John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall, and welcome to “The Authority Marketing Roadmap.” Today, my guest is Charity Stebbins, senior content strategist at Conductor. Conductor’s Searchlight product helps customers manage their Web presence to achieve higher traffic, conversions, and revenue results.
Today, we’re talking about advanced SEO tips with Conductor Digital Marketing Software. Welcome, Charity.
Charity Stebbins: Thank you for having me, John.
SEO vs. Other Tactics
John: Absolutely. How important is SEO, compared to other tactics?
Charity: As you know, one of the reasons that we’ve started talking today is that you wrote a fantastic article, comparing search and social…
John: Thank you.
Charity: …which you should link to and have people check out. I thought you brought up some great points. One of them is just the sheer volume of traffic that comes from search. Most companies we see ‑‑ and you do a great breakdown there, with some specific examples ‑‑ but most companies have over half of their traffic come from organic search, which is just a gigantic amount of views.
Also, the lead quality that comes from that traffic is typically very high. We did a study of demand-gen marketers, or rather a survey. We asked them to compare organic and paid lead quality, and every one of them said that for the four categories we asked about ‑‑ which was volume, quality, consistency, and conversion rates ‑‑ they ranked organic higher by at least 10 percent, sometimes 15.
Really, that lead quality is very high. It drives a lot of traffic, and it drives a lot of qualified traffic. Then, I would just say, overall, SEO is very much growth‑oriented. If you turn off, say, your paid ad, you’re going to immediately stop receiving that traffic. If you stop tweeting or sending your email newsletter, that traffic will dissipate and drop off very quickly, too.
SEO is a long‑term and constant source of qualified traffic. I’ve heard it described as, say, the difference between day trading and a mutual fund. That mutual fund is like SEO, where once you invest in it, even if you sit back and turn your attention to something else, you’re still going to be reaping the rewards down the line.
The Buyer’s Journey and SEO
John: That’s a great analogy, definitely, for our financial services marketing clients as well, and listeners. What about the buyer’s journey? Google talks a lot about that. Can you explain a little bit, from your perspective, what that is and how it could help with advanced SEO?
Charity: I love this question. I love talking about the buyer’s journey. One of the reasons is we see such tremendous success with the clients that are paying attention to this. For example, your Brooks Brothers, your REI, your New York Life, and all. I will get into what I’m talking about, but essentially, everyone knows that your customers are not always ready to buy.
Sometimes, they are researching your products. Sometimes, they don’t even know that your products exist, and they just want to be educated about a need. One example that I’ve heard that I think is really useful is there’s a product ‑‑ I don’t know if you like to grill, John ‑‑ but it’s the…
Charity: …remote meat thermometer. Have you heard of that product?
John: I haven’t. I haven’t, but I’m a big fan of grilling. John Maher running the podcasting has been doing some of that experimentation with smoking and stuff like that.
Charity: I can’t wait for summer and steaks. You’re a perfect example of why early stage content is great. When you go to Google, and you’re thinking about smoking and cooking the perfect whatever, you’re going to put in that query. You’re going to say, “How to cook the perfect steak,” to get that information.
You have no idea that a retailer sells a product called a programmable remote meat thermometer, where you basically put in the information, and you can walk around with this in your pocket, and it’s going to buzz you when the temperature is just right.
John: The Internet of Things on a steak thermometer.
Charity: That’s out there. It would be really useful for someone like you, but this retailer needs to write content just about how to cook the perfect steak, instead of writing content about what a programmable meat thermometer is. They really need to address your early stage needs and begin to educate you that there is that solution and that product down the line.
That’s where the bulk of your customers probably don’t even know that you exist or that your product even exists. Early stage content is teaching your customers before they’re purchase‑ready, much before that stage. I’ll also add that it’s really great brand awareness. You create a lot of trust between customers and your brand if you’re the one educating them and teaching them.
One example that we love to talk about is how REI really educates its customers by writing articles like, “What Is Stand‑Up Paddleboarding?” I wrote an article about a year ago about how they actually outrank Wikipedia for “What is stand‑up paddleboarding?” because they wrote this fantastic piece of content that educates their customers on this topic.
They’re obviously selling those products, too. It’s a lot easier to get customers to start thinking about your products and to go deeper into your website if you can capture that early stage content.
John: Those were a couple of really good examples. There are multiple layers to the buyer’s journey, and the big one is, again, that early stage of the funnel. Certain keywords are going to match that, right?
Multimedia Content & SEO
John: You can’t just go for, to use a law firm example, “mesothelioma attorney” is really at that bottom of the funnel and the later stage. If you’re only coming up for that, you have a problem. Does having multimedia content, like YouTube videos and podcasts, help significantly with SEO and search engine optimization?
Charity: I think to answer that question, we should really zoom back on what Google’s business model is and what it is they’re really after. Their business model is basically that they want to answer every single question every single person could possibly ask a search engine. This is a vast, vast amount of demand that Google has.
There are all kinds of different people. John, maybe you prefer to read, or maybe you prefer to watch video. Of course, there are actually people who need video or need audio, in order to get information. It’s definitely Google’s priority to be looking for great content in all sorts of different kinds of mediums to serve up to its audience who needs all kinds of different things.
A wide variety of content, podcasts, videos, infographics, whatever your teams can come up with, all of those things really help because Google wants to serve up those high quality and diverse results. To zoom in on YouTube, specifically, we can talk about how YouTube is actually owned by Google, so of course, that’s going to be a good thing for you, if you’re paying attention to YouTube.
It’s the second largest search engine in the world. I read a study recently by Cisco that mentioned that by 2018, they predict 79 percent of all traffic will be video traffic, which is…
John: That’s stunning.
Charity: It’s a stunning number. We can stand behind that number or something similar. Video traffic is huge. People love and demand videos to educate themselves or to be entertained. The final thing I’ll say about YouTube, which is a note for the nerdy SEOs out there, like myself, is that YouTube and other channels help us patch together a better understanding of our consumers.
For example, many of you will be familiar with the “not provided” event a few years ago, where Google stopped giving us most of our organic keyword data. YouTube actually gives you referral keywords in their analytics. We see a lot of our sophisticated customers using keyword data from YouTube in order to round out their organic strategy.
John: That’s fascinating. I wasn’t aware of that, exactly. By what year is 79 percent of traffic coming from video? What was the stat?
Charity: Cisco predicts 2018.
John: That’s right around the corner. That’s pretty stunning. To be 80 percent of Web traffic. If that’s true, then you really need to get on your YouTube strategy. We’ve been pushing — I should say nurturing — our clients into that, almost requiring it in some cases, with our SEO programs.
If YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, how can you possibly not have some level of SEO strategy? But with that stat, it takes it to a whole other level. Adding the ability to get the not‑provided keywords, it really pretty much sets the nail in the coffin, I think.
Charity: To clarify, too, the YouTube does have a different search algorithm than organic search, but everything is driven by that same impulse, where Google is trying to satisfy its customers, and it is looking for the highest quality content. Creating content that your users love on whatever channel is going to be a great thing, but if you’re not creating video content, you will swiftly be left behind.
How can Conductor help you build topical authority?
John: How can Conductor help you build topical authority and be seen by Google as a thought leader in a certain niche?
Charity: I love this question because I think that’s what SEO is. SEO is all about strategic repetition. One thing people don’t necessarily understand is that Google does not put you on page one because you’ve created one great piece of content. It’s recognizing a sphere of authority. It is seeing that you submit a lot of pieces around this particular topic.
That’s where good SEO comes from. How Conductor specifically works with that, and there’s so many little examples that I’ll just talk from an abstract point of view, on a very high level.
You can spot and scale opportunities. You can find what content is under‑performing, what’s not being seen, and Searchlight will provide recommendations to fix that. You can also develop a broader authority by having content coverage for personas over the buyer’s journey.
I’ll mention this a little bit more later if it comes up, but basically, we have a functionality called content mapping that allows you to put in your personas and different buyer’s journey stages with segments, with our content segment capabilities, and look and see where you maybe don’t have coverage for those areas.
Maybe you’re not doing a very good job of early stage content for your “dads who love to grill” category, for example. It’s about that whole big picture. Technical little things, but then also content coverage for your whole organic strategy.
John: And you have a nice way to look at the competitors in a chart to, kind of, look at your content gaps versus them?
Charity: Absolutely. For competitive analysis, you can look at your search market share. One thing that a lot of people don’t realize, particularly when they’re starting out in SEO or maybe they get a little lazy about checking up on, is that your online competitors are always shifting. They’re also very, very different than your brick‑and‑mortar competitors.
You’re probably competing with your Wikipedias or your eBays. Maybe you’re even competing with an affiliate program. Maybe you’re even competing with yourself. You have a couple mediocre pieces of content, rather than one great piece of content that could be attracting more clicks.
It’s a really big picture, that competitive piece, and something that I think companies need to be very much aware of and constantly checking in on.
Where is SEO headed with semantic search?
John: Absolutely. Why are the old‑school, basic SEO tactics not enough anymore? Where is SEO headed with semantic search?
Charity: There’s a lot to unpack there. Just to clarify, there are a lot of old‑school SEO tactics that are still very effective. For example, you will never want to stop tediously updating your metadata. That’s a part of SEO. Your SEO has got to love that part of optimization and paying attention to metadata and canonical tags and stuff like that. That’s still very important.
You’ll always need to optimize your content, both for your human user and your autonomous user, your Google bot. However, what is not working anymore are definitely your black hat tactics of keyword stuffing and micro sites and all that. Google is just too smart to put up with stuff like that.
Then, overall, there’s a mindset that’s very out of date, that’s still actually very prevalent. That mindset is putting algorithms over audiences. Instead of focusing on what your audience really wants, you get very caught up on the next algorithm shift. Those are always going to be happening. I’m not saying you ignore one, but the best mindset is to have audiences over algorithms. That idea was brought up by Wil Reynolds. He’s a great search guru.
He probably would hate that I used the term “guru.” It’s a little overused.
John: That’s all right.
Charity: He mentioned in a recent interview that a few years ago, maybe 2 percent of SEOs were really focused on their audiences over algorithms, but now, he said probably only 10 percent are doing a really good job of that. We have a very long way to go, as an industry.
John: Absolutely, but Google is really looking at who the authorities are, who the thought leaders are, and semantic search helps with that, I think. Looking at topical authority and are you really covering topics completely and giving them a better…making their job easier, to see the relationships between the various keywords you’re trying to cover.
Charity: Specifically with semantic search, I think that the future of semantic search is personalization. Everyone who is in the SEO industry is hearing tons about local and mobile right now. Those are all aspects of personalization. I heard a prediction from Kara Alcamo. She is the director of search marketing at R2I. That’s one of our agency clients.
I really respect her thought leadership on semantic search. She said that it’s not a far stretch to think that Google probably has different profiles to test what content is delivered by a site by personas or profiles, and that they are probably testing these different persona or profile‑based SERPs, and that we’re going to be seeing more and more of that in the future.
I think that that’s interesting prediction that I can get behind.
John: The bottom line is things are changing all the time. Having good tools like Conductor can help you stay ahead.
John: Thanks for speaking to us today, Charity. Tell us how people can get in touch with you.
Charity: You can visit our website. We’re conductor.com. We’re @conductor on Twitter. Feel free to email me, as well, personally. I’ll happy to put you in touch with whoever you need to talk to. I am cstebbins [at] conductor.com.
John: You have some kind of a demo that you do?
Charity: You can go to our site and fill out a form, and we will get a demo set up for you.
John: Sounds good. Check out workingdemosite.com/authority for more interviews and information on Authority Marketing. I’m John McDougall. See you next time on the Authority Marketing Roadmap.
Charity: Thanks for having me.