what can drive your click-through rate when you rank higher. Those descriptions are what Google is using to show on the search.
Content Planning and SEO 101
If there is an existing writer, editor, perhaps content planner on your team how do you work with them to make sure that the content is optimized for Google? You don’t want to put the writers, or the editor, in handcuffs by saying, “Oh, you need to mention these 15 words and that’s a requirement of mine as the SEO.”
No, you have to strike a balance there. Typically, in SEO we talk about something like a keyword and topic map, or a blueprint, or recipe card. And typically there’s one of these created for each page that the writer’s using as a guide. But then of course they have to all come together because Google was looking at the whole of the site and how well it’s optimized, as well as on a page by page basis.
Christiaan: Yeah. And so there’s the technical part and there’s a more creative part that is the content I would say. But that’s both things you have under your direct control.
Christiaan: Whereas, the offsite content: that’s a little less under your direct control, right?
Christiaan: Maybe you can explain in a short sentence about offsite and how you get to results there.
Intro to External Links
Eric: Yeah. For most SEO offsite is links. The real challenge these days is that Google is like the smartest machine learning robot that you could ever imagine. So, without getting into what is machine learning, you have to understand that they’re looking at very complex relationships offsite, and trying to see the patterns and see things like whether your site is trustworthy, for example, or more authoritative.
But if you do something that’s unnatural, it’s very easy for them to find it out. That’s why you should really be getting articles, doing outreach, and getting these links in a way that’s naturally done and not manipulated.
Christiaan: Is it that it’s good content? I heard that Google will rate good content better, rank links from it better. What do you think about that?
Eric: Yeah. So I think this is something people are pretty agreed upon.
Google is looking at a page, let’s say an editorial page, let’s say it’s a well-known blogger’s website. If that page, or even that blog, doesn’t tend to be particularly well written, then that’s only one of many factors as to why the link will be judged as important.
If that content is on your own site and it’s really high quality or low quality, that is more important. But when you’re looking for the context of the link, it’s a bit different. So, they’re looking at how authoritative is that website in a big way. Is this a well-known blogger? It’s got the New York Times linked to this blogger’s website, for example? That’s what they’re looking for and they would really like to see that the topic of that well-known blogger’s site is similar to your site.
Christiaan: I think we had a good rundown now, of the onsite, the offsite, the content importance. So, for this time, thank you very much, Eric. Thanks for your insights. We will be back for another take on the process of SEO and how the success is guaranteed. But for now, thank you very much for your time.
Eric Van Buskirk: Great. Thanks very much!