In Search [Episode 27]: The Power of the Full Stack Writer for Your SEO & Marketing!
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May 21, 2019 |
The In Search SEO Podcast 'Tip Share' of the Week!
No one knows everything! What are some ways we as SEOs and/or marketers can overcome our own limitations!
Summary of Episode 27: The In Search SEO Podcast
We have an amazing show for you! Content all-star Kameron Jenkins
comes on to talk about the ever-versatile full stack content writer.
- The advantages of having a content generalist over a content specialist
- How to find balance when writing any and all forms of content
- How content marketers can compensate for a lack of topical knowledge
Plus, we analyze the implications of the announcements made at Google I/O 2019 and Google Marketing Live!
Google I/O and Google Marketing Live Highlights [2:13 - 14:49]
Out of all the major announcements that came out of these two events we’re going to focus on the evergreen Google Bot, podcasts on the SERP, image updates, new shopping cart features, Discovery ads, and a Top Stories change that went totally under the radar.
First up is the evergreen Google Bot. Google announced that Googlebot now uses the latest version of Chrome and will continue to do so automatically. This is huge news. It means that Google is crawling content using all of the modern inventions of the latest version of Chrome, not some outdated incarnation from 2015. Which means you can use the latest "technology” and not worry (as much) about Google unable to crawl page elements because of it.
Next up... podcasts. Google is now showing links to specific podcast episodes on the SERP such as this podcast
! Two interesting things. One, we’ve only seen select cases where the podcast episodes appear within the site’s organic result. Meaning, If siteA.com is putting out a podcast on how to cook the best crawfish, siteA.com does not get their podcast episodes shown within their organic result on the SERP.
Then whose site is used? Either iTunes or Podcast One from what we’ve seen.
So if you do a search for the Rich Eisen show, a sports podcast Mordy likes, there will be episodes on the SERP within the Podcast One organic result and when you click on it you go to a Google page. This is interesting item #2! When interacting with the new podcast feature on the SERP you are directed to a Google page, not the page represented by the organic result. So instead of going to iTunes or Podcast One, the play button brings you to a Google-owned page where you can play the episode.
Now, we did ask John Mueller if that was meant to be or if this is just how things are due to the infancy of this feature. He didn’t give a definitive answer, it could be he was not sure himself!
All of this means that Google, as we’ve talked about here a few times, could get really creative with this and add in audio Featured Snippets, audio Rich Snippets, or audio Content to Knowledge Panels, etc., etc., etc.
Mordy says he prefers audio on the SERP versus video because you could, in theory, listen to audio while moving on to other tabs that you have open, or keep skimming the SERP while listening to the audio. In a way, audio is more appropriate for the SERP and offers more possibilities than video.
Let’s move on to images. You might assume we’ll talk about the new 3D images that you can integrate with AR. While it is "cool”... that’s all it is, cool. We don’t see any major SEO impact to it.
However, a smaller and less noticeable change is the coming of higher image resolution opt-in. Soon you will be able to utilize higher resolution images for appearance within Google Image Search.
Now, this is not a coincidence. First, Google Discovery uses a large image style but it also comes as Google announced that Gallery Ads will be coming to the SERP in earnest. This ad format uses a carousel of large images for your viewing and purchasing pleasure!
Which brings us to Google Shopping. Google’s shopping abilities have gone universal. You will soon be able to buy items right off the SERP within the organic results, from YouTube, and from Image Search directly! Goodness, the SERP is going to be one giant shopping cart. Literally, you will see the shopping cart icon all over the place so that you can add items to it and buy all sorts of things (from Google partners) so long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of going to them who Google shall not name but we will... AMAZON.
Mordy believes this all-around new shopping experience won’t make a difference. The numbers show that about 50% of folks start with going right to Amazon. Not only that but the user associations are all wrong. People usually shop in an offline or online store. The SERP and YouTube are not stores. It’s not how we’re wired to shop. We want some structure because when we make a purchase we want security and structure and security go hand in hand.
Plus, this brings Google into a bit of an identity crisis. Follow us here for a minute. One of the least discussed changes from I/O was to the News Box, to Top Stories on the SERP. Soon you will have a timeline of stories. In other words, often a news story develops over the course of days or even weeks.
Let’s take OJ, for example, because everyone knows OJ. You can’t boil the OJ story down to one article. It was a series of events that took place over the course of months. If you saw just one article you would need to do multiple searches to get the gist of things. No more!
Now, or soon, you will be able to see the entire progression of events via a series of articles shown on a timeline.
So if this were the mid-90s you would see an article on the Bronco chase, then the gloves that don’t fit, then the civil judgment, etc. And all of this on one timeline so that you know the full story.
Really great feature, but it does put Google into a bit of an identity crisis. Meaning to say, is Google a resource center offering pathways to multiple forms and levels of content or is it a shopping center? Which is it? This is our point with the new shopping proliferation. Too many things, too much over the top, too many facets. Are we seeing Google jump the shark in order to keep its juggernaut status? That would be interesting considering that usually happens when one company is threatened by another. In this case, it’s more about maintaining domination.
Why You Should Consider a Content Generalist: A Conversation with Kameron Jenkins [14:49 - 46:31]
[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.]
Joining us today is the founder of SoapBoxly
. You may know her from Moz, or a slew of other places. You should definitely come to know her from the Mark and Method marketing podcast
. She is Kameron Jenkins. Welcome!
Thank you so much! I’m so excited to be here!
Can you tell us a little about Soapboxly and what it is you do?
Soapboxly is what I call an organic growth agency. There’s a lot of up and down in the agency whether it’s SEO, content marketing, or both so I started saying "I do organic.” It’s very new and so far what we’ve been doing is helping clients with a wide range of tasks. Some want more traditional content marketing with content calendars on a consistent basis while others want help with a project like a new website and they need a landing page. We run the full gamut of helping our clients rank organically.
That’s awesome. So today we’re going to start talking today about the full stack content writer
In an age where everyone talks about specialization, you are an advocate for the idea of a full stack content writer. What made you think to go against the grain? What sparked this nonconformist view?!
So this came about by necessity. For me, Soapboxly was born out of trying to decide what I am and what I want to be. I think with digital marketing (or any industry for that matter) we have a tendency to live in echo chambers. We’re all sort of repeating the same one or two viewpoints and there’s a lot of confirmation bias. I felt that I needed to force myself out of that when I wanted to articulate what I want my company to be. So I was talking to my husband about this, he’s a software engineer, and he said, "Oh, in my industry that’s what we call full stack. They’re developers who can work on the front end, the back end and just do it all.” And I loved that idea and I wanted to be that, that my company will be that.
And how does it feel to be out of the echo chamber?
I can’t say I’m fully out and that’s for any industry that has pillars that we look to for advice and latch on to and if we’re not careful we might believe it and adopt it for ourselves without checking. It’s not always bad stuff but you sometimes need to sit back and ask, "What do I think of this?” instead of what Twitter thinks.
I should have asked this question first. Why is it worth it for a company to have a full stack content writer?
It came from me doing every type of content project you can imagine. Everything like PPC landing pages, whitepapers, organics landing pages, blogs, etc. Out of doing all those types of things I saw how much value there was to see the full picture. So by doing CRO, I see how conversions are everything and if you don’t have conversions then you don’t have business. And when doing SEO, I believe rankings are everything because if you don’t rank then you don’t get visibility. So from my experiences, I was able to see how critical every step of the process was.
Doing so allowed me to see the big picture - how each piece I produced served as a necessary cog in the wheel of getting our clients more business from search. My work and the content I produced was better once I zoomed out and had that mentality, so it’s something I started instilling in my content teams.
What I was seeing was a lot of SEOs so focused on getting their pages to rank that they would forget to add a CTA - they would just lose that traffic. On the other side of things, I would see content specialists writing pieces that were generally interesting and engaging, but weren’t built on a solid SEO framework so their traffic would fizzle after a few days. Both are wasteful, and I think we need to be better stewards of our clients' budgets by focusing on the whole picture.
So it’s not only about caring about the full picture, it’s also about being adaptable. Certain goals require different types of writing, and it’s ideal if you’re able to have a single writer or group of writers you can rely on to be able to handle a variety of needs.
To what extent do you believe the full stack content writer is possible? I ask because some people are hard set that there are different kinds of writers for different types of content and cannot fathom the idea that one writer can write all sorts of content?
It’s definitely not common but that’s what makes it so valuable. I’m not saying that you should be a Jack-of-all-trades master of none but I think it’s possible to be good or at least have an understanding of multiple disciplines within digital content writing.
I’m a big advocate of cross-departmental, cross-skills training. At my last job when I was at an agency I started doing this out of necessity. I was sick of the tech support team making changes that tanked our organic traffic or hearing the sales team tell clients we could get them ranking for their chosen keywords in three months. Everyone should be cognizant of the other pieces of the puzzle and the client gets a better product from it.
That’s not to say you have to be an expert or a specialist in everything. I don’t think that’s entirely possible but it’s more so about at least informing yourself of other specialties enough to not harm another team’s goals. So if you have a conversion copywriter team and a team that focuses on content that ranks, that’s fine! But I think they should definitely train each other so they make each other’s jobs easier and maybe even contribute to each other’s goals.
I would say too that writers who are freelancing or looking for jobs could use this to their advantage. If a business knows they can hire just you instead of having to hire a different writer for all their different channels (especially a concern for smaller organizations with smaller budgets), that’s going to be key.
I totally agree. From an efficiency point of view, it makes it easier for the SEO manager who’s reviewing our article if the content person already half-optimized it. It makes it more streamlined, creates more cohesiveness, and allows for less time wasted overall.
From a topic and content type perspective, do you see any limitations on how versatile a writer can reasonably be or is the sky the limit? I know it all depends on the person, but in general.
I do believe that people are capable of doing almost anything if they set their minds to it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll enjoy everything equally. I would say that writers should only extend as far as they a) need to, and b) enjoy.
So you might need to become versatile out of necessity. If you’re maybe the only person doing content and SEO for a smaller company, you’ll benefit from expanding your knowledge and skill sets when it comes to different types of writing and digital goals.
But when it comes to enjoyment, definitely listen to yourself. If you find yourself dreading the thought of keyword research
, I would look for a job where you don’t necessarily have to do that all the time because there’s a separate team for that. It’s still good to be aware of that and know why it’s important, but you shouldn’t ever feel obligated to.
Right and there’s no shame in that. Like for me, technical SEO, I know it but I don’t particularly like it and I tend to stay away from it when I can. There are better people who know it and that’s fine with me.
Right, like on our website I didn’t want to minimize the images so my husband was happy to step in and help.
I personally find that writing is like acting. I hate to go nerd on you, but Leonard Nimoy, when playing Spock, would come home and act in a more stoic than normal manner because it was so hard to go in and out of character which must have made for a really great and healthy family life. That aside, I find that there are times when I have more "SEO-oriented streaks” and times where my writing, while balanced, leans towards the creative. How do you keep your zen, how do you keep that balance?
That’s a great question. I totally see what you’re saying. You sound like you might be similar to me. I’m very split between and right and left brain so it’s easy when you’re like that to get into analytical grooves and then creative grooves but not always at the same time.
I’ve found it helpful to compartmentalize. Usually, I’ll first put on my analytical hat and research the topic (keyword research, look at the SERP, analyze competitors
, etc.), kind of putting together the "bones” of a page as I go. Once I have that framework down, I’ll put on my "wordsmithing” hat. This step can also involve a bit of research, but it’s more looking for inspiration. What are people engaging with? What interesting formats are people using? How could I put a unique spin on this?
When it comes to doing these two things I first try to put on my analytical hat to see what’s needed to "move the needle” and that this shows up in search engines. And then I try putting on my creative hat and think about what would be interesting to me. To me, it’s like building a canvas and then putting paint on it.
It is always going to be hard but I think it helps when I take them as separate tasks.
Again, just speaking from my own experience as someone who got into the whole SEO thing due to my writing skills, there are things I’m naturally better at and things I need to specifically work on… How can a full stack writer compensate for those things/areas where they may not be as proficient as they would like?
I think that boils down to two things: First is to think like a reader instead of like a marketer. If you put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes it becomes a lot easier. You can think about it more like a human. What would I like? What would be helpful? Obviously, you have to think with a technical bent as Google’s algorithm isn’t technically human.
The second is to lean on people who are better than you and asking them for advice because that is how you get better. If you want to learn something and compensate for your lack skill in a certain way there’s really nothing wrong in approaching someone who is a pro in that area and asking them for help.
I would bet that most full stack writers are in many ways self-taught. I would speculate that there may be one or two foundational areas the content generalist may have formal training in and the rest of it is either self-taught or picked up along the way.
To me, the full stack writer has certain meta-qualities that makes them able to handle so many areas. At the same time, they may not have formal training in certain areas. For example, I do a lot with graphics and I have no formal training in doing anything with images. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be working on creating the graphic feel of content I would have looked at you like you’re nuts. Because of that, it took me some time to feel confident enough to have an opinion on graphics when in truth I should have been assured of my abilities from the get-go.
Obviously, we could say things like "believe in yourself,” but what are some concrete actions content generalists can take when working on an area that they may not consider themselves proficient in?
If you find the answer please tell me! I struggle with this myself, and I think a lot of digital marketers are in the same boat. Because this industry is still fairly new, constantly changing, and isn’t taught in many formal settings, I think a lot of us struggle with imposter syndrome and get discouraged with certain tasks because we think we’re not good enough.
I’m saying this to everyone listening as much as I’m saying it to myself, but you are capable, and when you feel like you’re lacking in an area to be transparent about it.
Insecurity like that will persist if there’s nothing to squash it, and the only way to squash it is to look at the results. The only way to get that insecurity out of your head once and for all is to prove to yourself whether you’re good at it or bad at it. Just do it and look at the results. If it’s a positive result then great! You can have confidence in knowing you are good at this.
For example, if you think you’re not good enough at copywriting, look at the conversion rate of the landing page you wrote. If it didn’t get the results you or your client was hoping for, ask a copywriter who’s better than you if they’ll check out your page and give you tips. It’s the only way to get better and become more confident in any area.
Right, and the truth is everyone has this issue because the industry is so diverse. You can be doing SEO, PPC, content marketing, etc. and all of them intertwine in some way. In a way, everyone is faking it and not in a bad way. There’s a lot of self-taught out there and in any industry you’re going to have to teach yourself.
Yeah, you do have to teach yourself. There’s no rulebook or library of digital marketing books to look through. There are no universal truths. There are best practices though. That aside, it’s really important to do it yourself and see.
Right, you’re always your own worst critic. There’s this term called missing tile syndrome. You redo the kitchen, put in all the tiles, and in the back corner there’s just one tile off and you’re the only one who notices. When you write about something unfamiliar you might think you don’t know what you’re doing, but more often than not you do know what you’re saying, it does come off well, it’s just that you’re the only one who realizes it’s not exactly where you want it to be.
Yeah, I know. I’ve been working remotely for almost a year and I’m still getting used to it. What helps is leaning on your coworkers because you really need that person to unstick you. You need that external opinion to get you out of that headspace or it’ll just spiral into you thinking, "It’s not right!” and you need somewhere to just say, "You’re fine. Calm down.”
What are other challenges that you see as being unique to the full stack writer and what advice would you give them?
At least for me, my risk is caring less about the finer points of a certain writing specialty in favor of tackling the spirit of the issue. Like, I’m neglecting the letter of the law for the spirit of the law. For me, that might mean I won’t always remember my Oxford comma. Sometimes it’s good not to sweat the details, but I know I’ve annoyed a few "specialists” in my day.
When it comes to judging a writer’s quality I use my own baseline of liking the sound of their content because that is the hardest thing to teach. When I hire writers, I start there - does their content sound good. But beyond that, some of the best writers I’ve ever worked with were those that had the ability to see beyond what they were doing and understand why they were doing it. People that get the business side of what they’re doing and understand what it helps accomplish are some of the best full-stack writers.
Optimize It or Disavow It!
If you could only be one kind of writer which would you consider being more vital, a writer with sound SEO practice or a creative soul?
Such a good question! It’s tough, but I believe if I had to choose it would be creative because SEO best practices can be taught while creativity is more something you possess or don’t.
Kameron, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for having me!
SEO News: [50:26 - 55:08]
Google Marketing Live Announcements: Google Marketing Live
brought us a number of new changes (which we discussed a bit earlier). These announcements include:
Google Trip Center Coming to Desktop:
- Discover Feed ads
- Gallery Ads - A large carousel of images reflecting products
- Showcase Shopping Ads (which are a cluster of images that you can expand) will hit YouTube and the Discover feed
- Lastly, Google will let you purchase directly from the SERP, image search, and YouTube
Google is bringing its trip center on mobile to desktop
. By heading over to google.com/travel users can now plan out their flights and hotels on desktop. Google is also adding new features such as showing you hotels you already viewed, offering you new attraction suggestions once you’re on your trip, etc.
Quality Rater Guidelines Updated:
Google has again updated its Quality Rater Guidelines
. This is the first change since the summer of 2018. Most notably, Google has changed a lot of its language around E-A-T to "page quality.”
No Plans for Specific Image Search Referrer URL: Google no longer plans on offering a specific image search referrer URL
. The idea was to make it easier to separate out traffic that came from image search from other Google referral traffic.
Fun SEO Send Off Question [55:08 - 56:39]
How does Google handle rejection?
Mordy answered by saying that while most folks dive into a long and hardy binge into all sorts of foods and chemically altering beverages, Google just deindexes its rejector never to have to render them on the SERP again and rehash all of those painful memories.
Sapir believes Google will act up like one of those creepy guys that just can’t get a "no” for an answer.
Thank you for joining us! Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.