Activate Takeaways: Andy Crestodina on Semantic SEO

Andy Crestodina
How can you rank in Google?

Ranking in Google ultimately comes down to two factors.

  • Authority
  • Relevance

How authoritative is your website? How trustworthy is it, and how can search engines tell that it’s trustworthy?

How relevant is your website to what people are searching for? How well does it answer people’s questions?

At Activate, Andy Crestodina walked attendees through the specific tricks and tactics they could take to rank in Google—and to ensure that they maintain those rankings even as Google keeps updating their algorithms.

Building authority in Google

How do you build authority in Google?

Right now, links pointing to your site are the most important factor that affects your authority. SEO tools like Moz have created the concept of “Domain Authority,” which is a number from 1–100 that shows how easy it will be for you to rank in search results.

You can check your Domain Authority for free using Moz. Once you have that information, you can use it to see what kind of keywords you should try ranking for.

ranking cheat sheet

SEO ranking cheat sheet

How can you increase your Domain Authority? By building links. But how can you build links in a scalable way? Anyone who has ever sent link building emails knows that their success rate is pretty low.

The answer? Make some friends!

Guest post on other websites. Seek out content creators and include their quotes in your work—other creators are the people most likely to link to you…because they also create content!

This approach to link building makes your blogging more effective as a whole.

social link buildingSocial link building

Signaling relevance in Google

How can you show Google that your content is relevant to what people are searching for?

Keywords!

SEO is evolving past the basic keyword optimization and research that was common as recently as 5 years ago. But it’s still important to understand the basics of keyword research.

When you try to decide what keywords to rank for, you’re looking for three factors.

  1. High search volume
  2. Low competition
  3. Relevant to your business

how to choose a keyword

How to choose a keyword for your business

How do you find good keywords? There are a lot of keyword research tools, but Google Keyword Planner is free, and a good place to start.

Google Keyword Planner Example

Ok, and once you have a primary keyword, where do you need to put it on your page?

Andy pointed out that Google cares about providing the best experience for searchers. Searchers only care about the stuff that they can see—which means that keywords matter more when they’re in more visible areas of a website.

Places to use a keyword:

  • Page title (<title>)
  • <h1> header
  • Body text (2-4 times every 500 words)
  • Meta description

Places it matters less to have a keyword:

  • Image alt text
  • File names
  • Meta keywords

Andy also shared a simple formula for how you can incorporate keywords into your headlines: (keyword + colon + number + headline with benefit).

Or, as in the example he gave, “Web Content Checklist: 21 Ways to Publish Better Content.”

Beyond simple keyword research: Target the broader topic

Google used to rank the pages that had the most keywords jammed inside them. Not anymore.

Amit Singhal quote

As Google becomes smarter and smarter, it’s able to learn the overall topic that a page is covering. Instead of looking for keywords that exactly match the search, Google looks at the page to see how related it is to the general question the keyword represents.

How can you signal relevance to an entire topic? Better research. Andy shared an example from his article on website footers.

When you start typing something into Google, Google gives you suggestions. That’s Google telling you what it thinks is relevant to your search!

A tool like keywordtool.io scrapes all of Google’s suggestions and gives them right to you.

keywordtool.io

Other free tools include Answer The Public and Ubersuggest. On the paid side, SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs are the most common tools (and have some free functionality).

Andy wound up with a long list of keywords related to his topic of website footer design. Then all he needed to do was include them in his piece as he was writing.

website footer keywords

The result? A high ranking blog post that’s generated 60,000 unique pageviews and over 500 links.

website footer design rankings

Because it’s optimized for the overall topic of website footers, it ranks for over 2500 different phrases.

The third search factor: Happiness

How is happiness a ranking factor? Well, as Andy said in his talk: “If someone searches for a keyword and they find you, would they be happy?”

Google wants to give people the results that are most relevant to the things they are searching for. Because of that, they use “user interaction signals” to tell how much people enjoy the pages they visit from search.

Signals like:

  • Click through rate from search results pages
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page

If you want your site to rank well in search, you need to make sure that you give your website visitors a good user experience.

In addition to being helpful for search…this just makes sense. Your website exists to drive content and action and leads—and giving people a negative experience on your site isn’t going to help your business.

How can you improve user experience?

  • Headers, subheads
  • Bullet lists, numbered lists
  • Bolding and Italics
  • Internal links
  • Multiple images

Make it as easy as possible to read your content. That means short sentences and paragraphs. It means breaking up long, blocky text. It means having lots of images to keep things interesting.

Jason Fried quote

But note: it doesn’t necessarily mean short content.

Long content can actually provide a better user experience than short content. Why? Because it answers more of people’s questions.

Also, it’s better for your marketing by almost every metric.

Flipping through slides, Andy shared data on the effectiveness of long content.

  • Long content gets shared more
  • Long content attracts more links
  • Long content correlates with high rankings
  • Long content generates more leads

Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. LOTS of pictures. Long content.

How can knowing about semantic SEO help you in ActiveCampaign?

ActiveCampaign isn’t an SEO tool. But understanding how Google decides what content to show in search results can help you use ActiveCampaign better.

Why? It all comes down to this quote from Andy.

“If someone searches for a keyword and they find you, would they be happy?”

When someone comes to your website, there are a few goals in play:

  • They are looking for an answer to a question
  • You want to attract the right people to your website
  • They are going to leave as soon as they get their answer
  • You want to get their contact information and stay in touch

In other words—you need a way to convert visitors from semantic SEO into contacts. Otherwise, what’s the point of all that traffic?

“Message matching” with ActiveCampaign Forms and a welcome series

By now, you’ve probably tested out a “sign up for our newsletter” call to action.

I’m going to guess it didn’t go all that well.

With email inboxes crowded, most people aren’t really looking for another random newsletter to sign up for.

But email marketing is a still a huge, high-ROI marketing channel. People do sign up for email lists—they just don’t do it on generic forms that offer vague benefits.

what most newsletter forms really sayIf most newsletter forms were totally honest

How can you convert more website visitors into contacts (and leads, and customers)?

Message matching.

Message match your visitor’s “searcher intent”

People who come to you from Google have a specific searcher intent—a specific problem they’re trying to solve.

So if you want to convert them into contacts…offer them more stuff related to their problem!

You can offer a lead magnet, or just highlight a specific benefit in the copy for your CTA.

Once you collect contact information, you can send people through a welcome series that gives them more information on the specific problem they were trying to solve.

welcome series automation

This is possible because ActiveCampaign lets you create as many custom forms as you like. Specific forms can be used to trigger automations, and you can even trigger actions based people completing the form itself.

ActiveCampaign form actions

A form that adds people to a list and a deal while segmenting

That means you can create as many different lead magnets and welcome automations as you need.

So when someone finds you because you did great semantic SEO, you don’t need to offer them something generic.

Instead, you can make a specific offer that’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Conclusion: The future of SEO

The keyword stuffing of the past doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, as Google gets smarter and smarter, the future of SEO is in creating content that answers questions. That solves problems. That signals relevance to an overall topic instead of trying to optimize for a single 3-word phrase.

Once you do signal relevance, offer more. Give more information. Solve related problems.

In ActiveCampaign, use calls to action that are customized for each of your highest performing posts—so that you can give website visitors exactly what they want.

Ask yourself: “If someone searches for a keyword and they find you, would they be happy?”

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