"Can SEO please stop changing?!" you scream. "No," the universe snickers. Wrap your noggin around the latest state of SEO with industry experts Stacy Jackson, Jacob Warwick and Jesse Teske.
In a recent post, Jacob Warwick discussed evergreen content that ranks high and drives traffic. We collaborated with him to produce a content checklist and were shocked to find that most questions we received were around SEO.
So a few weeks ago we sat down with Stacy Jackson, Jacob Warwick and Jesse Teske to discuss all things SEO. These three industry experts dive into best practices, tips and tricks. In the following conversation, we discuss:
- What components of an article are absolutely essential for ranking
- Insights into links, how to use them
- Risks vs. benefits of SEO
- How multimedia impacts SEO and more
Stacy Jackson (@Stacy_Jax)
Jackson Marketing Services
Jacob Warwick (@JacobWarwick)
Jesse Teske (@JesseTeske)
What components of the article are absolutely essential for rankings?
Stacy: Focus keywords. Research is the most important step. Just going with your gut on what you think the right keywords are may lead you to produce content that is not productive. Might be a great post. Might even rank well. But, it will not necessarily be meaningful to your site’s/business’s objectives.
That’s a bit more of a marketing perspective than writer’s, maybe.
While marketers should provide keyword guidance, writers should understand how to conduct their own research.
Jacob: Also, writers can expand on keywords, but only if it fits the theme. SEO isn’t so black and white. Here is the thing about SEO: You need the writer and the SEO on the same page.
Where does meta description fall? Should this responsibility rest with the editor or with the writer?
Jacob: The skills overlap, but you need them both to be most successful.
Are expectations the same for subject matter experts and generalists when it comes to SEO?
Jacob: SEO specialist vs. technical specialist. A subject matter expert should understand all facets. The problem is, especially in the marketing space, people like to talk a big game but can’t back it up; thus, devaluing the term “SME.”
Ok, so if you hired a generalist, would you expect them to understand your Keywords and would you allow them to stray from what you give them?
Jacob: I would not.
Stacy: Marketer = strategist from a brand perspective. SEO = strategist from the search perspective. And writer = storyteller who writes to achieve corp. goals using the guidance of the SEO to reach those goals?
Takeaway: Focus keywords are a must for everyone involved with the content process. Most writers should, at the very least, have a basic understanding of keywords. Because of this, writers can be given some flexibility with these keywords to make the article natural and more interesting.
What do you do if a client asks you not to link out to other publications?
Jacob: This is common. Typically, I try to manage expectations and let them know the benefits of linking out to other “QUALITY” resources. But it’s in the same realm, I always yield to the editor. I try not to carry pride into my resources. Ultimately it’s the clients choice.
Stacy: Do these requests come from a fear of Penguin and other scary animal algorithm updates?
Jesse: Penguin these days is really about Google ignoring manipulative links more than penalizing a site.
Can you go a little deeper with that, Jesse? What do you mean by manipulative links?
Jesse: If you’re placing content with links just for a backlink, that’d be manipulative.
If your industry is CRMs, and your placing content about your CRM on a site about sports with no context about CRMs, that’s manipulative and not doing any good. It’s not driving any traffic to your site and not in a relative niche. Yes. Link stuffing.
But if you were posting about your CRM on a blog for sports agents about how to manage their clients…That would be fair.
You can usually do a quick “sniff test” to determine if the link is good. Is it relevant? Are there links to non-relevant sites? Is updated regularly? Quality of content?
Takeaway: As a writer, manage expectations when asked to not link out to other publications. The inverse is true if asked to add too many, unnatural links. As a rule of thumb, don’t try to manipulate your audience. Instead, help your audience.
How does multimedia impact SEO? What can be done to ensure optimization?
Jesse: Multimedia is going to have a good impact on SEO when you can optimize your images with alt tags, file names, and size.
Same goes with videos.
Multimedia, especially videos, are going to help increase dwell time and engagement and increase the possibility of the page being shared on networks.
Takeaway: Multimedia naturally increases time on page as well as engagement. In a recent data study, we found multimedia does increase social shares and overall engagement.
Stacy: With multimedia, do you need to worry about (or ensure your SEO worries about) using schema or some other sort of markup to get the most from the use of it?
Jesse: I would recommend keeping up to date with Schema and using the appropriate markup. It can help land featured snippets.
Jacob: Schema data helps you clean up.
Jesse: Aside from just structured data on your multimedia, there are some various structured data markups you can use on the phrases and keywords to help rank.
Stacy: With Google AMP, etc., do any of these SEO issues go out the window? I guess AMP is really just a mobile concern, but mobile is how many people conduct searches now.
Jesse: None of these issues really go away, since we’ve discussed content and links, which are all the same whether you’re on desktop or mobile.
Do you have to write differently for new technology? How does AI and Bot tech affect SEO?
Jesse: It’s really going to depend on your industry, and I think that’s still shaking out. Featured snippets are often what get read by Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant. So if you’re ranking there, you should be safe. But how do you know you touched someone?
Do you think people will ask Siri a question and be satisfied with the response they get to a complex question?
Jesse: Likely not. And they’ll wait till later, when they’re on a desktop or tablet to do further research.
If you’re shopping or comparing services… hard to do with a voice telling you without some type of visual.
If you’re asking “what is a”, “how to…”, directions, or “near me” questions. Those should be satisfying. But more complex… I have yet to be satisfied with Google for those.
Takeaway: We’re still on the forefront of bot and AI tech, but a great strategy for now is to target Featured Snippets.
As a marketer, what do you need your writers to know?
Stacy: Marketers need to help writers understand who the audience is and the goals for a piece of content. If the marketer can connect you with other internal SMEs, that is great. With a new client that serves verticals I’ve never worked in before, this has been very helpful. Especially getting to speak with the sales reps and hearing what they think client problems are.
So personas are imperative.
As a writer, what other things are important to know about SEO?
Jesse: From an SEO perspective, the content does need to be natural, but you have to use keywords. I know there are examples out there where content doesn’t rank without keywords, and Hummingbird, and this and that… But keywords still work. Semantic keywords. Keep it real. Keep it natural, and it’s going to work for the writer and going to work for SEO.
How does distribution play into all of this?
Jesse: Distribution will play a role in ranking. Social, PR, and link building. Organic results take time. So publishing a blog post and expecting results immediately from organic is unrealistic. That’s where your distribution strategy helps and brings in that initial burst of traffic, social shares, etc., which then can help speed up the time it takes to rank.
Do you expect writers to help distribute?
Jesse: If the writer is a thought leader and influencer, then that should be part of it. And even then, a writer should be promoting their own content via preferred social mediums and connecting with people who read/respond.
Takeaway: Writers who understand the foundations of SEO are able to work closer with a brand to reach the desired goals of their clients. Clients/brands/publishers should set expectations up front with focus keywords, personas and other useful information. The more information a writer has, the more successful everyone will be.
SEO is an ever-changing landscape that should be revisited constantly in order to keep a competitive edge for anyone involved in digital content production.
Do you have any follow-up questions? Feel free to comment below or reach out to Stacy, Jacob or Jesse directly. Do you have any tips or tricks? We’d love to know!