This is part 2 of a quick exercise I did. As I mentioned on the first part, I’m publishing it for posterity because I wasn’t particularly happy with the results and hope to come back, do the exercise again in a year, and be better.
So sharing my exercise here, as it relates to audience-first businesses with piles of content:
11. Speed changes don’t make a difference for about half of sites we do them for from an SEO standpoint. Usability, sure. Mobile usability, double sure. But any lift for search is probably moderated by indirect signals correlated with performance improvements.
12. Whenever you do a site rebuild, you should see a traffic increase, not a decrease. When you see a decrease, it’s because of one of two reasons:
- The site was not an overall improvement. For sites where traffic matters, this means the site rebuild was a failure. This is a very hard thing for businesses to accept, which makes it even harder to acknowledge.
- Changes were not made following development best practices. Unfixed, this is potentially very detrimental, like lose-years-of-marketing-work-detrimental. A quick story here, my alma mater had a site rebuild done where a few years worth of PR links were all broken over night with no easy way to find the respective new links. The traffic hit was about 30%. Not a big deal until you look at the loss in new student enrollments when the typical lifetime value of a student is $100k.
13. Content debt is a threat to audience-based businesses the way technical debt is a threat to large enterprises. If the content you created a year ago is not benefitting you today, that’s content debt. And with enough of it, you are on a hamster wheel. By only focusing on using new content to keep the same audience interested, you are not focusing on using old content to get new audiences interested.
14. You should be thinking about SEO, but not in the way you think. When you think about SEO, you
- think about things you can do to your posts after they’ve been made, or to your site after its been developed. There is some small truth to that these things are beneficial, but it’s highly situational and not nearly as significant as you think.
- think it doesn’t apply to you yet and you can ignore it until some point in the future. Even if you shouldn’t be “thinking about SEO” yet, you should be. This is the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.
15. How you should think about SEO depending on what phase of your business you are in:
- Prepare for SEO, and at the very least, don’t ignore it: You can slowly do things to benefit your SEO, but should not expect any returns for years. That’s “years” plural. If three years is required to see the results you seek, then it doesn’t make very much sense to focus on your SEO now when you are eating what you kill. That said, you can focus on other things, and be mindful enough to not hurt your SEO and you will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you see returns when you switch from thinking about SEO in terms of weeks or months to years. To say, I’m not going to think about how what I do now may affect my SEO in three years, is to say, I’m not going to think about the future. Very often, instead, you can do some tree planting now in terms of workflow and see returns over time or position yourself for much faster returns once you do really turn it on.
- Do things that benefit SEO and other aspects of your business at the same time to hedge your risk. When we talk about SEO strategy, we’re talking about strategic risk: picking the metrics that really matter, developing a sound content strategy that accounts for link outreach, information architecture, some technical stuff, but most importantly, doing all those things in the context of risk. Reducing risk in SEO means doing things that would improve the quality of your brand and users’ experiences even if you don’t see a single additional session from organic search. Basically, execution of a good plan at a certain threshold of quality and pace compared against real benchmarks that exist in the competitive landscape.
- SEO is a leader’s game. You can’t do it halfway. The top 1% get 30, 40, 50% of the total potential benefits of ranking. Doing half of what is required to rank in the top 3 will likely mean zero returns. If you do it, you commit to leading the pack of authorities on your topic… or you don’t do it.
16. When should you go from one to two to three in the immediate above and start putting real attention on search? I don’t know.
17. Hygiene versus hub versus hero content.
If you’re familiar with this model, then you’ll want to know what kind of content gets the most links. If you hit a home run in the thought leadership department, you could generate 2000 inbound links from 500 websites to just one page, putting yourself on the map. Do it a few more times and now everyone knows who you are. Do it consistently and people will have to pay attention.
Alternatively, if you have good hygiene, you could be scrappily getting 5 inbound links from 2 to 3 sites on average to each piece of content you write. While it would take 250 pieces of hygiene content to reach the number of sheer inbound links of the above thought leadership home run example above, it’s much more predictable. It’s like bunting versus swinging for the fences. So which should you be doing? Likely both!
18. If you use categories on a blog, you should probably migrate that to hub pages. Make your category pages hub pages – that is – create a page that will override your category pages, but make it a curated resource sharing what most important things you have are, and hiding (archiving / devaluing) the ones that don’t matter.
19. Experts segment their audiences lots of ways, but the easiest way to segment is based on interest – if someone reads a post, clicks a topic, whatever, you can now serve them something that they are interested in, irrespective of their background, demographics. It’s a psychographic approach to understanding a users’ context, it’s less invasive and it does the job better, like 80:20 better.
20. Your funnels should account for the congruency and natural edges between your content. Unless you are squeezing every dollar out of a paid ad funnel approach, stop thinking of funnels as linear. Instead think of them as fluid. You have clusters of content that are somewhat distinct based on the problem and mindset of your users. When your pieces of content aren’t scattered, when they’re instead clustered, you can tag users based on their interest in that content, and sell them something that is most relevant to them. So you create funnels, yes, but you create them along the natural edges of content and respective products. You can still allow everyone to participate in the group activities of your daily emails or whatever it is, just give the people what they want. It’s not that hard.
21. There are Google Webmaster Guidelines. At any given time you are probably breaking one or more of these simply by not have having spent time understanding what they are or how they work. Think nofollow for sponsored links or affiliate links, or partnership disclosures.
That’s it! Thinking about doing this exercise? I would love to see some of yours.