You Ask, We Answer: On-Page & Technical SEO

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Welcome to the first of many thrilling installments of “You Ask, We Answer!” (working on the production value, in the meantime just imagine a gong sound in the background), where you send in your questions, and we answer them in our webinars.

We figured we’d start out strong with our Director of Product Development, CrossFit strongwoman, and all-around good gal, Carrie Oliva, talking about On-Page and Technical SEO. We’ve embedded the video footage of the webinar below, and then painstakingly transcribed (read: edited what the app transcribed for us) the answers to the questions below that.

So far we don’t have any prizes to give away, but if you have any questions for our next webinar on Google My Business with Lead Content Strategist Melina Beeston, you can send your questions here. And in a way, isn’t having your question picked and then answered prize enough?

Woman Holding an iPad Displaying The Google Web Site."

Why, in the back end of my website, does the Yoast Plug-In say my SEO score isn’t very good?

Carrie:

All right, that’s a question that we get quite a bit from our clients. So I’m just going to walk you through it. This is one of our websites right now, and that blue box that you see around those dots, those are the SEO scores that are showed from the Yoast SEO plugin. So a common question is, “I thought I was paying you guys to SEO all my websites. Why are these red?” So the answer is that this is actually a tool that we give or that we have on our websites that we provide to you to use to kind of score your own SEO. So our team is SEOing, or technical SEOing your landing pages and the blog posts that we provide for you, but this is more so kind of an extension for you to go in and do it yourself.

So we know that we’re SEOing our stuff ahead of time before we even put it on your sites. There are some things that you need to set up on your side to be able to be able to actually score your page correctly. So this is one page on Team Ford, that they have not set a focus keyword right where it says –I’m assuming you guys can see my mouse. I’m hoping you can– but where it says focus keyword here, the score is generated from a focus keyword. So if you haven’t put in a focus keyword on your landing page inside of the Yoast SEO Plugin, you’re not going to get a score. You’re going to be scored poorly. So our team, when we do write your content, they are focusing on keywords for your site or for the landing page or whatever topic that they’re writing for, but they’re not necessarily using this plugin to score it. But if you were to go and kind of add in the correct key words or whatever we were writing for, you would see that your score would kind of turn green across the board. So really it’s more of an extension or an extra tool for you to use. It doesn’t mean that your SEO is terrible or bad or that we haven’t done it.

What is Schema?

Carrie:

Alright, so that is a great question. So schema is also known as Schema.org, and it’s really a bunch of tags or a different way of marketing up your content, so that the HTML is easily readable from different search engines and they represent your page in search engine results pages. So Google works really hard to understand the context of a page. And schema markup provides explicit clues about what the meaning of a page is to Google, by including that markup on your page. So what is Schema? This is Schema. So this is a schema markup for a seller listing, and there’s really only three things that you’re gonna see on the page, those things in orange. So Brent, the dollar sign and $18,000. But what we’ve done is that we’ve marked up Brent as a seller and, he’s obviously offering some sort of product. The currency is Canadian and the price is $18,000. You don’t see this on the front end, you don’t see that these are the categories that we’ve given those pieces of content. But Google sees that.

So why do you care about this? Well, structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content. So one example that is really great, and that SEOs use a lot, is recipe schema. So recipes is what Google works on the most. It’s always whenever they roll out new Schema, recipes is usually what you’ll see first. So when you Google a chicken marsala recipe, you’re going to see that it has a rating. You can see the reviews, how long it takes for you to do that recipe and how many calories in that recipe and some of these results listings, and that is generated through Schema markup. So Google is not going to go and sit there and read all of the content on the page and try to figure out how long it takes for you to to complete that recipe.

But if you mark up your content in a way where if you say, this recipe is 448 calories, it takes 20 minutes, Google will take that context and it’s going to apply it to the search engine results page. So that’s really, if it’s a special search result feature, and also it’s kind of funny because it’s not guaranteed if you do it, it just kind of helps Google understand what your site’s about. So then that way it can kind of hopefully represent your website or your landing page in a way that’s correct to somebody who’s searching for that particular page on Google. But again, Google uses the recipes thing as a standard for showing off the new search results features. So this is what you know, this is what a landing page would look like on the back end of how we would get that grandma’s apple pie recipe showing up using the search result features for recipes.

So it’s a lot of mark up that’s done on the back end and there are a lot of different ways of doing it. And as a Strathcom client, if you have a website hosted with us, we do a lot of that for you. So on the back end, our search results pages or vehicle description pages and even your entire website, we’ve coded out specific things so that we’re relevant. Schema features are applied to your website. So if you’re ready, if you were to use the google search structured data testing tool, you would be able to see a lot of the different things that we’ve tagged your site as.

How often does Google crawl or re-index a website?

Carrie:

So that is a great question and I’ve gotten this quite a lot where a client has maybe had a penalty and they want to ask Google for forgiveness and their website re-indexed or re-crawled–and the answer is there is no definite answer. This is Google’s secret sauce. They, I don’t think they will ever tell the public how often to, how often it takes for them to re-crawl a website it could literally take a few hours to a few days to a few weeks. Google does provide some tools where you can request a re-crawl. So you can use search console by resubmitting your sitemap or an individual URL under your website property, and that’s really kind of like the only way that Google says you can have Google re-crawl or re-index your website. Another thing that we’ve kind of noticed that SEOs kind of agree on, is that increasing the frequency of publishing fresh content on your website encourages Google to crawl your sites more frequently.

Taylor:

Yeah. I know one of the things that we do for our content marketing packages is, we make sure that we are posting things through Google Plus. Now as far as social networks go, that one was sort of an attempt to combat Facebook from Google’s end,, not exactly the most successful. We’re not posting them there so people will see it and share it, but it does, it has been proven to actually increase the rate at which your pages are crawled. So one of the reasons we do that is just so that we can kind of guarantee that it’ll be crawled faster than if you had not posted it up on Google Plus. So just another one of the benefits of going with one of our content marketing packages.

Carrie:

Yeah. Google loves fresh content. They love unique content and especially when it’s relevant to your website. So, and Google’s not going to outright say that’s why we crawl your site more frequently, but it’s kind of a result of all of the testing that we’ve done and that, you know, hundreds of SEOs have done and it’s kind of like a fact in the of the industry of SEO.

What are considered white hat and black hat techniques for SEO?

Carrie:

That’s a great question. So, in its simplest form, white hat techniques are really strategies that follow Google’s rules, like publishing quality content and trying to be as organic as possible with inbound traffic– and black hat tactics, they take a complete 180. They’re, it’s really more of an aggressive approach where you’re gaming the system and you’re not afraid to bend the rules to have Google re-crawl your site more frequently and things like that. So, let’s start with the more villainous of the two. So unfortunately the websites or the people who are practicing black hat SEO, they’re more like the outlaws or like, you know, like the bad cowboys on the Internet because they really rely on those rule breaking techniques to earn higher rankings. So one thing to kind of note is that black hat SEO technically does work, but if you get caught it is fairly costly in terms of the performance of your website by the penalizations that Google is going to kind of apply to your website.

So, one of the things that you can have , that’s black hat SEO, is unrelated keywords. So that means adding keywords that have no connection to your content, that’s a red flag for search engines because of how unnatural it looks. So let’s say you’re working on your dealership website and maybe you add in a sentence like Ryan Gosling services his vehicles at our dealership during his trip home to Canada. I mean, it sounds great, but it really has nothing to do with how your product could benefit your target audience. And really you’re just kinda click-baiting search engines to go to your website. So unfortunately, that is something that you know, some websites do. Another thing is content automation. So this is something that you probably see a lot if you have blogs, if you have anywhere where anybody can comment on anything, it’s basically like bots or spam bots and you can kind of recognize them instantly.

You know, it may contain one or two key words where it’s like, oh, this “Edmonton dealership is really great. Thanks. Bye.” Like the keywords are unrelated, but they’re kind of stuffing in things on your website to hopefully get Google to rank you higher. So it’s another way of kind of keyword stuffing on your website: doorway pages. So this one is quite controversial because you as a user on Google, will technically never see these pages, but Google bots and the crawlers would see this. So they’re basically fake pages that are overloaded with keywords really for a landing pages –sorry not landing pages– so they’re there for bots and Google and search engines to find, so they’re keyword rich or super poor in terms of content and their design. They’re just designed to fool search engines.

There’s no real information on the page, they’re really just ways of redirecting people to different pieces of content. So I’m sure you’ve probably seen these a couple times in the past where you’re like, oh great, the search result has exactly what I’m looking for. And you click on it and then you have this entire table full of links and you’re like, damn it, I now have to go look for another page. So Google ranks those pages. Yes. But to you as a user, it’s not very usable. And Google has gotten very good at finding those kinds of pages and penalizing them or just completely not indexing them at all. So the other step to this would be cloaking. This is a practice that is used to cheat and fool search and search engines by showing different content to search engine bots.

And different content to users, so it’s super deceptive because it tricks search engines in to kind of rank a page to get a targeted keywords showing up in the search listings. So kind of an example here is that you could have a page ranked for servicing your vehicle in Edmonton and really you just keyword–keyword stuff the hell out of it using a bunch of different things and maybe it flashes really quickly, to a white screen while it’s loading and then it shows you a page that has maybe two or three pieces of content on it on a form. So it’s really just gaming the system and kind of asking Google to look at all of the content that’s on a page but not really on a page. And Google has kind of adjusted their search algorithms to figure out when people are doing this or when websites are doing this.

When you do get caught or when you know, websites get caught doing this, Google pretty much throws the book at you and they’ll completely ban or de-index your entire website. All right. Another one, and we’ve kind of seen this a lot, or I’ve seen this a lot in my six years in the automotive industry is um using invisible texts or links. So this one is fairly common. It’s hiding text or links within your content to improve search rankings. Some people like to do it by adding white text to a page that has a white background or vice versa, or changing the font size to one pixel so no one can see it and maybe shows up as a line. I kind of consider it as like the same as when you’re trying to write an essay for school and you need to fill their requirements of, you know, maybe five pages.

So you change the font width, or your periods, to make it look like it’s actually five pages. Again, don’t do this, it’s super risky. Google can find it very, very quickly. And again, you can get your site penalized from the search engine or  penalized with a lower ranking in terms of the keywords that you’re trying to get going. Alright, so white hat SEO; obviously this is the SEO that our team likes to use. This is the SEO technique that Strathcom stands behind, because what we focus on is making your sites more visible through quality content and organic link building. So our team doesn’t necessarily build out those links for you, but we give you the content that would encourage other websites to link toward you. Obviously quality content is one of those pieces.

So create valuable content for your target audience, that’s either share-worthy or link-worthy. Those are two key ingredients to driving traffic to your website. You know that content needs to be original and highly relevant to your website. So just because you’ve written a great blog post about Ryan Gosling going to your dealership it might not necessarily be relevant to, you know, the person who isn’t a Ryan Gosling fan and really just wants to go get an oil change for his Ford f-150. So again, make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors. Quality content is key here, and in addition to quality content, ensure that you’re using effective key word research. Keyword stuffing is frowned upon. So don’t, you know, “I’m an Edmonton dealership, you know, your Honda Edmonton, your favorite Edmonton dealership, and the surrounding areas of Edmonton,” that is kind of an example of keyword stuffing.

What we want to do is what we want to include those keywords correctly within your content. We want it to be readable because SEO in general is really user experience first. It doesn’t matter if your website is the most technically correct in terms of SEO. If people go to your website and they see a wall of text and they don’t care to read it, Google considers that a ranking factor. So that’s basically your bounce rate. So if they go to a page and they bounced right off of it, again, that’s kind of a fail on whoever wrote that and on the website itself. So you want to engage your users with effective keyword research. So focus on things that are relevant to the topic, relevant to your website, and your business, and again, also think about long tail keywords. So if you’re thinking, okay, well I’m in a market maybe like Toronto where there’s a lot of market saturation for selling my particular vehicle or my particular service, maybe don’t try to focus for that general keyword. So oil change Toronto may not be a keyword that you want to focus on. Maybe it could be something longer. I’m sure Taylor and the team, they focus on things like that because those are the easier wins because those are the people who are more engaged and looking for specific things in your content, and are not really going to bounce off of the page because they’ve looked at 15 other sites that are irrelevant.

Taylor:

When you think about the way that people search nowadays, they oftentimes search in questions. You know, it doesn’t make sense for me to not answer a question for someone. So when we have a topic that a dealership gives us and they want to rank higher for “our service department,” we try to think of multiple questions that people may ask that will direct toward the service department. So that’s sort of our end game.

Carrie:

Absolutely. In addition to that, quality content, relevant backlinks, are kind of like the heart of what Google likes to consider, you know, their ranking factors. So if your website is good enough that another website is going to link to it or they consider you the authority on it. Being the authority on a topic is huge. No matter what industry you’re in, no matter what topic you’re writing about. So, you know, work to have quality content and work to have that vote of confidence from other websites to link back to you. One great way to do this, and this –when I first started out in the automotive industry– was trying to figure out how to get backlinks to sites. And I mean, if you are doing community outreach or anything in the community, talk to those organizations and see if they’ll maybe link back to you or you know, you can do a trade.

Say they support your organization. Maybe they can do the same and say, you know, they’ve sponsored us for this or if they have a blog or something, you know, kind of work with them, so you will have to do some work in terms of that. That’s why it’s one of those things in terms of white hat SEO, it does take a little bit more time, but you reap the benefits in much larger ways than keyword stuffing or doing those black hat SEO type things. And then another piece that helps with your white hat SEO is if you have great content onto your website, don’t be afraid to link to that content. So I see this so many times is that I’ll have a website with 50 great pages, but they don’t actually have a way of getting to those pages other than the navigation. So look at whatever’s in your content pages and make sure that you’re linking to those relevant pages and then they’re creating a web of that content. So then that way you can reference back and forth between those pages and increase the traffic and hopefully increase the authority of those pages.

Taylor:

One of the things that Google looks at when they are crawling your site–and they look at your site map and they want to see that there’s a clear path that a user can take, where they click on one thing and then all of a sudden, okay, this takes me to this other section. And once again it’s all about answering these questions and, you know, a shameless plug again for our content marketing packages, each package we’ll have one content strategist working on it at a time. So that way for myself, say, I know that I’ve already written about a related topic so I can easily go back and link those two pages. And then all of a sudden, when Google crawls your site, they see that there is this clear path. So again, one of the benefits of the way that we do things here at Strathcom. (*Editors note: Look at how we’ve included several links and Call-To-Actions throughout this blog post, leading the reader throughout our website to the relevant pages).

Carrie:

And so to reiterate both strategies do work. One is kind of the path of least resistance for some, some users or some webmasters or people like that. But they’re both completely different strategies. So obviously with black hat SEO, you’re going for that quick win and hopefully it’ll work and you’ll get ranked up there as high as possible, but if you do get caught and usually most websites will get caught, eventually, those penalties are going to be devastating to your business because, you know, think about how many times you hear somebody say, Oh, I’m gonna Google this, or how do I get to here if your website is not Googleable? That could be pretty, pretty bad. I don’t think very many websites, especially dealership websites, can afford to be de-indexed.

Why does my dealership name appear in organic search ads outside of my AOR?

Carrie:

So that’s a great question. Your AOR really applies to the area of where you’re allowed to advertise–really if it’s based on what the manufacturer mandates in terms of the competition rules for your dealership. But organic search, I guess organic search results, not necessarily advertisements, there’s no real such thing as an organic search ad. There’s really just paid advertising and organic search results. So, this is kind of a good two-for. If you’re seeing search ads outside of your AOR, I would probably talk to whoever is doing your advertising and talk to them about where they should be advertising. But if you’re seeing organic search results outside of your AOR, or maybe it’s an irrelevant area or surrounding area of your dealership, this is a great thing. It means that people are searching for you organically. This is fine. You’re not breaking any rules. It’s good to go. You’re not going to get penalized from your manufacturer for ranking for a dealer, for a location, that’s  a couple of kilometers away or even a province away. It just means that you’re doing a great job and someone outside of your AOR is looking for your dealership or looking for a service that you may provide.

What is the difference between online advertising and organic search?

Carrie:

All right, so when a search engine returns its search results, it gives you two types of listings. One is organic, one is paid. So organic search results, those are the page listings that really matched the query that you’re searching for. This is Google telling you, hey, I think this is kind of similar or this is what I believe you’re looking for. They’re natural, they’re organic. That’s why they call it organic–online advertising or paid search is really you deciding what you want to display to somebody searching for specific key words or key words that are similar to it. So, if I was in Edmonton and I was looking for an oil change, I would probably get two types of search results listings. I would get everybody who wants to pay for those keyword listings in there, showing up at the top of the screen, and then at the bottom would be those organic ones. So I believe that using both are a great strategy in terms of marketing your website online, and they kind of come hand in hand with any marketer, but really the difference is that you’re paying to be either showing up in those advertising, or sponsored ads, at the top of your search results. Or you’re just kind of like building your website to show up at the very top of the organic listing. So Google is always changing what this looks like, but you can kind of quickly identified the difference between the two. So one is you’re paying for that search traffic. The other is you’re paying for that traffic to your website.

Taylor:

And, one of our future webinars will be with our head of online advertising, Nathan Leverette. He can talk about this a little bit more. So I would definitely sign up for that webinar, but one of the ideas that Google floats around a little bit is that if you have that relevancy and if you are deemed an authority it will help you, or it will help rather lower the cost for your online advertising. So again, he would be able to better explain that, but it works on an auction format and again, basically putting up that quality content is sort of a good way to kind of lower those costs if possible.

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