Stay Ahead of the SEO Learning Curve.

The 10 most common strategy questions answered.

David Sosnowski
September 8, 2015

Algorithms are getting smarter at knowing what a user wants to get out of a search. It’s less about keywords and more about conversations, less about page views and more about simple navigation. These changes are happening quickly, and setting new standards for how to think about SEO. Understanding the most fundamental principles of SEO can help you get in front of these industry shifts.

How should I be thinking of keyword research?

Keyword research is not about excel files, it’s about understanding how people speak online. Ask yourself questions that will help identify how users communicate with search engines. For instance:

  1. Do people search “online” or “internet” more when it comes to marketing? 
  2. Are people looking more for “quantitative” or “qualitative” research? 
  3. How many people are typing in “dinner recipe” in the U.S. and Canada? 

Ask your team to bring back a set of insights they found when exploring your website and social presence. Start by throwing random terms into the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Once your team has their findings compiled, discuss and share. Findings like these give a better idea of how users search, helping your team understand how to reach a wider audience.

How should I integrate my paid and organic search programs?

Integrating search programs don’t work well when you have two programs fighting for their own growth. If you truly want to bridge the gap between organic and paid search, you need teams that are willing to think of search as a unit rather than two separate classes. After recently taking this task on while expanding the global presence of an e-commerce client, we’ve established a method for integrating the two channels. 

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First, align your paid and organic search teams by creating a combined goal to drive 50% more conversions in Q3 and  Q4.

Next, create a keyword targeting strategy focused on maximizing conversion. For instance, in a recent project, we started by using paid search to own new entry searches like “jackets” and brand conversions while organic search handled mid-funnel searchers around categories and long-tail searches like “warm hiking jacket black.” By doing this we drove overall conversions up 20% without increasing our spend.

Finally, test and optimize. In this phase, we found that we could dial back brand paid search around certain products without losing conversions and organic picked it up, allowing us to spend in new areas.

What are the most fundamental factors of SEO?

SEO will always be an ever-evolving channel of trends and tactics as it adapts to serve humans. Yet, some things are so essential to how search engines operate that they likely won’t change: indexation, code, content and links. 

There are many things that fall into these categories and overlap, but focusing on these factors will ensure you’re avoiding fads like acquiring links from blogger networks, sending out emails asking for links and stuffing content with keywords. 

Consider approaching your SEO strategy in a few steps.

  • Understand how you can improve indexation of your site through using Google Webmaster tools. 
  • Task your SEO and technology teams to enhance coding elements. 
  • Work with your content teams to make sure your voice matches how your audience is searching through keyword research. 
  • Monitor links coming into your site with tools like Ahrefs and teach your content, communication and social teams on the importance of links.
Do I need to 301 redirect everything?

No, when redirecting outdated or old pages only worry about redirecting valuable pages. In this case, consider value in terms of traffic to a page and backlinks. This is because traffic shows you how valuable a user finds a certain page, and the more they visit the site, the more they value it. Backlinks matter because they are one of the strongest signal search engines use to rank pages. By using these two factors together, you’ll do the right thing for users and search engines. Take all your potential redirect URLs and filter them by backlinks and traffic. Odds are you will see many links that have little to no value, 410 them.

How many times should I include a keyword?

Don’t worry about it. Search engines are incredibly smart and getting smarter. If you have a SEO strategy focused on great technology and content, keyword inclusion will never be the question. Start by connecting your content strategy and SEO teams. We recently helped a large content producer bridge these gaps by holding a series of training sessions focused on how different teams affect organic search. They are now seeing 100%+ growth in organic visits to their new content. 

Stop worrying about including keywords a certain amount of times or using a certain tense. Don’t write for search engines. They are becoming as crafty as users and don’t need dated repetition tactics. Use keyword research to understand what types of things people are looking for and have someone with an SEO background markup the code for you.

What is the most important on-page SEO factor?

URLs. It’s how search engines find pages. The internet has trillions of pages, so make sure you have an information architecture strategy that matches the content taxonomy of your site.

What should I be doing with social to enhance my SEO?

When it comes to SEO and social you should be focusing on three core strategies:

  • Connect your website to your social channels through tags. These are most commonly used to set the image, title, description and link used when user paste a link into social channel. 
  • Connect a message to a prospective user by search behavior (keyword research) through a channel that sends them off to do something. For example, if your target users are moms looking for cooking ideas you may discover, through keyword research, that search for chicken recipes. You target them through Facebook with a “Baked Coconut Tenders with Strawberry-Mango Salsa” recipe that sends them to a 5 minute video your site.
  • Be timely and share your message on the appropriate social channels. For example, you may find that working parents look for recipes as soon as they get home from work around 5:30 p.m., so push your social posts out at 5:28 p.m. so that it’s at top of their feed. 

    Create transparency between your search and social teams. Hold a meeting with your technology teams to educate them on the various social tags available and what their specific roles are. Then, have your SEO and socials team present their keyword insights to each other. This will spark conversation and get them sharing insights. Finally, gather as much data as you can from your analytics on when posts perform best, test and optimize to find the sweet spots. These people will come up with some revolutionary ideas together. Isolation creates duplication.

    How should I be using keyword rankings as a metric?

    Focus on the top 10 keywords as they provide about 95%+ of your organic traffic. Knowing where you are winning and losing here will make the traffic story clearer. 

    Create a monthly reporting system within your organization that measures organic visits, unique visitors, page one keywords and positions one to three. Tie the movement of positions one to three to home page traffic.

    Report back on tactical insights and actions, not just numbers and percentages. So, if you notice that organic visits have declined 30% year-over-year around your category pages, perhaps you should consolidate some of our content and add some new tags to those pages.

    What about Bing?

    Search engines all rely on similar core factors—links, urls, titles, headers—in order to understand information. You are optimizing for all search engines, not one in particular, so all your work done correctly will benefit every system. Don’t optimize separately for different search engines.

    How do we bridge the gap between SEO and UX?

    The forward thinking SEO is all about building something users love and search engines can understand. Set up KPIs for UX and SEO to understand when a UX trigger is impacting your SEO and vice versa.