SEO Q&A with Ric Rodriguez

SEO Q&A with Ric Rodriguez

Earlier this month, I held a live Q&A session in the UK Digital Marketing LinkedIn group, where award-winning search marketer, Ric Rodriguez answered your questions about SEO.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question. :-)

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Q - What's the ONE thing action that has the most impact on your site's SEO?

A - It’s hard to nail things down to ‘one key action’, but I always say the most important elements revolve around making a technically solid platform (so one that’s fast, not blocked and where the information is easy to understand), and a genuinely useful site for your audience - everything else will follow.

Q - Can you tell us how Google Jobs is changing things? And will it negatively affect job boards like Indeed, TotalJobs, etc....?

A - I feel it’ll have the same impact as when Google launched flight comparison / hotel services. It gives users another option that may result in ‘less clicks’ to what they need in search; but people trust brands, and if an app is better it doesn’t mean they’ll stray. Also, given how ubiquitous LinkedIn has become in business, I’m not calling it the end right now.

Q - Is there anything recruitment firms should be doing to harness this new feature, or does it naturally just ‘kick in’?

A - It is a bit of a ‘see what happens’ type affair, but there are a few things you can do:

  • Make sure your content is marked up with Job Posting structured data:

  • Make sure your site can be easily crawled - and often

  • Make sure you keep your listings up to date (if they’re really old, take them down)

  • Think about duplicate content. If you’re posting the same job multiple times, try to mitigate the impact of any duplication using canonical tags, if this is possible.

Q - Several of my clients over the years have wanted to do their own keyword research. Do you have any tips for them to get the most out of the AdWords Keyword Planner?

A - Everyone has their own way of doing this...

I always start by building a ‘seed list’ of keywords without using the planner.

I put together a list of products, modifiers (e.g., colours, types, price, etc) and join them up together using Excel. This way I’ve got a ‘core’ list of terms I know is relevant (even if no one is searching for them). I run that through Keyword Planner to work out which have search volume, categorise them, and then run the categories through keyword ideas.

This way, you’ve got the terms you know are most relevant to you - and some new ideas you may not have thought about…

Q - I’ve just branched out as a freelancer and I’m about to rebuild my site. I’m hiring an SEO person to help with my site but I don’t have a huge budget. What should I ask them to focus on in the short term to make sure it gets off to a flying start?

A - I’d always listen to their views first, as they’ll be able to spot things right off the bat from an initial look at the site, but as a rule of thumb, a good place to start is with the tech side. It’s also the part where experience can matter the most so having someone on board that’s knowledgeable can be more valuable here.

Once you have a great base, you can look into keyword research (see Q&A above for my approach on this), which will inform the pages you need, your site structure (as you build it out), and how you could target your optimisation for each page.

Q - I found in the US flights market, links seem to be a more important ranking factor than content.

I have run an experiment by improving some already well-ranked pages with nicely crafted content. The content has been live for 3 months.

However, it is still hard to overtake other strong backlinks, apart from crappy content pages. This situation seems to be less common in the UK. Have you ever had an experience like this?

A - I think the key thing here is that every SERP can act differently; there’s not set formula to rank and it’s my personal view that Google considers position based on trillions of data points that it can see. That said, what may be working for your competitors now, particularly if their sites are of low value to users (despite ranking well), doesn’t guarantee them that in perpetuity.

The UK is a smaller market, and generally the key players are well optimised, driving up the overall quality of the SERP and entry to rank. I certainly think the US will catch up, but I feel it’ll be a change over time vs anything sudden

Q -  If you're trying to push your website to rank for keywords that are very broad and generic, and with so much existing competition, what measures can you take to try and ensure it stands a decent chance of ranking well?

Or is it not really within your control?

A - Think more about the ‘long tail’ and less about the specific ‘high value’ head terms to begin with. By doing this, you can start to build up high quality, genuinely useful pages, that your audience will love.

Over time, you’ll grow your trust from search engines and prove you’re worthy of a position on the front page for high value generics.

Key point: Above all, build a site that’s useful for the people you want to target.

Q - What would you expect an 'SEO Copywriter' to offer? I'd expect any copywriter to be familiar with writing for SEO, but perhaps I'm wrong?

A - I don't believe there needs to be difference between "normal copywriting" and "SEO copywriting". Certainly search engines are trying to move us past the days of copy for the sake of it - rewarding well thought out, useful pieces with higher ranking positions.

I think the key things to remember when copywriting for SEO are that:

- Internal links, when appropriate, are still useful for helping crawlers connect your site up.

- You should write in the way your users are searching - although arguably this is less of an SEO thing these days, and more of a UX thing.

- External links are fine, and we shouldn't be afraid of linking out to other sites; just make sure that when you're doing so for "commercial" reasons, you're on the right side of any advertising laws.

That said, I think the difference comes from the ideation side; search data can still be useful for planning content calendars and putting together ideas for pieces that your audience will love (and importantly, share / talk about). But knowing how to use this data isn't a skill set that is exclusively available to search marketers!

There's a difference between using the language of your audience - to be clear, that is ultimately keyword optimisation, but gone about in a manner that's way more subtle - vs creating content that is ‘spammy’ / reads poorly "but is great for SEO".

Q - Is there still a place for directory sites like Yell? Generally, I get the impression that their offering is a bit behind the curve now. I’m also thinking about the fact they offer simple, out-of the-box websites to businesses too.

A - 100%, and in fact, Google uses sites like Yell, Yelp, 192, etc (in fact any site that mentions a brick and mortar location) as part of its local algorithm. Some of it though, comes down to which sites are considered most trustworthy - usually based on the level of moderation that goes into them (e.g., Facebook Maps, Foursquare, etc).

Also, let's not forget - these are still massive, highly powerful sites from an SEO perspective. Google might show map results for "restaurants near me", but there'll still be users that look at the results that show for reviews, opinions - more info that might not be present in the Google My Business / maps results.

(Follow Ric on Twitter, or connect to Ric here.)

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