Marketing Blabs – Podcast

Blab #9: How Google Ranks Your Site

Date of Blab

25 August 2023

Blab Host

Categories

Listen Time

00:39:59

In this Marketing Blab episode, we dive deep into the intricate world of search engines and their inner workings. Unpack the immense power behind strategic keyword optimisation and discover why quality content isn't just about reader engagement. Whether you're new to digital marketing or a seasoned pro, this Blab offers invaluable insights to up your SEO game.

On this Blab: Tom Haslam (Host), Matt Janaway, Mel Healy and Steven Pownall.

Blab Transcript
Tom Haslam - (host):

Welcome to Marketing Blabs. This podcast is brought to you by Marketing Labs, an expert digital marketing agency based in Nottinghamshire. If you're a business owner or a marketing professional looking for straightforward non-sales or tips and advice to help grow your business online, then this podcast is for you. Strap in because we're about to reveal the things that other agencies would rather you didn't know.

Hello listeners, and welcome to episode number nine of the Marketing Blabs podcast. We're sailing through them. Have you ever wondered how search engines like Google decide which webpages appear when you hit that search button? Well, today, we're going to dive deep into search ranking factors, and better yet, we're sharing our top tactics to boost your own organic rankings. Joining me today on today's blab is Matt Janaway, our CEO. How are you doing, Matt?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Afternoon, Tom.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Have you enjoyed the day? Photos?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, I have. Do you know what else I'm excited for?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Go on.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Episode 10 of the pod.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh, yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

The next episode. You promised everybody in episode one or two that you are going to sing a song with your guitar made by AI in episode 10.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yep. Episode ten's next year.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

This is it for 2023.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No, I'll do it. I will do it because I promised everybody. I'm excited.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Good. Looking forward for that.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I think everybody should be. Also with us today is Steven Pownall, our Senior SEO Strategist. You're back again. Two on the go for you.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I know. I didn't contribute much last time, did I? Yeah. It was a good pod though [inaudible 00:01:57].

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. I enjoyed it.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I enjoyed catching up with Annie and seeing what she had to say.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Well, I'm sure this pod you'll be well involved because it's your bag. Finally, last but not least, we've got Mel Healy, our Head of Content, with us. How are you doing, Mel?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I'm good, Tom. Thank you.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You look mischievous. You look like you're going to say something that you shouldn't.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I've got a happy face though.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Oh, that's good.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

What face do you want?

Tom Haslam - (host):

I don't know. That's fine. I'm happy with that.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Okay.

Tom Haslam - (host):

How are you doing?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I'm good, thank you.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Good. Well, we've had the intros and the niceties. Search engines, we understand how they work, but for the everyday Joe Bloggs, who's going to start off explaining how they work in simple terms?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, I'll tackle that. Yeah. Later on in this podcast, we're probably going to be talking about how you can take advantage of the people searching, and how you can align your products and your services with those people searching. But in order to do that, a prerequisite, unfortunately, is probably slightly boring, but I'll be as quick as I can. A prerequisite is to understand actually how search engines work. There's a few phases in how search engines discover websites and pages, but also how they crawl them, how they index them, and then how they rank them. The first stage really is that discovery stage. There is no central registry, if you like, of pages on the internet. It doesn't exist. There isn't one. Google is probably as close as you get to it. What Google has to do is just constantly be on the lookout for new pages, updated pages, little known pages that might add value.

That process, as Google call it, URL discovery. One of the reasons why links is so important, actually, which we'll come onto links later on, but links play a really important part in URL discovery. Once Google have discovered links, they then use Googlebots to crawl a page. They extract the information on the page and they render that so they can visually see it how a user would see it. Then it works on indexing. It then adds how it understands that page. It adds that into its index, ready for when people are searching. When people search, the algorithms kick in and say, "Okay. Well, we know this website or this webpage is very relevant for this person searching for this particular keyword." That's the process.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Lots to take in there.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There's lots to take in, and that in itself could have been an entire podcast. But to keep it as short as possible, those stages are really important, because without understanding those stages, the rest of the podcast wouldn't quite make much sense. It's really important to understand discovery, crawling, rendering, indexing, and ranking, the five separate processes as part of that journey, if you like.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I guess, because there's that many websites or pages that are published to the internet daily, that's a lengthy process for those pages to ultimately be discovered and then crawled and so on.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. I mean, as big as Google is, they've got no chance of being able to crawl every new page on the internet. I think I read recently, actually, there's something like, I don't want to get this wrong, but I'm sure it was something like 2 million new websites on the internet every day.

Tom Haslam - (host):

They're falling behind every day, aren't they? [inaudible 00:05:33].

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Every day, they're falling behind. That's websites, not pages.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's like a backlog then.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, backlog. But Google have got to be, and all search engines, they've got to be quite considerate about which of those websites actually offer value. A big chunk of those websites are probably spammy and pointless. They have to have systems in place to determine how useful those websites are, but also systems in place to figure out how to find them, how to understand them, and how to index them and rank them. Yeah. In a nutshell, that's generally how most search engines work. Obviously, there's nuances between each search engine, but being Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, they all have very similar systems.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I'm really happy that you're here to explain that, because if I was going to explain search engines, I don't know where I'd start.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Try now. Go on.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No. I don't think I could.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Go on.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Discover, crawl. I'm not reading my notes. Render, index.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Have you been looking at my notes?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nope.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Have you stolen that from my notes?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, I stole all your notes. Yeah. Moving on from that, because like you said, that could become a podcast episode in itself, what's the next step? What's the next thing that is considerable, shall we say, in terms of the ranking factors of the search engine? Would it be keyword optimization or would it be something beyond that? I don't know.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Well, everybody starts in a different process, a different place. They have different advice, they have different ideas. Every website has a different purpose, so there isn't necessarily an exact next step always.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I mean, some people don't even do SEO. Some people aren't aware of it.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's right. They just launch their website.

Tom Haslam - (host):

For example, they wouldn't even do any keyword research, is what you're saying.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

They wouldn't consider the optimising.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

No. Often, they wouldn't necessarily understand that that is important. Sometimes, if they've got a great website that serves a purpose and people love it, often they can still be successful. It doesn't mean that they can't gain traction in search. It makes it much more difficult because there's various different elements that are really important for search. There are so many signals to performing in search. It's difficult to just say you should absolutely start here.

Generally, more often than not, we usually start with the technical foundations because if the technical foundations are sound, you can then build from that. Lots of technical foundations and elements play a big part. We won't go into them today and they'll be very boring for listeners. But outside of those technical foundations, there are some things we want to talk about today. For example, content and the part that plays in that process, the role of backlinks in that process, user experience, and a few other things along the way. There's lots of areas of optimising if you like. I think it probably makes sense to start off on content and keyword optimization and then we can move into the other bits.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I'm going to come to you, Mel, because you are our Head of Content. When considering content, obviously, it needs to be of a high quality in terms of it's got to educate, inform, and obviously, serve a purpose for the user. But do you consider keyword researchers a part of your process every time you write in content or is it a different process every time?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

It's quite complex in that, boy, you start writing anything, you need a strategy and a plan. That starts with looking at clusters of keywords and topics.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Like Kellogg's.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Before we get to the point of deciding what keywords to use for our content, take a step back and look at the strategy, and create a plan for what we call clusters. These are bunches of similar concepts that go together that form one topic. This is quite a small part of a very big change for Google that happened some time ago. It was a divergence in the way that Google does what it does. Matt can probably talk about this with far more authority than I can, but I don't know. Matt, if you can come in now and just talk about semantic search and how things have changed.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. Way back when Google would take a particular search term, you could search Google for interesting facts about Kellogg's. Google wouldn't understand what that meant. It was just a collection of characters. What they would do is they'd match that against their index to see what was relevant. Now they absolutely do understand language. They've been working on machine learning, natural language processing for a long time. They've got a very good understanding of actually what that means so they can better provide results that make sense. We mentioned this, I think, in every podcast and we're going to mention it again today, probably at least a few times. Intent. It's Google's goal to align, and every search engine actually, it's their goal to align what somebody is searching for with the most relevant piece of content. Now, in order to do that, you've really got to understand the intent of what the person who's searching is wanting to achieve by their search.

If you can understand that intent, you can provide them with a result that matches what they're looking for. Now, understanding intent, how do you do that without understanding language? That plays a huge part in how search engines, I guess, provide the kind of results that people would want to see. In order to do that, you've got to prove that you have expertise with certain topics. Search engines would expect you to talk about and cover certain topics that relate to your main topics. By doing that, you can show them expertise, authority, and trust, which is a signal that Google uses to determine whether you can be trusted and whether you have an authoritative voice on the topic. Yeah. As Mel says, if you can align your main topic with a cluster of subtopics that all relate to that and show that you have expertise, it puts your entire domain in a very strong position.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

What this means is not that keywords aren't important, but they are seen through a different prism now than they were. It used to be an exact match scenario. You had to use keywords in certain places on a page and a certain number of times because Google were looking for that word so that they could match it exactly with a person's search. That's no longer the case, because now that Google understands what that word means and how that relates to other words or the similar words and it can process all of that, actually, it's looking for other cues within the content that show that you've covered that well. That might be semantically related words or variations on the word or whatever.

But I think for people out there listening who don't know an awful lot about the changes that Google have made, they probably are still under the impression that they need to use the keyword in the title in the first paragraph a select number of times during the piece at the end. That's not really the case anymore. If you do that, what you can do is get into the realms of keyword stuffing, which will actually have the opposite effect. Instead of you ranking well for something, you'll be penalised because you've overused that word. What's actually better when you're writing a piece of content is just to keep the reader in mind and just to make sure that you are writing for them authoritatively, from a place of expertise and experience, and covering it as well as you can.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

A big objection we get actually when we talk about this is the idea that you don't want to give everything away. We do hear that quite regularly. Somebody will say, "Well, I've been doing this for 30 years. Why should I give everything I've learned over that period away to people for free? Surely, they don't need me." Actually, no. Absolutely the opposite of that. You show that you're an expert. Not only will you benefit, but actually people will read it and think, "Actually, I need this guy." It has the opposite effect. It makes people realise you're an expert. If you think about it from search engines' side, keyword stuffing and other ways of basic on-page SEO, that's changed over the last 10 or 20 years a lot, but it's certainly easier now for experts to just write but benefit from search because they wouldn't necessarily have to optimise in the same way that maybe they would've done 10 years ago.

Very frequently, you can create a great piece of content that covers a topic incredibly well and you'll find yourself ranking for lots of keywords that aren't even mentioned on the page because of search engine's understanding of natural language processing. That's a strong position to be in really, because actually it takes the emphasis off SEO a little bit and actually onto expertise. All of a sudden, if you're an expert in a particular field, all of a sudden you're in a position where actually you've got a much better standpoint than you might've had, say, 15 years ago.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. There's lots to consider there just off the bat with regards to content. But what about if you are researching the topics that you want to be in your clusters or areas within, let's say, topics of your blog that you want to help educate people on, is there any way that you can optimise that researching process? Are there any tools or is there any process that you guys follow when considering the research phase?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I would start internally first and do a huge brain dump of everything that everybody in the room, a collection of the right people, consider to be important to the customer and nail down as many topics as you possibly can. There were lots of other sources that you can use as well just to understand where the pain points are for your customers and your prospects. Because ultimately, what you're trying to do is find the things that are important to them so that you can answer their questions, and solve their problems, and provide them with valuable content, because after all, you're asking them to give up their time. You've got to give them something in exchange for that and that's usually solving a problem. Keyword research is one of the ways that you can find out what people are interested in and what questions they want answering.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Would you base it on, say, questions that people are asking? Is that a simple way of doing it?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. It's a great way of doing it. There's a tool called People Also Asked, which is fantastic. You could go into that.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

I use that a lot.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, it's great. If you are covering a topic like, I don't know, boiler maintenance, you could go into People Also Asked, input a little bit of data, broad keywords. As Mel was saying, if you start off with a brain dump of all of the keywords that you think might relate, you go into People Also Asked, input some of those, you'll be presented with huge amount of questions that people search in Google. People are asking questions, they've got problems or they need advice. If you can align your content with that, you are in a very strong position, because you're bypassing that classic marketing challenge of who's my customer, who's my audience, what problems do they have, and how do we align our product with them. You miss that entire middle bit.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

You can then start to chuck those questions into Google, see what other people are writing about, see what other questions they're asking and they're answering. It's a great way to just keep getting little topics.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. You build up a picture, don't you, of what your content needs to look like. Over time, if you've got maybe four or five questions, they may well belong on the same page, they may well belong on different pages. If they're very closely aligned, they could potentially go on the same page. You can cover that entire topic, but then you can analyse who's ranking for those particular key phrases and see what topics they're covering, and how you align that. Before long, you get a bit of a mind map of what that cluster might look like. You end up with understanding exactly what that page itself could look like, but also pages that would have a relationship with that page. Very important to mention at this point, we'll come onto this later in more detail, but very important to mention at this point as well, those clusters, they have to link together in a way that is very natural.

You would use the anchor text of the terms that you are targeting on those internal links. For listeners, the anchor text would be the text that the link belongs to. For example, you might see it quite a lot where someone would say, "Click here," and then the click here would be a link to another page. Don't use click here. Use quite specific things that make sense in relation to the topic and the content, but those links are very important because that collects that cluster together. I think the other thing here as well is you will come across phrases and keywords when you are in this process of research that don't naturally align. The way often to collate those in an order that makes sense to cover the topic of is using intent. For example, certain intent might be buyer intent.

People might search for, say, "buy Kellogg's cornflakes UK," "buy Kellogg's cornflakes Nottinghamshire." Some of them might be "Kellogg's cornflakes near me." They're the kind of keywords that have buyer intent. You've got informational types of intent. People asking questions, people looking for topics, lots of different types of intent. It's very important not to mix those up particularly with the topics, because if the intent of what they're looking for doesn't align with the content, it generally won't perform very well, but also you'll confuse people if they do land there. It has to serve quite a specific purpose.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Nice. Coming back to the content, does word count come into play at all when considering content specifically for, let's say, blogs?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Google isn't looking for a certain number of words specifically. I know people think that there is and that Google require a thousand words in a blog post, or 1500, or that 1700 performs better. Google have been quite clear in saying that's not the case. There is no magic number. You need to write the number of words that are right for that topic. I know that's frustrating to hear and people want a number, but there really isn't one. What you really need to do, more than anything, is look at what your competitors are doing because that's who you are being judged against.

If they've already written pieces that are ranking well for the topic that you want to write on and they've written 1500 words and you write 600, then quite obviously, it's not going to rank as well because it will be seen as providing less value. There are lots of tools out there that can tell you what your competitors... How much your competitors have written on the subject. You've got a benchmark. You could do the work manually yourself as well and go through and count the words, but it's probably quicker with a tool.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Well, I'm going to play devil's advocate here, because potentially, listeners want a number. What if I was to say to you, "I want a number because you're not giving me a number."

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Only per topic, I think.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Also, per page as well.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Per page.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

You've also got to take into account user experience, because if you're doing a category or landing page and you're just trying to get hundreds or thousands of words on there, it's going to confuse people. You want them to be concise. You want to get them to the CTAs to click through to buy or to view more services. Obviously, with a blog post, it might be slightly different, but you only want to give them the information. Like we've been saying, there's intent there. If they're searching for a blog post, they want answers. They want to know the answer. They don't want too much waffle, but then at the same time, getting more keywords in. Obviously, you've got to have more content in. It is, again, the balance.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That's where there's a correlation. There is a correlation between how many keywords a page might rank for and the length of content, but that's only because the longer your content, the more topics you're covering. Micro topics, subtopics, whatever you want to call them. Naturally, you're going to rank for more keyword, but that doesn't necessarily mean that creating content for the sake of content and long content is actually useful for the intent of the topic. You could easily cover a certain topics with maybe 4, 5, 600 words potentially, but it depends entirely on the topic. Actually, this is a really interesting question, because if you...

What Steven says there is so true because if you search any of these particular keywords, key phrases, topics, and you see only informational content, but you are trying to target that keyword through an e-commerce category page, for example, actually stop because you know you're wrong. Search engines have so much data on intent of keywords and the purpose of search intent. If they're showing informational results for a particular keyword, chances are it's actually not right for an e-commerce category page, but vice versa as well. If you search those topics and all you are seeing is products, for example, in the search results, you probably don't really want to tackle that with a blog post. It doesn't make sense to the intent. It Probably doesn't really align. It is difficult to give an exact number.

I think the final thing on this for me as well is this infuriated me for a long time. You still see it now and it amazes me, is when you get very specific advice from particular corners of the internet, let's say in the digital marketing world. They'll say, "Right. You need to be writing one blog post a week, 500 words." What does that even mean? What is the point of that? What's the purpose? What is that content? Why 500 words? If you are doing that, all you're doing is filling up the internet and you're just creating words for the sake of creating words. Do the reverse of that. Start with topics and then create your plan based on that, because then you are targeting very specific things that people are searching that relate to your product or services that you can then align with search intent.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You'll probably put less pressure on yourself doing it that way as well.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

For sure.

Tom Haslam - (host):

If you're saying, "Oh, I haven't put that 500-word blog post out this week that I didn't know what I was writing about," then you're going to feel stressed and you're not going to follow a strategy, and it's not going to be serving a purpose.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

No. You're just rushing to throw things on the internet, won't you? Sometimes that leads to other problems where we see it with clients all the time, or not just clients, but just people, businesses. They're just right about themselves, their products or services, and it just doesn't have a purpose. As horrible as it sounds, nobody cares.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

That is genuinely a problem. People assume that blogging, it has to be about them. Actually, the reverse of that is true. If you're talking about yourself, you're not matching the intent. You need to be sharing expertise, adding value, showing that you can be trusted and that your voice matters. That's not to say that you can't mention your product, but at the same point, that's not the purpose. It's not a product advertisement, it's not product marketing. What it is, is a way of showing that you are an expert. If you can remove yourself from thinking it's an advertorial or a product marketing, you'll be in a much better position. There's a place for that. That's on your product pages and your service pages. They need to be covering your products and your service. You leave your expert content to be exactly that about your experience and your expertise.

Tom Haslam - (host):

We've actually got a short that's going to be published soon, which Mel did, that says, "Your blog is not for selling."

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Excellent. Excellent. When is that going live?

Tom Haslam - (host):

In a couple of weeks.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Excellent.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Take a listen. We've talked about content, we've talked about keywords and the research and a roundabout understanding of how search engines operate. Let's talk about backlinks. How important is it for businesses with a website to consider a backlink strategy?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Vital. It's funny because there's trending conversations over the last year or two. There's a lot of people questioning the benefits of backlinks. But those that actually do it and understand it and do it well, you can see the value of it from a million miles away. Actually, those that don't do it are the ones that struggle. Backlinks are the backbone of the internet. The worldwide web is literally a web, and each strand in that web is backlinks. Backlinks are essentially like a vote. When you take it way back to its early days and you understand the relationship between citations, if you like, if you imagine, for a minute, an educational whitepaper, if you are covering a particular topic and you have other whitepapers mentioning your whitepaper, that shows a very strong vote of confidence.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

It's a vote of confidence. Yeah.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. Massive vote of confidence in your whitepaper. Take this to where we are now. We're in a position where, actually, those votes for your website show that there's an element of relevancy, trust, authority. I'm reluctant to say this, but the volume of links that you have pointing to your website, in theory, show a correlation that you have certain expertise and authority. Now, the reason I say I'm very conscious of saying that is because, actually, the vast majority of backlinks now, I think, are neutral. You've really got to have the right kind of links with the right signals to get the benefit of those votes, if you like. But yeah, absolutely vital, really.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Does domain authority play a part in that equity level?

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I mean, domain authority, it's Moz's metric. Their scoring metric, let's say, of a website, it is a well-known metric and it's a fair representation of what Google would grade your website, but it's not a score for your website. People get that confused. It's purely... A lot of tools have their own scoring system. It's just well-known one. It's one of the early ones and that's why everybody knows it. It's just Moz's authority score.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Am I right in saying that having a backlink strategy is the most helpful ranking? Not most helpful, what am I trying to say? Is it the most beneficial bit of...

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

There's so many areas that are beneficial. It is hard to say. Just to take you way back when, so Google used to have a scoring system called PageRank, arguably still do. I think it very likely they still do. It's not public anymore. It used to be public. Google used to have an extension that you could instal in your browser that would tell you the page rank of your pages. In theory, that was how authoritative that page might be. Now, when that was publicly discontinued and that extension stopped working, there was a lot of tools that scrambled to try to understand a scoring system. The Moz one became the default. That's often why it's used. Google don't use DA at all. It's nothing to do with Google. Mostly best if you ignore it, to be honest. But having said that, it serves a very small purpose of having a rough idea of how much equity that page might have.

There's plenty of metrics that try to do the same thing. It's important not to pay too much attention to those really, but they give you a rough idea. Coming back to the strategy, yeah. You can do okay. There are various case studies, and we've seen this firsthand, where you can generate traffic growth without a backlink strategy. There's so many problems with that process though. The first problem with that process is you can only do that if it's incredibly non-competitive. If you're in an even remotely slightly competitive topic, you need backlinks. You aren't going to rank without backlinks. The second problem with that process is actually, and people fail to... If you read a case study online, the one thing they fail to explain in almost every single case is you might read, for example, "Oh, we created 200 pieces of content this year and look what happened to our traffic."

Okay, great. They might even continue to say, "We did all of this without building a backlink." Okay, great. When you analyse though, if you are producing 200 pieces of content and you actually look at their backlink profile, just because they have that content and they have some visibility, people then naturally start linking to it because it might be good content. Even though they haven't built any backlinks, the vast majority of the time when people have a strategy that is only content, they actually have hundreds of backlinks anyway because they're creating good content. In answer to the question, yeah. Really, if you have any form of organic ambitions in search, you really need some form of a backlink strategy. Even if that strategy, which is very admirable and is a great way of trying to pursue your SEO ambitions, if you like, even if that strategy is just let's create incredible content and try to gain organically natural backlinks to it without actually building them.

Actually, that's probably the best way of going, if you can do that. Relationships help with that. You could easily just reach out to people and say, "I've created this amazing resource. I think it'll be useful to your readers. You've got this piece of content over here, I think it relates to this. Any chance you could link to our resource, because it'll be great for your readers." They may or may not tell you to go away. But if you've got good relationships with people, that's always a good start. You could do that, you see, without having your own link building strategy, if you like. But at the same point, really, you need a combination of all of that.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

I mean, there's an argument to say that is the strategy. If you are just knocking out content and wanting people to link to it, that is their strategy there.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Exactly.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Things like guides, how-tos, images, infographics, blogs, they're all excellent resources to link to.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. It's almost deceitful actually, when you read these case studies saying they did all of this without link building, because they know full well that they've had links continually coming into our website, just they haven't particularly necessarily built them themselves. Yeah, links form a huge part of that process.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's almost as if you can do all of these elements that we've discussed in isolation, but if you merge them all together, you're going to get more of a powerful mix.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

For sure. It's much more complicated than this, but if you imagine a triangle, if you imagine a triangle of SEO, there's so many more elements than just three. But if you imagine technical content and link those related, just focusing on those three areas, you should do pretty well.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, nice. I guess lastly then, we've talked about a lot of those elements, but I just want to briefly touch on website user experience specifically. Now, I think that, obviously, a poor user experience can be quite damaging, not only for the user, but also affect the SEO as well. Because if you imagine the website's not friendly to use, it's not easy to navigate, it's slow, then that's not only going to put people off in potentially lower conversion rates, but it's also going to have a negative impact on your SEO, because Google's algorithms now are heavily weighted towards site performance as well, so that's going to play a huge part.

I think it's quite important that you get, obviously, your layouts right and how things feel and look to the user so that they can convert, but also make sure you've got things in place like, I don't know, your servers are in the right place so that the website performs quickly. You uploading... We talked about this lots, your images are optimised, little things like that. I think there's lots of things that come into play when it comes to UX. Mobile friendliness is a big one. If your website's not mobile-friendly, doesn't Google crawl mobile first now?

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Yeah, they crawl mobile first. Yeah.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Obviously, if your important elements are not on mobile, then you're potentially going to miss out there. You've got to try and, again, get a balance of all that, making sure that everything is user-friendly. You've got your important information on mobile. I'll add this in plenty of white space.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Carry out user testing as well. You might be too close to it if you've designed it or if it's your business, you may be too close. Get other people to look at it, tell you where you've gone wrong.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No, that's a really good shout, actually. There's a tool called Userbrain, I think I even mentioned it in the last pod, to be fair,

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

There's a few of them, isn't there?

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah, that's a really good tool because it lets real life users analyse a website and...

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

You've just got to make sure you're not precious. Well, don't take it to heart.

Tom Haslam - (host):

No, it's good feedback, isn't it? It's all good feedback, because if you imagine, like you said, we're all too close to things. I use Marketing Labs and I'm very close to it. I look at it every day and think, "Oh, I could do that better." We're trying to do that process. Everyone will try and do that process with their own website, but it's taken into account all this usability and experience on the website that's going to effectively fall into play when it comes to the ranking factors in search engines. Yeah, there's lots to consider there. I don't know whether there's anything that I've missed there, Matt, that you can add in. I don't know.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah. I mean, just really quickly, a few things, which again, these could be podcasts on their own and maybe we will at some point soon, but Core Web Vitals, very important. That essentially covers Google's understanding of whether your website performs well. Is it quick? Do elements move around the page when you're trying to click them? That is quite important. All of that comes back to user experience really. The other thing I think is probably well worth considering is those internal links as well. User experience, that's a big part of user experience, how people navigate a website. Yeah, make sure those internal links are descriptive. That's going to play a part that helps SEO and users.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

And visible on a mobile.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Okay. When you say internal links, I initially would say a button or a menu link. Is there any other ways you can implement an internal link into your website without those obvious ways?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, yeah. Loads of places. Yeah. You've got your navigation menu. You might have, say, a header above that with some links. You could have a contact page, that kind of thing. Photo links, that's another place. Contextual links within the body of the page. You could have image links. You have document links. There's [inaudible 00:37:12].

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

CTAs.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, CTAs.

Tom Haslam - (host):

There's links everywhere, isn't it?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Links everywhere. Links form the internet.

Tom Haslam - (host):

It's like a link tree.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Someone might say a web.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Yeah. Link web.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep. Forms every webpage. One of the first things you do, and this is a massive data geek thing-

Tom Haslam - (host):

There we go.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

... whenever we audit any website, one of the first things I look at, even though I don't... I use it as part of my understanding of the site, but I don't do much else with it. I just love the look of it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Are you looking at a web? Yeah. Please don't tell me it's a web.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

It's like a web. It's like a tree, a structure, hierarchy of a website. You get a bird's eye view of basically how every page is linked together. You know what? That can be really pretty, genuinely. Absolutely beautiful.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I just imagine literally loads of lines just all over the place.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

No, beautiful. Honestly, beautiful. If you Google "data is beautiful," you'll see thousands of these and they look incredible.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I'll have a look at that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Genuinely. Some of them just look like you've taken an absolute macro closeup image of an eye. They're just incredible, honestly.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I could change the colour of them?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yep.

Tom Haslam - (host):

I'll have a play with that.

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

And the font.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Excellent. Well, I think that's been a good pod. We've talked about lots there. Lots to consider. How search engines work, keywords, content, backlinks, UX, all sorts of stuff. But thank you all for being on the pod. Cheers, Mel.

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Thank you, Tom.

Tom Haslam - (host):

You enjoyed it?

Mel Healy - (Head of Content):

Yes.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Thank you. Have you enjoyed it, Matt?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, I've enjoyed this one. Yeah. I think-

Tom Haslam - (host):

You love anything like this, don't you?

Matt Janaway - (CEO):

Yeah, I do. I could talk about this all day, as you can probably tell.

Tom Haslam - (host):

Thanks, Steven.

Steven Pownall - (Senior SEO Strategist):

Cheers. Had a good one. Loved it.

Tom Haslam - (host):

What a journey we've had today. We've been unravelling the world of SEO with the experts themselves, Matt, Steven, and Mel. We've talked about the inner workings of search engines and briefly how they work. We've talked about the power of strategic keyword optimization and also the value of the quality of the content that you're producing, and how the role of backlinks play a big part of that. We've also explored the critical importance of user experience and the impact that this might have on your SEO. Today. We've covered it all and left no stone unturned. From all of us here in Retford, Nottinghamshire, thank you for tuning in. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button so you never miss an episode. Until next time, see you.

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