“Do you know the best place to hide a dead body? Page number two of Google search results.” This was the opening line delivered by Aloka Gunasekara at Let’s Talk SEO. Held at the Dialog Axiata Auditorium on the 15th of February 2018, it consisted of two talks about Search Engine Optimization.
Starting off, Aloka described how, in the beginning, no one believed SEO was a thing. It was something no one wanted to invest on. Fast forward to now, and SEO has become the best and easiest method of digital marketing.
He also explained the motives behind this workshop, which came from identifying the need to improve content in order to make Sri Lanka’s tourism industry boom. The difference between Sri Lanka and our competitors, he said, was the difference in content.
Market content effectively, with a little bit of spying
Nishadha first explained about Creately, their customers, and competition. He explained that despite their team only consisting of five people, they have garnered 12.5 million visits per year to their site.
He then went on to define content marketing. It’s a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material that does not explicitly promote a brand but is designed to stimulate interest in it. Consistency and long-term strategy are very important, he said. Target a clear audience, aim to give them information rather than promotion.
Why content marketing?
Moving on to the benefits, he explained that content marketing increases chances of getting search engine traffic. In addition, it increases brand recognition and the chances of getting backlinks from high authority blogs. The challenges include consistently producing and promoting content, and measuring results. The latter is mainly because of the unpredictable nature of viral content, he said.
Next, he told the audience how his company gets things done, which is via blog posts and infographics. He then went on to share a few instances of successful infographics they have had, including Elon Musk’s plans. For blog posts, he described their process of maintaining a shared spreadsheet for ideas. Choosing a topic was a process of brainstorming, spying on competitors and analyzing top performing content.
He also spoke about how before writing, the SEO title and post heading should be looked at, and key graphics etc should be considered. When it comes to the actual process of writing, he said, it’s the editor who actually does it (at this point we all proceeded to pull our phones out and take photos of Mazin whose expression was priceless).
So how does content marketing work?
Next is promotion. Once you have your content, you should aim to get it ranked in search engines, Nishadha explained. You should be trying to convert casual visitors into customers who pay. How to do this would be to do link analysis of the top performing posts, look for other blogs that talk about related topics, and setting alerts for the target keyword, among other things.
Social media sharing also plays a big part, he said. He gave some tips on how to utilize social media efficiently. Hashtags are important. Make use of separate images for separate channels. Don’t just share and forget. Use your email list. Invest in Pinterest. For the latter, he explained that for them, Pinterest is the highest performer social media wise and that generally, image searches are more than 10% of all searches.
To keep track of performance, he stated that the free tool campaign URL builder was what they used. Google analytics, he said, also contained a lot of data to help in this endeavor.
Before wrapping up, he conducted a Q&A session. Various topics popped up including content spinners, which he didn’t recommend, and keyword cannibalism. The best way to find new links was discussed, where he said main and secondary keywords, as well as Fiver, were good tools.
Let’s go technical with google analytics
Next on stage was Nisal Lakmal, Head of Paid search at eMarketingEye, conducting his presentation on analytics. Starting with keyword strategy, he talked about how it all comes together. Select your keywords according to relevance, popularity, and competition he said. Make sure you consider the content and depth of the page when you map them. Get a clear idea of different page levels and understand their importance. These were some of the key points he stated.
When identifying your best keyword, he explained, search volume and competition play a huge role. Ideally, what you should look for would be a keyword with low competition, but high search volume. After which, you would have to go through a cycle process to involve them in marketing.
What on earth is a website audit?
Moving on to website audit, he listed several must do audit points. Among them were title tags, meta tags, alt tags and H1 tags, as well as content optimization, schema, site speed, and responsiveness. While most of us are familiar with the tags, he made it a special point to say that while alt tags started as alternative text when an image is not displayed, it has now become a really good way to optimize SEO.
He also pointed out that you should include the keyword and match it to the content for optimizing, he said. Use structured data in the form of thumbnails and ratings. This will help you get ranked higher in search engine results. Make sure your site loads faster, he also said. Use Google PageSpeed Insight tool to help.
He went on to say that your site should be responsive as well. It is crucial, he said, to make sure it is mobile friendly and uses SSL technologies. With that in mind, a certain website about e-governance comes to light, where the SSL certificate had expired four years ago.
Not technical enough? Here’s more
Starting on his next subtopic, technical site audit, he listed several key tools as GTMetrix, Screaming Frog, Website Auditor and Google Page Speed. Moving onto analysis, he mentioned several key essentials, which were Google analytics, search console, and data studio.
Google Analytics provides a wide range of options for the avid analyzer, which include traffic filtering, custom alerts, weighted view, referral visits and UTM tagging. This allows you to know where your organic traffic comes from, which websites bring you the most traffic, offsite activities, and any anomalies.
Search console produces a different variety of reports, such as search term reports. It also tracks your index status and sitemaps, as in how many web pages are listed on your website. Robots.txt was specially mentioned, where you can check if you have given enough access to web crawlers.
Data Studio SEO dashboard, meanwhile, as the name says, creates your own dashboard for you to use. The reports generated include the overview report, top content, keyword ranks and site speed.
The endgame: Questions and Answers
Following his session, he also conducted a Q&A session where a lot of interesting questions started flowing. One member wanted to know how search engines rank responsiveness, to which Nisla pointed out that right now, being AMP friendly was the thing since Google uses that tool for rankings. Another wanted to know how to reduce bounce rate. Nisal pointed out that it is not necessarily a bad thing, but breadcrumbs (links leading to the next level) always work.
Once that wrapped up, Aloka invited the CEO of Yoho Bed, Usama Naguib, to deliver the vote of thanks, afterward tokens of appreciation were given out to the two speakers. With that, the proceedings of Let’s Talk SEO drew to a close.