Here are samples of SEO processes that work from Search Love Boston

Here are samples of SEO processes that work from Search Love Boston

SEO checklists are dead.

Real SEO progress is only found through testable, repeatable SEO processes.

At least that was MY takeaway from Search Love Boston 2016. It was two full days of great sessions that left both me and many of my attendees feeling like our brains were near bursting.

The sessions were full of new data illustrating that (depending on your industry) following an SEO checklist might actually HURT your rankings.

For instance, check out this data from SearchMetrics:

2016 Search Love Boston. Search Metrics. Backlinks.Internal links and rankings

Or this related to having a keyword in your meta title:

Search Love Boston 2016. Search Metrics. Keyword in Title


So what do you do if standard best practices checklists won’t increase your rankings and organic traffic in our highly personalized, machine learning powered algorithms reality of today?

The answer?

Having a repeatable, testing driven, digital marketing process.

It’s critical for modern SEOs to have a process of matching customer insights and personas to our online copy, influencer outreach plans. And then having a repeatable, test driven workflow that evaluates our efforts and strives toward increasing customer conversions.

Luckily many of the speakers shared some of the processes that their teams are using.

Here is my list of the top 7 Stellar SEO Processes that the speakers shared: 

1. A process/framework for content marketing and influencer identification

Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive kicked off the show by speaking the gospel about the power of having structured SEO process. He demonstrated some of SEER’s internal processes which allowed them to more effectively scale their content marketing and outreach efforts.

Grab his content marketing framework here.

2. Changing internal processes for direct tech SEO impact 

Sometimes our SEO deliverables are slowed down by the fact that we rely on development teams to implement our technical suggestions. Simo Ahava provided great tips for how we can directly deploy enhanced markup changes by using GTM.

Grab his tips here.

3. An Integrated Process for PR Success

Britt Klontz from Distilled shared with us how they have been able to drive successful PR coverage for their clients through an integrated PR process. She offered great advice for those who have not previously integrated their processes.

For me, this was a session where I spent most of my time nodding in agreement as my integrated launch of Environmental Working Group’s cell phone radiation report followed the same formula (and was so successful that we lost our servers for 4 days,while still clocking 1.2 million visitors that month).

Here’s the pitching process she outlined:

  1. Determine the hook, timeliness, and whether it’s newsworthy PRIOR to finalizing your content idea.
  2. Find and pre-pitch your influencers. Offer their engagement in draft versions prior to launch.
  3. Make it easy to influencers to share with stock imagery, widgets, draft headlines for them to use, etc.
  4. Research each influencer and customize the pitch to them based on their style, their “beat”, what they like to cover.
  5. Try to find the publications that syndicate to others as that causes a nice ripple effect.
  6. Be helpful for bloggers and reporters and make their job easier.
  7. Time your launch with the influencer’s coverage of your content.

In my experience when working with exclusives (we offered multiple industry exclusives for EWG’s cell phone report) it’s best if you also time your other marketing initiatives to trigger at the same time as the publication/coverage of your content.

As Rand Fishkin mentioned related to how a burst of links can overtake your competition, I have seen that happen a few times for clients. (Though I might urge you to test your server capacity if you think you might get really popular).

4. A process for finding more local customers

Gregg Gifford outlined a variety of local SEO tactics, but also outlined a great process for using Facebook ads to mirror your client’s local target audience and find additional customers using Facebook’s look a like feature.

Here’s the process he outlined:

  • Upload your current email list into Facebook
  • Create a look alike audience or set up your demographic and set a map pin on your competitor’s business.
  • Make sure to do a call now button.
  • Then test your ads to track your conversions.

5. Process for automating keyword research

Paul Shapiro walked through how he’s developed an automated process to do keyword research for his clients.

The setup seems like it might take a bit of time, but Paul assures us that the end result is that you can generate updated keyword research for your clients in 5 minutes.

Check out his keyword research automation process here.

6. Creating a 90 Day workflow to get closer to your customer

 shared with us her firm’s focus on finding a brand’s ultimate mission and purpose (beyond sales) as a formula for generating transparent, engaging content that will resonate with their customers.

She also advocated a workflow – specifically a 90 day driven one that looks like this:

Genuinely's 90 Day Marketing Plan

You’ll notice that baked into the process is evaluating the progress around reaching their client’s target audience by evaluating in their KPIs regularly and re-adjusting their overall marketing strategy.

7. A process for tackling RankBrain

Larry Kim’s presentation was one of my favorites since I’m a HUGE advocate of using as much machine learning software as possible to sharpen your digital marketing campaigns and cut through the algorithmic filters or ensure that your content passes the machine learning tests.

The part of his presentation that stuck with me the most was when he walked through how he believes Google is using RankBrain to test complex and confusing long tail queries. He proposes that RankBrain translates those queries into something that can be used to query Google’s database and then watches to see if the results perform in the “wild” and translations/SERP results that work are noted as “pass” and those that don’t are noted as “fail”. Ultimately he thinks (and I and many other SEOs agree) that Google is looking at CTR as a ranking factor.

Here’s the data that he shared:

Search Love Boston 2016 Larry Kim - Bounce Rate vs. Organic Position

He was encouraging  all of us to monitor our click through rate from search and work to improve our meta titles and descriptions for search click through rate.

Here’s his organic CTR improvement process:

  1.  Determine which are the 10% of your lowest CTR landing pages from Google organic search.
  2. Create 10 new “headlines” (title and meta descriptions) using all we know about great headlines which includes:
    • Pick an emotional trigger
    • Write headline copy from the perspective of one of these personas
    • Slide from Larry Kim's 2016 Search Love Presentation
    • Use this title template commonly used by viral articles:
    • Slide from Larry Kim's 2016 Search Love Presentation
  3. Test those headlines by using the same machine learning that will be “grading” your organic results by running them as ads via Google Adwords. OR if those CTRs are too expensive, you can run them as Facebook ads (and can select your target demo to boot, or use a custom audience off your own email list).
  4. Take the one winning headline and add it to your landing page title and meta (replacing what was originally there).
  5. Wait for Google to crawl and re-index and note the results.

Tools for testing & streamlining your SEO processes

And a round up of Search Love Boston which highlights SEO processes can not be complete without mentioning that Search Metrics also highlighted their A/B testing SEO tool, which obviously gives you a repeatable process to follow to improve your organic results.

Additionally, Moz released their new Keyword Explorer tool which takes what used to be a multi-step, multi-tool process to find and select keywords based on SERP competition and fit and slimmed it down into a process that you can execute with one tool.

Why I’m a geek about process

There were other really great sessions, but now that I’m using my experience recruiting and training search teams to evaluate my client’s internal search processes (and then implementing new workflows and training those teams), it’s the workflows and frameworks that really get me excited.

As search marketing gets more complicated I think repeatable workflows that allow you to integrate and train cross functionally will be the only way to tackle the challenge.

Interested in having me evaluate your internal search marketing process? Contact me for a free consultation and I’ll walk you through my process.

13 ways to build links for an unpopular site

13 ways to build links for an unpopular site

I’m currently developing a link building strategy for a client who is educating the general public on a topic that is controversial, and popular opinion is not in favor of the content that my client produces. However, the content being produced is high quality from experts.

I’m not going to get into a debate about who is right or wrong on the topic, but instead pose the question:

How do you build links when people don’t like you?

Photo of real eggs that are angry at a Cadbury egg

It’s an interesting challenge and it’s not quite the same as link building for boring industries, which is covered by Paddy Moogan and here by John Mcelborough.

It’s more about thinking creatively about how you get get links without ruffling feathers.

So here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Get links from your friends and partners. 

This is the obvious first step and one that this site has tackled well

2. Get press coverage and leverage social media

This client and site have also done a great job of generating moments that were covered by the media. This site is also doing a good job of promoting new content via their supporters in social media.

3. Sponsor or speak at events

This site has also tackled this tactic successfully and continues to find opportunities to participate in events to educate the event attendees (and to garner press coverage and links).

4. Reclaim broken links.

Here’s how to do that:

  • Find links that are pointing to the site, but are resolving into a 404.
  • You find the 404 pages through Google and Bing Webmaster Tools or Screaming Frog
  • Then find the sites linking to those pages (by using tools like Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc).
  • Then either 301 redirect the page that was deleted, or outreach to the external webmaster asking them to fix the link.

5. Get links for images that are being shared

Along a similar train of thought, make sure that you’re getting links from people who are “borrowing” your images. There are some great posts about how to do from Adam Melson: Link Opportunities Using Just Your Logo,  and Jason Stinnett: how to use Google’s Search by Image for Link Building

6. Build your internal links

Think about where you can link to your new optimized content from other pages on your site that rank well. Alternatively, perhaps you can link to the content from a new blog post you’re publishing.

7. Get links from sites that mention you, but don’t link.

And here’s how to do that (thanks for the easy URL to lift Rand!)

8. Infographic submission.

If you have infographics on your site you can submit them to these directories., or this list here.

9. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content

  • Use the native social media sharing buttons on your content
  • Incorporate “Tweet This” links into your data driven content.
  • Make sure your infographics have easy embed codes.

10. Check backlink profiles of any sites on your side of the issue to find link opportunities.

11. Answer Questions on Yahoo Answers or Quora or WikiAnswers

Depending on your client you’ll need to answer transparently as the website brand owner and be careful of ruffling feathers while doing so.

12. Develop relationships with your supportive reporters and bloggers

And make sure to send them a note when you publish new interesting content…

13. Utilize your email list (if you have one) and make it easy for your email supporters to share.

Make sure to ask them in your email newsletters. It’s amazing what kind of lift you have when you put a clear ask to share in a post or email!

Do you have any other ideas? Have you had to build links for sites in unpopular categories?

Please let me know what white hat tactics you’ve used in the comments below.

Influencing Google’s Knowledge Graph: a planning guide

Influencing Google’s Knowledge Graph: a planning guide

Getting a Knowledge Graph listing for a client would be any SEO’s dream! Just look at the real estate you can capture (all of the content on the right is the “Knowledge Box”:

Screenshot Bill Gates Knowledge Graph

The Knowledge Graph box is created by Google from sources like Freebase, Wikipedia, markups, CIA WorldFactbook, and other semantic databases.

Interested in learning more? I’d also encourage you to download the guide I’ve been quoted in by Propecta here.

While Freebase is being shut down by March, you can still influence getting a potential Knowledge Box listing by having an editor update your information in Wikipedia, adding schema markups to your site, and participating in Google+.

Enjoy the guide!