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For this RankSense webinar, we were very excited to be joined by Craig Smith, the Founder and CEO of Trinity Insight, to talk about scaling SEO work. During this webinar, Craig explored how to get more work done faster with less resources, so you can drive the performance of your SEO program and make your traffic grow to a greater degree.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Craig for a wonderful presentation as well as all of those who attended. We hope you enjoyed the webinar!
You can watch the full recording here:
You can also revisit Craig’s presentation here:
Craig’s goal for this webinar is that you come out of it with a plan of attack. Also, that you develop a clear understanding and a framework you can leverage so you can identify your SEO problems, get a plan in motion to fix them, and, hopefully, use RankSense as a leverage to do so.
Life of an Enterprise SEO
Craig began his presentation by discussing the life of an Enterprise SEO. He revealed that Enterprise SEOs deal with a myriad of issues and opportunities that exist and that by going into all the different things that need to be considered in an Enterprise SEO, you come out armed with great intelligence in how to take advantage of the same types of methodologies. Craig revealed that SEO is nothing without implementation. The reason is that too often, there are recommendations without implementation. SEO agencies will go to their customers with a laundry list of things that need to be fixed, however, because developers are often overburdened with other work or have system limitations with their CMS, SEO changes are often forgotten or given up on. And even worse, sometimes incorrect changes are made that crush performance even worse than it was initially.
Craig shared that these things happen because of errors, lack of resources, and incorrect platform implementations. It’s really important to have a methodology you can lean on that won’t put you in a position where you would be unable to make changes. This is a key aspect of Enterprise SEO and is something that RankSense addresses really well.
The complexity of SEO
Craig continued by talking about the complexity of SEO and that it has many nuances, with the first being reporting and intel. An SEO should have clear intelligence into things such what’s going up and what’s going down, keyword penetration, what’s on each specific page, where is content being created, what are competitors doing, and, most importantly, how is all of this work affecting the buying cycle and the marketing attribution of how orders and sales are taking place in the analytics system.
The next nuance is technical optimization. More specifically, crawlability, or how easy it is for Google to find all the pages within the architecture, and indexation, or how many pages are being ranked and whether or not the index is being bloated by duplicate content. It’s also the responsiveness of the website and semantics.
Another nuance is on-page targeting–metadata, standard HTML tags such as header tags and alt tags, canonical tags, and internal linking patterns which will give Google cues on what you want to rank for.
A fourth nuance is content production, or where you are optimizing with new content that will speak to questions and add value to the marketplace and your niche. You want to make sure you are diverse by creating video, infographics, and conducting proprietary research to drive inbound linking.
The last nuance is amplification which is getting the message and inbound links back to your site through content promotion, guest contributions, campaigns, contests, and influencer outreach. This is also the area where a lot of people don’t focus on.
All of these nuances are really paramount to push forward the best SEO strategy.
SEO Priority Pyramid
Craig then talked about the importance of establishing a priority pyramid for SEO. The foundation of the pyramid is the technical aspects. You have to have the right structure to enable Google to index and rank your pages as easily as possible. Craig brought up a great point by asking why anyone would want to create great content for a site that doesn’t load properly and has lots of bugs. Before focusing on the other aspects of SEO, you want to make sure you have a solid technical foundation and fix as many issues as possible. Content production would be the next layer of the pyramid and on-page targeting the one above that.
The next layer would be UX, or user experience. This is another really important factor, especially because Google utilizes an algorithm that is somewhat impacted by time spent on site metrics, scroll depth, and bounce rate. They want to reward content that is more engaging and more visually appealing, and they most likely do so analytical data that they’re gathering for Google Analytics. The top of the pyramid would then be the amplification.
The first landmine that Craig shared was over-indexation, or indexing more pages than needed. Over-indexation is very detrimental and makes Google work harder when you actually want to make them work less.
Another landmine is cannibalization or having two or more pages that are somewhat different but target the same phrase. This is seen when an information architecture isn’t properly mapped out and doesn’t have a clear theme for each page, so these themes bleed into each other. This limits the effectiveness because you now have two pages and Google is unsure what to rank.
The next landmine is the architecture and equity flow where pages are buried too deep in the architecture, so Google can’t discover them at all. This is very easily detectable by looking in Google Search Console or by using the info: operator in Google to see if the URL exists.
A fourth landmine is improper targeting, or not using Google’s standard practices such as using a canonical tag effectively or not writing unique meta descriptions for each page which would help your click-through rate.
A fifth landmine is a lack of schema/structured data. Schema is essentially code that helps Google understand the nature of a page, and rich snippets are driven from schema.
The last landmine is platform migrations, or the improper transitioning of systems and data. Whenever you’re transitioning from one system to another, you’re really at risk. You need to make sure that you’re making it easy for Google to understand that the pages in Site A are moving to a specific location in Site B by using redirect strategies and redirect maps.
Craig then shows the impact of these landmines by bringing up an example of when a robots.txt file was incorrectly constructed. The incorrect file was deployed and pages from that site were eliminated from crawling which dramatically impacted traffic.
He brought up another example of when a migration was launched without SEO recommendations and it drastically decreased page 1 and page 2 placements.
SEO System Limitations
Having a system limitation means that your current e-commerce or content management system was not built with SEO top of mind. It doesn’t have the functionality that enables you to incorporate best practices into it. The reason why Craig loves RankSense is because it helps to overcome system limitations. By using RankSense, he is able to bypass the CMS platform and do things like custom titles, custom alt tags, heading tags, robots.txt, etc.
Craig shared that it is for this purpose that Trinity heavily uses RankSense. B2B companies often come to him with a lot of custom platforms and custom code which were specifically developed for their business needs and were not developed with SEO in mind. RankSense helps Craig and his team at Trinity overcome these limitations.
Craig also brought up the importance of considering speed and performance which are absolutely paramount for SEO, so you want to make sure this is part of your overall monitoring methodology.
He advised that you look at your category and subcategory pages, your product page, and your home page and gauge the differences. Many times certain page types are going to be incorporating many more code elements, from the widgets and other functional components, which slow it down. By stripping some of that out or optimizing it through caching or gzip, you can make your speeds more effective, which will help with the conversion rate and the organic search placements.
SEO via the Cloud w/ RankSense
At Trinity, when they do SEO for customers using the cloud as the delivery mechanism, they have a process called “SEO Cloud”. As part of their process, they use RankSense to deliver an SEO-optimized code base to the user or to Google. This happens via a content delivery network (Cloudflare as per Craig’s presentation), and on the edge of that server, Craig and his team at Trinity are making the modifications. RankSense gives them the ability to overwrite any code aspects or issues that are existing today within their CMS system.
Also included in Craig’s presentation is a list of SEO factors that can be optimized using RankSense.
Using RankSense on Titles & Descriptions
Craig went over a few examples of areas he and his team utilize RankSense, the first being titles and descriptions, noting that it is a key area of any SEO program. A lot of people look at SEO as just ranking improvements, and although that’s partly true, it’s not all that SEO is. Craig shared that SEO is also party click-through rate optimization where you’re looking to make these changes that are going to make your listing more enticing.
Craig and his team have seen broad-scale tests where they incorporate “free shipping”, “buy now”, or “2020” in their meta descriptions and title tags because it increases overall traffic. In the past, in order to do that, they would have needed to give manually written descriptions, titles, and metas to a developer. The developer would then push it live in a batch, or a content manager would have to publish it manually, all of which would take too much time. Using RankSense, however, Craig and his team were able to use manual construction in Google Sheets where they could upload it in and it batches and processes all at once. They were also able to use concatenation Schema where they use breadcrumb data such as category name, subcategory name, and product name to develop these and scale them in a dynamic, programmatic way.
In terms of using RankSense and using the cloud, Craig and his team can now get titles and descriptions pushed much faster at scale, taking a process that used to take months and getting it done in just weeks.
Using RankSense on Robots.txt
A Robots.txt file is basically a set of instructions for Googlebot that tells Google’s crawler which directories to crawl and not to crawl. In the past, Craig and his team would create these files and give them to a developer who would modify them and push them live. And although this wasn’t a task that was necessarily difficult to accomplish, oftentimes Craig would see developers create new versions of their site without disallowing that directory, so Google would end up crawling them.
Craig shared a more specific example of a time where there were suddenly two versions of a customer’s site live online which caused their SEO traffic to drop in half instantly. Then, once Craig and his team redirected them all back, their traffic also went back instantly. That wouldn’t have happened if someone who was prudent with SEO practices and was aligned with the business on their design and development efforts would have updated this Robots.txt file.
Using RankSense on Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are used to tell Google that you have a variety of pages for a specific page, but you’d like them to use a certain one as the version they index and give priority to in the index. In the past, explaining this to developers had always been a challenge for Craig and his team, especially if the developer wasn’t familiar with the concept. Now, RankSense and SEO Cloud methodologies allow them to make these changes and push rules and page-based directives to the cloud to have them ultimately show up in the source code, indexed by Google, and reflected in Google Search Console.
By leveraging RankSense, a process that used to take weeks or sometimes even months can be done in just hours.
Using RankSense on Header Tags
Headers tags are important in helping Google understand that a page has certain “chapters” by making each “chapter” more descriptive. In the past, Craig and his team would write headers tags for pages then pass them over to a client or customer to implement. Now, with RankSense, they can do the implementation for the customer without needing to involve them by taking the copy, and, without needing a developer or a site manager to deploy it, they can deploy it to the cloud and website by using RankSense and Google Sheets.
Using RankSense on ALT Text
Craig shared that you want to have programmatic rules if possible, especially in e-commerce environments that pull in your ALT text dynamically. For example, if you’re in an e-commerce presentation and you have a grid layout, each image showing that product is going to be the product name, but many times there are global types of creatives and other types of banners on your site that you want to make sure have ALT text.
ALT text was created to give people with handicaps, especially blind people, the understanding of what an image or the context of the image is about when they’re on a webpage. However, it also has a secondary benefit which is to help Google understand the nature of what’s included in the webpage. This is why it’s important for each image to have an ALT tag.
By using RankSense, these changes can be quickly made and deployed, once again taking what would normally take weeks and condensing it to just minutes.
Using RankSense on Pagination
Pagination is making sure that you’re incorporating your collections of pages. In the past, Craig and his team would have needed to provide directions that a developer would have to push live. Now, with RankSense, they are able to construct those directives regarding pagination and in terms of what Google is looking for.
Using RankSense on Rel=”ALT” Tags
Rel=”ALT” tags are mobile-specific directives that are given to Google. They give Google insight into the nature of a domain structure and lets them know that there are two different websites (desktop and mobile).
Using RankSense on Hreflang Tags
Hreflang tags give Google proper geographic context on what language a page associates to. Craig shared that one of their large global customers approached them with an issue of customers searching their UK website but being served their Brazil website. The problem was that they didn’t use hreflang tags, so there were no directives for Google to understand the localized nature of the content.
Similar to the previous processes, in the past, Craig and his team would have to create these directives and give them to a developer. Now hreflang tags can be deployed via RankSense on a domain by using the Cloudflare content delivery network. This enables Craig and his team to easily have Google index and render appropriate geographic content and not just rely on the domain extension.
Using RankSense on Anchor Text
Anchor text is another key aspect that can sometimes be very difficult to manipulate in an e-commerce presentation. These category names are rendering on every template within a domain so they are extremely important, especially because the text included in those links is what Google is going to think the page is primarily about. Craig and his team have seen instances where platforms are not very friendly in giving them the capability to change the anchor text. They would need to share recommendations and their point person would have to provide approval. This approval would then be passed onto a content manager who would have to make the changes then the developer would push that staging version live. These are a lot of steps that take quite a bit of time.
Now, Craig and his team are able to change a lot of the anchor text that are nested in pages by providing direction to the customer or their point person, then, upon receiving approval, they or the customer can push it live without needing to rely on a developer, taking something that could take months, and making it happen in days.
RankSense in Action
Craig then did a quick demo on RankSense in action. He showed the dashboard for one of their customers and showed how the program monitors the different URLs crawled each day.
RankSense not only gives users the capability to direct change, but it also gives users the capability to monitor progress and issues.
Craig also showed how RankSense points out current issues that may need to be rectified.
Craig shared that RankSense gives him and his team the ability to take action rapidly using the platform as well as using Google Sheets as the mechanism for them to create the content.
A new addition to RankSense is the Insights page which helps users learn the impact of SEO on their website. The Insights chart shows a before and after comparison on the tags added so users can directly measure the impact of each one.
This feature is one of the most beneficial features that RankSense is bringing to the market, because although making changes quickly is very important, learning whether those changes are effective at a granular level and fast is something people won’t get anywhere else. If you know what’s working, you can double down on what’s working without wasting time on things that aren’t working.
Free Diagnostic SEO Crawl
Craig ended the presentation by offering a free diagnostic SEO crawl to anyone who participated in the webinar. The crawl includes a unique URL for your business constructed in Google Data Studio. This unique URL will give you a good pulse of issues that you have as well as solutions on how to fix these issues using RankSense.
If you’re interested in this offer or to learn more about the team at Trinity Insight, contact Craig at [email protected].