Have Best SEO Practices Changed?

Longtime associate Ashley Schweigert joins Matt to talk SEO.

Recently, Matt ran across a training video that claims that SEO Best Practices have changed, and has some contention with that claim.

Many people like to make the statement that the search engines are always changing, which is true. However, very few of those changes affect anyone who is actively marketing their website and publishing great content. Search engines want quality websites in their results, so creating quality websites and content will enable you to market without worrying about someday disappearing from Google’s results.

Join Matt and Ashley as they discuss what HASN’T changed over the years in SEO!


Ashley: I think if you look at a website like it’s a body, and that site map and that robots, txt file, and even basic optimization like what you were talking about, like optimizing your h1, your metadata, if you’re doing that you’re just putting the bones in place. Now how are you going to look unique compared to everybody else that’s out there? What is your clothing?

Introduction: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture and media for our complex Digital Lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines, and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.

Matt: Hey, dear listener, thank you for listening again or tuning in to the Endless Coffee Cup podcast. And hey, this week we’re going to talk about search engine optimization. For those of you that have been in some of my training seminars, you know that SEO is something I’ve been talking about for a while, for years. And it’s one of those things I think it’s often overlooked. And I’ve got a special guest here on this episode, Ashley Schweigert. Thank you for joining me.

Ashley: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to talk about SEO. I’ve been in business for quite some time, and I can’t wait to kick it off and talk more about it.

Matt: Awesome. Ashley thanks. Hey, tell us a little bit about yourself. What drives you into the SEO industry? Where’s your passion?

Ashley: Well, my career is actually evolved quite a bit. But I love SEO. My favorite topics I cover everything within marketing and communications. So my business is marketing content by Ashley, I talked about how it’s all about the content. No matter what deliverable you’re doing for marketing or communications, it really goes back to your message and how you’re communicating to your audience. And that’s why I feel like SEO has a lot of common sense to it as well. So it’s an area that I talked about quite a bit.

Matt: I love what you said, SEO has a lot of common sense, because somehow, we live in a world where SEO in a lot of ways makes no sense. The way we’ve seen it executed the way people talk about it. I am absolutely amazed. So how long have you been working in SEO? How long? I mean, when did you first hear the term and understand this is what I’m doing?

Ashley: Uh, yeah, I mean, I have to say, I’ve been consulting for more than eight years but I’ve been in marketing and communications a lot longer than that. And I think before I got into consulting, where I was actually defining SEO really what that man I think I’ve been doing it this whole time, I was blogging and I was doing things for the web. And really it all connects everything that you do on that communication channel comes together. And it is an element of SEO.

What’s wrong with SEO?

Matt: Absolutely. So what I wanted to talk about today, so finding another, you know, fellow SEO here nearby, is to talk about something I saw the other day, I was watching a training video for SEO, I had to evaluate it and help this company rewrite it. And the expert that they had, I want to quote them, SEOs best practices have changed over the years. And I spit out my copy all over the screen and the keyboard. Like what SEO best practices have changed over the years. Are you kidding me? And so I started asking around like this statement makes sense to people. You know, and I talked to another SEO and he’s telling me I just got a new client. They’ve been through 10 marketing companies and he says, and they all pitched SEO. And they all supposedly did SEO on the site. He says that had the page title has never been touched. It doesn’t have a keyword in the page title, which to me is that’s SEO.

Ashley: All the way.

Matt: Yeah. And I’m hearing this from other people that do SEO, that these horror stories of other companies that say they do SEO, and somehow I think this has to be related, that people believe that best practices have changed. But yet when you see what they’ve done, it’s not SEO. Right. I mean, what have you seen is that kind of encapsulate what you’ve seen,

Ashley: I completely agree with you because I do think that there have been these two schools of thought there are people that are within SEO that have been all about that technical piece that they get in the back end of the site. They think that at putting in schema and making sure your robots txt file, you’re submitting your sitemap that you’re good to go. If you have that in place, you’re solid. It’s really not about that today. And that’s why Google is changing its algorithm. So is it anything has changed, it’s really just the algorithm and the updates are looking for quality, but it’s really always been about quality content.

Matt: Well, and that’s the thing. I mean, that’s, you know, the robots.txt, the sitemap, they’re important things. But when it’s done, it doesn’t add to your relevance. They’re more of what I would consider it’s taking up the trash. It’s the things you have to have in place. Unfortunately, I think I think in the terms of a business owner, how does a business owner know that they’re supposed to have a robots.txt or sitemap? And you know, unless they have time to go on Google and research all this, they just want to run their business. And I want to learn all this technical stuff and do it. So from a, you know, an SEO standpoint, yeah, it’s taking out the trash. It’s one of the things you got to do. But how do I increase relevancy to increase rankings?

Ashley: I think if you look at a website, like it’s a body, and that site map, and that robots.txt file, and even basic optimization, like what you were talking about, like optimizing your h1’s, your metadata. If you’re doing that you’re just putting the bones in place. Now, how are you going to look unique compared to everybody else that’s out there. What’s your clothing?

What has NEVER changed about SEO?

Matt: Yeah, it’s how you distinguish yourself. And so let me ask you this. What has never changed in terms of SEO, because I hear this all the time. When I tell people yeah, SEO is one of those things I teach I do. They’re like, “Oh, I heard it changes all the time.” And I have to look at them and kind of like, not really does it. It doesn’t change all the time. So let me ask you, what’s never changed as a best practice for SEO?

Ashley: Quality content.

Matt: Okay, we’re going to get along.

Ashley: Just, and that is something I absolutely love because I started my career in writing. And I absolutely love writing. In fact, I believe that SEOs should have some writing experience, because you do have to put copy together. You can’t be copying other sites on the web, you get to duplicate content. That’s, that’s a problem with Google. And then you get into links. And if you’re going to do some link building like link building actually requires PR, media relations to others. I just think that I mean, I know that links are a little different than the call content, but I do believe quality is such a bigger conversation. And that is that one piece that just has not changed.

Matt: Absolutely. I can’t agree with you more. And there’s so many examples of this. For example, I met with a mommy blogger who goes to the same school as our kids, she found out I did marketing, what it means to take a look at her blog. And I go, okay, you know, you’re, you’re doing mommy blogging, I get in her analytics, and she’s getting a million visitors a month. Okay, you know, let’s see, she has knows nothing about SEO. But she’s writing great content. And she has an understanding of, well, this is the title, I’m going to write a good title. She has an understanding of breaking down our content with sub headings and paragraphs and organizing the content so that it’s easily read. She instinctively writes well, and organizes it well. Because of that, she ranks well. And I remember the first time that I met a writer that got great rankings without knowing anything about SEO. And it blew my mind.

Ashley: It is kind of astounding. I want to say it was probably about six, seven years ago, I was having a debate with somebody who’s very well known in our community for content marketing. And it was interesting that he was telling me SEO is not important. If you display quality content, you put it on the web, you’re going to start ranking. Well, he was proven wrong. Because the thing is, he was writing this great story. But that story, he didn’t think about the audience that he’s bringing to a site which you get into inbound marketing. And I do believe that inbound marketing is a part of like SEO, they go hand in hand. Think about what you’re going to do with that audience with it once they get to your site, and a website is divided by different stages within the buying cycle. So you have to think about search intent and what each page of your website and what it’s about. And if you’re just writing to write, and you’re not thinking about those things, or what you’re going to do with your users to acquire them, or take them further down that funnel, then good luck generating revenue.

Matt: Yeah, fundamentally, people search because they’re looking for an answer. And your content needs to present an answer to what they’re looking for. Everything from, you know, a recipe to your business hours. I remember talking with someone there, they’re talking about, like, their bounce rate to their page is phenomenally high. And I’m looking at it. And, you know, this is back when you can see the keywords. Keywords were, you know, what’s this business address? What’s their phone number? And I’m like that’s a successful visit. You answered their question. And so writing with that mentality of what question am I answering? And you’ll naturally use the words and the slightest bit of keyword research really directs you. I think the only thing? Yes, quality content, I would say, maybe number two that is using the right words. You’ve probably got a couple examples too, but working with a business and they are using the wrong word. The word they’re using to describe their product is an internal, you know, their own language. It’s within their own industry or worse within their own company. And they end up using the wrong word. And so when someone actually searches for what they need, they’re never going to be found because they’re using their own internal language. I think one example was a company that made, they called it a stump cutter and it was a stump grinder. Everyone’s searching for the word stump grinder. Nobody is searching for a stump cutter. Yeah, this is how they packaged it. This is how they branded it. And what was funny is when I’m at the company, David Cole to the Stoke writer, and I’m like, so why do you have that on the website is stuck cutter instead of stuff brighter, but you’re missing thousands of people. And honestly, they just never thought about it.

Ashley: Well, even now, even if they agree with you, sometimes they don’t care. They look at the web as being their brochure or company brochure or they don’t think about that it’s really there to answer a question.

Matt: So yeah, just using the right word, along with that quality content is a magical combination.

Ashley: And even the types of keywords that you’re using, if you wanted to group them. So e commerce, I love ecommerce, one of my favorite types of sites to optimize because whenever you’re looking at product pages, those keywords are going to be totally different than say the keywords that you use in a blog.

Matt: A blog is going to be more about how do I use this product? What’s it going to do for me? How’s it look? Those types of things. And not so it’s, again, it comes down to features, benefits. You know, how’s this going to benefit my life? That’s blog post stuff. In the store, it’s the features. What do I need to know about it? What color that type of thing? So yeah, I agree with you. It’s a lot of fun to kind of differentiate between the two. But I’ve seen you know, one of my favorite e commerce sites is think geek, that you get the features list, but yet they have fun with the features list. And then they describe the product. It has nothing to do with the product, really, it has more to do with lifestyle. It has more to do with being a fan of a certain thing. And then that’s I love their copywriting. I think it is probably one of the best.

Ashley: So that’s where getting into that quality content. That, yeah, you just attracted your users to how you’re going to keep them on your page.

How Many Words on a Page for SEO?

Matt: And that is content written with a thought towards purpose. What do I want them to do? Do I want them to read, engage, don’t have to move forward in the process and how, you know, thinking about that process, rather than I have to put 500 words on the page, which is another thing.

Ashley: I am very passionate about the word count.

Matt: I saw a headline just, it was in my email about how word count doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is quality. I’m shaking my head going. It’s always been about quality. You know, what I remember being at a conference and people talking about, you know, you have to have 500 words on a page and I heard this repeated over and over and over. And I’m trying to tell people know if I can answer their question in 20, why would I put 500 But somehow that was the thinking and somehow that got translated into this practice.

Ashley: Yeah, it just astounds me about that even. You’re hearing about pillar pages or the new theory. Now, when it comes to SEO, and I actually read an article that is a best practice, you’re going to believe that a pillar page is 5000 words and link, oh, think about how many pages that is a Word document. And this is like a book that’s like an E book, like 20 pages. So if you think you’re just writing, if you’re somebody that’s just getting into SEO, and you’re just going to write all this copy and put this on a web page and call it a pillar page, and maybe that pillar page is all about inbound marketing, or SEO, and that’s all you’re writing about, you’re going to lose your reader.

Matt: 5000 words is a 15 minute video. No one’s going to sit and watch a 15 minute video, much less read.

Ashley: I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love the concept of killer pages. I’m completely on board with them. I love content clusters. I love all of that, especially as a writer. But I just think you need to be strategic with your copy. You have to think about placement. You have to think about what supporting content do I have for this that’s going to keep the user on this page and engaged and not glazing over at this copy board?

Matt: Yeah. So my 12 year old daughter is doing the school project. She hits a page full of text and she just scroll scroll, scroll, scroll, and gets to the bottom of the page it goes well it’s nothing there are like a think there was something there but it was just paragraphs.

Ashley: Yeah. I don’t even read long tweets. I am a gamer.

Matt: I love the Jacob Nielsen’s study of how people engage online with content. And I believe it came down to the vast majority of people don’t read, they scan and came to the conclusion. We can’t even call what we do online reading, because it doesn’t fit the reading behavior. And in fact, when people scan, the only actually see, I’m doing air quotes see less than 20% of your content. But seeing doesn’t mean they’re remembering. They’re just looking for words on the page very quickly, that saying, this is where your answer is, this is what you want. And so usually, I think he said like a 500 to 800 word page is only looked at for three seconds.

Ashley: Oh, I completely agree with it.

Matt: And even something in a headline if it’s more than four words, people only really two or three the words. I mean, it’s just ridiculous.

Ashley: I guess still need the copy, because there’s robots care about it. And But yeah, I mean the person that’s reading it, they are going to skim it so you need less, you need to have subtitles, you need to think about how you’re putting that copy together. I’m telling you, I love big content marketing campaigns that are leveraging SEO, and they’re utilizing brand storytelling, because they’re you. They’re doing multiple marketing initiatives to tell their story. So while it may all be on that page, and that web page that is living seeing their blog, is only going to be read for a little bit of time and the other pieces on their website or in like, say email or whatever it is that they’re using here eventually going to get their message across. And I just think a story really resonates with today’s audience and I think SEOs have a great opportunity with these pillar pages. And with knowing what goes into an algorithm to accelerate the out as technology is advancing.

It’s How You Structure Your Content

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And I think you alluded to this too, it’s understanding how to structure your content. Utilizing headline sub headings, bullet points. When you understand that people scan, you can then arrange your content to make it easier to scan. But at the same time, using those right words in strategic places, to guide people as you go through, but then also, we don’t have to rely on text. We can supplement with images with, you know, charts, graphs, all that kind of fun stuff, video to enhance that storytelling.

Ashley: Absolutely. I just think that visual content alone, if you have a really good video, I just think that that, remember how we were talking about this a little bit ago about keeping the user on a page and how that is a user’s signal and that is something that has not changed with SEO. And that’s why as video keeps increasing it’s really clearly not going to go anywhere, putting those pieces in your blog and in other places that your site is just going to help you with rankings.

Matt: Absolutely. And more and more receive, yeah, as part of the algorithm. Google is pushing more behavioral signals when it comes to ranking behavior, meaning, you know, do people click on your result, as opposed to other results? How long do they spend on your site before they click back to the results? Do they go to other results? So now, it’s a very deep thing to consider because Google’s trying to consider you know, this is where a lot of their AI is coming in the trying to consider your intent to this page answer the question. If not, did you go to another page to answer the question, or are you gathering multiple input, you know, there’s a lot that goes into that, but they’re starting to use those behavioral signals. Time on page depths of visit that type of thing off the search results.

Know Your Audience

Ashley: That’s why SEOs are going to have to really understand the audience. It’s no longer about, okay, now I have this group of keywords, I’m going to write this blog post or this product page or this category page, you have to really understand the audience because you got into something that really gets me excited about artificial intelligence is, you know, Google’s rank brain technology. It’s that machine learning algorithm. It’s really looking at search intent. Search intent is evolving. That is one piece, I would say is changing. Because, I mean, it’s always been about quality, right? But now as news are really forced to learn the audience, they have to learn the audience. It’s not just sprinkling a bunch of keywords, writings, a beautifully written blog post is about really making sure that you’re answering that question.

Matt: Absolutely. And again, yeah, they’re refining because I mean, their stated goal is to know what you’re searching for, because you search for it. And so, understanding what you type in or speak is, you know, how do we deliver the most relevant results? And like I said, great content is absolutely top of the SERPS that is always going to do it. And then trying to figure out what was it that you really wanted? That is where Yeah, that AI stuff’s coming in and you’re excited. I’m fearful.

Ashley: I know I have a lot of friends who are fearful about it, machines are taking over?

Matt: Name one movie where AI works out well.

Ashley: I know. I know. I just excited you know, to take this manual tasks away from me and do it. I mean, I was reading an article about every SEO person knows that keyword research is so tedious. So I have I do that for me. Go right ahead.

Keyword Research is the Foundation of Good SEO

Matt: Oh, see now, I love keyword research. Absolutely. I love it. Back in the day when I had the agency when we got a new client, we probably I probably had three people spending at least two days each doing different aspects of keyword research. It was to that depth. I don’t care if there was only one search for that word. That’s data. That shows me people want this content they want this word they want this information. And so it wasn’t so much looking for eight this word is what is important, what we were looking for was intent. What words are people using to find what and so it was really, you know, I would just call it you know, just devouring keyword research to find out and we would organize it by questions by statements by reverse order words and then getting into what additional words how do they associate it to the associate the brand with different things to the associate the product and You know, really just digging in because it wasn’t that we were looking for the individual word. We’re trying to derive that intent. What do people want to know? And based on that, it didn’t just give us words to put in the title. It gave us content, ideas, what to write, how to organize it, how people are searching for this, and how can we present it to them? That’s why I love the keyword research.

Ashley: You buy something that that gets me really passionate. So I also developed sites. So when I get into that I love to do the keyword research even though I do think it’s tedious. I do like to do it prior to getting a website done. Because I just think that we all know that structure, web structure is really important. And navigation is really important. And when you do keyword research will better understand your audience and what’s going to work for that navigation structure.

Matt: So number three, on our list could be well, I would say number three is probably your content structure. So great content, right words, content structure, structuring the content so that people can read it easily. Number four would be the architecture and the organization of your website.

Website Structure & Organization

Ashley: Yeah. Because it goes into user experience that is not going anywhere

Matt: No, absolutely not. So yeah, this gets into your URL structure. The how you name your pages, how you organize your content, those types of things, unfortunately, is someone has started on the wrong foot to fix that is pretty difficult. Now that gets into the technical side of SEO, which is important, but I’m just seeing more and more. The vast majority of people who affect a website, affect the content. Even websites that have technical problems, then is the responsibility of another department. They can’t touch it. Their responsibility is the content. And so I think the majority of my training is on content side.

Ashley: Yeah. If you think about it, too, when it comes to navigation of your website and user experience that does even though it is URL structure, all that is technical, but if you think about it, there is a very big content piece to it. Because Google is using is looking at how long is that like the bounce rate? So that’s going to be affected if somebody can’t find what they’re looking for? So it’s going to go back to your content? Is your content answering that question? So then they’re going to see you as being a poor quality site?

Matt: Is your content answering the question? It does? Can they find the answer in your navigation in your related content, those types of things? Again, thinking about what’s the destination? Where do I want someone to go with this content?

Ashley: Really understanding the user. I love when I see websites structured by persona.

Matt: It was very interesting. My brother brought something up. Actually today we were talking because he was griping about some SEO stuff. But it was very interesting because he said, People talk about being user focused, or mobile focused. He says what they’re neglecting is task focused, that the user wants to accomplish something. And so, you know, people are saying, well, we’re going, you know, mobile centric or going data centric or some. And these are say, what does the user want to accomplish? Why don’t you measure task completion of someone who wants something? And I thought that was just such a great way of looking at it that if we’re concerned about our user, we’re concerned about the visitor. What do they want to accomplish? I know I have my goals, what I want them to do, what they want to do, and are we evaluating that process?

Ashley: It’s really interesting that you’re saying that because it’s making me think of a client and where we were focusing on one specific kind of audience. So one persona, and everything that was on the website was very technical, that would be for another type of persona, because basically, their target audience isn’t going to be interested in getting into the weeds. So that’s why it’s so important to understand the audience and really what’s going to resonate with them. So we’re doing a complete overhaul when it comes to content and making sure that it resonates to answering that question, and making sure that they can find what they need.

Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. That’s understanding your audience what they’re looking for. And then the different components of the audience or forget, this was back in the day when people were saying that Google had a sandbox that if you built a website, that if it’s new, it goes into the sandbox. And basically, it’s not going to rank for anything. And it’s not going to perform well, because Google has put it in the sandbox basically until you grow up.

Ashley: Because you don’t have that domain.

Matt: And then we’ll add the warranty or anything like that. So, one of my employees, she created a blog. And within I think four months of having the blog, she found it was basically it was the Olympic year. One of the sports that she loves, she followed, but she could not find anything about when this event was taking place for to watch on TV. So she contacted the association behind that event and asked them, where can I find this on TV? Where’s the schedule, anything like that? They sent it to her and she published it on our blog, smart, this blogs on less than six months old. Within weeks, she’s getting hundreds of thousands of visitors. And he’s ranking returns about, you know, where’s the schedule for this event? Again for quality content? Yeah, it is. This is what if it’s stuff that people want.  And so and this gets to the point that of what you talked about earlier, the PR standpoint, how easy they think that was to build links.

Link Building

Ashley: I think it’s so hard these days to build links. Because back in the day, you know, everybody would go to a directory. Yeah, yeah, man, he didn’t anymore. You know, there are some local citations that you can do. And then you’re still very relevant for some local SEO, but it really is about building that relationship with the media. And there’s key bloggers and you just have to be careful with the bloggers because there are some bloggers that don’t have really good domain authority, and it’s really not worth getting a link on their site. So I do think it’s really looking at your target audience because that’s the same for media outlets too.

Matt: And it’s, what you’re talking about. Is link building from a PR aspect, which you made this differentiation early? There is the Content SEO. And there’s the technical SEO. And this is where the algorithm constantly changes. It’s to catch people who try to falsify their link authority, participating and link schemes, buying links from other sites or networks and things like that. That’s what Google is going after that falsification. We’re as going about link building from a PR standpoint, you’re building networks, you’re actively marketing yourself to other publishers, other people to get those links. And honestly, those are much longer lasting, more effective. I’ll never forget, you know, just looking at the performance of links to different domains.  And the PR based links, where you got mentioned in an article or something. Those were the most effective.

Ashley: There’s a lot of people that think I page optimization is more important than on page because of that. I’ve done competitive analyses and there were a lot of different competitors’ sites that their own pages horrible, but their domain authority was excellent and it had everything to do with their PR everything. Now I will say, this is where you get into two byline articles versus press releases. Big pitchy and byline articles are the way to go. I think writing that press release and sending it out. While I I think it could still have value. Don’t get me wrong, but you have to be careful, because if you don’t put that on your site, first, you’re going to duplicate content because you know what they do with that? Yeah, they’ll take the same content and put it on their site.

Matt: Yep. It’s cheap links. And because they’re cheap links, they’re not worth much now. No. I think this is one thing, even with my own side I saw is you know, I saw some links getting published I and I, I could have evaluate links that are a couple different things. Will it bring me visitors? If it does, that’s a good link. Will it increase my brand? Does its good link that means being visibility being visible, but maybe not driving visitors. And the third thing was does it drive visitors who convert? That’s the thing because there’s a big difference between all three of those. And if you find the link that does all three, that’s beautiful. And you will see your rankings increase. Even just I was telling someone like you get one link from a good newspaper. It far outweighs hundreds of low quality, cheap links that you’re putting out there.

Ashley: I couldn’t agree more with you. I I’m actually a believer that PR is essential to SEO. I think that off page is afternoon. All these competitive analyses throughout the years, I think it’s just as important if not more than on page. But you do need that foundation in place. You absolutely do.

Matt: Yep. And that’s where I love to distinguish in SEO. I, you absolutely need that programming, you absolutely need that technical. You know, what are the ins and outs of the programming? Yes, there are programming errors that can completely drop your site out of the index. If you do it wrong. Its structure, its bone structure. Well, you won’t rank better by having perfect programming. But it helps really develops that

Ashley: Clean code. It goes into clean code. I’ve seen a lot of sites with very bloated code. I mean, I don’t know what other word to use. Besides, you see all these different characters within their coding and it’s not good. It’s not easy for the robots to crawl.

Matt: Yep. And so understanding that technical side, how to clean things up, organize it, how to eliminate a lot of code, increase page speed. I love the technical SEO from that side. However, getting this building structure, that’s not what gets people to link to you. No one likes you because I look at my code on this site. Great content. You know, did you ever participate in one of those networking groups where you meet for breakfast or lunch?

Ashley: And I still do over again, networking group. And I say I love to talk.

Matt: Yeah. And the point of those is, we want to develop relationships with people we like know and trust. I’m not going to link to another website that I don’t know that I don’t like, and then I don’t trust. And so it takes that PR,

Ashley: And that is another element that has never changed. Trust, trustworthiness. Google has an algorithm that is test for trustworthiness. In fact, social media really gets into that. I’ve seen a lot of SEOs say that they use social media for link building by Google has come out and said that social shares, they don’t do anything when it comes to link building. Oh, by that engagement that your social site gets does, it will impact your rankings. But those shares, they don’t count as part of link building.

Matt: No, that’s more. Yeah, I put that more into the marketing side of things. The link building that. Yeah. There’s so many theories out there.

Paid Social Ads

Ashley: I mean, that is one of I just love that one. Because I don’t believe that every social site is the same by Google. I think if you have that participation from your audience, and they are on linking to you and sharing, I think it does make you look good.

Matt: And that’s an area where I think Google especially is going to be very challenged by utilizing that and I think that’s why they’ve taken the steps they have, especially with so for example, Facebook’s algorithm change, where now if I just make a post to Facebook, Might be seen by 2% of my followers. So I, a lot of businesses now have completely backed off because it makes more sense to buy ads, where more people will see them. But my organic stuff is not, you know, is not going to have that same visibility. So now how does Google going to judge that? You know, so now they’re dealing with other people’s business models, and social is such a dynamic animal.

Ashley: It really is. But I feel that you know what you were saying? I mean, I know this is all about SEO, but I do believe that everything you do on the web, it connects. And when you’re doing ads on Facebook, it is a game. So I don’t believe in just doing ads that are just for ads or just for like, building your email list. I actually believe in doing ads that you know, are going to get get likes that are fun, because I think it’s a game that if you’re getting that interaction and An ad that you created that would you would normally do and an organic post to make sure it gets seen that whenever you do do an organic post, that you increase the probability of you showing up and that needs to be.

Matt: I like to run ads especially on Facebook’s platform – I can target so well.

Ashley: Oh, yeah. It’s cheap. Ad Words, it does cost money. By you know, I mean, I know this isn’t maybe this is for another conversation. People talking about like with Facebook’s new with their new ads, and how people are saying that they’re competing with Google Ad Words and totally disagree.

Matt: Oh, yeah, absolutely. No one goes to Facebook to search. You know that. I love that whole thing. You know, if I have a problem, the first thing people do is go to Google. If I need a product, what’s interesting is the first thing people are doing is going to Amazon. Google’s losing market share to people going to Amazon to search for product. So but if I want information, I go to Google. If I want to spy on people I go to Facebook, it is the mindset is so completely different. And in Facebook, you have to interrupt what people are doing. And you got to do it. Well.

Ashley: It’s all about being social like this. I was just astounded. I’ve read so many articles about Google and Facebook competing against each other and think of what they’re not even getting to cert and let’s talk about search and tag. And yeah, I mean, what are you using Facebook for social, social, social? Google is all about answering a question, just like what you were saying.

Matt: Absolutely. I think there might be competing for ad budgets, I think is maybe where that’s going to

Ashley: Maybe looks as are so cheap.

Does Advertising in Google Ads help your SEO?

Matt: And yeah, it’s interesting that Google has seen I was just reading an article the other day that the average cost per click has gone down. However, what they’re making is going up, you know, maybe it’s a better education of who’s doing it. I that’s one thing that there’s another show right there just managing Ad Words and quality score, which seems to be a foreign concept to many people. So let me ask you this. Let me ask you this, since we’ve gotten into things that affect your ranking. If I’m an Ad Words advertiser, does that affect my ranking?

Ashley: I actually think news paid to help your rank. I think they work together. I most definitely think they work together. But your ads, they’re not organic rankings at all. They’re not they’re totally serious. Because there have been a lot of people that think that I’m not showing up on the first page. Well, organic takes six months on average for you to john. And the meantime, let’s do you know short term. You know, answer to make sure you’re showing up in the first place, we’ll just do an ad. But that doesn’t mean you’re ranking number one. That means you’re paying to show up there, you’re bidding for that keyword. There’s a lot of people are confused about that.

Matt: It’s not just the confusion that I’m going at. I’m wondering, you know, I’m of the conspiracy group.

Ashley: Oh, so you’re thinking that if your pain and Google is looking at that as is, I never thought about that.

Matt: There are a few people who asked about it and yes, I’ve heard stories.

Ashley: Okay, you know, coming from so you know, I love e commerce. I’ve done so there’s a school of thought that you can create Google Ad Words landing pages like unique landing pages that aren’t necessarily like a part of your main sites. They’re like either on you know, we’re part of your content management system or by or you can have a Go back to your product page. Now I had to pose because you can have more flexibility if you want certain things to pop up a little bit differently. It really thinks it depends on the client in their products. But I will say what I have done them to go back to the website; I have seen that it does impact. It does impact i think i think it has to do. I’m wondering if it has to do with just like the amount of activity that’s coming into the site? Because you know, like, user signal. User signal? I’m just, I understand where you’re going with that. But I’m wondering if it’s because of other signals that are really driving that. But I do think that you can have them work together.

Matt: So you’re not taking the insidiously evil. That Google wants people to pay.

Ashley: No, but I do have that I feel that maximize conversion bidding that they have Automated bidding. I don’t like that bidding strategy at all because it looks at your historical data. And I just I’ve used it a couple different times. And I felt that there were other bidding strategies that just outperform it. And I’ve been on several calls with some reps and they always try to talk me into that direction. But the thing is, it uses your budget faster. So I’m thinking, are you just wanting me to spend more money?

Matt: Yeah, that’s I think that’s the bottom line.

Ashley: I feel terrible. No bashing?

Matt: Yeah. That seems to be the Google rep goal is to get you to spend more. And I remember telling one of them, I’m not going to do that, because I know, it’ll bring visitors but for that word, it doesn’t need to bring as much conversions as this. And they’re like, well just increase the budget. Did you even hear what I just said? Did you even you know, I’m done the analysis and your answer to that is still increase the budget.

Ashley: So Increasing. When there are other things that you can do. Work together, right?

Matt: Okay. Just a little sidelight there because that’s, that’s one of those things I have heard so many business owners and managers talk about? Well, you know, even though Google says the two are two separate completely different systems, there are some is some anecdotal evidence that it affects, you know…

Ashley: The user signal. Now, the more I’m sitting here thinking about this, might be my next blog post. Talk about it.

Matt: Well, and that’s one of the things I mean, Google has now through Ad Words had pay per conversion, which means they’re looking at not just user signals on engagement, user signals on conversion.

Ashley: Yeah. That really, that hits a lot of people.

Matt: Because again, now you’re getting into task completion. And that’s a big user signal. So that I know this is getting the…

Ashley: inbound marketing. Or you can try traffic to your site all day. When are you going to do with them? Once they get there? How are you going to convert them into being a lead or customer, whatever it is, that your goal is for that site? How are you going to do that? And that’s why I think it’s so important to understand the modern day funnel. And really what goes into building a website. I think that today’s approach to website development needs to be way more strategic, you have to understand the audience. You have to understand the funnel with the types of keywords that they’re going to use at each stage in order to build a successful site that is going to drive those types of conversions.

Matt: Absolutely. Thank you. Awesome.

Ashley: Well, because think about it, from an SEO standpoint, you can use any keyword and Google to find an answer, and you can enter at any stage in the buyers journey back in the day before the digital revolution used to start by, you’d have a lead that’s in the awareness stage, I’m going to nurture them down the funnel. Now they can enter at any stage in your funnel, they don’t have to start at the top. So that’s your category page and an e commerce site. And they’re landing there and they didn’t go to any other pages on your site. That means they might not know you as a brand. So you better have some trust symbols or some credibility on that page to really make sure that they understand who you are as a brand.

How Good is Your Content?

Matt: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that page has got to mean something to someone who just landed there for the first time and a scene you someone who’s trying to make a decision and someone who’s ready to buy, it’s got to meet all of those areas. And, again, take people to the next stage.

Ashley: Yes.

Matt: So let’s a big challenge. And this is Someone asked me the other day, like, what are the primary skills of the 21st century marketer. Um, but honestly, when I started thinking about it, it’s, I’m glad we recorded this. It’s the sentence you said, it’s understanding content and cross the life cycle, or in the customer journey. It’s content across the journey, being able to create it, curate it, disseminate it, I’m trying to bring up all the words, but that is the 21st century marker,

Ashley: and really as you have to be, I think what’s going to happen with artificial intelligence. But I think that what you’re going to see is marketers are going to have to be more creative.

Matt: Yes,

Ashley: That is not just going to be about writing this piece of copy or creating this campaign that you know, to fit in with your competition is going going to be about being unique, and really utilizing your competitive advantages to the fullest. So I think what’s going to happen is marketers are going to have to learn pretty much like how to become creative problem solvers, they’re going to have to be able to think strategically about creativity, and what that means to bring an idea service or product market.

Matt: Oh, and that’s part of it is from a marketing standpoint, you know, if you’re a marketer, and you’re writing content across the lifecycle, you’re now getting involved in sales. Customer Service, loyalty, because that’s how your customers are coming back in all those areas, even though they used to be soloed into sales, customer service, you know, rewards and loyalty, all these different things. It’s marketing.

Ashley: Now marketing is no longer than make it pretty department.

Matt: No, it’s, you know, and especially these companies that are doing Net Promoter Score evaluations, and all these Know your customer service department has to understand marketing. And marketing has to help the customer service department with interaction. And it’s becoming this complete integration.

Ashley: Yeah, I think the modern day workplace needs to be able to collaborate. You cannot have departments not working together. And there needs to be cross collaboration. You need to understand each other’s our workloads, and what the customer needs in order to perform well.

Matt: Yep. And then once you I mean, that’s, you’re responsible for these things, knowing the keywords, knowing how to write, write the content, optimize the content, publish the content. One of my favorite training was for a, it was for publication. And I had 15 writers, and they’re of the mindset that we write, you know, SEO makes things clunky.

Ashley: Yeah, just give me some keywords .

Matt: First of all, I had to win them over to that, but at the end, it was no, it shouldn’t make things clunky. It’s when using the word. You know, if you’re going to speak to someone, you want to use the same language. You know, and I’m trying to tell them you know what the people want. You’ve been publishing this content in your there is an annual trend everything. And you know, the audience,

Ashley: like I first want to say to people, when you do a postcard for a direct mail piece, to send it to everyone and their brother, or do you have a target audience? And do you make that postcard like, I mean, how long is it? So think about the channel that you are using to communicate your message creative?

Matt: Greetings. Yep. And as well, I alluded to this earlier. Quantity is not quality.

Ashley: All right, right. As we were talking about blogs, For a little bit, and that is an area that I really strongly believe that you want to have good quality content. That’s I think one blog posts a week is perfectly fine.

Matt: But even though so you just did that, would you just…

Ashley: I know I did it myself, right.

Matt: It’s that mentality. But when we’re I’m putting myself on a schedule. And I have to do one blog post a week; I do three social posts a week. And, again, we’re thinking on execution level, rather than what’s quality.

Ashley: Yeah, I think I said always go back to the quality but with blogging, I mean, you always want to put out quality you don’t want to just get something done to just get something done. If you don’t have something good to write about. Don’t worry, anything

Matt: Great advice.

Ashley: You want to I mean, even just thinking about it from a branding standpoint, you want to position yourself as a thought leader within the industry, don’t put something down that is going to discredit you. So I just feel that with blogging is not always necessarily evergreen content, because blogging. Blogs have days.

Chasing the Algorithm

Matt: Yes.

Ashley: And that’s why I think the pillar pages are so important, because they’re kind of like blog pages. And they’re evergreen. So that’s getting into another conversation, which I believe that you should try it, whatever. However, you cannot put dates on your blog posts. So you can make that more evergreen. But it is typical for blogs to have dates on them.

Matt: Okay. Well, that’s funny. You keep alluding to pillar pages. I honestly have not read it in a SEO articles in the past six months. So that’s a new one.

Ashley: Well, you know, I’m a HubSpot user. I like a those things.

Matt: But I will. So I would say that’s a great example, though, if it’s not best practice. But its advice based on evaluated based on what we’ve seen. This tends to work well, and I would say that type of stuff changes frequently.

Ashley: That is actually a little frustrating for an SEO person because you do have your experience and you know, from the types of different clients that you’ve had, what works and what doesn’t. And over the years, you may mold a little bit if there has been a change in an algorithm or the times, but usually, same things seem to stick around by you always get somebody who has a theory. I don’t feel like a lot of SEO people come from that same school I was can be really, really frustrating. Because you just know what works, you know, from experience what we’re

Matt: okay. So I’ll just give this. It’s cool. The SEOs I know who are content people. They don’t know when there’s a new algorithm. Everyone, so I’ll see something about Google’s new algorithm. I don’t care because sites I worked on 20 years ago. Still rank well. Okay. Yeah. No, I don’t measure visitors, I measure conversions. You know, it’s those things. And it’s kind of like stock market. If you watch it every day, you’re going to go insane if you don’t look at it at all, and just let things grow, and that I guess that’s how I look at SEO, from a content standpoint, if I do things, right, quality content, use the right words, create a good structure, give people what they want. I don’t have to worry about it. If I’m from a technical standpoint, following this advice that see, you know, oh, here’s top 20 factors and do the, you know, not all in all this. Those are the ones I think that start having the shortness of breath every time there’s an algorithm change

Ashley: It’s so astounding to me. They know the algorithms, but they’re not willing to into the inbound marketing is like going back to what you were saying, what’s the bottom line? How many conversions are you getting, like, that’s really what you should care about. So if you’re not thinking about that, and just making all these change here. So because you’re super excited about an algorithm change, you know, what’s that? What good is that going to do for you?

Matt: Yeah. And that’s the thing. I know there are some ultra-competitive categories where this constant tweaking may be necessary. But those are very rare and I think the problem is, that becomes the it becomes amplified through articles through this is what’s happening in SEO right now. Because this tiny group of people that are in these very highly competitive categories, they’re trying to find every little ounce of a result. Does the greater population need to implement things like that? I don’t think so. And honestly, they’re those few competitive categories have a lot of other issues going on with him to o but that is always spoke to me about advice in the General, when someone will say you have to do this or this is work without the context of this is the type of site this is the type of industry. This is other things that we have done. And without that context, that piece of advice becomes focused on more than I’ve seen so many times where people bring out this little piece of advice, but without the context, they lose track of every other best practice they should be doing.

Ashley: Right.

Matt: And this becomes a replacement. Your CRM

Ashley: Yeah, I think I did you have an example of…

Avoid the Hype Cycle of New Channels

Matt: Okay, let’s I’ll go into social media with this. Everyone should be on Instagram.

Ashley: Oh, yeah. Okay, now, you guys. Yeah, really?

Matt: Yeah. I do. Because, you know, based on my business model based on it, you know, again, context, what’s the context If you’re doing everything else, right, and I’m, I’ve got my analytics, I know what’s works. I know why it works. I tell people when you got that stuff; you have the freedom to say no. Because I know what works. So, you know, where do I take the budget from the start jumping in an Instagram, if everything else is working, right? That means I have to take money away from something that’s doing well. No, this assumes that everyone’s doing that.

Ashley: Yeah. I just think when you’re thinking about where to allocate your dollars. Yeah. And also gets into, you know, what’s changing, and am I adapting to that change? And a good example, I think it was marketing automation. There are a lot of companies utilizing marketing automation, but they’re not doing it correctly. But they’re like, I know I need to get this because it’s a technology is evolving and nurturing a lead going back to that modern day funnel. is very much a part of it because marketing is more involved now with nurturing leads versus sales. So they know they need that marketing automation, but they don’t have it implemented right sign integrated with all their systems, which is a problem.

Matt: What I have seen is they have no clue what marketing automation is.

Ashley: I guess that’s my favorite.

Matt: You know, and then when you know, like a Hub Spot says, okay, we need, you know, we need 100 emails. You know, we need a nurture campaign for this segment and a nurture campaign for this segment and a welcome campaign. All of a sudden, they’re overwhelmed that they have to raise 600 emails. What did you think we were going to automate? And that gets to the point where if you have the system in place now, automation isn’t going to help you.

Ashley: Well, you got to think to what’s the goal, your automation, like, that’s a big conversation going in the email where it’s like, okay, so I know somebody landed on my blog, and they downloaded this white paper from the blog. So I want to nurture them to bring them down. funnel. So what is the goal those emails that they’re going to get in response to getting this white paper? What’s going to be that goal? Is it going to be to eventually get them to get a quote? You know, how long is your sales cycle going back into making sure that the marketing and sales team and everybody in the organization is collaborating? So I just think really understanding your customer is going to be really important to know is very important.

Matt: I’ll give you another example from an SEO standpoint; it’s when they came out with this. Okay, every site you should have an XML sitemap and the amazing things that people were saying, but that was the advice being thrown out there have you need an exit in a sitemap for searching so the problem is now let’s build context. You can go to your webmaster tools and you can see how often your site is spider. You can see how many pages are spider and how often. Okay, if that’s working well then why do I need an XML sitemap to help me rank more?

Well go read what Google says about site maps. While it’s good, they prefer to find your site and spider it organically. And so and now I’m starting to think about this. Well, wait a minute. If your site is on spider mobile, and you upload a sitemap, okay, that’s good. Google can find your pages. The problem is what they can’t do then is process the linking relationships between those pages and outside pages. And so if you have a structure problem, so a sitemap is a band aid in a very poor one at that, because Google’s own instruction state, we’d rather find it organically then with a sitemap. So there’s the context around it. If you have green architecture, so not good, not who cares? Because you can see the spider ring activity. And so it’s one of those things where if you just slow down a Think through it. Why do they need this? What’s going on? What’s the purpose of it? It helps you put things a little bit more in context.

Ashley: Yeah, I just feel the only time I was ever really worried about a site getting indexed right away has been when I see my dynamic ads and Google Ad Words is you need to have that website. And in order for it to dynamically pull up the ad. So this isn’t the only time I’ve really been that worried now Don’t come near I obviously summit. You know, it’s taking me off every time I create a website, but there are SEOs that will submit a new sitemap every month. And that is astounding to me because it just what you said the Google robots will organically find your site.

Matt: I think you get a boost if it’s organically found rather than submitted. Not to say do I put out XML sitemap? Yeah, I do. Because now I have to do is press a button and it’s out there. So there are things that like I said, it’s very picking up the trash. You can do all these technical things you can do you know, the new follows and the French fry pages. And I, if you don’t know anything about this, dear listener, don’t worry. You’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction. But there’s a lot of the thing is ideal for the worst place to go for advice about SEO is a search engine, as articles have been published about how to optimize since 1996. And the vast majority of them if you follow them will get you kicked out of the engines.

Ashley: Yeah, you have to be careful you can’t over optimize and that’s something that is never going to change with SEO. You can never over optimize, there’s still people do black hat SEO. I mean, I’m astounded by it. I actually just dealt with it. I had to go in and clean up a site that had a penalty because there were some robots I don’t know what company by but yeah, there was some robot That were kept coming to the site was just not organic traffic.

Avoid old “SEO Advice”

Matt: It’s funny that you say that that. Yeah, there’s there are times Yes, I have seen some black hat stuff. Honestly, what I see more is dumb stuff. Dumb stuff that someone thought is SEO. Great example, I looked at a site the other day went to the homepage. But when I clicked on a category page, I saw it was a sub domain. And then I clicked on another category page, and it’s another sub domain. And they told me this is what our SEO sent it to. Okay, that was never best practice. It’s not black.

Ashley: It’s common sense, right? We were just talking about SEO is common sense. And SEO includes links. Now when you put everything that you’re going to be linking to or from your homepage, or however that sub domain is structured on your site, you’re going to have it in balance. Link profile these, there’s no way that I sent them in as a high quality site, either you’re going to have that as well, you’re going to have poor quality links.

Matt: And it was funny because as soon as they took away the sub domains, put it all in one directory, you know, all off one domain and typical website structure. The rankings immediately went up.

Ashley: Oh, yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.

Matt: And so it’s just like, but it’s not black hat. It’s dumb. It’s junior executive SEO as what I’ve been calling. They just read an article from 10 years ago and thought it was a good idea. And no page titles, didn’t have keywords in the headlines on the page didn’t have keywords in them. The content, barely a keyword and no practical benefits. Again, it focused more on programming and structure rather than content and what do people need?

Ashley: It just astonishes me that people putblog posts on subdomains? I love that because they don’t think that a blog post is essentially a web page.  Like I’ve gotten into beats actually recent the beats where…it is interesting. I couldn’t believe it. Because I mean, I’ll be honest, I was going back and forth between landing page and blog post because there was a content marketing campaign that was working on, that was going to have it live in the blog. And but it was going to be very different than a typical blog post. Because it’s a form of a campaign. Coca Cola does. I love the way that they do their content marketing campaigns. Now, I think their blog is a little to… it’s a lot.

Matt: It’s Coca Cola. They live by a completely different set of rules, but I will say their campaigns are good.

Ashley: Their content marketing campaigns are great. They know what they’re doing. And so I was doing something very similar. And I felt that this person I was talking to was going it was just getting hung up on the fact that I was saying landing page because basically I kept saying landing page because the ads, everything else that was being used for this campaign was going to was that page that was living in the blog. Everybody was going to land there. So that’s why I was saying the landing page. Why are we addressing that? I’m calling this a landing page versus a blog post is, besides, I just I could not believe. I’m like thinking “Really?” At the end of the day they’re all web pages.

Matt: Yeah, they’re all destinations for something. We just need to figure out, you know, is it the right destination? Are people doing what we want them to do? Oh, man, so yeah, here we are in 2019, still talking about SEO best practices. And I’m amazed and hear from you to just how much bad information is there.

Ashley: Yes, you can’t be a robot. No pun intended. When it comes to SEO, you have to really think about the human elements. I mean, I know, right? The words, yes create content that copy if you will, for those robots, but think about the human. Think about really is this answering their question? Are you providing quality? How does it all work together? There is a lot of common sense that goes with that.

Matt: Absolutely. Great way to wrap that up. Again, the emphasis on quality. What do people want? What do they need? How do you deliver it to them? I think that’s a best practice for SEO that is never changed. Very cool. Ashley, thank you so much for sitting in with me. Maybe we’ll follow this up and we’ll do an Ad Words I’ll get all the, you know, all the basics. Hey listeners! Thanks a lot for tuning in and appreciate you downloading, listening, streaming. However you are listening to the Endless Coffee Cup. And if you get a chance like us on iTunes, leave a review or even you know what she listened email we get quite a few through that of either requesting topics or just some questions about what we said, or maybe some rants we went on during the program. So that always happens. Thanks a lot listener. I’ll see you again on a future episode on the Endless Coffee Cup.

Featured Guest:

Ashley Schweigert

Marketing Communications Consultant

LinkedIn profile: Ashley G. Schweigert | LinkedIn

Website: Marcom Content by Ashley

Listen to Ashley Schweigert on another episode:

Endless Coffee Cup: “Straight Talk About Google Ads”