Make Your Own Luck With Google with Nora Schlesinger and Eric Hochberger: Mediavine On Air Episode 13

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Content creators, do you ever feel like Google hates you? The logical part of you knows this probably isn’t true but you keep getting the sensation that the latest algorithm shift was specifically designed to decimate your traffic?

If you can relate, this episode of Mediavine on Air is for you!

We were joined in spring 2021 by Mediavine CEO Eric Hochberger, along with Nora Schlesinger, CEO of Growth Machine, which is an SEO-focused content marketing agency linked in our show notes. Basically, two SEO powerhouses, totally at our disposal for an hour and we got INTO it.

We talked keywords, links, site structure, algorithm shifts, analytics, Page Experience, basically anything and everything under the SEO sun. 

Helpful Resources

Link Handout filled with resources related to the live
Ahrefs — An SEO resource recommended by Nora
SEO Like a CEO — A blog series on how to improve a website’s search engine optimization (SEO)

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Howdy, friends. Welcome to Teal Talk. I’m Jenny Guy. I’m the director of marketing for Mediavine, and with you as always as your host for the show, which is all about the business of content creation.

It is March. Y’all, I don’t know how that happened. And even though I keep seeing the memes– I don’t know if you guys have seen them, the ones that are “How can it be March 2021 when it is still March 2020?” Because that is exactly how it feels continuously to me. I know, though, that it is almost midmonth. And so it’s a little bit delayed. But since this is our first time together, I’m going to ask, did the month start out like a lion or like lamb for y’all? Tell me and let me know.

I talked a little in the last show about this, about how this spring feels special to me for a number of reasons. And that is continuing on as March goes on, I’m pleased to report. And it’s not only because we are inching closer to May and all of those NSYNC memes that never fail to crack me up, the Justin “It’s going to be May” cracks me up every year. It never gets old.

But there’s the longer days. There’s the nicer weather. We’ve got the vaccine distribution happening. I am feeling cautiously optimistic for the first time in a while. So how are you guys doing out there? Tell us in the comments. Are you are you feeling optimistic about the spring? Does it feel different for you? Let us know.

And while we are checking in with each other on the start to our spring, let us also check in on everyone’s feelings with respect to our favorite acronym as content creators, and that is SEO. If you create digital content, there’s no way you haven’t heard it. I have personally heard it so much that it sometimes loses its meaning for me. It’s like when you say a word over and over and over again, and then it stops meaning things.

But the reason for that constant bringing up of SEO is its importance. Simply put, SEO is make or break for digital businesses. But for many of us, SEO is murky, and Google algorithm shifts can seem downright malicious if you don’t know what the heck is going on. So there is definitely a reason people pay thousands of for courses and audits from experts, but the question we’re here to answer today is, does it have to be hard? How can we keep the Google gods happy and ourselves sane?

And that is where my two guests from today come in. I’m about to introduce them. But while I’m introducing them, answer me this in the comments, please. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your SEO expertise with 10 being an SEO ninja and 1 being– Eric and I were having a pretty deep conversation about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before we started. But what is the opposite of a ninja? Or what is better than a ninja? Don’t answer those. Answer 1 to 10 if you’re good at SEO. 10 being the most confident in your skills, and 1 being I don’t know Google or what SEO stands for.

While I’m doing that, let me say hello to my wonderful guests today. Today we have with me very frequently is our CEO and co-founder of Mediavine, Eric Hochberger. Eric, how are you today?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Wonderful. How are you doing, Jenny?

JENNY GUY: I’m doing all right. I’m glad it’s spring. Did your spring– did your March come in like a lion or like lamb?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Here in South Florida we actually dread summer.

JENNY GUY: Oh.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I know. It’s the opposite. That’s when the bad weather comes.

JENNY GUY: So you’re in your– is this still your happy place now, though?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Yeah. We’re still in the happy place. Don’t worry.

JENNY GUY: That’s good, the good place. OK. And then, for the first time on Teal Talk, we have Nora Schlesinger. Hello, Nora. I’m going to read all the–

NORA SCHLESINGER: Hey!

JENNY GUY: –things about you because there’s a whole lot.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Oh, gosh.

JENNY GUY: Nora Schlesinger is a lifelong baker and food lover, who, after a prolonged illness, was inspired to learn to cook and bake differently, and to share her recipes with others at acleanbake.com. Through blogging she taught herself SEO and made a career switch to lead project management at Growth Machine, but quickly, just to insert, she no longer leads project management. She’s the CEO of the company. No bigs. I have two CEOs on my program today. And Growth Machine is an SEO-focused content marketing agency. She now runs Growth Machine during the day while building A Clean Bake on the side from her home office in Chicago. Nora, welcome, to Teal Talk.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

JENNY GUY: I’m really excited, too. We’re going to have a good time today.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: So we’re getting a lot of– we’ve got all across the board. We’ve got sixes. We’ve got fives. We’ve got– I thought I was a nine, but lately eh. We’ve got threes, eights, 10’s. Oh, someone just said, you are all 10’s in my heart. Steve Marsi, fellow co-founder of Mediavine, just said 10 because of 24-hour access to Eric Hochberger. There we are.

OK, guys, if you have questions for us or want to know more about things, please drop those into the comments. Also, just to let you guys know, we’re doing things a little bit differently, where we typically share all those links during the course of the live, what we’re actually going to do this time is we have a link resource guide that we are going to share with you at very end. So you’ve got all of that at once. All you have to do now is just listen, enjoy, ask questions.

OK. So first, I want to hear from both of you, my guests today, about your SEO journey. In other words, other than what Steve just said, why should our audience listen to you when you talk about SEO? Because the truth is there are a lot of– I’m going to do the air quotes– “experts” out there about SEO. And a degree in SEO isn’t really a thing yet. And it’s tough to know who to trust. So let’s start with Nora. Will you tell us about your SEO journey?

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that my SEO journey is probably pretty relatable to a lot of the people on this podcast. I might be further in it, but I started basically by looking at my Analytics several years ago, and seeing this [decline sound] in my traffic, and panicking. And I didn’t know a lot about SEO. I knew SEO was a thing that I needed to be more aware of. I knew that I couldn’t just continue to kind of mimic what the bigger bloggers did without knowing why they were doing it, or whether it was a good idea, or even if it was SEO related. I mean, it turns out a lot of it sort of indirectly was.

But I set out to teach myself SEO. I took a couple of courses, like e-courses. But mostly, it was trial and error, building out my own site, testing things, seeing what the effects were over time, and just gradually learning. And honestly, a lot of googling, like, why is this? And what is this? And is this plugin better than this plugin?

Since then, obviously, I’ve built up my skill set. I was able to get a job in SEO. And since then I’ve seen dozens and dozens of different sites in different categories on different CMS systems. Really, you name it. I’ve seen a lot. So I’m pretty well equipped to answer questions and share more detailed experience and expertise with the people who are here today.

JENNY GUY: And we are very lucky to have it. I wanted to ask if there were any– you said you did a lot of googling. Are there any specific resources that you might point people to that you found particularly helpful?

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah. I always look– I mean, I don’t go directly there, but usually in the search results you’ll see Moz, The Moz Blog is probably my number one. The SEMrush Blog, The Ahrefs Blog, sort of the big names in SEO, usually the big tools have phenomenal resources. Google itself is also a really wonderful resource.

Search Engine Roundtable, Marie Haynes, which she does the Search News You Can Use podcast. There’s also a newsletter that’s like for premium subscribers. I don’t get that. But a lot of it’s in the podcast. Mediavine, of course. I mean, I can’t neglect to mention how helpful the Mediavine blog and Facebook group always are.

JENNY GUY: Go on.

NORA SCHLESINGER: You’re wonderful. I love you guys. That’s true. I’m really not sucking up. I love you guys.

The Facebook group, especially the Mediavine publisher group, but other blogging focused Facebook groups are also a really great place to ask questions, because if you’re seeing it, someone else probably has seen it and hopefully solved it. So a lot of kind of like peer-to-peer interactions have helped me answer questions.

Or if I’m just seeing something weird in Analytics, I often will be like, has anyone ever seen this? Or is anyone else seeing this recent trend? If I can’t manage to connect it back to an obvious algorithm update or something. I’ll ask around. And the community is super helpful and responsive.

JENNY GUY: We are glad to hear all those things. And we did not pay her to say that. Eric, Eric, same question to you. Talk about your SEO background. Why does Steve value 24-hour access to you?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: 24-hour? I’m waiting for like the 3:00 AM SEO question from Steve.

JENNY GUY: Yeah.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: So I guess I’m going to start with I’m a Splinter is what we determined from the beginning of the pre-game.

JENNY GUY: Splinter was good. Shredder was bad, indeed.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I’m not a Shredder. I’m a Splinter.

JENNY GUY: He’s a ninja.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I’m not a Ninja Turtle, but I am old and wise, because I’ve been doing this since 1998 I think is when I got my SEO job. And that is prior to, I think, Google really existing at that point, because we were optimizing for AltaVista. And I can’t even remember the names of any more. MetaCrawler, WebCrawler, things that don’t exist anymore.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Ask Jeeves.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Ask Jeeves. That’s the one.

JENNY GUY: Jeeves!

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Ask Jeeves.

JENNY GUY: Ah, I loved their logo.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: So exactly. I am old and wise. And the truth is SEO has not changed that much, as crazy as it sounds, since basically Google came around and kind of changed everything. And since Google came around, it’s been pretty much the Google show. And we follow what Google says. That is generally my life advice. Why you should trust me, besides the fact I’m old and wise, is because it works.

So Steve, who is the co-founder, and Matt and I started this site called The Hollywood Gossip in 2006. We decided to take our SEO skills, rather than using them for other people, but use them for ourselves. That site at its peak was getting somewhere around 60 million page views a month. And that is primarily off of SEO. So our stuff works in practice. You can see me still doing it today on the Mediavine blog. And all the same techniques I like to teach people, we use in our own posts. And they rank really well. So I would say our own dog food works. I’m not supposed to use that expression anymore. Why did I do that? Sorry. Sorry, Jenny.

JENNY GUY: You did it intentionally. I saw you think about it, and you decided to do it. I was going to say in a less disgusting way that the proof is in the pudding. And it is visible on everything from The Hollywood Gossip, which is the number one Hollywood gossip site of its kind on the internet, and then on the Mediavine blog, which grows traffic year over year, doubles. So what is the name of the series, Eric, if people are interested in following along with your SEO teachings from Splinter?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: It is SEO Like A CEO on our blog. And one day it’ll turn into YouTube. We shall see.

JENNY GUY: It’ll be so exciting. So both of these, they’re authorities. We trust them. We had a lot of fives out there in terms of expertise. So that would might like maybe going with our ninja, I would say that was the lamest Ninja Turtle, which maybe was Donatello. I like Donatello because he drove the van, and he had the bo staff, but some people did not. Anyway.

SEO is one of those terms in digital content creation that is thrown around so much that it kind of loses meaning, like I said. I would like to hear each of your explanations on what is SEO in 2 to 3 minutes. And actually, I’m going to start with Nora for that one, please.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I would say, really simply, SEO is the process of organizing your site and creating your content so that it is the most useful to Google users. And a lot of things go into that, so that is a very high-level explanation, but ultimately that’s why you should care about it. And that’s why you should learn about it.

JENNY GUY: That was like 15 seconds, and you nailed it. So Eric, top that.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Good luck. Wow. That was perfect. Yeah, no, I mean, SEO is obviously Google. It’s remembering that Google has one job, and that’s returning the best result it can for the reader. And what that necessarily means isn’t always what I think we think it means. So it’s a combination of is this the right content based on what the user is searching for. Is it a good experience? There’s a lot of factors that go into that. So SEO is trying to make sure that you are delivering the best result to Google based on what that person is searching.

And a lot of people think it’s really technical. It’s not all technical. So much of it goes into making sure you are writing that content that people are searching for. So I think SEO is a content strategy more so than even a technical skill.

JENNY GUY: That is helpful in that the point of it all is to write good content. I’m going to say this– and this is off of the– I’m going off script. Shocker. I do it every time.

Based on your definitions, it sounds to me like there might be a mind shift– a shift in mindsets, which is that instead of writing whatever content that you will feel that you want to write or that you’re passionate about writing, you’re instead incorporating what people are searching for on Google. Is there a way to do those two things simultaneously? Does being great at SEO mean sucking the joy out of writing the posts and doing the thing that you love? An I ask Nora, will you tell me that from a blogger perspective? Does making yourself good at SEO mean that you’re unhappy as a blogger?

NORA SCHLESINGER: No, it shouldn’t. Absolutely not. I mean, what you’re doing is coming up with ideas, and then iterating until you hit the sweet spot between what Google users want and what you want, like basically what you want to provide and what Google users want to consume. And so for me, for example, that looks like– I’ll be like– OK, I run a food blog, so all my posts are recipes. So I’ll be like, I have a recipe for a grain-free apple tart, or something like that. And I’ll do some keyword research, and I’ll start with like paleo, which is like another word for– well, there’s some overlap. Whatever.

I’m trying to put it into terms that I think people are searching for. So I’ll look for like paleo apple tart, grain-free apple desserts, like all these different sort of like high-level topics. And then I’ll start drilling down to see which of those presents a good opportunity. And if none of those present a good opportunity, I will look at related keywords in any way, keep going until I find the best way to describe or kind of like query that thing that I want to write about. And I might have to adapt it a little bit.

So it’s possible that people aren’t looking for apple tart. They’re looking for apple crumble or something. And at that point, I have to be– I have to kind of make the judgment call, like if grain-free apple tart is not the right opportunity, I will either pivot to like a different keyword, and that’ll change the recipe slightly. Or I’ll just– sometimes I make the executive decision to say, I just really love this recipe. I want to share it. I’m just going to put it out there with the understanding that this is not going to really help me, at least in the short-term, with SEO.

In the long-term, it might be great for like a round-up of Thanksgiving desserts or something. So there’s always a way, I think, to incorporate what you want to be doing into an SEO strategy. You just have to be flexible so that you can, like I said, find that middle ground between– sort of the Venn diagram between your–

JENNY GUY: What Google wants.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah. Like what you want to do and what Google wants you to do. I mean, that’s the cynical way of putting it.

JENNY GUY: I am cynical when it comes to SEO. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m super cynical.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I think the most optimistic way would be like what people need you to provide, and what you want to provide.

JENNY GUY: How to serve my people.

NORA SCHLESINGER: How to serve your audience. Right. I mean, really, like that’s really what it is.

JENNY GUY: Yep! And that’s a really helpful way to look at it as opposed to looking at Google as like the monster from like Skynet and Terminator. I don’t know why I’m on this kick today from like the ’80s and ’90s.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I don’t know any of these references, I just want you to know

JENNY GUY: I’m just going with it. I’m going with it.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I never watched Ninja Turtles. I totally like I’m with you, except like don’t ask any follow-up questions.

JENNY GUY: I will not ask which Ninja Turtle is your favorite. But instead of thinking of it as like Google is this faceless, and we have to please Google, thinking of it as what are people– how can I serve the needs of the people who are looking for content? Super helpful.

Eric, for you, same question. Is there a way to balance these two things out?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Man, following up Nora is incredibly challenging. She so concisely answered.

JENNY GUY: I’ll let you go first next time. I’ll let you go first next time.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: No, it’s fine. I’d rather have her answer these things. That’s great. That is, honestly, the best way to look at it. It is a balance. You’re either following a trend, or creating a trend a lot of times also with content. And that’s an important way to look at it.

If there is nobody else who has ever done what you’re writing about. And sometimes that happens a lot in like news or things in like The Hollywood Gossip. So we won’t even always be able to look through keyword research, for example, on that kind of site. And we just have to know from instinct, which I think applies actually to a lot of other types of blogging as well, not just news, like learning the types of things that your users are searching for, and then applying it to what you’re writing about, even if it doesn’t exist yet.

So that was a great example, knowing what the trendy diets are. That’s obvious. And you might be creating something new that doesn’t have any search results around. But if it applies to that diet, you might be the first person to have come up with a way to make a paleo-friendly– whatever your example was– apple tart. And now it becomes a search.

So sometimes it does work, and it’s really just about knowing your audience. And I think– I don’t know. At this point, when we do SEO articles, I don’t even have to research SEO articles, and they all do very well and get traffic. I knew web story SEO was going to be a search term before there was a term web story SEO. And what do you know? It’s one of our top blog posts. And that just comes from knowing your readers.

JENNY GUY: And also being Eric Hochberger. But you guys can all do it, too, is what we’re saying here. You don’t have to be him.

So specifically talking about– because the title of this episode is “Make Your Own Luck With Google.” And the reason why we did that was because I see comments all the time. We all do. Why does Google hate me? And it’s all over the place. It’s in Facebook groups. It’s frustration. I’ve been doing– I’ve been working. I’ve been working. I’ve been working for months, and my traffic won’t go anywhere, or my traffic tanked, or the last update screwed me, or over and over. It’s over. So EAT, BERT, Core, one algorithm shift can have a massive impact on traffic. We know that.

So much so that as publishers, we live in fear of these changes under– all the time. So let’s be basic for a second. And I want to talk about what the heck a Google algorithm shift is, and why we should or shouldn’t live in fear of them. And I would love to hear why they’re actually a good thing for readers when it’s all said and done. And Eric, we will start with you on that one.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: So I want to go back to Nora so I can just follow-up and say exactly. It’s so much easier. No, I think most of these algorithm changes, at the end of the day, are Google trying to combat, for the most part, people trying to over-SEO, or optimize to the search engine. And they’re trying to deliver the best result. And I think every SEO out there is trying to figure out how we can game the system to become those top results.

So all they’re trying to do, again, at the end of the day, is surface the best result to the reader. And a lot of times we are at odds with them, I feel, not necessarily the SEOs that are going to be listening to this. But SEOs that are for hire for other people.

So as a content creator, chances are you’re not necessarily at odds with Google. And so a lot of these algorithms aren’t going to directly impact you. They always say the impact less than 1% of search results, whatever the official Google stance is. That’s because they’re trying to combat, again, people that are gaming linking algorithms, trying to game them, basically saying, I have authority on this topic when they really don’t. So if you’re writing good content and you are properly doing things, chances are the algorithm hits that you’ll even get are going to be temporary. Just keep doing the right thing.

JENNY GUY: What is a Google algorithm?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: That was a good question. So the Google algorithm, I guess, would be the overall way of saying all the different ranking factors that go into Google. And there are hundreds of them, thousands of them, whatever the number is at this point. Back in the day, it used to just be page rank was one algorithm, or it was the algorithm.

Now there are so many different factors that go into whether your page ranks or not. And so we call them an algorithm change. So like BERT was– I don’t know– switched to natural language processing a little bit more, and trying to figure out more of the intent. Every one of them, if you like geek out about it, there’s a ton of new information every time they do an algorithm change.

But again, they’re all have the same goal in mind– delivering the best result, getting rid of web spam. So I think so much of it is everyone overanalyzes how do I optimize for EAT or BERT. You just optimize for the best user experience and writing the right content.

JENNY GUY: And we’re going to talk about this more in a second, but there’s a big one coming up in May. And I’ve noticed in the time that I’ve been learning SEO from sensei Eric that there are– if Google is going to do a big thing, for the most time, they’re going to tell you about it. They’re going to warn you, and they’re going to tell you exactly what they’re going to do to give you time to figure out what you need to do to put yourself within it.

I won’t say too much about Core Web Vitals, because we are going to go back to that. But Nora, I’d love to hear your perspective on how do you recommend bloggers change their mindset when things at Google change. Do you recommend we all go crazy for BERT and change everything we’re doing?

NORA SCHLESINGER: No. So I’m a big believer– and I’m sort of echoing some of what Eric said here. I’m a big believer in writing good content, and focusing on quality over quantity, user experience over Google experience, because, ultimately, if Google is programmed or the algorithm is done correctly, which they’re getting very good at, those two things should be almost the same thing.

I also want to really encourage people to move away from beliefs like, “Google hates me,” or “When am I going to get lucky with Google?” or any of these sort of like “It’s written in the stars” type of mindsets. I mean, if I can offer like a little tough love, I really don’t mean to criticize anyone here, but I think that if your site is being hit and devastated repeatedly and not recovering from major algorithm shifts, that tells me something about the sort of quality of your site.

And I’m really– please take this as the tough love that it’s intended to be. But that tells me that it’s time to really dig deep into your site and make some big changes. So that means looking for things like thin content, slow site speed, sort of sloppy, or difficult to maneuver site structure, sort of menus, and things like that. There also might be some authority issues. So you really kind of have to take a step back and know what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it, and kind of what you want to be seen as the authority in.

And if you are doing that, I don’t really– I mean, I, of course, pay attention to the algorithm updates, particularly when it’s something big, like the May update we’re going to talk about. I certainly want to be aware of what’s coming. I certainly want to stress test my site in advance if I have that information to make sure that I’m not going to be just like devastated by it.

JENNY GUY: Yeah.

NORA SCHLESINGER: But most of the time I don’t worry about algorithm updates because I know that there’s this one thing that Google wants website owners to do. And I’m doing it to the best of my ability. That doesn’t mean that like my site speed is perfect, or like I don’t have a couple too many plugins, or maybe I could have optimized that one post a little bit better. There’s always ways to improve.

But at its core, I really focus on the quality of my site and its content. And so I don’t have to be afraid of Google algorithm updates and various changes that seem to come out of nowhere and for no reason whatsoever punish you.

JENNY GUY: All really, really helpful, Exploring The Local Life asks will we be talking about CLS. We will, actually, in just a little bit.

I have a question for you guys. So have you ever paid for an SEO audit or course, from our audience. How much? And which one? Was it helpful to you? Tell us what you have done to help yourself learn, or improve on your SEO, and did it help? Just give us a little rundown. If you don’t mind spilling the tea, we will definitely listen to it.

So we called this– like I said, we called this episode “Make Your Own Luck With Google” because that is essentially the goal of all SEO experts. And all SEO advice is while we can’t predict every change that will happen with the Google algorithm, there are things that we can control. And it’s about controlling the things that we can, and optimizing in the best way that we can. So what is the foundation of a good SEO strategy? And I’m going to start with Nora for that.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Sure. In my opinion, it is good keywords. And by that I mean not just high potential, so relatively low vol– or sorry– low difficulty, high volume. I almost misspoke in a really unfortunate way there.

But also making sure that the keywords that you’re choosing are the right fit for your site. And that means knowing what your site’s authority is, or should– like what you’re trying to make it, making sure that all your content kind of fits under that umbrella, and then making sure that the content that you are creating is very useful, educational, and in most cases– I’m not sure like The Hollywood Gossip, no offense, but that’s probably more an entertainment goal.

But I’m sort of speaking from my personal experience. It’s typically I want to educate people on what this recipe is, how to make it, why you might want to. I don’t know. Things like ingredient substitutions, storage tips, things like that that really make it a robust resource on this recipe, or this type of food.

So I mean, I think that as long as your content strategy is really focused and well thought out, to me, that is you’re the majority of the way there. Of course, there’s also technical considerations.

JENNY GUY: Sure.

NORA SCHLESINGER: But if you don’t know anything about technical SEO, if you can, take a course or hire someone. If you have the budget for that, definitely do it. But if you have to choose between devoting yourself to content versus technical, I strongly recommend– I think content will get you a lot farther in terms of being sort of the root of a strong SEO approach or strategy.

JENNY GUY: That is all very helpful. I’m going to ask Eric the same question. We have a lot of people giving all– we’ve got various things from $1,000 to $500. We’ve got audits. We’ve got some votes for Stupid Simple SEO. We had somebody said, no, Eric tells us all of it for free. We had somebody who said $1,200. We’ve got all sorts of great comments. And thank you guys for sharing all of that with us.

There’s a lot out there. There is a lot out there offered. SEO is a big business, for sure. And we are going to get to the question on low difficulty and high search volume in terms of numbers in a minute because we’re going to talk keywords next. But Eric, what is the foundation of a sound SEO strategy to you?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I can’t just say ditto again with Nora? I mean, it’s the same concept. It’s like making sure that you’re writing the right content that readers are searching for. It’s always going to come down to I say like 90/10 versus content versus technical. The technical SEO is such a smaller aspect.

And who cares? If nobody is even searching for the term or you’re going after the wrong term, you can have the fastest site, the most perfect site structure. But if you don’t have the right keyword or you don’t have what someone is searching for, who cares if you rank number one for it? What matters most is that you’re ranking high, and you balance that kind of difficulty that I guess we’ll be talking about next. But making sure this is attainable within your sights level of expertise or authority.

And again, this is not a knock on you as a person, as Nora was saying before, like this is just you have to recognize what your quality level is to Google. And it’s not necessarily a quality you are as, obviously, a human being. But even as a– let’s say you’re a cook.

JENNY GUY: The algorithm is not that advanced yet.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Right. You might be making the best recipe in the world. Google doesn’t have taste buds. They’re not tasting your actual recipe. So I don’t care how good of a cook you are. Google doesn’t know. So you have to look at it from that lens.

What is your level of expertise within Google? And then what do they think you’re an expert at? Making sure you’re blogging about the right things is the most important part of your strategy.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. That was very helpful. And again, it’s not personal. It is an algorithm. It’s a machine. It’s not judging you as a person, or you as, like Eric said, your skills as a crafter, or cook, or parent, or any of whatever it is that you’re publishing about.

I want to talk about keywords. And we actually had a question about low difficulty and high search volume. But keywords are if you were to choose two or three large concepts in SEO that are the big foundational ones, keywords. And Nora started out with keywords, so I’m going to go with Eric to talk about keywords. Give us your high-level keyword strategy or advice. And if you can work in low difficulty and high search volume, that would be great, too. Just go ahead. Let’s watch him do it, everyone.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: All right. First, you’re going to need a good keyword planning tool. There’s the Google one. That’s free. Keyword Planning Tool, they’re very creative with their naming over there. And that is geared towards people that are buying Google AdWords or buying paid search results.

And honestly, that’s what powers most of these different tools you’re going to end up buying anyway. So if you use SEMrush, like we do, key search. I’m sure there’s a million other people can share in the chat. But the most important thing is having a good keyword research tool that you know how to use and you come back to, because you are going to have to go and search the terms you want to go after. Don’t necessarily always look at the competitive score that all these tools give you, because a lot of times that’s going to be based upon paid search.

So we’re saying what’s the difficulty level of you winning? A lot of times you just want to go and search incognito or private browsing. That should be your best friend whenever you’re doing SEO. Always browse private. So it’s not giving you search–

JENNY GUY: Incognito, right?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Incognito or private browsing for Safari people that are out there. Go into those kind of– go and make sure you search the search term you’re going after. And you should probably be able to actually figure out the difficulty yourself, rather than using a tool. Look at who’s ranking in the top 10, and if those are all names that scare the bejeebus out of you, move on to the next one.

That is how I do keyword difficulty, as funny as that is. I don’t trust in the tools, because so many of them are just really spitting out the paid keyword difficulty. And that’s not necessarily true for all of them, but I would use that as a gut check to figure out what that balance is. And again, it’s about figuring out your level of expertise. And you are the one that’s going to know over time where you’re most likely to rank on a term. And we have on the blog like, “How to Read Your Own Google Search Console.”

JENNY GUY: Yep, we’re sharing that one.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Go and find something you already know you’re an expert on. And those are things you’re going to be more likely to rank on. So it’s learning what you’re an expert on, and what you’re going to be likely to rank on. That’s what that difficulty balance is. But then making sure there’s search volume for it. You can be the best expert in the world, but going after a term that has 10 people searching for it, probably not worth your time.

JENNY GUY: We’re getting a lot of people that use SEMrush. We’re getting people that use various other things. And then we have Mediavine member Brandon Gaille just released RankIQ, which helps you target high volume, low competition keywords specifically. It’s a brand new tool, but it seems to have great promise. That’s Rachel. We actually had a question about RankIQ. Do either of you have experience with that one? No?

NORA SCHLESINGER: No, not really.

JENNY GUY: We’ll find out. Maybe we’ll ask questions. Nora, same question to you. Give us your high-level keyword strategy, please.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah. I would definitely echo everything Eric was saying. I use Ahrefs for– I’m not really sure how to pronounce it. It’s A-H-R-E-F-S. It’s kind of the direct competitor to SEMrush. I’ve used both. My personal preference is for Ahrefs. I think it makes keyword research easier. It just, to me, kind of emphasizes keyword research and tracking more than SEMrush does. So that’s my preference.

I tend to start with the site’s authority, and try to characterize in roughly three to four kind of umbrella terms what are the themes that we are trying to establish the site’s authority for. Then for each of those terms, I start brainstorming fairly large concepts that are– I mean, this is like a little nebulous, but not quite as specific– or not quite as broad as the authority term, but not so specific that I’m going to get kind of backed into a corner if I start searching on that term.

So I start with those subterms. Gosh, I wish I had like a chart or something. But basically, I start with all these things I’ve been brainstorming. I start one by one putting them into my keyword research tool.

JENNY GUY: And you Ahrefs or Ahrefs?

NORA SCHLESINGER: And I use– yeah, the one that starts with an A.

JENNY GUY: Aha-refs.

NORA SCHLESINGER: And then– Aha-refs, I like that. That’s actually kind of what it should be called. And then I start to drill down on those concepts. So sometimes the first keyword idea that I came up with is actually a great fit. And I’ll talk in a minute about how I determine fit.

But then sometimes I start drilling down, looking for related keywords, iterating on that keyword, things like that. So I do– it’s as much an art as a science. And it does take some time to do good keyword research.

And in terms of the fit, I have difficulty in volume parameters. And one thing I really like about Ahrefs is that it separates out sort of the organic difficulty of the keyword versus the PPC– the paid search difficulty, or cost of the keyword. So you can kind of ignore the paid– so I mean, that’s just not what I do.

JENNY GUY: Right.

NORA SCHLESINGER: So for my purposes, I ignore the paid search metrics. And I can look at the organic difficulty. Then the last thing I do is I actually search the term for most of the terms that I– if I’ve settled on writing them or kind of going after them, I actually search the term, because sometimes what happens is because, as you said, Google is a machine. I mean, it’s only as smart as its inputs. And so sometimes I’ll see that the top, let’s say, 10 pages, there aren’t a lot of high competition, or high authority competitors competing for this term.

But what you actually see when you look at the SERP is the first 5 to 10 competitors are like massive sites that you will never compete with. And I’m not going to write something if I know that I have zero chance of getting to the first page. It’s just not really worth your time.

So my last step is always to Google the term to make sure, number one, it is actually what I think it is. Because with recipes this is less of a concern, but if you’re doing– I don’t know. We have clients in all different categories. So sometimes something sounds really great, and it turns out it’s a competitor’s brand name. And so you can’t write– you don’t want to write for that term. So it gives you just a final gut check on whether or not this is the right term for you.

As far as the actual numbers, I’m backing up a little bit here to the difficulty in volume parameters, I just want to echo what Eric said. You should know what is appropriate for your site, because it depends so much on where your site stacks up to competitors, meaning like, what’s your authority, your level of authority, your number. What’s everyone else’s? Sort of where do you stand relative to the pack?

So I can’t really give you a number to shoot for. I would say lower is better. Lower difficulty is always better. But it’s not always higher volume is better. So I would rather go after a lower volume, lower difficulty keyword that I know I can get on the first page for. And by that I mean like a couple hundred searches a month, not like four searches a month.

And it just really depends. If you’re building a brand new site, go after the ones that are like a difficulty level of one, but maybe only have 50 searches a month, because you’re just trying to establish yourself, versus I’ve been blogging for seven years. I can go after a higher difficulty level, higher volume keyword.

So it really varies by site. And I can’t really give specific parameters. But I think checking the SERPs, comparing yourself to whoever else is going after that keyword, that’s a really good metric for kind of getting a gut sense of where you stand.

JENNY GUY: Very– I love that your last step is to just Google it and see where– see if you’re actually getting the things, all of those fancy keywords, all the things you might be paying for or not paying for. But at the end of the day, use it the way a user would, and see if you’re actually going to get what you’re trying to do.

We got some feedback from Michelle Grubb-Blackwood but she said, I actually find that they are both, good but Key Search is user-friendly, but SEMrush gives more details. We’ve got more people loving Stupid Simple SEO courses. Eric actually has a segment on the Stupid Simple SEO. So we are also fans.

I don’t know if you guys can help with this one or not. We’ve advised them to email in to support. But we’ve got a comment here that says Google had an algorithm update somewhere in December or January. And I had a jump in traffic. My health check site is all teal. But I think there was an algorithm update in February. And I see my site traffic gradually decreasing. I’m not sure how to go forward from this to stop the decline since I’m not changing much on the site, and just carry on writing the way I did. Is there something they should be looking for, Eric?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: If their search volume is declining, is that what they’re saying?

JENNY GUY: So it sounds like they had– whatever algorithm update was in December or January gave them a jump in traffic. Their site health is all teal. But then something in February happened, and they started to see the traffic decreasing. They’re not sure how to stop the decline

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I mean, generally, if you’re ever losing traffic, the first thing I do is see which terms you’ve lost traffic on. Maybe your terms haven’t even dropped in traffic, and it’s just a change in seasonality, depending on what you blogged about. So it’s always important to compare the same time period. So are you down for this time of year in February? And maybe you had a 10% year over year growth last month. You have 10% year over year growth still this month. And maybe this is just your natural trend.

But really looking. Did you lose a keyword or did those keywords lose searches? I mean, that’s going to find your answer for you. It may not even be an algorithm change. And a lot of times you see it’s not.

It may just be something you wrote about has now dropped nowhere near a link from your home page anymore. Maybe it just dropped down in your feed. And you just need to bubble it back up, whether it’s republishing it, which I don’t particularly love, or writing new complementary posts about it, and linking over to it, reminding Google, hey, I still have this great content. There’s a lot of different strategies that you see on losing a ranking. But it’s tough to know what without knowing the exact cause of decline.

JENNY GUY: But it is helpful to tell people to zoom out a little bit. It very probably might have nothing to do with an algorithm update. It just could be your natural trend. So look at year over year traffic. Look as many years back as you can in Google Analytics and see, is this something that happens every year?

Yeah. Lizzie Maz just said, check Google Search Console, too. Go in there and look, and investigate before we immediately say, Google hates me. We’re moving away from that. We’re going to look at year over year traffic, and zoom out a little bit.

Another core concept of SEO is linking. I would love to bust some myths here. I would love to know, are external links more valuable than internal links? How many links is too many in a post? Is there a goal we should set when we’re writing a post? Nora, let’s start with you on that one, please.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I don’t think one type of link is more valuable than the other. I think they’re definitely valuable. So external links– and by that, are you are you talking about external links that point to your site or the–

JENNY GUY: I mean, yes. Yeah. Getting a backlink from somebody else.

NORA SCHLESINGER: OK. Right. That’s what I thought. So external links are extremely valuable for basically convincing Google that your site is as valuable and authoritative as you say it is. So the more– so this method was actually based on academic citations. So the practice of basically like if you write a paper about something really scientific and complicated, if other really smart scientists start referencing your paper in their future papers, or research, or whatever– I’m obviously not a scientist, nor am I an academic, but this is how I understand it goes– that confers a lot of authority onto your report, or your findings, or your paper, or whatever as like sort of the benchmark for this kind of information.

So Google, because it was founded by nerdy academics, and I say that with love, they borrowed this concept when they were programming Google to understand authority. So if, let’s say, I write– well, actually, I have a great example. I have a post about ratatouille. It’s actually not even ratatouille. It’s like pretty ratatouille, which is called something different in French. It doesn’t matter.

But the point is it was just this sort of like one-off post. I didn’t really– I had fun making it. I posted it. This was before I was really serious about SEO. And it just went like bananas. And the reason why is because quite a few– I think it started with one very, very high authority vegan site found it and linked to it. And from there, lots of other food sites linked to it. And eventually, I think it was on BuzzFeed at one point. And I can’t remember where else it’s been. But it’s like made the rounds.

So all of these extremely high authority sites in the food space pointed back to my site via this Ratatouille page. And they said like, hey, we think this is a great recipe. And so Google said, like, oh, well, I think your site knows a lot about food. And you think this other site, Nora’s site knows a lot about food. So I’m going to infer that Nora’s site must know something about food, because you’re a credible source. So that boosts my authority level, so to speak, with Google.

So backlinks are something that I really highly recommend going for organically, which means write great content, get it out there, and if you’ve done that, people will find it, and link back to you. Submit it to things like foodgawker. Although, that’s not as helpful as it used to be. But submit it to sites like that if you’re kind of new and you’re trying to get yourself out there.

I don’t typically recommend that individual bloggers reach out for backlinks, like do cold backlink outreach. What you can do is reach out to people who have referenced your work, or maybe link to your homepage. And you want them to link to a specific page or vice versa. There are appropriate ways and I think productive ways to reach out for backlinks.

I’ve never done that. And I just keep writing content and have a decent backlink profile. So again, like almost everything I’m going to say kind of boils down to write really great content and get it out in the world. And the right things will happen.

So that was a very long-winded explanation of external links and their value. Very quickly, internal links are extremely valuable for both getting your content found, because Google follows links throughout your site, like as though they’re kind of hallways, and also just sort of establishing the structure of your site, establishing similar posts, conferring authority internally, setting up priorities. So internally, if a bunch of posts link to this one post, Google will say like, oh, this post is really valuable, or useful, or whatever, and will kind of take a closer look at that.

As far as kind of minimums, I do– I recommend at least one internal and one external. And now I’m talking about outbound links, not backlinks.

JENNY GUY: Right.

NORA SCHLESINGER: But that you want to sort of share the love. Google likes to see you pointing to other sources, because it assumes you can’t possibly be the authority on every single word you talk about . So pointing to other resources.

I like to do about one link per like 500-ish words, one internal, one external. So typically in my posts, I do about two to three of each roughly. But whatever makes sense kind of organically throughout the post. I don’t try to force it.

JENNY GUY: All amazing advice. And I just wanted to clarify one quick point. There were many things I wanted to jump in on, but that was all good. And I wanted to get through it. That was great.

When you’re linking out to someone, you want to show love. You want to be a good web citizen. You don’t want to link out to someone who is writing a post that is the exact same– trying to target the same keyword that you’re writing about, right?

NORA SCHLESINGER: Absolutely. Yes.

JENNY GUY: OK.

NORA SCHLESINGER: What you want to be doing is– I’m trying to think of a great example. But so in the ratatouille post, my recipe calls for a spice mix called herbes de Provence, which is like a very specific regional– well, it’s not really regional, but it’s a spice mix that is supposed to evoke sort of a region of cooking. I think I pointed to– I want to say Wikipedia maybe, or some site that kind of defined and elaborated on the spice mix, and what’s included, and kind of where it comes from, and what kinds of recipes it’s typically used in. So I wasn’t pointing to like another ratatouille recipe.

JENNY GUY: If you use this ratatouille, this ratatouille is better.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Right. Try this superior ratatouille.

JENNY GUY: This is so much better. Look, their pictures are better, too. There’s a video. Go look at this one instead.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Right. So the idea of wanting to write really thorough content that really kind of like answers people’s questions, and educates them, and makes them confident enough to make this, in my case, recipe. It’s always going to involve some sort of like, here’s some more information about this element, or learn more here, or watch this video for like how to shape– I don’t know– like bread dough, or something.

I’m trying to think of examples on the fly. There’s always going to be something that you should be teaching the audience, but don’t really have the resources for, like you don’t have a post on your site, or you don’t have a post yet maybe. And so there’s always going to be a reason to link outbound, and kind of share the love, so to speak. But also kind of reinforce this purpose of like educating the reader in the best way possible.

JENNY GUY: Yeah. Providing the best user experience. It all keeps rolling back down to that. Eric, I’m going to let you talk a little bit about links. And then I’m going to– we have about four really good questions come from the audience. So you talk about links, and then I’m going to fire these at you. Please.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: OK. I echo everything Nora said. Real quickly, I mean, honestly, like internal, external, and backlink. I like to separate external and backlink. They’re all equally important, but for different ways. So as Nora said, you’re giving a citation.

So doing that with an external link is good. It’s actually good. It is good to be seen as you can trust me because I have a citation. Imagine writing a book report back in school and not quoting anyone. You would be failed.

So look at it the same way with Google. Don’t get an F. Get an A. Cite your sources, not necessarily your competitors, at least.

JENNY GUY: Good sources, though. You know who else thinks this? Steinbeck, and here’s why. Don’t be like my Aunt Doris.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Right. Exactly. Or your fake news, I don’t know if– don’t do that. Quote someone that has authority on it, and you trust, and you would say, I am willing to bet my entire authority on this one person, because if they go bad, you can get penalized as well.

But external links are good to link to people. And internal links are still super valuable, because, again, it’s something you control. You don’t always control backlinks. But now that you’re an expert on ratatouille, in that ratatouille post, you can link to similar recipes, and you can now spread some of that authority that you got from those other sites. And that is your power, because that’s internal links.

Number-wise, I’m a little more aggressive it sounds like than Nora. I like to do– I don’t know– a link every couple– every paragraph or two, honestly, if you can, internal links.

JENNY GUY: Internal.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Yeah. External, I like a minimum of one on a post. If you can have more than one, that’s OK, too. It’s often good.

I’ll give a quick example because I think the audience might want one. With a lot of the SEO stuff, I will obviously link to Google if there’s a respected article. So here I’m talking about this. Here’s a link to the SEO Starter Guide, not necessarily a direct competitor to what I’m writing about. If I’m talking about a Core Web Vital, maybe I will link to web.dev, which is Google’s resource on how to improve your Core Web Vitals. There are a lot of things you can link to that will help your readers that aren’t direct competition to your search terms.

JENNY GUY: I knew that we would run a long time. We might go a little bit over. Will that kill anyone if we go a little bit over? We’re not going to get to all the comments, and there’s just too much. So I’m going to fire a whole bunch of questions. Astra said, “Which Is better when updating content, just updating a post or updating and republishing it?” Nora, I’m going to start with you on that one, because the next one is Search Console, and I want Eric to do that one.

NORA SCHLESINGER: 90% of the time I would say just update it. I’m not a fan of republishing. The only time I would recommend republishing if you have like totally overhauled this post, and it’s more new than not.

So if you’re optimizing– if you find that something’s ranking for a keyword on page three and you just want it on page one, and you kind of like tweak this, add that, move this paragraph, whatever, definitely don’t republish. If you’re like basically replacing all of the text, updating the recipe to be a new recipe, and replacing basically everything but the URL, then I might recommend republishing. But I would say 9 times out of 10 I do not republish. I just update.

JENNY GUY: Also, I know I’m meant to go quickly and not do this, but I’m going to do it anyway. You said something kind of key there, which was you’re updating everything but the URL.

NORA SCHLESINGER: URL, yeah.

JENNY GUY: Why would you not change the URL on your post?

NORA SCHLESINGER: Oh.

JENNY GUY: I know. I just went can of worms, and here they go.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah. I think the simplest way to put it is I think a lot of people are tempted to update the URL because they think that communicates to Google what the post is about. Google has a million other ways to figure out what the post is about, and can totally deal with the cognitive dissonance of your URL not matching the title and recipe and whatever. And again, I’m talking about food blogs, but this applies regardless of what your topic is.

The reason I don’t update the URL is because you can do way more damage with either like a duplicate URL, or a duplicate post, or an improperly setup redirect, than you can– and it’s very easy to kind of screw up a redirect, or just like screw up the process. So there’s a lot more potential downside to updating the URL than there is to leaving it as is, even if it doesn’t match the post.

And no one’s ever going to call you out on that. No one is going to be like, this was supposed to be a post about cinnamon rolls, and it says cinnamon buns in the URL. No one cares.

JENNY GUY: OK. Eric, anything to add to that before we go into Google Search Console?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: Look at YouTube’s URLs. That’s all I’m going to say. But that was perfect, everything Nora said.

JENNY GUY: Nicole Burkholder said, “I’m a bit confused by Google Search Console. It will tell me that I’m on page two for a post query, but when I search incognito, I’m not seeing the post on the SERPs. I never know if it’s truly accurate and trustworthy for making plans on what to work on for SEO.”

ERIC HOCHBERBER: If we can’t trust Google, who can we trust with the tool? So a lot of times, yes, first, go incognito. It’s important to know that Google has different servers throughout the entire world, many, many servers, more than we could ever comprehend or count. And so chances are if you’re hitting a different data center, you might get different results. And that’s just an average across all of their different data centers.

And there’s also different sections of the search engine results. So you have carousels. So if you’re a food blogger, you probably are very familiar with carousels. If you do videos, if you do how-to posts, there’s all sorts of different sections you can get within search results. You can get position 0, which is a term that like if you just directly answer the question, they might extract part of your page and stick it at the top.

And any of those are going to count towards your ranking in that post, and so you might be looking for counting 1, 2, 3. I’m not in position three. I’m not even on page one. But you might have appeared in a carousel that’s only eligible on mobile, and you were searching on desktop. Or you might have been in a different country. There’s so many different factors, at the end of the day, you can probably trust Google there. It’s coming from their index, and that’s where they’re returning things from. You’re probably not able to verify and see it.

JENNY GUY: OK. I’ve already determined that we’re probably going to have to do this again, because this is an awesome episode. Olya says, “Is it better to use links in your text for related posts on your website or is it better to use a block with pictures?” Who wants to do it? Nora is making faces. It looks like she’s got that. Yeah, great.

NORA SCHLESINGER: No, I think that’s a fantastic question, and one that I wrestle with myself, because there’s a trade-off. I mean, I tend not to use pictures, because it can significantly increase the load time of the page. Let’s say you have– and this is like– I actually use the Create Card List now.

But if I’m sticking straight to the question, I would recommend using a link, because I’m assuming that you’re probably recommending like several other posts. In other words, if it’s a post about pancakes, maybe you’re linking to like every other pancake and waffle recipe on your site, like if you like this, try these. If you’re talking about adding 4, or 5, 6, 10 more large, high res pictures to this page, you’re going to drastically affect the load time, which is a huge ranking factor.

I think that people may be more inclined– I’d almost recommend A/B testing this. You can restrict it to like one or two recommendations. It kind of depends on what you’re trying to do. But broadly speaking, I would recommend skipping the images, or at least the full-size images, and just sticking to linking text for page speed load time reasons.

JENNY GUY: Eric, anything to add on that one?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: 100% agree. Link on text when you can over images. It’ll be better for you, and trust me. How many times have you as a reader, when you’re reading a block of text, you see a link, and it’s what you want to read about, you are going to click on it. So it’s good for users, too. Don’t worry. And if you want pretty pictures and good recommended content for your readers, I have a great product for you. It’s called Grow.me. Check it out. A quick little plug.

But yeah, I mean I would not necessarily go with the images. And this is as one of the people who developed Create. So I’m still going to say plain text whenever you can.

JENNY GUY: Nicole says–

NORA SCHLESINGER: One thing, can I jump in with one more thing about linking?

JENNY GUY: Of course, yeah.

NORA SCHLESINGER: This is a little off-topic, but I just want to note that you should make sure that your theme really highlights links. So I’ve seen more sites than I would have expected that have a very, very minimal, or almost no difference between static text and hyperlinked text.

And so like Eric was saying, if you’re skimming and you see something that you like, you’re going to click on it. Not if you don’t know it’s a link. So this only really– effectively linking text only works if you have a way to highlight your links, which should be built into your theme. But I just want to call that out.

JENNY GUY: It’s got to be a big accessibility thing, right? If people can’t– you want to make this as obvious and as transparent for your readers as possible. We’re almost out of time, which is very hard to believe. I’m going to go as quickly as I can. We’re not going to get to all of them. But Nicole Hun says, “I struggle with where to place the links, either outbound or internal, in my posts. Since when I’ve had them too high up in the post, the post earns much less since readers click the link before spending much time on the posts that they’re reading.” Eric, will you take that one, please?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: See, perfect example. In-text links work. You don’t need images. Those people navigating away. I like to start with plain text at the top of my article as much as possible. I think it’s better for SEO as well just to have just plain text unlinked for the first few paragraphs of your post.

But yeah, I mean you’ve got to go wherever it’s organic. If that’s where it fits in at the beginning, do it. It’s OK if they leave. I would rather have organic, well-placed links than necessarily worrying about sending users away, especially if it’s internal, if they’re just going to another page. So that’s not so bad.

JENNY GUY: Great. This is one that I wanted to do. It’s another can of worms. Here we go. “What is your view on old thin content posts? I have quite a few old before Google Panda”– what is Google Panda? It sounds adorable– “not so good posts that don’t really get any traffic. They just sit there. But should I delete them to prevent them from harming Google’s view of the site as a whole?” Deleting old content, Nora, what are your views on that?

NORA SCHLESINGER: I think every single person that you ask who works in SEO will tell you something different. At least that’s been my experience. I waver a little bit. My personal– like the way I do it on my site– I’m not saying this is the right way– I tend to no follow them, no index, no follow them, so that Google just doesn’t crawl them. They’re not in the sitemap, things like that.

But I will say I don’t have a lot of those. I don’t have any of those like linky party type pages, or anything like that, which is, I think, a different story, because they literally offer, in my opinion, zero value to the reader whatsoever. I can’t see a situation where you would like organically link to one in a more substantive post. I mean, I’m totally willing to be wrong if someone wants to challenge this, but in my opinion, I don’t think they’re worth keeping. So something that’s like really, really thin, I would delete.

In a case where you have an old recipe from like five years ago when things were just really different, when people were writing like either a personal story, like the terrible stereotype of food bloggers, like a personal story, and then like, and here’s a scalloped potatoes recipe, or it’s just like one paragraph of text and then followed by the recipe, I would keep that, and optimize it. I would add more educational, useful text, and just in this case, maybe republish. I still probably wouldn’t republish as long as it’s still a scalloped potato recipe. But add substantive content, and it’s no longer a post that you need to consider deleting.

JENNY GUY: Fatten it up, in other words, if it’s thin.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Exactly.

JENNY GUY: Eric, same question to you. What are your thoughts on deleting content?

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I’ve had a blog post in draft form for so long on this, because I do have strong opinions. I think, as Nora alluded to before with a different topic, you can do sometimes more damage than good if you just start deleting content and you don’t properly set up a redirect, or properly do something with your site structure.

You might have something you consider thin content and had links coming in. You don’t want to lose those links. You might do more damage if you end up just blanket deleting everything from 2015 because you didn’t like your writing style back then. If you’re using a tool that will help you find things that have zero links to it, delete the crap out of it. It doesn’t matter. It has no links. I don’t know. If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? No one knows. Just delete the content. That’s fine.

But then why are you even deleting it? If there’s no links to it, Google’s not finding it. Sorry, if there’s no internal links to it, then Google won’t find it. So if there’s no external links, I think it’s safe to delete as long as you clean up all the internal links to it as well. And again, you just have to do it right. And that’s my problem with the deleting thin content is I don’t think most people do it right.

JENNY GUY: The other thing that I think that we always talk about in these circumstances is it can take a lot of time to go through to be cleaning all this stuff up. Time that– we all have limited time, and time that you could be creating new content, or updating that content as opposed to spending a lot of time going back and deleting and doing redirects, and all that stuff. I think that make more content as opposed to be worrying about cleaning it up.

And I think that I totally get it as myself as a person who likes things to be neat. And if I have pivoted in my theme, or whatever, and there are all these posts that no longer fit the theme. And they don’t get a ton of traffic, but they get some. The users aren’t using my site the way that I am looking at it. They’re not looking at my old posts from five years ago. Nobody is doing that. So it’s not impacting other people. Is that fairly accurate? That it’s not– people aren’t viewing my site the way I view it.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: There’s not some thin penalty from Panda that goes to your whole site. It’s just that post won’t rank. Google looks at individual pages. So if you have some thin content and nothing links to it, that’s fine. Just make sure you don’t have links on your home page, on your major cornerstone content, on any– if that is like four or five hops from the home page, it doesn’t matter if it’s thin content.

JENNY GUY: Speaking of–

NORA SCHLESINGER: I also remove tags.

JENNY GUY: Oh, please.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Sorry, I was just going to say real quick.

JENNY GUY: No, yeah.

NORA SCHLESINGER: I will move categories and tags from it so that it’s not showing up in any indexes, like any menus on the site. I just try to make it as hidden as possible.

JENNY GUY: Put a rug on it, you know? It’s like the stain on your floor.

OK, guys, unfortunately, we are out of time. I have a final question for Eric and Nora. This is– we’re going to have to have it back. There are more questions in the comments. We had a question about Grow.me that we’re having emailed in.

While we know that SEO is a long and never-ending game, as is proven by this live with all the questions, we can’t help loving quick wins and action items here on the show. So to close out their episode, I would love for each of you guys to give your top tip that people can go and do right now without paying a ton of money, without emailing an expert, or getting an audit. What can they do today to help their SEO?

And I’m going to quickly make an announcement, and then we will start that with Nora. Our next Teal Talk– you guys, this has been an amazing hour. Thank you for being here. We will be back in two weeks, which is Thursday March 25, at 3:00 PM Eastern time. We are going to have– Eric is going to come back again, and then we are going to have our Grow.me product manager Sam Seeley. We’re going to be talking about– dun dun dun– first-party data, and Grow.me, and cookies, and all of the things that are coming our way, and some exciting new developments in the Grow.me product. So we hope you will join us there.

But guys, this has been an amazing hour, so much information packed in. I want to do it again. Nora, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to come and give us so much expertise.

NORA SCHLESINGER: My pleasure. It was great.

JENNY GUY: Will you lay us our tip, that tip on us about your top tip.

NORA SCHLESINGER: Yeah. I would say decide what your site’s authority is, what you want it to be, then put blinders on, and ignore all other themes, contents, keywords, trends, you name it, that doesn’t fit in that nice little package that you define for yourself.

JENNY GUY: Super helpful. And we are going to share in your links where we can find Nora. If you want to find her on her blog, at her day job, where she’s the casual, amazing CEO, that will all be linked up, as well as a Theory of Content episode that Nora did. So all of that is available there. Eric, same question to you.

ERIC HOCHBERBER: I’m just going to steal Nora’s answer so I can quickly do something else. Yeah, learn when you’re an expert on. Search through you Search Console. Find what you’re an expert on. Write about that stuff, related content. We have awesome blog posts on it we can link to.

I’m going to take it just to quickly say the May update, because I know a lot of people had questions about that, and we ran out of time. I promise you Mediavine is not ignoring CLS, or LCP, or FID, the three Core Web Vitals. Every tool that we have we are making sure are optimized for all three. And yes, we have a fix coming for ads for CLS. So May doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems.

And again, remember, just one ranking factor. You can still be failing all three of those and still rank. It’s going to be crazy. It’ll be fine, I guess what I’m trying to say. Relax. We will try to help you as much as we can.

JENNY GUY: I also promise you that we will have a Teal Talk episode before that algorithm update comes. And we will talk about all of that in detail. We’re going to have to have Nora and Eric back because this was great. Thank you guys for being great as always. And we will see you in two weeks to talk about cookies, and data, and privacy. Thank you guys again.

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