All posts by Magnus Bråth

Google: No, we don’t use Likes 

My page has many more likes than my competitor, but why don’t I rank better? – Because we don’t use Likes to rank pages.

A friend, Eli, who also happens to be one of the SEO specialists who inspired me when I started with SEO, asked the question to Google’s Gary Illyes: Why doesn’t my site rank better than my competitor’s, despite the fact that I have many more likes? The answer from Illyes could not be clearer: Because we don’t use Facebook likes to rank pages?

Why Your In-House SEO Fails

SEO is an industry where scale brings additional benefits; it gives an advantage to the agencies and a disadvantage to all in-house efforts. In my opinion, this is the most common reason why things go wrong when you to do your own SEO in competitive segments.

There are really two basic principles in search engine optimization. The first is to know what to do. The other is to do it.

The first principle is like peeling a banana. Once you have the knowledge to do SEO, you have a nearly inexhaustible source of knowledge. Of course, the execution part takes more time, but it is only half of the work. It also works in the way that the more knowledge you have, the less you need to actually do – to a certain extent.

Almost Everyone Fails

Almost every in-house effort I’ve seen fails due to one of these two reasons. Either you hire an SEO specialist who really knows SEO, or you hire someone who could be described as an executor. The problem with a senior specialist is that you pay them pretty good money and still need to get someone to do the practical aspects of the job. My experience is that few seniors are willing to stay very long in a role that requires too much junior-level work. The problem with hiring someone with junior skills is that without the guidance from someone who has carried out a large number of SEO projects, you basically get a glorified webmaster.

The most common failure I’ve seen over the years is this idea: If I build a lot of sites and link to my own site, then I should be number one. This often seems like a great idea on the drawing board. I have seen maybe 100 such attempts, but I don’t think more than a handful has succeeded for more than one or two years. Then it is cancelled, forgotten, or simply stops delivering value. No offense to all those who work in-house, it is my view that this is simply not doable in many cases. At least it cannot be implemented well and in a sustainable way.

I Still Think That We Will See More In-House SEO

While in a conversation with a former colleague who now works in-house at one of Europe’s largest online companies, something dawned on me. He is not so pleased with what they can achieve, he is often the only one with SEO knowledge in the projects and has no one to bounce ideas off. Sure, he has juniors who can do the work (the company has made a big investment in SEO) but when Google does major updates, he’s the only one.

Despite this, it became quite clear to me that SEO is increasingly becoming an in-house matter. The reason for this is that search engine optimization is becoming more accessible. More and more people are able to manage SEO projects as long as they’re not too complex. This makes it possible to hire staff, even if you’re not an agency.

More reading

If you are interested in reading more on the topic, I can recommend an earlier article I wrote on the same theme. It is about why it is so difficult to succeed with in-house SEO. A slightly different reason for another type of complexity.

What is Conversion Optimization

Conversion Optimization is the process of converting visitors to customers. CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) often goes hand-in-hand with search engine optimization and search advertising, and we will take a closer look at CRO today.

The very foundation of conversion optimization is to get visitors to do what you want them to do on your site or page. If you are running an e-commerce business, the goal is almost always to get the visitor to make a purchase, but especially on other types of sites it can also involve things like signing up for newsletters, requesting a quote, or sometimes as much interaction as possible (if ad views are the goal).

How Do You Get Started with Conversion Optimization?

The first step for almost everyone who works with conversion optimization is to clearly define the objectives and determine how to measure them. It may sound extremely basic but let me use this site as an example. We generally want the site to generate more clients with larger budgets. However, this is not exactly easy to measure, which is why we have broken it down to objectives that work better for us. We then define the goals as visitors who contact us, either via contact form, email or telephone.

A visitor who contacts us does not necessarily mean a new customer, but as soon as they have done so we have got an overview of who they are and what they want. Before they had done any of the three things mentioned above, we had no or very little idea of who the visitor actually is. We have therefore defined these three forms of contact as conversions.

Next Step – Making Decisions

The next step is to make decisions and choose a focus. Each visitor will first come a page on your site, a landing page. When the visitor reaches the landing page, what do you want them to do on the page and how will you make it easier for that to happen?

Let’s take a look at an example, Gardenhome.se, which is one of our own projects. In general, we want the visitor to shop for garden equipment in the store. On this specific page that we see in the picture, we want them to buy Gnistan. Now this is no conversion miracle, we have just started working on the conversion rate of Gardenhome and it is a process that takes time.

Based on the goals of the individual pages, the plan is set up. Start by familiarizing yourself with what is preventing the visitor from buying the product on that page – it is often a matter of removing obstacles. There may be many shortcomings, the page may not inspire the confidence required or perhaps it is unclear what you are expected to do on the page?

Usually one way forward is to remove unnecessary things, making it easy for the visitor to understand what you offer. Also, you have a bit of luck here; you don’t need to be spot on immediately, because you will have the opportunity to test this.

Tools for Conversion Optimization

Fortunately, there is a tool that enables you to proceed; otherwise we would all just grope in the dark. It’s all about A/B testing or multivariate testing. The idea behind A/B testing is simple: you show one version of the page for some visitors and another version for other visitors. Once you have reached a sufficient quantity you know which version works best. You then start with that in the next iteration. The multivariate testing is a bit smarter, as you can test more things at the same time. To perform these tests there are tools and we have two favourites among these:

Google Analytics Experiments

Visual Website Optimizer

Draw Conclusions Based on The Data

When you have the data for how the visitor reacts to your changes, you need to draw conclusions. Why is one page better at converting than the other? Can you develop this even further, or is there something else missing now? At this point, you need to go back to the planning stage – you have to understand what do with your new and more effectively converting page. What is missing that could further improve conversion?

Now you can iterate this process again and again. Make a plan, implement it, measure, and draw conclusions.

A Summary of The Method

Start by defining what you want to achieve. What is a conversion? The next step is to familiarize yourself with what the visitor needs to do, in order to do what you want them to do. Implement and test your thesis. Go back once again and look at the page when you have received the test results, implement and test once more. Continue.

How Is Conversion Optimization Related to Search Engine Optimization and Advertising?

In many of the steps when working with search engine optimization and keyword advertising, you need to keep the focus on conversion. It is easy to think that conversion optimization begins when the visitor arrives, but to be really effective it needs to start before that.

Think carefully about your keyword analysis. Consider a visitor who searched for ‘buy fire pit’ as in the example above. How big is the likelihood that the visitor actually buys the fire pit compared to someone who searched for ‘how to make a fire’? It is a somewhat extreme comparison, but every page in the search results above could be relevant for ‘what is a fire pit’ or ‘free fire pit’. None of those keywords would be as good at converting as ‘buy fire pit’.

Here you will also get better control of what is expected of each page on the site. With a properly implemented search engine optimization based on a keyword analysis, you will already know what the visitor is looking for on the specific page. You can also make sure that your offer is shown to the right people. For keyword advertising, this is vital. Here you test ads in the same way we talked about testing landing pages earlier. Which version offers the best conversion rate at the best price? That is the question you should constantly be asking.

CRO And SEO Are Not the Same Thing

Finally, there are those who insist that these disciplines are the same thing. CRO and SEO have many similarities, but the work itself is unconnected. Should building stadiums and playing hockey be part of the same job description, or do they each require specialist skills, so that it is unreasonable to think that the NHL guys should build their own ice hockey rinks?

5 SEO Actions for Those Who Think They Are Done with Optimization

Do you find it difficult to identify areas where you can improve your site? Does it feel like you have done all that is possible when it comes to search engine optimization? Here are five points that almost everyone needs to work on, regardless of how far you have come.

Speed Up Your Site

We work a lot with this, and it might make us think that it’s a bit more important than it really is, but the time it takes to load a page is extremely important for Google. Here, there is almost always more to do for those who feel that everything else is finished.

Brath.se loads somewhere around 200 ms, if you disregard an annoying Facebook-pixel needed for our marketing there. It is of course possible to speed that up; for example, we still have several different CCS files, and the fact that we chose to have https also slowed things down slightly.

Create New Landing Pages

There is almost always more traffic to bring in for those who can deliver content to an already strong site. Based on a thorough keyword analysis, find keywords on which you don’t rank, but that still drive a certain amount of traffic, and start producing good landing pages.

We adopt this method on almost all projects where we are out of other ideas, when you already rank so well that other measures don’t add very much. We often use our partner to help out with content.

Improve Your Landing Pages

Pages on the site with a lot of traffic or links (external) can be a gold mine for those who have the energy to go through them. Especially if you have an old site, there may be good reason to go through the Analytics and the Search Console to find pages that are strong, but that have not received the attention they deserve.

I personally do this regularly on this site. Above all, I think it works well for finding pages with a lot of traffic and high bounce rates in Analytics. I already know that the pages have potential, but they don’t live up to the visitor’s expectations. Improving those pages will deliver results every time.

Outreach

There is no limit on how far you can reach with the outreach. Unfortunately, it is rarely cost-effective, although that depends on the niche. Build relationships with bloggers and webmasters, and make sure you’re mentioned and linked to. If you have products to send, do so, otherwise you need to boost these efforts with content marketing.

Optimize Images – The Next Level

Have you paid attention to Google’s image search? If you search for a stock photo from your site or a product image you received from the supplier, can you find more of them? Do you seriously think that Google will perceive you as unique if they can find other identical pictures?

Naturally, the search engine understands that providing unique photos are not always possible, but all of Google’s other requirement have uniqueness at their core. There is every reason in the world to make sure your images are unique if you have already taken care of all other optimization. This can be a considerable undertaking – we have just started to try to solve this problem on this site, because we use stock photos a lot.

Of course, the images should have the right size, the correct name, be compressed and have the right alt tag as well.

Was That Too Much Information?

Were these five points too big for you to feel that you can successfully tackle them? If you have not come this far yet in your optimization, there might be easier things to get started with. Have a read through our 31 SEO tips in 31 days, a guide for those who want a little more speed and a little less boredom.

31 Tips That Will Improve Your Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is slow work. Getting to the top with a more difficult keyword can take a very long time. Once you’ve done that, however, it is most certainly very profitable.

A way to constantly move forward is to do something every day; to keep on going. Accordingly, we’ve put together a list of 31 tips that you can easily complete at the rate of one per day. So, here you go: a month’s worth of search engine optimization, in one easy presentation.

This article was first published in 2014, but we liked it so much that we decided it was time for an update. The tips are still relevant, but some names have changed; Webmaster Tools, for example, is now known as the Search Console.

31 SEO-Tips

Go through your titles. The maximum number of characters, including spaces, needs to be somewhere between 55 and 61 for Google to include everything in the search results. This really depends on the width of the pixels you should have with the Google fonts (512 is max). Screaming Frog can help.

Find the pages with the highest bounce rate. Open Google Analytics and find the pages that have the highest bounce rate for search traffic. Identify the problems; what is it on these pages that doesn’t let visitors do more on your site? Sometimes it is about technical problems, such as the time it takes to load a page; sometimes it is about the content not matching the intent of the person who did the search. Here you may need to try different things until you find the right tactic.

Read through your text and correct mis-spellings and any grammatical errors. Of course, if you have a big site, this may not be achievable in one day, but text is extremely important for search engine optimization. Start with the most important pieces of text, read them through again and make sure that everything is correct.

Find and eliminate the 404s. Unless it’s a very special set of circumstances, you don’t want to serve 404-responses to Google, or anyone else for that matter. Use the Search Console to find any 404s and turn them into something useful.

Find more Long Tail. With the help of the Search Console and the Google Keyword planner, you can get suggestions for more words and phrases. Find 3 to 4-word combinations and build content for these, whilst always, of course, remembering Panda as part of the process.

Write a robust buyers’ guide on any given product, suggesting what any potential customer should consider when buying. Buyers’ guides are a great way to find customers who are in the market for a product, but who haven’t yet made a final decision.

Tag your products or articles. By using tags to sort similar items and products, you can gain a lot of relevance within the site. Make sure that similar articles link to each other as often as possible.

Create and upload an updated XML sitemap to Webmaster Tools. Doing this regularly makes indexing easier for Google.

Improve and market your old material. Don’t let old articles or products languish unseen at the bottom of your categories. Improve the pages, fill them with content and make them visible again.

Remove unnecessary links from navigation. Less is more when it comes to search engine optimization, at least as far as navigation is concerned. Have a re-think about your navigation; are there any links you can do without?

Put yourself in the shoes of a competitor. Use Sistrix (now that our previous recommendation, SEOlytics, no longer exists) to identify which keywords a competitor might consider important and consider imitating them.

Write, write and write again, just like I’m doing here and now. If one of Sweden’s best paid search engine optimizers sits and writes long blog posts, there must be something to it, right?

Get to know an important blogger. Actually, I think you should do this every day. Links are the life-blood of the internet, and it’s no wonder that Google ranks links as the single most important factor in the algorithm. Make sure you get to know all the people that might one day consider linking to you.

Measure your positions, using a good tool. We would offer Advanced Web Ranking as our tip, though SEOlytics or Gserp also work.

Check the size of your images. If they are too large or too small, this is no good. Check that the pictures are at least of the size that they appear on the page. There is often much to gain here, because Google seems to prioritize speed more and more. By working actively with compression and size, you can be rewarded with much-improved positioning.

Speed up the site. Cache-solutions, minimizing CSS and so on. There is a lot you can do to speed up a site, and speed really counts for a great deal as far as search engine optimization is concerned. Slow sites are pushed down in the search results, and fast sites are just more user-friendly all round.

Make sure to include keywords in your main headings. This trick is overlooked surprisingly often, not so frequently among web shops, but on other sites. A catchy slogan as H1 is all well and good, but will not be help conversion rates. Tell the reader what the page is about and make sure the appropriate keyword is included.

Go through your descriptions. Google has recently changed the font in the search results, so your Meta-descriptions might no longer be properly visible. Check them and make sure to include the keyword of the page at the same time. Screaming Frog can help here as well.

Make sure that no one is copying your content. Pick out some sentences from your text and do a search in Google using quotes. Sometimes the content will have been copied, and this can create problems. Although resolution can prove difficult, an email can often solve more than you might think possible. Additionally, if your competitor is higher in the rankings than you, you may want to re-write your text.

Locate any 302s. Some CMS creates 302-redirects or other strange redirects. Find any possible 302 and change them to 301. Screaming Frog can save you a lot of time when doing this.

Sign up for Places for Business. By putting your business on the map, you can bring in some more customers.

Add a video. For some segments, video works very well. Try adding a video to a page to see the results.

Get a good link. Nowadays, a really good link can make a huge difference. Locate any resource within your segment on the net and make sure to put a link there.

Pay attention to people who link to you. By so doing, you show the world that you regard this as important and that you are willing to give credit to these people. It is a signal worth sending.

Write a press release. Google has argued that press releases aren’t worthwhile anymore, but we say that they’re wrong. A well-written press release with a decent link to your site will improve your search engine optimization.

Be sure to have correct and search engine-friendly search paths. To have the keyword in the search path still matters; there is no reason to have anything other than proper static search paths.

Watch your anchor texts. Take a look in MajesticSEO to check your anchor texts on incoming links. If you have worked with search engine optimization for a while, there is a risk that it might look a little too aggressive. Remove all aggressive anchor texts.

Hooray for anchor texts. Check through your internal anchor texts, where you can afford to be more aggressive, but not too much so. Make sure to link to pages using the keywords they should be visible on.

Remove irrelevant information. If, for instance, you used to have a blog or a forum which are no longer active on the site, clear them off. If you previously had a more sprawling site, possibly because you sold a bit of this and a bit of that, or if there is content which for some reason is not on topic, take it all away. Decide whether any particular content really belongs on the site.

Make sure that all your images have Alt and Title. Tagging your images is just common courtesy. It is not only good for the visually impaired, but also for search engines that might otherwise have a hard time understanding pictures.

Use synonyms. Make sure to add synonyms to the keyword you want a page to be visible on. Do not hesitate to add more text to include important synonyms, inflected forms or other variations on the words.

Link To Us If You Benefitted From This Search Engine Optimization Guide

If you like our guides, please don’t hesitate to link to us. It is good for your own search engine optimization to link to credible, relevant sources.