On-Demand Webinar Overview
A website with no traffic is like a ghost town! There are many SEO myths that could be keeping you from improving your website search traffic and rankings. Are you afraid your website is doomed to stay hidden in the shadows? Join Sparkroom’s SEO specialist as we lead you of out the darkness. Discover the real impact blogs, mobilization, and keywords have on your site traffic. In this webinar, learn how to ignore SEO myths and implement the best practices that could stimulate positive traffic for your websites.
Stephen Galgocy: Sr. Organic Search (SEO) / User Experience (UX) Specialist @ DMS
Stephen Galgocy is the Senior Organic Search and User Experience Specialist at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Stephen handles search engine marketing (SEM), which encompasses search engine optimization (SEO), user experience (UX), multivariate testing (MVT) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Melissa Piccinich: Good afternoon. My name is Melissa Piccinich, and I’m the marketing manager at Digital Media Solutions, the parent company of Sparkroom. First, I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s webinar, during which we will dispel the top types of SEO. But before we get started, I want to tell you just a little bit about Sparkroom. Through the deployment of our award-winning technology and services, Sparkroom helps marketers place the right messages in front of the right audience at the right time, to build brand awareness, boost engagement, and drive conversions.
Deploying our proprietary marketing technology, and award-winning digital marketing services, we focus on delivering higher quality prospect and better conversation rates. So, before I pass it off to our presenter, Stephen Galgocy, I want to let everyone know that we will be assuming a certain level of search marketing proficiency as we present this topic. But don’t worry. If you hear any terms that you’re not familiar with, please feel free to submit a question for clarification. I will either respond via Go To Webinar chat tool, or if appropriate, I will interrupt the presentation for further clarification.
As a seasoned digital marketing professional with nearly a decade of experience in a wide range of industries, Stephen Galgocy leads the search engine optimization strategies as senior organic search, or SEO, user experience specialist here at Sparkroom. His expertise includes search engine marketing, user experience, pay per click, social media marketing, conversion rate optimization, web design, and CSS design. Stephen has substantial experience in education, healthcare, E-commerce, and legal industries. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Montclair State University. So, thank you for joining us today, and now I pass it off to Stephen.
Stephen Galgocy: Good afternoon. To say SEO has changed a lot would be the understatement of the decade. We’ll often see multiple updates per year from Google, including this year’s major update called Fred in March, which hit low value content sites that focused on revenue. And a lot of us are still reeling from the Google Penguin seminar update, which made the rewarding of high quality websites and search results part of its core algorithm. And SEO has changed so much in the past several years that many marketers simply aren’t sure what’s outdated, what’s important, what will actually move the needle, and what’s simply wasted effort.
This webinar is going to point out what we found to be the top five most common myths and assumptions about how SEO works and debunk them for you. So, you’re not wasting a single moment on things that simply don’t matter for SEO in 2017 and ’18. Let’s get started. Myth No. 1 – blogs will help your SEO, or don’t worry about SEO, just create good content. For some reason, everyone thinks posting a blog on your own website will magically increase your SEO presence, and make your website stronger. If you have a very strong website to begin with, internal blogs can help drive more traffic to your site.
This is the purpose of a blog, really, to drive traffic to some of those long-tail keywords, those more specific and longer keywords, usually three words or longer that tend to convert higher. These are the real SEO gold. I’ve spent the last two years building the SEO for our client sites at Sparkroom. Since they have a relatively high domain authority at this point, this allows their blogs to rank well nationally. So – and domain authority is a score on a 100-point scale that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. We like to use domain authority when comparing one site to another, or tracking the strength of your website over time.
And so, if you have a website that has a high domain authority, internal blog posts can be great. If you’re in a line of work where there’s not a lot of competition, you can rank really well with blog posts. But if your website is new however, if you have a low domain authority, just posting a blog to your site is going to have hardly any benefit from an SEO perspective. People like to think that when you post an internal blog, Google will see your website receiving fresh content. And this isn’t inaccurate. On a scale of 1 to 100, this scores a 1 in terms of how much it will move the needle for your SEO.
So, tips on succeeding with your blog strategy – try and write blog content for external websites, which will link back to your website, and boost your domain authority. And backlinks are the foundation of Google’s algorithm. So, if you start writing content on your own blog, run a Facebook advertising campaign to promote your blog to drive traffic to that piece of content. It drives me crazy when people right a great piece of content, and don’t get any eyeballs on it because it simply doesn’t have any exposure.
Myth No. 2 – mobile optimization is overrated. So, do you still underestimate mobile optimization in 2017? The Google-coined term Mobilegeddon is here to stay, which means that Google officially measure the mobile friendliness of your site among its ranking factors. And in Google’s own words, they have a quote here, “On average, people check their phones more than 150 times a day, and more searches occur on mobile phones than computers. But if a potential customer is on a phone, and a site isn’t easy to use, they’re five more times likely to leave.” That’s huge.
So, to avoid losing out on these crucial moments, you need a site that loads quickly, and is easy to use on mobile screens. The first step is seeing how your site is performing. And we can help by scoring your site for mobile friendliness, mobile speed, and desktop speed. Mobile optimization is about the user experience, whether it’s the design of the page, the responsiveness, the number of click, page speed, or ever screen size. And what’s more, we can’t even – we can’t underestimate accelerated mobile pages, the AMP pages, which is Google’s latest attempt to improve the performance of mobile web articles in a light, fast version of a page.
It’s becoming quite imperative to give it a try, and enhance the user experience, and hence the traffic to your post. Finally, SEOs and webmasters have been wondering and waiting for a couple of years now, for news on when the first mobile index will roll out. So, according to Gary Illyes, Google’s webmaster trends spokesman, “They don’t have an exact timeline for the launch yet. They have some ideas for when this will launch, but it’s probably many quarters away.” So, he also emphasized that Google wants to roll out the first mobile index in a way that doesn’t hurt non-mobile friendly sites, and that could make a complete launch take even longer.
He also said that Google’s eventual switch to a mobile-first index doesn’t necessarily mean that the desktop content will stop ranking. So, mobile-first means mobile-first. It only means they’ll look for the mobile content first. But it is out in the wild. We’ve seen it out there, and over the past week or so, many tools and webmasters have taken notice to major mobile ranking shifts in Google. We know Google plans on rolling this out slowly, in batches of sites – yeah, just to make sure the search results don’t shuffle too much. This is normal practice.
So, it seems Google has indeed started to move some sites and pages over the mobile-first indexing process, but isn’t ready to say that it’s official just yet. So, if you have a fast, responsive site with AMP installed and testing well, then your site is most likely in good shape, in preparation for this new index. But if now, 2018 is right around the corner.
Myth No. 3 – SEO is about ranking No. 1 in the SERPs, or the search engine results pages. I love this one. Many SEO ninjas will promise to land your business at the No. 1 rankings sport, for say – I don’t know, $100.00. But even if they manage to deliver their promises, SEO is not just about the ranking, especially when focusing on the goal of reaching the top spot. Your SEO strategy should aim to increase traffic, engagement, and of course, eventually conversions. And this can’t be achieved by merely focusing on the site’s position in the search engine’s results pages.
So, it’s true that being on the first page can lead to an increase of traffic to your page, but the goal is not simply to gain the No. 1 spot. So, for example, the quick answer featured snippets, or the summary of an answer to a user’s query that’s displayed on top of Google’s search results can lead to an increase of traffic of up to 20 to 30 percent. But 70 percent of these featured snippets from Quick Answers don’t come from the first organic result, but say from the second position, or even below the fold. So, it’s the optimization of the content, the usefulness, and relevance that may lead to additional traffic, and make your search engine result’s page position more effective.
Myth No. 4 – SEO is about adding the right keywords. There used to be a time, long ago, when keyword density was mistakenly synonymous with a good SEO practice. But as search engines keep changing, so does our SEO strategy. Keywords are still part of your optimization. We don’t wanna lost that. It’s still focused on that. But the – more of the focus is on content and its relevance, rather than the exact keyword. And with the arrival of Rank Brain, which is Google’s implementation of artificial intelligence into their algorithm, this made even clearer, the focus on relevance. So, with the page being crawled for its content, and then emphasizing the user experience, rather than the use of the exact keyword.
And this ties into another related myth that you should only target high search volume keywords, meaning don’t aim at generic keywords, or too specific of a keyword. Think of all the questions, for example, that lead customers to your site, and focus on the keywords that will increase the conversion. So, use your content, optimize your category and product pages or program pages to maximize the chances of displaying your site to your perspective customers. And here’s a tip – ranking for a number of low volume keywords maybe have more value than one highly searched keyword.
So, no more awkward headlines to favor a specific keyword – you don’t need to cater to that so much anymore. So, let’s just concentrate on the content’s meaning. And this slide here is a side by side comparison that shows just how valuable that these long-tail keywords are, compared to the short-tail. So, for competition, content focus, cost, if you’re running a PPC campaign, and conversions all win, long-tail keywords come from writing naturally without a short-tail focus. And quickly, we can see that in this example, how short-tail targeting measures up. When it comes to conversion rate, the high values, and the long-tail terms, what they lack in search volume, they’ll make up with conversions.
Myth No. 5 – social media does not affect SEO. Okay, so in early 2014, Google opened up enough to admit that social signals are not an active part of their ranking algorithms. Traffic coming from social channels is what Google likes to see. Those are sort of a link, and those links can be a real boost. Social signals let Google know that your website is popular, and that there’s a live human being managing your social media profiles, and a human being is engaging with your community or your tribe. It’s when those tweets and likes turn into social shares that the real SEO value comes into play.
So, if you create quality content, people will naturally share, and when they share, these people are sending your content out into the internet to be linked back to your site from other interested readers. It’s exactly here where social signals can turn into links, and when it does, it becomes a huge win for your SEO efforts. So, it’s true that Google doesn’t use metrics – does not use metrics such as Facebook shares or Twitter followers, directly in search rankings. On the other hand, success in social activity can have significant secondary effects on your SEO efforts.
Social activity helps address two of the major tasks facing SEOs, which is search engine discover and indexation, and content distribution, which leads to links and shares. So, perhaps no one explained it better in my research than a search guru, AJ Kohn, “Social Signals and SEO” write-up – highly recommended. Successful social activity puts your content right in front of the right groups of users in increasing visits, engagements, brand signals, like the number of users searching for your site. Finally, the simple act of more influencers visiting your content can lead to more links and further sharing. And the cycle repeats itself.
All these secondary effects can significantly boost your SEO efforts. So, it’s not the actual social activity that matters, but what happens as a result of that activity – optimizing and maximizing create our impressions, increases the chance of obtaining links from the group of people who power the link graph – and that’s from AJ Kohn. Now, we have a few tricks up our sleeve. And the first one is – we have an extra myth for you that link building is dead. Uh-oh. So, link building has been proclaimed dead many times, but it’s still around, keeping up with the changes of our times.
Link building is about creating links with the ultimate goal to increase a site’s presence and, of course, traffic, and ultimately conversions. It may not be efficient anymore to be part of a private blog network, if you’re familiar with those, or use spammy anchor text, but the fundamental goal of link building is still present, provided that we know how to use it. A link building strategy may be time consuming, but it’s also rewarding. And let’s not forget that links are still really important ranking factors. So, according to the “State of Link Building” survey, the most effective method of link building is based in content, whether it’s promotion or guest posting.
What’s promising is the fact that “State of Link Building” is still strong in 2017, as good links will always matter.
Melissa: Thank you, Stephen. So, now we will take a look at some of the questions that we have from our attendees. If you have a question, please type it now into the question box on your webinar control panel. If you can’t see the control panel, look for the orange box with the arrow, click on the arrow, and the control panel will expand, allowing you to type in your questions. It looks like we’ve already received a few. So, let’s get started here. So, Stephen, what should I do if I purchased links in the past, and I think they may now be coming back to haunt me or hurt me?
Stephen: Well, first off, the question might be, why do you think that it is the links that are hurting you? Have you seen a drop in rankings or traffic? Have you looked into other potential issues that might have caused this change, such as code changes, site updates, content restructuring? Have you checked to see if there was a recent algorithm change that revolved around link quality? So, if you’ve done all of that, and believe that it is bad links, at first, I would use a tool like Chris Cemper’s Link Detox, which is a highly recommended tool to identify and analyze a potential level of link spam.
And after determining what the bad links are – you might know what they are already – I recommend first, reaching out to the webmaster at the domain in question, and asking them directly to remove the links. After that effort, I would submit the domains to Google Search Console Disavow tool, which tells Google that you do not want your site associated with the links you submitted, and that they shouldn’t consider them. In most situations, this works out pretty quickly, within two to four weeks. After all that, and if you’ve received a manual penalty from Google, I would submit a reconsideration request.
And these days, those are generally processed within a few weeks to a month. It used to take a lot longer. They’re a lot better with that now. And just lastly, I should also mention that during a recent algorithm change, Google reportedly is not counting what they consider spam links against your site. That is not completely rolled out that we’ve seen in our own tests. They also said that they’re not – they’re simply devaluing the links. I haven’t seen this rolled out to any degree, and I still recommend following the steps that I mentioned before, to be sure. If you have any further questions on that, we’d be happy to reach back out.
Melissa: Awesome. That’s good to know. So, Link Detox for sure is gonna be a helpful tool, and quick plug for anyone who thinks that they may have been hit by a Google penalty or noticed a negative hit in their traffic, Stephen just wrote an awesome blog post that is already live on Sparkroom.com, so be sure to check that out for even more great tips. But we do still have a few questions here. So, what do I need to do in terms of the other search engines? Is there anything that I need to worry about in terms of the algorithms?
Stephen: It’s a great question. I get that a lot, actually. Well, first off, Google gets about 92 percent of search engine traffic. Bing is about 4 to 6 percent. The others are a fraction of that, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Generally, Google’s algorithm is considered to be the trendsetter, and it’s the most complicated, and the most difficult to rank for. So, as SEOs, we feel that if you’re optimizing for Google, then you’re optimizing for the others as well. And just so you know, Bing has their own webmaster tools software – set of tools.
And just like Google, you should use them to check for errors that you’ve uncovered, check impressions, crawl rates, and – among other things. You can use it very much the same way you can use Google Webmaster Tools, or as it’s called now, Google Search Console.
Melissa: Oh, that’s good to know. I didn’t realize that they already had those tools. We actually just got a really interesting question in. What kind of traffic to form conversions should you expect these days? And then, on the flip side, what is a good range you can expect to achieve with those conversions?
Stephen: Okay, so not really sure, but the second part of – they’ll have to clarify maybe a little bit. But the first part, what kind of traffic can you expect in – for conversions?
Melissa: To form conversions, yup.
Stephen: To – from – is this from new content?
Melissa: [Inaudible] [00:21:32] or conversion rate.
Stephen: Okay, so conversion rates on content – well, the general rule of thumb for expectations around conversion rate for organic traffic is – amongst all verticals is between 1 to 3 percent. Now, this number gets a lot higher when you have very niche specific sites, so they say in the edu world, if you’re a very specific type of school, like you train specifically for ecotech fields or maybe golf. Your site is going to convert a lot higher on those high intent keywords, the short-tail, and the long-tail. So, you could see conversion rates up to 7 to 11 percent.
Once you have the traffic, I highly recommend doing a set of A/B tests and user experience testing. You could use third party tools, like UserTesting.com, or reach out to your agency and ask about types of more in-depth user experience testing because getting that conversion rate up is – maximizing the value of your current traffic is – if you’re already getting good traffic, user experience testing and implementing those changes can really boost your conversion rate. And that way, you’re maximizing conversions from the traffic you already have versus trying to go out of your way to drum up more. That’s what I suggest there.
Melissa: So, speaking about edu, I know that that’s one of your area of expertise in terms of the industries that you spent a lot of time in. Related to the question that we just asked, for conversion rates, what can be a good expectation for a liberal arts university that has a lot of diversity in what it’s promoting?
Stephen: So – great question. So, it’s – sort of piggybacking off of the first question where I was talking about niche specific sites converting higher than the expected 1 to 3 percent. An edu site that offers a large plethora of sites most likely has a lot of different types of content, answering a lot of different questions about a lot of different topics. So, your organic fishing net if you will, is cast a lot wider. You’re going to pull in a lot more traffic, therefore it will appear that it may not be converting as well as a niche site. What you should do is talk to your analytics person, and have them isolate the specific set of pages that you’re expecting to get leads from.
And instead of looking at the site as a whole, look at the conversion rates just from those specific sets. And for really any sort of liberal arts or generalized majors, you can expect from 1 to 3, 4 percent, just getting started. User experience is going – again, is going to a long way. Things like – everyone has ADD these days with – no one is going to wait for a page to load. So, I would say page speed is most likely the No. 1 UX factor that will improve conversion rates, if you’re looking for, say, a priority there. Yup, hope that helps.
Melissa: Oh, that’s fantastic. I’m so happy that you brought up the importance of user experience in A/B testing. I think that’s gonna be really, really valuable for our audience to remember here. Another great question that came in, so talking about timeliness and speed, how long does it actually take Google to find my fresh content?
Stephen: Another – that’s a great question, Melissa, and to the person whoever asked it. I would answer that actually with a question. And that is, how authoritative is your site? So, if you’re HuffingtonPost.com for example, your content gets indexed within minutes, sometimes seconds, of going live. And that’s because Google has allotted just a ton of bandwidth for their crawling towards larger and more influential sites. So, you can follow these best practices – there are some best practices that you could – to get your content indexed faster. No. 1, I would say amplify your content with social media, is usually the first place we go, especially Google+.
I’m not sure to what degree you’re using Google+ just yet, but posting and liking the link to top platforms like Facebook and Twitter will get your content indexed super-fast, since Google looks at those sites often for changes. They’ll spot the change and they’ll crawl the new link. So, it’s a no-brainer that they already look for those updates on Google. Another thing might be if you have an XML feed on your site, if you offer subscription – updates to your blog feed, if it’s just a blog, or you could even have an XML feed for your whole site. That’s just a link you can put into, say, like a newsfeed, if you like to read.
In lots of sites, crawlers tend to hit those sites and will see the new content go up, and will crawl that a lot faster, and most likely index it. And then, an old school method that actually still works is use a ping tool like Ping-O-Matic – is one of my favorites, and all it does is it sends a signal to the search engines that they should index a new page. It’s a big outdated and less effective, in my opinion, than using social media, but it does help speed up the process.
Melissa: Never a bad thing to go old school, sometimes. So, it’s a nice blend between the old and the new.
Stephen: That’s right.
Melissa: Now, here’s an interesting question that is coming in amidst some changes. It says that they are making migrations to the HTTPS little by little, and could that hurt their rankings?
Stephen: So, I suggest that – and Google will tell you this too – that you migrate the whole site at once. I think it was John Mueller, which is another big shot in Google, he talks about this a lot, and often says, you should move your whole site at once. Don’t move it section by section or page by page. You should do it all at once because it helps Google know the whole site is moving. And if you don’t do it all at once, it could take a lot longer, and then it’s – there’s a lot more room for error. Then your – you could be dealing with things like mixed content issues.
So, if you have a resource like a picture on a non-secure page that a secure page is pulling from, then you will not get the secure, nice green lock symbol within your browser on that secure page because it will be considered mixed content and not all secure. So, whole site at once will just benefit everybody.
Melissa: Really, really good to know. So, you know I’m not gonna have a moment where I get to sit across from an SEO specialist and not ask the important question of what’s coming down the pipe? What should everyone really be aware of that’s changing in the SEO world, so that they don’t have to fear it, when the change happens?
Stephen: That’s good. So, earlier I was talking about the mobile-first index, about how we’re actually starting to see those major impacts coming through, those initial – sort of preferential treatment to mobile rankings, and mobile pages getting ranked over desktop pages. So, I mean, that’s sort of brand new because we just – we – first we heard that it was 2018 that this mobile index is – and coming out. And now we’re starting to see bits and pieces of it coming through already, so it’s here. And another kind of big thing is that – that of the non-secure warning for non-secure pages. And we were just talking about moving your site securely.
But there’s actually a new thing going on where Google has started providing a more secure browsing environment. So, in January actually, there was an older version of Chrome that, if your site was not secure, and there were credit card and password fields displaying as not secure, it would be displaying as not secure in the address bar. So, with that, there’s a new release coming, and it’s supposed to be this month. And we’re starting to see it in sort of a case by case basis, so it’s a good idea to get on a secure – get a secure certificate, and get your site into a secured environment. Google’s going to extend this warning to pretty much any site now, where the data is entered.
So – and just so you know, Sparkroom has been working diligently to ensure that all Sparkroom URLs and any Sparkroom hosted URLs are compliant with this new measure, and indicate secure in the address bar. And I and Sparkroom urge everyone to secure their own websites, and also work on their certificates for their subdomains. And this will require two separate certificates, and not self-signed certificates, which are those – like the free certificate. So, those are, I would say, the top two things coming down the pipe because we’re starting to see evidence of those already.
Melissa: Awesome, thank you so much, Stephen. This has been fantastic. So, I know we’ve tricked all of you by giving you an extra myth for today, and I think you hung around long enough that you all deserve a treat. So, a treat from Sparkroom to you is that everyone who attended our webinar today will be sent a link to sign up for a free SEO audit. And SEO can be tricky, but our experts here at Sparkroom led by Stephen, they can help you reach such amazing results. Really, it’s scary. So, thank you so much for joining us again today.
We look forward to having you at our next webinar. And if you’d like to snag a free SEO audit of your website, feel free to reach out to us at (877) 423-1366, or by email at email@example.com. Thank you, everyone. Have a great day, and a very happy Halloween.