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Hootsuite is the world’s largest social media management platform. But if you think that meant the brand easily ranked well and had tons of organic search visibility, think again.
Amazingly, smaller competitors were outranking them all over Google. Why? Because Hootsuite didn’t have an integrated SEO strategy.
Aside from that, they also had a host of technical liabilities that prevented them from performing well in search – until SEO expert Zak Ramdani came on board and turned it all around.
Ramdani, the Great SEO Owl at Hootsuite, joined SEJ Think Tank on July 26 to discuss how Hootsuite broke their organic traffic metrics for seven consecutive months, doubled their blog traffic using on-page techniques to cater to Google’s answer box, and deployed an SEO mindset throughout all communication channels within Hootsuite.
Here is a recap of the webinar he gave.
In a span of five years, Google has rolled out several significant algorithmic updates and features that have caused a massive shift in the SEO landscape. Now, we’re in the midst of yet another transition that affects the way we produce and consume content.
One search element that many SEOs want to rank for is Google’s Featured Snippets.
On December 7, 2016, Google updated their desktop results to more closely reflect mobile results, which introduced a higher propensity for Google cards to be surfaced.
Google will read the featured snippet out loud when using Google Home, Android Auto, or from your mobile device. This change represents a new opportunity for SERP ownership not seen since domain crowding updates in 2012/2013.
Using on-page techniques with the aim of ranking for Google’s answer box helped Hootsuite double their blog traffic. Some of Hootsuite’s content that landed in Google’s featured snippets are standard answers, as well as ordered and unordered lists.
Aside from providing succinct answers to search queries, structuring and formatting your content properly, just like what Hootsuite did, can also help you rank for featured snippets.
According to Ramdani, there are general rules on how you can optimize your site for featured snippets:
You don’t have to rank in position one, you just have to be on page one.
You’ll need to evaluate the results for the following:
- Is there a Google Answer present?
- If so, what format does Google prefer based on the query?
It is important to structure your content in a manner that clearly shows the answer and steps to get to that answer. You should craft your heading/subheading so it closely reflects the user’s question.
If your competitor is a huge site, such as Wikipedia or WebMD, ask yourself: Is this huge giant answering the question effectively and could I do it better?.
If your competitor is doing a good job, chances are they have a higher level of domain authority than you do.
The future might not look so bright if that’s who’s currently in the feature snippet spot. If your competitor is one of those big players but they are not answering the question succinctly or they’re not optimized, then it’s possible you can beat them.
Take a hard look at how your competitor’s content is structured versus yours.
- Are the question and answer higher up in your competitors’ pages than yours are?
- Is yours buried three pages down versus your competitor having it near at the top of the page?
- Does your competitor have their content structured in a way that’s easy for Google to take and replicate or put into a featured snippet versus yours?
- Go back to basics. If you’re not even on page one for the terms that you want to get to, you’ll need to work on that first. Develop your link profile so Google thinks you’re more important, continue to write content, and make sure that your website, from a technical perspective, is performing the way it should compared to your competitors. Featured snippets will play a role once you can start getting on to page one for the terms that you want to rank for. That said, you can still write content for featured snippets from the beginning. You’ll never know what type of terms that you’ll rank for outside of the terms that are directly visible to you.
- Optimize for topics, not so much for keywords.
- Integrate optimization techniques into your blog content and include it to your regular process.
- Answer users’ queries in the featured snippets within a degree but leave enough out there to compel them to actually click your organic result. You have to be cognizant of this when you’re creating content that you want to get featured.
Optimizing for Google’s featured snippets is an opportunity that SEOs should consider pursuing. There is a huge opportunity in adjusting content to answer informational queries especially now that Google favors content that is valuable and relevant to readers. Using proper on-page optimization techniques and adopting a cohesive SEO strategy can greatly help in driving organic traffic metrics in today’s SERP landscape.
This post is based on an SEJ Think Tank webinar about Hootsuite’s Search Success Story, with expert advice from Zak Ramdani, the Great SEO Owl at Hootsuite.
Here’s a video recap of the webinar Q&A session:
Here’s the SlideShare of the presentation as well.