Listen in as Enleaf founder Adam Chronister and MarketMuse Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Coyle discuss how to ensure your success in Search is everlasting.
Jeff Coyle: [00:00:00] Welcome to another MarketMuse content strategy webinar, I’m your host, Co-founder, and Chief Product Officer for MarketMuse, Jeff Coyle. Today’s discussion is titled how to ensure long-term search success. And it’s going to be a discussion focused on a lot of common misunderstandings and notions about SEO that give it a quick fix or black magic or hustler public image.
And think differently and consider paths towards building a foundation for real growth as multidimensional and less likely to have you on a rollercoaster or watching your analytics every five minutes. My guest’s webcam is not operating, but now I’ll intro him. He’s the founder of Enleaf, Adam Chronister thanks for joining us today.
Adam Chronister: [00:00:41] Oh, my pleasure. Yeah. And sorry about some of the technical issues, but I’m sure it’ll be a great conversation, nevertheless.
Jeff Coyle: [00:00:48] Yeah, absolutely. Tell us a little bit about yourself and Enleaf what you’re currently focused on.
Adam Chronister: [00:00:53] Yeah. I guess a little background about myself. I’ve been doing digital marketing in one form or fashion for about a decade now. My background, originally out of college, was in software development. But I pivoted quite quickly into a digital marketing focus and have been doing that in some form or fashion ever since.
Jeff Coyle: [00:01:16] So when you go in to let’s say a client what cracks in the foundation, are you typically looking for, or what shortcuts are you typically seeing the most?
Adam Chronister: [00:01:25] Often the very first things, and this is where my kind of web background experience comes into play, is I’m going to take a close look at kind of their website infrastructure. And I tell people point-blank, if I feel like you need a new website to accomplish your goals, I’m going to just come out and say it.
And there’s been other, clients of ours where we’ve said, “Look, you’ve got enough of a base. We need to make some changes and some tweaks, but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” The very first thing I’m going to look at is the infrastructure and the framework. Then work our way out from there.
Jeff Coyle: [00:02:01] Yeah. So definitely something that is commonly missed. I know you do a lot of, Shopify, WordPress, and CMS related strategic insights. So, is that something that you think about, like CMSs or platforms? Did it go from homegrown to standard or those types of things?
Adam Chronister: [00:02:19] Yeah, we pay a lot of attention to platforms. You mentioned the two that we’re probably most involved with right now. That’s WordPress and Shopify.
So, a lot of clients come to us initially wanting a website. Then usually, the conversation ensues into, “Okay, what do you want the website to do for you? is it just an online portfolio?” And ultimately, most people are like, “We want it to generate traffic.” So that’s where we can talk about a larger offering where let’s have our in-house team build a website that’s got all of the structural integrity that you’re going to need. Then tack onto that a marketing strategy that is right and relevant for you.
Jeff Coyle: [00:02:58] Hey, Adam, I think you probably noticed we had a little bit of technical issues. So, I’m dialing in via phone today.
How frequently is it that you hear that content on their site to date and content plan for the next three, six, 12 months is based on data or based on some sort of long-term strategic goals versus aspirational keyword research, that type of thing?
Adam Chronister: [00:03:22] Most of our clients are probably not even technically sound enough to even understand how strategic content works into the whole scheme. So, we ended up doing a lot of upfront education to explain where content fits into the realm of visibility online.
Most of the time, we have to inform and educate on why all of this stuff is important with our particular client base.
Jeff Coyle: [00:03:53] You’re saying many of your clients aren’t even coming to the table saying that content will be successful for us. They’re not even at that point.
Adam Chronister: [00:04:00] Many of our clients are SMBs, so most of them don’t have a decent grasp of a lot of the minutia you and I are probably familiar with. I think from a cursory level, people understand, “I need a blog,” but when you get into, okay, why do you need a blog? That’s kind of where the understanding ends. And that’s where we explain that.
Jeff Coyle: [00:04:22] I think that’s really an interesting thing, and that creates such a big leap. But I think it also, I’m sure people are coming to the table with their perception of what the solution is that gets them. And I’m saying this very tongue in cheek. You can’t tell it because my video’s off, but their perception of, I want to rank for these keywords and how they get there. So how often do you see people coming to the table with, “I think I’m just going to do one thing one time, and then I’m done, and I’m going to rank? “
Common SEO Shortcut
Adam Chronister: [00:04:52] Yeah. it’s still a challenge for us communicating that. We even run into clients that have a hard time understanding the difference between organic ranking and paid. You would think people would have a better grasp. But honestly, when you’re not in this world, if you’re just running a small business, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking like, “Oh, how did my competitor get placed in position one or position two and I’m in position 10?”
Jeff Coyle: [00:05:18] Yeah, taking that a step further. We frequently change business strategy for clients, and it typically manifests as if I want to drive growth in this area, I’m going to have to build, 500, 600 pages this year on that topic to be able to compete. Whereas this other one, it’s much more of a layup. Maybe it’s 30 pieces this year to grow out and grow our authority. Often, we’ll have teams say, we just can’t invest $150,000, $200,000, $500,000 in content on that topic. Let’s lean into the other one.
The Diminishing Importance of Keywords
If you’re an SMB, what do you do to even take that a step further and get into things like natural language processing, things like topical authority, things like the exhibition of expertise and, multimedia?
Adam Chronister: [00:06:06] Yeah. Often, when it comes to that, we end up doing a lot of content on behalf of our clients.
When it comes to content creation, especially writing for the web, it comes down to a give-and-take between writing for the human and search intent. But luckily things are starting to bridge that more and more. And that kind of gets into like natural language processing, or NLP. So essentially, the search engines are getting smarter at understanding and parsing context. And so, there are tools out there.
Google has an API, and they have a free tool that you can pop your content into, and it will tell you how they understand the topic of the article. So, it’s a way for you to discern what Google will understand or what this artificial intelligence understands about search because we’re really in the realm right now where AI drives most of those sorting algorithms.
The more you can fit into that environment and understand it and know how to write around it, the better you’re going to be in those search rankings.
Jeff Coyle: [00:07:19] Yeah. And that’s the fundamental of what we’ve been doing now for six years. It’s assessing what it means to be an expert on a topic and how that maps to what you’ve already created and doing it in an editorial like you mentioned. It’s give-and-take doing it an editorially responsible way.
The phrase I hate the most, actually I hate many phrases, but one of the phrases I hate a lot is the phrase SEO content. Oh, it makes me just cringe whenever I hear it. Because it’s just this natural sense that by writing great content, that’s optimized, it will be low quality or have that low perception of quality.
And that’s the mission of MarketMuse; to eliminate that dynamic where you think that if you’re going to get advice from a search engine optimization professional will lower the quality when really it’s inspirational.
I think when you get writers thinking less about keywords and more about, “Hey, let’s put our business’s best foot forward.” They get behind it more quickly. And I think that’s connected to how you sell these SMBs vision.
Adam Chronister: [00:08:25] Yeah, and going into that, communicating how to take that content, and making it so that it is engaging.
Many Keyword Practices are Outdated
We have a certain methodology that we put together that. It’s formulaic, but it’s formulaic in that the objective of this writing outline is to help users continue down the path. Because like honestly, most web content is not read in its entirety. The longer you can keep folks either on that particular piece of content, the better you’re going to build into those user signals, which also impacts that ranking scenario.
Jeff Coyle: [00:09:02] Right? You said it. Are you getting that information from a sorted list of search volume? No, you’re getting that information by empathetically understanding what the user will want next.
The next five pages they’ll want to read. And the cool thing about that, as you said it earlier, is that leads to them trusting that you know what you’re talking about.
Adam Chronister: [00:09:25] Yeah. So, whenever I preface to clients how we organize keywords. I like to emphasize the following. I essentially tell them that we are going to try to optimize each page for a particular keyword. But I preface it with that saying, but above just the keyword what we’re trying to do is a key thematic element.
So, I’m starting to move the way I described the process away from a particular keyword because that’s just not how the search engines work anymore. I’m careful not to feed into kind of older practices where you’re just ultra-focused on one particular keyword. Many people in this industry have maybe gone and put out a piece of content, and lo and behold; it starts to rank for terms that weren’t even on your radar, maybe periphery.
And I also try to deemphasize the over-focus on particular keywords with clients. I think gone are the days where you can realistically rank quite easily for one or two terms. Even if you do, you put yourself at a lot of risk if that’s where you’re putting all your eggs.
Jeff Coyle: [00:10:35] Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s where I feel when you’re speaking with somebody, it’s pointing them to examples, right?
Often, with small businesses or sites that are relatively new, there’d be homepage headings as well. Ninety percent of their traffic is going to their homepage, and it’s ranking for all kinds of things cause they’ve naturally developed authority based on their brand. I think that what you said is right on. That intent mismatch, where the page you have ranking for lots of things, thousands, in some cases, tens of thousands of things, one of those things isn’t very targeted against that page. And I think that’s a really important thing.
There’s a Better Way to Identify What to Write About
How do you prioritize, or how do you communicate how you will prioritize what you’re going to write or what you’re going to update and create?
Adam Chronister: [00:11:20] Yeah. So as far as the process, we’ll use those data points to figure out, okay, holistically, what is the market around a particular product or service looking for? And how do we write content engaging and in-demand? Interest data connected with the search volume traffic data becomes the scheme by which we create a lot of our content.
Jeff Coyle: [00:11:46] And how do you give advice? And I know, we’ve built a technology that tells you how to, how difficult it’s going to be for you, for your clients to perform well and organic search in a personalized, difficult to have.
How do you implement that for a small business client that maybe wouldn’t have access to that type of technology? How do you communicate how hard it’s going to be for them?
Adam Chronister: [00:12:08] A lot of times it’s just showing them where the competition lies and sometimes we’ll have conversations where we’ll create a range of, data essentially saying, okay, we could go the long route in which the payout is going to be larger, but obviously the competition is more in-depth. Or we can go against less competition, but the reward is typically less viable. That’s not always the case. sometimes we uncover gold nuggets where it’s ” wow, there’s a lot of interest for the said search query and not a lot of competition.” But that’s far and few between that doesn’t happen every day. There’s always someone on the other end that’s playing the same game for maybe one of your competitors. Right?
Jeff Coyle: [00:12:54] No, that’s good, good insight. You’re setting expectations and trying to give them insights that let them know they’re going to have to be in this for the long haul.
They’re not starting, and then they’re able to stop. And I know you do a lot of other channels how do you use data from those efforts to guide or validate the level of budget for creation or optimization? What do you look for to guide someone on designating a certain amount of their budget per page because of how important it can be for gathering data?
Adam Chronister: [00:13:28] Yeah. With paid, we like to roll those into our larger strategies, which is one interesting area. Because if you work with many companies that are primarily in paid media, the challenge they have is most of the money, the ad spend, is going to Google. To even make money, a lot of these agencies that work primarily with paid advertising have to take on very large budget type clients.
So, most of my clients are SMBs, so they don’t have a $30,000 ad spend budget. They probably have maybe a couple of hundred dollars. We like to put a small conservative amount into paid and mix that with our SEO approach explaining kind of a couple of things.
One, that the paid media will help to shortcut the time needed for SEO to work. So that usually keeps people satiated. Two, I like to communicate that sometimes the organic rankings and the paid rankings can complement one another.
Jeff Coyle: [00:14:41] Yeah. You said a lot in that, but it’s very aligned.
Adam Chronister: [00:14:46] You have to know your audience, you have to know your own market, and what you’re willing to rise up against, to beat out the competition and become more present online.
Jeff Coyle: [00:14:55] Awesome. We are out of time. Thank you again, Adam.
Adam Chronister: [00:14:58] Thanks, my pleasure.
Jeff Coyle: [00:15:00] All right.