A Guide To Schema Markup

Technical SEO is an important pillar of any SEO campaign. If you’ve recently had an audit done by an SEO agency, it’s likely that one of the things they’ll have recommended is a review of your Schema Mark-up. In recent years, SEOs have looked towards Schema as a way of helping Google to understand key elements of a website, both in terms of their content and their structure. It’s a language, if you like, that can be used to present information in a way that Google understands. Implementing a schema ensures that all the valuable work you are doing to enhance your website for the search results is being understood as best as it possibly can. For this reason, it has become an increasingly popular implementation by SEO experts.

When I talk to clients about schema I often get a blank face, especially when we talk about the way that it is implemented. In truth, schema is just a structured data language that is quite simple to understand and work with -it just looks like machine speak. However, with it being such an important part of SEO, and one that we feel is a valuable addition to any website, let’s take a look at what schema is and some of the most popular implementations used across the SEO industry.

What Is Schema Markup?

Schema mark-up is a coding language which most search engines understand. It helps to tell them more about the content of your website and comes in a range of different formats. The most common are JSON-LD, RDF-a and Microdata. Schema uses a unique semantic vocabulary to help outline key themes, elements and structures among your content. This enables search engines to more easily digest your content, and encourages snippets of your on-site content to appear in the search results. A great example of this is FAQ structured data appearing under your listing within the search results, if it has been marked up correctly:

By utilising this form of markup you are making it easier for Google, and other search engines, to understand what your content is as well as the context of the content. You’re also making it a lot easier for them to find the information and pull it through to the search results. This can give you an enhanced CTR (click through rate) and helps to showcase your expertise to new clients at an early stage.

How Is Schema Markup Used?

Schema markup is used through an implementation within the code of your website. Essentially, you wrap the content you are looking to markup with HTML or relevant coding. This then signals to search engines the copy you are looking to highlight and the style that the copy is in, eg, lists, FAQs, organisation etc… It can be implemented in a number of different ways, either through Google Tag Manager, a website plug-in (depending on your content management system) or directly within the code through a web developer. There is plenty of guidance on the Google website for support with the implementation of schema, which can be really useful for anyone who hasn’t used it before, or who is perhaps looking to implement it for the first time.

Most Popular Schema Markup Types For SEO:

Schema comes in a lot of different formats, and if you’re not sure where to start then Google has a handy list of schema formats right here. In some instances, there are websites which lend themselves better to more widespread use of schema. Examples of this might be:

Job listing websites – which could utilise key elements like estimated salary and jobPosting OR

Cooking websites – which would benefit more from the recipe carousel

Regardless of the type of website you have there are some great common types of schema markup, such as FAQ, How-To, Review and LocalBusiness markup which can all contribute to improving your search presence.

Product Markup

Product markup is perhaps one of the most popular types of schema markup for anyone who is operating an ecommerce business. It allows you to feed information to Google about your product, pricing, availability and other key attributes. The bonus of product markup is that it also enables you to turn on automatic updates in the merchant centre, helping to avoid product disapprovals and keep your products feeding well. 

Adding product markup allows a product to appear within the product snippets section of the search results. It can therefore be a really powerful way to showcase additional information about your product to your target audience. This includes things like reviews, ratings, price, availability and so on and so forth. Displaying this information in the search results is a good way to get it in front of your audience, helping to engage them a little more before they click through. If your product is coming up against others in the search results and you are price competitive, then this is also a great way to get an edge.

In addition to the basic product markup, there are some other options available to further enhance your listings; these include pros and cons lists, product pages with offers, and additional shipping details. This bonus information can all enhance your product listing. If you do have an ecommerce store, then it’s well worth looking into product schema to see how you can further optimise your listings and add additional value.

Review Markup

Review markup is a commonly used form of schema markup. It’s a great way to tell your audience about your great customer service and reviews, while also helping to improve your CTR. We know that Google’s seller ratings (reviews that appear on Ads) can boost the CTR by up to 10%. So, it’s a given that presenting your reviews within the SERP snippet for your search result is highly likely to have a similar impact. 

There are two main types of review markup:

  1. A specific review of a specific item i.e. a book review or a recipe review – in this instance the review is just for one product or one service and the reviews collated are only about that particular item. 
  2. The second type of review markup relates to aggregate rating. This is where you are collating a range of reviews of a product or service and aggregating them to give an overall score (usually out of five). This is most commonly seen when you have a large number of reviews about a specific service or a specific brand, and is the one we most commonly use in SEO.

When utilised correctly, review markup can help Google and the user understand more about the trust and authority of your website, and it can be a really great user signal to display reviews within the search results. 

Review markup, however, does come with a number of guidelines and it’s important that you adhere to these to get the most out of the markup. These guidelines include:

  • Making sure you refer to the specific product or service that your review markup relates to. This has to be defined within the code and can’t cover a “range” of products and services
  • Making sure that any reviews you are highlighting in your markup are clearly accessible from the page that is being marked up, and that the page you are marking up contains the relevant review content

Review schema can be an effective way to showcase your great customer reviews in the search results and enhance the CTR. Just make sure that you adhere to the guidelines along the way.

FAQ Markup

FAQ markup is a great way to inform your audience and to help fulfil that all-important user purpose and intent. By adding FAQs to your website you can help to answer your audience’s most pressing questions. Then by marking them up with schema you help to ensure they display within the search results. There are two main benefits to this:

a) showcasing your expertise to an audience before they even click on your website  
b) taking up a lot more real estate on the search results page, which is especially valuable for enhancing your CTR.

Before you implement FAQ markup it’s a good idea to undertake some keyword research to understand common questions that your users might be asking. A great way to do this is to look at the “People also ask” section to get some ideas from Google of similar, or related, searches. If these are relevant to your content and your audience then they can be a great place to start.

Other places to look to find good FAQs can be the small box at the bottom of the search screen:

Alternatively, external websites like, or tools like AHRefs, are great at providing a wide range of questions that your audience could potentially be asking. The latter also provides search volumes so you can evaluate the opportunities for targeting that term.

Implementing the FAQ markup is fairly straightforward and just involves wrapping the questions and answers in structured data markup. Once this is done you’re ready to start presenting your FAQs within the search results.

How To Markup

How-To markup is another great way to showcase your expertise in the search results and also to give your website an additional opportunity to perform within the featured snippets. Videos, images and text are all eligible for how-to markup. It’s best applied for content where the ‘how to’ is the main focus of the page, and where there is a clearly structured and ordered process which instructs the user how to do something. 

How-to markup allows you to explain the content in your website in an easily digestible step by step process. It also helps you to display it in a more pictorial manner if you need to. Creating content with a how-to markup in mind will also encourage you to display this clear style of content on your website, which is often popular with readers. As an added bonus, it sends great signals to search engines as it helps to demonstrate your expertise and authority on a topic in a very user-friendly manner.

In addition to presenting your how-to markup in a list format as above, you also have the option to present it as a carousel. This can be really valuable if you are looking to visualise your content, and is also a really nice way to present the content if you want to use imagery to describe a certain situation or set of actions.

In summary, if you are writing any guide style content it’s definitely worth considering the how to schema markup. Not only can it help to better structure and style your content, but it also encourages your content to appear within the search results.

LocalBusiness Markup

Local business structured data is invaluable for anyone who has a physical store presence and is looking to either attract people to their store or improve awareness about their store. This type of markup allows you to tell Google about different elements of your business, including reviews, opening times, departments and much more. Google can then show an enhanced card of information about your business when a user makes a local search result.

There are a number of options available for this type of markup, but the main option is to present a simple card markup which looks something similar to this:

This markup is visible across any local search on mobile or desktop and can also be visible when you click on a specific location within the Google Maps search. It can therefore be particularly useful if someone is coming to look at your store and needs to know key information like the exact address, the menu or opening times. There is also the option to markup a restaurant carousel, although this is a limited feature currently. 

As with any markup it’s important that your site adheres to the latest guidelines and that you adhere to the Search Essentials, General structured data guidelines and also the Carousel guidelines if you are looking to feature in that. Note that the carousel feature is currently in restricted use and you need to sign up to be able to use it.

So, if you have a local business and are looking to get visibility for a physical store, or stores, this markup can be a great way to improve your presence in the listings, as well as feature your business in specific listings that are set up just for local businesses. 

Breadcrumb Markup

Breadcrumb markup is a great way to signpost across your website and give a very clearly implemented structure and hierarchy to your key pages. We know how much Google values internal linking as a way of signposting your most important pages, and breadcrumb markup is another powerful way of doing this through quite a simple implementation.

How you generate your breadcrumb markup will depend on how many pages you have within the given breadcrumb trail and that will sit within the breadcrumb list category. If you find that you have just one page then you will require only a single breadcrumb trail, but if you are looking at pages that sit within a folder or multiple folders, then you will need a multiple breadcrumb trail.

Regardless of implementation, this is another great way to send strong signals to Google about the content you are looking to prioritise. It helps in pulling together key topical clusters with a clear navigation, while also helping to ensure that the Googlebot is able to crawl and process your content effectively.

How Do I Implement Schema?

When implementing schema, regardless of the type of schema that you implement or the process that you use, it’s important to note that you need to adhere to both Google’s Search Essentials and General structured data guidelines policies. These must be followed in order for your schema to show, and to follow the best practice guidance. 

It’s worth doing your research before implementation to understand the style of schema that you want to implement and the best practices around it. That way, you should be able to choose which of the implementation options suit you best. If you aren’t sure how to implement your schema, here are some suggestions below:

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is an interface program that allows you to work directly with your website’s code without needing the knowledge or access of a web developer. GTM allows you to input code directly into the website and is a great way to implement schema markup. You can wrap the appropriate content and implement the code that you need quickly and effectively. 

If you are looking to implement through Tag Manager there are definitely a few safeguards that you can put in place, bearing in mind that you are likely to be working with the code directly. Firstly, it’s important to check that the code you are implementing is correct from a structured data perspective. One of the quickest ways to do this is to run it through Google’s Schema Markup Validator to check that it’s valid markup, before you implement it into GTM and then into the code itself. The second step here, once you have it in GTM, is to make sure you run through the debug menu. The debug menu is put in place to help you test the website before sending something fully live. As you are making code changes, it’s important to test that the functionality of the website continues to work effectively and that there isn’t a conflict with any of the existing code.

GTM can be a really effective implementation if you don’t have access to a dev team, or if their time is tied up elsewhere. Just make sure you put the correct processes in place so that it’s implemented without causing a conflict on the website.

Website Plug-Ins

Website plug-ins are another option if you are looking for a relatively clean and simple implementation. Depending on the CMS that you are using there will likely be a number of options available to you. Developers will often have built a shell, in which you simply input the information or text you are looking to markup, and it will then mark it up directly for you. 

WordPress, Shopify, and a range of custom CMS platforms can offer some great plug-ins that slide straight into your website and have a super friendly user interface. In most cases, these plug-ins allow you to input the text directly, and the plug-in itself has built the framework into the website to allow the schema to display properly. This can make your job a whole lot easier, and can often ensure that the schema is implemented to best practice guidelines. 

As with anything, if you are implementing a plug-in make sure that you test it thoroughly before sending it live. You need to be checking that it doesn’t conflict with anything else in place on the website. It’s also important to ensure that you keep the plug-ins up to date so that you avoid any potential vulnerabilities or issues.

Direct To Code

Direct to code is another way that you can implement schema and is best done in the hands of a professional web developer. If your developer has experience implementing schema markup then that’s a bonus. If not, then thankfully Google gives some pretty handy guidelines, in the format of codelab, which can be a huge benefit for anyone who is looking to implement schema direct-to-code for the first time. 

Direct to code can be one of the cleanest ways of implementing schema. It means that you are able to do it whilst utilising minification and other elements which help to ensure that additional code doesn’t slow the website down too much. It also means that you can implement it in the way that best suits the structure of your website.

As with any type of code implementation, it’s important to test before you push the changes live. It’s therefore worth setting the code up on the development server, then testing it with the structured data markup tester before you implement the changes on the live site.

How Do I Test If My Schema Has Been Implemented Correctly?

There are a number of different ways that you can test if your schema has been implemented correctly. These range from tools that are provided by Google directly, through to tools that you might already have, such as Google Search Console. Either way, we’d always recommend checking the implementation of your schema or auditing your existing implementation. Not least because you may find areas of further opportunity, or simply discover areas where you could update existing implementations, to remove duplicates or add in fields that might be missing. 

If you are looking to check whether your schema has been implemented correctly we would recommend the below options:

Google’s Schema Markup Testing Tool

Google’s Schema Markup Testing Tool is one of the quickest and easiest ways to troubleshoot your schema implementation. Freely available to use, you simply input the URL that you are looking to test the schema markup on. The tool will then tell you whether or not the schema is implemented correctly. It will also go into more detail around if you are missing specific elements and how you can fix it to ensure that it adheres to guidelines.

This is one of the most popular tools in the SEO community for evaluating the performance of schema on a particular page and for identifying where further improvements can be made. It feeds back the information in an easy to use interface and is a great way to create an audit of your existing schema which you can look to fix and implement:

Hopefully, if your schema is implemented correctly, then it will look something like the above. If not, then it will highlight the areas where improvements can be made and you can action these to get your schema working how it should be.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is another way to check the implementation of your schema and to check that there are no errors or issues with the implementation. Within Google Search Console you have the option to review individual areas of schema which will appear in a graph over time. You’re able to easily see which of your schema has been valid and invalid on certain dates, allowing you to evaluate updates or changes that you have made:

By viewing it in graph format, you can easily identify the impact that your changes might have made:

This is a great way to keep your schema in check and to ensure that any issues that arise are dealt with quickly.

Are There Any Restrictions To Schema Use?

While schema is quite widespread there are some restrictions on the way that you can utilise schema and, also, how it appears within the search results. In particular, there are certain industries which are restricted when it comes to the Google rich results. These include tobacco, vaping, gambling-related products and recreational drugs

If you do have websites that fall into the aforementioned categories then it’s worth checking if you can utilise structured data, or whether you need to look at other approaches to improve the way that you appear in the SERPs.

Schema is a great way to tell Google (and users!) more about your website, and to improve the way that your website is showcased in the SERPs. It’s also a great way to highlight important E-A-T signals on your website and, perhaps, even capture an additional audience by displaying your content in new formats.

If you haven’t tried schema yet it’s definitely worth giving it a go. If you do already use it, why not audit it and see where the further opportunities are! For more information about how schema could help you check out our SEO page and learn more about our SEO agency.

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5 Key Elements of An SEO Strategy

So you’re pulling together an SEO strategy, either for a client or for your own website, and you’re not quite sure where to start? With SEO being an ever-evolving field there are so many different elements that go into a successful strategy and it’s important to remember that not one size fits all. When it comes to SEO you really need to tailor a strategy that matches the needs and goals of the website and the framework in which it exists. Even more than this, SEO is a team effort, and while having a good SEO agency plays a key role, the in-house team, customer services and even external reviews go a long way in ensuring that you hit those all-important quality rater guidelines. 

In July this year, Google updated its Page Quality Rater Guidelines to give more guidance around what Google’s quality raters are looking for when evaluating a website. Although Google never tells us the factors they most value when ranking a website, this is definitely a great place to start. The guidelines can help to identify ways to improve and strengthen how your website is seen, as well as the user experience it provides. When taking this into account alongside guidance from recent algorithm updates (September Core Algorithm Update, Helpful Content Update and Product Reviews Update), we can create a solid strategy which keeps the concept of quality content, great user experience and purpose, and a strong website reputation at the core. 

So, if you are looking to pull together an SEO strategy with all of this in mind, here are the top 5 elements that you should look to include, to ensure that your SEO strategy has the best possible chance of performing: 

1. Relevancy

Relevancy is key and perhaps one of the most important elements across both your on-site and off-site SEO strategy. Relevancy comes in a number of different formats, from ensuring that your on-site content matches user intent and purpose, to ensuring that any quality links you’re building back into the website are relevant to your brand. These links will, after all, add a lot more value and have the added bonus of potentially bringing in relevant referral traffic at the same time. 

Relevancy plays an important role in both on-site and off-site SEO. From an on-site perspective, it helps to ensure that your content is right for the user. This means that it answers their intent and purpose and gives them the right type of information they need to make an informed decision about your product and service. From an off-site perspective, building high quality relevant links into your website helps Google to understand that you are an expert in that particular space.

There has been a lot of discussion around how important relevancy is to links. As we push more towards semantic search, it’s not enough to just have great quality links, they have to be relevant to your brand, product or service i.e. they need to belong there. This should form the foundation of any solid SEO or Digital PR strategy. 

2. Reputation

The reputation of your website and the creator of the content on your website are two of Google’s most important factors for page quality rating. This is especially true of building a reputation externally where other websites are saying good things about you, hosting your expertise or linking back to your website in an authoritative manner.

I recently spoke at MissingLink LIVE about how to do a quick reputation check. Two of the simplest ways to do this are quick Google searches removing your own website to understand how other websites are talking about and linking to your brand online:

By undertaking these quick searches you can get a really clear understanding of any potential concerns around your reputation. It also gives you a good idea of any external websites where you might want to look to improve your reputation, including third party review sites, social platforms, or industry leading blogs/publications within your niche. 

Reputation is built on-site and off-site. From an on-site perspective, building out author profiles and justifying your content and the expertise of your authors, with a mixture of authoritative external and internal links, is very important. As too is any information around what makes them an expert.

From an off-site perspective, a strong Digital PR campaign can play a crucial role in helping to build your expertise in the wider market. A nice mixture of thought leadership, expertise-driven newsjacking and data-led campaigns can really help to push key E-A-T signals across your website. This will highlight your reputation and expertise to your audience and to Google. 

A lot of brands focus heavily on their on-site reputation rather than considering off-site reputation and how Google (and other brands) might see it. By keeping an eye on how your reputation is viewed externally you can be more aware of any external review sites or news publications that might be speaking about you. In addition, you’ll gain an understanding of how your audience may see your brand when they encounter it for the first time.

3. Expertise, Authority & Trust

Over the last few months I’ve spoken at length at a number of conferences about the concept of E-A-T and how important it is with regards to Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines. We can see this expressed within the guidelines in section 3.1, which discusses general Page Quality Rater Guidelines:

Source: Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines

Section 3.2 discusses the concept of E-A-T itself in more detail:

Source: Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines

And Section 4.2 alludes to how the main content of a page plays a key role in informing the on-page E-A-T for that website:

Source: Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines

Although the concept of E-A-T isn’t anything new for SEO agencies, the way that it is understood and adapted into use has changed over the last few years as we have come to better understand the depth of E-A-T signals and how these can be implemented across a website. The aim now is to ensure we provide a great user experience and really focus on not only answering the user’s purpose and intent, but also demonstrating that our websites are trustworthy and authoritative enough to be experts on the subject matter.

E-A-T isn’t just about on-site content or building high quality authoritative links, it’s about drawing it all together to ensure that the website as a whole is seen to carry this level of expertise, authority and trust. Internal linking and building semantic themes, creating high quality, relevant external links, creating strong on-site content and ensuring the website is easily accessed and crawled, all play their own role in supporting E-A-T. It’s important to get each piece of the puzzle working correctly to give that great overall experience. 

In the last few months we’ve had more Google algorithm updates than I can remember, but there has been one consistent theme throughout them. Whether it’s aiming to drive more “Helpful Content” or looking to improve “Product Reviews” we can see that each of these updates is tied together by this underlying theme of ensuring a website has strong E-A-T signals; the algorithms are just set up to test it in different ways.

So if you haven’t got to grips with the concept of E-A-T, or perhaps you’re missing a few pieces of the puzzle, now is a great time to pull all of this together. If, in particular, external linking is one area you want to improve you can read here more about the value of external link building in E-A-T

4. Crawl, Indexation & Internal Linking

In SEO we often get caught up talking about links of the external variety but frequently forget or overlook links of the internal variety. In the majority of new clients we take on, the one thing I find above all else that needs improvement is the internal linking across the website. 

Internal linking isn’t just about connecting your content together and building semantic themes (although it does a great job of this) – it’s mainly about using it to signpost to Google which of the pages on your website are most valuable, almost like drawing a map.

Google’s John Mueller reaffirmed in a recent Google Hangout that internal linking can be one of the most important aspects of SEO as it helps to signal the importance of your pages to both Google and the user. It should be used in a strategic way to think about what is most important to you and how you can signal that through effective internal linking. It’s also a great way to really build pillars around your key pages and highlight your expertise by linking related articles, key blog posts and data pieces. These can all back-up and reassure your audience of your expertise, authority and trust in these sectors.

However, we don’t just use internal linking to help signpost Google and pull together our content in pillars and semantic themes, it also plays an important role in ensuring that Google can effectively crawl and index your website. Internal links are one of the main ways that the Googlebot moves through your website, so giving it a clean and sure path through, especially to all of your key pages, plays an important role in SEO success. 

Strong internal linking also helps Google to effectively index your website. If your website isn’t within Google’s index then chances are it won’t rank for anything; it needs to be in the index in the first place to be able to rank! You may have come across errors in Google Search Console where Google has crawled but not indexed your pages yet, and often through choice. This can be incredibly frustrating for webmasters as often there is not the easiest of fixes available. Having strong internal linking can help signpost to Google how valuable new and existing pages are. Additionally, it points Google in the direction of any new pages to ensure that these are quickly and effectively indexed, giving them the best possible chance to perform.

5. Great Content

Save the best until last? Solid content is a very important part of your SEO strategy and it’s important that any content you create is aimed first and foremost at your user – answer their questions, meet their purpose, deliver their expectations. By adhering to each of these elements you are able to ensure that you are delivering great content that satisfies the user’s query.

It’s important to add that great content doesn’t equal lots of content or content that gets added to a website everyday. Rather, it looks at the query contextually; is there enough content to answer the user’s question and does it do this effectively (i.e. does it get straight to the point)?  Is the content laid out in such a way that the user can easily understand what is going on and does it help to make it digestible? Are you addressing your content in a conversational manner with questions and answers? 

It’s also important to evaluate whether your main pages need supporting content; so looking at how you semantically link content together on the page to ensure that the user can be fully informed. If you have blog articles or news articles that relate to your main content pages, ensure that you link them closely or pop a related articles section at the end of your page. This helps you to “pillar” your content and create effective content cluster groups, showcasing your knowledge, expertise, data and analysis around a given topic and adding value to that topic’s main page.

Google is a search engine. By nature its purpose is to answer a user’s question or query. So, implementing different styles of content, such as lists or FAQs, can really help Google to understand that you have content which addresses these queries. You can enhance your content further by the implementation of Schema mark-up, which is designed through code to highlight key features of the content, this in turn can also help you to exhibit SERP features when presenting on Google. 

There’s definitely a lot more to a traditional SEO strategy than just technical, content and links. If you’re looking to put more depth into your strategy, or perhaps your website is in a YMYL industry where you need to place additional focus on your key E-A-T signals, find out more about our SEO service today!

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How to write helpful content in light of Google’s helpful content update

Early in September, Google ran its helpful content update, adding another user-focused layer to SEO. In preparation for the update we undertook an audit of our clients’ websites to ensure they were all meeting the mark. We analysed just how helpful the content was and where improvements could be made. So what were we looking for? And how can you make sure your content adheres to the ‘helpful content’ guidelines?

What is ‘helpful content?’

Helpful content can be summed up as content that is created for the user, not for the search engine. If it’s people that are typing queries into search engines, then the answers should help those people. If the answers have been written to serve an algorithm or a search engine, then the average user isn’t going to find that helpful or enjoyable. When done correctly, helpful content will boost your SEO because the information you provide will demonstrate that your pages put people first, not crawlers.

Why is Google bothered?

Search has come a long way since the simple days of keyword stuffing. Over a quarter of people using their mobiles online now use voice search. Add to this a generation who have grown up with search engines being a completely normal part of everyday life, and you can see how we are moving towards using search much more naturally than ever before. Google wants to make searching and finding what we want even easier, and is striving to understand meaning, context and intent far beyond a few keywords. The helpful content update is part of Google’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) masterplan. Essentially, Google wants to give users what they want rather than users having to guess which words to type to get the best results. The helpful content update ensures that websites and pages are providing the best, most informative and clearest content possible.

How to write helpful content

The easiest way to target this mammoth subject is to break it down into key areas:

1. The user (you, me, them, us)

No matter what you are writing about, always (I repeat always) remember who you are writing for. Understanding your audience is key to writing content that will be helpful to them. There is no use writing about the quality and composition of a leather dog lead if your client’s target market is price focused. To make that point clearer, here is how I would approach user intent when setting out writing content:

Industry/product/service: what does your client sell and what are the typical pain points when selling that product? Our client in the gardening industry sells high end garden furniture. People searching for garden furniture are likely to be concerned with quality, price and maintenance. So I would structure my content around these pillars.

Demographic: Our gardening client has an affluent target market and wants to hone in on the quality of their product rather than the final price. Therefore, their customer is less likely to be typing price related queries and more likely to be considering longevity and overall value. 

Possible queries: Now that you’ve broken down your user you can consider what they might actually be searching for. Tools like alsoasked or answerthepublic are great for researching real queries that real users are regularly typing into search engines. Even a basic Google search on something like ‘garden furniture sets’ can give you some direction.

This approach can be applied to all clients. Understanding the nuances of the end user enables you to write content that helps them find answers even if they don’t not know exactly what they are searching for.

2. E-A-T (aka friends don’t lie)

Much is made of E-A-T, or expertise, authority and trust to give it its full name, not being a ranking factor. Not that I’d argue with Google, but the concept of E-A-T is intrinsic to helpful content so, for me, it follows that if you are creating expertly written, authoritative and trustworthy content you are being more helpful and, ergo, you will likely rank higher. You can read a deep dive into E-A-T in 2022 here, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll explain how you can use it specifically to create helpful content.

When I set about integrating E-A-T into copy, I think about three key areas:

Bullet points and numbering – this technique helps you to set out your content really clearly and keeps a very clear focus on what you are saying. The information held in these lists can be some of the most valuable on the page, allowing for featured snippet opportunities and, on a more basic level, setting the content apart so the user can easily identify it (remember what we said about writing for the user). It can be something as simple as a list of Do’s and Don’ts, but having these distinct sections of information demonstrates that you know what you are talking about and aren’t afraid to show it. 

Linking – Linking is the pat on the back of the digital world. It shows search engines that you have mates vouching for you and it helps users to understand and trust what you are telling them. Adding internal links to your content can direct traffic through a clear marketing funnel and allows you to utilise content pillaring effectively. Linking related articles together will form one big picture on your pillar topic and signal that you have plenty of expertise and authority in your subject.

External linking is pointing to a website outside of your organisation and saying ‘look they can back me up.’ It shows that you aren’t pulling information from thin air and can corroborate your points. In some instances, for example, Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) industries, external linking can be especially helpful because the subject matter requires an extra degree of expertise and trust. When researching your content, keep a list of any useful links and weave them into your final piece where relevant and appropriate.

Hard facts and figures – Firstly, don’t make stuff up! That might be obvious but there are times when you’re sure you’ve read something only to find out you got it wrong. So, if I’m writing an About Us page, I make sure I have an in-depth list of facts and figures on the client so that my content has gravitas. 

Second to this, I always look to see where I can add value into my content with social proof like reviews, featured articles or any accreditations. This might be a simple banner at the footer of a blog but it shows users and SERPs that the page, and therefore the site, can be trusted. Author profiling is another great way to double down on the information you provide so, where possible, include an author bio.

It isn’t always possible to incorporate all of these elements into a single piece but I use them as my baseline. Before starting the writing process I will fill out a Google sheet with potential areas to include any of these features, and then flesh them out as I research and eventually write the copy.

3. Semantic SEO (hey Bert)

In some respects semantic SEO goes back to meeting your users needs. In short, semantic SEO is the use of key words and phrases that relate to your chosen topic. I think of it as a natural way of speaking. So, if you were talking about your morning routine you would naturally mention breakfast, showering and leaving the house. You wouldn’t veer off on a tangent and start talking about putting your pyjamas on. This is what Google refers to as salience.

In 2019 Google launched BERT (bi-directional encoder representations from transformers) which impacted 10% of all search queries straight away. BERT is an AI demo that will tell you how salient, and therefore relevant, your content is to your intended topic. So, as we touched on in the morning routine example, you should be using lexis that is relevant to your subject matter and immediately shows your audience that what they have landed on is exactly what they are looking for. Start off with some keyword research to define your seed keywords and then also use common sense to note down other areas.

If I were writing category copy for a piano retailer I would use the top tier keywords around that specific piano brand but also talk about keys, pedals and soundboards to effectively demonstrate what the content was about. This is great for content pillaring too and those all important linking opportunities. You can then run your content through BERT and get your salience score to see how it stacks up against other similar content.

BERT will also show you if it is a positive, negative or neutral piece of content. This doesn’t refer to its state of mind but rather its relevance to other similar articles. If you were writing content about the best Apps for 2023, BERT should give you a neutral score as it isn’t an emotive subject. If you were writing about how to be more motivated in the mornings, your copy may need to have a more positive sentiment score. Carefully consider the value your content offers, who it is targeted at and what needs they are trying to meet in searching for that content. This will help you achieve the right level of sentiment.

4. Copywriting (your English teacher would be proud)

Given half the chance, I’d talk about the virtues of good grammar and syntax all day long. Don’t underestimate the importance of simply writing well when it comes to helpful content. Readers don’t want to read overly long sentences with no clear end point. Think of every piece of content as a conversation. If you were asking someone for directions and they digress into how they used to live nearby, you would quickly forget the valuable information. So stick to the point and set out a clear beginning, middle and end before writing anything. I never start any article without drafting a brief first. Then, when I do come to actually crafting the content here are some of the basic rules I live by:

  • H2 & H3 headings – long blocks of content are off putting and make it harder to find the info you are looking for so always separate with headings.
  • Short simple sentences – ideally a sentence should be no longer than 20 words. If it is then commas are your friend.
  • Follow questions with an answer – even if the answer is ‘it depends’ – give a definite answer first and then follow up with any variables.
  • Get to the point 
  • Use simple language – the average reading age for the UK is 9 years old. This will vary according to the topic and the end user, especially if the content requires industry specific lexis, but always have it in the back of your mind. Simple synonyms are a copywriter’s best friend.

In summary

Google will definitely thank you for setting your content out clearly and writing it using good English. They will high five you if you have some good E-A-T signals and they will get down on one knee if you are meeting the needs of your users (sorry I got carried away).

Writing helpful content is mainly about matching user intent, and the continued algorithm updates are all part of making search engines as effective as possible for the people using them – us. So perhaps the biggest takeaway when writing for humans is to be human. Don’t try to trick an algorithm into trusting you, just be trustworthy. There are SEO specialists and data analysts who can take care of the technical aspects of SEO, but as a content writer you should be focused on creating content that is enjoyable, valuable and genuine. So to summarise, as a content writer, here’s the basic steps to start writing helpful content: 

– Define your user and their needs

– Check off opportunities for bullet or number lists

– Include internal and external links

– Fact check your content and add in any evidence or social proof

– Research keywords and optimise for salience and sentiment 

– Use good English and grammar

– Write for your audience not a search engine (you should have figured that out by now)

If you need a hand writing SEO optimised helpful content, get in touch with us. 
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New Client Alert: Loop Cashmere

Now that we’re heading into the winter months snuggling down into a nice cosy jumper is definitely the way to go and that’s why we’re delighted to announce that we are working with ethical cashmere brand Loop Cashmere across SEO, PPC and Digital PR to help grow and develop their online store and product offering.

Founded in 2020, the brand champions the style and quality longevity of cashmere as well as being both kind to the planet and also to consumers.

Featuring timeless classics alongside a range of luxury wardrobe staples and statement styles, the cashmere is designed to look and feel good for longer and the entire creation process is focused around sustainability – leaving the planet a little bit better than how we found it.

Our work with Loop Cashmere will cover the full range of performance marketing including SEO, PPC, Digital PR and also Paid Social campaign activation across Meta platforms, designed to create a holistic marketing strategy to drive sales and visibility for the brand.

Katrina Urwin, Head of Marketing at Loop Cashmere said

“It was difficult to choose between the final agencies, but we ultimately felt that Cedarwood Digital were a great fit for the brief, and we were impressed by the people who would be working directly on the account.”

Anna Simpson, Paid Media Manager quoted

“Loop Cashmere is a great example of a business that not only creates great products, but also takes into account sustainability, showing how you can create a great quality product while also being gentle on the planet.

We’re looking forward to working closely with the brand to deliver a full performance marketing strategy to help showcase their cashmere range to consumers.”

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Top Tips for SEO Beginners

So, you’ve landed your first role specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO), or you want to further develop your business’ digital marketing efforts by targeting organic search, and have spent some time learning the basics of SEO. Once you’ve formalised your grip on the basics, it’s important to understand how to get ahead and keep up with this ever-changing but exciting marketing channel. 

To help with that journey, we’ve compiled our top pieces of advice on getting the most out of your strategies and how you can keep up with this ever-evolving sector. 

These tips are based on my own experience as an SEO professional and the things I found most useful when entering the industry as a beginner.

1. Optimise content for the user first 

One of the most important things to consider when making content optimisations or reviewing a site is the overall usability and user experience.

Google is constantly evolving and adapting to make search engine result pages (SERPs) the best possible by including quality content that real-life users actually want to view. For example, Google recently announced the Helpful Content Update which will target sites that have content ‘made for search engines.’ It is thought that sites with poor quality content or overly optimised copy will be penalised and could lose their rankings in the SERPs. This highlights the importance of creating readable content designed for a user rather than creating copy to try and ‘trick’ a search engine into ranking your site highly. 

Old-school tactics (or, simply, bad SEO!) were more focused on trying to ‘trick’ search engines into ranking their landing pages higher. Tactics, such as keyword stuffing, and having thin content creates a poor user experience and it is, as you can imagine, not something that search engines are fond of either. It is of course important to include the keywords that you want to rank for, however, these should only be used in a natural way where it makes sense within the context.

2. Create Quality Content

Essentially, to create quality content, you have to know what the user is searching for and which information they will value most. This means relevant and factually correct content that isn’t a carbon copy of another website or one that is noticeably optimised for search engines. This type of SEO focuses on the concept of expertise, authority and trust, or E-A-T. You can help users to trust your sites by displaying your expertise in your industry, and providing accurate and original information that answers a searcher’s query fully. 

A great piece of written content will answer the user-query and beyond; not only will this prevent the user from clicking off the page to find any additional information, but if they find all of the information they need they may click on your site first in the future.

3. Build relevant links

Link building is an important factor in increasing your site’s authority and improving your domain ratings. The more relevant the links are to your site, the better signals it sends to search engines. 

Backlinks, or links pointing from an external website to your site, can send great signals to a search engine depending on the quantity of quality links from relevant external sources. Relevancy is very important here. When an external source links to your site, the source should be a publication or brand that aligns well with your industry or speciality and is of a similar nature. Not only will this send quality customers or leads to your website, but these relevant links showcase what your site is about and help to display your expertise within a certain sector. 

Would you rather have 1,000 poor quality, irrelevant sites linking to your pages or 10 relevant sites with a high domain rating? 

10 relevant sites with a high domain rating linking to your website would be a strong indicator to Google, or any search engine, that you could be considered an industry leader and that your expertise is valued. Combined with a strong SEO strategy, this puts you in a good position to rank higher, receive more quality traffic and achieve more conversions or goals. 

This also goes for internal linking on your website. When linking internally, only provide links to relevant pages. For example, if a page on a Veterinary website focuses on dog breeds, they could include internal links to another page on their site about the diets of certain dog breeds. 

4. Keep up to date with the latest SEO news

One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I started in the industry was to set up a dedicated Twitter account and follow a variety of thought leaders within the SEO-world. From the likes of SEO-expert Dr. Marie Haynes to Google’s Danny Sullivan, the digital marketing communities on Twitter can be an insightful and easy way of keeping up to date with the latest tactics or changes, including Google algorithm updates.

As well as Twitter, there are heaps of informative podcasts and subscription newsletters with discussions on the future of digital marketing and analysing best practices. There are also amazing learning resources on YouTube, including video series from Google Search Central, which help to gain a wider understanding of what search engines are looking for when it comes to organic search.

By consistently updating yourself on the newest tactics or the latest news, you’re developing a well-rounded knowledge base of SEO and its workings. This puts you in a great position to discuss changes with clients if you work for an agency or to explain strategy decisions to board members. 

5. Always measure your results

Without measuring your results, it can be difficult to know which of your optimisations are succeeding and which ones just aren’t working (it happens and that’s okay). Identifying any drops in performance after a recent optimisation can signal that a search engine bot has reassessed the page or site and believes that the page is no longer valuable for a specific query. If you’re able to monitor and identify these issues early, you have a better chance of trialling a different approach to regain rankings or lost traffic. 

I would recommend tracking your targeted keywords in a dedicated tool such as AHRefs, SEMrush or SEO monitor to identify any increases or declines over time. This can also help you to identify any potential ranking fluctuations that could be due to a Google algorithm update. If you then spot any patterns or losses in the position of your keywords, you can likely locate the cause and take action.

6. Keep Learning

Outside of best practices when doing actual optimisations and audits, it’s important to be aware of the wider SEO world to best understand it. This marketing channel is constantly evolving with new algorithm updates and changes happening all the time. It’s therefore crucial that you stay ahead, or alongside, the curve to really make the most of your optimisation efforts. The above tips are definitely a great way to monitor this!

Browse our SEO services if you’re looking for more advice and direction for your SEO strategy or check out more from our Manchester-based SEO services.
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Applying Your Money Your Life Principles To Improve Your SEO

In August, Google updated its Page Quality Rater Guidelines. This is something it does from time to time to reinforce the key principles it looks for when evaluating the quality of a page. In SEO circles, these Quality Rater Guidelines are somewhat of a bible. Although most SEOs won’t have read them from start to finish (there’s over 300 pages!) many will take excerpts from them as a way of trying to understand what Google is looking for. They can then use this information to determine how they should present their websites to make them more ‘SEO-friendly’.

In recent years, a number of key concepts have come out of the Quality Rater Guidelines, with perhaps the most significant one being the concept of E-A-T or Expertise, Authority and Trust. While the principle of this has been around for years, it’s only in the last few that SEOs have started to look towards it as a way of ‘optimising’ a website and putting it as a key focus for their SEO campaigns. The little known sibling of E-A-T is the acronym Y-M-Y-L, otherwise known as Your Money or Your Life. There is far less conversation about YMYL but, in many cases, it is significantly, if not more, important than the concept of E-A-T. In this blog we are going to look at what YMYL is and how you can apply the principles to your website to benefit your SEO.

What Is Your Money Your Life?

Let’s start with a simple definition and understanding of what YMYL is and how it applies to websites. The concept of Your Money or Your Life was defined by Google to highlight websites which fall into a specific category; that is, websites which impact either your money or your life. As these websites and the topics within them could have a substantial impact on a person, their pages, and the website as a whole, are held to a much higher standard within the Quality Rater Guidelines. If there is an issue with any of the content on a YMYL website, it can have a significant and detrimental impact on an individual.

With the recent update to the guidelines Google has aimed to simplify what it designates as a YMYL website. They have supplied the following guidance and examples, and whilst there are no hard and fast rules, this information helps to demonstrate what might fall into the YMYL category and what might not:

As you can see from the guidance, YMYL really refers to websites which give information that could impact an individual’s money or life. Therefore, if your website or one of your clients’ websites fall into this category, then you need to get to grips with the Quality Rater Guidelines and start understanding what YMYL is really all about.

So How Do I Optimise For YMYL?

Optimising your website for YMYL focuses around creating great quality, trustworthy content. This content should show Google that your website is a trustworthy place for users to come for information, and to convert and potentially engage in your services or buy your product. There are a number of factors that come into play when it comes to optimising for this, and we will go through them in the guide, but one of the best places to start is to look frankly at your website and ask these questions:

  • Does my website answer or fulfil the user’s purpose?
  • Do I have well-written authoritative content on my website?
  • Is it clear who has written my content and what their expertise is?

You can conceptualise these questions into three key areas:

By taking the above approach we can see three key consistent themes across YMYL:

  • Have we matched User Intent? Are we giving clear information and expertise early on in the piece, and are we also giving reassurance of expertise throughout the content
  • Does the website have a clearly defined purpose? Can users reach what they need to and is the content up to date?
  • Who has created the content and what are their credentials? What is their reputation and the reputation of the website as a whole?

With these concepts and ideas in mind you can set about creating a practical SEO strategy with these key themes at the forefront.

Google backs up this approach in section 3.1 of the Google Quality Rater Guidelines. This outlines the most important information that Page Quality Raters should be looking for in this category:

On-Page SEO For YMYL

On-page SEO is a great place to start on your path to YMYL greatness and is also one of the most important areas when it comes to sending the right signals to Google. It is a key area where Google will be looking for you to showcase your expertise and trust, as on-site content is likely where users will start to get an understanding of your brand. Effective on-page SEO is a mix of content with a solid structure that has been created with the user in mind. It is not written for search engines. So, it’s important to remember throughout your on-page optimisation that you are writing to gain the trust of the user and, as a result of this, Google will look to trust your website too.

Matching User Intent

Matching user intent and purpose is a key element of the YMYL concept. While this is also a part of E-A-T, its role in showcasing a website’s trust and being able to answer the users’ questions confidently is very important here. Definitions and FAQs, alongside a clear and concise demonstration of your expertise, will go a long way to matching user intent. To bolster this you should create a website which is easy to navigate and makes it clear how users can contact you should they need more information.

When creating your key pages, such as product or category landing pages, always keep user intent in mind. This can guide how you lay out your content and in which order. It’s worth remembering that users don’t always scroll to the bottom of your page and so Google might not either. Therefore, ensure that you are matching as much user intent and relevancy as you can at the top of the page, to maximise the benefit.

We’ve recently done a project with one of our legal clients on matching user intent. As a client that sits firmly within the YMYL category we know it is important that they demonstrate to Google that their site is a trusted source able to answer user queries. In this case, it was something as simple as identifying that high performing competitors had a clear definition at the start of their content and were, therefore, directly answering the user’s query. We were then able to optimise our content accordingly.

Authoring Your Content

A key concept of YMYL has always been about who has authored your content. In the most recent update, Google has gone even further to highlight how important the concept of authorship is and, additionally, the reputation of the author. This is a clear signal to show how trustworthy a piece of content or a page is

Authoring content became popular in the SEO community after the Medic update, where we saw a good uplift for content which was well authored by experts. Google now stipulates clearly within the Quality Rater Guidelines that it wants to understand not only who the expert is that has written the content, but also their credentials. Google wants to know what makes this person an expert in the field and do they have the level of trust and expertise to be giving out this information?

It’s not enough to just add a ‘Written By’ with the name and photo of your expert, you now need to qualify this expert. This could be with a short snippet or excerpt of information on the page, or a link through to an expert profile with further details and information. This expert profile could include qualifications, industry accreditations or the number of years’ experience. To further qualify this, external links pointing out to trusted websites, such as accreditation boards or websites where they have contributed expert opinion, allows Google to see from trusted third party sources that the person in question is an expert in the field.

By taking the time to build out author profiles, you’re not only showcasing to Google the level of expertise that your business has, you’re also showing it to your potential audience. This can be a significant benefit from a CRO perspective, in addition to boosting your YMYL signals.

Refreshing Your Content Regularly

Up-to-date content and statistics are a great way to showcase your expertise. If you have content on your website which is out of date, even by just a few years, this can cause issues from a YMYL perspective. Worse still is content that contains information that is now incorrect because it is so out of date.

It’s not practical to be consistently updating your content, especially if you have quite a large website. Refreshing key elements of it, including statistics, expert information, relevancy and commentary will go a long way to ensuring that the information on your website is fresh and correct. Auditing your content regularly to ensure that the data is up to date and adding in new external links to data sources (as they become relevant) is a great way to prevent your content from becoming outdated. Additionally, identifying your top 5-10 traffic pages & putting in place a plan to optimise these regularly is well worth it. If they are driving traffic they likely have rankings that you want to maintain. So, prioritising the update and refresh of content on these pages will go a long way to keeping you where you need to be.

Including External Links

Many people are reluctant to include external links across their website as they feel it sends their valuable ‘link equity’ to another website. While links do pass equity the amount is often nominal, and is far offset by the value of having your website point to other reputable websites and information sources. Linking out to external sources can help to back up your expertise and qualify a lot of what you are saying, as you are linking to sources that can verify the point you are making. As a result it can actually enhance the overall expertise and trust level of your website.

If you are externally linking to other websites, the only caveat is that you need to ensure that the content that you are linking out to is relevant, current and that it doesn’t end up as a broken link. A simple crawl which checks your external links is a great way to keep on top of this.

Digital PR For YMYL

Enhancing YMYL signals on the website doesn’t just stop at traditional on-site SEO and content. To give a proper level of authority and trust this should be extolled throughout the whole website and also the inbound link profile. Strong Digital PR should play an important role in amplifying these signals & helping to drive expertise-driven links into your website, while improving your overall website authority.

Although in many instances Digital PR is about driving high quality links, there are cases where agencies will build links for links sake and this doesn’t benefit anyone. It doesn’t benefit the reader as what they are reading about may be unrelated to your website and so there is low user intent. It also doesn’t benefit you, as the links that you are drawing to the website don’t have that all-important element of relevancy.

Digital PR for YMYL websites should look to really drive relevancy and expertise where it can. That means choosing topics which are closely linked to your website’s purpose, product or service. Then ensuring that any coverage or Digital PR, that you are putting out to garner links back to the website, are related to this.

In addition, you should be utilising your Digital PR where you can to extoll the virtues of your expertise. This can be done in a number of ways from thought leadership through to product-led campaigns. Whatever you choose, this strategy can be a very effective way to continue building those all-important off-site trust signals which Google really values.

If you’re looking for inspiration for Digital PR that fits well with YMYL, you’ll find some examples of recent expertise-led coverage that we’ve landed for our clients. These links are great value; not only because they are from trustworthy websites, but also because they showcase our client’s expertise on an external source, thus delivering great overall value to their campaigns.

Check out some of our most recent Thought Leadership campaigns for our client Hayes Garden World here:

MSN: Modern Rock Garden Ideas

Hello! Magazine: Winter Gardening Jobs To Save Time & Money

Gardening Etc…: A Guide To Mulching

Express: How To Prevent Your Garden Flooding In Heavy Rain

The Strategist: Best Plants For Balconies & Patios

Living Etc…: A Guide To No-Dig Gardening

Technical SEO For YMYL

Although technical SEO isn’t always seen as effective as on-site content or Digital PR for sending good YMYL signals to Google, it still has a role to play. Good technical SEO means Google can effectively and efficiently crawl your site, and clearly and easily recognise the trust signals. This ensures the reputation of your website remains strong.

Optimising your website technically for YMYL follows a lot of the traditional technical SEO elements, but with an emphasis on ensuring that what Google is seeing on your website reflects a good reputation and authority.

Schema Mark-Up

Schema Mark-Up is a really nice way to tell Google about factors which enhance your reputation, such as on-site FAQs or reviews. This can be a really nice way to help Google easily and concisely interpret your reputation information.

There is a wide range of Schema Mark-Up options that you can use to help Google understand your trust signals, from product and organisation information to reviews and FAQ mark-up. While each of these is valuable, we would recommend undertaking a schema audit to really understand what information you have available and how you can effectively mark-up.

Not sure where to start? If you’re new to Schema Mark-up and haven’t done it before, we’ve included below a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • FAQ Schema – This is a great way to showcase your expertise which is a key element of YMYL. Whether it’s product or information pages, FAQs are a great way to show that you are matching and answering user intent. Mark these up with some delicious FAQ Schema and show Google that your website knows what its talking about!
  • Review Schema – Product reviews? Business reviews? Trusted external third party reviews? Whatever you have you should be telling Google about it! External reviews are a really great way to validate the expertise and trust in your business so why not shout about them? If you display reviews on your website you can utilise Review Schema to mark these up and let Google know all about it.

If you’re not sure how to check the schema that is already in place on the website, or you want to audit it, then a great place to start is with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. By using the tool you can evaluate your existing Schema implementation, check that it’s all correctly implemented and identify areas where further schema can be placed.

Log File Analysis

Log File Analysis plays a key role in ensuring that your website is YMYL friendly. While traditional crawlers will help you to gather trends around how Google crawls your website, log file analysis will allow you to see how Google is actually crawling your website. This helps you to identify any issues or pain points which might not have been picked up by your regular crawler.

Log Analysis allows you to conduct a deep dive into the way that the Googlebot and other crawlers are moving through your website. This means you are able to analyse which pages are being most heavily crawled and, therefore, which pages Google is potentially looking towards to gain trust signals. It also points you towards any crawl errors, such as broken pages or redirects, which could be impacting crawl efficiency and wasting crawl budget. Crawl errors will send poor quality signals to Google which is, of course, something we are keen to avoid.

We often find during a log analysis that crawl budget is being wasted and if crawl budget spends too much time on pages which don’t add value to your website then it’s likely that Google starts to view your website as this as a whole, so it’s critical that every signal you send Google is a good one and analysing log analysis to see what signals you might be sending is a good place to start.

An effective Log Analysis should allow you to review the crawl across your website and make updates, so that you are left feeling confident about how the reputation of your website is shown to Google. You can even do it with as few as seven days log files. Get asking your server host for those log files and do some digging into that data to analyse how effectively Google is crawling your website!


YMYL is a key consideration for a lot of websites. Yet there are still people within SEO who focus on the pillars of Technical, Content & Links. They are potentially missing out on clearly defining the underlying principles within their strategy and understanding what Google is really looking for from a trust perspective.

Hopefully you have found the above useful. If you’d like to find out more about how you can utilise YMYL for SEO, or if you website falls into this category and you’d like some help optimising it for SEO, then get in touch!

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E-A-T in 2022

Over the last two years E-A-T has been the talk of the SEO world – a key pillar of any SEO strategy, especially for websites where trust is key, & an important concept in the life of any SEO who is looking to improve website rankings.

I’d started writing this post on the flight back from a recent trip to Madeira but had only got halfway through it when I got distracted by other tasks. While watching a talk at Brighton SEO recently on E-A-T: Have We Been Looking At It Backwards? by Edward Ziubrzynski, I was inspired to come back to this post & finally finish it! The summary of that talk & what I’d been wanting to say in this post is basically this – E-A-T is still very much alive in 2022; but are we approaching it properly & in the most efficient way for our clients?

E-A-T is clearly a focus for Google, not only is the concept of it mentioned some 40+ times within the Quality Rater Guidelines, it’s also something that we’ve seen work in practice. After all, Google is a business like any other & it wants to give its users the best experience – sending them to the page where they are most likely to find what they are searching for & knowing that they are safe in the process. Simple really, but in reality there are still very few websites which I believe do E-A-T as well as they could.

So let’s take a look at the concept of E-A-T & what it actually means in 2022.

What Is E-A-T?

E-A-T or Expertise, Authority & Trust are key signals that Google looks for when examining the quality of a website. In the diagram below, which I use within our pitch decks, we briefly explain what each of these concepts mean. In general, it’s ensuring that your website exhibits these key characteristics through great on-page content, authoring, a strong link profile, case studies/testimonials & anything else which can build trust within the website.

So what does this mean in 2022?

In simple terms, showcase the trust that your website has & remember that Google values external reviews more than your own. So, if your website reviews don’t match what people are saying externally about your brand then Google will preference the external reviews.

Own your brand presence – whether it be on social media, on Google or even on trusted review sites. Take the time to respond to reviews & build up a trustworthy presence across the web, take time to resolve any issues which might be causing a lower external trust score & also invest the time into building up a trustworthy brand presence.

Build expertise through a solid external link profile – it’s easy to get caught up in just building “high quality links” from “high DR websites” – but really what we need to focus on is links which showcase the expertise of the brand. Relevancy is key here – ensuring that links are relevant & showcase appropriate expertise which naturally builds authority & also ties into the trust of the website.

Keeping your content up to date – how many of us create great content & then don’t come back to it for a year or two? How many articles on your website feature great external trusted links but the information is outdated by several years? It’s no longer relevant? Keeping content up to date is a key element of E-A-T; when users come onto your website a key trust signal is knowing that you are up to date with the latest information & can deliver the latest expertise.

For websites which fall into Google’s Your Money Your Life (Y-M-Y-L) category the above becomes even more important & I’d suggest, that in 2022, YMYL is more important than ever before.

What is Y-M-Y-L & How Does This Tie In With E-A-T?

At the latter end of last year I did a pitch for an insurance company. As part of that we discussed the concept of Y-M-Y-L or Your Money Your Life. I was shocked to find that they’d actually never heard of it, either from their incumbent agency or the other agency that was pitching. In the insurance industry for sure this is an important concept & Google even highlights this directly within its guidelines:

Which is why it came as a surprise that not only was the client not aware of it, but also that the agency had never mentioned it. For me, when it came to the SEO strategy, this has to be the cornerstone of it and not just a traditional add-on.

For us, YMYL looks something like this:

A lot of people put it in the same bucket as E-A-T, but to me it’s very different – YMYL focuses more on the micro-optimisation & user intent/purpose as opposed to the more obvious attributes of E-A-T. In YMYL we are focusing on the micro-optimisation of placing clear information & expertise early on in the content and regularly updating it. We must ensure that the website has a clear purpose where any content allows users to easily reach their destination or contact someone if they need more information.

Authoring & reputation are also key here – who has authored the content & what are their credentials, are these clearly displayed? What is the website’s overall reputation, external or internal, & how is this shown to Google? All of these elements pulled together not only deliver a great user experience, but they also help the user to get the information that they need from an expert, thus allowing them to make a more considered decision.

Next Steps

In 2022 the concepts of E-A-T & Y-M-Y-L are more important than ever before, especially for websites which fall into the latter category (which is bigger than most people think). Mastering these concepts will undoubtedly help with your overall SEO performance &, not just that, they will help with your on-site Conversion Rate as customers are experiencing a much more trustworthy, expertise-driven website. So really it’s a win-win scenario.

If you are looking to find out more about how to apply these concepts or improving your SEO and Digital PR as a whole, get in touch.

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Utilising Competition Graphs To Identify Opportunity

Having worked in the medical negligence industry where CPCs can be as high as £40 or £50, I’m very familiar with how valuable utilising competition graphs to find those lower volume cheaper – but equally as effective – CPCs can be. When we’re talking CPCs as high as the ones I’ve just mentioned it’s easy to burn through budget, even with a great Conversion Rate, so finding those gems within the lower volumes becomes even more critical, especially when it comes to building out campaigns or trying to find more areas to cover.

It’s not just PPC where competition graphs can be a valuable addition & today I want to look at how we can utilise these very popular Excel graphs within SEO strategy, to understand where the opportunities lie to drive growth/visibility across both SEO & Digital PR.

Fortunately, there are a number of different ways that you can work with Excel & data from some of our favourite digital marketing tools to really understand what’s available in the market & where the opportunities might lie.

Let’s take an example…

A few months back I was drafted in to pull together a proposal for a promotional products company. This company specialised in a wide range of different promotional products, & one of the tasks I undertook as part of the proposal process was to identify key areas of opportunity so we could see where the value lay for our clients. This would form the foundation of not only our SEO strategy but also guide our Digital PR strategy when it came to link acquisition & where we wanted to focus our efforts.

I reference the Excel spreadsheet below – pulled together with data just from AHRefs & plotted on a three axis graph, by overlaying CPC data with Search Volume & Difficulty.

Now this graph can be utilised for both SEO & PPC – for SEO it’s even more useful as you can use AHRefs “competition metric,” which for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, judges how hard it is to rank for a particular keyword given the number of higher Domain Rank websites that currently rank above that term. Essentially, it gives an overview of the volumes of specific keywords mapped against keyword difficulty to give you an idea of how achievable it might be to rank for that given keyword.

From the data above we can quite clearly see a number of significant trends. Initially, we can see that the market place has high search volume for branded pens, but also that this has super high competition & trying to rank on this term might be quite difficult. By contrast, if we look at other branded products such as lanyards, umbrellas or notebooks we can see a similar search volume level but a much lower level of keyword difficulty – an area of opportunity.

From utilising a simple graph above (and there’s many more products that we can populate in there) we are able to draw deductions around how to create an effective SEO/Digital PR strategy to maximise opportunity for the client, while still keeping in mind commercial intent & ensuring we are also applying adequate focus to commercially important terms.

Now we’ve seen this work for branded promotional products, how does it work for higher CPC terms like “medical negligence?”

In this example we can see a far more pronounced difference for the high volume terms – but again we have some great areas of opportunity. We can see from this data that the popular “medical compensation” term is, in fact, low search volume for very high competition, compared to something we perhaps wouldn’t target, such as “medical negligence nhs” or even “medical negligence lawyer” which despite still having reasonable keyword difficulty has a much more established search volume (or reward!) to match.

All in all the graphs above are very simple to produce & incredibly easy to pull together utilising the following steps:

  1. Login to your AHREfs account
  2. Navigate to the “Keywords Explorer” tab & input your list of targeted keywords
  3. Download the Spreadsheet
  4. Remove all columns except “Keyword” “KD” & “Search Volume” & pull these into Excel using a multi-touchpoint graph

And there you go… a quick & easy way to pull together an effective graph which allows you to easily identify areas of opportunity, quick wins or perhaps more long-term gains for your clients which ties in with real-word metrics (search volume) to see achievable gains.


Why is Content Important for SEO?

Content Executive, Emma Stretton, explains why you need more than just keywords if you want to rank.

SEO is not just keywords

There was a time when you could come up with 57 synonyms for ‘washing machine’ and have your appliance business fly up the SERPs. That was back when search engines were rudimentary at best but, as with everything, when we know better, we do better; and keyword stuffing is just another sorry search engine tale millennials laugh about. 

Nowadays, it isn’t enough to shoehorn single keywords into on-page content or write a blog filled with spam links. Not only does Google update their algorithms regularly to weed out such behaviour, but the way we use the internet has changed too.

Organic search and our behaviour

Data from SEO website AHRefs, shows that of the 1.9 billion keywords in the AHrefs database, 92% of them get ten searches per month or less. Which basically means that people aren’t simply searching for the most obvious phrases anymore, they’re talking to search engines like a friend and asking them for very fine tuned, specific information. Think about it, in 2006 when the internet was burgeoning, it was enough that we could look for, and find, ‘shoes’ just by typing into a search bar. Now, with mobile technology, GPRS and a tech savvy generation, we think nothing of asking for ‘size 4 black western boots’ (or whichever shoe style takes your fancy). We can even use voice search to essentially have a conversation with our search engines, and can narrow down our dinner choices as close to home as we want.

Google Updates

Nowadays, it’s more important than ever to make sure the content you provide gives real value to the people looking for it. In 2013, Google ran the ‘Hummingbird update’ which is known as the semantic update. It figured out that when someone searches for something, there could be various meanings behind that search. So, to go back to our earlier example of the shoes, someone searching for ‘black western boots’ could just as well want to know about the history of them as much as wanting to buy a pair. The Hummingbird update allowed for this nuance and started crawling websites not just for the most obvious keywords but for the content that could be closest to what the searcher wanted. Yeah, it blows our minds a bit too.

Several more updates, improved technology and conversational search have now made Google’s processes even tighter. There are roughly 40,000 search queries per second; that’s a lot of people wanting to know a lot of things, and search engines want to return the best results. If you’re creating content for your website, it needs to signal expertise, authority and trust; which means writing for humans and human behaviour, not what you think Google wants to hear.

Think content, not crawling

People want to take in information that genuinely helps them and that they can believe in. They want to be engaged and informed, and not bored. No one wants 15 versions of the same word shouted at them and in a world that thrives on a faster pace, you’ve got to get to the point. We can’t teach you how to write the perfect copy (although we could do it for you), but here’s a few hints and tips we try to live by:

  1. Remember that content ranks – don’t get caught up in keyword hype. That’s why we wrote this article, to remind you that Google wants quality not quantity.

  1. Get to the point – Readers tend to skim read content if it’s overfacing. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Then reread it and take out some more.

  1. Think about your E-A-T – Expertise, authority and trust are huge factors for ranking. Make sure your content hits these cornerstones. Basically, don’t just spout a load of nonsense for the sake of making content, because search engines will know.

  1. Do your research – make sure what you’re actually saying is factually correct, and that the keywords you do use are relevant.

  1. Do you enjoy reading it? When we’ve finished a piece we go back over it and see if we actually enjoyed reading it. Even the less exciting topics, when well written, should hold your attention. 

Often, marketers get bogged down with how to ‘write for search engines’, when really, it’s quite simple; content that serves the user well, serves search engines well. Ultimately, search engines want to give their users the best experience when they use their platform, so if they type in “history of black western boots” and land on your well-researched guide to black western boots, featuring a detailed timeline, pictures, sources and even quotes from cowboys through out history trailblazing the benefits of boots, then the reader has everything they need. And a happy reader = a happy Google. So, focus on content that offers value and Google will do the rest.



Want more SEO tips? Then check out these blogs

6 Reasons Why Your Website NEEDS A Blog

Voice search: the future of SERPs?


How are British fast fashion retailers building links to their websites?

Good SEO is crucial for fast fashion retailers. 

Many are based solely online meaning that getting traffic to the website is the only way to make sales. And with lockdown further fueling an eCommerce revolution, it’s more important than ever to rank well on Google to steer customers towards your website. 

In the SEO world, it’s undisputed that building high-quality links to your site is a proven way to improve your website’s position in the search engine results (read more on this here). It’s also widely accepted that the best way to earn links is through online PR, more commonly referred to as Digital PR.

So how are fast fashion retailers earning high-quality links? We investigated four online-only brands to get the lowdown.

The four brands investigated are: 

  • In The Style
  • Missguided
  • Boohoo
  • Sosander 

Product placement is key 

Fast fashion brands have one huge benefit when it comes to link building – the product. Ecommerce stores have the opportunity to offer product reviews and feature in gift guides, both of which are published frequently in online newspapers, magazines and blogs alike.

What are the benefits of link building through product placements?

The benefits of landing product placements are threefold:

  1. They get your product and brand seen by a focused audience which can lead to sales.
  2. They usually only cost the amount of product being gifted to the publication.
  3. A link is guaranteed. Journalists know that readers want to click through the article to buy the product they’ve just been sold. 

*Link Building Tip: When pushing out products to journalists, be sure to send them everything they need in your initial email. This includes correct pricing, timescales on deals, and hi-res images in a Dropbox link.

Gift guides 

Gift guides are a fast fashion retailer’s bread and butter. They are easy for brands to capitalise on and they’re predictable. Retailers should have gift guides prepared for all annual buying holidays – Christmas, Father’s Day, festival season, you name it. 

*Link Building Tip: Create a PR calendar for the year to make sure you’re capitalising on key retail dates. 

As fast fashion retailers can quickly turn around new products in light of seasonal events, it makes it even easier for them to provide relevant products to journalists. We saw this trend in many fast fashion retailers – for example, In The Style who landed coverage in numerous seasonal gift guides for their Halloween pyjamas (Source).

Fast fashion brands can also quickly and easily create new ranges to target different audiences and use this as a way to generate links. For example, Boohoo launched a maternity range which opened up opportunities to gain links from completely new domains in a new industry – parenting publications (Source). 

*Link Building Fact: Getting links from domains that you haven’t ranked on before is excellent for your website’s rankings. Your website will rank better if you have one link per website on a variety of websites, rather than lots of links from three select websites.

Tapping into popular culture 

When it comes to link building, you need to know about popular culture trends as soon as they’re on the rise and use them to your advantage. Journalists will want to weigh in on them to create current and shareable content – so if you can provide them with a new angle on a trend, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Fast fashion retailers use this technique, and use it well. 

One successful example was from Missguided. They saw memes about “jeans and a nice top” becoming the default answer when women ask each other what they’re wearing, and used this to create a new product page for the phenomenon (Source).

The brilliant thing about this link building stunt was the simplicity. All it needed was a category page built into the site, but made waves in the media as it put a new twist on a viral trend.

*Link Building Tip: Social media is a great place to find rising trends. Particularly keep an eye out for anything that you can tie your product into (think H&M and Joe Black’s Drag Race dress  – if you know, you know).

TV, specifically Netflix, is also a very newsworthy topic that fast fashion retailers use to promote their products. For example, when the hit show Emily In Paris sparked discussion about her impressive wardrobe, In The Style were quick to promote clothes to replicate her looks (Source).  

Deals for days 

Outreaching deals, particularly around Black Friday, is a staple link building technique for fast fashion retailers.

Customers are hungry for deals, and journalists are keen to provide. Therefore it’s crucial to get your discounts seen and included in round-ups which will earn some great links. We have seen this mirrored across all fast fashion and eCommerce businesses (Source), and more so each year as the demand for amazing deals around Black Friday increases.

PR stunts

PR stunts are a high-risk, high-reward technique for gaining press coverage. 

We know that fast fashion retailers can turn around a product quickly, and Boohoo used this to their advantage when creating miniature Christmas wreaths for your nipples. This stunt successfully coupled sex with a seasonal slant to create a product that earnt them a lot of links (Source). 

The expression doesn’t lie – sex sells. 

Celebrity promotions

Many media outlets have a team of journalists dedicated to reporting on celebrity news.

Fast fashion retailers capitalise on this demand for celebrity news in two ways:

1. Celebrity partnerships
Launching a clothing line with a celebrity will not only lead to sales from fans, but earn lots of media attention about the launch – including those important links. In The Style introducing an edit with a Love Island star is a perfect example of this, and one which is very on-brand for their customers (Source). 

2. Steal their style
Retailers can capitalise on press coverage of celebrities’ fabulous outfits by offering suggestions to journalists of how to steal their style – whether that’s with the exact piece of clothing or a duplicate. Sosander has mastered this technique incredibly well, focusing on celebs who are aspirational to their demographic, such as Holly Willoughby, Amanda Holden and Kate Middleton (Source).

Karma-based link building

Gaining links as a result of promoting your company’s charitable work is called karma-based link building. 

Fast fashion retailers don’t always have the best reputation when it comes to corporate responsibility. Therefore charity partnerships and products which fundraise will earn you some positive press whilst giving back. For example, Boohoo released a hoodie with all proceeds from the sale donated to Manchester Foundation Trust Charity’s NHS Staff Appeal (Source) which earned them some positive press and great links.

However fast fashion retailers must tread carefully. On the contrary, Boohoo was slammed for their “For the future campaign” (Source) which many argued contradicted their business model and got press coverage for all the wrong reasons. 


From our investigation, it’s clear that fast fashion retailer’s link building strategies have a heavy product focus. This is no surprise given the threefold benefits listed earlier, as well as the fact that these brands can have new and topical products made up for PR purposes at the drop of a hat. Though not all companies have this at their disposal, there are still many techniques here that can inspire link building strategies for eCommerce clients of all natures.

For more inspiration, check out our blog post ‘Backlinks and Brainteasers: a marriage made in SEO’ about one of our top-performing Christmas campaigns. 

manchester marketing agency

Why We Love Being A Manchester SEO Agency

Our Director, Amanda Walls, set up Cedarwood Digital after working in digital marketing for several years. Amanda has created training courses for Google and knows more about SEO than most people know about themselves. Having travelled all over the world, she tied her flag to Manchester’s mast and decided to start her own digital marketing company.

A different SEO agency

It’s the norm nowadays to have account managers who are assigned to individual clients. It ties things up neatly and assures one point of contact. But what if the norm isn’t necessarily the best way? One of things we all love about working at Cedarwood is how hands on it is. Every team member works with every client and gets to know them as a person, not an account number. We’re basically an extension of your in-house team. So, if your PR needs a push, you speak to our PR hero, and if you’re interested in Google Ads, our PPC whizz is at the end of the phone (or video chat if we’re being topical).

Being in Manchester doesn’t matter when it comes to our clients. They are based all over the UK and we build personal relationships with them wherever they are. Aside from working in an office with a free barista service, it’s one of our favourite things about working at Cedarwood.

manchester seo agency

We’re based in Spinningfields in the heart of Manchester

Where We Work

Our offices are part of a shared workspace where table tennis at lunch is the norm and morning pilates is offered as standard. The culture of working amongst other young, flourishing businesses keeps us motivated, and people bringing in their dogs is also an unexpected perk. Amanda chose We Work in Manchester because it’s the right mix of work and play, and gives us the space we need to be creative and to focus on growing.

Manchester is also host to several digital marketing award’s ceremonies. We’re proud to have been finalists in a few of them, including The Northern Marketing Awards. Obviously there’s friendly rivalry and we find a bit of competition is a great motivator, but it’s also great to be able to celebrate the achievements of digital marketing and SEO companies in Manchester. It’s an energetic city full of exciting businesses and a crazy amount of choices for after-work drinks. Our team comes from the North, the South and even Australia but we all agree that being an SEO company in Manchester is one of the best places we could be right now.

The ping pong Table in the We Work offices

The growth of e-commerce and the turn towards a much more digital world makes working in SEO and digital marketing exciting and challenging. We never want to rest on our laurels and being in the cut and thrust of a thriving city, in an industry that continues to grow, is more than worth the early morning tram ride and the occasional rainy day.

Find out more about our team on our About Page.

Have a look at what our Manchester based SEO Services can do for you.


6 Reasons Why Your Website NEEDS A Blog

In a recent marketing survey, 52% of respondents agreed that blogging is their most critical content marketing tactic (Hub Spot).

“But, why is blogging so important?” I hear you ask. Sit tight while we convince you why you should start a blog immediately.

Why are blogs important for your website?

  • To increase the SEO of your website
  • To highlight your expertise
  • To give your company a voice
  • To engage with your audience
  • To provide long-term results
  • To outperform paid advertising

1. Increase the SEO of your website

Google loves content that helps its users find what they’re looking for. So, by creating blogs on topics that your target customer is interested in, you can drive traffic back to your website through search rankings. 

Companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website than those who don’t (Hub Spot). Plus, the more useful and valuable your content is, the more likely people are to share it within their own content or social media channels.

2. Highlight your expertise

Let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy for anyone with an internet connection to set up a website these days. So why should your target customer buy from you? Because you have a wealth of authoritative, well-written content on your blog that showcases your expertise (amongst other awesome trust signals).

Consumers rarely make a purchase instantly. 53% of consumers consume 3-5 pieces of media before making a purchase or speaking to someone from that company (EliseDopson). Customers want to shop with credible, authoritative businesses online that they know they can trust with their money – so don’t make it hard for them. Tell them why you’re the best. Or better, show them with great content.

3. To give your company a voice

As business guru, Seth Godin, once said “People do not buy goods & services. They buy relations, stories & magic.” And with consumer trust wavering, it’s more important than ever to get real with your customers.

Blogs are a great way to show the human element of your business and the thoughts, feelings and stories of the people behind your brand. Be authentic, honest and strip back the corporate jargon. Show your customers the people that their custom impacts.

4. Engage with your audience

Speak your customer’s language! Show them that your company is interested in the topics they’re interested in, you know their concerns, you understand them. All through great blog content. 

Engagement isn’t just about social media. Open up the comments on your blog, ask readers direct questions or even publish customer reviews or opinion pieces to create conversation and a community with your customers.

5. Blogging has long-term results…

Companies with blogs produce an average of 67% more leads monthly than companies that don’t blog (DemandMetric). Blogs are not just a one-off, they are a long-term strategy that continually provides value to your consumers.

6. … and can beat paid advertising

70% of people would rather learn about a company through articles rather than advertisements (DemandMetric). Blogs are a trustworthy source of information for consumers that acts as free advertising for your company.

Oh, and one more thing…

Did we mention that its FREE?!

Many businesses don’t realise that they often have the skills, expertise and customer understanding to produce high-quality blogs in-house. All it takes is investing in a little bit of time. But if you want to speed up the process, then a marketing agency can give you direction on which are the best topics to write about, keywords to include and even produce the content for you in the tone of voice of your business.

If you have any questions regarding creating the perfect blog, then get in touch with us by emailing [email protected]