The In Search SEO Podcast
In this episode, Laura Hogan shares three channels that you can leverage to improve your SEO strategy.
Laura owns a full-service digital marketing agency Sweet Digital. She’s spent over a decade in the industry, working across all manners of websites. When not living on her laptop, you’ll find her binging Real Housewives.
- How to find targeted queries your audience is searching for using Google Ads
- How you can set up enhanced free listings in Merchant Center to drive traffic to your products
- How to find blog content that your customers are desperately searching for by talking to your customer service team
Improve Your SEO Strategy With These Channels
David: SEO shouldn’t be a silo marketing channel. And today we’re exploring three of the channels that you can use to support your SEO strategy with Laura Hogan from Sweet Digital. Laura, what does an SEO need to do to work with other channels?
Laura: Be friendly? I think sometimes we’re very much known for staying in our box and not playing well with other departments. There’s a wealth of knowledge in our departments or in the client’s company and that if we get to know them, get to know their pain points, they can really feed into our strategy and help it develop into something completely new.
D: So maybe a better question, why does an SEO need to work with other channels?
L: It gives you new ideas, partially. If you’re a content writer, speaking to different departments can give you good content topics that you should be writing about that can help potential customers. If you’re doing some ads work, or if you’re looking at where your area of focus should be, from an SEO point of view, speaking with the products department and knowing which products have the highest margin, can give you your list of which ones you should be hitting first from an SEO perspective. It just gives you that really strong business understanding to help get better results.
D: Are we talking about other channels that can directly impact SEO success? Is it more a case of using other channels to gather information to improve your SEO activities?
L: I think the latter as an SEO you should always be doing. But working on other channels as well and using information from them helps. Like Google Ads, for instance, is always going to be beneficial. And agencies should always try and work together and departments should work together, whether you’re working on social, Google advertising, organic, or PR to get the best all round results.
How Do I Use Google Ads for SEO?
D: We chatted briefly about this beforehand and you gave me a list of the three channels that you recommend. You mentioned Google Ads as your number one pick. Why Google Ads? And what information can an SEO actually glean from working with Google Ads?
L: Google Ads, first and foremost, because we don’t get a lot of data directly from Google anymore from the organic point of view. And some of us remember the days pre-Not Set in analytics, and how sad it was when that appeared. But obviously, with Google Ads, they do get a lot more of that keyword information and data. So we can utilize that from an SEO standpoint, to know, these terms go really strongly on Google Ads, where do we rank for them organically, and if not strong enough, let’s work on it and improve them. And if we do have a really strong ranking, then brilliant, we’re all working cohesively.
But also on the flip of that, if we have holes from our SEO strategy, and terms that we may not rank as well for, at the moment, the Google Ads team can promote those through the ads so that the business is getting the best of both worlds and actually hitting all of their products or services through the two channels.
There’s just an awful lot of information. There’s the additional demographics information that we can take from Google Ads as well, that we might not see organically all the time. That’s going to help with our content and our tone of voice of content as well. It’s mainly keywords that are the top information we use from Google Ads and converting products that are converting from Google Ads. It’s just allowing us to take additional data to really inform the SEO strategy.
D: You say that some of us can remember the days of keywords not being available in Google Analytics. I remember pre Google Analytics, but that’s another story.
How do you actually take all this wonderful data out of Google AdWords? Do you have a process that you recommend to actually export data from your Google Ads accounts and entwine it together with data from other sources to make more sense of it for an SEO?
L: Yeah, for sure. There’s some really cool Data Studio reports that you can get set up that will pull out all the converting keyword data for you. And that kind of saves that part of the job. I believe there are some spreadsheets that have been set up with filters as well that can be copied as templates and used to export data quickly. But to be honest, I am sometimes a bit old school with things and I’ll just straight export converting keywords from Google Ads, and then I’ll put those phrases into my ranking tool. And that’s Rank Ranger, or whatever tool you use, to find out where we’re ranking for them organically. And then logically work through that and go, “Okay, if it’s under page one, why?” Is it a really generic term that might be too top of the funnel for organic at the moment? And then look at how we can attack it. Is it a piece of blog content that we made? Is it a reaction on a product page? I’m quite a fan of working through it with a human eye, and quite methodically to understand which way to go. But I know that there’s some phenomenal AI tools that can be used to help pull together some information on that and give you your next step.
D: And finally, in relation to Google Ads, how much data is enough? How many times does an ad have to appear? Or how much traffic do you have to get in order to actually have enough data for it to make sense to apply to SEO?
L: If it’s a five figure plus a month spending account, you may have enough data from six to eight weeks. But if it’s a four figure, and downwards, you’re probably looking at more like three to six months worth look back, that you need to get some reliable data, I like to only look at things that have had at least 10 conversions, for instance, to use that as a good piece of information.
How Product SEO Can Improve Your Traffic
D: And the number two channel that you recommend to support your SEO strategy is product feeds and Merchant Center. What is that? And how do you do that?
L: Yeah. So within Google Merchant Center, which we use for advertising and product feeds through Google Shopping, if you get a Merchant Center account set up, you can also set up enhanced free listings, which is a little bit like what the free version of Shopping used to be years ago. Where you get your product feed created. If that’s on Shopify, you can just use the Google plugin for Shopify, for instance. I know WordPress has numerous plugins that you can get to create a product field that you can put into the Merchant Center. And that then just allows your product listings with price stock availability, to click through directly to the product to appear in Google images. It just gives you another way that you can potentially drive some traffic. It’s never going to be as high level as if you’re actually advertising through Google Shopping. But it’s just another way to get some brand protection and make sure it’s your products showing in the listings, particularly if you resell on Amazon and other sites, it just makes sure that it’s your link and your URL that shows first as opposed to your resellers.
D: What’s the advantage to this? What’s the data that is most important that you take? And the reason that you’re doing this? Is it, for instance, to ensure that your page and all your data is appearing as effectively as possible on the SERP?
L: A little bit. It’s to make sure that you are getting as much control as possible over what appears in the image search for your brand and your products. And it will pull the product total you’ve got on your website or for the product description that you have. It’ll put the price that you put in. So say if you have a product go on sale, that information will show in the results. And it will show the sale price as well as what the original price was. It’s just given you that stronger piece of brand control and potential organic traffic coming from the image side of the results as well as the web side of the results.
D: Are you seeing more people use Google Image search? Or is it more the fact that Google for some searchers may incorporate some of their image results within the standard SERP?
L: It’s a little bit of both. For some of our ecommerce clients, we are seeing more people use image search. And we’re seeing their competitors put a lot more effort into image search and owning as many images as they can across that SERP. But it is the fact that you also get some pull through on the web search and have that potential. You kind of want to be able to take over as many entities as possible in the SERPs now. So if you are in e-commerce, it’s not going to take you very long to get the product feed set up through the Merchant Center. It doesn’t cost you anything to do it. So you might as well just take that opportunity, because it may drive a conversion for you. Probably once in a blue moon, because the traffic levels are quite low from it. But it’s just another thing you might as well take advantage of.
How Customer Questions Can Help Your SEO
D: Great. And number three of things to think about when looking at channels to support your SEO strategies is internal customer service. So how does that work?
L: Yeah, so nobody knows better what the pain points are for potential customers than the people that have to deal with them day in and day out, which is CR teams. Particularly, when we’re looking at blog content and making sure that we have content that answers user queries like how do I charge this, what other colors are valuable, or how do I change my lenses in these glasses. They’re questions that your chatbots and your customer service teams are dealing with all the time. So we always talk to them, and find out if there’s any trends or themes and things that people are unsure about. We download all the questions that chatbots on the sites have received. And then we can put together a content strategy from that. Because just as important as it is for us to rank for high search volume keywords that are going to drive a rank really well, just being able to nail simple questions that are relevant to a client is super important.
We have an education client, as an example, and they get asked a lot of times, “What qualifications do I need to do? And what level?” It’s a really common question. And we can create content around that that will help potential customers convert for them. And it’s going to rank strongly. So it just gives you an additional content bank that has a two-fold approach.
D: I love your use of questions from chatbots as well. And on-site search as well, if that’s relevant. Obviously, you mentioned chatting to customer service teams as well. Would you tend to take those questions directly and then just create content based upon that? Or would you then feed those questions into a tool that uses information from Google Suggest to try to hone your question based upon what is commonly asked on Google as well?
L: Yeah, definitely a little bit of both. Say if we’re adding an FAQ section onto a landing page, we may just take the questions as given because we know that they’re going to help with conversion on that page. But if we’re looking for blog content and say, the customer service rep just says, “Oh, we get asked a lot about size charts, we might then go and find out what the semantics are around that and where the searches lie. It could end up then being a piece about how size charts are different around the world. And it can become a larger piece then.
D: Wonderful. To summarize, we have three great sources of information for SEO strategy. Number one, Google Ads, number two, product feeds and Merchant Center, and number three internal customer service.
The Pareto Pickle – Repurposing Blog Posts
Now, let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. So Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity that you’d recommend that provides incredible results for moderate levels of effort?
L: I would say improving older content fits into that, because you’ve got the large base of the content already written on there, and nine times out of ten, you’re tweaking that up to be relevant to today, relevant to the year. I’m sure a lot of people went through changes from 2020 to 2022. Or you might be updating the optimization in the piece because the search intent may have changed. So a good 70/80 percent is already there. You’re just working into improving and getting results that way,
D: Are there any tools out there that can automatically help? If you’ve got 100 plus pieces of content on the best X list of 10 things in 2021 and you want to change them over to 2022. Are there any content tools out there that you’ve used in the past that can automatically do that? Or is that a manual task?
L: I know that there are Find and Replace plugins for WordPress and other CMSs. I would guess ones like that will work quite easily. We’ve just been looking at some AI tools to see if they can help do that. We’ve had a couple of instances where search intent has changed. For instance, it used to be ‘system’ now it’s ‘software’, so you want to work through and change that en masse. So if anybody’s found one, definitely let me know.
D: Are you using AI to generate articles?
L: We’re not, we’re still very much human on the content. We’re testing using AI to come up with titles and to come up with the research behind some of the titles to see if that works. I literally started it yesterday so I don’t have results yet on it. But I’m really keen to see what’s going to happen with that. Particularly, I’m testing out some affiliate sites that I have to see how that works.
D: So sites that aren’t quite as important as client sites.
L: Yeah, they’re my test ground. I always use the affiliate sites for testing new things out and see what happens and then if it works we can show it to our clients.
D: Well, hopefully, we can get you to share the results in a future episode. That’ll be pretty cool.
L: Only if they’re good.
D: That will be it for today. You can find Laura Hogan over at sweetdigital.co.uk. Laura, thank you so much for appearing on the In Search SEO podcast.
L: Thank you for having me.
D: And thanks for listening.