A few weeks back, I took part in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) in the Big SEO community on Reddit.
I love participating in AMAs – they’re a great chance to see what’s really on people’s minds right now and which issues are causing the industry grief. Each one is also an opportunity to connect with marketers of all experience levels, across a range of industries and in different types of roles. I definitely learn a ton every time I do one!
I did an AMA on Inbound.org back in April and put together a list of the top PPC questions I was asked. This time, I wanted to share some of the super smart SEO questions the Reddit group had for me, along with my answers. Enjoy! (Also check out our Mega Collection of SEO Expert Advice from other Reddit SEO AMAs, and our SEO Basics Guide.)
1. What’s Your Keyword Research Secret?
Q. RealHeadyBro asked, “What tools do you use to determine what keywords and phrases are viable optimization targets for a website? Is it just looking at the SERP and using your gut or are you using apps and services?”
A. I have a formula that I use for prioritizing keyword research. I take the [(Estimated Monthly Search Volume for the countries that I care about) * (Estimated CPC for #1 listing in those countries)] / Keyword Competition. All of this data comes from Google Keyword Planner.
Estimated Monthly Search Volume gives me a sense for the "market opportunity" of the keyword. CPC data gives me a sense for the economic/commercial value of the keyword. PPC competition is a real (decimal) number between 0 and 1. One is super competitive, 0 is not competitive at all.
I have found that PPC competition is relatively similar to SEO competition (the same keywords that advertisers want to bid on are the ones that SEOs want to own). So it makes sense to normalize by keyword competition. The keyword competition data isn't visible within the Keyword Planner user interface (it just says "high," "medium," "low"), but you can get the real value by exporting the data to a file.
2. How Should You Use Keywords On-Site?
Q. ThisThingIAm asked, “As a beginner to SEO, I understand keywords are very important in generating site traffic. In what way should you be using keywords in your blog/site; as in, where are correct places for placement?”
A. Take a look at how Wikipedia does it. Notice how they show up on pretty much every search? Their smart use of keywords is partly responsible.
They use keywords in the URL, headings, subheadings, images, first paragraph, etc. They also have very themed content (one article per specific topic). They also do tons of internal linking of articles using related anchor text.
You can read more about this in our content keywords FAQ.
3. How Can E-commerce Sites Avoid Thin Content Penalties?
A. I think that if you have high enough domain authority, Google will look the other way on thin content. Case in point: eBay got away with crappy, thin content for many years. Now, they recently got hit by Panda 4.0, and where I think things broke down was that they overdid it. There was just way too much crap (hundreds of millions of pages of thin content – or 98% of the entire site).
If you're worried about thin content, a legitimate SEO strategy might be to earn more high value links, thus increasing domain authority and reducing the risk of your thin content.
4. What Can SEO Campaigns Take from PPC Keyword Research?
Q. Realicity asked, “What are 3 ways and/or data points that SEO campaigns can take and use from a successful PPC campaign targeting the same keyword segments?”
A. Here are a few ideas:
- Within any segment, there are certain types of keywords that do better for SEO, and some that do better for PPC. For example, keywords with commercial intent (people looking to buy) do better on paid search because Google crowds out all the above-the-fold space with ads (such as Google Shopping ads). Keywords with informational intent (e.g. "who won the battle of 1812") do much better in SEO since Google doesn't even bother showing ads for most informational queries. By using both together, you can have better coverage across all the keywords within your niche.
- The conversion rates from a typical SEO content piece are low single digits (around 3%). By tagging those visitors and remarketing to them on the Google Display Network, you could double that conversion rate.
- Companies spend so much money and time creating content that often very few people read. Using social media advertising such as sponsored updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can dramatically improve the number of people who see your content. Read more about content promotion best practices here.
5. How Do You Manage Site Architecture Over Time?
Q. Bowra asked, “Hey Larry, question about internal links related to navigation. I work with sites for small businesses, and our biggest sites are generally still less than 1,000 pages including blogs and articles. The strategy has always been to build more marketing pages as time goes on, starting broad and getting more granular. This can lead to some fairly crazy looking cascading or accordion-style navigation and generate a lot of links on each page. What rules do you follow when you’re developing a site over time and trying to organize the architecture and navigation?”
A. Why does everything have to be in the navigation? Maybe 5% of the 2000+ pages of content on WordStream.com show up in site navigation. The main pathway through the site is that people just arrive directly at the page relevant to their search, either via PPC or SEO. I think site navigation is a relic from before search engines. You can also leverage (a) a site search tool (b) in-paragraph contextual linking within content.
I think having large numbers of navigation links with very similar anchor text is suspect and I wouldn't be surprised if Google targeted that in a future algorithm update.
6. Should You Go All-In on Retargeting?
Q. Backlinko asked, “I'm looking to get into AdWords to generate brand awareness and build my email list...specifically retargeting. I've heard mixed opinions on whether it's OK to have retargeting as the ONLY thing you use for PPC. Some say it should be a small part of your PPC campaigns. Some say you can do well with just retargeting.”
A. Since you already have traffic to your website, remarketing/retargeting is the low-hanging fruit to go after in terms of paid marketing efforts. Allocating 100% to remarketing is a great strategy, since it will help you with brand recall and convert people who visited you but didn't buy your educational materials. Remember that you can be very picky in audience selection. For example, you could choose to remarket to just those people who visited your pricing page, or viewed 5 or more pages, etc.
7. How Do You Do Multivariate Testing for SEM?
Q. jpuck28822 asked, “I am looking to run scaled multivariate tests for AdWords. What tools are out there to help me do this? What has your success been with multivariate testing for SEM? What are the drawbacks?
A. It is remarkably difficult in SEM to understand if the optimizations that we work on have the intended impact, due to so many variables at play. As a result, my success with multivariate testing has been low. This is compounded if you don’t have a huge amount of traffic, since it takes a long time to reach statistical significance.
Instead I'd focus on trying to make big changes and shooting for 3-5x increases (not 3-5% changes) – I wrote about this just a few months ago.
Also, Google is releasing a new tool called “Your Own Lab” which seems to be a good way for doing those types of experiments (the feature is still in beta).
Looking for More Search Marketing Tips?
If you missed out on the AMA, leave your question here in the comments! Stay tuned and I’ll be back with an answer for you.