Why you should watch this replay
Catch up on the latest SEO news in our webinar! Renaming things is the flavor of the month, and there’s quite a bit going on with AI too.
Jono Alderson, Head of SEO at Yoast, talks us through the SEO news from October 2022. In this edition of our monthly SEO webinar, Jono is joined by Hannah Smith, who shares some really fantastic tips for getting creative in digital marketing. Watch the replay or read our recap below to know more!
Stay on top of the latest news in SEO and register for our next (free) webinar on November 22, 2022.
- 3:14 – Google replaces its Webmaster Guidelines with Google Search Essentials
What was historically known as webmaster guidelines to Google Search Essentials, which feels like they’re getting with the times a bit. Right. Do go and check these out if you haven’t met them. They’re quite high level and a bit generic, but they’re a nice framing for what Google is looking at, and the kinds of things you should and shouldn’t do.
- 4:35 – Introducing site names on Google Search
Mobile search results now include the name of the site, quite prominently above the listings, which speaks a lot to branding and trust. If you’re doing more than just building links and writing content, then you want to be investing in growing brand recognition and making people remember you, influencing their emotions and their opinions. And then when they search, if your brand name shows up recognizably, then that’s great. All of this is powered by structured data.
If you’re running a recent version of Yoast SEO, we’re already adding all the schema that you need to control this. Also, in our latest update for Yoast SEO we give you more control over this, so you can tailor it and be really specific in how you want to represent your brand name.
- 5:52 – Introducing the next evolution of Looker, your unified business intelligence platform
Google Data Studio has just rebranded to Looker Studio. What’s interesting about this is Looker is a pretty awesome enterprise analytics visualization tool. And Data Studio has always been a little bit rough and ready, it felt a little bit clunky. Nothing’s changed in the product yet, but hopefully they’re going to come together a bit and Data Studio will become better and better. If you’re struggling with Google Analytics, Data Studio is a really good tool. It’s much more intuitive than a lot of Google Analytics-type interfaces. So hopefully this is the beginning of that becoming much smarter.
- 7:12 – Get more visual results when you shop on desktop
Google is showing more images in its desktop Google Shopping search results. Unfortunately these still struggle to be specific enough. You can find things that are roughly in the right category. But if you want a very specific thing, it’s terrible. And actually something like going into an Argos store or going to Amazon might still be better for that sort of thing.
- 10:42 – Google answers Meta’s video-generating AI with its own, dubbed Imagen Video
Google announced Imagen, a new AI video-generation tool. In the release post, Google acknowledges that even the examples they’ve cherry picked to show how good it is are still a bit weird. This is as good as this gets at the moment. I think we’re years off this being useful for kind of real world scenarios.
- 12:22 – AI-generated imagery is the new clip art as Microsoft adds DALL-E to its Office suite
There are more and more of these AI image-generators, and some of them are getting really good. Now Microsoft Office is integrating DALL-E into its Office suite, and calling it Microsoft Designer. So when you’re writing, it can generate an image to go with your text. The quality is surprisingly good.
- 17:37 – WordPress 6.1 RC 1 released, ready for testing and translation
WordPress 6.1 is coming out quite soon. The first and second release candidates have been released if you want to get early access and test it. Don’t install this on a big, important site that your livelihood is tied to, because it’s not ready yet. But if you want to trial it and get hands-on with some new stuff, then you definitely can.
There are a few exciting things in the pipeline. There are some potentially huge performance boosts from some new caching structures and systems in the backend. The WordPress core performance team, which Yoast is heavily involved in, has been working on a lot of that. There’s also a whole bunch of backend changes, and there’s some new stuff you can do with things like fluid font sizes, too.
Social media news
- 18:51 – Introducing handles: A new way to identify your YouTube channel
YouTube has added handles. So now you’ll effectively be able to app someone via their handle, much like you’ve been able to do in Twitter since 2008. Like you can do on Instagram, and TikTok. It’s good that they’ve finally added this. It seems this has become the de facto standard for tagging people on the net, now. No platform or network is ever going to launch now that doesn’t have this feature because it’s become universal.
- 20:44 – Facebook announces the retirement of ‘Instant Articles’
Facebook had a thing called instant articles, which allowed you to read news articles in a kind of Facebook-flavored environment. And news publishers and websites could pipe those articles to Facebook in the right format. And it would be faster, it would be sleeker, it would be a better experience for the user. They wouldn’t have to leave Facebook so it was also a better experience for Facebook, because they can monetize that. Now they’re ending that and adding Tik-Tok style videos instead.
Other tech news
- 26:29 – Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon & Microsoft join to improve voice recognition
This project has all the tech giants joining together to build out their systems capabilities for recognizing speech patterns from people who aren’t middle-aged white men. I’m sure anybody with even the remotest accent – nevermind difficulty speaking or other challenges – trying to tell the assistive device to add something to a shopping list or turn the lights on, is having trouble with it, failing three times out of four. I can’t imagine how much harder that is for people who genuinely have difficulty communicating. The more effort and energy we put into this to make it accessible, to make it work reliably, the better. And it’s great to see them plowing resources into this.
- 27:33 – Privacy Shield 2.0: Data protection framework may benefit US businesses
So we’ve talked on and off for months now about the looming challenges around the death of cookies. Or at least third party cookies and the upcoming sunsetting of Universal Analytics, and how Google Fonts may or may not be illegal. All of these things essentially boil down to the same problem: that there is no good legal framework for data belonging to EU citizens being moved to America. Yet many of the services we rely on, like Google Analytics, and Amazon Web Services which hosts things like Google Fonts, all of these are based in America either partially or entirely.
There’s been zero progress until now. We’re starting to get a hint that there might be a way forward. It’s not perfect, and it’s still got lots of challenges. But in theory, it might shut down a lot of these conversations around Google Analytics being illegal and Google Fonts being illegal because they’re exposing an IP address as personal information.
They will introduce some new requirements. They will contain and geo-fence data. If this goes through, it will make life a lot easier. If it does not go through, it is still going to be the end of the world come July or so next year, when all of these systems become more formally illegal. We’ll have to fundamentally rethink the way that the internet works and what services we can use where, and nobody is ready for that. There’s no real answer to how that’s managed, so this, or something like this, has to come through. It’s good that they’re making progress on it. Fingers crossed.
- 29:17 – AI content platform Jasper raises $125M at a $1.5B valuation
Most AI content is plagiarism in some form or another – but that doesn’t stop there being a huge amount of money in the space.
There’s a great consolidation happening in the AI content space. Jasper’s eating up a whole bunch of platforms. These things are still brand new, and a lot of them are burning money in the startup phase, and yet they’re eating each other as fast as they’re growing. It’ll be really interesting a few months from now to see which ones are winning and to get a feel for whether they’re any good. A lot of these are quite samey, and a lot of them produce stuff that’s not quite good enough. But maybe if they’re gobbling up each other’s staff and capabilities, and each one is a bit better at something than the others, then maybe whatever comes out or this is passable. But that still doesn’t address the fact that these AIs are just recycling content, which isn’t pleasant.
- 30:44 – Web Almanac by HTTP Archive
- 31:25 – New in Yoast SEO and Yoast SEO Premium
We’ve added some more controls in Yoast SEO for identifying the name of your site. We have some new, super nerdy stuff in Yoast SEO Premium, where you can consolidate some of your search URLs for your internal site search. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it can have quite a big impact on your crawl budget and stop Google getting down rabbit holes and in all sorts of nasty places.
We also added a new check in Premium to make sure that you’ve given your post a title. You’d be amazed how many people publish pages and don’t give them a title or a name. And it causes all sorts of problems. Now we’ll check and suggest that you add one if it’s missing.
Interview and Q&A
What makes a good content strategy?
Hannah: We define it thusly: a content strategy is the high level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective. And the business objective I think is really the important bit. So I’m a firm believer that all content should be goal-driven, and therefore what you create depends on what you want to achieve.
Any good strategy starts with an objective. So rather than worrying too much about what content strategy is like, start with your objective. Now obviously for most people the objective is often going to be something like increase revenue, or increase new leads. Some kind of money-based metric. Then you need to decide how you’re going to do that. So for example, if your goal was to increase revenue, one way to do that might be to rank better in organic search for some particular terms, which are related to your business. That’s just one way. You might decide that actually SEO is not the thing you want to do. You might just want to do a bunch of stuff with paid search, for example.
You might want to do something totally different, but let’s just roll with SEO for now. So if that’s the direction you want to go in, some things you might need to do are update and improve existing pages or create some new pages to rank for those terms. Then of course your page content aside, you’ll also need to think about how it is that you can help those rank well organically. So you’ll definitely need to think about things like internal links. And you might also need to think about external links – the links from external sites to those pages.
So to my mind, a ‘good’ content strategy has a clear objective, has some sort of well-researched hypothesis and a plan. So it contains what you’re going to do to reach that objective. It clearly outlines things like resources and costs – how much work is this thing? It explains how efforts will be measured and you’ve got appropriate tracking in place. It includes key timelines and dates to review progress. And finally, it is appropriate and realistic, so it’s something that the business can actually do. If it’s not, then I don’t think you have a content strategy.
Yeah. Nice. I think, um, it’s probably quite rare for people to have all of that. In place. Yeah. Um, that’s why people like me exist. Ah, So, I guess, I guess one of the, one of the challenges a lot of people will go. Yep. That makes sense.
So let’s say some people are doing baby steps on this. They’ve committed to writing some blog posts. And they never get past that first step. And then on the other end of the scale, what does best look like? Big creative flamboyant, successful, press coverage, mind changing stuff, stuff that wins hearts and minds. How do you close that gap?
Hannah: I’d still encourage people to think about their objectives. Because obviously it’s entirely appropriate for some businesses to be wanting to do this flashy stuff and get a load of coverage on high-tier news websites. There is a genuine and sane and sensible business need to do that. But for most businesses, there actually isn’t necessarily a need to do that. And there may be a different way to go about that.
If we assume that you’ve done your research and actually yes, linked coverage from journalists is the thing that you do need in order to fulfill your business objectives of ranking higher for a few key phrases? Where I would suggest people begin is by starting out with where they actually want coverage.
So like start out with say five or ten publications that you’d like to get coverage in. Study those publications. Look closely at the articles that journalists are writing there, which topics are you seeing appear over and over and over again? What kind of emotions are those articles provoking? Which articles are being written that have obviously been supplied by PRs in some way, or fuelled by PR. There may be research reports which are getting coverage, for instance. You can recognize when a thing has been made by a company and therefore it’s something that’s been done as a result of PR.
Have a look at those things and have a think about why those journalists are writing those articles. And then have a think about what you could do to add to the conversation in some way. What are you in a position to do? Honestly, if you don’t have experience of this, I would suggest either you hire someone with experience on a freelance basis, or maybe consider getting an agency in. Because it’s a very steep learning curve, this stuff, and this stuff fails a huge amount.
For people who don’t have a huge amount of budget or resources, how do they shortcut that?
Hannah: PR tactics like offering expert commentary to journalists can be a great option for small businesses who want to get coverage but don’t have the time to create those big, flashy, extensive reports. First and foremost, journalists are on Twitter, and they often put out requests using the hashtag #journorequests. There are also services like Help A Reporter Out, which can help you filter and keep track of journalists’ requests like this.
A friend of mine called Surena Chande just did a Brighton SEO talk, and she wrote a great presentation all about how to maximize your chances of the journalist picking your expert comments. I will just paraphrase really quickly here: essentially, resist the urge to sell or promote yourself. Instead what you should try and do is provide actual expertise, which should hopefully go without saying (but actually doesn’t). So offer actual expertise, add something of value. So ideally a new perspective or an alternative take is better than the same old advice that everyone spouts. And obviously it will increase your chances of coverage.
Surena is a journalist, and she says that sometimes she notices that people will Google the tip or whatever someone’s asking for advice on. So, for example, often you’ll get a journalist’s request come out, say, around Christmas: “any tips for people who are dreading the festive period and who suffer from loneliness”. People basically Google it and copy and paste the featured snippet. And then pretend that was something they said. And just don’t do that, because journalists can use Google and they don’t need that from you. They need actual expertise and ideally, a new perspective or an alternative take, and your aim ultimately should be to educate the readers and provide unbiased, truthful, useful, accurate up-to-date information.
I think the only other thing I would say is, do you pay attention to what the journalist has asked for? So if the journalist has said, I am looking to speak to a doctor about X. Don’t send a marketing manager. Everybody describes themselves as an expert, but it’s much better if you can qualify that in some way. So for example, rather than claiming to be a sleep expert, but it would be much better if you said, “I wrote this book about sleep and I did these particular qualifications”, that kind of thing. So prove your expertise rather than calling yourself like a sleep expert, or whatever kind of expert. That’s what I would recommend you do.
I imagine there’s a lot of people who say, “I just want an insurance website. I’m not very creative”. How do you cross that chasm, and be more creative?
Hannah: How do you be more creative? Creativity is a skill, not a talent. So I think the way that you be more creative, honestly is just practice. A lot of the things that we think of as talent are actually skills. My friend Mark used to say that, “complaining you’re not creative when you don’t do any creative work is a bit like going to the gym once doing one sit-up and complaining that you don’t have a six-pack”.
Because it’s just work. It’s just work like everything else. If I said “Oh, I’m not very good at coding”. And you said to me, “how much coding have you done though, Hannah?” And I went like, “Oh, you know, I tried it for half an hour once and thought it was hard.” Your first instinct would be to tell me “Well, maybe do a little bit more, commit to doing a bit more.”
So what does commiting to doing a bit more look like, in terms of creativity? I think the thing that most people miss is they are trying to come up with ideas in a vacuum. Ideas don’t come from nowhere. They always come from somewhere. So it’s kind said earlier, my starting point always when I’m doing creative work for any client, is those publications where I want coverage. So I spend a bunch of time looking at those publications, looking at which topics seem to be particularly resonant right now. I do things like read books and watch films and try and talk to people who are interested in this stuff, so that I’m able to get under the skin of it. And kind of essentially what I’m trying to do is create some kind of swipe file of inspirational stuff. And then based on that, only when I’ve got tons and tons of stuff, would I even think about trying to generate or come up with any ideas.
But I think the trouble is, people kind of go like, “oh, I’ve got a pen and a bit of paper, and I’ve tried to come up with ideas and I can’t”, and I’m not surprised. You’ve got no fuel.
Are news articles good for backlinks?
Jono: I think the best way to get links is to have content and a website and a product or a proposition that people naturally talk about, and care about, and are interested about. And then as a result they’re going to link to it. However, that’s a little bit naive. So there’s a middle ground. I think if you are writing and publishing news about interesting, exciting stuff that there is evidence that people care about, and you have some kind of mechanism to get that in front of them so that they see it and read it and engage with it and share it with their friends? Yeah, you can get some links. But I think probably in most cases, just churning out “news articles” is going to achieve somewhere around nothing.
Hannah: Yeah I don’t think newsletter articles are a great way to get links. I mean, obviously there’s an ‘it depends’ in there. What are these news articles? Are you regurgitating news from somewhere else? If so, almost certainly that won’t get links. Most niches, and most business verticals and not terribly ‘linky’. We come from this weird space, like SEO and digital marketing are this very weird and linky space. There’s an awful lot of websites and there’s an awful lot of people who read things, share things and link to each other. But most spaces are not linky.
Let’s use the insurance example, right? If you were writing a load of insurance news articles and hoping that those articles would get links. It’s very, very unlikely. Very very unlikely in my experience that that would get links. I’m not sure why somebody else would want to cover your insurance news.
Taco: So now we have your creative mind here, Hannah, what would be a better alternative to create something that would be share-worthy, link-worthy?
Hannah: As I said before, the first step is to figure out where you want those links from, and go and read what those people are writing and think about a way that you could maybe add to the conversation in some way. For example, if in your particular niche you notice – (we’re sticking with insurance. Let’s assume that you do car insurance. That’s your thing, right?) It would make sense then maybe that you would want to get links from automotive journalists. If you go and have a look at what automotive journalists write about, it’s actually incredibly limited. So they write about new car releases and new car launches. You can’t help them there. You don’t make cars, you sell insurance, right? So that bit’s out.
Similarly, you don’t make anything to go on a car, right? You don’t make sat navs, you don’t make tires. What do people care about, exhausts? You don’t make any of that stuff. Right? So you can’t help the automotive journalists that way.
But something else that you will notice that automotive journalists write about are things like driving rules. There’s something you see constantly are the driving laws that people don’t realize are laws, and therefore they break the law by accident. So there’s the driving law thing. There’s driving conditions stuff. So at various points in the year, it might be dangerous to drive for various reasons. So, winter driving, there’s always like a bunch of that winter driving. Similarly, if it’s very rainy where you are in the world, I imagine there might also be some rain stuff. If you get hurricanes, then maybe some hurricane stuff. There will be various driving conditions things. The other thing that you will see that gets covered is things like studies. I’ve done a lot of work in the insurance space, and in car insurance particularly, and I think it’s actually kind of fun.
So a few of the things that we did was we used publicly available data sources to figure out where the most congested, or traffic-y roads were in every single region of the UK. That got a bunch of coverage. So we weren’t using our own data, but we were using an alternative data source and interrogating it. I’ve seen people do something similar for the most dangerous roads. So they’re looking at traffic accident data. Somebody did this brilliant thing about like, is it called rubbernecking? They took all of the attractions in the UK that you could see by road, and saw which ones seem to cause the most accidents. That’s really good. So, stuff like that. You know, see what’s out there, see how you can build upon it. That’s what I would recommend you do.
I hear a lot of structured data. How can I use structured data myself to rank higher in Google?
Jono: I won’t dwell too much on this one because we’ve talked about this a lot, but I guess very briefly: structured data does not affect rankings. But it absolutely does affect how Google and others understand your site and your content. And that improved understanding might unlock different types of results formats, which might increase click through rate, might increase recognition, might do a whole bunch of other stuff.
They might buy you entry to result formats and listings that you might not be able to get without structured data. Like in the recipes or flight space, you’re going to struggle without it. And kind of more existentially – helping Google to better understand not only your content, but the people who wrote it, and the companies they work for, and the places they live, and where they went to school, and which awards they’ve won are all good things to do. Because if they understand that they’re more likely to understand that your concept is more trustworthy. All of these are secondary effects. While it might not help you rank, it might help you do better in search.
And how can you use it? Install Yoast SEO, and configure it, and we’ll do all the heavy lifting for you.
Hannah: I’m guessing it might help with stuff like Google Shopping as well. It might actually help you rank better in Google Shopping, if you had good structured data, your product may trigger a result higher up for certain types of queries, right?
Jono: there’s so much happening in that space. Things like stock levels, sale prices, and delivery details etc. If you are doing e-commerce stuff, make sure you are using our WooCommerce add-on for WordPress or our Shopify app, because they will do all that schema stuff for you.
What about Accessibility? Is that a real thing or just “words”?
Hannah: It’s definitely a real thing. And definitely not just words. I think it’s really, really, really important. Just in an existential way, right? Like, you want everybody, surely, to be able to read, understand, interact with your website. If you’re interested in money, then the excuse you can give yourself is ‘if my website is inaccessible, I’m leaving money on the table’. I’d like to think that you ought to do it just because it’s the right thing to do, but if you need the money reason, it’s the money reason.
Jono: People are very, very different. They see and hear and interact and read and experience things in different ways. And if you are excluding a portion of those? You’re leaving money on the table, because those people have credit cards. But also they are people who might recommend something, or retweet something, or maybe even link to something.
Intentionally going “We are only going to cater to 70% of the population”. Well, how do we make more money? How do we grow our business? How do we rank higher? How do we get more visits? How do we get more conversions? Maybe make sure that your text is readable to somebody who’s neurodivergent, or that your color scheme doesn’t cause people to struggle to focus on your text. All of these are real considerations that you should be thinking about for sure.
Want to learn more about accessibility? Join the free WordPress Accessibility Day virtual conference November 2-3!
Jono is our Head of SEO. He’s a digital strategist, marketing technologist, and full stack developer. He’s into technical SEO, emerging technologies, and brand strategy.
Via her company, Worderist.com, Hannah offers consultancy, coaching, training & support to help develop and grow Creative, Production, and PR teams, improve processes, and deliver results. With more than 15 years in the industry, her creative work has won multiple awards, and she’s worked with a range of companies including the BBC, Dyson, Expedia, MailChimp, and Salesforce.