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SEO Tasks That Produce Results

Dave Collins

Founder, Software Promotions

Making the web more sarcastic since 1997. Slightly aged father of two amazing lunatics. I specialise in SEO, web-sorcery and occasional compulsive lies.

New Milton, England
Dave Collins

You'll learn:

  1. Why search engine optimization isn't dead.
  2. A reliable strategy for optimizing your pages to rank highly on Google.
  3. How to find topics to write about that your audience is searching for.

Dave Collins

Dave Collins at the beginning of his SEO career

Dave Collins is a regular on the Microconf stage. He's the founder of SoftwarePromotions - an agency for improving website Search Engine Optimization (SEO) based in the UK. Collins has been working in the online software industry since 1997 and has an unhealthy obsession with data and trends.

He's "an awful rock climber, amateur photographer and a slave to his wonderful children."

Search Engine Optimization isn't Dead

There's a popular conception that SEO is dead.

"where to buy euros" Google search results don't answer where to buy euros. Many obvious SEO opportunities still exist.

Optimizing for search engine optimization (SEO) usually isn't a focus of online businesses. SEO work is boring, non-urgent, time consuming, unlikely to work, and could blow up in your face if you do it incorrectly.

Additionally, there's a popular conception that SEO is dead and doesn't work anymore.

The people saying SEO is dead are wrong, and likely optimizing incorrectly. If you completely ignore SEO, you have a risk of destroying your business.

In this talk, Collins guarantees ("kind of") to present a method of SEO that's easy, quick, effective, and won't blow up in your face.

He'll be covering some fundamentals of SEO, so you may still find it boring.

Testing Google's Intelligence

Google image searching "black and white jack russell smiling next to a baby" returns only two valid results.

"Visually similar" images to Dave Collins' profile picture are actually just matching page metadata.

Let's test Google's ability to return valid search results.

TODO: why?

Searching for "dog", "jack russell", and even "jack russell smiling" yield excellent and accurate results.

Searching for any more specific queries quickly degrades the quality of results, though. "black and white jack russell smiling" confuses Google: are you looking for black and white pictures, or black and white jack russells? Several of the results aren't black and white or jack russells.

One step of specificity beyond that, and we've stepped outside of the sphere of Google's expertise. "black and white jack russell smiling next to a baby" has maybe one relevant result on the first page. Once you've broken through the barrier of Google's ability, they don't know what they're doing, and they need help.

Similarly, reverse google image searching for a photo of Dave Collins returns several results that aren't at all visually similar, but are on pages that match "Dave Collins" in the metadata. Google isn't yet capable of magic - their results are still based primarily on text.

The fore fundamentals of SEO haven't changed at all in the last 20 years. Google needs our help - it's a partnership.

SEO Action Plan

Knowing that SEO isn't dead, and that Google still relies heavily on you to make your web content accessible to it's search engine, let's focus on specific strategies to make your website more attractive to search traffic.

Relevant sections in the old Google Search Console.

Task 1: Fix the Machine

The low hanging fruit of SEO is to fix the problems Google is telling you are broken on your site in the Google Search Console.

Specifically, you should be checking the following on the Google Search Console on a regular basis:

  1. Crawl Errors (Crawl > Crawl Errors in the old console, or Index > Coverage in the new one): make sure that all main pages are error free and minimize your 404 ("page missing") errors.
  2. HTML improvements (Search Appearance > HTML Improvements): Google's search engine optimization starter guide says that page rank is dependent on your "site's user experience and performance." When Google tells you what could be fixed to improve your site's user experience and performance, listen.
  3. Index Status (Google Index > Index Status in the old console, or Index > Coverage in the new one): in the old console, choose the advanced view and make sure there are no surprises in which of your pages are being blocked with a NOINDEX. In the new console, check that the expected number of pages are in the "excluded" section. If there are, fix them.
  4. Security issues: If this doesn't say "No issues detected," fix your site immediately. This is one of the very few stop everything and handle this now warnings.

"entrepreneurial conference" gets several times more traffic than "entrepreneur conference" and hundreds of times more traffic than "conference for startups" according to ahrefs.com

Task 2: Invest in Keywords

To optimize a page for Google, include words and phrases on that page that are words and phrases people are searching for. This process is known as "keyword optimization."

Let's say you were trying to optimize the Microconf website. A good first step would be to think about how a friend would describe that page. Perhaps "conference for startups," "entrepreneurial conference," or "entrepreneur conference."

Next, try running those phrases through google and see if your page would make sense in the context of the other results there. What shows up when you search for these terms? Your competition, or something else entirely?

Third, and most importantly, test your keywords on a keyword comparison tool like ahrefs. Don't just guess what you think might be the best keywords of the ones you've thought up.

Surprisingly, of the above three keywords, "entrepreneurial conference" has the highest search volume, so that's the best phrase to include in the Microconf website.

Finally, make the title and description of your page compelling. "SEO services" may be an excellent search term, but "SEO Services London | SEO Company London | SEO London | SEO" isn't a particularly compelling page title to click on.

Exported Google Search Console Query data shows clicks, impressions, click-through rates, and search position for queries you're ranking for.

Task 3: More compelling content

If you have more than 10-15 pages of content, you don't need to write new content purely for SEO. Your time optimizing search engine rankings would be best spent making better use of the content you already have.

To find your pages that are ripe for optimization, export your Performance Query data on the Google Search Console to a spreadsheet (Performance > Queries > "export data" download icon). Look for pages with low clicks and lots of impressions (at least 250). These are the pages that, if made more compelling, would start driving more traffic.

Google's suggested terms for the query "find my family tree"

If you need more content, look for topic inspiration from what people are already searching for.

You can get more information on what people are searching for on Google by search a term related to your product (ex: "find my family tree") and looking in the "People also ask" box. A guide titled "How do you do a family tree?" would likely rank well in the family tree software space. Additionally, look at the sites that are already ranking and see what their content is focused on, and look at the bottom of the page for "Searches related to ${query}".

Paid keyword search tools like ahrefs (Collins' tool of choice), Screamingfrog, Sitebulb, and urlprofiler provide similar related keyword information. Don't use Google Adwords Keyword Planner - it's useless from an SEO perspective because they misleadingly round up all the figures.

reddit.com/genealogy is a great place to find topics people interested in genealogy are interested in.

If you don't know where to start looking for additional keywords, get into the minds of what your audience is searching for. Find online communities (subreddits, fourms, Amazon product comments, etc.) and look for pain points, ideas, themes, and language of what people in your industry are talking about.

Once you've created new content, be patient. SEO results can take months to take effect.

Task 4: Feed the mobile index

Google is moving to mobile-first indexing, which means their index will be based on the mobile version of your website.

Check if your site is mobile friendly with Google's Mobile-Friendly Test (don't worry about "Page loading issues") and PageSpeed Insights (which gives you specific advice on how to speed up your site). It's usually not enough to make your site responsive - you'll want to put significant effort into making sure your site works great on mobile devices.

Trying to game the system by repeating the same keyword over and over is a bad SEO strategy

Bonus Tip

Put humans before spiders. Always. What that means is not trying to game the system by making a page that optimizes for a specific keyword by repeating it over and over.

If a human clicks on a website and gets a page with a bunch of SEO nonsense, they'll bounce off the page. Bouncing is a strong search engine indicator of a bad site.

Questions

What's the best way to signal to google that a page was removed?

Redirect removed URLs to the closest existing page.

Should I index pages like release notes?

Google is pretty good at figuring out useful pages. A NOINDEX in robots.txt just tells Google not to visit a certain part of your website, but google can still find it through links on other pages. Add a NOINDEX metadata tag on pages that you don't want showing up in search results.

You said to look in the search console and look for keywords with high impressions and low clicks. Why?

Those pages are probably showing up in search results, but not being clicked on. Those pages represent the best opportunity for optimization by using the content better.

Schedule a call with Dave Collins at dave@softwarepromotions.com.

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