The In Search SEO Podcast
Developing the Right Commerce Blog Strategy: A Summary of Episode #83
The wonderful Orit Mutznik joins the podcast to share her thoughts on what makes a commerce blog effective (and what doesn’t):
- Aim to sell or aim to inform, what are you really trying to do with a commerce blog?
- How hard do you push your commerce content on your commerce blog?
- What works, what doesn’t, and why so many commerce blogs are ineffective!
Plus, what makes a good SEO study good?
What Goes Into a Good SEO Study? [04:31 – 19:02]
Getting an eCommerce Blog Right: A Conversation with Orit Mutznik [19:02 – 48:12]
SEO News [48:42 – 51:45]
Mastering In-house SEO Book
Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google
SERP Feature Tracking Tool
Lots of Negative Reviews May Hurt Your Site
Google Automating Manual Actions
Lead Forms Added to YouTube
What Goes Into a Good SEO Study? [04:31 – 19:02]
Recently, The Markup did a study called “Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google” where they show that Google likes to push its own product. While the study might be interesting, Mordy didn’t feel it was substantial enough. Before Mordy gets into this, he clears up that he’s not about picking apart people’s work. He just wants to point out a lack of the right perspective and how that translates into not so great SEO information without you even realizing it!
The Markup examined what it calls “15K recent popular queries.” The problem here is that we’re dealing with a data-set that has not been normalized. That’s fine by itself but it should have been said more outright and while they say the keywords are “popular,” unless you catch that you wouldn’t realize it! Limitations like that, says Mordy, should be made very clear.
The article continues and says that 41% of page-one mobile results contain a direct answer which, based on our SERP Feature Tracker, is not true as our tracker has it around 8-9% on mobile. The probable reason they got 41% is that they call every SERP feature, even the ones that have URLs, Direct Answers. For example, they call the People Also Ask Box a Direct Answer.
So they got confused with the terms. That’s fine. Then they offer just one query as an example. It was a query for ‘myocardial infarction’ that brought up a Dictionary Box and a Medical Panel, etc. Where are the organic results they asked? But Mordy says who cares, it’s not like Joe Schmo is going to rank there anyways. For these kinds of queries Google only ranks government sites, major health sites (i.e., WedMD), university sites (i.e., Harvard Health), and the like. Your average site can’t rank here, so the point about SERP features is pretty much moot. That is, Mordy believes you have to consider the intent of the query and how Google actually treats the SERP for a given keyword type.
Here’s Mordy’s take on SEO studies and why he believes The Markup’s study failed. First, SEO studies are messy (which this one was not according to Mordy). There are always going to be tons of limitations. Why? Because the way Google treats queries is vastly different from one case to the next. Even if you analyze a billion local queries, not all local queries are the same.
Here’s an example of a study Mordy was working on last week. He saw a ton of hotel queries in his data-set but it turns out Google treated them differently than the other local queries that he was looking at. So in his study, Mordy had to mention this difference and limitation as the data is going to be a little bit different. A good SEO study is not about analyzing a billion keywords and just plopping all the data into a post. Mordy actually sometimes prefers studies where he analyzes just 300 keywords.
Now you could say that in Statistics 101 you learn that the bigger the sample size, the smaller the variance is. Mordy sees the point but when you do so many keywords you don’t notice the details about each keyword and how Google is treating each keyword and then you miss a lot of the nuance. Whereas if you go through 300 keywords you can really dig in with each type of study having its own place and time. Yes, you need a big enough sample size, but generally speaking, a sample size between 250-400 is decent enough where you’re able to dive into those SERP queries which you don’t get when looking at a million keywords. Again, the point is, there’s a place for quantitative analysis but there is also a place for qualitative research as well.
A good SEO study is about nuance. That means you need to consider how well-rounded or not your data-set is (and it’s okay if it’s not), what the implications of that data-set are on the SERP in reality, what does it mean, why is it this way, why is it not that way, what does that mean, etc. It’s like a mystery and you’re trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and that means analyzing the pieces, discovering why they are the way they are, if they’re the right pieces, why some pieces differ from other pieces, and what that implies.
All of that means there is nuance and with nuance comes limitations. You’ll never be able to fully break something down. If you’re working with keywords, there will be all sorts of intents, intents within the intents, and intents within those intents that could all have implications on how Google treats those keywords, and that can alter things. But you’ll never be able to break it all down to its smallest parts.
A good SEO study will point out those limitations and that’s not a bad thing because 1) It is what it is, and 2) Admitting your own limitations will force you to go deeper and explore other aspects of whatever you’re studying. When Mordy saw he had too many hotel keywords, he looked at the data, and he segmented out those keywords to get a better understanding. And it’s okay to leave that incomplete and say that more research is needed as that helps move the great SEO dialogue along.
Put it this way. The more limitations you point to, the more it shows you’ve thought into things, the more it shows you went into the nitty-gritty details, and the more it shows you’re aware of the reality of that data and how Google treats things in the real world.
Lastly, a good SEO study is not about the data per se, but how its author is able to interpret that data in order to show what picture the data paints. What does the data mean, what does it point to, the analysis, that’s what makes the study.
And that’s where the study went wrong. It pulled a ton of keywords, it picked up a ton of SERP features, but it never analyzed what those keywords mean. It never parsed the various kinds of SERP features and it never bothered to ask, “What does all of this say outside of the obvious?”
Getting an eCommerce Blog Right: A Conversation with Orit Mutznik [19:02 – 48:42]
Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview. Today we have with us someone who is the most in-vogue SEO you could possibly imagine. She’s a Brighton SEO speaker with pizzazz. She’s a fashion eCommerce expert and SEO all in one. She’s SilkFred’s head of SEO. She’s Orit Mutznik.
Orit: Thanks for having me. That’s definitely the most pizzazz intro I’ve had.
M: Everybody says that about the intros and I always tell them that this is the height of the interview. It’s all downhill after that.
So what is SilkFred? What do you guys do?
O: At the moment, I am the head of SEO at SilkFred. It’s a woman fashion e-commerce site that brings small independent designers to showcase their collection. It’s a marketplace for women’s clothing. As far as for me, I specialize in technical SEO, international SEO, but mostly blog content strategy. And as you mentioned, I’m also speaking in Brighton SEO in October about pagination. It’s going to be called “Thank You REL Next.” I’m also a co-author of Mastering In-house SEO, a best selling SEO book on Amazon. I’m promoting it now because all proceeds go to the Samaritan charity so be sure to get that.
M: We’ll definitely link to that.
O: Yeah, it has 26 other SEO experts, each collaborating in a chapter about what they’re doing. I talked about how to nail your SEO dream job which is what I did when I got this job at SilkFred. I’ve been in London for the last one and a half years with my husband and two kids. My journey to London came after I was born in Argentina and lived most of my life in Israel. It was a dream to live in London and now I’m here.
M: What’s the best thing about London? I found London to be a less intense version of New York.
O: Yeah, I would agree with you. It would come to people as a surprise, but I love the weather. People think I’m nuts but after living in Israel all these years with close to 40 degrees Celsius weather starting from April, that’s too much for me. I’m enjoying now 25 degree summers. I love the cold. I love the snow. I’m quite a strange person.
So I mentioned that I focus mostly on technical SEO but I got into SEO in 2008 from the content side of things, which was a natural transition for me because I was a freelance content writer and translator, from my early teens, using my three languages.
M: So you’re the perfect person to talk about blogging with.
O: Well, you said it. I hope I’ll do well in this podcast.
M: I have full confidence in your abilities. By the way, you come from so many different backgrounds and so many different industries. Do you find that blogging is the same from vertical to vertical (like e-commerce and informational sites) or is it very unique?
O: It’s absolutely not one size fits all, which is one of the most important things that I want to talk about today. When I started, I thought it was all the same. I got into SEO, I started learning about the different Google algorithms and one of the things that drove my knowledge in this career was to constantly be very tuned to the ranking factor studies. I gave it much more importance than what I should have given it.
M: I think everybody made that mistake.
O: Yeah. I switched companies over the years and even though the main industries I worked in were gaming, FinTech, and e-commerce, they’re still very different industries with different goals and focuses. I’ve always been involved in content strategies for these companies and I did adapt my goals and focuses over the years. But I realized I wasn’t really adapting. I was an SEO content marketer so I did what everybody would do like keyword research, keyword frequency, etc. I had to evolve when the algorithms got smarter. So with my one size fits all solution, I was mainly doing things sort of in a robot type way. Essentially, what I realized was that it’s correlation and not causation.
M: Right and it’s very specific about what you’re doing as opposed to the general factors out there. I have a whole theory that the ranking factor itself is much less important than it used to be in general, because Google’s looking at content and saying, “Hey, you know what, we can actually understand what you’re saying here intrinsically. So we don’t need indirect signals the way that we used to anymore.”
Because you work in the fashion industry do you get to go to Paris?
O: Not really.
M: Do you get discounts on clothes?
O: I do get a discount.
M: That’s awesome.
When you’re working on an e-commerce blog, what are you considering now versus working on a highly informational health blog?
O: Yeah, I think that is entirely different. You have the things that are important across niches, like looking at top search volume, long-form content, and links. Those are the things that I’ve been looking at for years. But actually, I think that a critical thing that was missing here was looking at revenue because I come from an SEO standpoint and my top KPI is sometimes rankings. So I’ll do my keyword research and I just want to rank and if I rank then it’s over. I’ve done it, I’m the best, and it’s great, but sometimes if you look at those sites that are used for the rankings research it’s not necessarily that long-form content is what ranks them there and it’s not necessarily that it’s bringing them the revenue that they’re looking for. So you don’t know what’s behind that. Essentially, I realized that they don’t apply to all industries and they’re not one solution fits all.
M: That’s a good point because I think we get stuck in the SEO mindset of where we should be about a growth mindset. One of the things I did when preparing for this interview was to research the top commerce blogs. Shopify gave me a whole list and the list sucked. Every single one of those blogs sucked. I’m wondering, is that just me or are these blogs pushing their products and I don’t really care?
O: In the e-commerce economy, you do push products but you have to be smart about it. The reason why you thought those sucked is that they most likely didn’t adapt to their target audiences. It’s different per niche. For example, long-form content in blogs could work for a FinTech company that’s trying to educate people on how to invest but on the other hand, it won’t help someone who just wants to buy something. In that respect, you might want to go short and snappy. You want to give stuff that people actually want and consider user intent which in most cases is very much underrated and is something that people don’t take into account.
M: How do you balance all of that? When I saw these blogs, it looked like they were just trying to peddle a product. They weren’t really giving me any helpful information. If I really wanted to learn about the product, I would just go to the product page. So on the one hand, you have to be a bit more creative about how you do this, but you do have to drive the sale. That’s the whole point. So how do you do that?
O: I think the most important tool that we have about this is looking at keyword search volumes, but the problem is that we’re taking it as a given and we’re all guilty of that. We know it’s far from accurate.
M: I was just going to say that’s a big problem. There was Jumpshot and Keyword Planner before that. As a tool provider. search volume data is very tricky. I think Kevin Indig had a recent interview on how we move beyond search volume. We’re at the point where search volume is not the metric we once thought it was and we need to figure out a way to get around that. In terms of driving a conversion, do you do a soft sale? Do you mention the product or do you try to get them with really good information the first time out and hope to get them to come back again and then we’ll get them when they come back?
O: Yeah, I think that people don’t just search for the product to buy it. People search for other stuff as well. In that case, it’s important that the blog is a space where you are able to tackle all of those additional questions that people won’t find necessarily on the site. So when you think about search volume, obviously, I will not rely on the actual amount of people so if I see 100,000 people searching a month, that’s not really 100,000 people. But what it does give me is the big, medium, and small terms for me to prioritize. The big ones, the money terms, will mostly go to the site and the small ones are actually quite surprising. Because even though you might ignore them, they have a lot of gems inside of people actually looking for things related to your brand. You are the experts because it is your brand, you can provide that content, and that works much much better than I will anticipate. Whereas in the past I would totally ignore two-digit or three-digit search volumes, now I found those to be the best-performing ones because they have lots of intent behind it. I think today that intent is absolutely everything and if you nail that then that goes far beyond search volume.
M: Quality over quantity. That makes a lot of sense.
How far down the wormhole do you go? How far into the future are you thinking about this? Would you build a blog? Would you write about topics that build your brand identity? For example, if I’m a health site I might write about how broccoli is good for you even though I don’t sell broccoli, but I will write about it because that helps build my identity as a source of health information. You may not actually convert with that as it is purely for brand identity. Do you blog about that if you’re a commerce site or does that sound way too far down the line?
O: I think you have to have a combination of both. I think that writing branded content or trust-building content is very critical to all niches because you’re not just the site that’s been put up there to bring sales. You have to build your reputation which is true to every site. So not every single blog or not every single piece of content that I do is about bringing sales. Obviously, it’s one of the most important goals of the blog or the site, but if you don’t build that trust around it, then that’s probably not going to happen. That’s why in some cases, it’s important to connect to the trends information so you see what’s being searched as far as questions and as far as things that are important to people in your niche. In most cases, you would go to trends and see if you can answer people’s questions in a good and trusted way to get people, maybe not convert to that post directly, but to convert through other things and from there you will build and gain that trust from the user.
M: Let me put you on the spot for a second. I was looking at your site’s blog and the access of the blogs at the bottom of the page is not very prominent. I’ve seen a bunch of commerce sites do something like that. I’m wondering, is that strategic, is there something behind that, or is it just how you have your page setup?
O: Well, you know, everything about in-house SEO is like little battles.
M: Sorry, I don’t want you to step on a landmine here. I was just asking because I’ve seen a bunch of other commerce sites do the same thing. I was wondering if it was because you didn’t want to come off as too informational or you want people to come to the blog content via search and not through the homepage. For example, you may not want current shoppers to see the blog content but rather just the product content. But if you’re searching and then you find the blog then that’s awesome.
O: I can just say that it’s a combination of both. As an in-house SEO, you have to pick your battles. Obviously, as much as I’d like much more visibility in the blog, on the other hand, I do understand that it is about the money. As far as the eyes going towards the top of the site, yes, they should be focused around buying products and getting what people want.
By the way, it still goes pretty well. Because if you focus on other stuff like writing in relation to trends and focusing on things that people are actually interested in, then you’ll get that traffic from search. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. They’re much more important battles to fight.
Something that’s particularly hard is to get resources for the blog like writers and technical elements. I’m an SEO and I manage all aspects of SEO, so what do I prefer? To have a money page ranking or performing better or having the blog being faster and nicer?
M: That’s a great question. That’s a legit case of keyword cannibalization. Not that one keyword is actually eating another keyword’s rankings, that makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever based on what Google themselves said about this. That’s the case where you’re really eating away at your own page. I don’t want to rank my blog here, I’d rather rank my product page. So yeah, you really have to be careful.
O: That’s true, but you also have to segment in your head that the blog is meant for long tails and questions and the site is for the big money terms. That’s the separation that happens in reality. As far as I’m concerned, from an e-commerce point of view, don’t bother with writing a blog post that you tend to rank for a huge term, that won’t work. But If you do write a blog post covering a certain angle of that big term, then that would definitely help with the overall trust of your site and conversion itself.
M: So you wouldn’t do a top 10 dresses of the month blog post?
O: Actually, that’s something that I would do because that’s something that people actually are interested in.
M: But are you taking away from your products in that particular instance?
O: Absolutely, always. That’s the importance of connecting to the business you’re in because you have to step beyond the SEO metrics which is something that I mentioned previously. Go beyond search volume and pure SEO metrics. Connect to the business. That’s one of the most important tips that I can give.
M: So you would write a post that features the products for May and that would segue naturally into a product page.
O: Absolutely. Always look at the trends. That’s going beyond looking at the search volume because that’s what people are actually searching for right now. And even though the search term has a two-digit search volume, if it’s really trending right now you might as well jump on that.
Actually, the Kevin Indig podcast you mentioned I listened to and I think it was awesome because one of the great recommendations that I got was the new tool by the Majestic founder, Dixon Jones, called Endlinks. It’s actually really great because it gives you not only an estimate but an actual number of people interested and more precise trends. One of the things that I do is look at trends beyond search volume. I start with that but that’s still in the SEO realm so in addition to trends I look at the questions and try to answer them.
So beyond FAQ schema and things that you can do, if you don’t have FAQ schema, for example, don’t worry about that too much but worry more about jumping on that and giving a fast answer to what your users are looking for. In the fashion industry, tie-dye, for example, that’s coming back.
M: Is it really? I still wear tie-dye.
O: Yeah, it’s in fashion.
M: Cool, because the best shirt I ever bought was from a Who concert outside of Madison Square Garden. I still have the shirt. It was a bootleg. I bought it for five bucks on the street from some homeless guy in a wheelchair. So it was in style, it was out of style, and now it’s back in style. That’s official. I am officially old.
O: So I care about what’s trending as far as fashion is concerned. I need to know what the terms are. What I would do is connect those trends. So if I found from a purely SEO perspective what are the trends in my industry, I’ll then go to the numbers inside the business to see what are the best selling products, in tie-dye for example, and then I would have a blog post like the top-selling tie-dye products.
Essentially, you should always connect to metrics from your business. You should connect to your own site searches when you build a content strategy for the blog. See what your users are searching for right now. Then you can leverage that to do ad hoc content. The money site as you would call it is not as dynamic because you have set categories and set products. The only way that you can cross-stitch that is to do a blog post which jumps you on user intent right there. Then if you do that, you can successfully get people to convert.
M: That’s a nice way to segue that. You have your immediate versus your not immediate. I can use my blog to be adaptive, but I can’t use my feature pages to be adaptive because it is what we have.
O: Absolutely. I can make the connections that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do on the website. If people search for a certain trend on the site, then I can give them the best of that trend they were looking for. People find it very good because I give them shortcuts in the blog. That also connects to branded searches on the blog. You, for example, mentioned discounts. People love discounts. As a brand, we don’t really give that many discounts. We prefer sales a few times a year. But you can still jump on the discount bandwagon if you give some hacks on how to find discounted products on your site. That’s actually a great way to get that traffic and that intent.
Optimize It or Disavow It
M: Speaking of discounts, you could do one or the other. It’s a commerce blog, where every single post is either about a giveaway, a promo code, or a discount. Or you could write substantial blog posts about the most horrible products you have. Which one do you do?
O: I would agree those are both horrible options. I would definitely go with a discount option. I’m 100% against doing that but that’s definitely going to get me more sales then writing about our worst products. It would be funny and viral but I do want sales.
M: Thank you so much for coming on. This is awesome. And best of luck to you.
O: Thanks for having me.
SEO News [48:12 – 51:45]
Lots of Negative Reviews May Hurt Your Site: Google says that negative reviews don’t impact rankings but if you have a ton of them the algorithm could pick that up.
Google Automating Manual Actions: Did you know that Google has automated many manual actions? Which ones? We don’t know.
Lead Forms Added to YouTube: Lead form ads have come to YouTube. The ad type mirrors the lead form ad used on the SERP.
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.