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Effective Ways to Increase Traffic Organically

In conversation with Joseph Mas

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, our guest is Joseph Mas, Chief Knowledge Officer at Razor Rank. Dawood Bukhari got Joseph talking about E-commerce trends and his experiments with SEO over the years. Dive in as Joseph enlightens us with best practices to drive traffic to a website and effective ways to increase the conversion rate.

It is so much easier to rank number one for that product phrase or number two, if you rank number one on every long-tail keyword you can find.

Joseph Mas
Chief Knowledge Officer at Razor Rank
Hello, everyone. Today we have with us Joseph Mas, Chief Knowledge Officer at Razor Rank. Joseph, thank you for taking out time and welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure and a joy.

I am excited to have you on the show today. And dive deep into questions about SEO and gather some knowledge bombs from you. But before we do that, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your company.

So, again, my name is Joseph Mas. I’ve been in web development, marketing and SEO since about a year before Google came out. I remember thinking, what a dumb name. Next thing, you know, they take over the entire Internet. So I have a considerable amount of experience. And about six, seven years ago, we formed up Razor Rank with a couple of other people that have the same amount of experience, and we’ve just grown like crazy since then because of the need out there. Whatever company you’re with, if you provide a good service that brings value to your clients, they’ll love you for it and stay with you for years. So that’s my background a little bit. I also think that optimizing your site is not just a site-wide thing. I think it’s a company-wide thing. So you might have many people on your team and stuff like that. It’s not just your web developer or whoever’s doing your keyword research. You need to start from the top down. So that’s my philosophy and background, and let’s see if we can help some people.

Recently, Joseph, a new update came for robots tag indexes embedded, what are your thoughts about it? How does it work? Can you tell us more about it?

I was thinking about this a lot – and I can see the need for it, especially for media publishers and that type of stuff. Sometimes we’ll do a PPC campaign and we have great landing pages, but there’s no index; however, a great video came out of it. So we might want to index that video, but not the page that it’s embedded on. So those are great use cases for the index embedded. But really, I think it’s probably not something that most people or companies would use out there in the world unless you are a media publisher or do many creatives with embedded videos. So that’s my take on it. And the way I look at it, unless you have, let’s say, an Unbounce page that you don’t want to index, it’s just for PPC. If you’re going to create something to go on the web, why not index it? Unless it is one of those cases. If possible, I like to index everything because it adds more value and authority to your site overall. Does that answer your question?

It does. I was thinking about it when it came out. The first thought that came to me is why would they even come out with it? You don't think of the use case then, but you're right. When I started thinking about discussing it with my team, you're right in such cases. Also, for these publishers, a lot of focus is being made on videos, right? There's a lot of good content out there. So I do get your point.

But another thing, just a little side note to that is if you’re going to create videos and that kind of stuff, I always try to use YouTube. Why? Because it’s a Google property. It has a domain authority of 91. On your description page, it is a do-follow link. But it may be a no-follow on your video pages, but it still adds a lot of value. So why not use the resources that Google has provided for us out there and use those to the best that we can to get as much authority as we can out of the sites that we work on daily and get all the juice you can out of it?

Joseph three trends that you'll see in E-commerce SEO?

So I see a couple of different trends, and honestly, the landscape is shifting at an avalanche pace. It seems to be one of the first things that I noticed, this is kind of off-topic just a little bit, but I noticed we worked with a lot of big-name brands that you probably drive past every day. And a lot of these companies are updating their platforms. That is like a whole different ball game. Right? But they’re doing it on purpose because some of those sites are antiquated; they don’t have the functionality you need. You have to hard code even simple things like embedding a video in some of those platforms. So I see a big shift and moving to new platforms like Magento and Shopify, making it easier. The other thing that I noticed about digital media is becoming very prominent, I mean, very prominent. So if you have a great product page, but you don’t have a video about it, you’re probably losing out on a good significant portion of conversions that you could have. There are companies like home shopping networks, you go to any one of their product pages, and the first thing you see is a video of the product they’re trying to sell. I knew that their conversion rates went up about 30 to 35% on every product page when they did that. So this is an indicator that digital marketing or digital assets, I should say, are becoming mainstream. Why? Because they’re so effective. And people love videos, not just videos, but other creatives too, that are in line with the videos.

Are you talking about shifting platforms? Do you have a favorite platform or any that stands out?

Well, I think that a lot of that is dependent on the client and the size of the client. Because, for example, if you have a Dick’s Sporting Goods, they probably don’t want to be on Shopify. They’re going to need a lot more flexibility. And they have humongous teams out there and stuff like that. So in their case, they either have a custom platform or Magento because it’s so flexible. However, it’s so expensive to develop and maintain those sites that only big companies can do that on a level that will help them. So for the smaller to mid-sized companies, I see many people shifting over to Shopify because it’s easy to use, and there’s a lot of support out there in the E-commerce world. Also, there’s WooCommerce. So WooCommerce is great if you’re a smaller company because, as I said, the support out there, it’s easy to use, you throw a few plugins, you start uploading your products, and you’re up and running. It doesn’t have everything that the bigger platform has, but it’s much less expensive and easier to maintain. And a lot of companies don’t factor in the cost of maintenance. When you have to hire developers and this kind of stuff, you’re adding a significant amount to your unplanned budget. And then what happens is they have to take away from their marketing to pay for maintenance. And that’s not a win-win situation for a lot of companies. So it’s wise to do your research before you jump into a new platform. Reach out to somebody who you know has been in the business for a while and get their recommendations before you make a jump. That would be my recommendation on that. And I hope I answered that question. All right.

Thank you, you did. What was the last SEO test or experiment you did?

Well, we’ve been doing a lot with internal linking, especially on some sites that we work on where there’s a couple of 100,000 pages, including products and this type of stuff. So internal linking, I think, is something people don’t focus too much on. Most companies we work with just want new content, new content, new content. One good example is; that about six weeks ago, we had a client come to us, I think they had about 12,000 pages on their site. So I ran a crawl on it, and I hooked up GA and GSC, and only 14% of all their pages had any traffic over the last 180 days. So why would you want to go and add new content when you should go back and refresh your old one? I think of it like this. I have gangrene on my leg. What good does putting a pretty bandage around that do because eventually I’m going to need to cut my leg off, or it’s going to kill me? So my advice is to refresh pages that are more than 12 months old and have had no traffic on them. Those are the experiments we’re doing for internal linking, and I can tell you that those results are spectacular. It only takes about two weeks to see a huge increase once you start refreshing old pages. The smallest increase we’ve seen is about a 30% increase in traffic. The conversions did not increase at that level, but they still increased at a good ratio, which is much better, and we didn’t have any content. Content is kind of expensive if you have good quality content. You have to pay for writers and editors, get it posted and videos and whatever else you need with it. So our biggest experiment going on right now is internal linking, and it is beautiful.

Talking about sites with hundreds and 1000s of pages, what is your process for handling the interlinking?

Good question, because that is something that would completely foul somebody up that didn’t know what they were doing. So if you have a; let’s take a law firm that has 100 pages on their site, if they want to go after, say, car accidents, what you should do is crawl the site, export your crawl, search every title on the entire site for anything that has to do with car accidents. If you see the word car accident in a title, it is probably a candidate for a page that links back up to your primary page and car accidents. So you might have 100 sub-level pages that we call child pages, or maybe they’re even in different silos, but you need link backups to your main page on the top. This works the same way for E-commerce, let’s say that I have prom dresses as my top-level page, or category. But I might have prom dresses, sequin Pong, you know, low back, all kinds of stuff, every one of those points has a link pointing back up to your parent category. A lot of times that’s taken care of in the breadcrumbs, but a lot of times it is not. And there’s also an opportunity in the E-commerce world to get brands out there. So we had a client that does wigs, if you google anything wigs, you’re gonna see. And one of the things we did on them is we created a brand’s silo, and every single product links back up to that brand. Now they outrank half the brands that they sell. And it’s wonderful. So that’s a huge opportunity, I believe.

How often do you recommend doing site audits, particularly for E-commerce, after the initial one is done?

So we do every quarter, or every six months. When a client first comes in, we do full-blown eyes, and we want to know what we are working on. We don’t want to work on sand; we want to work on the rock when we build. So once we get past that, we’re into the phase of modifying and optimizing the platform solid. We do this about every quarter or every six months, however, we do a quick check on those because we don’t want to spend another 40 hours just checking, or doing full-blown audits when we can do quick checks on them. And it’s important to do that because usually there’s a lot of people working on sites, you have editors, you have developers, you got marketing people and everybody’s touching it. Every time somebody touches a site, you introduce the possibility of somebody breaking something that they didn’t even know about. We had a client that was like, Hey, what happened, everything got the index, one of the developers accidentally put the wrong robots.txt file in there and disallowed all. Well, that impacts everybody. So you need to do these checks. And you should see stuff in your if you have good reporting anyway if stuff starts declining, so you know, that’s an indicator, go check it. So we do four rounds of brief audits quarterly.

Does the hidden text behind the read more button on sites have the same SEO value as compared to the visible text?

So I believe it has about the same amount of value. I think it’s a minimal amount of value and there are other things that you could probably work on that have much more value. My recommendation on that is to use natural speak on your buttons. The hidden text is really for accessibility, for people that can’t read ADA compliance, which, as you know, being in this industry, Ada compliance is humongous. There are all kinds of lawsuits going around, and courts are trying to figure it out. That kind of stuff. So the hidden text, my recommendation is to make it natural speak. And what you can see with your eyes, make it something short and sweet that people can just click on and go right to it. Don’t take up half a page to say click here because you’re on mobile, they’re gonna have to scroll. So that’s my take on it. And I do think there’s a lot of value in being ADA compliant. Google does not say that it’s a ranking factor. But there are a lot of ancillary factors that lead up to your rank when you put all the pieces together. So my take is behind the scenes, use natural speak because of Voice Search and that kind of stuff also does play a role.

When planning the content of a particular page, how do you decide on the outline and what elements to include?

So on that, I would highly recommend doing it if you’re working on a new site or building a new silo, plan it out first. Crawl all your current sites and know what you have, so you don’t create competing pages. Silo that stuff out nicely. We call chop parent-child relationships. So if I’m working on prom dresses and the client comes to me and says; “Hey, we want to do wedding dresses”. I will go and create a top-level silo page for that. I’m going to plan out first. Do all my keyword research and build at least five to seven child pages or subcategories in there, of high search volume as low difficulty as possible, but not too low, because we want to be competitive, and plan that out first. Usually, that starts with crawling keyword research and planning out the pages that you want to go after based on keyword targeting. And not just normal traditional keyword research but using natural speak too because that is becoming very important.

Also, I think one test we were doing is also in addition to what you said. I think also what matters is now normally what people do is for a particular site, or a particular client, they would take the top three or five competitors.You might have 10 domains competing or different top 10-page rankings for every particular keyword, and some of them might not be in your top five competitors. So also, for every main target page, I understand it's not possible for 1000s of pages, but at least for the ones where you do not see a lot of improvement. Comparing that page with the top 10 and just see what is common in those 10. Because that gives you an exact idea of this is what Google is considering as in the top 10.

To piggyback off of what you just said, we need to do your competitors’ research. It is one of the things that we’ve focused on here, and probably one of the reasons why our clients rank as well as they do is because we look at a set of things that I feel are key, or what we know, it’s proven to be key, and that is the URL. There are a few things that I think are important with the keywords you’re going after and it should be in the URL, then the title, meta description, H1 tag, and at least once in a body. And if you do that, now your keyword density, you’re going to have about five instances of this keyword before you’ve even hit the content. Once in the content in the H1 and maybe once in the body, it will give you six, so your density will probably be about 2%. And then you don’t have the keyword stuff and all this kind of stuff, which is a huge problem. When we evaluate pages, we see they just stuffed the heck out of them. And then they wonder why they don’t rank. You don’t have to repeat your keyword 900 times, especially if you use markup.

So another thing that you can do for this is, do a Content Gap Analysis on your competitors. Now, I don’t like following things, but you need to know what your competitors do. And I have an analogy – to win a horse race, you don’t have to win by six-horse lengths, you only need to win by a hair, and that’s all it takes. So you just got to be a little bit faster than your competition and you will be ranked where you want to be.

I had somebody come to me, they were using surfer SEO for like creating content outlines and they came back to me, and they're like, hey, you know what, even the LSI count in the keyword down there, do I need to add this word 20 times in my content? I'm like; No, this is just a reference that this is what the competition is doing. And this is what is common there. You don't need to stop it as long as you have it there in your H1 title main content body, which means that Google understands this is what it's about. After that, he just has to make content sense because there's a very thin line between just stuffing keywords for Google and making it better for users. And now, Google has very sophisticated algorithms, which make it understand whether the user is getting some information or the value of the content or not.

That’s right. Also, you always want to augment with structured data markup. Because no matter what you see on the page, it gives Google a directive of what is this content about? I firmly believe in having a solid content brief. You just mentioned this. I might not be using a word that everybody else uses. A content brief is; here’s how you need to line out this page. Here’s the proposed title, proposed meta description, blah, blah, blah, all the way down the line, and even down to your H2, because your H2 can become, for people that don’t know, this is just the structure of the page are called headers. So you can structure your pages based on that. And often, we’ll use long tail keywords as the H2 is, and guess what? If the intent is huge, you’ll sometimes see the H2 show up as the title when people search for it.

Yes, exactly. While you explained that, my follow-up question would be, how important is a long-tail SEO strategy?

Critical. So here’s a strategy that we use a lot. We had this medicated shampoo. What’s the best way to get that? Go get every long-tail keyword you can and rank number one on it. And it makes it so much easier to rank number one for that product phrase or number two. And it’s huge. It’s huge. I figure it like this. Imagine a pontoon boat. And every time you get a long-tail keyword that you’re ranked number one on or in the top three, let’s say you’re adding a little pontoon underneath it so it can hold more weight. And all boats rise with the tide. And why not be the highest floating one out there. So long-tail keywords, absolutely correct a call. And honestly, sometimes we’ll go after those before we go after the broad phrase just to get the domain authority up around it. And then when we go after that broad phrase, it’s easy. This is like cutting butter with a hot knife.

Again, it depends on the keyword, the product, and the niche. But in many cases, your long-tail keywords are your money keywords. They mean more about a true buyer persona and a proper analysis. But yeah, even in that case, you're right. If you're writing on all the long-tail, it makes it easy to give those signals to Google and rank on the actual dot here.

Again, I try not to throw stuff out there, but Google just about anything that has the word wig in it, and you’ll see what I mean. I don’t care what you Google about it, what face style for wigs, what this, what that, it doesn’t matter because we got them all. And then we go down through the broad phrase, and now we can’t do Google anything without that coming up to the top. It’s just proof in the pudding and it’s very powerful once you nail that strategy. And our head goes back to internal linking, again also. Very good.

Joseph talking about link building. How have you seen link building change over the years?

So I know some of us have been around for quite a while and way back in the old days you would just go buy 5000 links for 20 bucks, and you’d come up number one, well, of course, that game has completely changed. And at this point, in the current state, what we’re finding that hits the mark much more than quantity is quality. So if I’m working on a lawyer’s website, I don’t want to go out there and get 40 or 50 backlinks that are random across directories. I do want those for citations. But what I want is things that are in the legal niche. For this example, like from Avo and Super Lawyers, I want those links that are directly related and in the niche that my client is in. So be very targeted, very specific in the anchor text that you use, pointing back to specific deep link pages, not the homepage that has seemed to push the link building efforts over the edge and the same amount of energy you would spend building a semi-good quality backlink spend that amount of energy getting one in a niche. It’s so much more valuable. We know that it’s very hard to measure the progress of your link-building campaigns, but it can be done and you should see incremental increases in your rankings and phone calls and lead conversions.

We did a test a while back for a client, where we wanted to see the impact of links. So what we did was, again, no base for analysis, as you said, at the end of the day, Google is an algorithm, and you have to analyze it well. If two pages have the same content and everything is the same, then you have differences in the authority or difference in the links. So based on that we just built links on a particular page. We did not do anything else and just checked the rankings month on month, and we saw an increase and impact, which shows that if you do, again, you have to do natural link building, you have to build links naturally, and you can't just go out there and buy links from anywhere. You're right. It still has an impact.

We spend a lot of time on real quality link building, so we don’t build them as quickly, but the ones we build have a lot more benefits. And I would rather have one nice backlink with the domain authority of 80 than 40, or 50 of the 30s and 20s, or even hundreds of 20s and 30s. I’d rather have one good one that Google will latch on to. If you look at the ranking and how that works, it’s almost like a logarithmic scale. So the higher your domain authority of that backlink that you acquire, it’s worth a lot, because those babies and those babies take a lot of time. So why not just go after the good ones right out the gate?

So what we normally do is, again, a higher authority link, or a niche focus link, obviously has value, but also look at sites which have a decent authority, maybe a DA 40, or 45. But which have an increasing trend. So you guys in that link today, because it might be easier to get as compared to a DA 90. But if it has a genuine increasing trend, it gives you that value, let's say six months down the line.

That’s just a great point. It’s kind of like investing in the stock market. You know, a company that’s brand new is going somewhere. You can see that you will acquire the link from the site. So let’s get that. I agree with that 100%.

Regarding schemas, how do you work on schemas for large sites like automated versus manual?

Automated versus manual? That’s a really good question too. For a lot of the bigger clients, they have development teams, and what we’ll do is we’ll provide them with the schema that they need so that they can incorporate it into their template. But for the smaller clients, they don’t have developers, they don’t have this kind of thing. So what we do is either drop it on the page or get one of our developers to go out there and put it in the template. But there are a lot of pages and a lot of things. It depends on which schema you’re working on. So if it’s breadcrumbs, of course, you want that in the template. If it’s video markup, maybe just create the JSON markup and drop it straight into a page because you have this one page. It depends on the client as to how we do that. And usually, that is dovetailed to the size of the client.
How much money do they have to spend on that type of investment? But honestly, markup is so important. I would spend the money on that because now you’re talking click-through rates, and Google understands your stuff. So you can have a page that 100 people see in search results, and only three people click, and you can put a markup on it, and your video, a little picture shows up next to it, and all of a sudden you get 20 clicks. I’m putting markup on it because I want my conversion rates to be four or five times the average person in the same listing results. So it’s important to do that if it’s a big enough company and they have the resources and we can modify their templates we’ll do that, so that way it’s scripted, you don’t have to worry about it. You also have to be careful with that and my example of this is; organization markup, everybody should have it, but when you put it on every page and then also when you’re working on product markup you have these conflicting markup because your organization markup and be careful where you put your markup and only markup stuff that is on the page or you could get a soft penalty for that. I will not follow a tangent on that, but I think that stuff is very important to understand.

I know we have less time but let's quickly also discuss a little bit about local SEO, mainly talking about Google maps. What are the key elements to look at when optimizing your Google business profile?

That is a great question and a very important one for anybody that has a brick-and-mortar store. We approach this from a few different angles. One of them is what we just talked about, You need local business markup on your pages but before you even do that; if you have one location I highly recommend whether you have one or twenty, have a dedicated page for that location, Don’t just put it in your footer you need more than that, then once you have your dedicated page for it and you have a good link that is everywhere and can be found easily, put markup on that page. Then build citations to that page. That is so important. People have these great pages and don’t build citations and they wonder why the phone doesn’t ring. but when you build great citations, you suddenly show up in the map pack within three to five miles from your Radius. You do your competitor and you build a few backlinks to that page. In addition to your citations, you are going to start ranking everywhere and your phone will ring even if your traffic doesn’t go up too much because we can also show up in knowledge craft and places near me. They never even hit your website, but all the work you did on the site generated what is being seen in the search results. I don’t care if they come to the site or not because it’s quite tiring to make the phone ring. I don’t care if you are doing it from the knowledge craft or the website as long as you’re tracking all those leads coming from the sea, we get the credit for it. That’s how we do it. So we have a multi-prong approach to it, citations, local business markup, dedicated page for that, make sure you Google my business is up to date, your description is well, your niche is chosen correctly. Make sure your nap matches. Those are the kind of very important things: Google my business, citations, making sure your nap matches, and then showing that your page is on-page optimized at the same time. As we talked about before the tired old description, URL, and H1 tag, make sure it describes exactly what these people are looking for and keep mobile in mind because the mobile is where some of the calls will be coming from; “I got in a car accident and I need a Lawyer right now”. It may give you one close by. This is not the best example, but do you get the point?

I get it. You work with clients that have thousands of locations, how do you ensure you are not creating spammy pages?

We create a content brief for each location page. Once you do a few of those, it becomes templated, but as long as your template is good and has everything they need, that is ok. Again, even if they have; the last one we worked on has a hundred and thirty-five locations, that is a lot of work. You have to build citations. You have to make sure the pages are perfect.
In many cases, we put videos of the Manager of that specific property, so you can go to that page and know who you will be talking to before you go there. That is the kind of stuff we need. We still approach them as if they only had one but we are just doing more of them.

Any special advice you can give to our audience that they can use and benefit from?

Just in general?

Yes.

I would say; that many people focus more on paid advertising and don’t realize how important SEO is. If you are ranking organically, your PPC cost will be less. You’re going to get shown more. You get a lot more impressions. I think fundamental SEO is still the basis for good ranking across the board, and when you do that well, you are going to notice. Your social profile is going to go up because people are going to be verifying you off your website. When I see a great thing on Facebook, I first go to check out your website. If I can’t go in to see your website I hesitate, it may be scammy spammy. When I see they have a high-ranking site, all their social channels are set up. If it is a brick-and-mortar location, I see them in map-pack and I know these guys are legit. I will say get your foundation correct and focus on SEO also. You do need paid advertising but get yourself a good solid platform to work from. And then go after everything else. You can supplement that with paid advertising. But build your foundation and make it solid. That is the best thing I would say, and then remember the core fundamentals of Google and how it works, backlinks, and content. They have six thousand filters and logarithms, but I can tell you right now there is stuff that I wrote fifteen years ago and it is still just as valid today as it was then. It just got more beneficial for people because now you can add videos and do other things, but the core fundamentals, backlinks, and good quality content that is what it boils down to. That is what I would focus on if I was a normal user out there that didn’t know too much or even if I am just planning on opening up a pizza shop, I would focus on Google local, and if you don’t know how to do that find someone who does because it will pay off in the end.

Joseph, thank you so much. Before you go, I play a quick round of rapid-fire rounds of three to five questions. I will shoot the questions to you, and you answer them with whatever comes to your mind without taking much time.

I’m ready.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee. too much coffee.

Black or with milk?

Milk

What subject would you like to learn more about?

Blockchain technology, I am neck-deep in, but I still want to learn more. I am like a sponge on it.

What is your go-to lazy dinner?

Spaghetti.

White sauce or Red?

Red

A night out or a night in?

Night In. I need my time out. Sometimes I think people like us work a lot of hours.

What was your last Google search?

To check on a client to see how they rank on local. And we use tools that I can get like if I have a client in Raleigh, North Carolina, I have a location spoofer so I can make my browser local to there to see what they would see. That was my last search.

Joseph, thank you so much for your time, it was fun having you.

Yeah. You too. This was very cool. Thank you so much for having me.

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