Andor Palau encourages SEOs in 2023 to worry less about the next shiny object and focus more on accuracy: work on the details of what you do and be accurate in your processes, because there is less and less room for error as time goes on.
Andor says: “My number one tip is accuracy. That may sound a little weird because it’s not talking about the next shiny object or any specific tactics – I’m talking about a necessary habit.
All SEO consultants, or people in agencies, can probably understand this idea because, when you do a lot of analysis and audits, you see a lot of self-made issues which shouldn’t be there in the first place.
When we talk about accuracy, we’re talking about choosing the right keywords for the right landing pages, so that the targeting is better, and the landing page better fits the user intent. We’re talking about internal linking - not creating broken links or broken URLs, and using the right anchor text. We’re also talking about structured data - how it’s implemented, what information is needed, and so on. These are all problems in SEO.
When you see websites that are dealing with performance issues, for shorter or longer time periods, there is rarely one smoking gun. There is usually a collection of things going wrong. This is why working on details and being accurate in your processes is so important.
Google is getting more and more sophisticated, and search is getting more and more sophisticated, so there is less room for error. We need to become more aware of the fact that it’s not a game anymore, and we need to work really precisely on things.”
What inaccuracies do you see in internal linking?
“Internal linking is a very good topic because it is something that is totally in your hands, so you can influence 100% of what you are doing there. It starts with using the right anchor texts.
We know the anchor text is passing signals, and the better the anchor text is, the better the signals are. Check which anchor text you are using. Are you using non-descriptive anchor texts for important keywords or important landing pages? Try to improve the situation there.”
Should you be using keyword-rich anchor text all the time?
“In internal linking, there’s no penalty for having exact match anchor texts. Try to use an anchor text that is descriptive, and it makes sense to have an eye on that.
SEOs often use one specific anchor text, or a collection of anchor texts, for topic optimisation on a landing page. Don’t use the same anchor text for 20 different pages. That’s also not what we want to have in SEO.
All of this is down to accuracy: simply checking the list of anchor texts. With whatever crawler you’re using, you can sort the anchor texts and see if they are on different target pages. Then you can go through that.
We can also talk about broken links and broken landing pages. If you have a massive site, with several hundred thousand pages, are you sure that you are not creating URLs with no items, for example? For shops, marketplaces, or classifiers there are some mechanisms that generate internal links which are totally redundant. You can check for all of these kinds of things.”
You’ve used the phrase ‘signal inheritance’ before. What do you mean by accurate signal inheritance?
“Signal inheritance is connected to internal linking. We know that internal linking has three tasks. The first task is accessibility, the second is prioritisation, and the third is signal inheritance. When we talk about signal inheritance, we are mostly talking about anchor text, and using descriptive anchor text to make sure that you have clear lines of signals.”
If you’ve got two or three pages that could potentially rank for a target keyword phrase, how do you decide which page should be your target landing page?
“There are several things to check. Which is performing the best right now? Which has the most external links? Which is driving the most (or the best) conversions right now?
I would look at a collection of signals. If you think that there is no transformer, and all of your landing pages are actually targeting the same intent and the same group of keywords, then you just have to choose one and go with that. Then, you can combine the other ones. It’s as simple as that.”
What are some common mistakes that happen with structured data?
“When you look at the documentation, there are some expectations from Google in terms of how information is provided, and not misusing structured data for other things. When you want to implement something, you really need to check the implementation documentation to make sure that you’re using it right.
I actually just received some information from someone else about a manual action based on the misuse of structured data in job postings. Job postings is one area where Google has a lot of strict rules. It’s important to really check the documentation and have an eye on that. Also, check that you use the right URLs for your structured data.
Another common error is with FAQs. Sometimes, folding FAQ elements are automatically combined with structured data, but you are only allowed to use that data once on a page. If you use these elements three times on your page then you have three times the structured data, and Google will show that as an error. Things like that are very common when we talk about structured data and accuracy.”
How do you identify which internal links aren’t optimised or accurate in terms of the text that you used?
“Again, it’s about taking those lists from your crawls and actually going through them. I’m an ambassador for Oncrawl, so I’m using that, but most tools will easily get you that data. Whether it’s Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, etc., all crawlers should be able to do that to some degree. Then you can easily go through the list.”
Is there a process that SEOs can follow to ensure that they’re more accurate in the future?
“I’m a huge fan of checklists as part of the process. Making checklists for almost everything you’re doing is very important. We often only talk about checklists when we talk about migrations but, depending on the team setup and how many people are in your team, it is important to have these kinds of checklists and processes.
Errors often happen when knowledge is not passed on to the next person in the right way. You can catch those errors by having a really good structure, good processes, and a good checklist. That’s something I would definitely spend some time on. The bigger the team, the more important it is.
In some ways, accuracy is also a mindset. You really need to be willing to make those checks again and again and again. If you have tickets - something was developed, or a change should go live - then there should be a process. There should be checklists and there should be at least two people looking at those changes. There should be processes that are clear, like ‘no rollouts on a Friday’, for example. All of these things can make sure that accuracy is increasing on the site.”
What kind of impact can accurate internal linking have? If you optimise all of your internal links for a target phrase, would that affect your rankings?
“Some non-descriptive anchor texts will have less of an impact than others. What happens quite often is that anchor texts with different meanings are used, or a different query, so the anchor text does not match the intent of the page. These are bigger problems than having very generic ‘home’ or ‘click here’ links.
In the end, if you’re totally happy with the performance of that URL, feel free not to change anything. If, however, you want to carry out every possible optimisation, then I would definitely check the anchor text again.
As we said at the very beginning, it is often not just one thing. When it happens with one URL out of a hundred URLs, you probably won’t see that big of an impact. When you’re optimising several thousand URLs on your domain, then this can really impact your rankings.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“One thing I have in mind is not to lose your focus. I’ve been an SEO myself for more than a decade. I know we all love to work on several things, and new things are always coming up - the next thing you want to check, the next thing you want to improve, etc. – even though you already have a list.
I try to focus on three or four things, work on them for a long time, and make sure that I really get an improvement there. Take a few things all the way to the end rather than starting a hundred things and not finishing anything. Choose two or three topics for a year (or a quarter, whatever your timeframe is) and work on that, but work on that with a focus.
Another thing you shouldn’t do is overanalyse without testing. Be aware of the fact that, sometimes, you simply have to test things. Put it online and see what happens. If your assumption wasn’t right, then you can roll back, but we tend to overanalyse and not act. SEO is still about getting things online, getting things changed, and seeing what happens.
From the company side, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of SEO. Companies should invest more into it. I often see companies hiring SEOs, but they only get one tool and expect them to do proper SEO with that. We all know that having one tool for SEO is not enough. You don’t hire someone to repair your car and give them one tool. Companies need to have the awareness that SEO needs investment. It means having a budget for research and development, having a budget to hire the right people, having the budget for the right tools, and also having the freedom to test things.”
Andor Palau is an International SEO Consultant and you can find him over at andorpalau.com.
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