Is it bad of me as a search person to say Googling it isn’t enough? Sometimes it helps to talk to people who know more than you. Here’s a guide to everything I learned about B2B SEO from select speakers at Pubcon Austin 2020.
Even Google makes mistakes
Webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes delivered the opening keynote about what’s new with Google – and some of the issues the search giant faced deserve a dumpster fire gif.
In spring of 2019, Google lost sections of its index. Gulp. Although it’s not clear which types of sites were affected, this is a reminder for all of us to use Google Search Console regularly and investigate any sudden drops in traffic. Sometimes it’s not the result of a core algorithm update, but a
Unrelated to this indexation issue, the Google News algorithm wasn’t picking up new content, leaving people to get their news from Facebook. Double-gulp.
…but they released awesome new features
2019 wasn’t all doom and gloom for Google’s search products. We also saw the release of new features in Google Search Console. Image reports help us understand which search terms pictures from our sites are ranking for. Enhancements like mobile usability and breadcrumbs offer actionable insights into what to fix on which pages, so you can track your progress over time.
SEOs note how quickly everything changes in our industry, but some elements of the web have been the same for decades. Such was the case with robots.txt, which hadn’t been standardized or even changed since well before the Millennium. So Google and the other major search engines got together to standardize robots.txt. Lots of sites were misusing noindex, so it is now a ranking “hint” rather than an absolute directive. The nofollow attribute was also a focus for Google in 2019, with 2 new rel= attributes released:
Rel= sponsored indicates sponsored content
Rel=ugc for user-generated content
Perhaps the biggest announcement from Google for content creators came in late October with the launch of BERT. BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations, lets Google consider words in context instead of one-by-one. Right away, SEO experts everywhere started wondering how to optimize for BERT. Google hasn’t provided any direction on this – but Gary joked that this may come in 2020. Optimizing for BERT isn’t a thing, folks. Keep your wallets closed to anyone who claims to know how to optimize for BERT and step up your writing game, instead.
SEO Whales: Inside some of America’s largest companies – Keith Goode, Sr. SEO Strategist at IBM
Global companies are a bit like whales: Slow, intelligent, powerful, and impactful.
IBM has over 300,000 employees globally. In the words of one of its senior SEO strategists Keith Goode, that is “the population of Iceland having the power to sink your website.” Global companies sink or swim together. But how?
You don’t get to be a behemoth brand by doing things the way they’ve always been done. Innovation becomes brand equity, then brand equity becomes links. Start by telling stories about your products on your website as blog posts, news releases, and case studies. Leverage your brand equity to get links to those pages. Use PR to get more attention to how your advances in technology relate to current events from an angle that speaks to broader human concerns. In IBM’s case, the non-toxic battery was newsworthy because of safety and sustainability. The links come naturally as a result.
For all the unique benefits of working with a global brand that drives innovation, the biggest challenges are the product of being a big group of humans. There’s corporate myopia: The belief that because we’re a big company, everyone already thinks we’re important. And there’s politics. There’s the “hurry up and wait” nature of getting executive buy-in for important decisions.
What can you do to run a best-in-class SEO program if you work at a company like this? First, democratize SEO knowledge. And, no – that doesn’t mean all your engineers and content creators should learn SEO. SEO is a highly specialized skillset, and you must hire for it. Make sure people know about your SEO team. Market your SEO specialists internally by introducing them to the departments. Publish living wikis about how to engage the SEO team for projects. Then, your team can get to the real work of educating content creators about common SEO pitfalls like
- Creating vague or unclear content
- Using too many branded terms
- Not using enough customer language
- Writing with jargon instead of approachable language (for a non-technical audience)
- Making code changes without proper review
The bottom line: Your whole marketing organization needs to align on SEO. SEO affects everything. Everything affects SEO.
An actionable way to inclusive marketing – Purna Virji
In 2020 and beyond, marketing to a diverse audience isn’t an aspirational value – it’s a must for your brand’s growth and reputation. Web searches for “diversity and inclusion” have climbed steadily over the last 5 years, and if your business isn’t actively including diverse groups of people, you are passively excluding them.
You can start designing your marketing collateral around 4 categories of disability:
Microsoft’s own Adaptive Xbox Controller is a great example of this
Whose voice is missing from your products? Leverage dynamic search ads to uncover which search terms drive traffic to your site, and compare that against your content.
Is your marketing collateral accessible?
One-handed navigation benefits people who have temporary or permanent disabilities that limit the use of their hands and arms. New parents are often holding their babies while using a website. If your site requires lots of searching, but voice search isn’t supported, you may have an opportunity to design more inclusively.
Bottom line: “When you design for the edge, you design for all.”
Advanced auditing: SEO and Social – Bill Hartzer, Michelle Dvorak-Held
A lot of things can go wrong with a website, and you’ll need to get some thing right to run a successful SEO program:
- Use Google Search Console to verify the HTTPS version of your site, especially if you do any ecommerce
- Update your Analytics settings to HTTPS
- Audit your site for duplicate content. For smaller sites, SiteLiner is effective
- Map out your internal link structure. Can most pages be navigated to? If not, why not?
- Identify site structure issues using SiteBulb so you can build content clusters around topics
- Analyze your server log files to uncover orphan content and understand how search engines use your site
- Did your last SEO get you shady links? Majestic helps you find untrustworthy links
- Peek at your top queries in Google Search Console to understand which pages Google thinks are the most important
- Review your knowledge graph entry to understand what Google thinks is similar to your brand
- Find out if Google has indexed any subdomains that aren’t customer facing by searching “site:yourbrand.com -www.yourbrand.com”
With 25% of Millennials starting their searches on social media, you need to get your channels in order to maximize the ROI of your content.
- Set goals so you know what to do. Do you want to build followers to your new brand, or do you want to convert your following into an engaged customer base?
- Ask about any previous bans or strikes from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or any other channel
- Did a bunch of people just unsubscribe from your list or account? Create a custom audience and advertise to them
- 97% of Pinterest searches are unbranded, so create content that speaks to searchable topics. Work with an SEO specialist to understand what your audience is searching for on Pinterest
- Use Twitter for PR research and customer service
- Add 11-20 hashtags to each of your Instagram posts and Pins
- Record 15-30 second videos for Pinterest pins and Instagram stories
- Advertise on Pinterest, and your ads become evergreen content after users Pin them
Building a Discoverability Powerhouse – Heather Physioc
Too often, functions in large marketing organizations are siloed even when they could work together. For example, some agencies sell PPC and SEO to the same client without ever talking about landing page optimization. This represents an immature approach to making your brand more findable.
However, when you take an interdisciplinary approach that leverages the complementarity of your strategies, you uncover new and evolved capabilities in your search program!
|Saying “we collaborate” but not doing it||$$$||Create content briefs|
|Risk of slowness||SERP domination||Connect teams & announce change quickly|
|Balancing group identity with individual autonomy||Speed & scale||Implement change at tension points|
|Negotiating roles & defending turf||Culture of knowledge sharing||Let stakeholders decide their processes|
|Merging processes||Vulnerability & honesty||Change 1 thing at a time|
|Burnout from change fatigue||Whole team meets single objective||Cross-train to build advocacy – NOT to do each other’s jobs|
|New capabilities as a team|
Create a culture of collaboration to secure your competitive edge.
- Report and recommend together instead of throwing a PowerPoint deck over the fence at the last minute
- Schedule (and keep!) monthly account strategy sessions to align on broader goals
- Build a networked team that can spin off to tackle specific projects together
- Create a culture of immediate, honest, transparent feedback
- Market your collaborative successes by creating internal case studies. Float these success stories up in the org!
- Sit together whenever possible. Ask each other questions out loud and use Teams or Slack to get to know each other better – especially if you have remote teams.
Neuro-conversion: Sell more and spend less – Roger B. Dooley
Do more with less by eliminating friction. Friction = work that adds no value. It’s much easier to identify friction in other businesses than with our own. For example, you might think your ecommerce checkout experience is easy because it’s “just 3 steps.” Well, if it’s 3 pages of form filling and check boxes, you could be tiring your customers with 28 steps. The moral of the story? Do less work. Make more money.
This isn’t a cohesive list of everything I took away from this jam-packed one-day conference, but the experience was time and money well-spent!