SEO: Going beyond keywords and ranking aheadInterview
Sam AdodraBestselling Author of SEO Expert Strategies
REGALIX: WHAT ACCORDING TO YOU IS THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE OF SEO?
SA: I see a lot of confusion in SEO right now because of the recent algorithm updates from Google – Panda, Penguin, Mobile. Whilst some things have stayed constant, the changes in SEO are so fast moving that if you’re not staying on the cutting edge, your best practices will be out of date within 6 months.
REGALIX: WHAT KIND OF CHANGES HAVE YOU NOTICED IN SEO IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, AND WHAT KIND OF CHANGES DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
SA: In the last few years Black Hat SEO has been virtually eliminated. Google have got incredibly smart at detecting spam and working out whether a site is legitimate or whether it’s just been thrown together as a ‘churn and burn’ site.
Looking into my crystal ball for the future, I see Google trying it’s best to shift away from backlinks as being the backbone of the Internet but failing. Links will still be the ultimate test of a website’s authority.
Mobile and social signals will increase in importance. I believe that Google will start paying closer attention to people with large followings on social media sites. Google will work out who the big influencers are and assign a quality score to them, like they did with Page Rank for websites. At present, social signals are still in their infancy and Google treats all users on social media equally.
REGALIX: IN WHAT WAY SHOULD YOU BE USING KEYWORDS IN YOUR BLOG OR WEBSITE, WHERE ARE THE CORRECT PLACES FOR PLACEMENT?
SA: Put keywords in the website title, inner page title, header tags (h1 most important, followed by h2 and h3) and the meta description. It’s also worth putting your keyword at least once in the body of the article along with latent semantic index keywords – i.e. synonyms of your main keyword.
Don’t keyword stuff or bother with bolding, underlining or using italics unless it flows naturally. That just looks spammy.
REGALIX: WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS THAT SEO CAMPAIGNS CAN TAKE AND USE FROM A SUCCESSFUL PPC CAMPAIGN TARGETING THE SAME KEYWORD SEGMENT?
SA: I always encourage my clients to spend a modest sum on PPC campaigns first because that gives us a quick indication of what keywords bring in targeted traffic and which actually convert. Sure you can look at Google’s Keyword Planner but it’s not a perfect tool. Sometimes it won’t accurately score a keyword if the search volume is too low and it also isn’t very good at recognizing a keyword that is trending until several weeks or months have passed.
If you’re going to run an SEO campaign, identify which keywords brought in targeted and profitable traffic from the PPC campaign and then go after not just those keywords but also synonyms of that keyword when you’re building links and creating social shares.
REGALIX: ACCORDING TO YOU, IN WHAT WAYS CAN ONE DETERMINE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF AN SEO CAMPAIGN?
SA: Ultimately it’s whether the website owner gets an ROI. SEO campaigns typically average between 3-6 months or even longer if the competition is stronger. Usually I’d expect to get the website owner a page one ranking to consider the campaign a success but if the search volume is low then it might only be considered a success if the client achieves a top 3 listing on page 1 or has multiple properties on the first page, e.g. their website and social media properties like a Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile.
Every niche is different so there’s no one set answer. Given that most people don’t go past the first page of Google, I would say that an SEO campaign was effective if a page 1 listing was achieved and if the client began to see a return on their investment within 6 months of starting the campaign. Ultimately it’ll depend on the search volume and the client’s expectations though.
REGALIX: ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SEO TACTICS THAT YOU FOLLOW? IF YES, COULD YOU PLEASE HIGHLIGHT THAT FOR OUR READERS AND ALSO PROVIDE SOME EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL SEO STRATEGIES.
SA: I’m strongly in the White Hat SEO category. I’d rather take a little longer to rank but know that I’m complying with Google’s terms of service. That gives me peace of mind that my rankings aren’t going to disappear overnight in the next algorithm update.
Successful strategies include:
Publishing regular content – at least once a week but more regularly if possible. This satisfies Google’s freshness factor in its algorithm.
Syndicate your content across different social media platforms. Build up a following in particular on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Following i) and ii) above will help to build your brand and your website’s authority. As long as your content is good and it gets shared, then Google will index your inner pages. The more inner pages you have indexed, the more authority you’ll build and the easier it will become to rank for multiple keywords over time. News websites rank high, often without any backlinks to the inner page, because of the website’s root domain authority.
Create epic content to help acquire natural backlinks.
Keep an eye on your backlink profile. The majority of your links should be raw url and branded links i.e. http://www.yoursite.com or www.site.com or your company brand, followed by generic anchor text like click here. If your main keyword is too high as a percentage then you run the risk of getting hit with a Penguin over optimization penalty.
REGALIX: SEARCH HAS ALWAYS BEEN A VERY CRUCIAL COMPONENT FOR EVERY MARKETER’S BRAND STRATEGY. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT?
SA: Search will always be important but it’s not the be all and end all for a brand strategy. The Internet is just a tool, a strategy for acquiring customers. Offline marketing strategies still work e.g. Direct mail, Public Speaking and Face to Face. People still like to meet and get to know someone who they’re doing business with.
REGALIX: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON SEO MISTAKES THAT YOU SEE, AMONG MARKETERS TRYING TO CATER TO SEARCH ENGINES?
SA: The biggest mistake is not recognizing that you need to convert cold traffic into warm traffic. Even if you get to the first page, if you don’t convert your prospects and capture their attention then having all of the best backlinks or social shares isn’t going to help.
It’s not necessary to have the best looking site but you do need to engage your users.
Google is trying to mimic natural human behavior and is adjusting its algorithm to cater for how humans interact.
This is why user signals like click through rate, time on site and whether you’re being talked about on social media have become so important in the current algorithm.
If your website is hard to navigate but you’ve managed to get it ranked, then visitors will be put off. If they click back to Google without having interacted on your site, this is a negative signal and tells Google that you’re not relevant for that keyword. So you have to make sure that you’re On Page content is good too now.
REGALIX: WHAT TOOLS DO YOU PERSONALLY USE TO DETERMINE THE KEYWORDS AND PHRASES THAT ARE VIABLE OPTIMIZATION TARGETS FOR A WEBSITE?
SA: Google’s Keyword Planner is the best tool out there and it’s free. It’s not perfect and it’s not always accurate but it’s great for getting keyword ideas and seeing what keywords that your competitors are ranking for.
Another good tool for checking the competition is SEM Rush. This tool works best for sites that already receive traffic, usually through PPC, or through high organic search.
Market Samurai is another tool that is good for checking the competition of a keyword. Its use for finding EMDs (exact match domains) is limited now since EMDs lost much of their ranking power in 2013.
You also have to apply some common sense as well. Put yourself in the minds of a potential prospect. What types of questions or long tail keywords would they be typing into the search bar? Ask colleagues, family and friends for ideas. Sometimes we’re too close to our subject matter as experts to recognize what a lay person would be entering in their search query.
Finally, look at what else Google thinks is relevant. Google offers you related keywords at the bottom of the search results and it also provides suggestions as you start typing in a few characters into the search bar. These can be extremely useful as the suggestions are based on what others are typing in. I’ve often found times when these suggestions don’t appear in the Keyword Planner but common sense tells you that there is search volume even if the Keyword Planner isn’t picking up on it.
REGALIX: FINALLY, ARE THERE ANY OTHER TIPS YOU MAY HAVE FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO IMPROVE THEIR SEO SKILLS?
SA: Don’t be afraid to invest in your training. A mistake that I made at the beginning of my SEO career was thinking that if I looked hard enough, I’d be able to find all of the information that I needed for free on the Internet e.g. through blogs.
This is such a common mistake that I see in many new beginners when they start their SEO career.
SEO is so fast moving now that whatever snippets you pick up on a blog will likely be short lived or out of date by the time you get around to putting it into practice.
Also, don’t be afraid to test. That doesn’t mean you have to take risks on your main websites but do push the boundaries on test domains and see what works and what doesn’t. Google’s never going to publicize its algorithm so it’s up to an SEO to reverse engineer what’s working and what isn’t. You can either take the advice of others that are doing the testing or test yourself.
Finally, don’t believe everything that Google releases into the public domain. They have their own agendas. I’m not saying go against their terms of service but as recently as 2014 for example, they were denying that social signals were a part of their algorithm when all of our tests, and our peers’ testing, showed otherwise.
Sam Adodra is the bestselling author of SEO Expert Strategies, which is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/SEO-Expert-Strategies-Consultant-Outsource-ebook/dp/B00OEKE882/
If you’d like to know more about Sam you can reach him on his blog at http://www.seoservicelondon.org