Stephen Kenwright

About Stephen Kenwright

Stephen is Director of Search at St. Ives Group-owned Branded3 – the best large SEO agency in Europe according to the 2016 judges of the EU Search Awards – and is responsible for search and analytics. Writing weekly for the Drum Magazine, Stephen has presented at more than 100 industry events since joining B3 in 2012 and now organises the SearchLeeds conference, hosting hundreds of marketers from around Europe every year.

In his Learn Inbound talk, he takes a look at how businesses of all sizes can benefit from great search visibility by being comprehensive and thinking about the intention of the searcher.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t chase keywords with the content and pages you create – chase customers instead. Your aim should be to end the search by providing the most comprehensive resource possible.
  • What Google really looks for in a website or brand online is expertise, authority and trust.  Small businesses will typically struggle with authority and trust, so they should focus on demonstrating the areas they have a great deal of knowledge in.
  • Build content around topics. Every page you build needs to be more comprehensive than other resources like Wikipedia which typically ranks very high for most search terms.

Video Transcription

Hi, always a tense moment first words into a microphone but let's get going. I have a sort of very brief introduction to myself because I know that Tim was billed to be here and some of you may have already got your tickets thinking that Tim was going to be here and I'm sorry to disappoint in that respect. I'm Stephen; I'm head of search at Branded3. Read More

Branded3 is known for search we do a lot of things but search is sort of our main area of business really and as such I'm going to be talking about a very specific area of inbound marketing and that is search.

Following on really nicely from Matt's presentation I think the first thing to say is that I absolutely agree, everyone needs a content strategy. Obviously, there are a lot of different functions of content strategy and what you're doing really depends on what the aim is so things to get social shares etc. is not something that I'm potentially going to talking about a great deal. I'm talking about a content strategy that Branded3 uses a lot which is a strategy in the purest sense of we're aiming to end the search. That's all we want to do.

We know fundamentally to rank in Google now you have to create content and that's just a fact that everybody has to live with and the strategy is the content that we're creating, each individual piece of content we have to ask ourselves, does that end the search? Is that the last thing that someone needs to see before they potentially convert with our brand? The wording comes from Google directly this is a leaked document from Google search quality team so I'm going to use that wording there is a lot of different ways to put it but basically, this is what Google claims that they're looking for in a website.

Google employs a team of people who look at websites now it's not all done algorithmically but what I will say is that I think this is incorporated some form into the algorithm. So what Google really looks for in a website, what Google really looks for in a brand online is this expertise authority and trust. Does a brand convey that they are experts in whatever it is they're trying to sell? Are they the real authority on this subject and can we really trust them to give them our credit card details for example. This is something that obviously famously plays into Google's brand bias so established brands; huge international corporations that have been around for a hundred years are going to have some big advantages in this.
For example, authority. I would say that is very rare that the leading authority on any given subject works for a small business. They work for the brand that is leading in that space most of the time. Let's take authority at face value how we would potentially take it as SEOs and that's link authority and most small to medium E-commerce sites in fact pretty much all of them, to be honest, can't gain links at the velocity that Amazon does. We can't compete with the big boys in link volume and historically we've tried and historically we've been able to do it but probably not in the last five years. It's probably something that I think small businesses should give up on to an extent and I'll quantify that a little bit as we go along.

Trust as well, trust, unfortunately, correlates fairly strongly with ad spend that's not necessarily just PPC advertising but I mean a big above the line spend creates a trusted brand because they're on TV all the time they must be a real brand, they must be someone I can trust with my money. I think the area that smaller businesses and by that I mean not huge, multinational corporations or anything from a one-person operation all the way through to maybe a couple of thousand people.

One thing that they can compete with is expertise. I think when you're talking about a really large company there is a sort of lack of expertise in some areas so for example, when we're talking about trying to end the search, if that is the strategy that the SEO manager at say, Amazon for the sake of argument, wants to take they've got to ask themselves what is the customer searching for? When a customer enters a query into Google what do they mean? We could get some query data. We can go in Keyword Planner and that kind of thing and say people are searching for this but what do they mean by that? To an extent, we used to be able to do that with Google Analytics and we got keyword data but that's not all there is to it.

I think when you compare Amazon who sells 10,000 TVs a month to Bob's Electronics down the street, something like that, who sells maybe 10 TVs a month or something like that nowhere near the same sort of quantity that Amazon does. The difference is that Bob who is selling his TVs had 10 interactions with customers who came in asked him, I need a new TV can you help me with this?

One thing that we often find with big organizations when we work with them is there are some really deep-rooted silos between marketing and customer service, often the marketing team will think we really need to answer some of the questions that our customers are asking. If they know where the customer service department is located, if it's in the same building if it's in the same country. You might ask, who do I need to speak to in this department and your marketing manager, your person in charge of this, "Oh no, we don't speak to them. They don't like us. We have nicer equipment. They think they've got nicer laptops. They don't like us. We don't want to talk to them." I think the big difference between a huge corporation and a small to medium-sized business, is that a huge corporation is actually just made of a lot of small to medium businesses that hate each other so there is an advantage in this.

To illustrate my point I'm going to tell you a little story. I checked that the AA is over in Ireland, I checked that all the sites that I'm going to talk about are In Ireland because it would be a really shit story if they weren't. The story I'm going to tell you about it is the Automobile Association been around for hundreds of years. They are the breakdown cover supplier basically they do a lot of things, but what they're known for is breakdown cover. Now when we're talking about expertise authority and trust, some of these things they're really good at so that they're the most trusted brand for the UK, for example, the head of the Post Office, fairly well trusted in Ireland I'm told, for the most part. Let's assume that they've got this nailed down. They have patrol cars all the way up the streets. You see them out and about. You feel that you can trust them in that respect to save you when you're in a bit of a problem.

Also when it comes to expertise, I mean I think the AA is the content marketing case study the best content marketing case study that there has ever been because basically, they've identified that we are a breakdown cover supplier. What do people who want breakdown cover also want? They want to know where they are when they call us up, for example, so the things like the Road Atlas. Obviously being a really big sort of invention for them I suppose, and you know it is good content when they can charge for it. They've been trying to transition this online as well with things like the Route Finder but they've not been particularly successful. I mean what else do people who want breakdown cover want? They drive cars obviously so where might they want to go?

So the AA, because they have a lot of trust, people respect their opinion on things like restaurants and hotels even though they actually just rescue people on the roadside. But we trust people who do a lot of traveling to know what they're talking about in this area.

In terms of digital as well they're doing some really great things with that but what they're not doing is translating this expertise to the website. They don't answer the questions. They really don't end the search unless the search is I want to buy breakdown cover right now. When some searches for breakdown cover there are a lot of intents behind that. So it might surprise you to know the biggest breakdown cover in terms of traffic for people who are searching for breakdown cover is the RAC. The second biggest is Moneysupermarket and I don't about anyone else but I never thought when I was stranded at the roadside that I need to call Moneysupermarket. Green Flag in third and the AA are stranded around the same sort of place for search volume as Compare the Market.

Now what I want to sort of show here this is what we call traffic share which is basically we've not just said okay here are the rankings for breakdown cover RAC one, Moneysupermarket two, the AA three because that could be a lot of different things that people are searching for. So we take 86 keywords which are literally just what I pulled out of SEMrush and Google Keyword Planner as well so this is all the things that I think people probably be meaning when they search for breakdown cover. Here are all the different keyword combinations that they could be interested in. Now if you're ranked first for all others there is a fair bit of search room to go after. The AA is doing fairly well for breakdown cover but they're not answering the questions in the same way that some of their competitors are. What's the reason for that? Is it authority? Is it to do with links? It's probably quite hard to see there so I'll sort of explain a little bit.

If you've got Moz overlay on your search, for example, you could see the AA has three times as many links to its breakdown cover page as anyone else. It's got more links than pretty much anyone else including twice as many as Moneysupermarket. It's behind Green Flag for breakdown cover despite the fact that Green Flag has only 800 links to the entire domain and the AA has 14,000. It's probably not about links. Is it a question that they've got bad links because it was accepted as a fundamental truth 10 years ago that you needed anchor texts you needed lots of anchor texts and you needed to point it at the pages that you want to rank.
Now what's particularly interesting is this is a blog post from Branded3's website back in 2007 where Patrick, our director of strategy, laughed at the AA you'll never rank because you've not got any anchor text, you're not pointing it to the right pages. The AA's linking policy was you can link to us but you need to use The AA or the Automobile Association or as your anchor text we don't mind which page it goes to, we're just grateful for a link and absolutely, you need to show people where you're linking you can't cloak these links. We don't want you to hide these links. You know, eight years ago people laughed at them for this. Now, this is a good link this is what we want these are kinds of links that we would report unto our clients because we know the kind of links that we want are driving brand awareness because we're building brand links and we can't build anchor text for one thing. They go where it's natural for them to go. We can't build them all to the breakdown cover page because it looks strange having more links to breakdown cover than the AA for example. This approach has really changed as well.

When it comes back to Google's search quality guidelines I think the AA has really sort of nailed authority. They've got more links than anyone else. They are pretty well trusted as well but they just don't demonstrate the expertise in the content that they need to create. What's interesting is that everyone knows they need to create content but the sort of SEO attitude to things is we can get penalized if we don't create content. We can get penalized if the content that we create is thin content with little or no added value so what we do is we create content that is just good enough that it adds just enough value so we can stay clear of things like Panda.

I think one thing that's particularly interesting about this phrase and it's one that gets pirated a lot and its one that basically is the title of a penalty is people zone in on the wrong thing. People zone in on thin content trying to define what thin content might be. I think that's the wrong way to go about things. I think it's about adding value is the content you're creating adding value to a user who is entered a query that your content has potentially relevant for? I'll show you an example of this.

If you search for when did the clocks go back in you get this page on and right at the top. There are less than a hundred words on this page. You might argue thin content if you were doing this algorithmically. If you were doing something if you were doing a crawl with DeepCrawl or Screaming Frog something like this, you might flag this up as probably being kind of thin. However, it adds all the value that you could potentially need. If you search for when the clocks change, it's there. It's as immediately obvious as it potentially could be. Maybe you do not want to know when the clocks are changing next; maybe you want to know when they could possibly change in the next year that information is presented as well and a tiny bit of additional information. It doesn't send you elsewhere. It doesn't ask more questions for you. It ends the search. This is a page designed to spend 10 seconds on maybe something like that and effectively a bounce after this. There are not many other places that a user can go. But a user won't search for this again and therefore it has ended the search and therefore it was the right result for Google to display.

When we're talking about what Google wants let's talk about what users want for a second so this is HubSpot I know there is a couple of HubSpotters in the room so I thought it would be a really good idea to put some HubSpot stats in here. Let's assume that that pie chart represents sort of more than 75% because I've not put numbers on it. More than 75% of people think the most important factor in the design of a website is that it's easy to find the thing that I was looking for which seems fairly obvious and it's also fairly intuitive I suppose that because we know that Google copies user behavior and tries to be as close to a user as possible. What Google wants is for the user to be able to find what they want as quickly as possible. What might be a factor in the design of a website might actually be a factor in the algorithm. The reason for this is if what we like to call time to long click.

Now I've linked through to an article by AJ Kohn who is in my opinion probably one of the best SEOs that everyone should... If you're interested in SEO subscribe to his blog. It's probably the best SEO blog on the net at the minute. If you just search time to long click you can find it if you don't want to write the short link. Basically, a long click is when a user spends a long time away from Google. Someone has searched for something and then doesn't go back to search for it again, that's a good result. Even if they've searched for something and go immediately back to Google but search for something completely different, the user's intent has been satisfied by that query. A short click obviously in that sense is bad because the user has clicked on something spent a very short amount of time with that brand with that website and gone back to Google search for the same thing because it's not satisfactory.

A good example of this is Nandos vouchers. Nandos don't do vouchers as a sort of starting point so maybe they do sometimes but most of the time there is no such thing as a Nandos voucher. When a user searches for Nandos voucher and clicks on a website there is nothing could possibly happen other than dissatisfaction with this result because there aren't any Nandos vouchers to be found. So a user will click on that it's not there. They'll go back to Google and click on the next one. That's not there either and this will happen time and time again.

This is probably the best signal that I can possibly imagine to Google that this isn't the result that people are wanting see. Maybe you're looking for a trusted brand and you ignore the first two results and go straight for Moneysupermarket either way, if you're not presenting the content that ends that search query, people are still going to bounce and it's going to cause you problems. What Google really wants to get across basically is finding the sites that people are looking for and not just finding sites that are chasing search queries, presenting pages for the sake of we know there is traffic there to be going after.

Another couple of tips I suppose in terms of structure, this is something I did a degree in journalism in English so this is a principle of journalism that I think everyone should apply to the way that they present content on their websites. It's called an inverted triangle basically. What that means is you need to have a really big, strong, fat lead to your story. If a user is searched for what is this? The first line should say, this is this." This is why Wikipedia is everywhere because the first line in every Wikipedia article is this is the title of it, this is what it is. If someone is only looking to find out what is it that's been satisfied pretty quickly. Luckily Wikipedia presents an awful lot more information as well, which may or not be what someone is looking for.

I think most web content is the opposite of this. I think most web content people tend to lead in with some scene setting and maybe a little bit of history about something. So if you're trying to sell something like UPVC windows companies might approach you but the history of UPVC which is not going to help anyone who's looking to make their house warmer. It's a little bit of content for the sake of content and the information could be way down there and it could be really good information and maybe your brand is the best at whatever it is you're doing but no one will ever know and that's because the way people read content is the way that people read.

People start at the top, start at the left, go down, so whatever you're doing pretty much the most important part of it has to be there front and center, nice and easy for people to find. If you're going to end the search string, if you're going to end what people are searching for you need to say this what you're searching for if it's not, how can we help you what can we do next.

This is for example title tags one of the sort of fundamental principles of SEO is the title of the page is one of the strongest ranking factors because it's at the top. You put the most important keyword at the left-hand side of it because that's what people read first so that's what Google reads first as well.

We know we've got to create content basically and we know that people are searching for things that our content potentially answer and the sort of historical way to do this is we'll just write some content and we'll stuff it full of the keywords that we think people are looking for and then that's sort of it and just leave it there. I think right now you shouldn't be targeting keywords. I think keywords are leading us in the wrong direction to put it sort of bluntly because a keyword is a whole sea of possible intents. The bigger the keyword the more people search for it the more things people are actually looking for.

With the example of breakdown cover for the AA maybe 10,000 people search for it maybe only 1,000 of those people is looking for the kind of breakdown cover that the AA offers. I think chasing keywords is just not the way to go about ranking now. I think it's more important to chase customers.

So credit cards are an example. No one talks like this. If you walk into a bank and say, "Credit cards." then you're probably going to be met with a bank manager that says, I'm sorry what can I do for you there? How can I help you? What is it that you're actually looking for? Whereas websites typically just say credit cards right back at people and it's not a conversation at all, never mind a two-way conversation.
I think one thing that the small businesses have got sort of an advantage with is they have that face to face experience. They have access to what people are actually asking them whether that's logs of phone calls whether that's actually sitting with people who do customer service inbound emails anything like that. I would say that it's more important to answer a good question that one person has had than guessing what 40 people have searched for, maybe 100 people. I'll sort of quantify that again in a second as well.

When someone is searching for credit cards, Google very helpfully gives you some suggestions of what people might actually be looking for, what do people search for as well as this because whoever is answered credit cards as query has not really answered the question and it depends on obviously what your keyword is, what you're searching for but there are lot of different opportunities there are lots of nice things that people show there.

Google Trends is another good way to find out what people are searching for. They've got a nice rising section as well, so you can see what people are searching for now compared to what people are searching for not so long ago. When you look at say searching for credit cards no percent credit cards are always on the rise because people just don't understand credit cards. Basically, they think naught is a good number. That's what I want to pay. They just search for what they know and there are very few websites- I went through some examples in a second there are very few websites that will say maybe this isn't for you, maybe there is another option for you.

Google Keyword Planner is obviously the sort of the main stay for this is the easiest one to use in many ways SEMrush is a really nice tool to finding a lot of keywords as well especially when you're looking at what competitor's targets are. I would recommend looking at both of those. Google Keyword Plan is really useful because it helps you to prioritize as well so not only will they give you suggestions of what people are looking for but it will do it in a nice order for you so you think maybe you should answer this first before you answer this. A site that is combating completely credit card deals, but not including any information whatsoever about credit cards for people with bad credit probably isn't going to rank all that well because Google is already told you this is what people really want, this what people kind of want. You need to be at least saying, "All right we don't do that." Move along people.

Gap analysis is something that Matt talks about though as something that I think everyone should be doing again this is mortgages actually, it's the same principle. If you found a list of questions that you want to answer and I'd say for most businesses sort of 30 is fine. I don't think you need to be answering 200 articles worth of questions because typically a lot of the things will cross over very nicely into what you found that out now and this is probably the next thing you need to know.

So there are two ends of the spectrum of this. Firstly, banks don't service people at all who want to know about mortgages. I mean if you've ever been into a bank and asked about a mortgage I think typically you'd come out and think well I'll just get a mortgage advisor they can do it for me. Then on the other side of the spectrum, you've got sites like who target all of the questions and consequently get hit by Panda and it's because they've not really sort of found the balance of what people are actually looking for and what people actually mean when they search for things. It really useful to sort of put your brand into the mix with whatever answers that you're looking for along with the competitors that you think are doing a good job of it. And say well they're answering these questions and I'm not. It's the nicest simplest way of doing it I think. A couple of examples.

So this is Moneysupermarket. If you've gone on a credit card's page you can see right there within the credit card's page there are guides to credit cards. Here are the first things that you need to know when you're looking for this. It's not tucked away on a blog. You're not writing blog content about what people might want to know about credit cards because people typically go on say etc. and think I need to find a credit card. They don't think, "I wonder what Moneysupermarket have to say about credit cards today." They want to know what will actually help them make that decision so I think Moneysupermarket get it. I think TESCO Bank do a good job of this because even though they're not presenting the same kind of content what they're doing is saying, "We don't know what you want when you're on our credit card's page, how can we help you? Tell us what you want." Asking the question outright is a perfectly valid strategy. Typically, if someone is landing on a credit card's page and don't know what they want, maybe they'll play around with this tool for a little bit. They'll spend a bit of time with the brand, they'll build a little bit of affinity with the brand but also they won't go back to Google. They won't search for credit cards again and Google recognizes that this is a positive signal. I think TESCO Bank gets it as well.

Then compare this with something like TotallyMoney when someone searches for credit cards they just go credit cards, we do credit cards you're in the right place. There you are. There is nothing to add value on this page at all it's just yes we can give a list of credit cards hopes that's what you were looking for. I don't think they do get it.

It's much more important to build content around topics. I'm going to give you a sort of real world example that is one of Branded3's clients that we've implemented this kind of strategy for. To set the scene a little bit this is our client in the spreading betting industry forex trading extremely competitive. The brands that we’re talking about, the brand that we work with are not the market leaders. The brand that we work with has half the search volume of their major competitor in terms of brand search. They are the UK only compared to IG Index who is global. What we did was we found what we think people want to know when people search for spread betting. So for about 18 months of the last two years, this is what you'd get if you searched for spread betting. We identified that if someone searches for spread betting they want to know what it is because it sounds complicated. They want to know how to do it because they think they could probably make some money at it and then when they've got that sorted they want to know where can do it that city index. That's great. That's something that we can help them with as well. I'm talking about a competitive keyword here because IG index was at the top of that in their PPC listings paying £55 pounds per click about 80 Euros per click. There are a number of searches for this query. There is only about 5,000 it's not huge it's the industry's biggest keyword. It's very valuable for City Index in terms of sign-off which is their KPI but it's not huge.

Say for example, how to spread bet as a keyword, as an individual keyword would search for you. It gets about 100 searches a month. It's not vast by any stretch but because we know that people want to know this, we need to write the content and we need to write the best content that's available in the industry. Every single page that we present here has to be better, more comprehensive than Wikipedia if we're going to outrank Wikipedia with this. When we're talking about say a very competitive keyword that someone is paying 80 Euros a click at the top, we've got listings number one, two and three the second PPC listing the 4th is Wikipedia. Google very helpfully puts a very nice cookie policy right at the top as well. For the average screen size you're never going to see a competitor they're below the fold; with this people have to scroll down to see the biggest player in the industry.

There are a lot of things you can do just with search results for example with star ratings etc. and my final point, I'm going to illustrate with Matthew McConaughey. If there was another way to do it, believe me, I would but... This is a poster for a film called "How to Lose a Guy in 10 days" and I'm not going to ask for whose seen it and who hasn't, no naming and shaming but I think you can tell by looking at the poster what this film is going to be like. I think you can see the poster and think I will enjoy that or I will not enjoy that. That is going to pull you into the cinema. That's going to be presenting the right information about the content of this film, in this case, page in the case of the analogy that we're using to pull people into the site.

So things that are just search results things that people typically ignore like meta-descriptions for example, they're not a ranking factor so we won't do them anymore. However they do influence the way that people interact with results and more clicks essentially. I think maybe it's not ranking factor but I think that's definitely an SEO's remit.

The final point that I always love to make about Matthew McConaughey as well is basically it's the same in Hollywood as it is with Google where no matter how much shit you churn out for years and years and years and years you, start doing it right and you can still win an Oscar.

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