Building a Foundation for SEO Webinar

Date: November 19, 2020? ? ?Time: 2 PM ET | 11 AM PT? ? ?Duration: 50 mins

Webinar Description:?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be performed in a variety of ways, but ensuring that you are focusing on the foundational elements of SEO at the beginning will help the overall performance of a website for organic visibility. A solid foundation for SEO is built on three things: a fast and responsive website, relevant content, and authoritative signals. If a website owner forgets one of these three elements, it can cause many other issues moving forward when attempting to implement more complex SEO initiatives.

Join team members Tripp, Jeff, and Sheffield for this 50 minute webinar, where you will learn how to properly optimize your site for the three foundational elements of SEO, code, content, and credibility, and how to measure success with these three elements.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • What factors you need to consider for success in the Organic Search Results
  • How these elements affect your site’s ability to perform in the Search Engines
  • What hurdles you may need to overcome to incorporate SEO tactics into your digital marketing efforts

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Sheffield Pulley:
All right. We’re going to go ahead and get started here. I want to thank you all for being here. We’re excited to be putting on these regular training webinars, over the last, I guess, four months we’ve been allowing our consultants to come and share some of their expertise with you all. It has been educational enough for me and for many of you. Today, we’re especially excited because we have two of them, and two of the best at that. Jeff and Tripp are both senior members of our SEO team, here to help us set a stronger foundation from an SEO standpoint. Thank you, fellas for doing this. Really appreciate it.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. No problem.

Tripp Hamilton:
Happy to be here.

Jeff Cohen:
All right. Well, thank you for the intro, Sheff. I think today we’re going to and talk about, Building a Foundation for SEO. Some of the things that you guys are going to learn today, or what factors that you’ll need to consider for success in the organic search results. Some of the SEO elements and how they can affect your site’s ability to perform in the search engines, and some of the hurdles you may need to overcome to incorporate SEO tactics into your overall digital marketing efforts.

Tripp Hamilton:
Just some notes for today. First, as the automated message said, it will be recorded. Second, resources and recordings will be available and sent to your email address that you used to register for the webinar. There will be a time for questions and answers at the end.

Jeff Cohen:
All right. Hi, everybody. My name is Jeff Cohen. I’ve been here at Hive for a little over a year now. But I’ve actually been working in digital marketing for about 14 years. I started out at a small agency, working initially as a website support technician. But I was fortunate enough to work with the guy who introduced me to the concepts of SEO, and really showed me the ropes. From there, I really just been more interested in the hows and whys of search behavior and the challenges of getting people to find the websites you want them to.

Jeff Cohen:
Well, SEO focus content optimization is where I started. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to work on everything from paid marketing tactics to large multi channel marketing campaigns, both as an agency person and in-house, in sort of midsize and large sized companies on a variety of businesses and industries. When I’m not working, I’m usually trying to squeeze in some movie or game time with my wife and kids. Unless of course, she ends up forcing us to go outdoors for a hike and some fresh air.

Tripp Hamilton:
My name is Tripp. I’ve been working here at Hive Digital since 2012, so almost eight years. I earned my history degree at NC State where I developed a love for writing and research that really got me kind of started into just looking into website development, stuff like that. When I started at Hive Digital, I was put on the task of getting websites out of unnatural link penalties. Websites that were penalized for building really spammy backlinks. But my main focus has evolved over the past several years, and mostly lies within the realm of SEO, web design, offset SEO.

Tripp Hamilton:
I’m proficient in a few different CMSs, WordPress, Shopify, HubSpot. When I’m not working, I am hanging out with my three wonderful kids and amazing wife. I would love to be going to see live music concerts and festivals but unfortunately, given the current situations, mostly sticking to live streams and playing video games. Really to get started to find success in organic search is kind of getting your house in order and to do that, we really need to find like, what are the key factors that can get us success when using search engines like Google or Bing.

Tripp Hamilton:
The three primary elements include the following, crawlability and usability. That’s on this picture here, crawling/discovery, so technical SEO. This is basically how easy it is for search engine crawler and more importantly, a live user to get through your website. The next is relevant content, so content and relevance. Based on the primary theme of your website, are you presenting unique, compelling and relevant content that matches that theme consistently? Then the last is credible backlink authority. Link/authority that kind of cherry on top.

Tripp Hamilton:
Think of this as a mix of popularity and personal references or other quality sites talking about you in a positive way. The other thing to kind of add into the mix here is user experience and Core Web Vitals, which we have on here in the picture as experience/vitals. That’s kind of the next wave of things that are coming down the pipe when it comes to ranking factors in Google. They’re you using these as kind of like, how high quality is your website? Is it loading fast? Is content shifting around too much? There are a lot of different metrics that kind of play into that. It kind of relates to both the content and the technical side, so it’s kind of a mix of both a little bit.

Tripp Hamilton:
Really, for these key factors to matter, you’ll want to make sure that you’re integrating SEO into your company culture. It isn’t really a set it and forget it type of thing, it should be tested, reviewed, reworked multiple times until you get it right. Even once you get it right, you should always be analyzing this rising trends, changes in the industries, in the competition to make sure that you’re not falling behind. Teams like sales team, marketing team, leadership, social media, IT, whoever it might be that works at your company, should be involved in one way or another, to ensure that there is success for your digital marketing efforts.

Jeff Cohen:
Awesome. The first place we’ll start, in no particular order because as Tripp said, all three of these are actually pretty much equally important to your SEO foundation. But the first place we’ll start is, getting under the hood. Here we’re going to take a look at some of the things that can affect code and the tech side of your website. The tech stuff and why does this matter? This generally entails a number of different aspects of a website that are not visible to your visitors.

Jeff Cohen:
This is going to be the code behind the scenes. This area can be pretty broad. In some areas, it does overlap with UX and content elements as well. But a well build site is vital for letting search engine, crawlers, understand the flow of a site and find all the pages you want them to find or in some cases, avoid the pages you don’t want them to find. In general, it’s a good idea to run a tech audit on a regular basis. You’ll want to check for key areas such as page speed, usability issues, and potential crawler issues.

Jeff Cohen:
There are many factors that go into making a website work where issues can pop up, that could affect page speed. Speed is probably, and you’re going to hear this a lot because this is a big pushing point for Google for this new page experiencing core vitals. But this is really a part that you’ll want to monitor regularly and do everything you can to get inches versus miles, it really does count here. One of the first places you can look is, what’s powering the site. This goes beyond just the code or the CMS, but it can also entail your hosting provider, domain settings, CDN configuration, if you’re using those.

Jeff Cohen:
You want to take a look at your file assets. Are your images and your videos and even your CSS and JavaScript files, optimized and minified for web? Are you using a number of various marketing tags? It’s totally common but in some cases they may not be working anymore. Sometimes they may have issues themselves, or if you’re not using them, it’s just wasted timing, get those off the side if you can. I know people have said for years, mobile is the future. It’s here now, and it even is more so. Is your site mobile friendly? With mobile indexing being a big priority for Google and how they actually rank the sites. You’ll want to make sure you pay close attention to your page speed scores as seen in the screenshots, to make sure that you’re staying on top of what Google thinks your site is doing from a mobile performance standpoint.

Jeff Cohen:
Then again, Google, this new Core Vitals, this page experience, these are things that you’re going to start hearing about as buzzwords for the next, who knows how long but essentially, search engines, crawlers are attempting to look at your site’s UX from a live users’ perspective. Google has been adding elements of usability, security, site speed as ranking signals for the past few years, and with Core Web Vitals and page experience now being directly on their plate. They’re saying that starting in May 2021, they’re going to be looking in all of these elements as part of the overall page experience ranking signal. Again, mobile site speed is a huge issue, when they tend to run test from their end, they’re looking at it from things like a 2G network speed versus what you might have. You may be assuming 3G, 4G, or even 5G. They’re looking at the lowest common denominator to try to get that score, and make sure that all potential users are having a good experience.

Jeff Cohen:
The page experience for crawlers. Search engines are also taking note, as they attempt to get through as much of the site as possible. While the website should definitely be built for actual users first, it is important to make sure that you’re following recommended best practices to help the crawlers discover your content as easily as possible. You want to be careful to avoid creating any accidental roadblocks that might deter the crawlers from going through all of your site. The few things that can usually trip this up, URL hierarchy and taxonomy. At the end of the day, you want make sure that you keep your structure and naming conventions simple. Then Tripp, you mentioned you work with various CMS platforms. I think you have some insight as to how that can happen on a CMS side.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yes. CMS is like Shopify, have essentially the structure already built. It’s set into /collections or /products. But really if you look at the screenshot here, you have the same website using two different kinds of URL structure. One, where the articles are listed is very user friendly. It’s user friendly and search engine friendly because you have your keywords right there. But at the top, it’s just a bunch of numbers and letters. What does that tell the user about what that page is? What does that tell the search engine about what that page is? When they visit it, certainly they can know but it’s always good to have those setup properly up there. That way, it kind of relays their signals throughout the entire page.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. Excellent point. I mean, when Google crawls, they try to look at the big picture of your overall site. If you have folder one, folder two, that’s not telling them anything. They’re going to have to crawl deeper to learn more, if you can tell them as much up front as possible, beginning with your URL hierarchy, you’re giving not only the crawlers, but the users, a clear picture of your overall site content. Another area that people tend to overlook or they can get lost in the shuffle of site updates is internal link depth. You want to make sure that as you’re adding content, that you avoid having pages that are buried deep in the site and off the main navigation.

Jeff Cohen:
For example, it may be a link in the content in a blog article from X amount of years, if it’s a valuable link, you want to make sure that’s easily navigable from the main navigation, or generally two to three clicks deep. Redirects, broken links, these can cause issues for the users as well as for the search engines if you have too many 301 redirects set up or if you have any 400 or 500 errors that are happening frequently, it can give your site a low quality score to the search engines. Things like duplicate meta tags or duplicate content in general, is really just a wasted opportunity. It’s not unique, and it’s not presenting your keyword focus or your theme of the site.

Jeff Cohen:
Alt text is a big thing. For SEO, it’s actually a small thing. It’s a little extra content to help put some of your keyword focus or your main theme in areas of the site. But alt text is the information that you put associated with an image on your page, that tells visitors in crawlers what the image is about. In particular, this is important for people who may be visually impaired and using screen reader technology to navigate the website.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. This really goes along with ADA compliance, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is mostly related to United States based websites, but I’m sure it’s a case for other places. But in 2019, according to an analysis by an international legal firm, Seyfarth Shaw, web accessibility federal lawsuits hit a record number with over 11,000 lawsuits filed against companies for not abiding by those ADA compliance standards. Things like not having alt text on the images, not being able to tab through two different text sections of a website.

Tripp Hamilton:
Essentially, not making it accessible to people with vision impairment and other disabilities as well. Making sure that you are compliant with that is definitely important. There’s something called the WCAG 2.0, Accessibility Standards, and you can use that. There’s lots of tools out there built to automatically scan your website, and use that to kind of get an analysis of where you stand. It’ll point out high and medium and low priority things to fix, so making sure that you are accessible to anyone no matter what their abilities are.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. Again, from a usability standpoint, not having those is going to reflect poorly not only is it detrimental for, again, people who may be using screen readers, but it will also reflect poorly reflect on how Google measures the site’s overall site strength. Things like schema, you may have heard a schema if not, get familiar with it. I encourage you to learn as much as you can, and use it wherever possible. But essentially, schema is a format that Google, Bing and all the major search engines like, that will help identify what type of content you’re talking about on your page.

Jeff Cohen:
For example, an event is labeled as an event, a price is labeled as a price, versus just being random words or numbers on a page. Finally, things like your sitemap.xml file and your robots.txt, these are often not forgot about, in some cases they’re programmatically created and not really a primary thought. But you want to always make sure that they’re configured correctly, you don’t have any errors or they’re not presenting any pages that might not be live anymore, or in the robots case, that it’s not blocking any folders or sections of your site that you want to have crawled.

Jeff Cohen:
How to keep things fresh. Over time, every site is going to have the potential to accrue a few issues under the hood, and site changes are going to happen. To help avoid letting things get out of hand, it’s a good idea to set up some internal processes that can kind of help you keep an eye on things. For instance, maintaining a change log of any major or mid level site updates. If you’re using a CMS, make sure that you’re keeping an eye on the platform updates or any plugin updates that might come through.

Tripp Hamilton:
This is definitely important for plugin updates especially, for not only security vulnerabilities, but there’s also new features that are released all the time for these plugins. Whether you’re using like an SEO plugin, a redirection plugin, or something like that. Not only that, when you’re updating things on your site, always, always, always make sure you’re backing up the site via your hosting platform. I’ve had so many times, when I’ve told a client, “Hey, you have a couple of plugins out-of-date.” They go automatically to go update all of them. A lot of times plugins don’t play nice together, so it’s always good to test before you launch those on the live site.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. That’s a good point. Doing a backup and then doing iterative updates is much better than just doing a mass, update all plugins at one time to avoid any conflicts. Then to help you keep an eye on things, Google does have a number of development tools that will monitor things like that, and even Google Search Console or Bing Search Console will provide reports on where they see potential slowdowns or errors. Beyond that I would say, consider using third party tools. There’s a number of things like SEMrush, Content King, Screaming Frog is pretty standard tool. There’re several others for different scale size of companies that can be used to regularly monitor for potential issues.

Tripp Hamilton:
Moving on from kind of technical SEO, which can be a little heady at times and especially if you don’t have the experience or resources to make those technical changes, you might need outside support. But one of the things that I feel like comes a little easier, especially to people that own a business or run a business is the content. The written words that are on your website. Words matter a lot when it comes to the authority of a website, oftentimes, we hear the phrase in digital marketing that content is king. But in actuality, not all content is king, it really depends on the time and effort you want to put into that content to ensure that it is relevant, compelling, and well formatted for both humans and search engines alike.

Tripp Hamilton:
Really, why does content matter? First, it can provide a clear picture to your users and search engines, of what your site is about. If you have a law firm, you want to have content speak to the practice areas you focus on. You don’t want to talk about the latest trends on TikTok or Instagram or anything like that. Second, you want the content to drive users to certain sections of your website where they can convert. If you’re creating content without a purpose, like if you’re just blogging because someone told you, you need a blog once a week, you’re not only wasting your own time, but you’re wasting opportunities to convert readers into customers. Lastly, it provides a voice for your brand. You want to be the subject matter expert in your field, so make sure you’re writing compelling and relevant content that speaks to your customers and convinces them that you are the expert, you should be listened to, your product or service should be purchased.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. All that said, what do people see when they get to your website. Typically, when a regular visitor gets to your website, they’re going to look for some familiar visual cues to lead them through the page. Aside from some outliers or some big brands that can get experimental, most people are going to look for things like where the site logo is, over on the typically middle of the page, or over on the left hand side.

Jeff Cohen:
They’ll look for a primary navigation. They’ll keep an eye out for things like call to action buttons, that are going to compel them to take an action, a shopping cart, generate a lead, whatever it might be. They’re going to look for the main body content. They’ll expect to see some images and probably some video assets sprinkled along. As long as all of that content matches the theme of what they were looking for, generally, they’ll want to look and explore more.

Tripp Hamilton:
One important thing to note here is, just looking at the kind of the stock image we have here, everything is blue, everything blends in. Really, you want to make sure that you’re putting conversion points on this page as well. You want to make sure that you’re drawing the eye to maybe the contact us button, maybe changing the color, maybe there’s something further down the page, maybe put the contact form right there, right in their face or a video if you need them to watch something to learn. Making sure you have those conversion points on those pages too, to make sure that there’s not just empty space or everything’s blending together.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. Excellent point. Having something that stands out from a conscious perspective is really going to help draw the eye further down or to a particular focus point. That kind of leads us into what the search engines see. At the end of the day, they’re seeing the same thing, but they’re seeing it code side. They’re paying a little bit more attention than a user might realize. Search engine crawlers are going to take note of how the content is set up on the page. What we mean by that is, first place they’ll usually come across is the meta tags. These aren’t typically seen by a user. It’s what you’ll see in the search results and you might notice it in your browser top bar.

Jeff Cohen:
But most people don’t pay attention to that as far as being on page content. But it really is the first place that search engine crawlers are going to come across. You want to make sure that the focus of your page is referenced in your page titles. That way you’re just telling Google, “Yep, people were looking for XYZ and we are XYZ.” They’re also going to take a deep look at how the content is formatted. Is the page structure clear? Is there a priority that’s established with the use of things like header tags, bolded text, bulleted list?

Jeff Cohen:
Do we have things like schema markup that they will see to let them know that, again, a particular type of content is that type of content? That also helps with things like rich snippet rankings? Are we sorting things out in a way that can drive people deeper in the site not only the calls to action, but with also cross linking in the content, with relevant link text that will drive somebody deeper into the site so they don’t have to go out to the search engines and search some more. Again, alt text very important, we already mentioned that not only for an SEO perspective, but more importantly for any users who might be using screen readers.

Jeff Cohen:
Then even so far as your asset file name, so not just the alt text you put on the image but the actual file names of the image. In general, Google isn’t going to care so much about an image that’s called DCS-001.jpeg. But it might take notice if your images are called kids-Spider-Man-T-Shirt.jpeg. Now it knows this is an image about a thing that is a thing I understand. It’s a Spider-Man T-Shirt for kids. If you sell Spider-Man T-Shirts for kids, let them know. Be sure to have filenames that provide some indication of what the image or video is about.

Jeff Cohen:
Tactics, you want to think of some things that you can keep in mind when putting together all this content stuff. You want to be sure that you work to understand your audience. First and foremost, you want to be able to write for the right searcher. There’s a whole lot we could cover here and we’ll probably do another webinar somewhere down the road. We’ll just point that at a high level, you want to do things like define your goals, to establish what it is that visitors want and what you want your visitors to do when they get to the site. You’ll definitely want to do the research, and not just the keyword research, but also checking what current search trends are, check out what your competitors are doing, things like that. Relevancy we’ve mentioned is key.

Jeff Cohen:
You want to understand search intent there as well. This is where I think we’ve actually already done another one of our associates, John Gibbings, did a great webinar about other ways to do research and find out things like intent and relevancy focus, and I would highly recommend you go check that out. But for example, if you’re trying to target things like selling TV installation services, you want to make sure that the word you’re targeting aren’t going to bleed over into things like DIY terms for how to install my own TV.

Jeff Cohen:
You want to balance the content for humans and robots. For the most part again, I would always recommend writing for humans first. But you do want to work in those keyword phrases, but not to the point where it sounds spammy. Back in the day you might have heard SEO say things like, you need X amount of keyword density for optimal results. But it really depends on so much more than that these days.

Tripp Hamilton:
Oftentimes, some of those old strategies seem to creep back up like having hidden texts, text that matches your background, so white text on a white background and stuffing a bunch of keywords at the bottom of page in the footer in hopes that will help you rank for maybe a certain location or something like that. Yeah. My rule of thumb is, if it looks spammy, it is spammy.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. When in doubt, trim it back. That’s usually the best way to go for it. You can always add more layer. Again, to that point, monitor, optimize and repeat. SEO is definitely a long game so don’t be afraid to do iterative updates to your content as well. What types of content should you consider? There’s a ton of articles out there, so rather than go into in depth, people talk about pillar pages, hub pages, landing pages, cornerstone, etc. At the end of the day, what does it all mean? Which do you need? Are they giving you a clear path for your users?

Jeff Cohen:
This is really going to vary based on so many things that are unique to your business and your market. But in most cases, you want a variety of content formats that are going to have a better chance to show up for searchers in various stages of their search journey, or as you may have heard of called, the search funnel. It’s really important to note that not all types of content work for all markets. As Tripp mentioned earlier, if your particular market isn’t going to have a worthwhile blog, don’t waste your time writing that blog.

Jeff Cohen:
You want to be able to deliver content that is consistent with what the users in the search engine expect. Otherwise, it could end up just hurting your overall efforts and wasting your time. But in general, you want to be sure to include a mix of content types that will help all users that digest information in different ways to find what they’re looking for. This can be a mix of things like making sure you have images, video, data tables for facts and figures or even interactive tools for things like, if you’re a lending company or things like that.

Tripp Hamilton:
Really having a wide variety of media types can really help especially as society is evolving to have a shorter and shorter attention span, having that short form content, that minute, minute and a half video that speaks to what the page is about similar to what these screenshots are showing. Like how to mount a flat screen TV. These helpful guides that essentially tell you step by step what to do. Really, a lot of people are looking for those quick answers, not a 1500 word article. Now, there’s oftentimes where they are looking for that 1500 word article, if it’s a significant purchase. Really, it all depends on who your customers are, who are your buyer personas as well.

Jeff Cohen:
The difference between a new site versus a recipe site versus this site, for example, for home depot, you’re going to have vastly different types of content. But you want to make sure that it is the right content for your audience and even in this case where we see nice broken up like this, you can’t quite see the screenshots but all of those little tool icons are a way for somebody to purchase the tools that they’re recommending to install that TV. This is also a great conversion [inaudible 00:26:08] tool as well from the client side.

Jeff Cohen:
Success metrics. We really could have a whole webinar just about analytics and setting up different types of ways to measure things. But real quickly, just to touch on this. You definitely want to measure the performance that you’re doing to make sure that your efforts are paying off. SEO is a long game. Again, as traffic grows though, you’ll learn more and find ways for existing and new content to be optimized. The search landscape will change over time as well. First it was more mobile, now we’ve got voice search as a contender, and whatever else is around the corner.

Jeff Cohen:
In addition to that, you’re going to have new competitors pop up over time. Current events and other outside variables can also affect search behavior. You want to keep an eye on all of these things through an analytics platform, whether it’s Google Analytics, or if you have Webtrends, IBM’s tools, whatever it might be. Just make sure that it’s set up and configured to track things like organic traffic performance. Things like impressions, clicks and CTR, you can get through Google Search Console. Through your web platform, you should be able get sessions and user data.

Jeff Cohen:
Conversion points like e-commerce, lead gen or email captures. Engagement metrics, even if you’re using Facebook engagement metrics as well, but looking at things on your website for things like bounce rates, time on page, and even incorporating things like heat mapping tools, to show you how users are engaging throughout the page. Organic rankings are definitely something you want to keep an eye on, but don’t get hung up on these because you really have to take these with a grain of salt based on where the person is searching from. Are you a national market? Are you localized? There’s so many things that go into that. I would use those as an indicator but not an absolute thing that you want to put too much focus on. Again, monitor, optimize, repeat. SEO content work really never ends.

Jeff Cohen:
Then the last leg of this sort of pyramid is going to be online credibility. What is online credibility? It’s not only the public perception of your business, but the perception of your credibility from the search engines perspective. Usually what we mean by this is, online credibility can be a wide variety of things which include reviews, social media, PR efforts. But for SEO specifically, we’re going to focus on the ranking factors that we can sort of directly control which are backlinks.

Tripp Hamilton:
Really the question is, what is a backlink? Why do they matter? Add the definition of a backlink up here. Essentially, say you have an article on another site, Forbes, they’re linking over to your site, that’s a backlink. An incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website. But really, why do these matter? Well, there’s three things. Rankings or ranking signals. Before it was used like a value of a link was rated with PageRank scoring one to 10. We don’t have that available anymore. We have to use sometimes third party tools to kind of measure that. Moz has domain authority.

Tripp Hamilton:
Ahrefs has domain ratings, so those kinds of things. Search engines like Google see backlinks as votes of confidence. Generally speaking, the more votes your webpage have, the more likely they are to rank for relevant search queries. Next is discoverability or the easier it is for search engines to find you. Search engines find new content by revisiting pages they already know about, to check for new links. Because search engines revisit popular pages more often than unpopular ones, they may discover your content faster if you get backlinks from popular pages.

Tripp Hamilton:
Then the last and I would say somewhat the least important would be referral traffic. Backlinks exist to point people to useful resources, that’s why they’re clickable. When someone clicks on a link to your website, you get referral traffic. Now, we don’t always count on referral traffic converting but depending on where that link exists, it might, depends on the audience. Now, I’m going to get into a couple tactics. Where should you get started when it comes to acquiring backlinks? If say you just came on at a company, the first thing to look at is broken links. That website is probably gone through eight or nine different changes. There’s probably pages that have been taken down.

Tripp Hamilton:
There’s probably redesigns, migrations, a lot of different things. Really looking at broken backlinks is that first step. One of the tools that I like to use is the Ahrefs’ Broken backlinks tool. It crawls tons of websites automatically and it will already accrue those broken pages and where those links exist. All you have to do is set for redirect on your site and there you go, bam, that link has been reclaimed. It also prevents potential poaching of your broken backlinks by competitors because that is a very common tactic, when it comes to acquiring backlinks is broken backlink poaching.

Tripp Hamilton:
Next, and I would say this is also a fairly easy task, would be to find gaps. Essentially, you’re using your competitors backlink profiles to your advantage. You’re comparing your backlink profile with theirs. The tool I oftentimes use is the SEMrush Backlink Gap tool. It helps find those, I’m going to put quotes on it, good links, that they have but you don’t have references to. This tool helps with analyzing and identifying this backlinks and it even offers a platform to send out emails.

Tripp Hamilton:
Now, I would always suggest that if you really, really want a backlink from a website, if it’s very high value, if it’s related to your niche, never use a canned response, never use a template. Always craft an email that speaks to that person. Whether it’s someone who is a podcaster or someone that owns a blogging website. You want to speak to them, butter them up but really, making the email personal will go a lot further than a templated email.

Jeff Cohen:
That’s a good point. You mentioned a lot of tools here Tripp, but at the end of the day, there’s still a human component to doing all of these tactics, right? There’s not just an automated blast that let it go and let the machines do all the work for link building.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yes. Certainly. I mean, you can certainly try that but I would say the return is minimal when you do the kind of set it and forget it, just blast away with emails because I’m sure we all get those emails. I get them every day where people are offering backlinks or asking for a backlink from our Hive Digital blog, so it really depends. They all go to spam for me. The ones that don’t, I’ll read but I usually don’t listen to, regardless, it just depends. But some other tactics that can work, it really depends on your niche. There’s a wide variety of other methods that work.

Tripp Hamilton:
But like I mentioned before, interviews and podcasts are great. As you’re reaching out to a potential new audience at the same time that you’re potentially getting a reference link on that podcasters or interviewers website. It also gives that multimedia content that is hosted elsewhere. You don’t have to worry about it slowing down your site, it’s on their site, but it’s also speaking to their audience. You’re kind of spreading your net a little bit there. Also, related forums make sense, so you can add to conversations. Now, I will say that forums in the past have been used and abused for SEO spam. I would avoid spam, especially like Reddit, don’t try to go sell your stuff on Reddit because those communities can lash back really quick.

Jeff Cohen:
They’re pretty vigilant about being sold to.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. But if it’s a website talking about car repair, going on there and if you own a car parts manufacturer, that’s a great place to kind of add into the conversation, “Hey, we have this price.” It kind of makes sense. If you’re adding to the conversation, if someone’s asking for parts recommendations or something like that, you want to add to that conversation.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. Or even things like AMAs, if you’re a decent-sized brand or if you have a following doing, ask me anything, can be a good way to engage and get some of those links naturally.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yap. Always good old-fashioned outreach. Kind of the Backlink Gap but really a lot of it requires you to have kind of boots on the ground and doing the research yourself. You have to know who are people in your industry that are blogging. Who’s talking about your industry? What are their advertising policies? Reaching out to Forbes or anything like that. A lot of times it does, unfortunately, cost money to advertise in places. You also want to be careful there too, because guidelines, at least for Google spam and quality guidelines, strictly prohibit paying for backlinks.

Tripp Hamilton:
But if you’re paying for an article to be posted, if you’re paying for someone’s time to write an article, an interview, I don’t think it’s that necessarily bad of an idea to make sure someone is reimbursed. But if the intention is to acquire that backlink, it does violate Google’s guidelines. You definitely want to watch out there. The other two are link reclamation. Oftentimes, other websites will get redesigned too. They’ll have blogs taken down, so making sure that you’re kind of keeping an eye on that. Tools that can monitor that are like Ahrefs, like I’d mentioned before.

Tripp Hamilton:
Then unlinked brand mentions. There’s oftentimes an article that will talk about your company or your product, and they’re not linking to you. You’ll want to make sure that you reach out to whomever that writer or editor or webmaster is and say, “Hey, can you put a link back to us. Since you were talking about us, I think it’d be helpful to your users to know who we are and link back to us.” It’s almost never a bad idea to reach out and ask for your brand name to be turned into a hyperlink.

Tripp Hamilton:
Then some success metrics. I mean, how long does it really take for backlinks to have an effect? Authority growth from backlink acquisition can take time. There’s no real concrete timeframe that we can establish for how long it takes to get the effects from backlinks. But really you just want to make sure that you are acquiring relevant and high quality ones as well. Not always focusing on saying, “Oh, the domain authority, the Moz metric for authority is 100.” That’d be like a Wikipedia. We really need that but let’s not worry about those DA10s. But maybe those domain authority 10 links are people there in your industry. They have maybe a small audience but that audience cares about your industry.

Tripp Hamilton:
Don’t always just get lost into looking at those domain scores or anything like that. Really, things to track are things like referral traffic, using UTM parameters to track traffic coming from this backlink. If it’s a partnership program, making sure you have that UTM parameter in there so it’s easier to track what traffic is coming through that link. You can check for backlink growth via Google Search Console or third party tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Majestic, there’s plenty out there. Then like I said, you can check kind of domain score via those third party tools. If you’re seeing that domain score is slow the rise, you kind of [inaudible 00:37:56] like, “Oh, we’re getting authority backlinks to our site. Our site authority is crawling.” We can kind of assume that these are having a positive effect on our rankings, on other metrics as well.

Jeff Cohen:
Awesome. Making it all happen. We talked about a lot of different things here at a high level, but at the end of the day, all that said, how do we make it work for your company? As we mentioned before, a few potential hurdles that you might need to overcome. First and foremost is going to be company culture. I guess a first hand as somebody that’s been on both the agency side and the client side of the table, that it is not uncommon for companies to not be geared up to have a digital marketing team that includes SEO. The good news is, though, that with just a little bit of work across the board, this can be adapted pretty easily. First is process, right?

Jeff Cohen:
You might have your current teams have their processes established. The important thing is to make sure that they work directly with SEO teams early on, to see where we can easily slot in. We may need to roll out bigger process changes to get things where they need to be. If your business is at a scale that you have a project manager, then you want to be sure to get their input on how SEO can be effectively worked into the current workflows, so that it becomes an assist versus any sort of hurdle or roadblock. Then of course, there’s just limit on resources, human capital, budget time, and just overall experience.

Jeff Cohen:
I would say, work with your SEO to make sure that the scope of work is practical for your current situation. There’s really no benefit in contracting 20 hours a month of SEO work if your team’s bandwidth can’t accommodate that to get content or site updates done. Don’t worry about starting slow, your SEO team should be quite comfortable in helping you prioritize what needs to be done at a pace that will work with you. At the end of the day, work as a team. Your SEO [inaudible 00:39:48] should be able to work with all of your teams, not against them. SEO work is really about optimizing and planning ahead and those efforts should benefit all the marketing channels that are working to drive traffic to the website.

Jeff Cohen:
Cross team collaboration is definitely key, the SEO team should be able to work with all of your web teams as needed, whether they’re in-house teams at the company, or if you’re using other agencies or even freelance support teams to get work done for your website. Just make sure that you’re on the same page. At the end of the day, all roads should lead to the same goal. Having consistent messaging and visuals across all of your marketing channels, can provide a sense of cohesion that improves the overall conversion rates for all channels.

Jeff Cohen:
SEO at the start, making sure that you’re having your SEO team train with your IT teams or your dev teams, copywriters, even designers, to provide those key best practice items for that big website project, will save everybody a lot of time at the end, from planning out things like redirects or providing input on where schema can be utilized. Or even like we said, those file names for the design team. It’s just a good idea to weave SEO into all aspects of your website project. All right. I think that gives us a little bit of time for some Q&A.

Tripp Hamilton:
I think we already have one question up there which I can address. The question is, can you be penalized for just for inquiring about links on a site? Or do bad links need to be found first before a penalty is given? Great question there. It really depends on who you’re reaching out to. Like if you’re reaching out to someone who may not have the highest regard for your brand, they can always pass that email along to Google. Now, it really depends on who’s seeing it. Really, the first step for a [inaudible 00:41:39] penalty is the Penguin algorithm. Really, if you have a bunch of links that are pointing to one page using a particular anchor text that’s commercial, Google’s going to automatically devalue those links because it is noticing that there’s a natural pattern there.

Tripp Hamilton:
That would be called kind of an algorithmic penalty. You really wouldn’t be getting benefits from those links. Now, when it comes to a manual penalty, so if someone at their search spam team, analyzes your site and places the penalty on your site, really, there has to be some egregious action on your part. It’s not just from emailing one person or two people, it’s going to be continued efforts of having those active backlinks and really, the big part of what I saw whenever I was working with sites that had penalties is, the work was sloppy. They were using the same one or two tactics. It was a lot of forum spam, a lot of directories. Maybe it was just, all guest posts. Using those tactics that are listed on the unnatural links. There’s a page on Google that lists those unnatural link strategies, most of the time when a penalty was levied, they were choosing one or two of those tactics over and over again, hundreds of times.

Jeff Cohen:
All right. Any other questions?

Sheffield Pulley:
I have a question if no one else does. See if anyone else has one, because I can ask you guys anytime. Now actually, my question relates to the webinar itself. What would be the two or three takeaways each of you would hope someone would take from this. A lot of incredible information. Thank you both, by the way. But what are the two or three things you’d like for the most takeaway from this?

Jeff Cohen:
I mean, for me, again, like somebody who likes to focus on content and again, as somebody who’s worked both in-house and agency for several years, I think my two takeaways are, one, it was always a challenge for me in-house when I was at a company and they just didn’t get the SEO people in front of all the team members. Then it was sort of an after the fact thing of, how do we miss this one thing like, “Oh, we didn’t introduce those two teams together, who were working on that project.”

Jeff Cohen:
Again, that collaboration aspect definitely, whether you’re a small company or big company, whether you’ve just got a few stakeholders or multiple teams, having your SEO people collaborate with the rest of the marketing division is, in my opinion, a huge priority. From a content perspective specifically, again, doing the research and don’t just think again, that it’s just keyword research like understanding intent, understanding your audience, really thinking about that search funnel and how people are going through the phases of their journey. Tripp mentioned briefly the idea of audience personas, those types of research things, those deeper research things are really crucial.

Tripp Hamilton:
I think we have more questions here. One from Sabrina is, do backlinks work on social media pages such as Instagram post or a link on an influencer Snapchat story, is it strictly for webpages?

Jeff Cohen:
Good question.

Tripp Hamilton:
Great question. Typically, no, they do not pass authority, especially like a Snapchat story and Instagram story since it’s temporary. It’s only up for 24 hours. Instagram and Facebook have made it where a lot of those links have a no-follow attribute. It’s not going to pass authority either way. But one thing to make sure of is, making sure that your Facebook profile, your Instagram profile or your Twitter profile, all have those sections where your website is stated, always, always make sure that’s up-to-date. It’s linking to your homepage, or maybe your contact page, whatever page you think is applicable to link from those profiles.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. I think to that point, there’s a referral benefit to it but not necessarily a backlink authority benefit to it.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. Good point. All right. Let’s see here. [inaudible 00:45:56] a couple of the questions that are coming in. We have time for a few more. Yep. For an absolute newbie, what is the learning curve on all this? Are there ways to shorten it? Jeff, I’ll let you take that one.

Jeff Cohen:
Talking about 13 and a half, no. The good thing is, at the end of the day, not to sound self-deprecating but SEO isn’t rocket science at the end of the day. It’s just due diligence. By that, I mean, you do also need to find out what the current trends are. The core things have remained the same since I first started. These three foundations I saw in a presentation 12 years ago, and they still hold true today. But things are always evolving, whether it’s things like the Core Vitals or the [inaudible 00:46:44] score, or mobile or what might have you. That’s really where the due diligence comes in. I think in my opinion, it’s more about a mindset.

Jeff Cohen:
You can have general marketing background and get a good grasp of what it takes to get SEO into the mix. Or it just all might sound like too much work and be foreign to you. But there’s a ton of resources out there from our own blogs, to Google’s forums. Google’s, they just renamed it but it used to be called Webmaster Central and I can’t think of a new name because it just happened this week. But Google has resources, Bing has fantastic resources. There’re tons of blogs out there besides our own. We’ve got Hives blog, obviously, like Moz Search Engine Journal.

Jeff Cohen:
There’s a lot of ways you can learn. Now, on the flip side, getting really good at it can take time. That’s a lot of trial and error. It’s a lot of practice and it really depends on the type of site you’re working on. If you have a smaller site, you’ll probably see returns much quicker than if you’re working on a big corporate site or brand. Again, those goals are going to be different. Determining the goals and the audience and what the audience wants to do are all key steps. I would say you can learn the basics of it relatively quickly, if you spend a lot of time reading on it. But getting it right will take time, so yeah, relatively easy to learn, hard to master, I guess is the short answer there.

Tripp Hamilton:
All right. We have the next question. If you have a small website, is this all something you can do yourself with tools you mentioned? Or is it worth an agencies like yours time to help?

Jeff Cohen:
Yes and yes. Yeah. There’s probably not a good answer. I think, again, that can really fluctuate on your business size versus your business audience. There’s not a good answer there. I mean, I would always encourage people to dabble on their own certainly, because even if you decide after trying it for three months, six months a year, you want to take it one step further, I think we’re happy to work with customers, me personally, I’m happy to work with customers at all levels of familiarity with the SEO elements.

Jeff Cohen:
But if I have a client that at the very least gets it, it always kind of helps because we can spend more time on the tactics and a little less time on the education. Of course, we’re happy to spend time on the education but if you’ve sort of done it yourself. It’s like I tell people, I know how to change my own oil, but I don’t like to do it, so I will definitely go down to Jiffy Lube to get it done because I know they’ll do it quicker, better and cleaner, and then I don’t have to worry about getting greasy.

Jeff Cohen:
These are definitely things you can do. There is also a threshold to consider, once you’ve invested in so many of these tools, the nice thing about an agency is, you can say, “I really only want to pay you to work X amount of hours and you’ve already got those tools in bulk.” You kind of have to do some cost analysis, by the time you get all the same tools we’re using, which we get at a group rate, does it make sense to buy all those tools separately and put your own man hours into it, so to speak? Or is it just easier to hire an agency to help you get things going?

Tripp Hamilton:
I think we have one more question from Annia.

Jeff Cohen:
From link building, I would always pay somebody to do that because [inaudible 00:49:50]

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. That’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Jeff Cohen:
Exactly.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. I think we have one more question from Annia. At saving costs, is it a good idea to lump all your businesses onto one website versus having multiple websites for different businesses? I guess I always hate to hear this but it depends on how related those businesses are. If it’s a separate product, if you have businesses for one product, it might be good to all lump those into one website. But if you have a nail salon somewhere, if you have a pest control company somewhere, you don’t want all those living under one house.

Tripp Hamilton:
You’re going to make sure that they’re related. Now, I would always say that if you’re running multiple businesses, you definitely want to keep them as separate entities. But you are also kind of working on different properties, on making sure content is optimized here, there, on site A, B, and C. It may make it easier in the long run, if the industries are related to all have it under one roof. But oftentimes, it just depends on the situation really? I don’t Jeff, what do you think?

Jeff Cohen:
I think another thing I would look at is, is there enough to talk about for each business, right? Taking back to the TV installation, if you’re a handyman company and you do things like you happen to do lawn work, and you happen to do home repair, and you happen to have an electrician? Should you have three different websites for each of those focus points? Is there enough to talk about or is a home services website that covers all of those, a better idea for you? Now, I would say that’s again, going back to the research, how are people searching for it? Does Google tend to give results that lump those things together? Or does Google give distinct results for each of those types of things? Doing a little research in what the audience is and the intent and how much potential content you could write, could kind of help you make that decision as well.

Tripp Hamilton:
It looks like we have a question from Matthew Kay. Does subdomain to subfolder migration of blog cause uplift and increase in visibility? Jeff, I’ll let you take this one. I mean, we have a client or we had that exact issue.

Jeff Cohen:
Yeah. I mean, in my opinion, anytime you can get everything onto your primary domain, I would, tactically a while ago or years ago, creating subdomains was really popular for a while. I’m not sure why. In most cases, even though Google can learn and associate your subdomain with your primary domain. It usually sees them as two distinct domains, so you lose some of that content value. I would say whenever you can, if it’s content that you want to lift up your main site, host it under your main site. From an SEO perspective, subfolders are always going to benefit your overall site quality more than subdomains will.

Tripp Hamilton:
I think we have one more question from Arman. Do you guys recommend integrating SEMrush with a plugin like Yoast which we use or for example, Moz?

Jeff Cohen:
[inaudible 00:53:10] better for me. I tend to go with SEMrush but Moz is a great tool as well.

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. I mean, I personally think the data in SEMrush is a little bit cleaner. But Moz has added a lot of value to their tool in the past, even just past a year or two.

Jeff Cohen:
Or maybe it’s more of a Coke or Pepsi analogy. They’re both great sodas. I think it kind of just depends on which one. One, does it integrate with any other features that you’re using? Two, just do you have a personal preference? But I know personally I don’t have a preference between those two.

Tripp Hamilton:
I would also suggest, if you’re having problems with Yoast, is looking at other SEO plugins. One we’ve been using recently is called Rank Math and it’s really great. I’ve been really liking it. It has a lot of the same features as Yoast but I feel like it’s a little bit cleaner. It plays a little better with other plugins because oftentimes, I’ll update Yoast and it’ll crash website. It really just depends.

Jeff Cohen:
Awesome. Well, thank you for all the good questions, everybody. I think that pretty much wraps it up. Of course, we do have the resources here at the end of the deck as well, that touch on some of the things we went through in the webinar. Of course, if you’ve attended these before, but if not, you know the rest of the Hive Digital team. We’ve got a number of experts here between SEO, Analytics, and our paid search teams which handle not only just Google Search, paid search and Bing paid search, but also social media marketing. We’ve got a full service crew here. Of course, we do handle Web Analytics, search engine optimization, paid advertising, and social media marketing. For myself, I want to thank everybody for your time. Tripp?

Tripp Hamilton:
Yeah. Thanks everyone for attending, really appreciate it.

Sheffield Pulley:
We’ll be sending out a follow up email which will have information about our previous webinars, the recording of this webinar and the resources that Tripp and Jeff just shared here. We will not be doing a webinar in December, taking a break for the holidays. But in January, we’ll be cranking back up. I think I know when it’s on but I’m not sure. I’m pretty excited if that’s the case, but we’ll certainly be sending you information if you opted in to our list and we’ll be sending some information sometime in December about it. Thank you again for all attending and have a wonderful rest of your day. Thanks Jeff and Tripp. Appreciate it fellas.

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Tripp Hamilton - Hive Digital
Tripp Hamilton
Hive Digital SEO Expert

With an in-depth knowledge pertaining to e-commerce clients working on WordPress, Shopify, and other CMS platforms—and a great deal of experience in areas of manual link penalties, local SEO, natural link acquisition strategies, and content optimization/strategy—Tripp has been working in digital marketing since 2012. He is a Senior SEO Consultant with Hive Digital, where he works to ensure the best focus and care is given to each client.

Jeff Cohen - Hive Digital
Jeff Cohen
Hive Digital SEO Expert

Jeff works with clients to understand their goals and challenges and provide strategies for online marketing programs, including SEO, paid search, and content strategy development. He conducts analyses to provide insights into online competitors, search trends, and SERP landscape, meeting with clients to review updates on measured KPIs and new opportunities.

Sheffield Pulley - Hive Digital
Sheffield Pulley
Hive Digital Client Advocate

Sheffield joined Hive Digital in 2017. Sheffield is a proven professional excelling in the promotion of personal and team accomplishments with extensive, results-oriented sales management, marketing and business development experience.

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