Q&A: Breaking Down SEO Basics

I recently hosted a webinar that piqued more interest than we had allotted time for. You can view that webinar here and the slides here, but in the meantime, I felt inspired to address all the really good questions that I didn’t have time to explore the first time around.

If the following sparks any additional questions, please tweet it at me at @swebermarketing and I’ll do my best to share my thoughts with you.

Do you have any suggestions for crafting a well-optimized title? And should the slug match the title?

The slug of the URL (the last tier of the URL) does not need to match what you put inside the title tag. I like the idea though. If you are creating a page about a certain topic, it still makes sense to create the URL around it too. Some platforms don’t always give you that control, though. 

With the onset of Google Home, Alexa and now Apple's foray into home search devices, should keywords and titles start taking into account how we would ask or speak searches?

Voice search is really evolving how we as searchers are using search engines. Now people are more apt to ask an entire question just as they would speak it. I like where your head is with crafting a title and description to answer questions, but I would urge you to go one step forward and ensure the content on your page thoroughly answers the question too. It won’t be as simple as having content closely related to an answer of a title tag. You will need to include the definitive answer to the question. 

I run a fashion blog and feature a lot of celebrities. I use Wordpress, which requires either tagging or categorizing each celebrity name for them to show up when searched in the search bar of the site. Which would you recommend? There are A LOT of celebrities that I cover.

Great question! I think what you mean is with all these content pages getting indexed by Google, “am I harming my rankings by having a lot of pages without a lot of specific value to add around the topic?” I would say to use your gut, if you feel the URLs are thin or light on the content side, you can always add the following tag in to the <head> of your source code. This will allow google to follow any content inside of it and not mark it to be indexed.


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The method to my madness here is to reserve Google’s crawling budget on your site to go to pages that are valuable enough to serve your site and rank well. 

There are Wordpress plugins that will let you flag a page as noindex nofollow, too. The follow versus nofollow simply means: “Google, I will not allow you to follow the links found in the source code of this page.” The opposite is true if you mark it as follow. In the code example above, I recommended the follow approach because it sounds like there might be valuable pages worth index that Google might find by crawling through them here and there. I took the safe bet approach with that recommendation because I don’t know exactly how you lay your site out. If you have another way that you link to all your valuable content, you might want to mark these pages as nofollow instead. Then the source code will be a black box to search engines and they will only devote resources towards pages you allow them too. The code for the noindex nofollow rule is this one:


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Are resource pages for different categories of affiliate products harmful or helpful for a website? (with short descriptions of the product with affiliate links)

Since I’m not exactly sure what the page you’re describing looks like, to make the best recommendation, I need to play it on the safe side and hedge the safe bet approach. I will say that you should mark each of the affiliate links as rel=”nofollow” so Google stays on your site without following or passing link equity through to them. Here is more on the nofollow link attribute.

This page will be insanely helpful to your visitors if your short descriptions are able to answer the landing page visitor’s questions. You wrote “short descriptions,” so I would just want to caution you that length doesn’t necessarily matter. The point is more to ask yourself, “is there enough here so that the reader will take X action?” If the answer to that question is yes, you have SEO gold on your hands. 

With everything discussed, how can we use these tips to improve social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts, etc.) for promoting our content? Do the same or similar rules apply for helping social media rank better (and therefore, ultimately helping our sites rank better)?

At its core, I think if you create more brand awareness and provide value to your audience, then that will help your site rank better organically. I will say the tip of providing value for your audience should hold true regardless of your marketing channel.

That said, I like to use social channels differently. If you’re using social media, it’s your chance for your audience to engage with you. It’s their chance to build a connection with you. It’s also your chance to show them you care about them. I think the age-old rule of people doing business with people they “know, like and trust” applies best on social media.

If you’re using social to share your content, make the posts you share engaging with your audience. Really put an effort towards sharing content in a manner that your audience will want to interact with. I say this because each of the social channels are building out their own algorithms and if you create a piece of content that no one cares to click on, it will be wasted effort for you. Digital marketing is all about devoting efforts towards the details that will serve your web presence. If you find that posting your content to a social channel results in no one interacting with it, alter your approach until it gets engagement. It is going to take an approach of testing and likely being selective about the social channels you leverage. 

How do you think the impact of the net neutrality law change will affect affiliate marketers? Will we have to pay to play? 

I honestly don’t have a lot of thoughts on the topic in how it will affect us yet, however, a Pepperjam teammate included a nice write up in her 2018 predictions here

What would be a general best practice for effective keyword analysis...i.e., daily, weekly, etc.?

It depends on the objective of the website. If you’re pumping out content on a consistent basis, it never hurts to research ahead of time. It’s all based on your workflow. Also, I think it might even be more valuable for you to measure against your average click through rate (CTR) on a weekly basis. You would measure your organic CTR in your Google Search Console’s performance tab. Click into pages, and then gauge each pages CTR against the average of your site. If the CTR is far below your average, then dive into the keyword research. 

Can a site run out of page juice...i.e., too many pages with too many products, too soon?

I think you might mean the power of getting search engines around your entire site to ensure that every page you’re putting effort into has the possibility of ranking well in organic search. There is a concept of a crawl budget. It is the resource power and time Google (Bing or Yahoo, too) will devote to crawling and indexing your site.

The thought here is that the more Google trusts your website, the more resources they’ll devote to crawling your site for new content. Publicly, Google says to not give this too much thought as they will do their best to index everything that they want to index. Their answer is probably more telling to the fact that if you are churning out pages that don’t have a lot of unique content, they probably won’t rank it anyway. To that thought, I will point you in this direction: if you’re pumping out content that is thin and would have no value to searchers, you might want to consider blocking sections of your site within your /robots.txt file. 

Is it a myth that you should cloak affiliate links?

The practice of cloaking means to make your outbound link look like it is different than where it really points to. In our realm of Pepperjam publishers, that would mean making your affiliate link not look like it has an affiliate tracking tag. 

I take this stance: I think if you are going to cloak them, it’s possible you had other motives outside of organic search too. These links are likely not helping you rank better or worse, so why not follow Google’s guidelines and mark them as nofollow too?

Are there some tactics for competition analysis to see what competitors might use as general keywords and what has the best CTR for them?

Unfortunately, the only way to see an organic CTR is to have access to the Google Search Console for the website. You will not have this visibility for a competitor. That said, check out SEMrush to see the organic keywords your competitors are ranking well for. My thought is that if Google is now using machine learning to ensure it’s truly delivering the best results for whether a site is ranking well for a phrase (position 1 or 2), then it likely has the strong CTR to correlate. 

Do you know of any tools that help improve your tagline or meta description to interest people to click?

Check out the more on this answer in the question above and SEMrush. But, I think if you find a keyword you want to rank for, look at the sites that are already ranking. Is there anything in your meta description you would include that the other sites in the results are lacking? Is there anything additional you would add to encourage people to click? There are no real tools to help you in this pursuit other than a tool or plugin that would alert you if you’ve typed enough for the current character limit. If you’re using WordPress check out the Yoast SEO plugin.

How to create sufficient value for videos....no website or landing page...just a link to advertiser site as an affiliate.

I think the same rules apply. Begin with keyword research to learn what your audience is looking to understand in their buyer journey. Then create your video while answering their questions thoroughly and completely. Create your video titles and descriptions so they are engaging enough to earn the click and inform the potential viewer what the video is about.

Can you give an example of keyword stuffing so we can avoid doing so?

Keyword stuffing really means you’re over doing it. Here’s my example of overdoing it using the keywords: “where to buy tennis balls”.  

Where to buy tennis balls is a question many people wonder about. If you’re wondering where to buy tennis balls, stop wondering about where to buy tennis balls because I have the answer for you on this page.“  

The point here is that over-focusing on the keyword can hurt you. Instead, write naturally about the topic. If you do that, you’ll wind up using synonyms and text that will resonate with your audience.