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SEO Analysis: What Makes for a Good Strategy?

author image Written by: Content Team           Categories - SEO Tips

When It Comes to SEO Ranking, These Factors Matter – Big Time

SEO analysis When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it’s easy to identify poor tactics; whether it’s keyword stuffing, buying or selling links, or posting duplicate content, experts in the field of SEO analysis, and even many less experienced users, know how to spot black hat SEO tactics. When it comes to identifying a good SEO strategy, it’s a little less cut and dry; there is no standard definition or checklist for what exactly makes one strategy better than another. Approaches vary from agency to agency, and even from analyst to analyst; as they should. Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and so should the strategies used for SEO ranking. So, knowing this, how can we ensure that we are consistently employing “good” SEO strategies, when the standards are constantly progressing? When it comes down to it, SEO is about more than just metrics and rankings. The following are the factors that differentiate the best from the rest:

Know the Goals

In theory, the goal of any SEO campaign is to improve search engine rankings. Of course, that’s all well and good, but does your client see it the same way? For many, being on the first page of Google’s search results won’t mean much if this ranking isn’t leading to increased leads and sales. It’s important to get to know your client’s business goals, and to help them understand how the work you’re doing to achieve SEO ranking is impacting their bottom line. If they can understand exactly how both the organic and paid strategies you’re employing convert into customers and increased revenues, they’re more likely to view your efforts as successful. A good strategy is one that takes business objectives into account, and works towards achieving them.

Change is Good

An SEO strategy that was great a few years ago won’t yield the same results today, and one that worked wonders for a small, local bakery may not be as effective for a large real estate company. In order to be successful in this constantly changing landscape, you must view your SEO analysis as an ongoing process. Your approach to SEO ranking must evolve on a case by case basis–from month to month and project to project–in order to remain relevant. Don’t be afraid to revise and improve upon old content, or make changes to pages developed to appease previous search engine algorithms.

Quality is Key

Even the best, most efficient SEO strategies will fail if you’re leading consumers to a site that contains inadequate, low quality content, or an outdated design. Not only will the website’s bounce rate–which is the number of visitors who navigate away from a site after viewing only one page–be astronomical, the trust visitors have in the information found on that site will also suffer. Quality is a key factor often overlooked in SEO analysis, and it’s one that has the potential to make all the difference.

Troubleshoot When Necessary

Having a strong strategy for SEO ranking doesn’t mean one without issues, or one that requires little maintenance. In fact, a good analyst knows that the opposite is true. With heavy competition and constant algorithm changes, effective SEO analysis involves consistently examining all available data, and problem-solving whenever necessary. If a keyword has experienced an SEO ranking drop, work to establish why, and perform the necessary fix. If leads are down despite steady organic traffic, investigate what may be causing this discrepancy. An analyst that consistently examines metrics, and makes adjustments based on his or her observations is a critical element of a good, successful SEO strategy. In many areas of life, what’s “good” and what’s “bad” are subjective, but when it comes to the factors listed, we can all agree that a strategy that includes them is better than one that doesn’t. If you’re looking for SEO analysis, or an SEO strategy that employs all of the above, contact the digital marketing experts at SEO TWIST.

Content Team

Building Better Multilingual Websites

10/15/2018

How Smart Web Design and Architecture Planning Supports Multilingual SEO Success for Your Business

The biggest impact Internet connectivity has had on civilization is how it connects people from around the globe. Naturally, this presents one major challenge for websites on a global scale: not everyone speaks the same language. That’s where multilingual sites come into the picture. These websites allow users to access valuable information and services in a language they’re fluent in, just like some brick-and-mortar business cater to the population of their community by offering service in two or more languages. As an example, Canada’s a country that proudly speaks both English and French. As my fellow Canucks are no doubt aware, all Government of Canada websites provide services in French and English alike. Now, before you go cloning pages and translating your content into another language, it’s important to understand the role that your site’s architecture plays in SEO, UX, and digital marketing. Your site’s architecture is the foundation on which it is built. As with problems in your home’s foundation, issues facing your site architecture will cause problems throughout the entire structure. For lasting success and your own peace of mind, it’s important to get it right the first time.

Architecture Basics

A laptop with coding visible on the screen sits on the arm of a sofa.
Start with the basics and nail the architecture first.
Let’s go back to the analogy of building a secure foundation for a home. Before you even begin to build a home, let alone pour the foundation, you spend a lot of time thinking about what you need from a house. You develop a list of features and a plan, maybe with a designer, to create a space you’ll feel comfortable in and that will support your needs. Website architecture is no different. Intuitive navigation and menu structures are not the result of common sense but careful planning and consideration. Taking a few cues from the field of information architecture, it’s important to understand your site exists at the confluence of several factors. As with any marketing endeavour, start with the research. Who is your audience? What are they looking for? How do your business offerings intersect with user needs and search intent? Over at Conversion XL, Peep Laja argues that there are four fundamental questions visitors have when they arrive at a site:

  • Am I in the right place?
  • Does your site have what I’m looking for?
  • Does your site have anything better, if this isn’t what I want?
  • What do I do next?

As such, your site needs to leave visitors feeling comfortable they’re in the right place, help them find what they’re looking for with minimal effort, and ensure they know what other options are available. They also need to know what actions they can take next once they’ve made a decision. So, with this in mind, your site’s proposed architecture should include and incorporate everything from menu structures and effective CTAs to search functionality and easy-to-use UX-influenced design. In short, good site structure means great user experience. Easy, right?

How Multiple Languages Impact Architecture and SEO

Whether you have an existing website or you’re starting from scratch, the first step is making sure you’ve got all your content ready for translation. As tempting as it might be to go with a software-based solution, we highly recommend using a human translator. People understand the nuances of language much better than machines, and that nuance can make or break SEO success via content marketing. The good news is this will pay off. The bad news is this is one of many challenges.

A graphic of various greetings in a wide variety of languages, including English, French, Japanese, and more.
Don’t ignore the benefits of translated content tailored to your audiences.

Transliteration vs. Translation

Offering content in several languages adds tremendous complexity to the web design process. Not only does your content need to be translated effectively to convey your messaging to your target audience, but it also needs to be presented properly. This doesn’t just mean good design and layouts: it means considering how content in another language will look and behave, in everything from wordiness to how characters interact in a font.   For example, a simple “Add to Cart” button in English is only 11 characters long, including the spaces. Translate that into French, “Ajouter au panier,” and it jumps up to 17. In German, that’s “zum warenkorb hinzufügen,” a whopping 24 characters. At this point, it’s worth it to find less-wordy alternatives with a translator or start adding code that will change the font size, style, and kerning based on any chosen language. Unicode-based encoding can support multiple languages, ensuring your content and fonts contain all the characters needed to display your content.

URL Structure

This is the big one, with potentially huge ramifications for SEO. Country code top-level domains (ccTLD) are a pretty common option. These are domains linked to specific countries, such as .ca for Canadian sites. They send strong signals to search engines that your site is aimed at users within that country. The big downside with ccTLDs is that they carry extra costs and aren’t as readily available. Alternatively, you can go with a subdomain paired with a generic top-level domain (gTLD), such as ca.yourbusiness.org, where the “ca.” subdomain denotes the country while the gTLD handles the rest. Of course, the problem here is that users might not recognize the content language based on the URL alone. Getting a bit more out there, you can try a subdirectory. These are probably one of the most common and effective ways of denoting multiple languages. This is the classic “www.yourbusiness.com/fr/” address, which lets you host all content on a single server. Subdirectories are easy to set up and implement and using Google Search Console also allows you to identify different languages your visitors use quickly. At SEO TWIST, most of our multilingual sites use subdirectories. For example, SKINS Derma Care’s brand new French site can be found at www.skinsdermacare.ca/fr/.

Tagging and Identifying Multilingual Sites

The biggest issue facing your site’s SEO when you create a multilingual site is getting it to rank. Google’s crawlers are polyglots, meaning they’re able to read content no matter the language. So when they land on your English page for, say, high-end basketball shoes and see a page with really similar content in French on the same domain, they get a little confused. Thankfully, there are solutions here. HTML link elements can be added to pages that you’re trying to rank to let them know that the multilingual translations are simply alternate versions of the same page. Using rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” can help you distinguish versions of a page. Of course, it goes without saying that all these solutions and fixes work perfectly in an ideal world. With the help of a reliable team of web developers, you can get these elements working perfectly in tandem to ensure optimal UX, no matter what language your users need.

Diving into Multilingual SEO

Optimizing multilingual sites for search engines is about as challenging and time-consuming a process as SEO is in a single language. Let’s take a hypothetical English site considering branching into French content as an example. Keyword research and traffic analysis have shown you get significant French search volume from both Quebec and France alike. This is fantastic data to have but presents some key challenges.

A hand points at a spot on a map with pins on it showing where visitors are from.
Track and map where you’re getting traffic from to determine your approach.
Obviously, you want the people searching in French to arrive at your French site. But French content for Quebec is naturally going to be very different than French content for France. Even within Canada itself, New Brunswick’s francophone population might need a specifically geotargeted page, too. This is all to say that multilingual SEO is a complex topic that amplifies the usual challenges you face. After resolving technical challenges, lasting success relies on ongoing, effective content strategies for your various markets. This means developing buyer personas, delving into keyword research, exploring local traffic and search trends, and putting it all together in a compelling content package. Let’s be honest: SEO is already a complex endeavour. When we add the requirements for a multilingual platform, we are adding to the complexities. But when executed correctly, a multilingual SEO strategy will reap massive benefits for your site, brand, and business. Not sure where to start? Contact SEO TWIST today to book a site audit—we’ll help you determine a strategy for expanding your site’s offerings to help support your business goals. BOOK AN AUDIT TODAY!

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Call a Medic! A Closer Look at the Latest Google Update

09/26/2018

Understanding the Impact of Google’s Most Recent Algorithm Update And How it Affects Your Business

Did your search rankings plummet overnight? If you’re reading this, chances are Google’s latest algorithm update impacted you in some way. These semi-regular tweaks and fixes occur without warning and are rarely commented on by Google in any sort of official detail. This latest update, sometimes called the Medic or E-A-T update, hit some sites harder than others. As SEOs everywhere carefully watched and monitored changes, they shared their findings and insight. With a few insights from Google staff themselves, the SEO community has been exploring and tracking the update’s lasting effects on sites across various industries. Expert SEO analysis helps put some perspective on what happened, why, and who was affected. If your rankings plummeted and you’re trying to figure out the reason why, the E-A-T (or Medic) update is the likely culprit. And that’s a good thing!

What is E-A-T? Who Does it Affect?

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. These three factors play a surprisingly large role in SEO, especially in certain verticals and industries. The E-A-T update is a broad core algorithm update for Google Search. This algorithm determines how results are returned based on a user’s search terms, also known as their search intent. “Broad core” simply means the update affects all aspects of the search algorithm, as the terms suggest. The E-A-T update got its name for its apparent impact on “Your Money, Your Life” industries (YMYL), referring to verticals such as healthcare, law, nutrition, real estate, and e-commerce. As previously mentioned, this update is also commonly referred to as the “Medic” update because of the severe impact it had on healthcare sites. This update isn’t exclusive to these industries, though, and has implications for all sites and searches. Per Marie Haynes’ data and research, Google is trying to find ways to show searchers genuinely trustworthy information. Understanding exactly makes a website trustworthy in the eyes of a search engine takes a bit of unpacking. Let’s start with Google’s official response: https://twitter.com/searchliaison/status/1024691872025833472 It’s not much beyond a confirmation changes took place and a reference to an earlier tweet from March. But that tweet does give webmasters everywhere something to work with. Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan confirmed as much in a twitter thread from August 1: https://twitter.com/dannysullivan/status/1024771615265980417 This specific reference to the company’s rater guidelines provides more insight. The guidelines are some 200 pages of criteria search raters at Google use to determine quality. It’s a lot of information, but the basic message is this: a high-quality website with high-quality content clearly demonstrates its purpose to the end user and supports it with relevant and authoritative information. This is nothing new, but the update is still a fundamental shift in how search approaches these factors. Now, perhaps more than ever before, design, content, and technical SEO details must all work in concert to create useful, relevant user experiences.

Impacts on Organic Traffic, Rankings

So how hard did this update hit sites, then? Based on YMYL guidelines and what other SEOs were reporting, we took a closer look at the health and nutrition verticals. As many others reported, we found that traffic and rankings took a big hit.

Dips and Losses

Take a look at these numbers for August from a nutrition-focused site (I used SEMRush to gather this data):

A range of measurements showing a drop in visits, unique visitors, pages per visit, and average visit duration to a website for the month of August. Visits decreased by 17 percent, visitors by 22.5 percent, pages per visit by 28 percent, and the average visit duration by 71 percent.
This nutrition-focused site saw significant drops going into August.
Prior to the latest Google update, these numbers were steadily rising. In fact, the numbers don’t quite do it justice. Here’s a six-month trend for that same site:
Traffic for this nutrition-based website dropped by nearly 50% going into August 2018, as this graph shows a dip from 10,000 to 5,000 between July and August.
The traffic drop for this nutrition site is apparent in a timeline graph. Graph courtesy SEMRush.
As you can see, content marketing, SEO best practices, and development work were paying off with a steady climb from April through July. Then, following the E-A-T/Medic update, a sudden and dramatic drop going into August. Our team ran a deep audit of the site and noticed a few key issues:

  • Low-quality, “thin” content in the blog’s archives.
  • A lack of citations and references for YMYL-centric information.
  • Technical SEO issues that, while on a smaller scale, still add up and make an impact.

Here’s another diet and nutrition site’s rankings taking a plunge, courtesy of Marie Haynes:

This data, courtesy of Marie Haynes, shows a day-by-day dip in traffic starting on August 1.
This day-by-day view of traffic for a diet and nutrition site really illustrates the impact of the update. Image via Marie Haynes.
It’s even more apparent when you drill down into the day-by-day traffic numbers, as you can see.

Major Gains, Too

Of course, the flipside of this story is that there were some winners, too. Here’s a six-month view of traffic changes for a site with a medical focus:

This graph shows the fluctuations in traffic going into the E-A-T update, with traffic actually rising going into August.
This site features a strong E-A-T component, which served it well as the algorithm update took effect in early August.
Going into the update, this site was on a bit of a downturn, rankings and traffic fluctuating as they tend to do. But unlike other sites, this one came out the other side none too worse for wear. Why? It’s almost the inverse of our nutrition example from earlier. While the traffic levels aren’t directly comparable, the same principles apply:

  • This site regularly demonstrates authority, as it’s run by a licensed medical professional. Their credentials are searchable and displayed prominently.
  • The content is written from a professional, medical perspective, regularly linking out to academic sources.
  • Finally, the site is by and large free of technical SEO issues. This might be an unfair point of comparison, though, given the relative size of each site.

In short, one site’s approach to E-A-T certainly outperforms the other. Take this with a grain of salt, though; Google does not take an author’s reputation into account when determining rank. All the same, don’t ignore reputation from a user perspective. So are E-A-T and YMYL the whole story, then? Not so fast!

Digging Deeper: SEO Analysis

Taking a closer look at the update’s impact is illuminating. Matt Bentley’s comprehensive analysis of over 100 sites found that, while many of the E-A-T and YMYL guidelines do play a role, at the end of the day, there’s still no single “smoking gun.” That said, following Google’s rater guidelines is a great starting point, whether for content, design, UX, or technical issues. The challenge is in measuring what makes something “good.” That’s not to say content and design don’t carry valuable data, but “good” is subjective. It’s hard to measure. At the risk of sounding trite, you know good content and design when you see it… …but so does Google. That 100-site analysis included content quality assessments, which incorporated several factors. Bentley quantified these factors and found that sites that gained ground were all doing a few things in common, and doing them very well:

  • They contained well-written content, free of grammatical errors.
  • Their content included relevant information that satisfied user intent.
  • The relevant information was supported with dofollow outbound links to relevant sources.
  • The content was presented well, using subheadings, a table of contents, bullet points, pull quotes, and other elements to help improve readability.

This is, effectively, everything your teachers wanted from you in high school or college: well-written arguments with proper references and research to back them up. This is the core of E-A-T. Google wants to vet and confirm your information and how it matches search intent before presenting it to the end user.

A man checks his Twitter account on his phone as he sits in front of his laptop.
On mobile and desktop, UX can’t be an afterthought.

High-Quality UX is Now More Important than Ever

Overlook user experience at your own risk. UX is an integral component of website production, impacting content, design, and development equally. With this latest update, it’s clear that UX and SEO are two peas in a pod. Traditional SEO signals and well-written metadata aren’t enough to get and stay on top of the rankings game these days, though. This update also appears to build on two major updates from earlier in 2018. The first, detailed by Glenn Gabe back in March, appeared to target search relevancy and page quality. In April, the second update emphasized UX and quality while tweaking those initial relevancy changes. Why is this important? Looking at the broader context of these core algorithm updates, a few things become apparent:

  • Google places a high priority on search relevancy as it relates to the user’s initial query.
  • Page quality plays a strong role in Google Search, incorporating content, design elements, and technical details.
  • A page’s quality and relevancy are closely interlinked.

The common thread through all these observations is user experience. It’s more and more apparent that Google wants to be a reliable information delivery system, matching users with the best results as they pertain to a given query. In short, Google focuses on user experience. End-to-end, this should be a primary focus of any site, SEO, or business. Focusing on UX clearly has strong benefits in terms of digital presence and brand awareness. As such, thinking of UX as a final step in a QA process ignores its importance. Now, more than ever, UX needs to inform all aspects of a website.  As you already know, poor design or development can quickly turn a user off from a site. How can you deliver the best UX possible? Answering this question will help you in the long run.

How Can You Rebuild Lost Rankings?

We’ve already touched upon a few key factors in the rankings game, but we’re going to take a closer look at how you can implement E-A-T-friendly site updates that will support you in the long term. You won’t rebuild lost rankings overnight, but careful and strategic updates can help you mitigate the losses. Because of the size and scope of this update, we recommend taking time to reassess your approach to SEO. If you haven’t updated your strategy in a while, then an update like this could actually be an opportunity! If you’re not totally sure where to start, or you’re having trouble identifying the issues facing your site, running an audit can help identify the stumbling blocks you’re facing. The SEO TWIST team can help you take a closer look at your site to spot those areas of improvement. GET AN EXPERT SITE AUDIT TODAY! In the meantime, let’s dive into some of the things you can do now to immediately address Google’s E-A-T/Medic update to help you rebuild lost rankings and organic traffic.

Authorship and Reputation

While these factors aren’t direct contributors to your rankings, they do help in several ways. A reputable author with verifiable, reputable credentials is going to carry a lot more weight an unknown, unidentifiable author. For example, a user is far more likely to trust an article on wisdom teeth removal written by Dr. Jane Smith, DDS, with verifiable credentials and a professional author section on a website, than they are to trust John Doe, a name on a screen with an empty avatar and no further details. Take the time to build author profiles for your content authors. 

Jessica Jones speaks to a man, saying,
Same goes for your site.
This can be a few short sentences in an article’s footer or a full profile that users can access by clicking on an author’s name. Integrate social links, publications they’ve been featured in, and a bit more to support their expertise. Remember, you’re trying to address E-A-T, after all. Remember that reputation extends beyond what’s on your page. A wealth of negative reviews about your business or products on your Google business profile will heavily contribute to how the algorithm perceives your brand. This isn’t surprising, though, since these reviews are user-created content on a profile you manage. Take time to develop an outreach campaign to address negative reviews. Even if you can’t resolve complaints fully or get users to change their reviews, you’re at least doing something that publicly demonstrates your business can be trusted and showing that you want to do better. You can’t eliminate negative reviews entirely, but you can improve them, or outweigh them with positives. Strengthen your social media presence by not just acknowledging your disgruntled audience but relating to them and going the extra mile to get back in their good books.

Fact Checking and Reviewing Links

Limit your references and be strategic in how you implement backlinks. (Yes, backlinks still matter!) For example, while Wikipedia’s reputation and reliability have improved dramatically in the years since its introduction, it’s still not as reliable as primary sources. Reviewing your link profile and working on its health can help you here. You need to establish your brand as a reputable thought leader and reliable source of information for users. They’re trusting you to offer information they can use to make a decision, especially when it comes to YMYL sites. Think of links and backlinks as your site’s bibliography. Webranking’s Andrea Gozzi had a great article that examined the importance of this approach to linked information and the benefits it had when the E-A-T update hit. In short, showing your work and citing your sources pays off big time, just like it did back in school.

Technical SEO Elements

You can never ignore the basics. There’s plenty of SEO work that can be done both on and off-page. Barry Schwartz found several correlations between sites that didn’t fully incorporate SEO keywords into HTML tags and rankings losses, for example. What’s more, off-page signals, like the backlinks we discussed earlier, closely related to poorer performance overall. Finding and addressing a weak link profile is a must. There are a number of resources out there that provide a comprehensive list of technical SEO details to nail down. If the latest algorithm update hit you hard, it never hurts to run a second check and review the technical stuff. Of course, the biggest recommendation we can make is…

Take Action!

If you’ve been hit hard by the latest Google algorithm update, don’t wait for things to get better! Take action, make changes, monitor, and reassess as needed. The chief takeaway we want to leave you with is that there’s no single fix for any of this. If your site took a hit, don’t think of it as a penalty. It’s not! You might actually be implementing some of these strategies to some extent. The issue isn’t that you have a bad site, but rather that other sites are doing something better. The good news is you can build things back up! Running a full-site audit and SEO analysis when rankings tank is a great place to start, especially if you haven’t taken a closer look at your site in a while. If you’re not sure where to start with this, our team is ready to help you get a handle on where you’re at and what you can do to improve.

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