Since 2011, online retailers have experienced Google changes that have made investing in SEO an unpredictable proposition. Tired optimization tactics and low-quality content that once proved highly effective left patterns that were targeted by wide-sweeping algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin.
So what's the future of SEO? Exclusive Concepts is proving that it has the answer. Through our Advanced SEO service, we're helping online retailers invest in a form of SEO that is turning around their luck and helping drive new business from organic search.
Advanced SEO includes:
- High-performing Valuescaped content
- Full-scale SEO strategy and consulting
- ROI analysis and reporting on a monthly basis
- SEO for Yahoo! Store, Magento, Volusion, Big Commerce, etc.
Nik Rajpal:Hey folks, thank you for joining us for the webinar, the recorded version of the webinar The New SEO for Online Retailers. I'm joined here by some SEO experts; if you could introduce yourselves please.
Rebecca Stewart:I am Rebecca Stewart; I am the lead SEO manager here at Exclusive Concepts. Been here for four years now.
Andrew Riker:I am Andrew Riker. I am the SEO service manager here at Exclusive, I've been here a little over a year now.
Vlad Shvorin:Hello there this is Vlad Shvorin, I am the content manager here and I'm coming up on three years of bliss at Exclusive.
Nik Rajpal:I am Nik Rajpal, the VP of client services here at Exclusive Concepts. By the way, at any point if you guys ask for an analysis, an SEO analysis, just write to Sales@ExclusiveConcepts.com and I'll actually be the one that gets in touch with you and does the analysis. Hopefully that's helpful and hopefully we chat soon.
Who are we, Exclusive Concepts? We've been around since '97 for many years now, since 2008. We've been in the Inc. 5000 growing at a pretty steady tick from about 10 employees to well over 100 in that time. We have six core channels, PPC marketplaces, conversion rate optimization, email marketing, strategy and what we're talking about today is our SEO service. We have over 200 clients. We focus on the best performance while redefining what performance means to be synonymous with profit. We are also a full service, as you can see by the different services we offer, and we're headquartered right outside of Boston.
To summarize the webinar before we get into it, from 2013 to 2014 if you were watching our webinars or you interacted with us, we're pretty clear about the idea that 99 percent of the content that is being built out there is actually likely to be penalized, meaning you could be investing in something that is only furthering your negative results in SEO.
We did challenge what those concepts are that lead to negative performance and introduced a new concept to actually get positive performance. In 2015, we want to stress that it's not just about that content - getting that part right - but rather that creativity and prioritization with your efforts lead to even better SEO success.
If you joined us for the real, live webinar version, we have some lively polls and Q&A, and we will keep bringing up the poll questions, and we asked are you still seeing real growth from your search engine optimization efforts? Over 60 percent of the people that answered this question said no. What's the agenda? Very simple: we're going to talk about five different SEO stories that were written and created by the SEO team here at Exclusive Concepts, reflecting one client each. We're going to talk about what it took on the custom side, what core techniques were utilized and what performance was achieved through it.
We started off with the women's clothing store; case study number one. The clothing and dress retailer, they've been brick and mortar, and online for over 10 years, and they needed strategic SEO partnership. The bad thing was the week that they joined us, they had a manual penalty show up their webmaster tools for bad backlink practices. Rebecca you were dealing with the client at that time, what did that feel like?
Rebecca Stewart:It put a stop on our 3-month plan that we had in place, but really the next steps we took were to just buckle down and spend over 20 hours, maybe 30 hours just doing backlink cleanup, tracking everything. One of the great things that we had for this client was they saved some of their logins for article syndication sites that they had published out to, so we were able to go in and completely remove these links and after three considerations, we finally got the penalty removed.
Nik Rajpal:In the disavowal protocol that you have to do and the reconsideration request, any specific tips that you have that make it a higher probability of success?
Rebecca Stewart:Definitely as the slide says, document everything, and you really have to grovel to Google and beg for forgiveness and tell them that you'll never do it again, and really just prove to them that you've changed your ways and moved away from that artificial linking and trying to scam the system.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. It is doable if you've been penalized or you have a manual penalty, not the one that says, "We found unnatural links to your site and we took care of them, and we didn't impact your site." That's one type of penalty you might see in your webmaster tools. The type you actually need to follow up on is the one that says we found unnatural links pointing to your site and we are taking manual action against your site. In that case, what Rebecca just laid out is what you should subscribe to.
We did ask people on the webinar if they'd ever gone through a complete penalty removal. You guys remember roughly how much that was; it was around 10 percent, maybe?
Vlad Shvorin:I can't recall off-hand.
Nik Rajpal:I can't either, but that's why you come to the live version.
Vlad Shvorin:I'd love to know maybe though.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah, I imagine as much. A lot of people have gone through it and did not successfully get re-included as well. Once we got in there and had fixed this back link penalty, we started to construct more value into the website itself. A website without content or with the wrong content from Google's perspective really doesn't have any value; those pages lack value entirely. We started with the pages that would actually address the high search volume keywords, and we added what we call value skip content for those category pages.
We will explain in depth what that means. Keep in mind; we had to rewrite this content because it was written once before incorrectly. Too many writers are making the wrong. The vast majority of content written on websites is the wrong kind. We will clarify towards the end of this presentation what the right kind of content is that supersedes the guidelines of the duplicate content issues, make sure that you clear Panda penalties and also makes Penguin like you. After all those changes, the client wanted to migrate platforms. Was that scary that you had to get linked to something like that after just getting the penalty removed?
Rebecca Stewart:Yeah definitely. Anytime you change platforms or switch your URL structure, you run the risk of not properly implementing your safe holes in terms of 301 redirects and things like that. It was definitely nerve wracking knowing that we potentially can lose all the traffic that we had just regained. Specifically for this client they were breaking their single site into two separate sub domain which can really dilute the link authority to certain sections of the site.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah absolutely. I know that when we presented this there was an in-depth part about the combination analysis trying to make sure that whatever was all packaged together in one website now had to be reflected in two. How arduous of a task was that?
Rebecca Stewart:It's still tricky because we have to use their separate Google analytics profiles and that's allowing us to now figure out since the relaunch and with the changes of all of the URL structure, it's allowing us to figure out where we missed the mark in terms of that transition. Fortunately the team here is able to spend that time going through analytics and really spending hours figuring out where the misses are so we can fix anything that didn't work after that transition.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah. Take yourself out of this situation, had we not been there to keep a close eye on that situation. Bad situation?
Rebecca Stewart:It could have been deadly, yeah. I mean I think we caught quite a few things, some of them a little later than we would have hoped, but at the end of the day I think we are seeing that specific client start to head in the right direction after about... they're going on a year since their relaunch.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. That just stresses the need to monitor whenever you're making a major change. Even if you do a small test; if you have a theory when it comes to SEO services that you should add pagination to a category page for example, something that we would try for a lot of clients. Monitoring to make sure that it has impact that you set out to do is incredibly important, just like it would be in PPC. After that it seems like we finally had some period of stability that we could just write all the content for the remaining categories, sub categories and then a prioritized set of products.
As we look at the results towards the end of this webinar you're going to see how important it is for performance that this type of aggressive content approach is implemented on an online retail site. Great job prioritizing in terms of the results. This is the only client that were going to talk about achievements rather than results. In all the other case studies we're going to talk numbers. There were so many achievements here: reversal of a manual penalty, a smooth re-platforming and a smooth site splitting. Congratulations, awesome stuff. All right. We're going to move on to a home furnishing store client.
They've been around for over 50 years. Not online for over 50 years. That'd be crazy. But when they came on their SEO was slipping fast, and we jumped onboard. The first thing we did was take stock of every aspect of the website that potentially needed help. In the website health analysis, what type of things do we cover that most people have overlooked?
Andrew Riker:Like it says, it's 20-plus pages. We look at everything from social to robots, to crawling to code, to on-page and off-page link analysis, the anchor text that's coming in; we really look at it all. We thought that would be the first place to start to get a really good grasp on what areas of the site were slipping so we can address that first.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome, and this is a standard for clients making sure that the first step ideally is SEO health unless they have something timely that needs to be implemented ahead of time. Vlad, when the SEO health report is done, is that influential as well on the content side?
Vlad Shvorin:Potentially it can be. I would say the SEO health report is more looking toward the technical backend of the site just to make sure there aren't any alarming issues with the site. Of course there can be discoveries that arise as a result of that that perhaps influence and shape the way the content is created. Whether it's targeting category pages, then product pages, and in what quantity. It could determine what word count we're using and if we go into the category or product pages as opposed to trying a different strategy, perhaps trying to get more creative, going long-form as opposed to focusing on the actual site or rather our products or categories on the site. It can sort of give us some leeway there and a wide girth if we want to get creative as well.
Nik Rajpal:Describe long form really quickly.
Vlad Shvorin:Long form is what writers cherish and it's not the typical product and category page, which certainly is valuable to a website, but these are the buyers guides, the DIY articles, the how to's, all those kinds of projects that require longer form copy. We're talking about thousands of words potentially and those really can be valuable to the right client, and again, writers love it.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome, and in the search engine optimization health report, we realized that we actually needed to do some backlink cleanup first.
Andrew Riker:The first thing we did was get a combined list of back links through a bunch of SEO tools that we have like Google and SEOmoz and Ahrefs. We basically compiled a large list of links, segmented it to see what the domain authority was and the quality of the site. We prioritized and got rid of the lower quality backlinks during the outreach that we mentioned earlier to basically clean them up and get started on a good backlink cleanup. Usually, we'll look at the site and say, "They're all with the right people," you know, and get rid of the low quality links.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. It's good to note that this has been an ongoing thing, it's not the type of thing that you can get "one and done." There's... especially through the tools that you just listed, sometimes we're able to harvest new information over time or competitors are block-headedly making sure that new links pop up and we have to keep an eye on it. Awesome. All right. Then we identified that there was duplicate content issues, we're going to address at the end of this webinar, when we talk about content, the correct form of content, value-scaping; why duplicate content is so detrimental to rankings.
We also recognized that it wasn't just duplicate content; the site was creating permutations of its own products. In other words a product, when you add the color and the size, was getting its own page. From Google's perspective that's one technique that can be used towards creating too many pages, we call that "Panda inflation." When you have low quality content on the site and a lot of duplication where things should actually be consolidated, Panda gets a little temperamental. What we do is work with canonicalization schemes, robots.txt to reduce the site size and duplication and make Panda or some creepy technology happy. Good pages only.
Ideally if you have 2,000 products and you've got 30 subcategories and one home page, you should have 2,031 pages in the index. Everything else should be considered for consolidation. Then we started working on better content for the remaining URLs and it's awesome. You can shrink a site down to a controllable proportion, makes Panda a little happy. Then all of a sudden Panda starts to see great content, Penguin's happy because it's natural, Kerry Grimes and her team are happy because you don't have duplicate content, and we really unlocked the potential of the website, which is very controllable. Andrew, the work that you did with this site, phenomenal results. From 2013 to 2014, from 37,000 visits up to 93,000 visits through Google organic. Organic sales up $105,000 off of a much, much smaller investment. Talk about profitability. That's not going anywhere; it's not like that's a flash in the pan. That's going to keep coming.
Andrew Riker:Yeah exactly, the work that we did is considered evergreen, so it's not... you know, cleaning up the link profile and consolidating the site will definitely open them for 2014 for great numbers this year too.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah. I want to ask you guys how often you hear this, because I hear this all the time. I talk to online retailers looking for an SEO company. Twenty out of 21 that I talk to are going to say, "SEO is never going to increase for me ever again," and yet throughout this presentation we are showing what our different approach has been able to do. Is that kind-of the feeling when people come on board that they like the fact that we have some unique ideas, but they really can't subscribe to believing that it's going to actually happen?
Andrew Riker:yeah, I think a lot of times, a lot of SEO companies farm out potential clients through directory links and that sort of thing, so there's a lot of spammy outreach. A lot of times small and medium business size owners get these emails and kind-of put trust in, "Oh they found me. They reached out," and they get involved in these not-so-savory SEO companies, and maybe that left them burned in the past. They haven't seen the results; they focus on on-page. "We'll fix your title tags and this and that," when realistically, they could be buying links for you and pointing links to your store and it could be a negative thing. A lot of people work in the black hat past I guess you can say, and still think those tactics work when really they could just be hurting your site, so...
Andrew Riker: That's a good point, and there's been such a dissolution of the industry. All the major link-builders and major SEO companies all went bankrupt over the course of the last few years after Larry Page came back. I hardly ever hear two different online retailers cite that they've worked with the same SEO company, which is crazy. Back in the day it was much more common.
Vlad Shvorin:I think a lot of the companies when they come to us are just looking for solace in knowing that we're professionals and have a lot of awareness in looking over their site and looking after their best interests. Once we do see results its sort of an added bonus so if a client comes to us hesitant they're just more or less looking for quantitative analysis of their site, make sure everything's OK, and they start seeing the results; I think that's certainly a valuable proposition that we can offer.
Rebecca Stewart:Yeah, and I think for people who are skeptical about SEO being able to perform for their site, I'd say give our team 8 to 12 months and we will show you different. Not even necessarily that long, but I mean, I think that's a safe bet to start seeing those returns.
Nik Rajpal:That's awesome. I would say the reason I invite people to talk to me during these SEO analyses is I can add some clarity, and then the SEO team like Rebecca and Andrew, they can start to identify strategy and Vlad and his content team can really start to push performance. It's pretty amazing how this transition happens and to try to get a team onboard that understands the theory, the planning and the execution is really tough, and it's varying, and you guys are doing an awesome job.
Outdoor supplies for a hardware store. Andrew, this is your client as well, so a really quick introduction. Retail for 35-plus years, family-owned business and they already had given us another site for us to do search engine optimization for and because of the success of that site they added one more site. As you do for every client, we started off with the website health analysis. In that case, you identified that the website was using thin manufacturers' content.
Andrew Riker:Yes, exactly. This particular client had thousands of pages, basically different kind-of permutations. We ended up using canonical strategy which we may get into here as well. We basically identified that they had a lot of manufacturers' content and we needed to rewrite a lot of their pages, so we can use those high-value keywords. Because they had so many different kinds of pages on here, we really just wanted to condense the amount of pages that were being kind-of shown through Google. Strategically we thought the best way to do that would be to save them money by implementing canonical strategy.
If a site has, let's say, 5,000 products, but only a thousand of them are unique, we write for the thousand. That would save you money and it's allowing us to use to our advanced SEO expertise and know-how to basically tell Google to serve this correct version of the page because we believe that is the version of the page that should be shown in Google. Using this strategy, basically, we cut down on the size of the site being bloated in Google as we said earlier, but it also allowed us to strategically write for the appropriate pages.
Nik Rajpal:The numbers you use are compelling to think about as well. Our smallest package that we have is about $2,000 a month. That's roughly 80 pages a month. Within one year we do about 1,000 pages. If someone was on that package and they had to choose between getting all of their site rewritten in one year by using consolidation methods or five years, when who knows what's going to happen in five years? We are going to be telepathically shopping. By then we won't even need SEO content anymore. (Laughter.) We are. As long as Google is around.
Rebecca Stewart:Earmuffs, Vlad.
Nik Rajpal:Using canonical is a pretty strong strategy. We clearly remember five years ago when Matt Cutts released an announcement saying, he sat down with people at MSN, if you remember that, and Yahoo, and they'd all agreed that they will allow canonicals to be appreciated by the search engines, as a rule to consolidate pages that are otherwise duplicate. So many things have changed since then. Canonicals have become more of a standard for usage.
We definitely asked people, "Do you have a site requires canonical schemes like this?" Again, I don't remember the number but I know that it was a nice blend.
Andrew Riker:Most said yes.
Nik Rajpal:It was a good blend.
Andrew Riker:Yeah, yeah.
Nik Rajpal:Valuescaping for top pages. Now when you've consolidated the site down, you do don't have to worry so much about the Panda inflation as well. You started to focus on category and sub-category pages; it's a very smart thing. Then immediately when you wrapped that part up, you started focusing on the highest value product pages. Now we have reduced Panda inflation and put them into great position for higher value keywords and now start targeting that high-efficiency long-tail.
That's important that when we talk to people about content, and they say, "Well, should I pick the pages that you are going to write? How are we going to prioritize?" What are some of the methods you guys use for prioritization of what category or product pages, or either category versus product, what does that look like?
Andrew Riker:Personally, I usually get a kind-of a dump from Google Analytics to see what all the individual pages are bringing in in terms of revenue and traffic, because really where I have seen the biggest gains is accentuating the good. Your highest value pages that bring in a lot, I mean, if you can move from six to four in your rankings - that's a world of difference. Sometimes some of the longer tails are easier to capitalize on to move to page one if they are on page two. So getting a good mix of kind of those head terms and longer tail terms to make sure you can move them up to a more a more visible place is definitely good. I generally try to factor on the ones that are going to make the most money for the company.
Rebecca Stewart:I would say that definitely we'll take feedback from the client if they have areas they feel are most important are coming up in terms of seasonality. Also, if we see that there are sections of the site that have been hit by Panda, we'll definitely want to focus on those first, to try and get those out of the hole.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. Then like many of the other clients that we manage, we also went through another platform migration with this client.
Andrew Riker:Yes. Basically we just got an email one week saying, "Hey, we're switching platforms, planning to go live in three weeks. What can you do for us?" We helped this client with all of the redirection strategies and kind-of data migration from switching the ecommerce platform. We definitely helped making sure everything went smoothly there with the tracking and make it smooth, exactly. It is a scary thing and we try to do everything we can to help clients, make it easier for them because on their end they have a lot more that goes into it. We want to make sure it's smooth and no SEO performance is lost in the process.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. And the majority of the people that we asked this poll to actually said they do plan a platform migration within 1 to 3 years. About 2 weeks later I did another webinar with a few partners. I had asked the question, "Within the next 6 to 12 months" instead of 1 to 2 years. Still the majority said that they would like to plan platform migration. All right, then we began doing some work on blog management; three blog entries per month to kind-of build some authority.
Andrew Riker:Basically, we prioritized the high-priority products on the site. After that, we tried to think of some creative ways to continue building out the content. Strategically we thought blog management is a good way to do that. It helps build brand authority but also helps expand the breadth of content on the site. That's when we can get creative with Vlad's long-form content, where we can start to form different approaches for different keyword uses for capturing kind-of that maybe "do-it-yourself" kind of style keywords associated with their products. It expands our keyword universe into different realms, I guess. We can capitalize on that and increase the site but also hitting up a new area as well.
Nik Rajpal:And Vlad, the team worked on blog management as well as informational articles; this long-form type. Obviously, you are not doing all of this work by yourself. Tell us a little bit about your team.
Vlad Shvorin:It would literally be impossible for me to create this much copy by myself. In fact, it would take, as it were, about 15 to 20 of me. That's exactly how many writers we have; they all bring different backgrounds to the team. They are able to write for a multitude of different types of clients, which is something that if a prospective client was looking to recreate on their team, would be very difficult to do. We are able to match up the writer with the exact client that they are best suited for.
That is something that can be done within the blog format or within long form copy. We are able to create a content deliverable that is well suited for the client obviously. As well as creating a keyword matrix that is very diverse, and it would be hard to create using a different medium. I think for this client it does show that having the right writer paired with the right client will ultimately lead to the perfect pairing.
Nik Rajpal:You said they come from a diverse set of backgrounds. What non-U.S. countries are we outsourcing this to?
Vlad Shvorin:Actually all of our writers are currently situated in the US. We did have one overseas writer but they were a US native. Furthermore, these are all, in the truest sense of the words, professional writers. And for the ones that don't, they all have professional writing degrees. Some of them have advance degrees in the field.
Nik Rajpal:Prestigious awards?
Vlad Shvorin:Prestigious awards. One of them has won newspaper recognition for their writing. I think every single editor is going to say their writers are the best. My kid is an honor roll student. In this case it is very much warranted. They are an exceptionally good bunch, and a lot of our clients get back to us affirming what I just said. The writers are obviously a big part of the team and without them it would be literally be impossible to do what we do for clients, and for so many diverse clients.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. Thank you, and when we get towards valuescaping, we do have a standard of writing AP-style content. I would love for you to tackle that when we get to that part.
Vlad Shvorin:I love AP style.
Nik Rajpal:Early stage content is actually pretty effective, once you started tackling the research intent keywords that will bring people to a category. The purchase intent keywords that bring people to the product page because they know the make and model or usage. Also people that are thinking about the problems that will solved by the products you sell. That type of early stage contact can be incredibly impactful. Especially because there are more people with problems more than there are people buying the solution. Pretty good results, this is organic Google. You can see roughly when we stated doing our work and the impact therein.
Andrew Riker:Yes. Looks great to me.
Nik Rajpal:Me too, listening to the client. All right one more fashion store, women's fashion store. We are going back to Rebecca back here. Rebecca, you get all the fashion stores?
Rebecca Stewart:I guess so.
Nik Rajpal:They were online 10-plus years. It's a really well-known brand. Over the course of, well, now they've been with us since 2007. We've had valuescaping content as a core proprietary technique since 2011. Before that we still always had content anyways. Content is been the core for 8 years for them.
Nik Rajpal:That's awesome. There are some unique challenges with every business. What kind of challenge did we have for content with this particular client?
Rebecca Stewart:Their turnover is so high with their products; we are not able to write for the products. It wouldn't make sense for us to write this copy, get it up and then 2 days later the product is down. We don't even know that Google would index the product page in that time. What we have done instead is, because it's such a big company and such a big brand, we are seasonally refreshing their content. If they have say a dresses page, you are going to be searching for different dress in the winter than you are in the summer.
We rewrite it, for spring we are focusing on things like derby dresses. If we write in the summer, we thinking of summer sundresses. Fall and winter we are looking for sweater dresses. Honestly it is a never-ending cycle and we can continue to build and gain that keyword insights from the data from years past, ranking from years past for these types pages. It's worked well for him.
Nik Rajpal:You're experienced from years past because you are on the same account for a long period of time. It also tells a story of the fact that just because link building doesn't mean that content wasn't always king. It's always been a key to success on the SEO side. We've also done some really cool ranking factor analyses for this client. This client is in an incredibly, incredibly competitive market place. When you look at the algorithm from a different perspective, you can see the algorithm itself is coded in a way where it has the weights against factors.
It measures the factor, then there is a weight against it. As keyword, it increases in competition and search volume, certain weights get inflated; other weights are deflated. This is called a heuristic algorithm. Where across the board, from low competition to high competition, there are certain tweaks to the algorithm where the weights start to change. Because of that, whenever we are studying a particularly competitive keyword for this client, we can't just say, "What is the best practice for the algorithm?" Rather, we need to study all the top 10 rankings for that keyword to understand the new standards for that keyword, when it comes to optimization the title H1, H2, description, body, word count, number of products, et cetera; page speed. This been ongoing from the get go. It's only gotten more complicated over time. This type of rigorous routine analysis can really help maintain your top positioning in competitive markets.
Rebecca Stewart:Yeah, and I think that is definitely not for everyone. I think the main focus that our team takes is going to be on increasing the organic traffic and revenue for your site. When we are talking about a client that's this big and relies so heavy on those kinds of head terms, and where were we are not able to address the more long-tail pages on the product level, I think that this type of analysis does well for them where we just make simple tweak and try and match and see what Google was really preferring in terms to week to week or month to month rankings.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah, but a data-inspired tweak.
Rebecca Stewart:Yes, definitely data-inspired.
Nik Rajpal:We've also been keeping an eye on this client's competition. It's one of the reasons they have been able to outgrow their competition. Coming from very humble beginnings as a retailer that was scrappy, but had great vendor relationships. Really started working on the publication circuit. Then coming on board with us and allowing us to go in the most traditional sense the digital marketing space: the SEO and PPC. They really start dominating there.
Making sure that we keep a strong speculative scorning eye, on competition as you can see in this image it is not any of us. We were able to keep tabs and also get some actionable insight. At one point we realized for a particular category, I won't tell you what the category is, we realized the competitors were ranking really well by creating color-based pages, and by mining that information from competitors we could actually beat them.
Rebecca Stewart:Yeah and the one point of input for this is, since Google has updated their definition of a doorway page, you want to be careful when you build these out and use data to inform your decisions here. Don't go building out pages for all of your plaid Capri pants for women. Having that for your title or having that for your page. Make sure you have the product to support it. Make sure the search volume supports it; give it a shot build them out. I think essentially Google doesn't agree with the strategy they are not going to index those pages and show you highly for those terms.
Nik Rajpal:They keep up with these trends because if you had something 4 years ago and you finally got the money to invest in it, it may no longer be a good thing to invest in. If you heard back in 2009 that it's really good to have all these permutative search pages and you finally got enough money to invest in search tools that give you permutative search pages, you might want to double-check to see if the algorithm actually wants it or will penalize you for it. That's where the up-to-date SEO team comes in.
Vlad Shvorin:As far as validation for this practice, to echo what Rebecca said, Google is cracking down on it, so some food for thought because Google is cracking down on this practice, it's sort of validation.
Nik Rajpal:Very ominous. New brand pages, really cool pivot that we did for this client. The entire time that we were selling this client's products, they were selling lesser known brands. With the advent of the Internet, if you've have heard of that, the Internet has made unpopular things popular. Or if you're not Gucci, you can still be known by a hundred people. If they found something at some store and it fits them really well, they are looking for more from that brand. We started to harness this potential. Lesser known brands but make sure that we show up, so if someone does like a brand that they just happened to find in one place at one time, they now have a selection through this website.
Nik Rajpal:Cool. Read them like a tell-all; make sure you keep tabs on competition and always look for new SEO services. We asked the poll again, are you consistently engaging in competitive research for your SEO? I think the vast majority, 90 percent say yes. That was very refreshing.
Rebecca Stewart:That was a good competitor research.
Vlad Shvorin:Three I don't know. In that case.
Nik Rajpal:Press releases regularly created read-worthy, informative press releases for fashonistas. It is one of those old is gold. This is the type of thing that you heard 5 years ago; it still works if you do it the right way. Definitely there some filters out there that will make the vast majority of press releases unimpactful. If you do it the right way, it works. Same thing with content in general.
Panda and Penguin analysis. As we've been managing the client ourselves anyway, we wanted to make sure that instead of inheriting problems that were created elsewhere, we just wanted to make sure we were always on top of it. This is something that we routinely do.
Rebecca Stewart:Definitely. Any suspicious drops, any announcements of algorithm updates, we're always going in there and just making sure that clients aren't affected by those.
Nik Rajpal:Especially with Panda now with like probably 50, 60 updates, we are still checking every time there is a known update to make sure that our clients are not getting hit by it. Keeping an eye on changes even after they have been announced and are just going through updates it's a really smart process. If we don't do it for you, who is going to do it for you? Not bad progress for this client. That's 2009; January, 2 years later; 2 years later; do we have space on this screen?
Nik Rajpal:Yeah, 2 years later. That's phenomenal. That's all Google organic; still good stuff. Just January, just January. OK, let's move away from just the case studies. This has promised throughout this conversation. We're going to talk a little bit about if 99 percent of content is bad, then what is good? Things have been changing. We are going to quickly go through what you should always think about when you think about SEO. Everything else you know, time to get rid of it. Reconstruct everything you know about SEO using these next few slides.
First of all, people talk about an algorithm. An algorithm is a score between a page and a keyword. If your page has relevance to the keyword, let's say the title tag or H1, it starts to build a relevant score. Then Google completes that relevant score by seeing where that page is in the structure of the site and also monitoring the overall brand recognition of the domain. Then, when someone types in that term that you're relevant for, your entire score gets ranked against everyone else's score that has at least a score above zero. If you have the highest score, you get the top ranking.
Now, it should be that simple, except for one thing. Google is not just going into the index and finding the highest score. What they're doing is, they're first going into this very carefully vetted set of pages called their primary index. Pages that have passed all these different tests. They sort the primary results at the top. Then they go into the supplementary. Everything else that remains in the index. They start showing those results. Think about that. Is it more important to have a high score or is it more important to be in the primary index? Based on the way Google works, you can have a high score in the supplementary index and you still have to rank after a primary page with a lower score. It's more important that you try to secure your place in the primary index, because you get a chance at the top few spots, then trying to be the top of the not top spots. Makes sense.
OK. We try to study primary versus supplemental because we realize, why work so hard for scores, which you do need to work hard for, when we can jump 30 positions just getting in the primary? What's the difference? In 2008, the first major rule happened, that separates whether your page goes in the primary or the supplementary. Before that, if you had basically no content on your page, supplementary, but in 2008, Google said, "If we have a keyword typed in we pull five primary pages out. Three of those primary pages all have the exact same content. Are we really doing what the primary is supposed to do? Shouldn't the primary only have pages that, when retrieved, offer unique experiences at the top of the results?" They said, "If three of those five are all the same body copy, let's really get through them to the supplemental."
That's a very smart decision on Google's side. Unfortunately, if you had manufacturer's content, or if shopping feed started copying your content, then the likelihood of you being in the primary really did start do reduce. People started investing in unique content. This is when unique content did not need to be good. Unfortunately, from 2008 to 2011 a lot of terribly written content was created just because it was unique enough to be in the primary index. Google had enough, by 2011, they put a guy named Namneet Panda into a room, his last name is spelled Panda. He took a stack of results from Google, handed out little stacks to people in a focus group and said, "Please read the content on the pages I'm giving you. If what you're reading is inspiring, it's user-friendly, it's a great experience, put it in pile B. If what you're reading is gibberish, put it in pile A." Combine these piles, thank you everyone, cleared the room, started to work with this development team.
The development team looked at pile B; what would be considered magazine-worthy, awesome stuff. From all these different people with their opinions of what should be in pile B, they tried to look for patterns. What really constitutes magazine-worthy or good content? Every pattern that they discovered, they wrote a script for it. They did the same thing for terrible content, writing scripts. That packet of scripts that is run against every page on your website is the Panda algorithm. If the scripts looking for terrible content deem your page to be terrible, you get a A. If it's magazine-worthy you get a B. After the entire site is assessed, if the vast majority of your pages are Bs, you get a high score. If the vast majority are As, you get a low score.
Imagine that score is something between a zero, really bad, and a one, really good. It gets multiplied against your original score. If you used to have a 2,500 and now your Panda score is a point one, your new score for your keyword is 250 and you drop in rankings. That's how Panda works. Wake up everyone.
OK, 6 weeks after Panda was released, February 22nd, 2011, 6 weeks later April 4th, 2011, Mr. Larry Page, one of the founders of Google came back as CEO. This is the chronology and the emotional byplay of how Larry Page has worked. At first, Larry Page created PageRank that's named after him, Larry PageRank and the relevance algorithm including some of those wonky rules from back in the day like the age of domain somehow matters. All of these concepts were created by Larry because he believed that when studying good pages or good sites they had all these markers. He created rules around that. He stepped down as CEO in 2001.
While he was gone for 10 years, our industry created all the tactics possible to manipulate this algorithm that Larry had created in good faith. That bloggers would point links to pages using anchor text only because web masters can always be trusted. For 10 years we disproved that. Larry came back 10 years later; his team pretty much did not tweak the algorithm at all to improve its quality. For one year, he worked with part of their team to say, "OK, we can still have some good faith in people but I want to know all the tactics that have been manipulating my good faith algorithm in PageRank. Those are not going to get credit anymore, I'm going to scour the earth and burn them all." Is that too dramatic?
That's our friendly Penguin. Making sure that tactics like really low quality, outsourced, backlink-building, keyword stuffing especially as Google has turned towards more of a content focus since Larry came back. Things like navigational stuffing, or stuffing keywords into a string of text together. These are all the type of tactics that the team figured out over the course of 1 year and blended back into a Penguin penalty. Take away time, you have to have uniquely written content for the index protocol to be in the primary index. That gives you a chance at ranking. If not, you don't have a chance. High quality content satiates Panda's hunger for comprehensive content.
It needs to be really well written; topically balanced, unique perspectives have to be in there. A unique ontological keyword footprint. Not just the same keywords as everyone else. We're going to get to the slides on that in just a moment and then you have to make sure it's naturally optimized now for Penguin because, if it's not, Penguin will find you. Now that we ... Actually we don't have a slide on that. Vlad, comment.
Vlad Shvorin:Sure, I'll just make up the slide and I'll try to exercise brevity here. I don't want to be long winded my response ...
Nik Rajpal:Long-form response?
Vlad Shvorin:Yeah, this form of copy - and thanks to everyone that's still listening - I will just say it all comes down to having diverse writers and it comes down to having the right copy. That's where we can offer if we back track a little bit for the fashion client. I can say that we did have an industry insider writing for that client. The writer comes from an industry that is very familiar to the right background and then they're able to create copy that Google in every way defines as high quality copy.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah and not obsessively SEOed.
Vlad Shvorin:No, it made people want to read it and that's what it comes down to. It's about creating the correct user experience and engaging people through copy. There's only one way to do that; you can't fake engagement and you can't force them to read something. That's all going to come down to the quality of the copy. We're able to do all of that; we're able to check those boxes but at the same time we're able to also infuse the search engine optimization on that, which in this case is obviously what a client is looking for.
Nik Rajpal:Yeah, that's where the magic happens because as an SEO company, Vlad and his team are able to overcome the main three challenges of content. That it is uniquely written, it's high quality, naturally optimized, they can then take advantage of the potential that comes from that. They know Google is going to welcome the page and say, "Go ahead, tell us what you want to rank for." Now they can choose what keywords to rank for. Before the content even goes to Vlad's team this is where we're back on Andrew and the rest of the SEO team. We start focusing on now that we're going to transform the potential of this page; let's make sure that the goals that we set forth are strong. Choosing keywords that are popular. We call those primary keywords, they're central keywords. They show up in other keywords or they're very popular with single search volume.
As well as secondary keywords that are long-tail but very valuable. They don't have as many visits, but when they do visit people spend. What's it like to choose keywords? What are the biggest challenges you guys face or a technique that you think is a strong suit for you?
Andrew Riker:Sure, I try to mix in when it comes to keyword list that we're coming up with, few primary keywords because I think it's really good to try to make some headway when you're going up maybe it's a big box store, a large competitor like Amazon, Best Buy, Overstock or whatever. It's good to have a few lottery tickets involved with it, but normally the secondary, the longer-tail converted much higher marks. Basically a majority of the keywords that I recommend are product page keywords, which would be really long-tail, because that's where most of the growth is. That's where you'll make the biggest gains versus the stores that have been around 10, 15 years that are really big box stores that just have a lot more brand authority than your site may have. Basically we're using this as an advantageous tactic to make up ground where we can't usually make it which would be the head terms.
Nik Rajpal:Going back to the heuristic algorithm, you're stressing the concept that for lower search for lower competition keywords there's a dwarfed impact of brand recognition and an inflated impact of relevance.
Nik Rajpal:Awesome. While we're choosing that to reflect on what Andrew just said, we do try to target more keywords. When you have a page, why just choose a few keywords? We did research a couple of years ago that helped us understand whether or not valuescaping would be the right way to go. I realized that on average the top 1,000 keywords for an online man retailer typically only brings in about 11 percent of the traffic. Because it's more general keyword, earlier shopping-stage keywords the conversion rates are actually lower. Websites that have been obsessive around 20 words or 100 words, or are actually obsessing over the words that relate to the least amount of revenue where they should be investing in the longer tail side.
Every page that we're going to unlock from Panda and Penguin and keep it into perspective why not choose 10 keywords, a few primaries, a few secondaries? To seal the deal we write AP-style content that helps ensure that every page surpasses Panda's standards forever. Because Panda's trying really hard to make sure that average content is consumed and destroyed. AP style is not average content; it's out of Panda's reach. Can you tell us a little about this 400-page guidebook inspired style of writing?
Vlad Shvorin:Yeah. The abridged version might be 400 pages; they've expanded it every year. For the 99% of people that are not familiar with AP style it originated in the newspaper and magazine industries. When you talk about identifying magazine quality, it's a good starting point to use the same methodology they use at the magazines. If your style's about creating consistency, about having a uniform look but to always have the correct version of the verbiage. That's a big thing too, for the grammarians out there and the people that actually take content and really noodle over a lot of the finer points in their writing. This is the writer's Bible for people from the newspaper and the journalism background.
Nik Rajpal:What kind of results have we got from these very aspirational approach to writing content that we believe defies the 99 percent rule that almost all content fails and makes performance decrease over time? We chose a small handful seven different clients to show us some performance. January to February year over year, that started roughly at the end of 2014, not bad increase and Google organic visits, 40 percent more. By choosing high valuable per-visit keywords just proportionally are higher sales.
Online tie store; a nice bump. That allowed more orders. A lighting store that we focused on more of the general keywords that would actually bring people in early search and would not close at the same rate, but would open us up to a bigger market. Look at the difference and how much traffic we're able to acquire by going more general. It did trickle into a lot more business. An online grocery store, by focusing on the higher average order value products, we brought in buyers that were willing to spend more. I'd say that's a pretty good result from 2013 to 2014.
Vlad Shvorin:I agree.
Andrew Riker:It's OK.
Rebecca Stewart:And you figure, polling in a year, though because we needed to show, it's definitely something that you have to wait to see what comes in. And like you said, Panda looks at sections of the site until we address an entire section, and unless your budget is huge, we're not going to address an entire section in 2 or 3 months.
Nik Rajpal:Some of these people, in between what we're doing, we're doing backlink cleanup. These that we're showing right now, these are clients that only did 100 percent valuescape content; we have not had to do any other SEO for them. Keep in mind, with Advanced SEO, which is the name of our SEO service, you give us a budget every single month. Unless we have something else that is pressing, that budget goes towards content creation, valuescaped content to create these types of results. It is flexible enough that we can anything that comes our way. Whatever Google is imagining right now is already included. Nich hardware store; great focus on high value improvement off keywords. Forty-two percent more orders off only 15 percent more visits, really driving into the long-tail purchase intent. An auto enthusiast store by investing dramatically into long tail like make, model or specifically what they are looking for. 120k, that's one year, to 520k.
Vlad Shvorin:If this isn't a case study I don't know what is.
Rebecca Stewart:Tell me where I can get that investment return. Not the stock market.
Nik Rajpal:At the banks.
Nik Rajpal:2013 to 2014, folks, we told you 99 percent of content was being penalized. Those who were bold enough to work with us saw amazing results. Now we're telling you, "Come on board, because we can get you amazing results. Oh, by the way, we also handle everything else like re-platforming and manual penalties or whatever comes our way." Hopefully this helps you redefine how you will budget for SEO. Great rule of thumb that not enough people follow is, if 60 percent of your business comes from organic, you should have at least 40 percent match between what you spend on PPC for the SEO. You're spending $30,000 a month on PPC; you should be spending $12,000 a month on SEO. Keep that in mind. There are companies out there like us that can actually spend it towards a really good performance. Thanks, guys, for joining. Thank you for doing such a great job.
Andrew Riker:Thanks Nik.
Rebecca Stewart:Thank you Nik.
Nik Rajpal:I'm sure a lot of people will watch this.
Rebecca Stewart:Hope so.
Vlad Shvorin:Thanks, audience. Thank you.
Rebecca Stewart:Bye guys.