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In Search [Episode 20]: From KPIs to Voice Search - How to Get Content Marketing Right





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




Tip Share Episode 20




Considering that Google recently confirmed yet another broad core update, what are some of the ways you best deal with large adjustments to the algorithm? 


Summary of Episode 20: The In Search SEO Podcast 



In Search SEO Banner 20


In this episode, we welcome content strategist supreme Liraz Postan who:

  • Analyzes the latest trends in content & voice search
  • Breaks down which content marketing KPIs are worth your while
  • How to consider your audience’s post-click behavior

Plus, we bite into some of the data we analyzed on the March 2019 Google Core Update! 



Looking Back on Google's March 2019 Core Update



The March 2019 Core Update was the first confirmed Google algorithm update of 2019. Per the Rank Risk Index, the update did not appear to be larger than many substantial unconfirmed updates. That said, there has been a bit of speculation that the update was a reversal of August’s Medic Update. Accordingly, we have a few pertinent questions related to the latest broad core update:

  • How big was the March 2019 Core Update?
  • Was any niche more impacted than the next?
  • Was the update indeed a reversal of the Medic Update?
 
The length and fluctuations levels of the March 2019 Core Update was not at all different from your average unconfirmed, yet substantial Google update (as mentioned above). For example, the core update here ran for four days and brought our index’s fluctuation levels to a high of 89. The update we saw at the end of February, the unconfirmed update, ran for five days and saw a fluctuation level of 91! Now, the Medic Update also lasted just four days… but hit rank fluctuation levels of 94/100! By the way, the first of the confirmed broad core updates, the March 2018 update, lasted two full weeks and had fluctuation levels hit 99/100!

Unlike the Medic Update, there were no standout niches. In fact, the Health niche was a bit more stable than some of the others we looked at. For example, the Travel niche showed a volatility increase of 5% at the top spot on the SERP while the Health niche showed a marginal 1% increase. Of course, as we went down the SERP volatility picked up. In the case of the Health niche, when looking at the top 10 results overall, there was a 70% increase in rank volatility during the update. Keep in mind, the Gambling industry saw an 80% increase for the same metric. So there was not a focus on YMYL sites… in case you were curious! The same metric during the Medic Update (the volatility for the top 10 results) stood at 94% within the Health niche (as opposed to the 70% we saw here)! 

That said, there were sites that did get hit by the Medic Update that saw a bit of a rebound. The most obvious was draxe.com which got slammed during the Medic Update. The data showed the site getting a 90% boost to its visibility as compared to the previous month as a result of the March 2019 update. That does not mean that the site was restored to its former glory… it was not. The site, despite the gains during the March 2019 Core Update, has a visibility score that is well below what it was prior to the Medic Update.

There were other sites that showed the same pattern, but again in most cases, full visibility was not restored. Thus, even when dealing with sites that were hit by the Medic Update and did rebound it's hard to qualify the behavior as a "reversal." 



From the Latest Content Creation Trends to Choosing the Right Content KPIs - A Conversation with Liraz Postan



[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: She is an international SEO and content consultant… she is a speaker at BrightonSEO (among other conferences), she is a contributor to SEJ and Marketing Profs… she is the great Liraz Postan who joins us to talk all about content! Tell us about yourself! 

Liraz: Well I’ve been working almost 12 years in the industry doing content and international SEO. And now I’m in my last days at Outbrain where I worked for three years as the head of content and SEO. I’m now starting my own firm as a consultant for marketing, SEO, and content strategy to help B2B companies.

M: That’s great! So I do my research on my guests. I take pride in being as well prepared as an overworked fellow with extremely limited time can be… and in the course of being a good boy scout, I stumbled upon your YouTube channel and at first I thought I had the wrong channel. The videos were all music related and I really thought I was in the wrong place until I saw videos that said the music was composed by you. I even saw a video of you singing on the Israeli version of American Idol and in a professional play! It was amazing! You have to tell me about this. I had no idea.

L: Oh, wow. Yeah, basically, 15 years ago I was a singer and actress. My studies included dramatic art so I was a professional singer and actress in Israel. I was in the Israeli version of American Idol’s first season with Ninet Tayeb and Shiri Maimon. Music is my life. Eventually, I was cast with the Voca People. I was traveling with them around the world and eventually, I found myself thinking of settling down, meeting my husband, and having kids. I ended up with 888 starting my content career and since then I’ve been doing SEO. It was definitely a weird story.

M: Wow! People should really check that out. Okay, let’s get into some content trends, data measurement, and so forth. Let me start with some of the more recent trends in the world of content & SEO as I see them. There are a lot of mixed messages out there. Content creators are being hit from all sorts of directions with all sorts of advice. One recent study I’ve seen was from Brian Dean that showed data that longer posts get more links. Then you have people who recommend shorter content for shorter stories due to people’s short attention spans. Can you walk me through a few areas where you see a conflicting message and walk us through how to create that content balance we all want?

L: That’s a good question. I don’t think we’ll find that magic formula we’re always looking for. It always depends on what business you have or what audience you’re trying to target. Every site has a different view than the other and we need to try to include different content goals into the mix. Take for example, Buzzfeed. They have varying types of content. Sometimes they don’t have any text at all and just have images and Javascript. You can imagine that their site is getting a ton of backlinks because their content is engaging and emotional. So if you can identify what your readers want then you can determine what length you need for this specific article. I don’t like having a blog post site where I determine that my articles need to be a minimum of 1,600 words. It’s not like that, there’s no formula. So yes, there is a justification to have more words and things like research pieces naturally get more backlinks, but, of course, it’s fine to have quizzes and polls as well as interactive content that will have more engagement.

M: Speaking of trends, what are your thoughts on voice search? How do you think content creators should go about considering voice search?

L: When I first saw the voice search trend I was so happy because for me it equals a "no fluff policy.” Meaning, it forces the content creators to cut the nonsense from their content. Just give straight answers to the user. I’m all up for that. Before that, I had to read a whole article just to understand one point. Now I can get the specific answer I want right away so I really love voice search.

M: Do you think it will change the way people write content?

L: Totally. It forces them to give more straight answers, more to the point content and to serve the search query very fast and not have the whole article journey until you get the answer you need.

M: So basically storytellers, like myself, are in big trouble.

L: It really depends. If someone is looking for a story it won’t work for voice search. If someone wants a specific answer they should get it right away.

M: Before we move on, aside from voice search what other trends do you think are important in 2019?

L: Well talking about content creators in the last question, they will need to know how to create content throughout all marketing channels, not just blog posts. Even seven years ago if I did two blog posts a month that’s great. Now that’s just the basics. Now you have to have blog posts in your business and also add email marketing, ads, social, short videos, stories, everything. Everything that’s coming in now they have to create with the same talent and the same audiences. What we need to do is forget the well-produced slide videos because what we’re seeing is that 80% of brand audiences would rather watch a live video from a brand than read a blog post. We need to forget about the well-produced videos. It can be imperfect. It can be a jump in office tour, a surprise interview, inside jokes, or the atmosphere inside the office. That could make the brand audience more engaged and create this intimacy around and with them. A lot of brands worry about this and are thinking they need to make good videos, but it’s fine to make something that’s human and imperfect.

M: Yeah, you’re totally right about that. And this kind of makes it less work for content creators. It’s much less work doing a live show than having to take the time creating a professional video.

L: Yeah and at the end of the video you want people to see your content so you’re reaching your goal but with a cheaper budget.

M: So let’s talk about metrics. There are so many KPIs out there to determine how your content is doing. When looking at content marketing what KPIs do you consider to be vanity metrics?

L: What I look for is raw pages. This is how I know my content performs. Then I look at downloads or registered users, any type of conversion that shows how my content is doing. I would say the number of engagements is a vanity metric. 

M: How do you separate out metrics like bounce rate, time on page, etc. when dealing with various types of content as they don’t equally apply to each content category? For example, if your webpage is a short paragraph then the time on page will be much less then let’s say a medical article.

L: First I group different types of content and then compare the metrics for each one. For example, some content should have a higher bounce rate and some more interactive content should have more engagement. So let’s say I have an interactive quiz inside my blog post I will see the analytics of more people on the site and engaged, but when it comes to other blog posts they will be judged by other metrics and I try to group them in my reporting.

M: That’s a great idea. So you’re basically aggregating all of the different types of content and creating a baseline. That’s a great idea. Let's talk about 'reach.' How do you understand metrics such as reach? How are you supposed to qualify that in that not everyone you reach is equal? One person is a more relevant reader than another.

L: I think reach is a measurement of potential audience size. Of course, a large audience is good but reach alone doesn’t tell you everything. Reach is popular when it’s compared to other engagement metrics. For example, let’s take some engagement metrics like clicks, retweets, or replies and then we divide them by reach. You calculate an engagement perspective. So now we know how many people have participated in my campaign. Reach helps me contextualize other engagement metrics. It’s a basic metric that I need to play with more to get actionable insights.

M: I have to ask. Do you think we’ve gone too far with the KPIs? If yes, in what ways may you need to go beyond KPIs? If not, how do KPIs offer such a complete picture?

L: I always have this debate because I have a more holistic approach to SEO and I don’t separate SEO from marketing strategy. They go hand in hand. For me, we have to go beyond KPIs because cannot rely on simple reporting or business results, etc. We can identify certain behaviors or actions that lead to great KPIs and measure them as well. For instance, if I know the internal education inside of an organization about a certain topic like PPC, SEO, or sales tips, it may increase sales or the business or it may produce concerns or maybe grow someone else’s self-esteem. Then we should make it into an account link building or a performance plan. Everything should tie up into a holistic approach.

M: Right. It’s so easy to fall into a KPI or get too focused on data because it’s easy or clear. I think they’re great and planting flags, investigating more, and create a more holistic and foundational way of understanding of where things are heading directionally.

L: Right and it’s really hard to implement as you don’t always have enough resources, but it should definitely go into your regular reporting when planning.

M: So the last thing I wanted to go over with you was what happens after the click. Let’s start off what do you think the most important thing to consider is when addressing user behavior post-click?

L: For me, what I’m looking for, is the callback. I’m looking for how many people are reading the article and the bounce rate. I’m interested in knowing if the content was "UNCLEAR” or too long to digest or did the user eventually reach the target. Did I serve the search query or did the content provide the user with what they were searching for? This is what I’m looking for. I’m also looking for user recordings, how users are behaving in your article or a specific page. My goal is to see if I’m getting the right content or information that the user is looking for. Sometimes the content reads well but isn’t designed to be understood. So scanners, people who don’t have time to read the whole article, just give up, go away, and search for another competitor.

M: That’s interesting. Part of the reason why I brought this up was because of search as a "journey.” At their 20th Anniversary event, Google made a shift towards catering to a user’s search journey. They’ve done this by offering the Discover Feed as part of the mobile home page, entity-specific tabs in the mobile Knowledge Panel, tabs from previous searches, etc. How do you create content for Google as a discover engine as opposed to a search engine (as the fellas over at Stone Temple have coined it.)

L: Yeah, it’s not surprising that Google is going that way because it’s getting smarter every year by analyzing our content, but in all honesty, I love getting more personalized content especially that I worked at Outbrain. What I focus on is creating more entities, more authority to make sure the user will trust my content. If I’m going to share my content from a shady site with no authority then it’s not going to cut it. With Google's Discovery Feed an SEO has to create engaging and fresh content and to be sure to include newsworthy content as well as evergreen content. Newsworthy content is important to include because they’re industry articles that people get involved with and engaged with. Although sometimes they don’t have the highest ROI because they have a time limitation. An SEO will try using Google Discovery to create more evergreen content and fresh content to appear there. Google loves evergreen content so the more authority and engaging content you have the better the chance you will get those limited spots.

M: Right. People don’t realize that when Google understands an entity it means they are better at understanding how authoritative you are. Your site is an entity, so to speak. So the more authoritative you are the better it is for you.

L: Yeah. And it’s hard work to become an authoritative entity but it will pay off in the long run.


Optimize It or Disavow It!

 

M: What’s a better way of measuring the success of a piece of content…. Twitter likes and retweets or page views? When trying to measure how impactful a piece of content is… what is a better way to do so… by looking at the number of likes and retweets a Tweet with a URL to a page has accumulated or at the number of Page Views you see inside of Google Analytics?

L: I’ll tell you this. When people are sharing or retweeting it’s not really an indicator for me that the content is good because sometimes they just want to share it to sound professional and they never really read it. They just want to build their social appearance. Or sometimes they have a different intent in the article they retweeted. For example, I’m going to retweet an article about the SEO industry and the current trends but I’m really retweeting it because it mentions a Buzzfeed video. So my answer is Page Views because what users are sharing are not their real interests of what they read or consume. And there’s a whole study on how people share on social media because they know people will be looking at their profile and feed so they won’t share anything that’s shady or that doesn’t mention their profile.

M: What a great answer. I always find it funny when someone posts a 5-page article that will take 10 minutes to read and it’s instantly retweeted! There was no way they read it! Well, thank you for playing, and thank you for coming on the show.

L: Thank you have very much. Have a great day!



SEO News 



Update to the 'Q&A on Google Feature': A Few months back Google tested a feature where you could submit a question directly to Google to be answered (in a situation where the results were not satisfactory). Google has now reformatted what it calls Q&A on Google to look more like a permanent element on the SERP (one where you can both ask and answer questions).

For now, the feature is very limited and only shows in a select few markets. 


Knowledge Panel Language Discrepancy: It looks like there is some sort of bug that is causing Knowledge Panels that appear on the SERP for an English query but that are done in a non-English speaking market to show in the language native to the search location


Google Speaks on Neural Matching: A few months ago Google integrated neural matching into the algorithm. With the recent Google update, there’s been some discussion on how that differs from RankBrain. In a recent series of Tweets, Google’s Danny Sullivan tried to explain how neural matching differs from RankBrain.

At the end of the day, it’s all slightly cryptic in that the two seem quite similar. That said, neural matching helps Google understand what’s been said on the page via what they call "super synonyms.” In other words, neural matching tells Google that the search term is synonymous with any number of other terms. RankBrain then says what is included within the concept reflected by the term.  


rel=next/prev No Longer Used by Google: Apparently, the rel=next/prev markup that told Google that the content continues on the next page has not been something the search engine has looked at for quite some time. In fact, Google says you should not break up your content over multiple pages.  



Fun SEO Send-Off Question




What is Google’s favorite video game? 


According to Mordy, old as it is, Google loves… TETRIS! Why? Well, because Google has to get all of the pieces right when deciding what to look at when ranking sites for a query!

Kim went with Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo... because it's fun... and the only game besides Tetris she's familiar with! 


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




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