Since my previous article, 6 Secrets to a Successful SEM Career received a great response; I decided to follow up with some more SEM related articles. This article will focus on ways to improve organic search results. This will also be in an interview format. I enjoy interviewing marketing experts, it helps me connect with some of the most talented marketing professionals in the Houston area, and I also get to learn something new every time.
I interviewed Beau Pedraza, he is the departmental head for Forthea's SEO program where he works with people who keep him motivated daily. I was referred to Beau by a Forthea professional. Beau has graciously taken out time from his busy schedule to share some thoughts on organic search in SEM.
YourMBAPurpose.com would like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. My first question is regarding best practices in organic search. Can you describe the do's and don’ts of organic search?
To be honest, this is a tricky subject. The idea of being an ethical SEO, or "White Hat," is a virtue to strive for, but far too often, many tactics are unfairly deemed bad or "Black Hat." The reasons are multifold –fear of Google, misinformation within the SEO community, and a lack of testing. That last part - testing - is what separates a truly talented individual from a good one. It is the ability to take information being disseminated across blogs and think pieces and confirming whether or not that the information is worth anything.
However, it's wise for someone interested in affecting positive and sustainable organic search performance to keep up with the industry changes. One great resource for this is the ever-changing Google Webmaster Guidelines where public-facing Google employees often cite as their source for best practices. Listed below, are some do’s and don’ts:
- Do write great content as if you're writing a college paper. Outline your topic with a central idea, break out a thesaurus, and produce informative content that covers the main idea and the nuances that provide context for search engines and humans alike.
- Do promote your content across all channels. SEO isn't a cure-all, but rather, one piece in a digital marketing engine. Share your posts in Social and Email campaigns, contribute to quality relevant websites and focus on backlink acquisition and referral opportunities, and pay attention to areas where queries that require higher CPCs (Cost per Click – can be supported with higher-ranking SEO results.
- Do make sure your site is fully able to be indexed, crawled, and quickly loadable across all user devices.
- Do ensure that your internal linking structure is relevant and beneficial for search engines and end-users alike.
- Don't pay for links. They will often work well for a website, but as Google's algorithm becomes more finely-tuned, many of these links offer short-term gains with a long-term negative trade-off.
- Don't keyword stuff your pages. Keyword stuffing is still a tactic used by many SEOs and content writers ("Houston Museum of Fine Arts is a Fine Arts Museum in Houston, Midtown, Montrose, Bissonnet neighborhoods...") and it isn't as effective as it used to be. By writing for the intent of the page, along with the sub-intents that speak to the nuances of the central idea and explaining what it is, where it is, who/why/how and tying it into the website's core focus along with a strong value proposition, you can produce great content that doesn't just rank well, but keeps people on your page/site and gives readers a reason to share and link to the content.
- Don't hamstring your efforts with duplicated content. If you have a page designed to discuss your product in length, don't write it all over again in a blog post. A simple thing to remember is that not every topic needs to be a blog post. Not only can you run the risk of suffering a duplicate content issue from Google if done to an extreme, but you will often spread your site thin. If a page doesn't rank, improve the target page.
- On that note, don't spam comment feeds or message boards with non-relevant intent for links.
- And finally, do have someone copy edit your work. Misspellings, prose, flow - better content benefits all parties involved.
Search Engines are not just limited to Google. Yahoo, Bing, Google and others have varying degree of market share in different parts of the world. Based on your experience in organic search, how do you make percentage allocation towards each of these search engines?
For SEOs, Google is what we all focus on, on a daily basis. If I had to assign numbers to it for a client in the USA, I'd say 99% Google, 1% Bing, and 0 to Yahoo. Let me explain.
Depending on who you ask and where your client's customers live, Google can have anywhere between a 67 to 90 percent market share. I often catch myself referring to search engines collectively as "Google" because it's what most of us focus on in our work. However, it is beneficial to pay attention to Bing for local listings, indexation, and opportunities involving the Microsoft system. If you have a website where 12% of your traffic comes from Bing, and you could feasibly bump that up to 18% assuming all other sources remained static, what would that 6% look like for you? What could it be worth?
As far as Yahoo goes, it should receive the lowest priority. Yahoo has used Bing's search technology since their partnership in 2009, and while they may eventually develop their own next-generation system, for now, it's unlikely. If you have clients in other countries such as South Korea, Russia, or China, you may consider optimizing for Naver, Yandex, and Baidu.
If a new client came to you and asked you to only implement organic search in order to increase business. What would you recommend?
I'd ask them what their ultimate goal is, and why focusing only on organic search is problematic. If you can focus on all channels including traditional marketing and PR, the expected results will have a greater chance of being realized.
‘Research has shown that searchers may have bias against ads unless the ads are relevant to the searches,' based on your experience, would you agree or disagree?
As search engines like Google and Bing have blurred the lines between what an ad is and isn't, we've seen click-through increase for ads. Of course, relevance is always the aim for a successful campaign, but using eye-catching imagery and copy that draws in clicks and conversions isn't just reliant on relevance. If you think that's unlikely, I'd like to introduce you to cavemen and lizards I know of that pitch insurance.
Can this knowledge of improving organic search results be applied to social media platforms? For instance, if I would like my LinkedIn profile to be the highest on the list of Houston area bloggers, what would you recommend?
Absolutely! By using keyword research and conversion rate optimization knowledge, one can easily optimize their social media profiles. If I were to look for another job and aim to leave SEO for work in the Airline industry, I'd want to know whether or not recruiters search for "aviation workers" or "airline workers" in the area where recruiters and the place of employment are located. Same goes for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, but those are also dependent on internal algorithms and other variables.
Also, if you have a website and social media accounts, I can't stress the importance of cross-linking. Have your social profiles link to your website and vice versa.
Can you share an interesting project regarding organic search strategies that you have worked on?
Without getting into details, I had a client in the past who was the subject of a negative social media and blog campaign, where all of their online mentions were linking to the client's social media profiles. By reaching out to the major news sources and asking for a link correction that points to the website and having them generate both a response and new content that covers their side of the argument from a PR standpoint as well as blog posts that were related to their core industry, not only did their earned link acquisition skyrocket, but the site capitalized tremendously from an increase in backlinks, mixed with a success public image campaign and increased followership of their consistent content. By using all channels - not just SEO - everyone wins.
Beau Pedraza is the SEO Lead at Forthea Interactive in Houston, TX where he works alongside the best digital marketing minds in town. With close to 20 years of tech experience including cryptology, web development, big data, and all things SEO and PPC, Beau lives for the joy of helping clients be more successful in their pursuits.
With an extensive resume spanning cities around the world ranging from Seattle to Munich, and with work history including stints as a US Navy Cryptologist and as an in-house SEO Manager for ThyssenKrupp North America, you can catch Beau splitting his free time between his work projects and his love for performing stand-up comedy.
Rinki is a marketing professional with over 10 years of corporate and freelance experience.
She currently works on marketing contracts with Houston area businesses. She has served in non-profit, healthcare, oil and gas, real estate, technology, education and consumer goods industries.
She recently earned her MBA from the University of Houston, BAUER School of Business with a focus in Marketing Analysis and Business Consulting. She also has her Associates in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Houston and Masters in English Literature from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India.
She currently serves on two non-profit boards. She is Membership Officer with Prospanica-Houston chapter and Director of Special Events-Marketing with American Marketing Association-Houston chapter. Though Rinki is a now a committed Houstonian, she was born and raised in India.
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