Log File Analysis for Better SEO

Log File Analysis for Better SEO

Who is Omi Sido?

Omi Sido https://omisido.com/ is a seasoned international speaker and is known in the industry for his humour and ability to deliver actionable insights that audiences can immediately start using.

From SEO consulting with some of the world’s largest telecommunications and travel companies to managing in-house SEO at Daily Mail and Canon, Omi loves diving into complex data and finding the bright spots.

Slides: https://www.slideshare.net/omisido/log-file-analysis-for-better-seo

Transcript:

Hi, guys. Thank you for coming here today. My name is Omi Sido and as most of you know I am very active online and I love talking about Digital Marketing and SEO.

Server logs analysis

Today I’m gonna be talking about Server logs analysis and how understanding what the Googlebot does and what the Googlebot sees on your website can massively boost your digital marketing efforts.

I’m gonna start with a short story. A few months ago – this is a real story by the way – a few months ago a guy came to me and asked me to teach him the basics of SEO so he can collaborate with his SEO team. Of course, I said yes. So I gave him some books and some blogs to read and we agreed to meet again in two weeks. Hi, David. So in two weeks, in two weeks we went to Costa and of course, I asked the guy him about his SEO knowledge. His answer: Content is king and currently he is reading a book about content creation and semantic search.

While he was talking I wrote a short poem, an SEO poem on a piece of paper and after he stopped talking paused I simply asked him: Can go and upload this poem to the Internet, on the Internet. He was like confused obviously: Omi what do you mean? And I was like: Well, you’ve just told me that content is king. So upload this poem on the Internet and make me famous. I wanna be the King of the Internet. Of course again confused And he said something like “But Omi I need a website”. End of story.

A lot of people come to me. A lot of companies and tell me: Omi, our website is beautiful. Our pictures are amazing. We publish content on a regular basis but somehow we are not ranking well. Why?

I said it before and I would say it again: Yes, content is King. But every King needs a castle, a home to live in. Technical SEO is this castle and by analysing your server logs you basically know whether you’ve got a solid structure or not.

If every time when the Googlebot comes to your website it can’t understand the structure of your website if every time when the Googlebot comes to your website and ignores strategic sections of your website your content counts for nothing. Shall I repeat this one? Your content counts for nothing.

Sorry, I can see a lot of fo people tagging me.

The only way for the Googlebot to understand what’s on your website is to literary come and crawl all your pages. Now some of you may say ‘But what is a log file?’ This is a log file. I know it’s a bit confusing but in all honesty, you don’t have to be very technical unless you wanna be an SEO Geek to benefit from the data, from the information, from the wisdom coming from the server logs. From the server logs.

So to make all these very simple I will give you another story.

Six months ago a company came to me and asked me to analyse their website and give them some recommendations for improving their rankings.
Obviously, I started crawling their website and the first thing I saw was half a million pages but only roughly 20 000 of them active pages. You all know this website. I’m not gonna mention the name because of the NDA but you’ve been there at least once for the last one month.
Half a million pages but only twenty thousand of them active pages. By active pages, you know what I mean pages that get organic traffic.
So I’ve started analysing their website, I’ve started crawling it and of course analysing the server logs so this is what I see. OnCrawl.

154 orphan pages. Yes, 154 000 orphan pages. Some websites don’t even have 154 000 pages. Out of 154 000 pages only 3 000 of them active pages.

Now, what are orphan pages?

Chelsea: Omi, what’s an active page? How do you qualify that?
Getting organic visits.
3 000, remember this number.

So what are orphan pages?

Orphan pages are pages that not linked from anywhere in your website structure.

This is the definition you see online.

What is my definition for orphan pages? Omi Sido’s definition for orphan pages. Stop hurting your SEO. Please.

How do we find Orphan pages?

The only way to find Orphan pages is to crawl, fully crawl a website. Take all the log file data, combine it together and analyse it. In this case out of 154 000 pages only 3 000 active pages. I had no choice but to literary delete all inactive pages. And I know it sounds a little bit harsh.
Then I continued analysing this website and I find that the bot is spending a lot of time, literary stuck in a section full of non-complaint pages instead of crawling the sections with complaint pages. Remember my what I said earlier about the strategic crawling of your website. I had no choice but to delete another big chunk of this website.

And then what I call duplicate URL crawling. By analysing this website I realised that the bot is spending a lot of its resources crawling pages with parameters even although they were properly canonicalized.

We had to literally reshuffle the whole navigation and stuff like that.
And now have a look at this picture. Yeah, this graph.
Pages crawled and not crawled by depth against SEO visits distribution by depth.

As I told you earlier you don’t have to be very technical to understand the importance of analysing your log files.
Have a look at this section of the graph. Only 49% are crawled. Yet, this section gives the most SEO organic visits.

By the way, I don’t like calling them organic. For me, they are just SEO visits.

But anyway.
Very strange for this website page depth five is giving more organic visits than those two. So I had a lot of conversations basically the idea was what’s gonna happen if I literary delete this group. What’s gonna happen if I force the bot to crawl this section more often and index more pages? What’s gonna happen if I actually combine those two without deleting this one or I combine those two? Notice this is only 19%. I hope you can see it from far. Nineteen percent.

You have to really think how you wanna spend your Crawl Budget.

We deleted, in all honesty, we’ve deleted more than 60% of this website went to the bin.

Just for clarity. These 60% any of these is unique content stuff like that. You are not suggesting

No, I am not suggesting that. Normally Orphan pages that are not visited by anybody even the bots are.

So ok. So to explain. Let’s go a little bit to Oprpahn pages. Normally those are development mistakes, expired product pages. Do we agree on this one? Ok, thanks.

So we’ve deleted. It’s ok. No, no of course yeah. The point I am trying to make and thank you very much because many people don’t actually know what Orphan pages are. You are absolutely right.

We’ve deleted more than 60%. More than 60% of this website went to the bin. Yet, six months down the line this client sells more products than ever. I didn’t say visits I said money. They sell more products than ever. Now that the bot is allowed to crawl the good pages more often resulting in more pages present in the SERPs and-and in a better position.

Some of you may say ‘Omi, this is a big website. They had a literary room for deleting pages’ and in fact, I have a lot of clients coming to me telling me ‘Omi, I don’t care about analysing log files because I only have 10-20 thousand pages’. So let me give you a quick example of a relatively small website.

This website was about to be migrated 6-7 months ago and I was asked to analyse it.

22 000 pages in the structure. 8 000 orphan pages. 8 thousand. After finding this one they nearly fired the whole Digital Marketing team. Thank God they didn’t. I’ve got more followers on LInkedIn.
23% are only bringing 3% of organic visits. Literary. Three percent of organic visits. Is it worth keeping those pages?
On the other side in the previous example – sorry I can’t find it now – in the previous example the Orphan pages were actually bringing 37% of organic visits. Why are you not linking to them?
Internally linking to them first so your customers can find them when they come on your website and second you can improve their SEO value so they bring even more visits in the future.

Guys, I hope I gave you, I’ve given you a good idea of how to.

Girl: I have a question.

Omi: Of course.

Girl: Have you done any analysis of incoming backlinks to those pages that you.

Omi: Yes, you have to do that. You have to do that.

Girl: How to do that all feed into the whole process?

Omi: With the example, I gave you there were no literary no backlinks. But you have to do that, you know.

Guys, I hope I’ve given you enough information but by all means, ask questions.

Brighton SEO talk April 2017 | Beyond the Basics of Website Migration: Tried, Tested & Successful

BrightonSEO talk April 2017 | Beyond the Basics of Website Migration: Tried, Tested & Successful


So first up we’ve got Omi. Most of you know him so I am not really sure how much of an introduction he really needs. He is an expert in everything technical SEO. He makes great videos so if you are not following him online already you definitely should be. He’s got about six years experience in everything digital. And he’s gonna talk all about going beyond the basics of a website migration.

Hi, guys. Thank for coming here today. Kelvin thank you for inviting me to this wonderful conference.
My name is Omi Sido and as most of you know I love talking about SEO and the way SEO can help you achieve your business goals.
Today I’m gonna to be talking about website migration but as you can see from the title I’m not gonna talk about SEO checklists. You can google them. You can find online and you can follow them.

When SEOs and indeed a lot of SEO speakers talk about website migration normally they talk about disasters. Big fat juicy disasters.
But this is not the way I think about SEO. In my opinion and experience, SEO is one of those rare moments in your SEO career when you can massively and I will repeat massively increase the SEO value of your website in one go. What do I mean by that? Stay with me and I’ll take you on a short journey.

First, website migration is one of those rare moments where you can educate your whole SEO team on all aspects of SEO.
A lot of SEOs are talking only about content and also I see a lot of SEO teams out there built with only content SEOs. To be honest with you yes ‘Content is King’ but if you follow me online you know what I normally say to this statement. Content is King but every King needs a castle home to live with his queen or a lover. You know the story.
Website migration is also one of those rare moments where you can explain what SEO is to every single department of your company especially development and content so they can help you achieve your SEO goals in the future.

Saying that for successful website migration you need a cross-functional migration team. A lot of speakers – SEO speakers say the SEO guy should be in charge. But why would the SEO guy waste his time and effort with the development process or the content process? The SEO guy should concentrate on the SEO tasks.
So you are an SEO – you are in charge. Your SEO plan should have minimum minimum 4 SEO sections. The SEO migration plan the thing that you all love the checklist. The content migration plan that you gonna build with your content team. The development migration plan that you gonna build with your development team and timelines.

Timelines are crucial especially for e-commerce websites as you have to make sure that your website is working properly at peak times when your business is making money. And then paying your salary.

But going back SEO guy and the SEO plan. Many SEOs many speakers talk about the SEO migration as a two-stage process. Your SEO plan should have minimum three stages. Let me just go back to the two-stage process. The two-stage process normally is the SEO checklist press the button disaster. Minimum three stages and in my opinion and my experience the more time you spend on the pre-migration stage the better your chances are of a successful website migration. Also in my experience ninety-nine percent of the time the SEO checks that you do in pre-migration stage, you should be doing anyway on a monthly basis. Welcome to the pre pre-migration stage of the website migration. If you don’t have a name for this stage just call it the Omi Stage. Yeah, I am honest.

So I can’t see the numbers there. Anyway.
So this is a website that was migrated a few months ago. Literally, five six months ago and those are real numbers.
Twenty thousand primary pages. Fourteen thousand pages with duplicate descriptions. Three thousand pages 301. Three thousand pages non-200. Do you really want to migrate those issues to the new platform? In my experience, those issues on the new platform will double triple quadruple. On the other side, your beautifully crafted content counts for nothing if the bot comes and goes into a loop or it’s redirected to the pages that don’t matter for your business. Ups, sorry.
Something I want to say as it just came to mind now. Let’s forget about the website migration for a second. As digital marketers I want you to go back to your jobs on Monday and ask the SEO guy. When was the last time you performed a full crawl of our website? Give me the number of 404s the reason and what we are doing about it. Give me the number 301s the reason and what we are doing about it.

Orphan pages SEO

Saying that there is one subject that not many SEOs are talking about – orphan pages. What are orphan pages? Orphan pages are pages on our website that are linked from nowhere. How do we find orphan pages? We perform a full crawl of our website. Then we take all the server logs. We combine the data and we analyze it. How many of you are doing on a monthly basis analysis of server logs? Raise your hands. Oh, yeah. It’s about time. Honestly, I only saw three hands. It’s about time you stop blaming Google that Google doesn’t understand your website structure or it’s not indexing your pages properly if you don’t analyze the server logs of your website.

But going back to the website migration. Eight thousand pages – orphan pages. This is twenty-three percent – those are real numbers and this is the same website from the previous slide – 23% are bringing only three percent of organic visits. Do you really want to migrate those pages to the new platform? Of course, a lot of you don’t know about them because your crawls are not finding those pages because they’re not linked in your system.

On the other side image that this was not three percent. This was – I’ve seen this case as well where the orphan pages are bringing say 30% of organic visits. Why are you not linking to those orphan pages?
Talking about similar to orphan pages 404 pages. My advice. If there are no links pointing at them please discard them. Now before the website migration takes place. Not on staging. Now.

On the other side, if a lot of good links are pointing at them now is the time to work with your content team to either reinstate them, improve the content. You should do something about it. Now. Not on staging and not after the migration has taken place.

So now we know everything about our website. We know from a technical point of view it’s time to benchmark check and benchmark our rankings. This is the only way by benchmarking our rankings this is the only way to know how successful our migration was.
But you have to do it now. Not on staging. And not after the migration has taken place.

Talking about rankings – sorry for going back and forwards – ninety percent of the cases parallel to your typical technical migration there is a content migration going on. Now is the time to work with your content team and either combine those pages/content create new sections.
You are doing this now. Before you go on staging.

Now that we are on staging with or without a website migration it amazes me that in the year 2017 I can still see staging environments crawled and ranked by Google. Because you cannot be asked to do the simplest of technical SEO tasks. You are diluting your rankings and the only reason to do that or shall I say due to your laziness.

We are still on staging 301 mapping we all know this is one of the most important parts of the website migration. But I’m not gonna talk about that.
I’m gonna talk about the fact that during your 301 mapping this is the best chance for you to clean your product offerings. Expired pages, pages that don’t have equivalents on the new platform. Many developers not instructed properly by their SEO, the SEOs that are in charge will redirect pages to irrelevant sections on your website or God forbid the home page. The thing that I am saying now is with or without a website migration. Many SEOs are arguing online what’s happening here and saying this is the best way to preserve your SEO juice. Hard earned SEO juice. You can’t be more wrong. After some time Google will start treating those 301 redirects to relevant sections on your website as soft 404s and after some time it will deindex them. So you gonna lose all the hard-earned SEO juice.
And to give you a good example. Last year royal.gov.uk was migrated to royal.uk.

Before we continue ‘The home of the Royal Family.’ What did I tell you ten minutes ago? Every King needs a castle, a home to live with his King…queen.

Soft 404

So the people. It’s a funny story as well I know I was laughing when I found this website. So the people who were migrating the home/technical SEO of the Royal Family last year couldn’t be bothered to redirect the expired pages, pages with no equivalents to the equivalent parts of the website so they ended up with roughly 80% of pages redirected to the home page. The result.
Within one week those clever developers/SEOs destroyed completely the castle the home/technical SEO of the Royal Family. This website lost around 80% of its rankings in one single week. Go and check it out. Everything is still in place so you can actually learn from mistakes.

I can see Purna finding it very funny. It’s not actually funny. Yeah, it’s tragic.

We are still talking about 301 mapping and this is the time for you to clean your chain redirects. If you’ve been following me online you know I hate chain redirects. And it’s very simple. If page A on the old system was 301 redirecting to page B now page A will 301 redirect to page C – this is the new platform and this page is equivalent to page B and page B will 301 redirect to page C. Simple and effective.
Now is the time to make sure on staging that the tracking code is implemented is present literary on every single section on your website.
Now that you managed to educate your whole SEO team. You’ve managed to educate your whole company of what SEO is. You are doing your full website crawls every month and you are analyzing the data you are ready to press the button.
Guys, I did include some post-migration checks because they are very very important. But for now, thank you very much and hope to see you soon.

Maintaining SEO on Large, Complex Websites with Omi Sido

Maintaining SEO on Large, Complex Websites

Clearly, the Daily Mail has a lot of content and a lot of new content coming onto the site regularly. So what are the main technical SEO challenges for handling a website like that?

One thing that always come to mind first when talking about large websites is the technology used.
A lot of large websites have different parts of the website built using different technologies that don’t talk to each other. Imagine a large website built using PHP and ASP.Net. For a start, you probably have 2 teams as normally PHP developers are not good at writing ASP.Net code. So whatever SEO improvements you do in the PHP part of your website you have to make sure that the same improvements are done in the ASP.Net part. Explaining to more people means increased risk of mistakes and misunderstandings. Plus things are done differently in PHP and ASP.Net so a true understanding of both languages is a necessity.

The second most significant problem is old platforms. In my experience the bigger the website, the older the platform. For example, let’s look at Tesco. Their website was built 20 years ago. For 20 years they’ve been using the same back-end platform. But 20 years ago there was no ‘digital marketing, SEO and I doubt you can call their platform a CMS. Even for the most insignificant SEO change, there is a need of a developer.

The third most challenging issue when it comes to large websites would be dealing with stakeholders and managers. This may sound strange at first but there is a need for making a case for each and every SEO project regardless of the scale. Large websites usually have many parties involved, so sometimes it is really hard to get work done without making an ROI case for each and every project.
The way get around it is to tell people stories about the importance of new development. One of them is AMP. To convince the Daily Mail management that we need this development we had to connect it to the business objectives.

How important are AMPs for news sites? Do you have any tips for successfully implementing them quickly and effectively?

The Google AMP project is getting a lot of attention recently. In short, Google wants to improve our mobile experience by making pages load faster. Many businesses don’t get it and they think it’s only for news websites. Yes, it’s true news website benefited a lot when they started implementing the AMP technology, but the truth is that there are benefits for all types of websites. eBay is using Google AMP – and you should too as browsing in AMP is the future.

Implementing AMP is in fact very easy. It’s the simplest (stripped down version) of HTML. Every developer knows the basics of HTML and the AMP HTML is exactly that: regular HTML tags with some of them replaced with specific AMP-tags. They are called AMP HTML components and they help common patterns to be implemented in an efficient way.

The real question when implementing AMP pages is how to integrate the AMP idea with the monetization strategy of your business. If your business relies heavily on advertising to generate revenue you should carefully consider whether to implement AMP until the standard catches up to your needs or suitable alternatives are identified.

One tip when implementing AMP pages on your website would be to make sure the code is 100% correct. Either using the Chrome extension (called AMP Validator) or the Browser Developer Console make sure your AMP pages validates with no errors. In my experience, even minor errors in the HTML code will exclude your pages from the AMP SERPs.

The same topics/people appear regularly in the news, how do you ensure the most relevant/recent content ranks in organic results?

We have started creating the so-called Hub/Topic Pages. Internal linking for news websites is very important. The risk of producing a lot of content around the same topic is that you can end up with multiple pages which have similar keywords which compete against each other in Google for the same search terms. The answer to this problem is to decide on a page that you want your site to rank for a given keyword or phrase, and concentrate on it. Then all article produced with the same topic should be linked to this page. In the case of Daily Mail, some of those articles are also displayed on this page.

What about schema? How important is it for SEOs to utilise structured data?

  • First, it is a feature that is gaining ground and Google officially stated that it may be something that will go into the ranking algorithm in the near future. So, besides taking advantage of the benefits described below, you also prepare your website for future SEO.
  • Second, structured data enhances your website’s presence on the SERPS with rich snippets which equals to better CTR (Click Through Rate).
  • Third, it’s a way to get into the Google knowledge graph and take advantage of the many benefits this feature offers to website owners.
  • Fourth, is great for Local SEO. With structured data, you can give search engines more information about your local business including address and contact information. In conjunction with a proper Google my business entry, it can boost your local SEO.
  • Fifth, it’s a requirement for running successful Shopping campaigns. When setting up shopping campaigns on AdWords, you need to have microdata on your product landing pages so that Google can verify the data submitted in your shopping feed.
  • Sixth, new technologies like the accelerated mobile pages rely heavily on structured data for some of their advanced features.
    Seven, it increases your chances of getting an entry in Google answers which can be a big boost to your traffic.

The Daily Mail has websites in several different markets – how do you manage the geo-targeting of the content?

For news website the task of geo-targeting is easy. Different news are coming from different part of the world so our job is just to make sure they appear on the appropriate geo page. Unfortunately, this can only be done manually but this is not something we worry about too much.
I always tell people that geo-targeted content helps businesses acquire local customers. The local customer is a lot more likely to buy from you than the international one. Example: If I want to order pizza I don’t expect it to be delivered from Paris. Or if I am looking for a plumber I would have expected him to be able to get to my house in an hour or two and not in two weeks. Geo relevancy is very important especially when it comes to small business.

We always need to look ahead. So what do you think is the next thing to be thinking about SEO in order to bulletproof our future SEO efforts?

Because I’ve got a development background and also from experience I’d like to advise businesses to make sure that their websites are technically sound before thinking about content. Many people think only about content and this is fundamentally wrong.
Having good content is good (and the right thing to do) but if your website has a lot of technical problems like too many pages returning 404 errors or too many redirects it actually stops search engines from discovering and indexing your website. If search engines can’t find or index your carefully crafted content than this content becomes useless.
Yes, content is King, but Kings normally live in castles. So first you have to build the castle so you can give your King a place to live in.

Traffic is useless unless those visitors become customers

Traffic is useless unless those visitors become customers

Recently I have said something online that caused a bit of controversy.

“Traffic is useless unless those visitors become customers.”

Although I wasn’t talking specifically about ‘money exchange’ I am starting to think that even experienced digital marketers have started developing ‘tunnel vision’ blinded by clever online articles or viral memes. I will repeat again so it’s clearly understood that I wasn’t really talking about ‘money exchange’ and it that matter the word ‘customers’ is probably not the most descriptive one, but I’d like to ask everybody who says conversion rate is not important a simple question:

What business can survive without income?

Heard it so many times “Omi, my site is highly optimised for the search engines and my rankings are great. I don’t understand why no one is buying.”
I will tell you why. Because your SEO (agency or digital marketing guru) like so many SEO’s out there is focusing on ranking your website high thus reporting (blinding you) the good numbers in the end of the month.
So many people nowadays think that SEO is pointless or a black magic. So many businesses don’t even have an SEO strategy because they feel like they are wasting their money.

And the sad truth is so many of them do.

Don’t get me wrong – they are not stupid. Many of them don’t know the true meaning of ‘digital marketing’ and us SEOs want to keep it that way. Bringing visitors is so much easier that making money online, trust me on this one. In fact, so many people that know nothing about SEO or digital marketing are making so much more money than the self-proclaimed ‘digital marketers’. I don’t have to give you examples – you know them.

The idea that once you have web traffic the rest would take care of itself is true only in the SEO world.

But don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of measuring website traffic and working to increase it. I measure and report traffic every single day. But I will be the first to tell you that you should start looking beyond traffic. Measuring subscribers and downloads is a good thing to do, but you should know why. Are downloads the end goal of your business (what business are you in? I wanna work for you.)? Can you pay your bills win ‘referrals’? Didn’t think so.

The talk about potential benefits in the future like referrals and downloads is good, but there is one problem. It can’t continue forever unless you earn enough to sustain your business. Don’t be scared (be stupid) to talk about SEO and money. SEO (and CRO) is a part of the big picture called ‘success’. You need traffic and you need sales. In other words, you need to be an integral part of your business and not something that looks alien to your business partners or superiors.

Let’s see what Bruce Clay thinks about it:

“Conversion optimisation and SEO are two pillars of an overall marketing strategy. Without conversions, there is only traffic, which is no bottom line at all.”

So let me tell you a secret. Conversion optimisation and SEO are not that different. They can and they should work together. Let me give you some examples:
Single product pages. Who thinks that single product pages are not good for search engine optimisation? Single product pages optimised for a specific search term. But did you know that single product pages also vastly increase conversion rate too?

Create unique product descriptions. One of the biggest mistakes eCommerce websites make is using manufacturers’ product descriptions. First search engines may see this as duplicate content, but not indexing this content is probably the biggest worry. Product descriptions are your single opportunity to write distinctive copy in order to entice visitors to buy your products.The best way to differentiate your store from the various copycats out there. Specific product descriptions will also bring more traffic to your website. I can call it SEO and conversion synergy.

Why Is Understanding Your Target Audience So Important?

Know your target audience in order to bring ‘qualified’ traffic to your pages. Keyword research is still one of the most important pieces of the SEO puzzle. Choose the ‘wrong’ keywords and you get low-quality traffic and weak sales. Choosing the right keywords can help you attracting highly qualified consumers and achieving huge sales numbers. Tip: Aim for long-tail keywords – search phrases that contain two or more words. Consumers who search using a long-tail keyword typically know exactly what they’re looking to purchase, so a product page optimised for this has a higher likelihood of attracting and converting a customer who’s ready to buy.
Last but not least unique, gripping and enthralling content. When it comes to SEO content gives you links and traffic. When it comes to conversion optimisation it wins you customers.

Conclusion:

Understanding how your SEO strategy connects to real-world business can give you the opportunity to gain more support and investment within your company. SEO is not a separate subject, but an integral part of the overall digital marketing world. Don’t alienate your SEO department by not talking about conversions and revenue. We all do what we do because we love it, but bills are paid with real money. Your business pay you salary so you should be actively supporting and improving the ‘money making’ process.

The convergence of SEO and Branding with Omi Sido

The convergence of SEO and Branding

Very often I see people online talking about SEO and branding, comparing them both and even arguing which one is better. So let’s be clear about one thing. SEO and branding are two completely different animals and they can and they should work together.

Today I’m gonna try and explain why.

But first thing first. To understand the importance of SEO for branding and branding for SEO we have to start from the bottom.

So the beginning is the understanding of the difference between branding and marketing.

Why do people always think that branding and marketing are the same things? You go and visit a client and he is like tweeting about their latest offer. And he thinks this is branding. He is re-posting on Facebook and he thinks this is branding. In general, he thinks that being on social media is branding.
Google it and I bet you money the first 5 statements are wrong or at least not entirely clear….understand correct.

So let’s clarify this statement. First, there is an internal, the initial part, and then there is an external branding.

What is internal branding?

Internal branding is the drilling we put ourselves through to ask those very simple questions:

  • Why are we here?
  • What is our business about?
  • What is its value?
  • What is its unique value on the marketplace?
  • What do we bring to the table that nobody else has?
  • What’s our message?
  • What’s the story, the journey we are taking the customers on?

That’s the internal branding. If try to skip this step you are bound for an online disaster.

“Companies that cannot successfully answer what they do fail to then understand how they can continue to do it in the face of change.” – David Amerland

Now let’s talk about the external branding.

What is external branding?

I would explain external branding with a cliche, but one that is spot on:
Your branding is eventually what other people say about you, no matter what you think.
Shall repeat this one slightly modified: Your brand is what other people are whispering about you when you are not in the room.

And that’s how you eventually judge and make predictions for your business.You get your branding in mind, you start creating the content that flows out of that brand and that brand image and that brand value.

And then you take that out in the social media world and share it, engage with it, use it to create things.

Your next step is to start listening. What are people saying back?

As people start to talk and interconnect with your business what they think you are is fundamentally what your brand really is.
And it does not matter that you may shout and shout: “Hey people wait a minute. This is not me. You are getting it wrong”.
It is not their fault. It is your fault. You are not conveying it right and you have to go back to the drawing boards and ask the question: What are we doing wrong that people are not apprehending who we are and what we really are?

Because this is a fundamental marketing truth that cannot be denied: Consumers build brands, not companies. Consumers are the ones that give value to the brands and businesses should enhance this value by striving to deliver a consistent brand experience that clients can trust.

And so the marketing part then is all the things that you do. And this gets down to the individual channels, what do we do differently on Linkedin. Shall we advertise on TV or Facebook? Are we gonna share our articles on Google Plus or LinkedIn?
What do we do in terms of community involvement and events that we attend and participating? That’s marketing (we can also call it brand marketing).

So now that we know the difference between branding and marketing let’s talk about SEO.

Nine out of ten times when I talk to companies and the so-called digital marketing directors there is always one issue coming up.

“Omi, we have an amazing brand, we know what we are trying to achieve, we know our unique business proposition. On the other hand, we have an amazing digital marketing team, but we still struggle online”.

And then nine out of ten times they did not connect their branding and marketing efforts together. Why?

There is a very simple answer: SEO. SEO is the missing link, the Yeti of the evolution from branding to digital marketing. SEO is part of the branding process, but SEO is also part of marketing.

Let’s start with the simple keyword research. All SEO’s do it on a daily basis. As an SEO, I may call it keyword research. As a marketer, you should probably call it defining my targeted audience. You will be surprised how many companies are trying to sell products and services online without doing the simplest of SEO tasks – keyword research.

Not defying your buyer’s persona will always gonna end up in disaster.

Keywords are like a compass – they tell you where to go and whether not to go because is already overcrowded. Unless you like tight spaces of course.

Keyword research is the marketing of 21 century.

The so-called marketers don’t do it because it’s a pure SEO task. SEOs do it but only because they want to attract the google bots.
The truth is keyword research can help you figure out the needs, the thinking and the desires of your targeted market. It can also help you to understand what the market is thinking about you. And you can use it to your advantage.

Let me give you a famous example. Actually not quite sure that it’s famous but for sure is spot on. A couple of years ago Yost realised that every time people are searching for their product they use the keywords WordPress and Google Analytics in connection with their brand name.
Not a very difficult research actually, just go to the Google Keyword Planner or SEMrush and type your brand name. If you don’t know the keyword planner ask your SEO.

So by putting 2 and 2 together Yost renamed their plugins to ‘Yost SEO’ from ‘Wordpress SEO’ and what was originally ‘Google Analytics Plugin’ became ‘Google Analytics by Yost’. Now I am sure you get the drift straight away. Their brand name is Yost, not WordPress or Google Analytics but by combining them both they legally hijacked two keywords with a massive search volume to work for their benefit.
Go on and type WordPress SEO. What do you see appearing in the Google suggest box? Yoast SEO. SEO and branding at it best.

Wordpress SEO Yoast

So it’s time for a power tip: In the ‘Alt’ tag of your images, and I know most of you don’t pay any attention to those, insert your brand name. Ask your SEO to crawl your website with Screaming Frog and give you the location of all your images.You don’t want any other brands popping up when somebody is looking for your brand in the picture search.

Note: I hope you understand that there is no point connecting your brand name and an image button.

Also connected to images give Google something that they really understand: schema. Even better combine logo schema with keyword rich alt tag for a better SEO impact.

<div itemscope itemtype="https://schema.org/logo">

<a itemprop="url" href="http://www.yourwebsite.com/"><img itemprop="logo" src="https://www.yourwebsite.com/keyword-targeted-image-file-name.png"
alt="keyword targeted alt tag"/></a>

</div>

My second power tip will be: Always put your brand name in your Page Title. I know there are so many arguments on the web about whether or not to do it. If you think that you cannot have a Page title accommodating 55 characters plus Brand Name include it anyway. Google will cut your page title off anyway so there is nothing to worry about. But Google will associate the keywords in your Page Title with your brand. I’ve even seen Google cutting off a page title in order to display brand name. Now you’ve got something to think about.

So far we’ve been talking about SEO helping branding.

But can your brand boost your SEO?

Will start with an example. I’ve seen many people complaining about Google giving a boost of famous brands in the SERPs. They are like: I can never fight with the big brands because Google loves them and they are always number one and two in the SERPs.

So let’s examine this statement from a consumer’s point of view.
The other day I was looking for new tyres for my motorbike.
As usual, I sit in front of my Mac and I type ‘Motorcycle tyres’. Probably cheap motorcycle tyres. Imagine I see 4 websites appearing in position number one, two, three and four.

Omi Sido SEO and Branding Connection

The first one is www.davidamelrandstyres.com. I don’t know about you but I would be very sceptical about buying motorbike tyres from a writer. I love my life you know.

Second comes www.fateyestyres.com They even say they are the best on the market. I know Gina, I like her a lot but I know her more as a writer. Her writing is good but I’d rather check URL number 3: www.altayrtyres.com (difficult to pronounce, I know).

As far as I know Zara Altair was a teacher. I should probably do my homework before buying from her.

So I am left with URL number 4. And this is Pirelli. See the first 3 websites are well optimised from an SEO point of view, from a semantic point of view even local SEO point of view. This is exactly why the Googlebots are ranking them high. The problem is I do not know those brands. So I click on URL number four.

Google has a well-defined brand identity: we give you the best possible result. So imagine the next day the way Google is thinking – well yesterday 5 000 million people were looking for motorbike tyres and 95% of them clicked on the URL coming in the fourth position. I believe you gonna agree with me that this is the URL that has to be so to speak unnaturally boosted by Google to position number one. And it’s not Google. The consumer boosted this URL by choosing one more recognised brand over another.

Now tell me there is no point in developing your brand name using SEO techniques. Or you do not understand the importance of developing a recognised brand name in order to boost your SEO. The end result – more qualified visits and money coming your way.

“Brand is a huge factor in SEO, as it affects click-thru, exemplifies ‘trust’ factors, and generally provides a sort of benchmark for all rivalry. Additionally, many searches that return huge amounts of information actually create doubt, uncertainty, and in such situations, most customers stick with what they know. Brands get business where doubt and uncertainty prevail” – Ammon Johns

Conversation about Semantic SEO

Semantic SEO

Everything started with my thoughts on a article written by Damian Thompson and called

What The Heck Is Semantic SEO & Should You Care At All? 

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you call it Semantic SEO or just SEO. Adapting to the semantic search topography will be part of every SEO’s job description going forward. Like it or not.

But, a caveat: semantic web is NOT the same as Semantic SEO –http://goo.gl/B1N9Ww

Top tools to help you with your semantic SEO efforts:

Übersuggest – www.ubersuggest.org
CISE – Conceptual Intelligence Search Engine CISE – http://goo.gl/BdaUo8 – by Peter Hatherley

PS Did a bit of googling and found a good definition of the term ‘Semantic SEO”  by Mashable and Erin Everhart:

“Semantic search uses artificial intelligence in order to understand the searcher’s intent and the meaning of the query rather than parsing through keywords like a dictionary. When you search now, Google gives you results based solely on the text and the keywords that you put in that search. Essentially, Google gives you its best guess.” – http://goo.gl/MB8Mnv

In simple words Semantic SEO is dealing with search results that do not necessarily contain the keywords in your copy. But trust me, it’s not just a guessing game.

Then a conversation started.

Aaron Bradley: Omi SidoPS Did a bit of googling and found a good definition of the term ‘Semantic SEO”…

Actually what you provided was a definition of semantic search – a pretty good one, but one that doesn’t actually address semantic SEO which would (a la the “O” in “SEO”) give a nod to optimizing for semantic search.

So what is it?

I’ll have a go (culled from http://bit.ly/1aLpw09), and invite others to weigh in!

Semantic SEO is optimizing for the entities and entity relationships that search engines identify in queries and return in results.

Omi Sido: Aaron Bradley, you are absolutely right and your definition (denotation) is spot on. I can’t even believe you wrote this article in 2013 when not many people were talking about semantic search and #seo .

On the other side I still find the definition given by Erin Everhart (I was so sure somebody will challenge me on this one (lol) as neither the article, nor this exact quote are actually talking about Semantic SEO) a good base for explaining what Semantic SEO is, especially to people just getting into the semantic world.

And last but not least this is one of the articles Google and Bing (mobile and desktop) are showing on page one 🙂 when asking the question: ‘what is semantic seo’ – https://goo.gl/WGVxFi, https://goo.gl/MGFmNq.
Bad google. Still a lot of room for improvements 🙂

Aaron Bradley: Thanks a lot Omi Sido – and I agree that Erin’s thumbnail description is an excellent one.

For what it’s worth, my go-to definition of semantic search (which I quote at the end of http://bit.ly/semsemtechbiz2013) is from Tamas Doszkocs:

“Semantic search is a search or a question or an action that produces meaningful results, even when the retrieved items contain none of the query terms, or the search involves no query text at all.”

Teodora Petkova: Omi Sido thanks for igniting this discussion. Aaron Bradley thanks for the definition (again these relationships… :-))

Raja Rethinam: Omi Sido, this is a wonderful introduction to semantic SEO. Never thought about it, but now I’m gonna pay more attention!
Love the picture 🙂
Aaron Bradley your definition is an excellent one.

Omi Sido: PS I’ve just noticed that many people are using the same definition when trying to explain Semantic SEO (hmm I thought I was unique 🙂 lol )
One probability would be:  Google  is displaying this article on page one for this query.

Is Google trying to tell us something (bemuse us) or are we confusing the search engine (David Amerland, Aaron Bradley)?

Is it possible that in the future we may have wrong answers given by Google just because people like one thing more over another 🙂


Semantic SEO

David Amerland: Omi Sido, I have started defining some terms (still a work in progress): http://goo.gl/zb8Wl6 and the Veracity question of search is key to the trustworthiness of the results and the inherent difficulty in manipulating them. Within semantic search there is a weighing algorithm that ascribes veracity values through citations (as opposed to mentions) and authority. So, to break this down a bit, if a lot of us say the same thing (i.e. because it is popular) and only some of us say the right thing (and we have authority) Google will display the authoritative version as opposed to the popular one.

This has the same fluid caveats as any real life equivalent. So if a lot of us say the same thing and keep on saying the same thing then whatever we are saying will start to splinter from the authoritative source’s definition and will start to become a thing which will have the potential to provide an alternative, acceptable definition by widespread acceptance. In many ways we experience that in RL with the fluidity of language and definitions as well as some grammatical forms where the incorrect version is used “coz it’s used” as opposed to the correct form (the word “data” springs to mind as the perfect example here – it’s plural but many engineers use it as if it’s singular instead of writing “datum”).

Aaron Bradley: David Amerland, what a great summary of how, in semantic search, authority can trump (or at least inform) popularity – thanks!  (Literally bookmarked under “Authority”.  Oh, did somebody say “Authoritah?” http://bit.ly/respect-my-authoritah)

The subject too brings to mind the Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT) method proposed by Google researchers (http://bit.ly/1zRQtdG), which would have Google rank a resource based on “the correctness of factual information provided by the source.”

KBT is a fascinating rabbit hole I urge you to dart down Omi Sido, but I won’t journey there myself now except to note the importance in KBT of the model that “jointly estimates the correctness of extractions and source data, and the trustworthiness of sources.”  That is, judging what’s the “best” answer to a query involves make an assessment of the quality of the dataalong with the trustworthiness and veracity of the data provider (of which David speaks).

It strikes me more and more as discussions like those stimulated by KBT arise that the challenges faced by the search engines now are increasingly – and increasingly baldly – epistemological.  Hell, even phenomenological. A bigger and bigger part of search engine research is being directed at figuring out how machines can answer philosophical questions that we humans not only grapple with, but often do so with great difficulty.

How do we tell a fact from a non-fact?  How do we distinguish a pretty good fact from a really good fact?  What are we to make of two seemingly authoritative but contradictory facts?

Those are now the sort of questions that machines are endeavoring to answer.  Or required to answer in the narrow sense that a search engine needs at the very least to always provide a preferential answer. A search engine responding to a query, unlike a human talking to another human, can’t say, “well, we disagree on that, but since it’s not important you hold on to your views, I’ll hold on to mine, and we’ll go have a beer together.” A search engine can’t waffle it’s way out of producing a result.

And these discussions are arising more often with our increased reliance on machines (and especially mobile devices) to provide us with answers, and however trivial it may seem for most queries, there’s always going to be an answer that’s selected from alternatives on your behalf. Fairly innocuous in consequence if your question is “where is the nearest Starbucks?” but perhaps less so for “best local physical therapy.”

Oh, and thanks Raja Rethinam and Teodora Petkova!

David Amerland: Aaron Bradley yep, love what you added here. This is where all the cognitive computing magic is taking us. OK for closed data sets as Watson demonstrated with medical research but a bit of problem in the open web. I have a suspicion that context, in this sense, creates a closed data set of sorts that would define a ‘best’ answer but that would mean that at some point my context might trump yours and I get a better answer than you, maybe? It would be great to see our devices deal with that. 😉

Teodora Petkova: On behalf of John Kellden (without him knowing that:)) I am upgrading this thread to epic [marginalia: “the challenges faced by the search engines now are increasingly – and increasingly baldly – epistemological.  Hell, even phenomenological. A bigger and bigger part of search engine research is being directed at figuring out how machines can answer philosophical questions that we humans not only grapple with, but often do so with great difficulty.” cit. Aaron Bradley]

John Kellden: Epic, Teodora Petkova is epic.

I believe we’re only in the beginning of the Avatar Metalogues – where we little by little rediscover that our digital selves are already engaged in metalogues.

With our ten bits per second processing speed, we can’t grok these processes – with one of the results a cornucopia of articles, bringing parts of this down to a level where we can at least begin to understand some of it.

However, if we switch to pattern recognition mode, we can already begin to see a convergence, between Intelligence Augmentation, Semantic Search, Semiotic Entities, Artificial Intelligence, Network-centric heuristics, and tons of other related fields.

Granted, that our human analog pattern recognition is somewhat buggy, belief-biased (shortcuts in) inference ladders, cognitive fallacies and much more – and here is where the algorithms brings a much welcome bonus gift – a slightly more objective additional feedback loop.

Aaron Bradley: Ha, thanks Teodora Petkova The “ha” because I’ve been writing a book about the phenomenological and epistemological implications of globally-used search engines for years.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the reading public) I’ve mostly been writing it in my head, so Theory of the Search will almost certainly never see the light of day.

(Those of you of a post-structuralist bent may recognize that as a nod to Roland Barthes’ “Théorie du texte” (Encyclopædia Universalis, 1974), to which many of my ideas in this realm are indeed indebted, and is a piece which everyone should read.)

David Amerland: Aaron Bradley how can we get this book out of your head? Do we really need to hold you down and operate? 😀

Aaron Bradley: David Amerland You’d be disappointed. The dejected look on the face of that zombie that had been moaning “braaaaains” when he opened my skull cap was simply heartbreaking.

David Amerland: Aaron Bradley you’re cracking me up on a busy Friday 🙂

John Kellden: According to latest Semantic Search theory, the cracks in our heads is where the entity can peer out into the world.   🙂

David Amerland: John Kellden LOL, in that case Aaron Bradley has got a headstart on us thanks to his zombie encounter.

Teodora Petkova: John Kellden, feels like our “human analog pattern recognition” is biased by our bodies too, plus our lost connection to the group. Funny that you said cracks 🙂 Yesterday I while I was walking in a park I was thinking about David Amerland‘s comment: “I have a suspicion that context, in this sense, creates a closed data set of sorts that would define a ‘best’ answer but that would mean that at some point my context might trump yours ” The train of thought went this way: by default context is circum-sribing text, in a way it encircles it. The only way we can link texts from one circle (i.e. context) to another is through cracks in the context. Thankfully we have these cracks in the form of ambiguity, of biases or other “human” stuff. On the open web, we can have them as bridges between ontologies.

Teodora Petkova: Aaron Bradley, this is such a wonderful thing. Thanks for deciding to write that book soon. :)) [excuse my attempt for a tiny rhetorical approach :D] That would be a magnificent read, plus I will feel less weird (officially) when I tell people that web and text have so many functional and formal similarities.

Aaron Bradley: Teodora Petkova, The web is a text, or at least a vast corpus from which narratives are endlessly constructed, like the journey that weaves in and out of queries and websites, queries and websites.

Which means you can approach it with the same textual analysis tools that the likes of Foucault and Barthes and Derrida wielded to produce so many devastating insights into language.

The post-structuralist notion that there is no way a text can be said to have a canonical meaning – that a text is in essence rewritten every time it is read, because the of the text’s consumption changes its meaning – could not be truer of search queries.

The hunt for meaning in search now does not get underway when Google starts to hunt for resources to satisfy a query, but before with Google hunting for the meaning in the query itself.

Teodora Petkova: Aaron Bradley 🙂 I will have to work on the last paragraph to grasp it fully 🙂 Thanks for these thoughts.

The thing that is exciting is that before these texts weren’t as accessible. Plus accessible is only (mainly) accessible via search.

SEO Tip of the day (well more like 9 Killer SEO Tips)

9 Killer SEO Tips

If, like me, you’re thinking that writing an article every day might be hard work, then it might just be a way to create a ‘weekly article’ which you can then use to summarize what’s happened in the last week and look at what you could be doing differently in your industry.

So there is a summary of what I have been thinking (and willing to improve in the future) this week.

9 Killer SEO Tips by Omi Sido

  1. Think content
  2. Start a blog
  3. Put the customer or reader first
  4. Write content with a longer shelf life
  5. Use Schema markup
  6. Write your own product descriptions
  7. Don’t rely on search traffic
  8. Track your keywords

Having reviewed my ‘SEO week’ there is one thing that comes to mind: Don’t be afraid to experiment with your SEO (and social media strategy), but review and measure, and if it isn’t working for you, then adjust the strategy.

PS People I am learning from every day (hence I have got my own ideas and theories now: David Amerland, Mark Traphagen, Eric Enge, Teodora Petkova, Aaron Bradley, Bill Slawski, Ana Hoffman, John Moore

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds

– Plato