The summer is here and it’s a great time for SEOs to sweat out some of the bigger projects on their to-do lists. While families and most eCommerce businesses take a holiday, this is one of the busiest times of the year for technical SEOs.
Hear Jeff Preston, News Corp’s Director of SEO responsible for Realtor.com, share his thoughts, strategies, and tactics related to preparing to make the most of the summer season.
- Why summer decreases ecommerce and travel site visibility
- Why media companies love the kids being out of school
- How to fill downtime with technical optimization
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
- Schedule your free Digital Diagnostic
- Jeffery Preston: Twitter // LinkedIn // Website
- Benjamin Shapiro: Bio // Podcast Network // Twitter // LinkedIn
Benjamin: Welcome to Seasonality Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re talking about managing the ebbs and flows of your SEO calendar. Joining us today is Jeff Preston, who is the director of SEO at News Corp, and he is responsible for optimizing the realtor.com site. Prior to his experience at News Corp, Jeff also managed SEO at a little company called the Walt Disney Corporation. And today, Jeff and I are going to talk about how he thinks about managing Q3 seasonality specifically as it relates to the summer and back to school.
But before we hear from Jeff, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. And we’re happy to invite you, our loyal podcast listeners, to an upcoming AMA webinar workshop where Tyson Stockton, our director of services, will be answering all of your questions about seasonality. So come prepared with your website, your data, and any questions you have related to optimizing your content for the holiday season, and Tyson will answer your questions on our webinar in real time. To join our seasonal AMA webinar, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar.
Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jeff Preston, manager of SEO at News Corp. Jeff, welcome to Seasonality Month and welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Jeffrey: I’m glad to be back, Ben.
Benjamin: You’re one of our few repeat guests. We’re excited to have you here. You are officially a friend and honored guest of the Voices of Search podcast. How does it feel?
Jeffrey: It feels great. It feels great. It’s like crossing the Equator the second time, or some kind of life event.
Benjamin: Like having a baby or running a marathon, it’s just as special the second time.
Jeffrey: Not a one-hit wonder.
Benjamin: Good to hear. Well, I’m excited to hear from you and talk to you about seasonality, because you’ve had some really interesting experience and worked on a couple different brands across e-commerce, across media, and now for realtor.com. So first and foremost, let’s just talk about what happens in Q3 and about how you think of the most important events during that quarter.
Jeffrey: Yeah, a couple things. As far as in the real estate industry, we know … if you’ve ever bought and sold a house or moved, it seems like summer’s the busiest time as far as actually executing that move, or moving to your new place. And that usually, a lot of us that have kids, we want to move in the summer so it’s less disruptive to their school. But we find that, although it’s very, very busy and people are on the site, a lot of the home shopping is happening earlier in the year. Usually right after the holidays. So where in the fall, in the autumn, things will slow down, it’ll pick up after the holidays, where your spouse turns to you and says, “Hey, do you think we should think about moving, or moving up, upgrading our home.” So it seems like a lot of those conversations across America start happening in December, January, February. Kind of that Q1. And then go on through the whole summer.
Benjamin: That’s interesting. So as you think about Q3 seasonality, the first thing you mentioned … I said back to school earlier, but you think of it as the summertime, and one of the most important aspects of the calendar is that kids are out of school. Kids are out of school means families go on vacation-
Benjamin: So the product cycle, the e-commerce cycle, is a little disruptive. It is not a heavy e-commerce time. Lot of travel, right? And a lot of people that are moving because the kids are out of school and it’s an easy time to do that. But it’s not necessarily a time when people are doing their Internet research for moving. They are actually executing the plan and packing the boxes, and actually moving, moving.
Jeffrey: And maybe same as for vacations, that you might go to Disneyland in July, but you start thinking about it maybe in January. Start planning, thinking, “Is this the right vacation for us?”
Benjamin: I think for a lot of businesses, they think about Q3 as the dead zone. And because there’s not a lot of e-commerce and because people are focused on being away from work and enjoying their time with their family, purchase behaviors and the research and the work that people are doing is dramatically different. You mentioned a little bit of this, but how do you think about optimizing in real estate for Q3? Are you focused on Q3 months in advance, or is this when you start to do your work for some of the other quarters?
Jeffrey: Kind of both. We definitely want to finish strong. Maybe the rental business is a lot stronger, so maybe in Q1, Q2 we’re thinking about, hey, in Q3, kids are going off to college, they’ll be starting to look for apartments. So that’s a good month for us in the rental business. Again, for home shopping, I’m going to buy a house maybe Q1, Q2’s a lot heavier. But you hit right on a perfect thing, is that on Q3 it’s a great time to do any big upgrades to the site and get that work done so we’ll be ready for the next fall and winter.
Benjamin: One of the reasons why we’re doing Seasonality Month this month is, at Searchmetrics, we’re advocates of planning ahead, right?
Jeffrey: Yeah, sure.
Benjamin: You can’t implement your SEO strategies like you could your performance marketing strategies and launch a campaign in-month and see the effect of it. So we’re trying to encourage the SEO community to start thinking early about seasonality and specifically about the holidays. This is the time of year to start planning for Q4. I’m curious to hear … you’ve had, like I mentioned, a wide variety of experiences across a couple different business models. Thinking back to your days working for Walt Disney, managing SEO across multiple brands, that’s a company that works in travel, it works in e-commerce, and also a big media component. When you get into Q3 and you’re thinking about optimizing at the end of Q3, maybe, for back to school, how does Disney think about the back to school phase? It seems like this would actually be a peak time for that brand.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I think if you think about all the shopping, like the Shop Disney stuff, that definitely July is a big month. Where people are starting to pick up things for their kids or make sure that whatever backpack they have, it’s on brand with what the kids are into right then. But we also see that at Disney, the entertainment sites would pick up a ton of traffic in the summer. So it seemed like are playing more games online, consuming more video. And so that was a really busy time. And yeah, there was definitely some shopping. We would have peaks in July and then maybe September would slow down, and then October would pick up again when people are starting to look at Halloween costumes. Then when you get into November and Black Friday.
Benjamin: So that’s interesting, when you think about travel, you mentioned earlier people are probably already booking their travel in advance of the summer and they’re executing the strategy. They’re actually going on the vacation … using SEO terms. They’re heading out of town, and maybe they’re doing a little e-commerce. So there’s some optimization to be done there. But the media category, people are consuming more media, videos, playing games … talk to me about the strategy for optimizing that type of content. What are the ways that you can get video out there, make sure it’s more visible? And the same with gaming.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I think as you said, planning ahead is so critical. And as far as, what’s the website going to look like June 1st, and do we have all the content shot, edited, ready to go? And then as far as the SEO team, do we have a linking strategy internally to make sure all this new summer content’s going to be linked to and can get ranked? It seems like … well, for sure, the further you can plan ahead, the better it’s going to be. So on Q1, can we get all our summer videos shot, and then it’s all edited and ready to go, and we publish it in Q2, and we start linking to it. Then Q3 comes around and we’re ready to go. In the summer, ready to go. So that family that’s driving from Salt Lake City to Disneyland in Anaheim, the kids can just watch tons of video on the iPad in the car.
Benjamin: It’s interesting, I’m curious to hear, when you’re thinking about the medium of content that you’re launching. You’re optimizing for video, the first thing you’re doing is you’re optimizing the text on the page. You’re not actually thinking about the impact the video has in SEO. So you’re working on your navigational structure, you’re making sure you have the assets that you can promote on the page, make sure you have your content written. Are there any tricks to do actual video optimization … your tagging, or any signals that you can give to Google to make sure that they understand the format of your content, whether something is a trailer or a movie or a TV show? What’s the way that you can signal to Google what type of content in video that you’re actually publishing?
Jeffrey: Yeah, that’s a great question. We had a lot of success with using structured data, in that we would have the schema.org tags. For every video, there was a set of tags that Google let us use, and that would have the time of the video and the topics. All of that was laid out in schema so it’s very machine readable. Additionally, we would have XML site maps that were built just for video, and make sure those were available for Google. So Google knew very clearly, here’s all the videos we have in site and here’s what they’re about.
Then, the third stage was just classic internal linking, where we had a big site and so, are we linking to these with our suggested video modules … That they’re all built in a way that we can link to those individual videos.
Benjamin: So when you are optimizing your video content … I think of video, at least for my understanding of Disney, there’s two different types of video, right? You have video that you’re going to have on your site that is meant for consumption-
Benjamin: Those are the things that have already been released. But Disney’s also a movie studio.
Benjamin: So there are assets where you’re doing promotion of feature films, something that people are going to be interested. When Aladdin 2 or the new Jumanji, or whatever else that is … I think those are all Disney products … is coming out, what are you doing ahead of Q3? Because it’s summer blockbuster season … to make sure that that content is visible and well trafficked?
Jeffrey: Yeah, for sure, we had a couple things going for us that we all set high expectations around. The day the movie came out, we were expected to rank number one for the movie. So we would have a year to get ready. We know Star Wars 9 is coming out December 15.
Benjamin: Star Wars 9, is that the sixth one or the ninth one, or is it the third one-
Jeffrey: Yeah, it’s the one that’s
Benjamin: The numbers change all the time. Sorry for any Star Wars fans.
Jeffrey: Yeah, the one that’s coming out this December, the SEO team at Disney that’s been working on Star Wars, they’ve known about it for a year. They knew the release date. So it’s getting ready for … we call them tentpole events. Like, in April there’s going to be a trailer, and then in October will be the final trailer. Making sure we’re all ready for those. And again, going back to planning, we would just have to plan it really well that, “Hey, we’re going to drop the video on this day … We’re going to publish it on starwars.com but we’re also going to probably have it on Facebook and we’ll have it on YouTube.” And do we have all the assets ready so we can just fly out the door? Especially all the internal linking. That really seems like, made the difference.
Benjamin: It seems like there’s … it’s a risky proposition. I know that you own all of the brand assets for something like Star Wars, but the expectation that you’re going to rank first on day on is tricky because other people can launch promotional pages in advance of the trailer, or in advance of the movie launch.
Benjamin: I think that idea of event-based marketing for SEO is a really challenging one, and mostly for people that are in the entertainment industry. How does Fandango not launch a Star Wars page two days before you to get a little extra traffic? It’s a challenging topic.
Jeffrey: Sure. And they probably launched it a year ahead of us too. Then it becomes like we’re both competing over the same keyword. So who can execute a little bit better? If I can share a bad experience, something I screwed up, is … Last year, so this is 2018 … ESPN’s always done really well for the NFL draft. If you’re an NFL fan, it’s in April. It’s kind of a big deal, you can find out which kids are coming out of college that your team will grab. And we were doing great. We were always right under nfl.com, which makes sense.
But then a couple days before the event, we suddenly … the SEO team at CBS Interactive pushed us down, and they put all the CBS sports properties above us. I know they’ve been in the conversations on the podcast recently. But we ended up not being able to recover, and we were below the fold. So they beat us on that one. And when we went back to look, we could see their plan, what happened. And it happened with a lot of internal links that they had deployed months before, and it just finally caught up with us.
Benjamin: That’s interesting.
Jeffrey: So, again, planning ahead is the way you win on those events.
Benjamin: And I think, bringing this back to Q3, that’s an important lesson. For the most part, Q3 is not a busy e-commerce time, but there are important events related to summer. There’s the movie blockbusters if you’re in the media category, there’s vacations, there’s holidays like the Fourth of July coming up soon as we’re recording this podcast. You have these big events, so managing your SEO calendar to an event starts significantly in advance.
Jeffrey: Yeah, for sure.
Benjamin: And one of the big strategies is thinking about what your linking strategy is. If you can launch preview content and have Google digest the purpose of the page and then update it, or frequently update it, you’re going to get some value there. Any other tweaks or tactics related to event marketing or things that you’ve seen around Q3?
Jeffrey: One is around having an evergreen page. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but we should have one page for the NFL draft, they’re going to have it every year. One page for the Superbowl. One page, probably, for the election that’s coming up next year. One page for presidential debates. And then it’s very easy as far as … especially the bigger company, when you have maybe multiple sites, that everyone can link to that evergreen page. And then you’ll have a more likely … at least you’re using all the sites you own to link to that one page.
What’s going to be great is next year, I guess for SEO and for news, we’ll have the big election next year, and who’s going to win those primaries, who’s going to win those different debates? It’ll probably be whichever SEO team has planned ahead the most.
Benjamin: The way that you said that, it made it seem like the SEOs are going to decide who’s going to be the president.
Jeffrey: No, well, whoever’s going to win the search.
Benjamin: I will leave my commentary out of who we think that should be, but I’ll just … I’m registered right in the middle. Good luck to everybody.
Jeffrey: Okay. You know, everyone’s been mad about politics recently, but it’s great for SEO because if everyone in America has an opinion about who should be the next president, they’re going to go to Google and search for the latest news. So that gives, for us in publishing, a lot of opportunities.
Benjamin: Yeah, absolutely. Well, going back to our topic of Q3 … we sort of bounced around a little bit and talked about the things that you need to consider are, if you’re targeting businesses, lots of people are taking vacations. If you’re a family oriented product, people are planning their summers a few months in advance. This is a good down time to do your site ops and get ready for the holiday.
Benjamin: And there’s a lot of things related to event specific marketing. The summer blockbuster season, there’s some holidays sprinkled in there. Any other last words about what happens in Q3 or any optimization tactics that you’ve been running during this time of the year?
Jeffrey: Again, it depends on the site. What was interesting at ESPN was, try to pick a time of year where there’s no big sport events. And the window gets pretty tight. And that, I think, was around February. So when football season ended and before baseball season, that’s when you could do a big upgrade to the site or change something in the technology stack. And hopefully you could recover before baseball started and NBA playoffs. For real estate, it’s kind of right now for us. This is a good time for us to think about, hey, should we change this or play around with that, would be in Q3. We wouldn’t want to wait til Q4 and then not have momentum going into our biggest months.
Benjamin: Yeah, absolutely. So even if this is a down time for your business, if you’re in a traditional e-commerce business, if you’re in the real estate business like Jeff where this is not the peak time, now is a good time to start thinking about making your site changes, making your foundational operations, doing some more aggressive testing. When you’re not running the risk of losing traffic at a peak time.
Jeffrey: Right. And I know back in the Shop Disney Disney store days, usually there would be 30 days before Black Friday, it was like, code freeze. We weren’t even allowed to push something new in because we just didn’t want anything bad to happen that would hurt or impact sales. But again, June, July, August, maybe not as much traffic, so that would be the time to make those changes.
Benjamin: Okay. All right, Jeff. Well, I appreciate you coming back and being a repeat guest on the podcast. Good to catch up, good to hear about your thoughts on Q3, and congratulations for all your success at realtor.com and News Corp.
Jeffrey: Thank you very much. And again, it’s my pleasure to be on the show.
Benjamin: All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jeff Preston, the manager of SEO at News Corp, focused on realtor.com. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jeff, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is jeffreypreston, that’s J-E-F-F-R-E-Y P-R-E-S-T-O-N, or you could visit his company’s website, which is realtor.com.
If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet @benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in attending our Seasonality AMA webinar, with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetric’s director of services, we’re going to answer all of your holiday optimization questions. So come with your webpages and your data sets, and Tyson will look at them in real time. To register for our seasonal AMA webinar, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember: the answers are always in the data.