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Time for Marketing

Mar 2021

#34 - Michał Suski - Data driven content strategy for any business that Google will love

March 15, 2021

We are back and with a bang. Conferences are back, even if they are online only. I've chosen Michal to talk to because the topic is extremely important in SEO and SEO is extremely important for your business.

Michal will speak at the SEOCON 2021 that will take place in March 2021. Listen to the 4 key points that he prepared and check out his presentation at the conference!

Michał is the co-founder of https://surferseo.com/, you can find him on LinkedIn.

Here is the transcript of the podcast recording:

Hello, and welcome to the Time4Marketing podcast, the podcast that brings you the best marketing conference speakers sum up their presentations at the podcast and gives them to you in a short time slot. My name is Peter, and we are back. It's been almost a day, almost exactly to the day of the recording of this podcast since we've stopped doing the podcast in 2020 March, while it was the time where all the conferences were more or less canceled and there was nothing for us to report on.

I've waited. The pause was a bit longer than I anticipated. I thought they we're going to wait for a couple of months, but this is something that we can say for the whole Corona time that's a bit longer than we anticipated. We are back and coming back with a big bang. I'm very glad that we have Michal Suski here with us today, Michal from Surfer SEO or Surfer SEO tool that Michal is going to tell us all about. Michal, hello, and welcome to the podcast.

Michal: Hello, everyone. Thanks for having me. That's a big pleasure for me to be on the restart of the podcast, the first guest interview. That's a huge thing for me. I'm happy to be here.

Peter: You're very, very welcome. It's great that conferences have come back. I know that in the last year, we had conferences but we had to unlearn on how to be physically at conferences and learn to how to be online on conferences. You spoke in a couple of conferences in the last year. How is your feeling about how did going to the conference change? Is it better? Is it different? What do you feel?

Michal: It is definitely different. Well, I like it but I also don't like that we cannot meet in person and do those long hours of discussions after the stage is empty. I miss that part a lot. However, regarding the online conferences, there is this big impact on presentations quality, I think, because everyone goes to the conference now, I mean goes to the conference to get the best information out of the stage. Speakers have to push their limits to deliver the best piece of information they can. I feel like it's beneficial to the whole industry that now, everyone concentrates 100% on the presentation itself. The bar is raised a little bit. That's cool about it.

Peter: That is less fluff. The audio should be the most important part and because of that, the message must be clearer. Of course, as we used to say, after 10:00 PM at the bars, the best Lynx were sold. Probably, this is what we're missing on.

Michal: That's true. The networking part of the conferences, in the past, it was the biggest incentive for me to go for the conference to do the networking, to meet people and make those deals you mentioned. Right now, I'm missing it a lot.

Peter: I would agree. You're located in Poland. How is Poland? Are you allowed to go out? Are you allowed to able to go for a beer outside?

Michal: Yes. It's not that bad. We can go out. We can walk to the park, do hiking, and so on. However, we cannot go to the bar and have a beer. The bars are closed, and it's only delivery. You got to have a meal but you have to have it at home, which well, that's fine but better than nothing.

Peter: That's how most of the Europe or most of the world is working right now. Michal, you are the co-founder at Surfer. Tell us a bit about what Surfer is, what it does.

Michal: Sure. Surfer is a content intelligence tool. It takes you from execution and ideation. It streamlines the whole process of content creation and stretching your domain in the right direction so Google can really treat you as an expert in specific industry. The combination of tools that we have is made just for that. You can do the ideation process and then execute the content creation with the SEO-friendly approach in place. That's what we do.

Peter: It seems that there was a shift in the way how SEO is done in the last couple of years from the backlinking, to the on-site, to the specific on-site. How do you see that and how Surfer fits into that?

Michal: During the last couple of years, it turned out that Google really pays attention to putting the best answer to the query they can. This way, they have to evaluate the content much better than they used to do in the past. This is probably why on-page optimization has bigger impact than it used to have 10 years ago. That's definitely a major change and especially because Google invested tons of money into, for example, NLP with the BERT update and so on.

They just keep on learning how to understand the content much better, and this is why the content just has to be pinpoint when you want to really not only rank, but maintain rankings. This is pretty, pretty important these days. I feel like Surfer hit the nail in the head regarding the date of premiere of the tool, and the early stage drove and so on. I'm really happy about the timing of releasing the tool and everything around it, really.

Peter: Before we go to the conference, to your presentation, we are nearing the time where the web vitals are going to become an important factor in SEO. How do you think that that is going to influence a factor in SEO? How do you think that is going to influence what we're doing?

Michal: First of all, we have to know that Google cannot shuffle the search results entirely. Even though it may be important ranking factor, they can't afford on completely reversing the search results. Right now, they present the best answer they can, and if the core web vitals will become 80% of their algorithm, most likely, we will end up with totally messed search results, which they cannot afford. My opinion on this is that they will be doing this shift in a period of time. Its impact may be growing over time. However, we cannot expect in May or whenever they will release it. For real, we cannot expect a massive change in the search results. It can be significant, but it won't be overhauled.

Peter: Similar to the previous announced changes where we were waiting for doomsday but it never came, right?

Michal: Yes.

Peter: I've invited you to the podcast because you spoke at the SEOCON 2021 with a presentation called Data-driven content strategy for any business that Google will love. That's a big title, especially for the "any business that Google will love". Usually, I would ask you how the conference was and how it's being at the conference, but because the conference is online, there's just nothing to say. I'll just let you directly go into your presentations. Michal here are your five minutes.

Michal: Sure. I tried to record the presentation in the way like I'm not sitting in front of the microphone, but I actually arranged a stage and had the projector putting the slides on the wall. At least it feels a little bit more like on the real presentation. I think that's cool. Regarding the presentation itself, I created a four take-aways from that presentation. The first one is growing topical relevance based on data. It's all about not throwing topics on your page from your gut feeling so you decide, "Okay, I will write about this, and I will write about that." Instead, you should list your top-ranking competitors and export their visibility to find out which topics bring them a lot of traffic.

You can find this way look-alike topics. Stretching your content by covering those most common topics first will take you to the stage where you can start the snowball effect that I will explain in a few moments. Regarding how to actually make it happen is that you have to leverage the keywords clustering, which is all about that. The whole presentation is about creating the right keywords cluster for your domain. You are an expert in the niche that you want to be performing the best. Of course, there are many ways of keywords clustering. I have four prepared, and two of them are rather gut feeling-based and the other two are based on the Google algorithms itself.

I will just quickly mention that you can do a clustering manually or semantically to find out the semantic commonness. These two types are rather manual for the small projects that you know the industry well, so you can connect those clusters together, I mean those keywords. Regarding those two more advanced methods that incorporates Google algorithm into the equation is that you can use either search results of two keywords to compare whether they have the same URLs ranked for both, and this way you can decide if Google presents the same content, you can write for both keywords together. That's one way.

The other way is comparing sets of keywords that pages rank for. If there is a big overlap between two sets of keywords that Google ranked the same content, you can decide, "Definitely, these keywords are related and I can tackle them within the same article, even the same URL in general." What is important in that is that Google creates clusters, too. How Google creates clusters, basically by ranking pages on a multiple keywords. As you know from your experience, page can be ranking on dozens or even hundreds of keywords.

According to AA Trust case study, there is this case study somewhere on the web, you can find it out, but basically, the clusters can be big and Google cluster keywords as well. It is a great opportunity for us SEOs that you can use that knowledge, that Google creates clusters, and you can compare these clusters that Google created already. With comparing them to each other, you can base your decision on data, which keywords should be ranked together and which keywords should be separated into separate articles or shouldn't be place on your website at all.

Basing your content strategy that takes into account these clusters that Google already created makes this a bulletproof strategy, and you basically know what to write about next from the perspective of the topic that you analyzed. The last takeaway I mentioned at the beginning is the snowball effect, and this is real, really. You can definitely win a small niche with the small domain with just the content. This is a live case study that I presented on the SEOCON that even fighting with big players like Etsy, Amazon, like big e-commerce source, you can build this topical relevance through these clusters and win the serves with content, because you become an expert in specific niche.

What is crucial to achieve that is that you have to publish with regular cadence, you have to stay within your clusters and not trying to write about every single topic from IT. Focus on specific element. If you are about gardening, focus on like organic gardening. Don't try to be an expert in rakes, seeds, and pots, and everything. Keep the pace right, optimize content, and you will get there. That's it, that's the best summary of the presentation.

Peter: I fully agree with what you were saying. The keyword research, and looking for keywords, and organizing those keywords is probably one of the things that should be done a lot, but it's always underdone, if that is a word. How should we get people to do that more? How should we get clients to understand how that is important? How often should people do that? How often should they come back to the research and do the analysis?

Michal: Underdone is definitely a good word, because keywords clustering is extremely time-consuming if you don't have the right tools for that. Imagine semantic clustering when you have 10,000 keywords to group together, and the only way you can join them is that based on their semantic commonness. You include all of the keywords that contain shoes, t-shirts, I don't know, trousers and so on, the other apparel stuff into buckets, and these buckets, you can divide by the color, by the type, by the model.

The keywords clustering is not so common yet, because there are not so many tools that can help you automate that process. Actually, you can build a tool on your own. It is not that expensive, and it is not that time-consuming. I explained that as well in the presentation, that you can use some Python algorithms borrowed from science, and even basic Python skills will be enough to build such a cluster that will compare sets of keywords to each other and decide whether this set is similar to the other so we can join, or this set is definitely different, so it's a separate topic and you have to treat it separately. Results speaks for themselves when it comes to convincing clients.

You had another question about time frame and reviewing it. I would say that you can create a content strategy for three to six months, and it will be a good idea to redo the clusters again based on real-time data. It is important, because your competition won't sleep during that six months. It will be a good idea to revise your priorities and decide whether you have to redo the clustering and, well, change the order of executing articles based on how common they are, because your competitors may start covering a topic about like- I don't know, new headphones, and you want to be up to date with what they publish. Three to six months is a good timing.

Peter: The clustering should mean that we should always cover the group of the keywords for the specific niche, do everything in there, and then move to a separate niche or to a common [unintelligible 00:16:48] or similar niche. Would that be whatever needed, maybe five, maybe 50 articles or landing pages on that topic, and then move to the next one. Is that going to allow us to a better rank, not only for that niche but for the whole together?

Michal: It is important to mention that we have two levels of clusters. The first level of clusters is like cluster of clusters. Cluster of topics for the domain. Regarding the specific URL, you have a cluster of keywords. If you are considering cluster of the domain, you should cover as many topics that were found during the clustering process as possible. Regarding covering keywords within the specific URL, you have to provide this comprehensive information to the end user.

If Google created the cluster, including like 5, 10, maybe 15 topics and they should be joined together, you have to make sure that your article is comprehensive enough to provide information for all of these topics, all of these questions in that manner so the content will be complete, and you won't get those negative behavioral signals from your visitors because they aren't fully satisfied with the result.

Peter: People who are not a Python programmers like myself can use tools like-

Michal: Surfer.

Peter: -or others. I just wanted to check on that. All right. I think that's it. I think we got a very good idea on how to approach the clustering keywords here. Michal, where can people find you? Do you have any future conference plans? Where can people find you on the internet?

Michal: The best place to connect with me is LinkedIn. You'll find me there by searching my name. Regarding the future plans for the conferences, well, not really, unfortunately. Looking forward to the changes in the market.

Peter: Let's see what's going to happen. Once summer comes, I'm very eager to go to the creation seaside and see what's happening. I think that's it. The podcast, for everyone who's listening, go and subscribe. We will be back every 14 days, every two weeks, with new per speakers from all the different conferences. We started with SEO because SEO is close to my heart. Of course, we started with Michal because the topicality is extremely important and extremely timely in SEO. Michal, thank you very much for being a guest. Everyone else, have a great day and see you.

Michal: Thanks for having me.

Peter: Bye-bye.