Australian Search Marketing Academy (ASMA) - WordPress Topics and Structure
- The Current State of SEO and the Importance of Quality
- How Website Structure and Organization Impacts Quality
- Should You Change URLs if Your Website is Already Ranking?
- The Usefulness of Breadcrumbs for Website Structure
- Figuring Out a Good Website Structure from Your Competitors
- Internal Links Are Vital for Website Structure
- Evaluate URL Changes on a Case-by-Case Basis
- Using Categories and Tags in WordPress
- How Themes and Plugins Interfere with WordPress Taxonomy
- Do Breadcrumbs Impact SERP Rankings?
- Key Takeaways on WordPress Topics and Structure
Peter Mead: Hi, it's Peter Mead and welcome to the Australian Search Marketing Academy. Today I'm really excited. The topic, which is the name of the Webinar, is WordPress: Topics and Structure. Let me introduce Arsen. Arsen has a wealth of knowledge in WordPress. He's the founder of TopHatRank and he's based in Los Angeles. He's been prominent in the SEO community for years.
I met Arsen in Finland and since then I've been involved in several conversations and some of the things that he says really stuck in my mind about the way to do SEO. Welcome. Arsen. Thank you for joining us. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. How are you today?
Arsen: Los Angeles is good. We're having nice sunny days, so a good change, but most of the time we are sunny here in Los Angeles.
Peter Mead: Thank you so much. I'm just going to introduce Jine. Jine is going to be co-hosting with me today. Jine understands the Australian search landscape being based in Melbourne, a Digital Search Manager at REA Group and she'll be joining as a guest expert alongside me. Welcome, Jine. Thank you so much for joining.
This is all about WordPress information architecture and topic organization. I have read a lot and thought about this a lot, so I'll be really, really interested Arsen, what's your take on this? Can you give us the intro? How should we think about the start?
Arsen: Yeah. I'll cover a lot of this obviously in my talk about...we do a lot of audits. We work with a lot of blogs.
What's we're seeing as we're doing this cleanup is a lot of reorganization of pages and how they relate to each other. Through that, we've been seeing a lot of really good responses...in terms of like the increases in rankings.
We started noticing that organizing and really matching query intent and providing a place that matches every single aspect of your buyer’s or reader’s journey and the queries that they might perform during that decision process; being able to match that with content and pages on your site has become much more important. We'll cover all of this in my talk.
Peter Mead: Terrific. Sounds amazing. Okay, Arsen. We're ready if you want to start your presentation.
Arsen: Okay, perfect. Well, Peter has already introduced me. I am an SEO, and I do a lot of audits. I also run a digital marketing agency out of Los Angeles. We work with a lot of really cool brands, and we specialize in digital marketing techniques for brands of all sizes. We are also award winners.
The Current State of SEO and the Importance of Quality
Let me change the mood here a little bit and let's get into the current state of SEO. We've all seen this, a tweet from Danny, back in March of 2018 when the updates started rolling out. He sets the tone for us with us. That they “released a broad core update and we do these routinely several times per year.”
It was a little bit more than several times per year, we have updates, March, April, May, July August, and what we're noticing here is a recurring theme is we're noticing that a lot of these updates have to do with quality.
Then when we thought, hey, go take a break: Google didn't and they are serving up another set of updates. September, October, November, December, January, February, March and even now in April, we're seeing updates again and again; quality, quality, quality, quality.
A lot of the sites that we work with that came to us after these updates. Take a look at this: this is a February, March drop-off, look at that huge drop-off. This reflects in their traffic.
Jine: The April update is more around not just quality but also the relevancy of the content. The September update is more about quality, I think.
Arsen: Absolutely, Jine, so like what you were saying, in Google's eyes quality means relevance. The relevance at the same time really means matching a query and its intent. For me and for us, for our team, out of leaving 2018 and going into 2019, we are looking at things a little bit differently. We're looking at things from a perspective of how well are we accommodating not only the query but also the intent of why the query is being performed.
How Website Structure and Organization Impacts Quality
If quality is relevance, relevance is matching that query. And to better explain this, we can take a look at this. If I was to say, Jine, find a 16-millimeter red marble, which one left or right, would be easier for you to do? Things are organized. The right one is a better environment for you as a user. We can safely assume that that applies to search engines. Typically with WordPress and that's what we're talking about, WordPress organization and structure...most of the time we see this flat structure/architecture to a site where a lot of the posts live in the root of the site.
When we start organizing topics, and websites and creating this siloed structure, we start creating an environment where things are a little bit more organized and make much more sense to users and search engines.
Now when we start organizing things into content groupings or theming or siloing or informational hubs, whatever you want to call them. If we're creating organization to this, then it starts to make a little bit more sense. We know that all of our 14-millimeter blue marbles are in the blue marble silo and 16-millimeter red marbles are in the red marble silo and so on and so forth.
We're creating organizational paths using the URLs. To search engines and to users, as they look at this is, it’s showing these 14-millimeter marbles are red marbles. They're not blue, they're not green. When we take on a client and we start reorganizing things, we start cleaning or deoptimizing URLs. In this slide, I'm showing you what the URL path is.
When properly applied, the breadcrumbs are sending their topical signal for each page to Google while the URL paths, they'll be nice and organized, but not over-optimized.
So why does this all matter? The real difference, at least for us, with silo and flat architecture is that with silos you can do content grouping and themeing a little bit easier, you can reinforce a topical focus to show Google this is how much information we have on this topic. It helps with preventing topical confusion.
Should You Change URLs if Your Website is Already Ranking?
But it's not the best thing to do if you're already running a site that's generating traffic...and ranking. Because if you're going to be reorganizing your URLs, you are essentially going to be creating a lot of 301 redirects. Unless we really, really, really do that right, we want to avoid that as much as possible because on a site that's already ranking and the site that's already getting traffic and probably making money. Anytime we're going to 301 redirect one thing to another, it's going to lose its ability to rank.
Peter Mead: I get this a lot where it's so easy for people to just jump in and change the URL and then Yoast or something will do an automatic redirect for them. What I find is people don't understand the impact. They think, oh, it's fine, there's a 301, but what they don't realize this, they have now relocated all of that content to a new URL. So everything's changed. Now the document, Google was rating that previous document, now it needs to go and rate it all over again.
The Usefulness of Breadcrumbs for Website Structure
Arsen: Absolutely. You're essentially waiting for all of that to update and meanwhile, you're missing out on all their traffic. One of the things that we do in-house, we prefer to use breadcrumbs as a way to reorganize topics. Breadcrumbs are essentially what we consider as a secondary signal to your URL-level organization. By properly structuring breadcrumbs so we can show the appropriate relationship between the current page and others above and below the page that we're optimizing. We can show a relationship within the hierarchy.
If you remember this slide from earlier, we created this hierarchy for the red marbles. The same would apply to the silo for blue marbles or whatever. Breadcrumbs... we do a lot of work with them. For us, they're not only important towards the organization, but they also create a really important internal linking structure.
Here we're showing that the marble store breadcrumb path for the red marble URL points to the home page for Peter's Marble store. We're showing that the red marbles are a part of Peter's Marble store. Then on the third level, we're showing that the 14-millimeter red marbles live inside of the red marble (section). We're providing a relationship and hierarchy to this.
Schema Markup when properly applied to your breadcrumbs will create these really, really awesome snippets in search results. Those are a byproduct of the proper markup, that is applied.
Yoast will do this for you, and Yoast will do this in JSON; what I'm showing here is the markup in HTML. If you're not using Yoast, sucks to be you, you should probably look at something that's going to help you with your breadcrumbs. I'm not advocating that you should drop everything and switch to Yoast if you're using whatever another SEO plugin, continue using it. Don't switch. But take a look at other sources of creating breadcrumbs for yourself.
Peter Mead: I agree. It's so easy to do. There's a little bit of code and it's all done.
Arsen: Absolutely. Before you go and start changing stuff around, run one of your posts/pages through the structured data testing tool. Just Google it and search for structured data testing tool and then putting your URL for one of your posts and see if you already have breadcrumbs activated.
A lot of times when we do these audits, we're noticing that WordPress users just go in through Yoast settings and they activate the breadcrumbs, but they never actually implement the breadcrumbs to show on pages.
Inside of Yoast, inside of the settings screen, if you go to breadcrumbs and then you enable them, and all kinds of like preferences. Then also, and this you should probably do with a developer if you're not comfortable doing cold level changes ... Yoast creates breadcrumbs based on how the URL structure is; they will try to mimic the URL.
If you don't have your categories inside your URL, the breadcrumbs will not show that. You will need to do a little bit of optimizing to get that going.
Figuring Out a Good Website Structure from Your Competitors
Understanding how your topics are organized, how your competitors are organizing topics is like super important right now. DynoMapper is one of the tools that I use to create visual sitemaps. At the same time, if you're, obviously if you're using SEMrush or ScreamingFrog, you can crawl your competitor's website to collect as much data as possible, you should these as a part of your competitive analysis.
Here we're essentially trying to extract, organization and how things are structured as far as topics are concerned. If you are using ScreamingFrog, you can use a preview to really get an understanding of how things are organized using folders.
At the same time, as you're looking at that, you can also take a look and try to find the page that is ranking number one, by putting it into ScreamingFrog. You can get an understanding of how that page lives within that architecture. You can now understand what it, what are its relationships to the pages above and below with my hierarchy.
Sometimes you don't have competitors that are organizing things into silos. They're keeping things in the root and they're still ranking. Just like before, if you guys remember, breadcrumbs are essential to this topic organization. Most of the time, 99% of the time, I can guarantee you that if they're ranking in one, two, and three, then they're doing proper organization.
Breadcrumbs can be extracted using custom extraction in ScreamingFrog. In the configuration, you would just click on custom and then extraction. This is really cool I really like using this. I'm not a developer, so a lot of this terminology is foreign to me.
Here you'll see that we wanted to extract how things are organized on the plastic surgery channel. They are also, I think they were that time keeping everything in the root, but they weren't organizing things properly using their breadcrumb architecture. What we did is we wanted to extract, we want it to see for each post how they're categorizing and where they're organizing it.
We're looking at the breadcrumb, the anchor and the URL for each post. This way you can extract your competitor's organization and apply it for yourself.
Internal Links Are Vital for Website Structure
At the same time, internal links are like super, super, super important because internal links also convey a certain amount of signals to help Google and other search engines and users obviously understand how things are organized on your site. Again, they are super important to really understand how things are structured.
When you're looking at your competitors and why they’re ranking for specific keywords and if it's not clear to you by doing all of the above, take a look at their internal linking structure again. Pay close attention to the anchor text. What's the topic? What's the topical signal that's being passed through the anchor text?
At the same time being mindful of the reasonable surfer model, and the reasonable surfer model is essentially Google's way to algorithmically understand which links at which parts of the page should get more priority. Which link is more likely to be clicked.
Basically saying that links in your footer are less likely to get clicked on links in the header or on top of the page or in the body of the page. Our friends at SEMrush also do a really good job; if you are going to use SEMrush to audit your competitor's website, they also give you a really awesome way of understanding which pages on your competitor's website are passing the most internal link rank.
Evaluate URL Changes on a Case-by-Case Basis
Peter Mead: Arsen, just quickly, we've got a question from one of our audience. Tony's asked, "How do you deal with the churn of URLs with a nested folder URL structure. So for example, in category URL, changes will affect all subpages. Moving a page from one category to another will change its URL.
Arsen: Depends on how the URL itself is being written, because you can have a post appearing in categories, but the permalink for the post might not have the category in its path. It's a decision that needs to made on a case by case basis.
You need to really take a look at it from a perspective of, "Hey, is this post currently ranking the way it is? Is it bringing in traffic and does it have backlinks pointing to it?" If the answer is no to both, then feel free to redirect cause you're not going to miss out on much. Then you can create the 301 redirect. In that situation it makes sense.
If that post is already ranking and it's bringing in traffic and it has backlinks, then don't touch it. What's the point? Why try to fix something that's not broken? That's why I give this warning when I say, "Hey, don't start going in there and redirecting things just because you feel like you should redirect them.
We see a lot of food bloggers that we work with, they're constantly updating their, post titles as well as categories. They changed the title of the post and now it changes the slug of the post. Now there's a new URL and then they come back just like, "Oh, my God, I lost all this traffic."
Well, yeah, because you're not number one anymore because the post was ranking number one and now you changed its URL. You didn't redirect. This is a really bad signal. To answer your question, it does need to be a business decision.
Peter Mead: Everything you've explained there says a lot to me about the way that we do SEO, the way that we approach SEO in general. It's going to be that you need to be evaluating things as you're doing them.
Arsen: A lot of things happen on the page level. It's important for us to understand that not all things, just because you organize them into specific silos that they're going to rank. At the same time, we have to be fully aware right now, especially in the last year and then moving into 2019 plus, you don't need to put out 3,600 words of content to rank.
We're looking at how the page is structured. We're looking if this page matches the intent of the query that's being performed. If you're just putting out information, it doesn't really make sense if the intent is not to be informed or to learn something.
What we like to use internally, and I included a link here, is the Web Development extension, for Chrome and they have one for Firefox. What we like to do is we like to, remove CSS and get a look of, at how the page is structured and how the content is presented.
This tool is super important to us is another reason why it's important to us is because it provides a document outline, which for me, if I'm doing things on the run and I'm doing things really fast, this allows me to really understand how things are structured on the page level without having to like dig through all the texts, especially if the page is really long or there's a lot of information on that.
The other thing that you also want to do always is you want to take a look at how, of how the search engine is handling the result for your query. You want to, you want to take a look at this because it will provide not only guidance on how the content on your page should be structured, but also what you should be optimizing towards, right? If the page does have a featured snippet, you want to start structuring your content to accommodate that.
Same thing for results that have local listings in them. We have a client here in Los Angeles that's a multi-location caterer. We also wanted him to show up under the local results. When we started looking at it, we noticed that the type of content Google is ranking or preferring for this type of result are these list-style content pieces. This allowed us to draw from this and to learn from this and to create content on our client's side that will accommodate this.
How Google is positioning content on this page. You don't want to put out pieces of content and say that, hey, here is information or a bunch of content about a specific topic, but that's not what Google is looking for.
Peter Mead: Terrific.
Using Categories and Tags in WordPress
Yes. Thanks so much. Oh, wow. So much information there. Look, I've got questions already. It's actually an ongoing question. I get asked this a lot of times by clients and by just people who want to understand the battle that ensues between topics in between WordPress categories and WordPress tags. How do we resolve this in an effective way? What’s your take on that, Arsen?
Arsen: You want to pick one and stick with it. If you're going to use categories, you want those category archives indexes, whatever you want to call them, you want them to be indexable and crawlable. Then your tags, if you're still going to use tags in conjunction with categories, your tags need to be blocked, because it's really just doesn't make sense for Google to crawl them.
People speak about, the smaller sites, I'm not really concerned about a crawl budget at all. John Mueller came out and said that they're like, they're really not worried about it. Now on larger sites, sites that are million plus pages, I am concerned about crawl budgets.
Peter Mead: Big commerce sites, that kind of thing.
Arsen: Absolutely. Well, also WordPress sites. We deal with some WordPress sites that are in the millions of pages. It totally makes sense to optimize for that. Work from like one particular object or post can belong to multiple categories. At that point, you can start looking at things, "Hey, how do I create a relationship between these two categories in this category? You'd be a subcategory, right, of my parent category."
You can have a post live in multiple categories with only one per permalink to that post and only one category that's showing in the breadcrumb.
How Themes and Plugins Interfere with WordPress Taxonomy
Peter Mead: I've got another follow up question from that. We see a lot of themes and also plugins that they go ahead and they create the custom post types, which then obviously affects the taxonomies. So we see things like, the style, it might be another thing called a style or a location or something like that, which now starts creating more URLs within the taxonomy. Now I guess the question; what if perhaps some of those pages that are on those URLs from your custom post types they're starting to rank?
So they're starting to be appearing in search engine results and but my inclination is to go in and start cleaning up all these extra custom post types. Set a noindex on certain taxonomies. This again, you need to, I guess, is this another case of we need to evaluate everything as we come across it.
Do Breadcrumbs Impact SERP Rankings?
A quick question here. How do breadcrumbs affect rank on Google? So he's just saying he's new to blogging, he's just starting. It's very a beginner, but he wants to know, I guess why I'll interpret the question here a little bit for both of you. Why'd you breadcrumbs rank? What is the thing about that?
Arsen: Breadcrumbs don't rank. I don't think that breadcrumbs are a ranking signal. In my practice, we see that breadcrumbs help with creating the logical organizational, structure to your website. They also help with navigational paths and showing Google that this is the content and overall it just speaks to the quality of. There's plenty of sites that are ranking without breadcrumbs.
But breadcrumbs are a good way to show Google certain aspects of how things are structured, how content is organized and then also showing like how many assets or how much information you have on the specific topic.
Jine: Yeah, I think I really agree with what Arsen said, that breadcrumbs are not a ranking signal, but your site structure is a ranking signal. Like how you actually present your content to Google. That's the ranking signal. So a breadcrumb is actually helping you to present your site structure to Google. To let Google understand your site structure and your content more, which will help you to rank.
Some websites just go without breadcrumbs but they are still ranking maybe because their site structure is already very good, and Google already understands all the site structure and the content for them. But breadcrumbs, we still highly recommend them.
Key Takeaways on WordPress Topics and Structure
Peter Mead: Well, we're heading towards the end of the last few minutes here for Webinar. I'd like to ask you, what is your one minute takeaway for our viewers today? What can you just say if they did nothing else, go ahead and do this?
Jine: I will say maybe not just one thing but few things, but I can summarize in one minute. I think user intent is very important. Your content’s quality and the relevance to the things you want to rank is very, very important. Also your site structure. If you can't really do that on your site URL structure, you use breadcrumbs to be showing your site structure to Google. Also very cool to everyone if you're doing SEO, which is web development, the competitive analysis will actually help you understand your consumers’ user intent.
Peter Mead: Well, thanks so much and I really appreciate you coming on and joining us on the webinar.
So Arsen. What's the one-minute thing? What can we do? What's the best thing for people to do right now?
Arsen: Two things: focus on intent, really understanding why the user is performing that search. Then matching that, making sure that as the user lands on the page. If somebody's searching for something specific and understanding their intent when they land on your page, putting that right at the top and matching that works very well.
I think it was John Mueller who came out and said that "Hey, this content that you're putting at the bottom of your E-commerce pages right at the E-commerce, category pages or your product category pages is useless. We really don't need it." But really we stopped doing that as a practice.
Peter Mead: Well thanks so much; appreciate everything you've done.
Arsen: Sure. TopHat Arsen on Twitter. Then once you have access to my slides they have my email and everything else in there. I'll upload the slides here in a few minutes, and then our friends at SEMrush to decide to distribute that information to you guys? That's how you'll get it.
Peter Mead: Thanks so much. Yes, we need to thank SEMrush for all their support for the community or just doing a fantastic job for all of us, to share the information.