At SEMrush, we are big fans of online events, and we’ve tried different formats: webinars, roundtables, Blab chats. But this time, we decided to try something completely new and bring online and offline formats together.
We co-hosted a live streaming of the Melbourne SEO Meetup with four amazing experts speaking on different SEO topics. That way, people who couldn’t visit Australia were able to tune in to the event online, at the same time meetup attendees got the chance to listen to British expert Tim Capper.
You can watch the whole meetup here, and for this post I’ve collected the most interesting tips shared by experts and their answers to audience questions.
1. You won't get a featured answer until you're on the first page.
Basically, to get a featured answer you have to state the question on the page – explicitly or implicitly – and answer the question. So how do you find out if your site could potentially rank for a featured answer? The way recommended by Jim: go into Google Search Console, then go into Search Analytics and filter your queries using "how" and "what." Jim claims that to be able to get a featured answer, you have to be present on the first page organically. So aim to get on the first page, and don't worry if this is going to help you get featured answers, because until you're there, you won’t be able to jump in for featured answers anyway.
2. Being at first page doesn't guarantee being in featured answers.
Jim shared the case of Problogger’s trying to get the featured answer “make money blogging.” The targeted page was ranking number one organically, and, normally, once you're number one for something, you tend not to touch it. You don't tend to change anything because you're not going to get any higher. But, the featured answer can attract more attention than the first position, and this page still did not have the featured answer. So Jim had to rewrite the page, keeping all the existing ranking elements and document structures and adding the question and the answer for “make money blogging.”
3. Google decides which image to choose to display in featured answers.
The interesting thing is, Google did not choose the main image on the page to show in the featured answer. This is the featured image with numbered lists on it; the URL includes keyword “Problogger” and image dimensions:
And this picture was chosen by Google to show in the featured answer, probably because it considered this image to be more relevant:
If I'm going to get my image in a featured answer, how do I do that if there's no text in the image?
Jim: File name is one way to do it, also alt text and context. If you can get an image ranked number one organically in image search for a phrase, you've got an awesome chance of getting it into the featured answer.
Basically, the image in the featured answer is just one of the images taken from that article, but one could try and put his own image there. But, if Google decides there's an image more relevant to the search, it will show this image – even if it is from another domain.
Is it a better idea to try to push someone out of the featured answer and grab it yourself, or try to get one where there is none?
Jim: The latter is almost impossible, as you cannot know whether Google's going to choose to show a featured answer – Google decides that. Pushing someone out of the featured answer is possible, as a lot of sites are already appearing in Google featured answers and don't realize it. So doing that search in your Google Search Console in Search Analytics will help you find some of those pages.
Do you think your chance of having featured answers is increased by strong domain authority?
Jim: I've seen some of our clients that don't have strong domain authority get featured answers. So, no, I think all comes into it because you're already ranking on page one, so that pre-qualifies you as having strong domain authority.
Can you control what shows up in the featured answer with the use of heading tags?
Jim: No. I don't think you can, but I think you can influence the layout with that. Just create the piece of content for you audience;don't think about SEO, just rely on good document structure. Use an H1, use an H2, use an H3, use some images, use some captions, use some alt tags. It's about getting ranked organically, and the featured answer is about asking and answering questions.
I'm from country X. If I want to rank my website in country Y, what are the proper steps I should follow?
Jim: You could just have a single domain, and, for the other countrie, you do some different language pages. The other way is to register a domain in every country and maintain a site in every country. Some people will tell you that’s duplicate content, but it won't affect you if it's in different countries. If it's a .com vs. a country code, just make sure your .com is in Google Search Console for the country that you are targeting.
1. Product canonicals and parameters
It often happens on an e-commerce site that one product can be seen or found through different sections within this site.
Here we see one product appearing in different places. The rel-”canonical” tag is an essential tag that you place on your product pages to tell a search engine which page is the one preferred for the product.
How you can check this:
- Manually, by clicking “View source” and checking for a canonical in
- Use SEMrush - it will be displayed as duplicate pages
- Use Google Search Console - it will also show you if you have duplicated pages
2. Crawl errors and redirects
If you have discontinued a product on your e-commerce site and it's no longer available, and you've taken it off your site, it will generally become a 404 page. If this page doesn't have any equity, its being a 404 is not a problem. You can have a million 404 pages if, for example, you’ve changed your entire product line and there wasn't an equity for it. However, before 404-ing a page, it's always worth checking if it makes sense to redirect it to the next available page or to the page with best product.
3) SEO quick wins
Structured data markup
Obviously for an e-commerce site you need to have structured data on your product page. You could be using local business markup. Look at every single section on your site and see how you can use structured data to enhance information provided to search engines.
Having a blog on your main domain (not a separate one) is ideal for any e-commerce site . That way, you can provide additional useful information for your customers. You can target longer-tailed queried moments of intent for your customers: “I want to buy…”, “Where do I buy…”, “How do I buy…”. And of course, you can provide in-depth information about a product using video, images, etc., and target your answer queries.
Google My Business
If you have a physical address, incorporating Google My Business into your site is certainly worth your while. You can also tie it in with your AdWords account by adding in your local extensions.
Seasonal Landing Pages
A lot of e-commerce sites have landing pages dedicated to seasonal events and holidays – Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc. When a particular season is over, website owners tend to 404 that corresponding page until the next season; however, by doing so, they're losing a lot of equity over the years.
Tim’s advice: you could take the seasonal page out of the actual navigation itself, but don't take it down. Simply re-design the page to show what you’re planning to do next year. Tell the user “these products are going to be launched next Christmas or Mother's Day,” and “this is when they will be available.”
If a business doesn’t have a physical address, is it possible to create a Google My Business page?
Tim: Google tells us almost 62 percent of users are looking for some form of physical location within an actual e-commerce site. But if your business is only online, you may not be able to use a Google business page. If you have Click and Collect areas, you can create location data points for them. Also, you can create landing pages for your distributors or wholesalers, for example: “this store in Sydney is stocking that product,” “this store in Melbourne at this address is stocking our product”, etc. Although you can't have a business page for that, you're still building up physical data points for search engines to understand.
What is considered a good score for page speed? Same with image titles and alt texts if, for example, an audit shows hundreds or thousands of issues? How important are both of these things?
Tim: It all depends on what your actual site is capable of. And I can't say whether you want to be aiming for 70 out of 100, or 80 out of 100, or 100 out of 100. It all depends on if you have control over your actual platform. When you’re bound by the constraints of your platform you’re using, then 80 out of 100 might be the best you can get.
Regarding images titles and alt text. Same again - if SEMrush shows you've got 50,000 images without alt attributes, but you can't actually add them to your CMS, then you need to make sure that your titles are descriptive.
If you're targeting a worldwide audience, ideally, you should have a localized TLD, but localizing that much content seems like a lot of work. Is it better to have one .com domain with really good content - a blog, etc, or various TLDs with average content?
Tim: If you're talking worldwide, we're already talking different languages. You certainly want to be using hreflang when you start translating your website into Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Czech and so on. You don't need to have different domains, but you could obviously use hreflang within country specific sub-domains as such. But certainly if you're going to stick to one TLD, you still need to provide information in that country's language, whether that’s on a sub-domain or an extension of the domain but in \jp and \ch and you need to obviously handle those properly with hreflang.
1. Optimize your search snippet like an ad.
PPC guys spend their time focusing on crafting the best message to get customers’ attention. So here is a couple of advice how to optimize your search snippet like an ad.
- Be specific: include dollar signs, include numbers, volumes, values.
- Don't forget your keyword, obviously.
- Include a call to action.
- Display your URL as a part of your copy.
- Ad formatting is important. There are many, many different ways you can tweak your meta description and your titles to be a bit more appealing.
- Humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so incliuding pictures on your snippets is truly valuable.
- Don't talk about features, talk about the benefits for your users.
- Stand out from your competition. If every single one of your competitors is saying the same the same thing about their product, maybe try something different.
2. Keep your landing page simple.
It's one page, one purpose, one cluster of words, and one best answer. If you have different sets of pages ranking for the same term, review them all to avoid any cannibalization amongst different pages trying to rank for the same term.
Your landing page should offer the best answer to users’ queries. It shouldn’t be just a blurb of text with a couple of images and video, but a real solution to users’ problems. Provide tools, checklists, best techniques and things like that. As Frederic says, “You're a pain killer, you're aspirin, or even better – you are a narcotic, a tool that they're going to start using straight from the get-go; they’re going to start getting hooked on your product from there on.”
3. Use internal search data.
Search data tells you where you’re doing a bad job at getting information to people. Frederic advises checking new desktop users and looking at your Total Unique Searches (Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Search), as well as the revenue you’re making for different search terms. He also recommends seeing if there are specific search terms that people are searching for once they're active on your website that you have not yet ranked for.
Also, you can check Search Terms report and look at the percentage of exits of these customers for the terms they were looking for.
Why do you recommend putting your URL in the snippet of your page?
Frederic: You want consider your URL as part of your ad copy. So, very similar to Google AdWords, you want to make sure that it has the right format, because this is a visible element of your SERPS. If your URL doesn't provide any information to your users, it's really useless. The way your URL is displayed in SERPs should actually help people make a decision.
What is the best way to find purchase-related keywords people are ready to bid on?
Frederic: AdWords helps you test that; you can test those queries and you can see right down to that keyword how people are reacting. You see how much conversion you’re getting and how much money you can make without the keywords. I wouldn't recommend focusing on one keyword. If you do, you’ll end up over-optimizating for that keyword, and that very quickly becomes quite obvious to search engines.
I have X amount of money. How can I spend it to get a better ROI?
Frederic: Obviously that'll depend on the product you're selling, your targeted audience, where these people are, and how your site was designed. If you want to go fast and test these things quickly, things like AdWords and Facebook campaigns are the best to really gain traction. Anyway, it's a test-and-learn process, so experiment. See what works and what doesn't.
My suppliers don’t allow me to advertise prices on my product pages. Therefore, I can’t have a typical “add to cart” CTA, and those pages have a high bounce rate. Any suggestions other than just a “contact form?” It seems people hate filling in boring forms.
Frederic: The thing I’d do is reduce the form to the very minimum. Just ask for their email and phone number and say, “We'll get back to you in X amount of time.” You want to do what is called progressive profiling, where you take the minimum amount of information to start with and then you get more information out of that.
1. Choose your WordPress theme wisely.
Think wisely before choosing a WordPress theme. A lot of people pick a theme simply because of its style and layout, but there’s a lot more to it. Your website’s performance, accessibility and usability all depend on the theme you select, so if you’re planning a new project or revamping an existing WP site, take the extra time to choose the best theme.
2. WordPress SEO for Yoast.
WordPress SEO for Yoast is the most popular WP plugin. Almost every marketer using WordPress knows, that Yoast gives you a bit of content analysis, checks your keywords and helps you optimize your content and make it more relevant for the end user.
Some tools that SEOs should use on top of Yoast’s basic functionality:
Bulk Editor - a file editor that lets you change things like your Robots.txt or your .htaccess. It also saves you time when you have to load each page and make changes. Bulk Editor allows you make to these changes on one screen in a brief session, and it's a big time saver.
Yoast SEO Quick Edit - another huge time saver when you working on larger sites. It allows you to change the keywords your focusing on as well as your meta descriptions right from the list view, without going into the Bulk Editor.
3. WordPress Plugins you should try.
Even though Yoast can handle the majority of the SEO functionality for WordPress, there's a couple of other plugins that will come in handy. But never install a plugin just for the sake of it, and make sure to run it on your test website before launching it on your or your public client’s website.
Structured Data Testing Tool: Google shows hentry error, but when running a live test, it shows “all good.” Is this a bug or was it seen before?
Chris: If you look at some of the actual results and perform tests, you'll see that Google gets some results that have errors or warnings. The first thing that I recommend is to go get URLs where you see these snippets, put them in the Testing Tool and see what your results are. And you'll notice that they're not all green ticks.
How do you handle tags and categories in a WordPress blog?
Chris: I think you hear a lot of people talk about not showing or restricting or blocking, but that's because tags and category pages can be, traditionally, very thin pages. So I'll share some extra stuff I've got on this, because I think there's no right way to handle it. But, I think if you've got categories they're already quite well defined, they're relevant, they're targeted, so it's worth putting the extra work in. It depends on the type of site and whether you use one platform or another, and one tag maker or another. It’s also a matter of how much content you have and how it is categorized.
That's it! Hope you dicovered some helpful tips that you can use in your work.
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