Steve Wiideman, Founder and President of Wiideman consulting group and Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush sit down with host Mark Jones to discuss how to improve your SEO and voice search approach.
Can Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) really be used as a “quick-win” to deliver powerful marketing results?
Although SEO has had a bad rap in the past, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. But how can marketers deliver an effective content marketing and brand building strategy with SEO?
According to Steve Wiideman, Founder and President of Wiideman consulting group, making your marketing message discoverable and accessible via search is the key to reaching the right audience.
“When you look into your Google Analytics or Omniture to track your traffic, organic search is still the number one driver. Search isn’t just a blue link and description anymore; it is all the universal results that appear with images, videos, tweets, featured answers and knowledge graph. There are so many more places to get visibility,” says Steve.
“Businesses need to start thinking about the unique, media-rich content that could help improve their overall exposure for search. It’s about the things that we do to maximise how much we’re seeing on the search.”
By understanding the shifting nature of work with technological innovation, CMOs and CIOs find themselves with the opportunity to drive digital transformation. Steve encourages marketers to keep up with changing trends and new digital innovations to increase searchability.
“People are consuming content differently now. People are smarter and using their phones to discover what’s relevant, what’s happening today in blogs and news,” says Steve.
According to Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SaaS platform, SEMrush, the conversation around voice search is one of these new innovations to explore.
“After analysing three devices powered by Google, we discovered that the website’s speed really matters. Google wants to give the answers as soon as possible, so the websites that load the fastest have the priority,” says Olga.
When it comes to building a voice strategy for an online platform, Olga encourages marketers to invest their time into researching the ranking factors behind voice search.
“Tie in voice software strategy with core SEO efforts, and check where you get the traffic from. Understand the topics that users are searching for, and their frequently asked questions.”
Tune in to this episode of The CMO Show to find out how marketers can make their messages discoverable and accessible via search.
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Host: Mark Jones
Guests: Steve Wiideman and Olga Andrienko
Mark Jones: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
It’s like this for marketers, we often spend lots of time creating great content, but that means little, if the right people don’t see it.
That’s why discoverability and searchability are important parts of your marketing strategy. How well do you understand your audience’s journey? How do they find your content?
Mark Jones: Hello and welcome back to the CMO show, I’m your host Mark Jones and it is very good to have you with us on this episode.
Today we’re talking SEO and I just want to say up front, yes it’s an acronym and a lot of us marketers crinkle out noses at SEO, myself included, you know it has had a bad rap in the past, but it’s actually one of those important pieces of the puzzle that we need to make sure we get right because creating content, especially thought leadership that’s editorially led must be informed by accurate keyword research and that is the key to effective content marketing and building a brand story.
Mark Jones: So you want to make sure that your messages are discoverable and they’re accessible via search. We want to make sure that we can reach the right audience and be found through SEO, through organic search on the web.
And just getting this right is one of the key parts of building the ultimate content ecosystem. So to help us get SEO just right, we have none other than Steve Wiideman. He is known across the interwebs as SEO Steve, he’s the founder and president of Wiideman consulting group and he chats with us about the do’s and don’ts of SEO and we talk about which trends we need to look out for this year and beyond.
Also during our conversation, Steve talks about the rise in voice search and so just to help expand that to understand a bit more about voice search, we speak with Olga Andrienko, she’s the head of global marketing at SaaS platform. SEMrush. And she speaks about some really timely research into ranking factors behind voice search and what marketers can do and what marketers can do to use this data to their advantage.
So I hope you enjoy my conversations with Steve and Olga.
Mark Jones: SEO Steve, Steven Weidmann.welcome to the show, Steve.
Steve Wiideman: Thanks. Mark says absolute pleasure to be be here and thanks for considering me knowing how crazy the SEO world can be and how skeptical a lot of folks are. So hopefully we can debunk a little bit of that today and talk about some things that’ll, help get people off the ground with SEO.
Mark Jones: Well, that’s right. And so before we get to like the tips and tricks and what you should actually do, I think it’s fair to say that cynicism is pretty high when it comes to SEO. And actually for many people who listen to the CMOs show, many of them are responsible for people who are actually doing the technical work. So I think actually the mindset has to be how do I know that I’m getting what I pay for? You know, how do I find a good SEO expert or a good SEO agency from a bad one? So I guess there’s a lot of issues wrapped up in that. And I felt like this is a topic we haven’t talked about a lot on, the show. So let’s start from the top. What’s good SEO and what’s bad SEO.
Steve Wiideman: That’s a really great question. Because I think, I think so many businesses get ripped off by shady SEO companies. So one of the things that we’ve been trying to evangelize for with, with our clients and, and a lot of our clients are agencies, is to, is to have a, have a transparency model where it’s, you know, we know there’s a lot of things that we do that we’re really good at that are sort of our secret sauce. When you start working with us, we’re gonna give you all of that. We’re not going to hold any of it back. We’re going to give you access to the same project management system we’re using. Um, you’re going to own all of your digital assets.
Steve Wiideman: We’re just going to be the wing man to help you through it. I think that level of transparency is probably one of the most important factors when choosing an SEO company is how transparent are you? Are you willing to share what you’re actually going to do? Are you afraid that I’m going to use what you tell me and do it myself? Cause if you are, I’m going to go search anyway and do it myself. But you know, if you’re willing to be transparent. I think that’s going to be the way to do it.
Mark Jones: One of the things that’s also changed from a primary narrative perspective, around SEO is that, there’s been a question mark about how important it is, particularly in the context of paid social and other channels, right? So how does it stack up as, um, one of the most sort of important tactics to apply when it comes to scaling a message?
Steve Wiideman: Of course. Well, data talks, right? Even our biggest clients, you know, the multi-location brands, the franchises, you just log into the analytics and you can see that organic is the number one source of traffic. It’s still is, across just about every business. When you, when you look into your Google Analytics or Omniture or whatever you happen to be using to track your traffic with, organic search is still number one. It’s still the number one driver. So I would say it’s, it’s absolutely important, but I think that the change that’s happened and why some of the thinking has, has shifted a bit is because search isn’t just, you know, a blue link and a description anymore. Search is all the universal results that appear with images and video and news and tweets and featured answers and knowledge graph and questions. There’s so many more places to get visibility.
Steve Wiideman: So much more real estate to absorb in a, in a single search that, businesses need to start thinking about all of those different angles and all of that unique media rich content that could be helping improve their overall exposure for search terms, not just one page with some keywords shoved into a meta tag, right? That’s going to appear in search results. It’s about all the things that we do to, to really maximize how much we’re seeing on the search. I think that’s, that’s a critical part of it. And you had mentioned a minute ago, what some of the bad things were. Some of the good things to look for if, if you’re, if you’re just getting started or if you’re a CMO and you’re hiring an outside agency, of course, absolutely making sure that you at all times own and manage all of your own web assets.
Mark Jones: Okay. So how do you then work in an integrated environment and what have you seen working with your clients? I know that over the years you’ve worked with some pretty big name brands in America. Just describe for me how, SEO is now being perceived as part of the marketing mix.
Steve Wiideman: Sure. Uh, it has to be part, in fact, you have to have every group involved, but getting buy in from the it and tech department. Um, working in collaboration with the marketing department, with PR, all of those different groups have to play together and there has to be a, seamless process. Otherwise someone’s going to get frustrated and leave. Or if you’ve put all of your recommendations into one spot and the marketing people have to look at a lot of tech jargon, you know, they’re going to get annoyed by it and they’re not going to want to be involved in the process and it’s not going to be an integrated, effort. So, uh, well we’ve been doing with our clients is helping them to split apart those different attributes.
Steve Wiideman: So when it comes to, “Hey, we’re going to create a new page to address delivery, we’d love to rank for, I don’t know, a restaurant delivery near me. That’s an important keyword for us. We’re going to create a delivery page. What do we do?” So we do some keyword research. We look at the top pages that appear within the search results for those search terms. We throw them into a keyword tool to look at what other search terms are driving traffic to those pages. Then we make a content recommendation that includes a title and a description and a sort of an outline of where to put search terms in certain areas like subheadings and image names and file names. And then we create a separate document for the technology department and we say, “Hey tech folks, here’s our image requirements. Here’show we want to optimize these images to rank better.”
Steve Wiideman: We want to use some of these newer formats now like web P instead of, you know, JPEG and ping. And Hey tech folks, let’s make sure this page loads in under two seconds for those folks on mobile devices or slow internet connections. And then you do a third document and you say, Hey, PR folks on the news page on the website, this is what we want to include to make sure that we’re not cannibalizing the actual landing page. Here’s some of the meta tags that you could use and open graph tags and Twitter card tags that you could use to, to really make sure we’re doing a good job across all the places that people are going to share this information. And by splitting those up and giving them to the different groups, it makes it less overwhelming. And then when you’ve got that, uh, that launch, you go back to those groups and you say, “Hey, just wanting to share with you what your, your effort has helped with. So far this month, we’ve already generated $35,000 in new sale from non branded search terms. So great work. And next time, I’ll bet next year we could even beat that record because we’ve got a streamlined process now and it’s working.” And then even giving them the training on how to look for themselves so that they feel addicted to seeing how their content is performing. That that’s good. It’s really exciting, but don’t, don’t expect that to happen with some of the bigger groups. They just have too much going on.
Mark Jones: Yeah. And I know from personal experience it’s quite a lot of fun to get that immediate sense of satisfaction, the feedback you get, within hours or a day or so. You’re probably quite familiar with the Google model of content, which is the hero, hub and hygiene.Hero content would be the big set piece, like a documentary or a big film. And, uh, some hub content might be blog articles And then hygiene is this regular stuff. And SEO quite often just falls into the thing that you’ve got to do over and over and over again. And, and that’s important, right? You’ve got to have a site that’s optimized as you’ve been describing. How can we think about it a little bit differently because in the world of marketing strategy, when we’re thinking about creative campaigns, one of the things that we’re most thirsty for is insights. How can we actually have a bottom up approach? How can we use all this hygiene activity as, a source of, analytics as a source of data, a source of insights to actually drive what we’re doing as opposed to being that sort of top down model?
Steve Wiideman: Sure. Uh, well if you’re an enterprise, you could use some pretty smart tools they do a lot of that, um, sort of on an automated way where they’ll, they’ll garner insights from big data and current successes and what competitors are doing and they’ll make some suggestions so that, you know, every week you can send off a list of what the content folks should be working on and what the guys that are earning links should be working on. That’s one way to do it at the enterprise level. The way to do it if you don’t have one of those tools available to is sort of like what I mentioned a moment ago is really taking in, um, what those top competitors are doing, throwing them into a more affordable kind of smaller end tool.
Steve Wiideman: And then you do an aggregate of all the different search terms that are driving traffic to those top competitors. Run a pivot table and you can see the ones that are most common, bounce it off of the pages or the keywords that you’re already ranking in the top 10 for, to figure out where that gap is. Then using math of course, and clustering all those search terms into themes, you come up with sort of a game plan of which new pages do we need to create now and which ones are gonna answer the most questions that our customers have..You know, the, the question, the Q and A side of search is going to blow up in the next year, you know, more than it even already has.
Steve Wiideman: But the challenge is where do we put all this content? How do we prioritize it and how do we get links to all of it so that Google can see that we’re not just throwing content out there and getting a few links here and there, but being more consistent. And that’s where really good information architecture comes in. That’s where you get together with the content team and the IA team and you sit down and you say, look, we’ve got a major set of search terms that we want to rank for. Let’s just say we’re a national attorney in the United States trying to target truck accidents and we want to go after truck accident lawyer, but it’s $800 a click in paid search for that keyword, right? And it’s a super hyper competitive search term that’s going to take us a long time to rank for, how do we do it?
Steve Wiideman: Well, we build a site structure that’s supportive of that page. So instead of dropping it in a blog somewhere or in a resources section somewhere, article section, let’s nest it underneath that actual truck accident lawyer page so that it becomes supportive linking back up to that page. So, in doing that with that truck accident lawyer example, we saw an attorney build close to 80 pages of supportive content around all the different types of truck accidents, causes of truck accidents, and even sort of a portal for people who’ve been in accidents and checklists of what to do and who to call and all that kind of great supportive content,that’s what’s made the difference. And in doing that, we’ve earned links organically from people who are looking for that content, who share it, link to it respectively.
Steve Wiideman: Google’s page rank will pass through those pages to that parent page and in about 12 months we were able to get that number one spot. So, that’s, I think,at least at a big picture level is really looking at what that competition’s doing. Whether you have to scrape their XML site maps or their HTML sitemaps. put into a pivot table and really start to, you know, group them by what the user intent is. You don’t need two separate pages for somebody who is searching for the same keyword with a minor variation or a semantic derivative for example. You just need to create the best, the best page to solve what the problem is.
Mark Jones: And just by the way, I can see why this business is relentless, right? There’s no, it’s war. Yeah. Right. So it’s the battle for page one as we know. But I want to pick up on something you just said, which was you said in the next 12 months we’ll see even more focus on these. ostensibly what you’re saying is creating static pages and I want to draw that in contrast to the blog dynamic because we’ve been in a content publishing blog dynamic for a long period of time. Now what’s going on there? What’s the distinction you’re creating there and why is the next 12 months so important?
Steve Wiideman: Sure. Yeah. And I mentioned 12 months because you know, from our experience for somewhat competitive keywords, you know, your page itself, the content, the keyword research, the media rich content that you have on that page is going to get you to page two within, I don’t know, three to four months usually. As you start to earn links to that page, you start to see it move up between, uh, you know, months four to eight or so. And then from eight to 12 is really where they user behavior signals kick in, where, or Google will kind of measure how your listing performs over the other nine listings when you are on that first page, to move up into that number one spot. And that that involves, you know, using structured data rich snippets, um, having, you know, a really strong, title and meta description. So I think from that standpoint, that’s the 12 months, is it? It’s really content links. And then user behavior and the nurturing all three of those things over time to make sure that you’re outperforming, you know, those top ranking pages. And that’s, that’s really how you get there.
Mark Jones: But why is that different than blogs? Why is that different? Blogs?
Steve Wiideman: Well, so to me, a blog, what it was meant for was, share something that was a little bit more time relevant, right? It’s to talk about what’s, what’s happening right now to stay in the conversations and what’s happening right now. Cause those blog feeds get buried. If you’re, if you have an RSS reader and you, you jump into the latest blog posts that are, that are coming up from your reader, you’re not going to see the stuff from six months ago. You’re going to see the last couple of weeks. So to me there’s a, there’s a time constraint on blogs.
Steve Wiideman: And that the challenge is, is that people are consuming content differently now. Now, you know, people are smarter and using discover on their phones and swiping right on their pixel to see what, what’s relevant today, what’s happening today in blogs and news that are happening today. So I would say blogs are a great way to summarize something that you’ve created just to, to stay in the conversation. So what’s happening, you know, right now.
Mark Jones: So get the right balance between the evergreen content and static pages. And then the fast turnaround blog blog stuff,that’s the main game, right? Yup.
Mark Jones: Exactly right. So you’ve got five SEO mistakes that brands make right? What are they?
Steve Wiideman: So number one is not having a strategy. I think that’s the most important. Like, like with social media, when you ask somebody who works in social media, what do you do? I do social, I do Facebook. Well, what do you do? What’s your strategy? What are your campaign themes? What are, you know, what’s your, your listen and respond and um, contest and everything. What, what’s your strategy? Right? And a lot of businesses just don’t have one. So, I think the biggest mistake a lot of businesses make right out the gate with SEO is not, not working with a team of folks that have been in the industry a long time to help create a strategy, and then maybe even help stay on board for a month or two until their team has a really good handle on the technical, contextual and off-page visibility or local and multi location.
Steve Wiideman: If you’re a franchise, I think, I think that’s really important to have that strategy out the gate to, to really get your site audited by one or two different experts, merge the two of them and you’ll have a, a pretty inclusive plan of action for at least six to 12 months. I would say number two is not keeping up to date with changes and trends of things that are happening. Also in not keeping up if you’re, if you’re so sort of into “this is what we do for SEO, this our process. We don’t do anything else” and you just leave it alone. You’re, you’re limiting all the new things that are happening, like voice search queries. So much fun exploring and getting into the Google assistant console and, and playing with questions and actions and things that users can engage with through voice. Yeah. I heard a stat from our friends at SCM rush said that 30% of all mobile searches now are voice 30%, at least here in the States.
Steve Wiideman: Can you imagine?
Mark Jones: Hello again, Mark here and I am just jumping right in the middle here. I hope you’re enjoying the episode. And we’ve been talking about Steve’s SEO top tips and it’s a great point in time to jump over to hear from Olga Andrienko who is head of marketing, who is head of global marketing at SaaS platform, SCMrush. She’s going to talk a little bit more about the ranking factors behind voice search and how marketers can use this information to their advantage.
Mark Jones: Tell me about voice and this research you guys have done and quite fascinating when we think about voice as a topic, and I’m aware this has been an interesting conversation in the tech space for a long time now. Right? So what’s the best input device for a computer or a smartphone? And we’ve been, on this, is it actually just typing in in the keyboard or are we going to be seeing, voice being, the predominant input mechanism in years to come and you know, depending on who you talk to, they’ve got different views. What did you discover in your research?
Olga Andrienko: So we analysed three devices that are powered by Google. So it was Google home, Google home mini and Android and the reason why we took three devices because we thought that maybe, well if those are powered by Google, then the algorithm behind them picking over the results would be similar. And then afterwards we analysed all other digital assistants. So we discovered that the website’s speed really matters. So Google wants to give the answers soon as possible. And then there were the websites that load of the fastest has the priority.
Mark Jones: Hmm. That’s interesting.
Olga Andrienko: Which makes total sense. Well, the results that Google has are cached, but also Google updates result pages really, really fast now and then, well daily that means that still they want probably to have the possibility of giving the best answer at this second, so I think that it really makes sense now and Google is pushing site speed more and more now and it’s an official ranking factor.
Olga Andrienko: And I think that so far it’s really important to be the top priority and the trusted source that Google picks.
Mark Jones: What would your advice be for marketers. What would you say they should do when it comes to building a voice strategy for, for your online platforms?
Olga Andrienko: I would just suggest that they tie in voice software strategy with their core SEO efforts and definitely if companies are not looking at the search as a a channel for traffic, then definitely check where you get the traffic from. And then understand what’s the share of organic. But then what, what I suggest doing is understanding the topics that users are searching for in your space. Understand the frequently asked questions and then what one small company did is that they understood this topics and the questions that people type in the search. The CEO went with those questions to his employees, which were doctors. He recorded the answers from the top expertsv and put it on the website and that’s how he actually got his company to rank for really relevant queries and to the audience that was already on a decision making state. So that would be a really quick and easy way to increase rankings and then for both mobile and desktop searches and voice search.
Mark Jones: That’s great advice. Well, Olga, thank you so much for your time. It’s been really fascinating to get an insight into a world that we don’t discuss here very often.
Mark Jones: Some great insights from Olga there on the current ranking factors behind voice search. I hope you will keep those in mind when producing web content this year and especially as voice search becomes more popular. Let’s go back now to Steve for the rest of his top SEO tips.
Steve Wiideman: I would say number three is not monitoring critical files. It’s really sad when a business that generates as much as a million dollars a day accidentally pushes a production or a staging server live with a robot’s text file that blocks search engines from indexing all their content. And within two days, sales go down to virtually nothing except from direct traffic. So I think monitoring those things is critical and you see where to do it. It’s just Monday morning get up and check your search console. That’s the first place to look. I would say number four is not monitoring your competitor pages. So do the same thing. If you’re targeting truck accident lawyer, like we said a minute ago, take those other nine truck accident lawyer pages that are ranking on page one and set up that visual ping so that you can monitor what they’re doing when they make a change.
Steve Wiideman: Record it, and keep track of it so that you can see how their pages evolved over time to see kind of what’s working for them. And what’s not. Yeah, it’s going to be a, an hour or two, a month of, of effort. But to be blind to that, you know, is just saying I know everything and I can do it all myself. But there’s other SEOs that are working for your competitors that are trying new things and it’s naive not to at least pay attention to it. Last one I would say is not nurturing and improving your content. Um your technical SEO and, and your off-page. There’s, there’s still a set it, forget it mentality with a lot of businesses. I created an amazing page. I got some links to it. I’m done. No, no, that’s not right because your competitor is going to watch what you’re doing.
Steve Wiideman: They’re not going to put their feet up on the desk and be like, well, I guess he won. They’re going to try to beat you. So I think it’s important that you challenge your tech team every month and say, how did you improve our speed? How did you improve our bounce rates? How did you improve, you know, user engagement on our pages. You go to your content team and you say, “Hey, how did you improve the page based on what you learned from search console in the last 30 days, what you learn from our paid search query reports or our placement reports? How did you, what’d you learn from that? That we can improve?”
Steve Wiideman: So I think assigning, you know, people to that and making them accountable every month. The tech team, the content team and the digital PR teams on how they’re improving that particular page, either on the page or off the page. I think that’s super critical that businesses just neglect cause they feel like that’s, Hey, I’ve done it, I’m finished, let’s move on to other things.
Mark Jones: And there’s a good reminder in there too by the way, the technical SEO versus the content editorial side of SEO and keeping those two things in balance. A truckload of good tips there if we can go with the truck theme. So thank you for that.
Mark Jones: So Steve Waterman, president of Waterman consulting group and SEO, Steve as, you’re known on the interwebs. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been great to get your insights and all the best with your business.
Steve Wiideman: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Mark Jones: So there you have it the top SEO and voice search tips from Steve and Olga to help you tackle the search landscape in 2020 with confidence.
It’s quite green at the moment, but I can see the value of investing in voice search in the future and how important it is to combine SEO best practice and an understanding of current consumer voice search behaviors into your content strategy.
As Steve said, the approach you need to take across all your marketing and PR strategies is make sure they all align with your SEO strategy. So get your PR and content teams working together with your digital insights team because they all need to talk to each other in order to reach your target audience effectively.
So that’s it for this episode. Thanks for joining us on The CMO Show. It’s been a pleasure. As always, please do contact us via email. It’s CMOshow@filteredmedia.com.au and let us know your thoughts, pitch a guest, suggest a topic. I also encourage you to subscribe to the show on your favourite podcast app, if you haven’t already. we’ve got some great things coming up for you in 2020 some really awesome interviews to come. So don’t miss out on a single episode. Until next time.