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In Search [Episode 19]: Moving Beyond the Cliches of Enterprise SEO





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The In Search SEO Podcast 'Tip Share' of the Week!




Tip Share Episode 19




How do you go about ensuring your SEO team is efficient, cohesive, and just plain happy?!



Summary of Episode 19: The In Search SEO Podcast 



In Search SEO Banner 19


Today we smash enterprise SEO cliches with all-star expert Eli Schwartz!
  • Going beyond writing more content... how enterprise sites should think about content creation
  • The issue of user intent facing enterprise sites
  • What brings true efficiency to an enterprise SEO team & how they can best allocate limited resources!

Plus, we discuss large-scale increase to mobile Image Thumbnails! 



Product Queries Push Image Thumbnails to New Heights [1:28 - 4:47]



On March 7th, our Mobile SERP Feature Tracker caught a large increase in mobile Image Thumbnails. Specifically, the average number of thumbnails jumped from 4 to 5 while the feature went from showing on 45% of page one SERPs to a whopping 65%!!!

That is a 45% increase! Mordy dug into this one and… guess what kind of keywords brought Image Thumbnails on mobile to new heights?

Product keywords!

Which is surprising because we just assumed every product on the planet already had Image Thumbnails on the SERP! But alas that was not the case…




By the way, not all of the product keywords put up image thumbnails of products. For example, Mordy noticed that for product related keywords with local intent, such as electric hot water heater Raleigh NC, a lot of those keywords brought up images related to the business showing in the organic results and not the product.

The weirdest one Mordy saw while sifting through 16K or so keywords was for septic tank alabama. As if you needed to see an image of septic tanks right? Well, you don't because instead Google gives us images of PDFs related Alabama’s waste regulations.

Also, modifiers did not seem to impact the showing of Image Thumbnails. In other words, if you searched for either RENT a boom lift or HOW TO rent a boom lift you got thumbnails for both boom lift keywords.



Enterprise SEO Beyond the Cliches a Conversation with Eli Schwartz [4:47 - 26:48]



[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]


Mordy: I cannot be more excited about this In Search SEO podcast interview. Today we have a true SEO guru (and yes I know that’s a buzzword thrown around way too often) but when you’re a contributor to SEL, SEJ, a regular speaker at events like PubCon and SMX... when you’re a judge for the US Search Awards… you’re an SEO guru, I’m sorry. And who better to talk about enterprise SEO than SurveyMonkey’s Director of Growth and SEO, Eli Schwartz.

Can I ask you, before we start getting into enterprise SEO, as someone who speaks at a ton of events, do you have a cool story from a conference, something funny, tragic, exciting, or behind the scenes juicy?

Eli: I do like going to conferences and I feel like everyone in the search marketing field should go to conferences because otherwise, you’re sitting in your own bubble. You’re reading books on SEO and trying to figure out how all of these things work. But when you go to conferences you’re learning from what other people are doing and hearing from speakers, meeting speakers. I learned so much from conferences. I remember my first conference about 11 years ago and I was baffled to hear that other companies have the same questions and issues as I have.

I was at a conference that had a speaker that talked about how to hack other websites and inject keywords and backlinks to other websites. Literally, all the coolest things I have learned have been from conferences.

M: Okay, so let’s get into some of the myths or watered down truths of enterprise SEO. Let’s settle things once and for all… I want to start by talking about content.

When you look around for enterprise SEO tips you always hear that every enterprise site needs to write content. Like a lot of content. This sounds like a plan for content saturation to me. Sounds a little too simple and linear.

So what are some specific ways enterprise sites can leverage content both for the sake of content and for the sake of link building?

E: So I think it’s important to first define what is an enterprise site. The way I define it is any site that has over 100,000 quality pages. And when it comes to content for that it comes to leveraging the right content. The larger the company the more content that is being produced.

For example, at SurveyMonkey, we have a core domain, we have our domain replicated 16 times for other languages, we have multiple products, acquisitions over time, and we have our Help Center that is running on Salesforce for each of our core products. And that is all content.

So when we’re doing SEO we’re trying to tie it all together with a cohesive campaign on what should rank for what. And not just for rankings but to also provide the best experience. For example, a logged in user will want help while a potential user will want to learn more about the product.

There will always be content for an enterprise site. Enterprise has more of a challenge of wrangling content than producing content. I have a client that has over a billion impressions a month on their site. For them, the question isn’t how to get a keyword ranking higher rather it’s how to get this 50,000 collection of pages ranking better or how do I make sure they all get crawled.

M: This is topic I hear about from sites big and small and it’s one of the topics of topics in SEO these days and it’s, "You have to target user intent” which to me is a meaningless statement. What does user intent look like to Google? How to do you accurately determine how Google sees the latent intents within content and keywords?

That said… how does intent impact enterprise sites differently than a small site, and what do these sites need to do to play the intent game?

E: As far as intent you really have to see what Google ranks for specific things. For SurveyMonkey, we rank for the keyword customer satisfaction, but we don’t rank for our customer service page rather for our marketing page that discusses customer satisfaction. And when you look at all the other sites that are ranking for customer satisfaction you can see that they all have a variation of the word "important.” So Google has determined that when people search for customer satisfaction they want to know why is it important or necessary as opposed to what is the definition.

So to understand intent you really have to look at what is currently ranking using a Rank Tracker.

Now, speaking about intent at scale, it’s a little bit different. For another company I used to work with, they’re in commoditized space and have about 12 million URLs. For them it’s about outranking all the other sites that are also selling this commoditized product. And it’s not about intent, it’s about filling in blanks in SEO. How do they fill in blanks? By figuring out how Google tries to rank and replicate that at scale.

So for the larger company, it’s less about intent while for smaller companies it’s important to figure out intent for specific pages and having more keywords come to that same page.

M: I take back what I said a bit earlier… the topic of topics in SEO these days is Featured Snippets. "Get more Featured Snippets. Nothing is more important.” Nothing is more cliche, but when should enterprise sites go after the zero position box and, more importantly, when shouldn’t they?

E: I think sites should always go after it because it’s great for branding. For example, when you do a voice search Google will announce the brand that has the Featured Snippet. There are best practices you can follow to get the Featured Snippet like bullet lists or ordered lists. I’ve even seen a site get a Featured Snippet with H3 headers. With enterprise, it’s hard to do it at scale though.

M: Let’s talk efficiency which is self-evidently important the larger your site and organization is.

Obviously, an enterprise site needs a good CMS and it needs a solid underlying template. But other than the cliche advice advising just that, what’s important when creating mass content via a CMS template?

E: So every enterprise is probably going to build its own CMS or modify its CMS. And the more visible, influential, and authoritative the person doing SEO is, whether it’s an external SEO agency or an internal employee, the more they can influence the decisions around the CMS.

Now more than likely the person doing SEO is disconnected to the engineering or purchasing team that purchased the CMS so the best thing to do is work with those engineering teams to modify the CMS so that it’s better optimized for SEO.

I’ve worked with companies that had a CMS that was very inflexible where even changing something as simple as a title tag involved a complex ticket process. Or the CMS was built with Ajax and pulling that apart was very difficult.

As the SEO, you have to be a "stakeholder” in the decision process of the CMS. Your role is to influence in baby steps getting to a better CMS. If you’re in a company that’s building a new CMS stand on the mountaintops and scream about how important it is that you need to be in those meetings.

M: You hinted about the cumbersome nature of larger organizations. Everyone will tell you that your SEO team must be running like a smooth SEO machine… that you have to provide training, encourage creativity… yada yada yada. I can say the same about a McDonald’s. What unique factors does an enterprise SEO team need to consider and what must the team leader consider that is unique to running an SEO team?

E: I’d say there are two way I’ve seen enterprise teams run. The first is like an agency. Let’s say you’re a company like Microsoft or Intel. The SEO team is an internal agency. When someone launches a new page they file a ticket to the SEO team asking them to please optimize it. So the SEO team will work on best practices, send back the ticket, and tell them how to launch the new page.

The way I structure my teams is that we are a revenue driver. We own the organic revenue number so we need that seat at the table and if you want organic revenue to climb you’ll want to work with the SEO team. We’re functioning more as a product team. We’re building a product around the SEO to achieve our SEO number. We’re actively working with engineers to build SEO projects and we have data engineers on the team to grab the data on how to best optimize and grow traffic.

So if you’re in a McDonald’s and it’s your job to slap the ketchup and pickle on you don’t have much influence on the actual burger. You want to be in front of the house. You want to show your recipe and be the chef.

M: So you’re talking about real political leveraging here?

E: Yes, you can’t win in a large company without having that political leverage. If you’re sitting behind the scenes you’re not going to be successful if you’re furthest off from the revenue, from the traffic. You’re just checking the box on what SEO is. But if you want to be driving that organic revenue number you need that seat at the table. If you’re that far behind the scenes... the next thing you know some huge agency is doing your job. You want to be the one who will say that you’re capable of doing this, of driving that organic revenue number. You’ll want to present to the executive team as to how much of an impact you’re bringing to the bottom line.

And especially for promotions and progressing in your career, to be able to show those numbers that you were able to grow the company by tens of millions of dollars from your personal efforts is a huge plus.

M: Does it become easier over time?

E: Once you win it’s easier to keep winning. Yes, making that argument when no one is listening can be challenging but when people are listening you can get more resources and keep on winning.

M: I can’t leave this discussion without talking dinero… money… budget… Let me ask you straight up What’s the biggest waste of an SEO budget for an enterprise site? And to be balanced… What’s the best budgetary investment that an SEO team can make for an enterprise site?

E: The biggest investment companies can make is on teams. You want to use that effectively. Getting the right SEOs on your team is important as the smartest people are going to be the most expensive. You want to have internal content writers and those people can be expensive. And then there’s software, it’s not as nearly as expensive as people but it can be an area of a budgetary waste if you’re not using the right software. If you’re using software as a "temperature check” then it’s not worth it but if you’re using you it for research, showing your rankings and giving you the ability to get more rankings, showing Featured Snippets and showing ways to get more Featured Snippets then it’s paying for itself.

M: So basically, people should be using Rank Ranger (cough, plug, cough).

E: If you’re using Rank Ranger and it’s generating you more money and it’s paying for itself then it’s worth it. If you’re using a tool and you’re not logging in ever then you’re wasting your budget. As an SEO I got pitch offered a lot of services and my metric is will I ever log into this tool?

M: It’s funny you mentioned crawling. We just had an integration with a software company and we noticed it’s not being used the way we thought it would be. We figured it’s too complicated for what our clients want. So we created the Rank Ranger Site Crawler that is a much more stripped down version of a crawler that offers the same data but in a more visual and simplistic way. And the usage went up through the roof.

Optimize It or Disavow It [26:48 - 29:45]



M: A solid PPC strategy or page speed improvement….

You can only work on one… PPC or page speed…

If you’re an enterprise site which is more important to you… do you focus on PPC at the expense of page speed or does PPC have to be sacrificed for page speed?

E: It depends. I personally believe that page speed is a waste of time to optimize because it only hurts you if you are too slow. However, when it comes to enterprises they are the only companies that can qualify as too slow because they are the ones that have huge websites. The problem with these sites is that they are loading too many things. The biggest problem is that they buy so many enterprise tools and have so many enterprise tracking pixels that it really slows everything down. So I would say for an enterprise website to optimize for page speed.

For a non-enterprise website I would say always go for PPC because you will get more bang for your buck compared to page speed improvement.

M: Thank you so much, Eli. I really do appreciate the time you took to come on. We hope to have you on again.

E: Would love to. Thank you, Mordy.




SEO NEWS [32:03 - 35:33]



Product Collections in Knowledge Panels: Now when you see a product collection within a Knowledge Panel you can click to see the entire collection. Mordy found it "odd” to have something like that on the SERP. We haven’t heard much about more opportunity for product placement on the SERP at ALL lately. He was, of course, being facetious. (See last week’s podcast.)

The First Major Google Update of 2019!: Google has rolled-out another core update that began on March the 12th before tapering off by the 15th. There was a bit of confusion as to the name of the update with the industry first calling it Florida 2. However, the update has nothing to do with the first Florida update which is why it was confusing. Google actually weighed in and said it shall be called the March 2019 Core Update!

Mordy added that just because it’s a core update doesn’t mean it’s a gargantuan update. The fluctuations were very similar to other unconfirmed updates that Google ran. In other words, this one was not like the cataclysmic Medic Update.

Book Hotels with Google!: Google has given us a new hotel booking site which gives you the options you normally would associate with the deeper elements of hotel listings accessed via the Local Finder, etc.

People have been asking how will this impact sites like Expedia and Travelocity and the first thing to know is that this new deeper set of hotel info has actually been around since November. The only difference we can tell is that now you can start your hotel search with the new site whereas before you could only access it via a hotel listing on the SERP, but the insights are the same.



Do Hotel Sites Need to do More? Mordy’s Pet Peeve [35:33 - 38:10]



Below is Mordy’s rant on booking sites not offering deep insights. We take no responsibility for Mordy’s ranting.

In terms of the insights you often hear people say, "Oh it’s not fair Google is offering so many insights.” Really? Seriously? What, Expedia couldn’t offer deep insights? Why don't these bookings sites get off their rear ends and start competing with Google by offering actual travel insights. Almost none of them do, at least not from what I’ve seen!

Quit trying to shove a car rental or a hotel room down my throat when I’m looking for a flight and am staying at my sister’s place in the middle of NY freaking city (i.e., I don’t need a car). I’ve seen the Expedia CEO or whomever complain about Google, but stop complaining. Stop thinking so short term when it comes to revenue. Meaning, stop asking me if I want to rent a car for the 80th time and offer users deep travel insights. You mean to tell me Expedia can’t tell me if $5K from JFK in NY to LAX is a bad deal?! C’mon man!

You can’t complain about Google when all Google is doing is picking up the slack from the lousy job you’re doing!

Mic drop!



FUN SEO Sound-Off [38:10 - 40:19]




What would Google eat for breakfast? 


Kim thinks Google would go with a protein shake. It has everything you need: it is a full meal, and you can take it with you on the subway, driving, or wherever you go AND you can drink it and type at the same time! It’s all you need!

Mordy was thinking the same thing but old school. Eggs in a glass straight up Rocky style.


Thanks for joining us for this episode of The In Search SEO Podcast. Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode!





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