Every SEO has had the dream of putting up a website and it ranks with little effort, we know that we certainly have.
Well Chedders and I are trying to achieve just that. Our goal is to build a platform that provides a quality experience to the user yet we never touch a single specific page. We’ve had some great progress so far, but we’ve certainly got an interesting challenge ahead of us.
Before we get into the details, here’s a bit about us:
Chedders (Chris Chedgzoy):
Currently has 2154 posts on the SEO Chat forums.
Has been a developer since the 80s, ran a large directory site and a few other projects of scale.
He’s made tools such as Page Explorer and generally is up for giving anything a go.
Myself (Thomas Harvey):
Currently has 1186 posts on the SEO Chat forums.
I’ve been working with most aspects of websites/digital marketing for about 6 years.
Currently working with a tv shopping channel advising on their SEO campaigns and helping their international presence.
- Conversion Optimisation
- Affiliate Marketing
- Social Media
Now that the introduction is out the way, lets get on with the interesting stuff.
Chris loves working with data, he’s the kind of guy that the bigger the problem the happier he is. So, after talking a lot we wondered if we could rank for as much as possible with as little work. I’ve personally always meddled with affiliate marketing. So we thought, well how could we combine the two. After a while of brainstorming we settled on a product searching site.
It was the perfect thing for us. We would be able to utilise our skills and also be able to do tests on a massive scale. Such as changing thousands of pages to see if there’s a change in rankings, for example, removing the h1 tags on every single page, and seeing the impact. It’s a great way we can test any theory we will have, it will also mean that any of you interested we’ll be able to test your theories and report back on them too.
With the idea being decided upon, Chris got to work coding, we decided to go with the domain zebo.co.uk because it’s short and memorable.
After tying it up to a few product feeds (and a small site called eBay) we then had to tackle the problem of how we were going to actually get the pages indexed when we had no form of navigation through the site and we could search for any product in existence and we would have results.
So we used a feature that isn’t utilised a lot and really is an afterthought for a lot of people. We used a sitemap, after playing with a couple of tools to generate a small sample (2000 keywords) from a few sources (serpstat and semrush). We uploaded the sitemap.
We saw results within 24 hours. We had gone from no pages indexed to 371 pages. It hasn’t stopped there, this is what we see now for a site:zebo.co.uk query in Google.
It’s started to drive small amounts of traffic (~50 users in a few days) which we were expecting the numbers to be small for this sample. As after all, the query page currently looks like this:
We know, it looks horrible. We’re actually working on improving the quality of the data and making the search results more relevant (due to multiple sources etc). It will be improving quickly, here’s a link for this page if anybody is interested: https://zebo.co.uk/q/mountain_bike
We’ve launched, we’ve got some data and we’ve got some rankings. Here’s a few hurdles we’ve got to overcome:
- Is it possible to scale this while still getting a good indexation rate.
- What’s the best way to find new things to add to the sitemap
The Interesting Bits:
These are the parts that I think a lot of SEOs will be interested to know. These are things we don’t know ourselves but we’re looking to answer.
- Can automated pages rank in search engines?
So far, we’ve been indexed and had some rankings. So yes, they can. Scaling and improving rankings however, that’ll be a whole different story.
- Can we add value to these pages on a large scale?
We’re looking into adding things for specific brands. So if a search result has a specific brand it pulls up specific content to display underneath the filters.
- Does site speed really have an impact on ranking?
We’ve had a lot of debates on this over the past couple of years. We’re looking for an answer to this.
- How much impact does the h1/h2 tags actually have (and other things like that)
We want to know how much the "standard" SEO techniques have an impact
- Is there really a difference between underscores and hyphens in urls
Again, it’s discussed but never really seen any tests.
We’ll be trying to do as many of these tests as possible and updating them here. Got anything you want us to try just let us know in the comments.
We all know that we need to pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization) whether we are experts or not (or whether we want to be experts or not!). So, how do we start a new blog, equipped with the needed SEO foundations, without losing our head or losing our enjoyment of creating the blog?
Let’s discuss that!
A blog is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools you have at your disposal, but only if you know how to reach your target audience. Blogging is one of the quickest ways to increase your following and build your brand.
Even though there are millions of blogs online, it’s easy to make yours stand out even in the midst of the competition. In fact, even if you are like me and already have quite a few blogs online, that doesn’t mean that you cannot venture out and create yet another unique and brilliant blog!
We could probably sit down and list all of the fun aspects of the creation of that new blog, especially if it is one for which we feel passion. However, if no one is listening, it can get a bit lonely, eh? That is why it is so important to ensure that we are getting the word out, or more accurately, that we are drawing traffic to our blog, so that we have that audience.
By having that audience, it can help us to grow our passion even more and that will come out in the quality of the content that we produce on our blog. What is one of the most foundational aspects to growing that audience? It is ensuring that our blog is SEO optimized, right out of the starting gate.
Ok, have I really told you something that you don’t already know? After all, that is likely one of the reasons that you visit seochat.com, eh?
Ok, back to our topic… we can always “get the word out” at intermittent, strategic, and/or consistent intervals (preferably), but if we don’t start with a blog that has the basics, when it comes to SEO, we have a lot more work ahead of us. And, who wants to work when we can be producing content with all that brilliant passion, instead?
So, let’s get it started correctly, eh? In other words, it is easier to work “smart” than to work “hard,” right?
Getting Started… First Steps
Getting your blog up and running is much easier than one may think. In less than 30 minutes, you can have your blog up and running. So, without further adieu, let’s have a look and see how we can set up a blog in a few quick steps. Then, we will come back and talk a bit more about that SEO.
Choosing a Platform or Approach
Deciding where you want to create your blog is step one. If you are looking to save money, WordPress.com is an option. By far, it’s the largest blogging platform in the world, with an endless array of plugins and add-ons. You pretty much have an infinite amount of choices when it comes to designing your blog. There is also an option to host a WordPress installation in a self-hosted environment.
To Host or Not to Host (Also, To Register or Not to Register… a Domain)
Before we go any further, you need to decide whether you want to self-host or go with a free alternative. While there are pros and cons of both options, take note that with a free service, you won’t be able to have your own domain name.
If you are just blogging for fun, that’s okay, but for businesses trying to make a name for themselves, it is much better to go with a paid service where you can “own” your domain. (Technically, you are registering a domain name and leasing it, but many times people confuse that with ownership and it is called “owning” a domain, in slang terms.)
Along with SEO, this (“owning of the domain”) can increase website traffic by leaps and bounds. You see, having your own domain establishes your brand and your credibility. It helps to build trust in your business.
Design Your Blog
Designing the blog is where you get to choose your theme. Before jumping in with both feet, think about your business and what type of vibe you want people to get when visiting your blog. While creativity is key, you want to make sure whichever theme you choose goes hand in hand with your product and/or the service you will provide.
Even if the service is “only” the delivery of content (no shame in that!), it is still a service and the delivery of the product of your digital content. So, keep that in mind when deciding what you want your site to look like.
For an excellent in-depth discussion of these topics, visit this article on setting up your blog: “How to Start a Blog.” Then, come back here and we will continue our discussion on getting those SEO foundational blocks in place.
SEO is King
After you have set up your blog and brainstormed some ideas of what you want to blog about, it’s time to hone in on SEO. Remember, we are still putting together the framework for our search engine optimization foundation even as we build our blog (site), so this is just the right time to do it, remember?
Like we said earlier, SEO is what brings visitors to your blog. It is what keeps the conversation going. It is essential to your success as a blogger, as a publisher of digital content.
Due to the fact that every blog post you write actually becomes a web page, you need to make the most of the SEO opportunity. Write about keyword-rich topics that you would search for online if you were a consumer. SEO is far more than a few strategically placed words throughout your blog.
It is a matter of knowing which words to use, and when. It is also a case of knowing why these keywords and keyword phrases work so well (in drawing traffic). Now, use that knowledge!
The Successful Strategy and Use of Keywords
When used properly, keywords (and keyword phrases) should have the following characteristics:
- They are only used a handful of times in your post. Overkill of keywords will only have your post flagged as spam by Google.
- They flow naturally throughout the conversation of the blog post.
- They are a combination of several words or a single word that directly relates to what you are blogging about in that post (or series of posts).
Continuing Your Success
In the world of online marketing, your focus needs to be on developing a relationship with your visitors. Proper and strategic use of SEO can get the traffic to the site, but you also need to ensure that you keep your audience combing back to the blog/site for more brilliant and entertaining digital content.
This is done through your effective relationship-building process and keeping the conversation going. That is why a well-written blog combined with strategically placed keywords, combined with that personality of YOU, will help build your online reputation and over time, increase traffic to your website. It is like a well-oiled circle. Then again, who oils circles?
Alright, so the title of this post might be a little clickbaity for my tastes. But I stand behind the statement: you are probably researching your articles the "wrong" way. Or, you are at least probably not going it as efficiently as you could be… which could be detrimental to both the results of your work, and your overall productivity.
The Stages Of Article Research
Unlike academic research, which we all learn in school and often get bogged down in, online content research is pretty simple. Unfortunately it is that simplicity that can often lead to mistakes, or just bare facts that don’t hold as much detail as our readers could use.
Instead of doing the usual source citation, you should break your research down into two stages. The first is the research you do before, and the second is the research you do during the article writing process.
Before you write is the pre-research, as in pre-writing. This is where you are going to find your general facts that will support your post. This is also where you are going to draw your primary sources, which will be linked through the body of your content.
I always prefer to follow the 3x rule. You want to find three times as many sources as you will use, and pair them against one another. You keep finding sources in batches of three until you are able to verify each against one another.
This is a simple way to ensure you are finding non-biased, verifiable facts, and not baseless opinions. With misinformation running rampant thanks to lazy bloggers and social media, this is a very important process.
You don’t want to become one of those bloggers posting factual inaccuracies like they are gospel truth. Not only does this add to a serious problem in online content creation, but it impacts your authority. We all know how important that authority is to the growth of a brand.
Your article is going to be broken into sections and subheadings. These will steer your research in many ways giving you more ideas which angles and problems to cover. SERPstat is a great tool letting you research niche questions:
All of these questions may become subheadings of your future article (or inspire follow-up articles). You can export them in Excel and sort them into "existing content", "currently working on" and "future articles".
Next, you have the research you do while you are creating your post. These are supporting details related to the above citations you have found. It is also where you will narrow down the links you intend to embed, if you don’t choose all three supporting posts.
This part is much simpler, and it more about giving readers additional information to follow. Sometimes I just provide a small masterlist of links for more data if the reader chooses, so I can focus more the quality of the content.
6 Tools To Make Research a Breeze
- Google Drive Research Box – I use Google Drive for pretty much everything, including writing and backing up posts. I find it much more manageable than other cloud services. One of the features I love best is the research box. You highlight a keyword or phrase, and right click. It will have an option to research the highlighted section. This brings up a side box with related sources, which you can view right in your screen. Because it uses Google results you have to be just as selective as you would be from a straight search, but it is much more convenient.
- Freemind – This is a great tool if you are dealing with a large post that is going to have a lot of involved research. Breaking the task down into simpler, smaller parts is a tried and true tactic. Freemind is a mindmapper tool that lets you do that. You can plan out the entire post, including linking sources so everything you need ends up in one place. All using a template that lets you easily move, edit and reformat before you ever get to the writing process.
- Bulk Suggest Tool – You may be wondering what an SEO tool is doing here. After all, this is about researching for articles, not for marketing. I would argue that they are technically in the same vein, but that isn’t why I included it. I have used this bulk keyword suggestion app to create lists of related key phrases I may not have thought of. This helps me to broaden my research based on what people have published or searched for online. So I may end up with sources I never would have found, because I wasn’t using the right combination of keywords.
- Digital Research Tool (DiRT) – This is a fantastic masterlist of tools aimed at scholars, especially those in the social science and humanities. However, I think it is a great place for bloggers to find research tools they need for any number of purposes. They are broken down into categories, which you can select on the front page. You are then taken to the tool that is best for the job at hand. It is the best collection of research redirects I have ever found, and much more efficient than trying to keep track of everything on your own.
- Quora – Normally I would avoid social media like the plague when it comes to research. There is just too much garbage floating around, and opinion outweighs facts and logic at almost all times. But I will make an exception for Quora. In spite the fact that it is a platform that is very easy to abuse, it is full of genuine experts with backed up information. It requires you to offer well thought out answers, and to provide a source or reason for your knowledge. I go there all the time to find great links to scholarly articles, studies, website tools, or to get first hand soundbites from major players in the industry that know about topics first hand.
- MyBlogU – Speaking of experts, MyBlogU is another great place to find them. I usually go here for expert quotes as part of the secondary research process (finding backup information and supporting details). It is an easy way to add further gravity to something you have already officially cited, straight from the mouths of the people who know best.
Do you have a research tool to put on the list? Let us know in the comments!