What are the key items that you need to include in your SEO strategy?
That's what we're going to be discussing today with a lady who loves hiking, enjoys a good bike ride, and sleeps until 10 am. She worked in-house as an online marketer for 10 years before more recently turning our attention to her own SEO consultancy business. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Irina Serdyukovskaya.
The key elements are:
Content for Commercial pages
Content for a blog or news section
Create a sitemap
External links and brand mentions
Solve any security issues
Go beyond the text
What Should Your SEO Strategy Include?
Irina: Hi, everyone, happy to be here.
D: Great to have you, Irina. You can find Irina over at irinakudres.com. So Irena, today we're talking about the 10 things to include in an SEO strategy. But before we get started with that, you'd also like to emphasize the importance of including SEO as part of an overall marketing strategy.
I: Yeah, I think this is the first point we need to think about when we start working with a new business or you've hired an SEO because SEO is a part of your marketing strategy. It is not something that you do just for SEO and that doesn't make sense for other marketing channels. So I think that it's super critical to do everything for your marketing strategy and not only for SEO purposes for Google’s purposes.
D: I’m already tempted to jump down a rabbit hole and say, "How do you actually work with other people in the marketing department?” But before jumping down that rabbit hole, I should actually just focus on the core topic and say that the 10 things to include in an SEO strategy starts off with number one, website structure.
1. Website Structure
I: I think this is the most important part because you need to understand how to structure your pages based on search intent and based on the queries you'd like to rank with. This is what a lot of businesses I think miss because they have one page, for example, which is dedicated to different keywords. And they would like to rank with one page for different keywords, which is not the way Google works nor the way people are searching and expecting to see the information.
D: Number two, content for commercial pages.
2. Content for Commercial Pages
I: This is the second most important thing because when you're starting, a lot of businesses decide that they need to create a blog or buy some links. This is the way they see SEO, but the most important thing is to for sure have the content on the commercial pages, both for users and for Google to rank these pages that users can see this and they can convert. This is the second thing we need to do and to research what content we should add there.
D: Just to clarify, by commercial pages, you mean transactional pages, the pages that people are actually likely to commit to a purchase on?
I: Yes, for example, product pages where you can actually buy a product or maybe category pages, which leads to product pages, or the service pages. It can be, for example, a SaaS company, and you're providing some service. This is where people are expecting not the content to read, but the content to actually solve the issue by buying the product, trying the product, or maybe getting in touch with the team to consult.
D: And are you a fan of always trying to have unique content for these types of pages? Because obviously, there are lots of eCommerce-type websites that take RSS feeds of product content, and just simply publish that on their site. And by doing so end up having almost duplicate content compared with other websites selling the same types of items.
I: Yeah, I tried to persuade the clients that they need at least some part of the unique content on their product pages, especially if it's a small business and they don't have thousands of products. I think that it also brings more value for the user when you see the content which actually answers your question and not a copy and paste from the original.
D: And number three is content for a blog or news section. Is it necessary for every website nowadays to still have a blog?
3. Content for a Blog or News Section
I: I would say more yes than no. Because blog content for the new section helps you first rank with this content, for example, for some informational keywords. It also helps you show Google your expertise in the field because if you have only pages that are about your service, about the product you're selling, it's quite hard to show your expertise in this field. But with the blog content, you can show that you have experience working in this field and that you have done your research. It can prove both to users and Google that you are better compared to the competition because you have expertise. And without this content, it's almost not possible.
D: Are you also an advocate of ensuring that every single blog post that you publish is optimized for keyword phrases? So incorporating keyword phrases in your headings or wherever you want to use them in your content? Or is it not so important to optimize blog posts, rather it’s more important to optimize product posts?
I: I would say that it's still important to optimize blog posts, but it depends if it's, for example, an interview, and it's hard to optimize the interview, because there are no keywords that are super related to this interview, but it shows the details about the business, about your expertise, about your brand, etc... I don't think that it still works to make it super SEO optimized. Maybe to find some keywords if you can relate it to that. But some content that you can optimize and people are searching for, for sure you need to invest time to understand how to actually write this content in the way people are searching for this content.
D: Understood. So it just depends on the use of your blog. It could be directed at people who are already aware of what you do or are already customers of yours. If that's the case, then it's just a case of keeping them sticky, keeping them knowing about your brand. But if it's more about trying to bring in new business, then obviously it's more about optimizing those posts as well.
That brings us up to number four, which is a sitemap. Now is this XML sitemap, HTML Sitemap, or both?
4. Create a Sitemap
I: I would say this is both because the first is the official statement to show Google what you actually published and to index your pages faster and easier. The second one, if you have already a lot of content, for example, on the website, I don't know 1000s of pages, because I work with one of the big websites, you need the sitemap for people to actually understand what you have already written about, what sections determine your crowd. So just from navigation and point of view for users, it's super useful for them to see this. So I vote for both.
D: I like how you actually also talk about navigation opportunities for users when you're talking about Sitemaps because I think a lot of SEOs think of sitemaps as just being a tool for search engines. But you think it's a great tool for users as well.
I: Yeah, I think so. Because I see the disadvantages of not having this sitemap. I see that users just don't know that they can actually find this content on the website. Our goal as SEOs, as marketers, is not only to bring people to the website but to actually convert them and show them that we have more content related to their needs. So not only from my SEO perspective as the internal links, which are super useful but also from the point of the goal behind doing the SEO.
D: Do you think that users who navigate your site using a mobile device will still be reasonably likely to want to use a sitemap? Or do you think having a search functionality is better for mobile users?
I: I think that search functionality should be much better for users on the mobile because it can be a little bit harder for them to navigate. While you can make the search with the categories, for example, you decide that you have different categories, you can choose and inside that maybe you have only five articles. Then it's also fine for mobile users.
D: That takes us up to number five, internal linking.
5. Internal Linking
I: I think this is the most valuable thing in terms of what we can do if we don't have a budget for external links. And even if we have, this is the most important thing, because this helps us to show Google. We can use any anchor text we want because it's our website. It's also super useful for users because we can also navigate them through the website for the content we have, for products, and testimonials. This is one of the best things to do and I think the most time-consuming because if you have a big website, you need to think about how actually to make it not manually but still useful for users and to Google bots.
D: And how do you go about determining the most appropriate internal links to actually link to on your site? Do you, for instance, go for pages that are already ranking quite well to try and push them up further? Do you go for pages that are just hyper-relevant to the content or is there some other strategy that you follow?
I: Mostly, pages that are relevant for the content, I think this is the most important part. Because ideally we need not only to add a link but people and users who are actually reading the content should click on these links. I believe that it's also very valuable. But if I see that we have some orphan pages, pages without any links, for sure, you're also searching for any opportunity to add links internally to these pages. Even if you understand that most users would not click.
D: What software do you use to actually find orphan pages?
I: I use Sidebar or Screaming Frog to see that we have pages without links or a limited number of links.
D: Let's go for number six, external links, and brand mentions.
6. External Links and Brand Mentions
I: Another thing when you already solved internal links. And I think a lot of businesses think that they need to buy some external links. I hear this a lot. But I'm a huge believer that we don't need to buy links. We can actually build these links with the content. We can go, for example, as I'm doing now, on a podcast as a guest on the podcast and most of the podcasts will link to your website.
This is also very connected to the zero point. It should be connected to your whole marketing and PR strategy. Don't do this for SEO to go and build links. Go and build some relationships and partnerships. And organically, you will have links already out of this. If you would not have one, you can always go and ask. If you have a brand pension, you can ask to please link to my website. External links. Very important from an SEO perspective, because you're building your brand authority. And it's also very important for your brand in general.
I: I think this is the topic which is discussed a lot during the last two years. This is why it's not the number one priority for websites. But it's still important to work on that and include this in your SEO strategy. Because it not only helps you to rank higher, but I believe that it's better for users if you optimize some of the PageSpeed issues you have. And it's more about the user experience conversion and the whole experience with your website for users.
D: And number eight is to solve any security issues.
8. Solve any Security Issues
I: Security issues is also the one topic which I highly recommend looking at. While, generally you don't have a lot of security issues, but links from HTTP to HTTPS. This is the most common issue you can easily solve and improve user experience and your rankings quite fast using, for example, Sidebar to spot any links you have with HTTP and without HTTPS.
D: And also non-HTTPS assets as well, because that's quite common, isn't it? To have some assets that you're inadvertently hosting on a web page that isn't HTTPS?
I: Yeah, it's very common. I think it's hard to spot it without using tools, for example, like Sidebar or Screaming Frog. You would not see it easily because you can already have HTTPS and everything looks great from the front end but in the code, you can spot these issues, and they can still influence your rankings and user experience.
D: And moving on to number nine, conversion optimization.
9. Conversion Optimization
I: Conversion optimization is one of the things which I think doesn't lie directly with SEO. But just recently, I analyzed a website and we are ranking very good with the content. But we don't have any button to convert these leads, like for example, that people will subscribe to the newsletter, subscribe to try your product for free, or they can send you a message for a free consultation. I think this is very important when you already have a website ranking and bringing traffic to think actually how we can convert more people. And to have the details to provide them some value behind the content we already have given them, which is ranking.
D: And that takes us up to number 10, which is to go beyond the text. So here you're talking about using things like video infographics and unique images as well.
10. Go Beyond the Text
I: Yeah, I would say that, generally, as an SEO, we think about text, and this is our first thing we're discussing with clients. And I think that we discuss it with ourselves when we are thinking about SEO strategy. But more and more I see that for Google and for users, it's critical to have other content to answer their questions. For example, videos can be very useful and not that hard to produce. And they are also converting very well. If you need to show how to solve some of the issues. Or maybe you need to show how your product looks like without actually inviting them to your shop. That's why we need also to think and to advise businesses that they need to go beyond the content. And also because there's less competition for some of the keywords. For example, compared to text, there is already 1000s of pages written about a topic but maybe for a video there is only 10 videos about this topic, and you can actually rank much higher, and much faster.
D: And do you have any thoughts between self-hosted videos or embedded videos from YouTube? Because I guess there are pros and cons there. You could maybe gain more organic reach just for the video by using YouTube and perhaps get a ranking there as well?
I: Yeah, I think that embedded video and ranking also on YouTube should be better than self-hosting, in this case. And you can also optimize to embed this video on your website without actually harming your page speed. So it's possible and you should not worry about that.
D: I guess the only negative that I can think of is at the bottom right-hand side of YouTube videos, you have an option of watching it on YouTube, as opposed to where it happens to be embedded. So I guess there's a certain percentage of traffic that might be enticed away from your website. Do you think that should be a concern as well?
I: It could be a concern. But I think that most of the people if you can play it on your page, will play it on the page, they wouldn't go to YouTube to watch it. I think it's it's still better to post it on YouTube, than self-hosting, but maybe I haven't seen any pitfalls of that.
D: I think that's probably correct, I think it's unlikely that people will click through. I think the only thing that I would add to that is try to turn off recommended videos at the end of your video, because if you have recommended videos, then people are going to click through and then go off your site.
I: And I think it's also very annoying when you're watching about some of the products you're interested in. And then you have a recommended video, which is not that connected to what you're actually interested in. Because the user would not understand that it's from YouTube, he will be annoyed because of your website.
D: Yeah, and people get distracted very easily nowadays, as we know, with social media trying to capture people's attention.
Pareto Pickle - Optimize Internal Links
Anyway, let's finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. So what's one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
I: It's internal linking, I think this is the most popular answer to this question. But internal linking can be something that you can do yourself without actually asking the web developer, for example, or going and publishing your content outside of your website. So this is in your hands as an SEO and you can do it quite quickly. And it can actually influence a lot. For example, if there are some pages which are orphaned, you can just internally link to them and they will rank better and they will be visible. That's why I think this is the most valuable thing. And also about the sitemap structure. If you have some pages, for example, that people could not find from the menu, adding them to the menu can be actually a goldmine for you. And it wouldn't take you a lot of time, maybe one hour.
D: I’ve been your host, David Bain. Thanks so much for being on The In Search SEO podcast.
I: Thank you very much for inviting me. It was a great experience for me.