Expert Roundup 2 - SEO Content, Moving Up From Page 2, And Determination With SEO Projects
On this Experts Roundup, we take a look at what it takes to move up from page 2 in Google from multiple experts in the field of SEO.
Also on the menu, we take a stab at SEO content today and what it takes when you want to give up on a project that seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Below are the answers the experts gave me, so let's dive in.
How do you stay on track with a SEO project without giving up after a few months? What keeps you looking for the light at the end of tunnel?
Marc @ Fimadigital: I used to refresh my keyword ranking reports every morning and once in the afternoon, even before I had made the first coffee of the day. I stopped doing that a couple of months ago, as it can be akin to watching paint dry, and probably only check website rankings now every couple of days instead... otherwise you just end up going mad.
In terms of keeping on track, my advice is to not just focus on the killer keywords with high volumes and large user intent. With all client projects we have a set of keywords as a priority, but also a list of longer-tail searches that we identify during the first phase keyword audit. We use these longer-tail keywords as part of an on-going monthly blogging strategy in some cases, meaning even if the main keywords are taking a while to rank, we can get some quicker and more immediate results with the longer-tail ones with long-form blog posts.
The thing with SEO is that there are so many tactics and strategies you can use. There are also some very clever people in the industry constantly testing and publishing new ideas, so even if you get a bit burned out with your standard work, there will typically be something else you can pick up and try.
Some months we might ignore the client website altogether, and instead focus on video marketing to get their video YouTube content ranked instead. They key with client work is to get their phone ringing more, give them more sales, or more enquiries. Ultimately it doesn't matter how you do that as long as you deliver results.
Turbin3: Dealing With Unclear SEO Signals
It blew my mind learning of Google's ranking transition algorithm. This is the age of AI, and we're waging war against the machines man! You cannot trust the day-to-day "battle" of the SERPs. That's by design.
We need to be in it to win the long term war. It frees your mind to learn this, so you may refocus on what matters.
The answer: Put one foot in front of the other. Be ruthless.
- This isn't chess, it's checkers applied ruthlessly.
Tips to motivate you? I'll give you one. First, you have to get MAD, but in a controlled rage sort of way. A machine is trying to defeat you. People act like they're playing chess with SEO. The Big G has you thinking you got CHECKED, trying to break your will.
In reality, this isn't chess, it's checkers applied ruthlessly. What gets the jobs done is simple. The difference is, putting in the work, with boldness. Don't flinch as SERP curve-balls gets thrown your way. This is what I suggest:
- Keep doing the right things you know to be good
- Enhance and update content greatly
- Own your outreach game
- Keep adding good links
- Keep building better UX
- Keep slaying site tech issues
- Second-guess yourself all the time
- Constant, minor, on-page tweaking
Turbin3 is an experienced SEO and web developer that has been in the industry on the agency, client, enterprise client, and freelance sides for about 10 years.
He's been a small business owner and also has experience ranking for 1 word, high traffic keywords in highly competitive niches.
His specialty includes a focus on large sites and technical optimization.
Nick @ ImFromTheFuture: We closely monitor the query impression volume in GSC and total keyword rankings. It's nice to see correlations between new links coming in and adjustments to on-site meta attributes / content optimization and the expansion of the keyword footprint.
Stephen @ StephenSumner: After 18 years in this industry, I've learnt to never give up, although there have been times in recent years (Post-Penguin) that ditching a site or domain has been my advice to one or two badly burnt clients who came to me when their sites tanked! But that said, working for clients as I do, I think it's really important that you have a good plan on what deliverables the client can expect and you have a good roadmap for each project to help you stay on track. It's also important that clients know that SEO is more often than not a slow burn so where possible I try to integrate a PPC campaign into the mix, this has two advantages..
1. Quick results (conversions) for the client! :-)
2. A bunch of highly actionable data becomes almost immediately available that can be used to inform the SEO campaign on a variety of data points that would typically take much longer to acquire without the PPC campaign in place.
For every SEO project, I spend quite a bit of time at the beginning of each project looking at what deliverables will be needed to ensure success and then at key project milestones I will be reviewing what has been implemented and what is still needed. I use Trello as my project management tool for this. Recently I have been developing a master SEO checklist, this is something I will probably never share as it has taken me ages to pull all the checks and get it into a format that is usable, there are over 500 checks and it is growing still every day!
Stephen Sumner has been working in the SEO industry since 1999 on a wide variety of roles from working in leading UK agencies to most recently working as the SEO lead in Scandinavia's largest start-up.
Today Stephen is a consultant working with his own portfolio of clients focusing on growth through various online channels including paid search.
Ryuzaki @ BuilderSociety: The absolute most important part of starting any new SEO project is having realistic expectations, which is what screws newbies over. Nobody tells them the truth because it's more lucrative to lie and exaggerate for reputation reasons and then to sell them a magical e-book.
For instance, on Builder Society myself and others have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Google seems to throttle traffic until the 1 year birthday mark, plus or minus a couple of months. It's hard to say exactly what metric they're timing off of and what else influences it, but you can always see the moment the fractional multiplier is released. Your organic traffic graph will look like a hockey stick at that point, if you put in the proper work during the slow times.
It's a matter, for me, of being a glutton for punishment and enjoying the sadistic nature of delayed gratification. I'm usually always willing to forego the small ice cream cone today to have the whole carton tomorrow. That's easy to do when you know that that's the only option.
Another mistake people make is hanging it all on an SEO project. That kind of black-or-white authoritarian style of thinking will crush you and make you run from SEO forever. No amount of belief, passion, hope, or desperation guarantees any SEO results, when nearly everything is tied to time. Google is fighting spam the lazy way these days, by simply throttling everyone for longer and longer until spammers give up.
The way to keep your head up and look towards the light is to understand organic traffic as a passive, secondary benefit to being an internet marketer. What you should be doing in the first year is your on-page optimization on each post, and then getting out there and marketing your content. And by that I mean you need to be placing it in places that have lots eyeballs looking at them. Coincidentally or not, those end up being among the best links and social signals you'll get, and they also provide the best chance for other bloggers and journalists to see it and mention it in a post, and for people to then spread it out among the forum ecospheres. Don't rest on your laurels waiting on Google, is the point. There's no reason you can't do several million pageviews in the first year with zero organic traffic. Your organic traffic will explode later if you do so.
John @ BestSEOFirm.com: I think setting the proper expectations, doing proper niche research, and understanding when you'll start to see an ROI is super important.
I know that generally with a new website, it can take 6 months to a year before you can really see any ROI on a project.
Really depends on a lot of different factors, but if you do SEO for a living, you understand cracking the SERPs generally isn't something that happens overnight (circa 2012).
John Stover has been an internet marketer and entrepreneur since 2007. He currently owns and operates BestSEOFirm.com as well as MPD, a company specializing in subprime automotive leads and new car leads. John main focus is SEO and Brand Management, but also understand almost all other faucets within the digital marketing space.
Vin @ WordAgents: When I start a new SEO project, I set out SMART goals for just about every metric that I'll be working on. I create a blueprint of sorts that will list goals for things like time on site, bounce rate, referring domains, pieces of content per month, etc. These goals are derived from my competition.
I can then compare my current standing in any given area to the goal and know exactly how far I have to go. For me, this is what keeps me motivated; I always know that adding one more link or blog post is getting me that much closer to my goal.
If I'm constantly focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm going to get overwhelmed and possibly fall off track. I simply focus on completing the next step. It's just a perception thing, but it works.
Vin D'Eletto owns & operates WordAgents.com and has been working in SEO since 2010. WordAgents.com is a content writing service that specializes in SEO optimized content for website owners, small businesses, and digital marketers. His SEO expertise lies in semantic analysis and on-site optimization.
Ross @ Kojent Apparel: Depending on the niche, competition and if this is for a client or one of my own money sites, I really plan things out and keep the lines of communication open.
Obviously, if it's for a client, my main object at first is to set realistic expectations. Clients are on the fast track for results but it's important that you explain the process so they know what to expect.
From there, I create an editorial calendar and bang out all the content at once (if I can). I'm always working 2-3 months ahead of schedule.
I also shadow my social media posts through Hootsuite and Tailwind to follow the website update calendar. Once my content is on auto-pilot, I start looking for link prospets.
I know everyone has an opinion on hwo to find links but I personally look at TF and CF.
Where I gain a little edge is my main sites (the sites I own) can offer products (we are the manufacturers of the products) so I can always use that as a "gateway" to speaking to someone rather than going in with a blind email or cold call.
Ross has been involved with SEO for more than 15 years. Starting off with client-based SEO, he slowly transitioned to working on building his own business venture. While still maintaining a core group of client campaigns, he mainly focuses on strategizing, developing and implementing an overall SEO and IM strategy for his business.
You have a site on page 2 of Google and want to crack the first page. What advice do you have for making that jump? Anything to we should not do?
Marc @ Fimadigital: Most websites are crawled regularly by Google, so any changes will be picked up in the rankings very quickly. You can always ask Google to "fetch" and spider the page if you want changes to picked up quicker using the Google Search Console (was Webmaster Tools).
So with that in mind, that page 2 to page 1 leap can often simply be a case of getting the content optimised, especially with new client projects. If it doesn't work you can always roll-back, this is where it's essential to use a good keyword ranking tracker tool.
As an example, we had a recent client working in a very competitive local market. They were in no-mans land for their chosen target keywords, somewhere out in the pages 5 and 6 region. With just some copywriting changes, heading changes, meta edits, and a little more optimised copy they hit page 1 position 4 inside of 48 hours.
In terms of what not to do, as per your original question I don't really have anything that I would say to not do - other than doing nothing! SEO is all about testing in many respects, so test, watch the results, test again. It might be that 1 powerful link will kick in, or it might simply be content changes. Unless you try it you won't know.
Turbin3: Don't Let First Page Envy Get You
You're on page 2. It's so close you can TASTE it! Man, you're ready to do most anything to MAKE IT HAPPEN, like forthwith.
That's the design of "the game". They're testing your defenses, trying to trick a response from you. Thinking you'll throw some quick trash links at it? Maybe you want to make minor page tweaks?
If you reacted, Google may have caught you in the classic "L" shaped ambush. You're focused ahead. Their AI flanks you, seeing your small page changes. It's throwing rank transitions at you to drive you insane. This is my advice on how you can survive the attack:
- Remember, Google A/B tests the hell out of SERPs (think on that a bit...).
- Recall the Do's from above. Keep doing the good things.
- Focus a TON of effort on your off-site game (traffic leaks, outreach, email).
- Focus a ton of effort on your off-site game (this is repeated for a reason...)
- Let ranking spikes break your spirit.
- DON'T Focus on short term SERP wins. Outreach, traffic leaks, and social are the best short term gains.
Nick @ ImFromTheFuture: First I would analyze the content of the top 10 rankings URL's including running tf*idf to build out a list of topics.
I would then expand the topics into topic models by building out related keyword lists for each and organizing them into a content map for an optimized single target URL.
I would look for patterns between the format/layout of the top ranked pages and then run link reports for each to get a sense of where I need to be from a total link profile standpoint at the specific target URL I want to rank.
Then it's slinging emails until I get the links I need.
Stephen @ StephenSumner: By site, I'm assuming a page for a single given search term.
Pages that rank on page 2 of the SERPs are what I call quick win pages, and this is something I look out for regularly through the set of keywords I track for my clients campaigns, but I also routinely dive in to Google Search Console and see if there are any search terms that I'm not tracking, that have these page two rankings.
Typically I will then pull them all into ScreamingFrog with Analytics and Google Search Console API data enabled. From here I will analyse each search term and the page that is ranking and I will do review of the data and decide what needs to happen next.
A number of different actions can follow: Improve / refresh the existing page, create a new dedicated page, roll the existing page content into another and 301 it.
I'll also look at things like internal linking to these pages also to make sure that they are getting the page authority they need.
Ryuzaki @ BuilderSociety: Most of the time, and most definitely if your site isn't already busting certain age, trust, and authority thresholds, the cure for this problem is time. You can see this in action if you post content for low competition key phrases that are basically 'gimmies' for your site. Sometimes you index right up in the pocket, but most of the time it'll start around #60 in the SERPs and slowly slide up to front page over the next several months.
But for aged and powerful sites sitting on page 2 for lucrative terms that they've been fighting for, there are some tactics you can use. First, since it's likely not earning on page 2 as it is, you'll be able to stomach a disruption in your rankings by tweaking your on-page SEO. Since you're on page 2, we can assume you hit the big points correctly. You need to find a way to gather the n-grams of the top 10, especially 2-word and 3-word phrases, and check the TF*IDF metrics of each compared to your own site. That's a rabbit hole for readers to slide down that'll bring massive results. It's a look at the keywords that Google may associate with being relevant to the parent keyword.
In a similar fashion, there are theories that not only do you need to show full topical depth on a post but you need to also rank for sub-keywords of a parent keyword before you'll be honored with a ranking for the parent. SERPWoo's Keyword Finder is the only tool I've seen designed to cough up this information, and it does it fast. Enter your parent keyword and filter the results to the top 6 to top 8 and you'll see the keywords that are shared among the top spots on the front page. You need to be ranking for those too. These are usually prime examples of phrases to use in H2 and H3 headers, and that's typically all it takes to get into that ball game.
My final tip would be to create a topical 'mini-net' on-site and off-site to force feed a 'virtual silo' down Google's throat. What this means is you would post content on your site and on others on the same topic, perhaps focusing on the sub-keywords mentioned above even, and then interlink back to your main post. Of course you want these to be dofollow links, but take whatever you can because it's all about relevancy here. And if you can choose the anchor texts, then using the sub-keywords will ram you up the SERPs without over-optimizing you for your main term, as long as they aren't just long-tails of the main term. Be careful there.
John @ BestSEOFirm.com: I personally like to build content on either a blog or inner page, then link back to the target (sales) page, using exact or partial anchor text.
I then do a bunch of outreach on relevant websites within contextually relevant content.
I'll then pump those outreach posts with social signals and even tier some more outreach links to them, depending on the competition. It really depends on how competitive the keyword(s) are, but I've been seeing great results using this method.
I believe Brian Dean from Backlinko calls it the "Skyscraper Technique", but I've seen a few other SEOs who use this method in different variations.
It's certainly important to test and be creative when it comes to SEO and marketing in general for that matter.
Vin @ WordAgents: First off, be patient and be ready for fluctuations. Rankings will become volatile in the 30-60 days after changes are made.
Make one change at a time and wait for rankings to settle after each.
Things that can be changed to help push the page up to the top 10 include:
- Changing/updating titles and headings
- Improving site speed
- Adding more content to the page
- Updating content on the page with current info
- Schema tags
- Add extra media to the page
- Optimize the content for semantic search using a TF*IDF tool
- Add more links on the page and domain level (you should know how many you need already!)
Ross @ Kojent Apparel: I've definitely been here - as everyone else in BuSo.
As mentioned above, this is where I look at TF/CF (amongst other things) but try and find these high profile link opportunities by "breaking the ice" with my own products. I've used this method to effectively accomplish getting a link for myself or my client.
I know not everyone has this luxury but something I found to really give me that edge.
The main thing I wouldn't do is start buying garbage links or start buying directory links. I know a lot of people do this but I personally avoid this.
I would stay active and engaged on social but definitely don't rely solely on this. I know this is all elementary stuff...
What kind of content are you putting on your sites these days? If you could, what kind are you building for money sites, clients, and tier'd sites? What does the length, intent, and focus tend to be on for each?
Marc @ Fimadigital: My approach to content used to be very much one of looking at the competition, and beating them. So if they had a page with 500 words, I would try to go with 600 words - far better optimised of course.
Over the last 12 months though my approach has changed a little though. As an example, with regards to eCommerce category pages. If you had asked me a year ago what to do, I would have said get optimized text content on there, as opposed to most eCommerce website which only have product listings on their category pages and very little in the way of written words.
These days though, my opinion is that Google understands that eCommerce category pages tend to be thin on optimised written content. It expects, and ranks eCommerce category pages on that basis. So my views on it now, are to look at what ranks well and try to mimic it in some way... so with this particular type of page, I wouldn't actually now go crazy with tonnes of content, but instead mirror what Google would expect in the particular niche or industry - and instead focus on the other core aspects of ranking eCommerce websites (which is another answer all in itself).
With regards typical client websites, my focus is very much now on quality, and getting visitors to remain on the page for as long as possible and to interact with it in someway. So that could include embedded video content as one example.
In terms of intent, I think many SEO consultants don't really consider what the function of page should be from a business perspective. Yes, you want the client to have great rankings, but if those visits are converting it's pointless, so with our clients we like to offer the added value of also looking at the calls to action and conversion points. That can be achieved with good user experience design, strong class to action, and effective sales copywriting.
Turbin3: What Does Good Content Look Like Now?
Good content looks like what progressive web apps (PWAs) aspire to provide. Content consumed in many types of formats, on the user's terms.
My major content focus these days is in creating depth of content. This applies to ANY site. Beware though, depth doesn't mean length in all cases. You can derive deep insights from simple remarks, if they're cunning...
This could mean:
- Depth of site coverage of a niche and it's topics.
- Depth in a single content piece.
- Depth of insight to create deep, concise messages.
Ask yourself, does time and effort show in your content? Things like digging through government stats and data. Derive unique insights, saving users time. It might be good to cover all angles of a subject. That way users may find all answers on one site. That is the essence of content depth.
I let the competition dictate a basis for most content. In essence, match and exceed your rivals. Is the first page norm, for your keyword, 500 words? Let's start with that.
An important thing to keep in mind is, SERPs are toxic in nature. Outliers exist. A 500 word article might perform better than a 5,000 one, with no real reason. This doesn't matter. You create a standard for your topic, fulfill it, and exceed.
Most of the content I'm building lately tends to be a bit long form. Mostly 800-2,000 words. Sometimes a lot longer. Depends on the audience and intent, of course. You don't just need depth of content across your site. You often need that content depth within a single article.
I recommend putting greater effort in UI, UX-optimizing longer content pages. In-page nav is a good example of one method. I've also used readability testing quite a bit more lately. Think of it like this. Think about your opponent's' best messages, but with 25% fewer words. That might be a good thing. Users might even enjoy you getting to the point.
Where Content & Future Web Tech Mix
Browser tech has transformed quickly over the past few years. Some of these new tools are great for creative content presentation. Depth of presentation has become more vital. Here's a few:
- Browser Service Workers
- Web Components
These can save copies of resources in user's browsers. It can allow them to view your site OFFLINE. Imagine your users reading your sweet new article, offline and anywhere!
You may even store app data on their system. They could visit the site and approve a "save for later" or offline mode. Once they're back online....you can regain app or analytics data...
IndexedDB can even help off-load your app's backend resources to the client. This can help provide a sense of perfect speed and presentation of your site.
That's just a few of the new-tech things we've seen the past few years. All we know for sure is, browser specs are a quickly moving target. The way people consume content keeps changing swiftly.
To level up your content game, start using these new browser components. Start focusing your messages concisely. Start changing the ways people consume content. Just don't forget that ruthless application of the fundamentals.
Nick @ ImFromTheFuture: 100% dependent on the vertical and business objective of each page. We correlate content very closely to user intent and conversion funnel stage, making sure it's as long as it needs to be to achieve the purpose PLUS has what it needs to hit target rankings for priority keywords.
Stephen @ StephenSumner: I don't normally get my hands too dirty in the content creation process these days, but generally, with content creation, it needs to serve an actual purpose!
I have worked at SEO agencies in the past where there was this culture of creating blogs / content just for the sake of it rather than any informed SEO strategy.
With one of my larger clients right now, I'm actually heading up the content strategy and they have gone ahead and hired a team of writers and editor, our approach is to create content that is going to work well for us from an SEO angle but needs to be highly engaging from a users point of view, so at the minute we are working on our own internal data gathering processes to create highly data-driven pieces which we can then promote to the press and have journalists hopefully pick-up on and write about our research in the national press, this is a long process but we are really confident that in the longer term this very well researched long-form content will earn us the place of industry leaders in our space, this is a 12-18 month project for us to get to where we want to be.
For other clients, recently I have tried to pick-up featured snippets and so the content is generally about following the fairly well-known format for achieving these snippets in the SERPs and finding good topics.
I mentioned in my last post here in SERPwoo about LSI keywords, that is something that I always also apply to all content where I can too!
Ryuzaki @ BuilderSociety: I build authority sites these days and my philosophy in regards to everything is to go so hard that I raise the barrier to entry for every newcomer to an absurd level that they don't even try to compete. In the mean time, I'm not just matching and exceeding my current competitors either. I'm absolutely crushing their souls and leaving them devoid of hope and meaning. "Why should we keep trying if this guy is coming and everything he does is monstrous? " Fortunately most of our competitors are lazy and used to dominating, so they don't even see you coming.
This typically means posting 3,000 word articles for keyword clusters that might only bring 500 visitors a month. It means having brand new, 100% unique images Google has never encountered before (they eat that up). It means having all types of enhanced content on page, like we discussed in the Digital Strategy Crash Course on BuSo. It means going to a complete, granular depth before going for breadth. Because what happens is you own that narrow sector of the vertical and nobody ever takes it after that. So all you do is trend upwards while you slowly erode everyone else's empires. Once you hit the point of scaling, it's game over and lights out for everyone else.
The intent for each post varies. For SEO plays, it always serves the uses of the searcher based on the intent of the key phrase itself. CCarter goes into depth on this topic on his Keyword Research day in the Crash Course. Not all of my work is for SEO, but each post will be covertly optimized around at least one key phrase though for the passive benefits over time. Some are link-bait and social-bait pieces as well. Each post should begin with the question of how you will promote it, and it should be crafted with that end in mind. So it's not always about the user's intent, but what you intend to manipulate the user into doing for you, like spreading your content on social networks and forums, or letting them 'virtue signal' by giving you an upvote, etc. They will play right into your hands if you just take the time to think first.
For my off-site content, I leave that up to Steve Brownlie's Reach Creator team. They're outreach process is backed by Word Agents content and your own asset (so it'd better be good). With the exposure and links they fetch me as well as my own high visibility marketing efforts, I don't have to write any off-site content myself. Word Agents or whatever blogger or journalist that wants to mention my work does the job.
John @ BestSEOFirm.com: I try to write highly engaging content, usually 1K words or more.
I give my writer's full rein when it comes to length of the content. As long as it's quality, I could care less. I do the same on all my tiered content as well.
I always tell people to never cheap on any of your tiered content.
I'm a full believer that Google goes upstream and their algorithm understand the difference between quality content and crap content.
Vin @ WordAgents: It depends on the site and the goal.
RankBrain seems to be changing a lot content wise. We're moving towards semantically optimized content wherever possible. We are doing our best to try to understand how machine learning works so that we can create content that jibes with what AI is looking for when ranking a page in the top 10.
We create both commercial and informational intent content. I do my best to set this up in a way that works with the common sales funnel (awareness info content > evaluation content > commercial sales content)... but that's still a work in progress.
In a nutshell, we're simply creating content that is more value-driven and longer in length than the competition. Then, we use best onsite optimization practices in addition to semantic optimization for our target keyword. This usually allows us to rank top 50 for most low to moderate competition keywords within 30 days. From there, it's all about content promotion and link building to get to page 1.
Ross @ Kojent Apparel: For my money sites, my go-to content is content that answers questions.
This may not work for all sites/niches but for my sites (and my client sites), this works well (especially when it comes to conversions or intended actions I want a user to take on the page/post - ie. email subscription, filling out a form, etc). I always make sure content is written for my audience and not for the search engines (again, I know this is a very basic statement).
As you can see, I like to write a lot so my content length for money sites averages about 700-1,000 words per post. I also insert a lot of graphics, infographics, etc. What I've always done as well is add a TOC (Table Of Contents) to my articles/blog posts/pages, etc.
For tiered content, I do a lot more generic articles. I really don't spin articles unless I have to. These articles tend to be more informational and fact driven (more boring research type articles) then giving people the answers and helping to solve their problems quickly as I do on my money sites.
Wrapping Up This Roundup
So what questions do you have for the experts?
From content, to jumping to page 1 from page 2, and not giving up hope on your baby project.. this has been an eye opener of a roundup!
Leave your comments and questions below and we will build a new roundup based on your feedback.
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Jason Brown is the Co-Founder of SERPWoo as well as a serial entreprenuer, digital marketer, web programmer, author, speaker, & mentor
At some point, he would like the bigger companies in his space to stop trying to steal his and his partners concepts and ideas and have them innovate on their own instead.