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Crafting Content for Visitors and Search Engines

In conversation with Andy Chadwick

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, we have Andy Chadwick, co-founder of Keyword Insights and Snippet Digital. Dawood Bukhari chats with Andy about curating just the right content, changes in link building, optimizing for voice search, and much more. Watch now for some deep insights. 

Without sounding like a broken record, always focus on the intent.

Andy Chadwick
Co-founder of Keyword Insights and Snippet Digital
Hello, everyone, today we have with us Andy Chadwick, co-founder and SEO strategy lead at Snippet Digital. Andy, thank you so much for taking time out. It has been hard to get you on the show. Happy to have you today.

Thanks for having me. I am looking forward to it. Also co-founder of Keyword Insights, which is the tool side, but that’s our main part. But thanks very much for having me and looking forward to it.

I was about to dive deep into the SAS part of your business as well. But before we start asking questions to understand more about you and your journey, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your companies and what got you in?

So, as you said, I’m Andy. I co-founded Snippit Digital with my partner, Suganthan Mohanadasan. A bit of background- I’m more content-focused, he is more tech-focused with a nice little overlap in the middle. So between us, we’ve got everything covered. We are what we call a boutique agency. We stay small but work with some very large enterprise clients. And the reason we can do that is; A- we very much just focus on SEO, and B- we’ve put a lot of our time and effort into developing our software and our tools. A few of those are licensed out to other agencies. They’re the ones you don’t see publicly. We’ve built some keyword research-type tools, which other agencies rent off of us. But we also have Keyword Insights, which is what we’re well known for. It is our public-facing SAS tool. So it helps turbocharged your content strategy, dump a lot of keywords in there, it will help cluster them and help you work out what pages you need to create for content and how those pages should be linked to each other, etc. But if you haven’t heard of it, then definitely check it out.

Sure, we'll also like to share the link for the website when we published this interview.

I thank you very much, it means a lot.

Andy, as an agency, you know, one interesting part that I found was that you are fully remote. And you are scattered across. Not that you're remote within the UK. How do you ensure maintaining the company culture throughout the organization, and any specific things you do to make the people and the teams feel connected?

It’s difficult, and there’s a debate, are you pro office or pro remote? I’m down the middle. I know as a company you’re fully remote, but I like going into an office myself. I like speaking to people and I thrive off of just being around people. I’m very gregarious like that. So it’s difficult. Short of having catch-up calls and things, there’s not much we can do. We started the actual agency side of the business only about three years ago, before it was just Suganthan and I consulting. We haven’t been able to meet up anyway because of the pandemic. So everyone has been working from home as they normally would. Now the pandemic is starting to lift. It’s a question we’re starting to ask ourselves now. There was recently Brighton SEO, where we flew a few of our team members in so that was cool. There’s one of our team members, unfortunately, he was based in Ukraine. And he’s been displaced because of the war there. We are hoping to meet with him soon and fly everyone out to Amsterdam. It’s a case of setting some budget aside for a meetup. But you are right, it is difficult to give that culture up. We’ve got all the standard things you can do. We’ve got the slack groups who send people Christmas presents, we try and make the best of it. But there is a case to be made for having office space sometimes. And it does take a certain type of person who is happy to be fully remote and stay motivated.

And with Metaverse and all these things coming you never know.

We have sent an Oculus request out to a few people to test out how meetings go and it is quite interesting. We’re not sending it to everyone yet. We just don’t feel as though it’s mature enough. But it does help.

Andy, how should marketers use keywords to craft their content, both for users as well as for searching?

Can you explain the question a little bit more?

When you talk about SEO, a lot of SEOs when they're creating content will look at the keywords and the problems of keyword stopping and just creating content from that keyword point of view. And then there's a challenge that, okay, fine, you need to create content, where you have all the relevant keywords and it also has to make sense for the users. So how do you ensure that the content you're creating is alright from an SEO point of view and makes sense for the users?

 I think if you’re trying to look at your content for users, and search engines you are already doing it wrong. I think, again, for fear of sounding cliche, if you’re writing content for users, that is keyword research lead and you’re surfacing topics you know they’re interested in, or will be, and you write naturally ensuring that you do cover everything that the top articles are talking about, will do it better. And you shouldn’t be thinking about is this SEO-friendly? If you write for the user, it will naturally do well. So I guess I’ll talk you through my process which may answer that question a bit better. We’ve got an example. We’ve got a furniture client, and we’ve done our keyword research around that. We’ve looked at what people are looking for in terms of furniture. We’ve broken those keywords down into different intents. So you’ve got your transactional keywords, you’ve got your buy oak tables, purchase for sale, pine tables, they are gonna be product pages. And then your question becomes about tech SEO. Like, is the product page optimized in terms of the title as the keyword in the title? Is it an h1? Then you get your content-based keywords, your keywords that trigger more long-form articles. When you’ve got those, then it is as simple as this. And sometimes I don’t understand why it gets overcomplicated. Look at the top 20 results on Google for let’s say the keyword is; how to sand your oak table or how to get scratches off of your table? Google that keyword or put it into h refs, first of all. Then get the top 10 articles. Whack them into SEM rush for rate drafts. Pull all the keywords that they rank for. And then your goal is basically to create a piece of content that is better than all of theirs. And it’s not that subjective. Have you covered all the same headings as them? Have you got all the headings that they’ve got? Have you got diagrams, if they’ve got diagrams? Have you got a video, if they’ve got a video? Is it better than theirs if you’ve got the image? Does it make more sense? Also look at the people who ask, have you included them in that article? And then it’s as simple as that. I don’t think this is SEO-friendly? Unless you’re talking about it, make the right headings structure under the right heading structure. So I’ve always got one h1, and then h2 and then relevant h3 is under the h2. That would be making it SEO friendly, I guess. But it’s really simple as just looking at the top 20 articles and making one that’s better than theirs. Again, word count shouldn’t come into it as well. We talk a lot about word count, and it’s going to be a minimum of 3000 words. It doesn’t. As long as you are covering everything the competitors have and if you can do it more concisely, then that’s fine as well. You don’t need to hit that word count. Does that answer your question? 

You're correct. The process you talked about, indirectly takes care of the SEO part as well. Because we have recently tested some tools. But so far SEO has helped us a lot in this process where, again, as you said, for every particular keyword, target keyword, and main phrase, you look at the top 10 URLs and then just make sure that this also helps to understand the intent of that page. Maybe a particular keyword we are targeting, as a user or as a normal person. We might think that we need to create a service page as a target page, but what if it's all informational pages or blog pages that are ranking in the top 10? That gives us an idea. Okay, fine. The intent has to be an informative page. And okay, fine. These are the main topics that all top 10 are talking about. And then I think the main content just has to make sense for the user. As you know, it takes care of the SEO as well as makes sure that the user is not bouncing off the page. So yeah, you answered it in the right way. And it makes sense as well. Talking about Google business profile, and local SEO Google business profile; what are the key elements that you look at when you're optimizing the Google My Business, and the Google business profile page?

 There are people who specialize in local SEO and Google My Business, and I’m not one of them. So there may be better people to ask specifically about Google My Business. And I have some very incredibly intelligent people who all they do is Google My Business. But for me, it’s the obvious things; making sure that the primary category, and that’s an interesting one in itself, that the primary category is the right one. For example, if you’re a secondhand car dealership, you might think that that should be your primary category. But if you look at others in the area, and there’s a lot more competition, there’s perhaps another primary category that’s similar that I would probably recommend going down that route instead. So looking at the primary category, and making sure it’s the right one and making sure if you’re going after another competitive one is there another similar one you can use. Then it’s also looking at their second categories. And I’m surprised at how many businesses don’t utilize that. Again, something I always do if I’m optimizing a local business is, that there are Chrome extension plugins, but you can also right-click and view the source code. And you can see your competitor’s primary and secondary categories, and what they’ve said.  I always map these out on a spreadsheet and make sure that I’m at least covering what they’ve done, if not more, because you can always add more secondary categories. I can’t remember what the limit is, but there are quite a few you can add. So that’s the first thing. Things like adding your opening times are basic, adding your phone number and your address is basic. Getting reviews is important because that comes upfront and center if someone searches your brand. But then something a lot of people miss out on is asking questions on your own that Google isn’t answering. So I would sometimes ask my own questions. A lot of people call up and if you speak to restaurant owners, they often get the same questions.  Do you serve this? Are your things gluten-free?  If there is a constant question you get, ask them on your own Google My Business Profile and answer them. Because not only does it take up more real estate on the search engine, you’re overcoming objections before someone’s even called you. Especially common ones they call about. So there’s a pro tip. I see a lot of businesses failing out as well. Images, again, if you’re a restaurant-  lovely images of food,  images of the outside of it to make sure it exists. There’s a big problem with fake Google my business profile has been thrown up. Fake businesses make a lot of money by setting up fake Google My Business offices and then selling those leads to other people. I always make sure, especially when it’s things like plumbers and electricians, to put an image of the front door or something if you can, because I’m always a bit wary of actually if they exist, or if they’re just sending my leads on. So there’s another way to stand out. I’m maybe a bit wiser about these things, so I know what to look for. But other people would probably do the same thing.

Talking about these fake profiles. I remember three, four years back, a lot of people were manipulating this so much and had created an actual business out of it. In the States, they were calling this rank and rent and they had businesses around this. And then I think last year, even before that the last few years, Google also has started coming down on it, and a lot of these fake profiles are getting abandoned. But there are still people that are manipulating and creating these fake profiles and getting leads to it.

Yes, if you got any images or anything on your CEOs just to make sure you’re telling people you are not one of these fake ones that always helps. If you’re a service-based company, I see this a lot, you can take your address off and ensure that you service an area and a then little red line comes up on the map and shows you.  That’s something else I see a lot of service-based companies missing out on. So yeah, there are quite a few, but I guess my pro one is that ask questions and you’re on Google My Business Profile answer them because I think that’s quite a niche little thing that a lot of people don’t do.

Yeah, it's a good tip. And thank you for that. Andy, you also worked with some big websites. This happens in E-commerce. Again, some people do it where they want to have the bigger text and they have this read more button and the text is behind the read more button. Now, we often get asked, does the text behind the read more have the same SEO value as compared with visible text? What do you say about that?

 So Google’s official stance maybe 5, 6 or 7 years ago. The answer was no, it didn’t have as much value in terms of SEO if it was hidden. Google would assume that it’s because it’s not important and therefore place less waiting on it. With everything going mobile, first, Google’s official stance on it is they’ve lifted that rule, because if you’re trying to optimize for something on a mobile, then it’s good for UX to not have just reams and reams of content available and expanded already. So their official stance is no, it shouldn’t affect it. That said, there have been tests done and I can’t remember who’s done it. But someone posted an in-depth study on it. The long and short of it was that it would seem that in certain situations, Google is still giving less importance to things behind those accordions. So I take these tests with a pinch of salt because they can’t be done in a fully, unbiased environment. So, it’s difficult to test it. So I guess what I do with my clients is, I don’t worry about it. If there’s really important content, I always make sure there’s at least a bit of it expanded. But based on the fact that a lot of users are going through the mobile, I tend to lean on favoring any potential slight negative SEO impacts on UX. I prefer the UX side of it, just because it could be really bad otherwise. And then there are other ways to force the rankings. There are other things you can do that won’t compromise that UX side of it. So I guess it’s similar to my answer. Google’s official stance is no. Some evidence there suggests that isn’t quite the case. I would make sure really important text is visible. But I don’t worry too much about everything else. And I would prefer a nice UX-looking page on mobile.

How have you seen linking building change over the years?

It’s gone from the travesties of 15 years ago. It was people spinning up fake sites everywhere and linking to you. That then went out the window with Penguin, then it became all about blog posting, which I think is losing some of its value sometimes because it’s not completely scalable. It’s quite a lot of work to get things written and then posted on other sites. There was a big update a few years ago, there was a lot of Link swapping going on. By the way, it’s still fine. It’s still fine to do. But the typical culprits were these mommy blogs and these bakery blogs who would swap my recipe link for your recipe link and it looks really bad. And then Google cracked down on that. I’m not saying don’t link up and I’m not saying don’t use blog posts, I’m just saying the effectiveness has come down. I still link swap, but I don’t link swap all the same size all the time and that’s the problem. I guess blog post is predominantly my form of link building because it’s not scalable. I certainly don’t spin up fake sites or PBN because that just doesn’t work. Link Building now I think is going towards and what I’m seeing a lot more of is big PR stunts. There’s a lot of focus on pushing the brand and getting links as a result of that. So there are quite a few big agencies that have represented like Rise at Seven is one of the obvious ones. And these agencies specialize in coming up with news and data lead stories. Oh, that’s the other one. There’s a lot more data available to us and a lot more people becoming confident with Python and things. So we can write a lot more of these data lead stories that get a lot more press. We’ve done a few ourselves. So now I’m seeing link building, becoming a lot more about getting journalists’ attention and pushing to these big pieces that get a lot of exposure. I don’t think that’s going to be around for too long either, because now papers and things have caught on and they’re a lot less likely to give you the following links. The journalists are few and far between. Their inboxes if you’ve ever seen one, it’s full of like, 300 emails, so it’s also becoming a lot less likely to get their attention. Something in Link building is going to shift again. But at the moment, that’s where I see the main gains are through these big PR campaigns. But yeah, it’s come a long way since spinning up fake websites and linking to you.

So guest posting is one of the biggest things we do and as I said, it still works. But as long as it's manual, you're reaching out to genuine sites, not linking to multiple sites on the same post. And again, when the site is genuine, your target audience is relevant. It has a main category of that target audience. It still works but you're right, it doesn't work the same way that it used to earlier.

Especially like, Harrow was a big one people used to go to Help a Reporter Out and get included, they’re increasingly those links don’t give you follow links, either. So, the landscape is changing, and people are less likely to give you follow links. So yeah, it’s coming up with these other ways of getting them.

Also talking about not getting a lot of follow links. How important or beneficial do you still see no-follow links, maybe from some big publishers, or no-follow in general, what is your take on that?

Yeah, so it’s huge. I would prefer a follow link, but I place a lot of value on follow links. Again, Google changed its stance within the last year or two, they now say that a don’t follow or a no-follow is more of a signal rather than an actual rule anymore. So they still might be passing PageRank through on some of them. There’s no way to tell officially. But there’s value. I mean, if you just get a link from Wikipedia, which is always no-follow, you’ll see the impact immediately. So there’s still some value in it. If nothing else it is getting you linked, or if it’s a branded mention that has a no-follow link. Again, Google says it doesn’t take this into account, but the more your brand has been mentioned around the internet and linked to it, it strengthens that idea to search engines. I keep talking about Google, but search engines in general, that this is a trustworthy brand. It might be a no-follow link, but if it’s constantly seeing links with your brand everywhere, it’s certainly a good sign on high authority websites. More than that, we keep talking about SEO but there are conversion benefits. If you get a no-follow link on a blog that lists the top 10 places to buy mugs, and it’s linking a no-follow link to your site that sells mugs, you might not see an SEO benefit, but the number of clicks that you get that will convert is also really good. So yeah, huge value, I’d always prefer a follow link, but I feel bad for link-building companies when they’re reporting their KPIs and the clients that only mark them on whether it’s a follow or not. I don’t think that’s what they should be doing. I think they should also take into account the no-follow links.

Trying to rank for rich answers and rich Snippets have a lot of value. How do you strategize for it?

To be honest, it’s not something that a lot of thought goes into. We do strategize for which tool to use like Hrefs or SEMrush. Looking for target keywords that do trigger them, and looking at what it is that triggered them and optimizing towards that. So if it’s a recipe, what is it that they started doing that we’re not? Is it because they use a list? Is it because they number them and market with schema? Okay, we’ll do that. Is it because an image is put through or a video? Okay, we’ll copy that.  There are plenty of guides out there, but it’s just a case of having your target keywords and selecting the right option in your HS and SEM rush to pull through the keywords that have whatever features you’re looking to capture, and then basically copying what everyone else is doing, but doing it better.

Refreshing an old page versus creating a new one. What would you use?

This depends on what it is. If it’s Black Friday, I see a lot of businesses getting rid of their Black Friday page, because it was in the URL, Black Friday sale 2021. And then in 2022, they will still take the page down on a new page, Black Friday 2022. That is bad, you are getting rid of all the links in there. And just its age, in general, has built up all this authority over time. So every time you take that page down and spin it back up again, you’re starting from scratch. So, in the case of a Black Friday page, I would always make it date agnostic, so just have it is Black Friday, not put any date in it. The date can be the page site and H1, sure Black Friday 2021. When that sale is finished, hide the page from users getting to it. But don’t take it down and just refresh it from year to year. It’s the same with any time-sensitive content, similar thing if it’s the best Netflix show of 2022. Make sure when you’re producing that content, don’t put the date in the URL, because then you’re gonna have to change it every year. But next year, just refresh it. And then it’s still got all that authority there. New pages are good if you’re looking at your content and it’s cannibalizing itself or trying to approach too many topics at once. You might want to break it out into two new pages, and refresh the existing one. And this is why we invented keyword insights. You can dump all your keywords into it and it will show you the times and the occasions where you’ve got a specific blog that you should be breaking out into two based on what the SERPs are showing. So in those instances, it’s better to spin up a new one, then refresh the old one, because we’re telling you, you need to break this out. I guess to summarize my point, where possible, I would always prefer refreshing rather than starting from scratch. But you can only do that if your URL doesn’t have a date in it, which a lot of people do for Black Friday.

What are your thoughts on optimizing for Voice Search?

I think it’s pointless. I said this five years ago when everyone was saying Voice Search should be the next thing in SEO. I was like, Why? How? What? On what planet would I go and ask my voice search for something, and then remember the result he gave me, remember where it came from? It just doesn’t happen. I think if you want to optimize towards it, it’d be the same as optimizing towards Rich Snippets. If you optimize towards a Featured Snippet, you will also get the voice search for it. If you ask who Andy Chadwick, SEO is I come upon The Voice Search because I’ve purposely done that. But it doesn’t bring any business. I just found it funny. So my thing is, and I sell this to clients who say we want to rank on voice for this, I would say why? I don’t get it. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t bring any revenue in. If you want to capitalize on voice search, make an app that you can use a voice search that can be cool. Like if you were a pharmaceutical company, you might make a specific app, where you can call upon your business on that voice thing. And then it will ask you a series of questions to diagnose you or something, something cool. But I don’t see the point. And I wouldn’t see any value in the time spent to optimize towards Voice Search.

Andy, what is your favorite client story? I understand there will be many, but the one which comes on top.

So we have a client, they’re not so small anymore. They were a startup furniture company and started a year just before the pandemic. So first-year business was slow as startups are. They started to take off then the pandemic hit. And this is a furniture company, right? So they’re a luxury goods item and people were a bit worried about the landscape and finances and people being put on forced leave. They were having a harsh time, but we push through with our content strategy. Smashed it. The company went from turning over nothing and they were bootstrapped, there was no funding, and they didn’t have much of a budget. And they went from turning over nothing to 200,000  pounds a month, which is huge. And I remember at the time, the owner of the company, he is my friend now. We’re good friends. He had to take on a secondary job. I was working at Domino’s Pizza. So you’d be working from his company from six in the morning till six, seven at night, trying to grow his company. And then from 8 pm to 1 am he was delivering pizza for Domino’s Pizza. And he was doing this to make ends meet. The content strategy smashed it, we rank for loads of keywords where we’re overstepping our competition and we shouldn’t be because they’ve got a bigger domain authority. They now earn enough to pay themselves. So when that happens, I got a parcel through the post and It was from the owner of the furniture company. I opened it up and it was his Domino’s Pizza jacket and a bottle of whiskey. And he was like, thanks very much for helping us. I’ve left my Domino’s job now.  So I have a Domino’s jacket anyway. It’s such a nice feeling. We managed to alleviate the stresses and pressure of a new startup business

It must be an amazing feeling at the time when you received it?

Yes. It’s nice hanging up his Domino’s jacket. It was nice.

Andy, any special advice that you would like to give our audience that they can use and gain benefits from?

Yes. Without sounding like a broken record, always focus on the intent. Again keyword insights does it. Loading a ton of keywords into it will tell you out of the top ten results what the intent is. Is this keyword informational or is it transactional? You hear that a lot. You hear optimize for the intent. Everyone says that. I think it is always helpful to get a real-life example. My real-life example is that you will often be surprised at some of your results. They go against what you think they should be. An example might be CBD Oil or CBD gummies, I used to think that keyword, and the way I used to categorize my keyword would mean that CBD Gummies was predominantly a transactional keyword. Surely if I type in CBD Gummies it means I want to buy one? In that case, I think six of the top ten results are informational. They guide. Should I buy CBD Gummies? Are they healthy? Do they work? So, all these companies are trying to build links to their Product Pages, scrounging around for any three or four positions. Whereas if you stop posting your content and competing with those guys out there about CBD Gummies you have six or seven opportunities to rank. And it will be a lot easier to do that. Once you have your informational strip ranking you need to hone in on the user journey between that page and your product page. So nice CTAs through and focusing on that journey. Tieing that with focusing on your intent. Another good example-iPhone 11, if you Google the Keyword iPhone 11 it means you want to buy it? I think five out of the top ten results are informational. They are specification guides. Should you buy one, reviews? so if you try to optimize your product page for iPhone 11, you know you are not going to rank it. I know I said the focus on the intent, but those are two examples of where you might be surprised and making sure that if it is informational, the user journey between that informational aspect and your product page is solid. Shopify does this very well. If you type in best digital girds I think they rank number one. You land on the Shopify page and it talks about the top ten best digital girds. And as you are scrolling through the Shopify page time and time again it’s like; ” Open a Shopify store with us” Buy a Shopify store. It is a good user journey from tuning people who are informational into the product base. In line with that intent, there is this thing.  Not all results are transactional called fragmented intent and not all results are informational. Some results are split down the middle and you will get five informational and five product bases. These are excellent opportunities to try and rank twice. So again, keyword insight shows you this. If you don’t put the keywords in it will show you five and five. I always filter for those keywords and make sure our client has both a product page and an informational page targeted. A lot of people worry about cannibalization. With this fragmented intent, it means you can rank for the informational and the product pages., with no risk of cannibalization. So also bear in mind that the site looks at fragmented intent and optimizes words there.

I thank you so much but before I let you go I play a quick rapid-fire round of five questions at the end for fun. I will ask you five questions and whatever comes to your mind answer them right away. Describe your style in one word?

Maverick.

That's a good one.

 If I don’t do anything else. If you go on my website I think it is me in a bathtub.

name one subject you would like to learn more about?

 I like Astrophysics about space. But I think if I am focusing on SEO it would be machine learning. Something we have been developing to keyword insights sometimes we use machine learning but it has gone far beyond my capabilities and we have specialists who do that but I wish I knew what they were doing. They are very clever.

What is your go-to lazy dinner?

Spaghetti bolognese.

My favorite too. A night in or a night Out?

A night out all the time.

What is your last Google search?

I am currently doing keyword research for a contraceptive brand. So I am not going to tell you what my last Google search was because it is not indicative of me.  How to get to numbers?

Andy, thank you so much. It was fun chatting with you and I wish you all the best.

Thank you very much for your time. It means a lot.

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