Episode Overview: Despite the growing importance of the role content plays in SEO, excellent content alone isn’t enough to master SEO. Join host Ben as he speaks with hip-hop artist turned master SEO Mike King of iPullRank to talk about the ways you can master SEO outside of just putting words on the page.
- When performing a technical audit, the first thing to do is understand what your CMS’ limitations are and then limit recommendations or your auditing to what you can actually control.
- WordPress is an excellent CMS that works for most industries and products (B2B, Saas), and several security platforms exist that make WordPress highly secure.
- Keyword research remains integral as you review SERPs to identify what Google is presenting with certain queries and the questions surrounding certain queries. Identifying these elements can help you structure your page to match current trends and accomplish business goals.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Mike King: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to talk about why content alone isn’t enough to master SEO.
Ben: Joining us today is Mike King, who is a hip hop recording artist turned SEO and the founder and managing director of iPullRank, which is a digital media marketing studio that produces great results for their clients through a strategy first approach to content marketing, analytics, social media, search engine optimization and a host of other services.
Ben: Mike and his team have worked on a number of high profile SEO projects, including Ralph Lauren, ADT, State Farm, Hawaiian Airlines, and Citibank. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Mike King, founder and managing director of iPullRank. Mike, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Mike: Thanks for having me. It’s always a blast.
Ben: Excited to reconnect. We were on Searchmetrics’ webinar a couple of days ago, and now we get to talk again. I feel like this is a new record for us.
Mike: I’m just not getting enough of you, Ben.
Ben: I appreciate that, Mike. I love the regular connection. I’m excited to connect. I want to paint the picture for everyone. We’re on a Zoom conference and Mike’s background is a video of the houses burning with the dog saying, this is fine background.
Mike: This is fine.
Ben: But it’s just Mike in a burning room. Mike-
Mike: It’s the world right now.
Ben: Mike, before the world burns down, let’s talk a little SEO. I recorded an episode with Jordan, which was a case study, looking at a domain that I manage. It’s the martechpod.com domain. It’s where I host all of the content for my other podcast. We just migrated the site from my personal website to its own domain, martechpod.com, and my SEO stinks. I was talking to Jordan about why that is, and he’s like, “Your content’s good. You ran it through Searchmetrics’ Content Experience, and the words are in the right places. You got everything, you got the titles, it’s all… “Hey, the content’s great. You don’t have any authority. And the page is slow. The content isn’t enough alone.”
Ben: Talk to me about when you’re looking at new domains like mine, what are the ways that you think about mastering SEO outside of just putting the words on the page?
Mike: There’s a lot to think about, like what CMS are you on, how fast are these pages, are different page types slower than the other, is the internal linking structure between these pages effective? I haven’t seen your actual site, I’ve just listened to the podcast.
Ben: It’s beautiful.
Mike: I don’t know the specifics, but one of the things that we would look for would be just how is everything structured? With podcasts there’s specific podcast markup you could be using. You want to have transcripts of your podcasts and such, so you can rank through the things you talk about because Google is still not using their voice detection technology on your own site, so you still have to assume that they’re dumb and you’re putting everything in front of them in the right way.
Mike: But it all just goes back to the standard auditing process of what’s going on from a technical perspective, how optimized is the content, how well are things interlinked, and then what does your authority actually look like?
Ben: Let’s break that into two different components. What I want to talk about today is the technical audit process. Say you’re going to sit down, and this doesn’t just have to be about my brand, obviously, I have a small, beautiful, website, but it’s not an enterprise level website. It’s not the type of clients that you’re working on.
Ben: A brand comes to you that is launching a new micro site and they’re thinking about, “How do I get this to Google and get them to understand the content that’s on the page?” You’re looking at this from a technical perspective first. Walk me through the audit process.
Mike: First thing I would tell them is no, don’t use a micro site for this very reason. But if they’re committed to it, adamant, they want to do it. Then we would just first crawl the site, just like you would do with any other site, and depending on the tool that we use, there’s certain insights that you can get from the tool itself and then there’s insights that you can only get by looking at the pages.
Mike: First go through a crawl and then see what the issues are. Again, with that same segmented approach, what are the technical items, looking at things like canonical tags, looking at the HTTP headers, looking at the code structure, and so on, and then identifying what the issues are there.
Mike: From there, then you want to look at each page type. I always look at least 10 pages of each page type just to see what the commonalities are and the problems.
Ben: Mike, before we go on, one of the things that you’re talking about is looking at the overall site infrastructure and often, even for enterprise brands, that’s not necessarily something they control. My site for the MarTech pod, it’s on Squarespace. We’re in the process of migrating over to WordPress. I know. I know. Hey, look, we’re moving from a personal brand that was a consulting practice and we just wanted to replicate it and spin out the domain. Now we’re moving to WordPress, but we just needed to get it off of my consulting sites, because people were getting confused.
Mike: It sounds like you made a bunch of bad decisions. First, you talked to Jordan and you’re on Squarespace. What are you doing, man?
Ben: Okay, so I’m better at podcasting than I am at SEO. You don’t have to make a thing about it. But look, it is what it is. We’ve got this beautiful Squarespace site. And honestly it was the platform that my team already knew how to operate, so when we were spinning out, we were doing it in house, we stayed with the platform we knew.
Ben: I do think that that’s a problem for a lot of brands, is that they are sitting and saying, we already know how to use WordPress, let’s stay on WordPress, instead of building a custom site. Or we’re on Drupal, or, in my case, we’re on Squarespace. Shopify, another one.
Ben: When you don’t own the platform and you’re looking at the infrastructure and the site performance, how do you think about what can you control and what should you be focused on as opposed to what is just a, that’s how the platform I’m on works. I can’t really do anything to improve my page speed on Squarespace. What should I be focused on?
Mike: Absolutely. It is definitely CMS dependent. I see this a lot when I see audits that people have done on Shopify sites, as an example. They’ll give you a bunch of recommendations around page speed and so on, but there’s a lot of things in that environment that you just don’t control.
Mike: The first thing to do is just understand what CMS you’re on, understand what the limitations are, and then limit your recommendations or limit your auditing to what it is that you can actually control. No one needs an audit that looks at 200 things that just can’t be done in that environment. That’s one of the approaches that we take whenever we audit for our clients. First thing that we do is our intake documents so we can understand what their tech stack is and so we’re not going to give them recommendations around things that they can’t do.
Mike: If it’s something that is as limited as a Squarespace or what have you, then it just really does become about what content can we create? And then what links can we build? Because otherwise there’s just not much control. If ultimately we’re able to be convincing like, “Hey, you guys are trying to do X, Y, and Z, you can’t do that in this environment.” Then we’re talking about, how do we migrate so the next CMS is going to be more fitting?
Ben: From a technical SEO perspective, walk me through what you think are the right CMS’ for the right type of businesses. If you’re looking at a media and publishing business, something that’s content rich, as opposed to ecommerce, as opposed to something that’s B2B, SaaS. Do you think of different platforms for each one of these different types of businesses?
Mike: Yes, I do. I think WordPress is very conducive to all of those use cases you just said. Because you can get WordPress, VIP and be on the right hosting provider that’s managed, where you don’t have a lot of the problems that people have when they’re just running WordPress on GoDaddy or something like that.
Mike: There’s a lot of security platforms that can make WordPress more secure and so on. WordPress works for all of those. But if you’re just saying, hey, I just want to spin up a ecommerce website and I just want to be able to sell a couple of products. I don’t care that much about content. Go with Shopify. But if you want more control over these environments, then I would say Magento, or WordPress with full commerce, or something like that. Or there’s any other number of viable ecommerce CMS’ that are pretty good at this point and have a lot of SEO stuff baked in.
Mike: But if you’re telling me, “Hey, you’re just building a media site and you don’t need much in the way of customized functionality.” Again, WordPress is fine. But if you’re like, “Hey, I really want to make sure things are as fast as possible.” I might say, go with a headless CMS, something like Contentful, or there’s a whole bunch of those out there. Because then you have more flexibility around which frontend do you use, but you still have that flexibility where the user can use a wysiwyg CMS, and you can build content models that make sense for whatever your business is doing.
Mike: It’s really just get a developer that builds the front end the way you want it, and you can make it as fast as possible as easily as possible.
Ben: That’s honestly how we ended up on Squarespace. It’s about the usability of the front end. It’s an all in one solution, and when we were just creating some window dressing for a consulting site, the page speed didn’t really matter. Now that we’re spinning it into a content site, that becomes more important.
Ben: Outside of just the platform and understanding what you can and can’t adjust, you mentioned that there were some other components like your link structure and other things that you would go through with the audit. Talk to me when you’re thinking about the technical components of SEO, what you’re looking at to make sure a site is humming along as well as possible.
Mike: Technical components, again, I want it to be as fast as possible, so we’re popping open the hood, we’re looking at the rendering process, what third party scripts are taking the longest, how do we speed those up. Also taking a look at things like the database as far as, where can we optimize there?
Mike: It’s not just, what is the front end of the website doing, what is the back end doing as well? And then we’re doing things like we’re digging into the internal linking structure. We’re going to want to see every single link on the site. See what it’s linking to, what the anchor text looks like? Are they broken links? Are they redirects? Are they pointing to 500 errors? Things like that. Are we seeing structured data on the site? Is it valid? Are there issues with just general tags, things like metadata, and so on? Where are there opportunities for us to make those adjustments?
Mike: And again, a lot of those things are identifiable with whatever tool you’re using, but it’s most important that you’re looking at the site in a segmented structure because there are different page types that govern different components of the website.
Mike: If we’re talking about ecommerce, category pages tend to be a different template then product pages, so you want to make sure that you’re reviewing things in terms of that, because you need these recommendations that you identify to be as specific and actionable as possible.
Mike: When you’re telling a developer like, “Hey, make these changes,” well, if you say it’s a site-wide change, they then have to dig in and figure out which of these page types or which of these routes is this happening, so being as specific as possible allows us to actually get those things done.
Ben: Mike, I guess the last question for me is, as you’re, in my case, going through a site migration, you’re building a new site, you’re doing your technical audit, one of the things you mentioned earlier was making sure that Google, in my case, has the podcast markup, they’re understanding the content. What’s the ways that you’re looking at the setup of a website and making sure that you’re feeding Google the right content, so not only is your page moving quickly, but you’re communicating what it’s about effectively?
Mike: Everything starts in keyword research on that point. Not only just identifying keywords, reviewing the SERPs to see what is Google surfacing for this query, and then also what are some of the questions that are being asked around this query, and then structuring your page to match with that, but also align with whatever it is that your business is trying to accomplish.
Mike: If it’s a service that you’re selling and people have all these questions around the service, making sure that you have pages that speak to those questions. If they are questions, again, you may have frequently asked questions, so then it makes sense for us to examine whether or not the FAQ markup makes sense for this page.
Mike: Whatever is relevant to that query, then determine is there also structured markup that makes sense for that as well, and then incorporate that into your copy. Otherwise, just answer the questions with respect to the needs of the user and that should be enough.
Ben: Great advice. We’re going to continue this conversation tomorrow talking about not only what you can do internally by looking at your site, but how you can influence what’s happening externally to improve your SEO performance.
Ben: That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Mike King, the founder and managing director of iPullRank. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Mike, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is iPullRank, I-P-U-L-L-R-A-N-K. Or you can contact Mike via his company’s website, which is ipullrank.com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You could even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the workweek, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.