The New SEO. Easy Organic Wins for 2018 and Beyond

Jeff and I met at eTail West a number of years ago and have since become good friends.  Jeff's knowledge of SEO is incredible and he is more than willing to share what he knows with other retailers.  Jeff addresses

Jeff McRitchie:     Okay, so, I've been at [inaudible 00:00:11].com 15 years, and in the early days, SEO was super easy. You just keyword stuff the page, you add all these tags, and it was all about playing awesome games to get more traffic with SEO. And unfortunately I was kind of slow on the uptick, and it took my a while, and yet the reality is that it worked. Once I figured it out, it's like, "Okay, all you gotta do is stuff those keywords, get them on the page, make sure that they're there, put them in the title tag." For a while it was like hide the text in the bottom of the page. Of course I never did that. And essentially try to get Google to send you more stuff.
                    And you know what? It really was too easy. And guess what? Google figured it out. So, we've been playing this game with Google for years and years where basically the SEOs are trying to figure out a way to game it so we can get more traffic, and then Google's trying to figure out a way to squash us. And they come down, and along comes the Panda. And let's just be realistic, if you've been caught up in the Panda, it's rough. So basically, this one of their first major things. And they said, "You know what? Quality matters." And it really comes back to relevancy, which was what he was talking about earlier, but the reality is that they said, "We want good quality websites. And if you're a bad quality website, we will punish you."
                    Then they said, "You know what? This is still not working. The SEOs are still gaming the system." So, they came up with Penguin. And ouch, that hurt. Anyway, so if you were doing really active SEO and getting links back in the day, suddenly these links could start to punish you. And like I said, it hurt.
                    And then they come up with Hummingbird. And you may not be as familiar with Hummingbird; it's not a punishment algorithm, instead it really was ... I see it as a turning point where Google's moving toward natural language search and relevancy, so that they understand the intent of a query more than they understand just what the query words are. So suddenly it didn't matter about keyword stuffing anymore; it was about do you have the right intent and relevancy on the page. 
                    And that really brings us in a lot of ways to where we're at today. All of these algorithms have evolved, and suddenly we're in a place where in 2018, SEO looks very different. And in a lot of ways it's not about gaming the system anymore, because whenever you figure out how to game the system, Google will figure out a way to un-game it, probably faster or more painfully for you than before. So, really we're back at this place where we're talking about user experience. And so all of my things when I talk about what they work, I'm looking for things that are going to both improve the user experience and drive significant SEO wins in 2018.
                    So the first one I'm gonna say is site speed. Better rankings equals higher sales. Unfortunately, not always higher conversion rate, but sometimes. It really depends on how bad your speeds are and the experience. But it's gonna yield a better user experience. And for most people, finding better site speed is actually not that difficult. Putting a good CDM on your site and using the optimizations that can come with that in terms of image management, getting a tag manager and adding all your third party tags and making them load in sync, and using pagespeed insights to find the wins, you can improve your site speed in a matter of weeks and it will make a major difference.
                    Another big win for 2018 is user generated content. Figuring out ways to add uniqueness to your site without having to have somebody sit there and write and write and write, as well as people are looking for user generated content. And I'm gonna kind of give two areas. One is customer reviews and another is QA. One thing I will say about reviews is I would say most sites that I look at, the reviews aren't really visible to Google. They're hidden in JavaScript behind a [inaudible 00:04:02]. So, I would get them out in front of people and in front of Google. I would not hesitate to get QA and build it yourself. So, if your product is on Amazon, steal their questions and answer them yourself. There's nothing disingenuous about taking their questions and answering them. 
                    So content, so we all know we need better content, more content, to rank on Google. Users want content, Google wants content. I'm gonna say that there are ways to hack content in today's world that are really powerful. One is either create video or take the video from your manufacturers and transcribe it and get the transcripts on your pages. That's a massive amount of content. Take the PDFs, spec sheets, make sure that all your recommendations are there. I was talking to somebody yesterday who has two sites. Combine your recommendations between your two sites and make sure you have more stuff for people. 
                    Keeping moving, another big win today is linkbuilding. So it was that in the era of Penguin, you needed a ton of links. And you still need links. Links are the key currency in this world. And what I'm gonna say is for most online retailers, getting links is hard, and buying links is not acceptable because the risk it too high. So what you're left with is leveraging relationships. So what is your low hanging fruit in linkbuilding? It's all about going to people that you support: charities, vendors, people you have leverage with, and get them to give you a link. It's not that hard. You don't need that many high quality links to rank today.
                    And then the final big win, and this is kind of just like a side note, which is that the technical SEO stuff can make a massive difference, and most of it's not all that difficult to make sure you got it right and to fix it. So, a couple of things that I see really commonly is poor site structure, breadcrumbs aren't organized properly; that the way that the site is organized, you don't have good linking, it's not a good hierarchy; that pages aren't index properly or pages that shouldn't be indexed are indexed, like search pages; the structured markup isn't installed properly, so you're not passing the right signals to the right people. And all of that is the case. So figuring out those things. 
                    I highly recommend getting some sort of an SEO audit done, but not by one of these technical agencies that just want to sell you a massive package to fix your life for the next six years at $100 an hour. I've done a few for different retailers, but what you really need to do is have somebody look at your site and figure out like what's a roadmap? What are the things that are easy wins that aren't gonna take you 100 years to finish, that you could tackle yourself and put into your development plan? Or what are the things that you totally missed, and that you could implement today? And a couple of them that stand out for me is retailers that still have all of their product content on their pdp pages in tabs. So, Google, by definition, discounts information inside of tabs because you have to open them to view the information, so when you land there it's not actually visible.
                    So, you notice Amazon longform, everybody's gone longform. Why? Because Google counts that information more. So, why are we putting all of our information in tabs still? Well, it was a user experience decision from back in the day. Well, still, you don't have to get rid of your tabs, just leave your tabs up there and have them hyperlink down to the place. So, just it jumps them to the place. 
                    So, there's quick, easy wins that you need to look for in today's SEO world that will help you to leverage. It's not all about games anymore.