Episode 1

The One Where We Discuss Creating Content For Both Search Engines & Humans With Abby Reimer

Published on: 5th October, 2021

We are back for Season 3 and this week we have Abby Reimer on the podcast to talk about the importance of creating content that both search engines (eg Google) and humans love.

Resources from the episode:

Hemingway App - https://hemingwayapp.com/

Thruuu - https://app.samuelschmitt.com/

Article - https://searchengineland.com/creative-ways-to-source-content-ideas-from-ugc-for-seo-350277

Where to find Abby:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/abbyreimermpls

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abby-reimer/


Episode Sponsor

This season is sponsored by Screaming Frog. Screaming Frog develop crawling and log file analysis software for the SEO industry, and wanted to support the WTSPodcast as listeners to the show. They’ve just released version 16 of their SEO Spider software, which includes - improved JavaScript crawling to help you identify dependencies, such as JavaScript content and links, automated crawl reports for Data Studio integration, advanced search and filtering, and the app is now available in Spanish, French, German and Italian. You can check out the latest version at Screaming Frog's website (screamingfrog.co.uk).

Where to find Screaming Frog:

Website - https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/screaming-frog/

Twitter - https://twitter.com/screamingfrog

YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/c/ScreamingFrogSEO

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/screamingfrog/


Episode Transcript

Sarah McDowell: Hello, and welcome to the Women in Tech SEO podcast. I am very excited that we are back for season three. I am Sarah McDowell, an SEO content executive and your host for today. Joining me, I have Abby Reimer, SEO manager at Uproer, to talk about creating content that humans and search engines love. Hello, Abby.

Abby Reimer: Hi, Sarah. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

Sarah: Thank you very much for joining. How are you doing?

Abby: I'm fabulous. I'm ready for fall, crazy enough. I have my fall candles and a sweater on. I'm ready to go.

Sarah: Ready for the autumnal? Is that the word? Is that the right word?

Abby: Yes. I am very ready especially being from the Midwest. That's wild. Usually, summers are too short. No one wants them to end. This year, I'm ready for the smell of fall, ready for the seasons to switch.

Sarah: To kick things off, I think a good place to start is if you can give our audience a brief overview of yourself and how you got into this wonderful world of SEO.

Abby: Yes, absolutely. I am an SEO manager at Uproer, which is a search marketing agency in Minneapolis. We focus on e-commerce and tech companies. How I got here is a little interesting. As you probably know, if you're in SEO, it's something you stumble into. There's no degree for it. It's just interesting how many different paths there are. I graduated with a PR and writing degree and got a general marketing role.

It was through that that I was working a lot on a blog. I'd worked a lot with email and social and promoting it on different channels. I noticed one week that one of our blogs was doing really r traffic. I was like, "I didn't promote this. What is happening here?" I was so confused. I looked at analytics. I saw that Google organic was the top channel that week. That question that I typed into Google, it's very meta, but I googled, "How do you show up in Google? How do you get traffic?"

I was so fascinated with what I found. I had no idea that it was how you structure web pages and the actual queries that you target. That's how people get found among many other reasons. I went down that rabbit hole. I started following Moz and Brian Dean's Backlinko, followed a lot of those types of sites. I fell in love with it. Six months into my role or eight months or whatever it was, I was like, "I want to work on SEO and content full time."

I ended up going to a content marketing conference where I met my boss, Griffin. He was speaking about SEO and mentioned casually after the presentation, he was like, "I have an agency. I'm one person. If anyone is interested in freelancing or joining, let me know." I think I joked that I blacked out but all I remember is walking up to him. My hand must have been shaking, but I had my business card. I was like, "I want to quit my job and come work for you. Could I buy you a coffee?" Two months later, I was working with Griffin at Uproer and we've gone from two people to ten people over the last few years. I've just really deep-dived into SEO and content. I love it.

Sarah: That is such a lovely story of how you got into SEO. Thank you for sharing that with us. How do you feel about doing a quickfire round of questions?

Abby: Yes. Hit me with it.

[Quickfire Round]

Sarah: What one bit of advice would you give women starting in this industry?

Abby: Oh my goodness. Build your network. Join Women in Tech SEO. I'm not just saying that because I'm on the podcast. This was one of the best things I did for myself and my career. Introduce yourself. I would say go on LinkedIn. Look up people who are doing the dream job that you have if you're not currently in it or you just know what you want to work towards. Just connect with people. Tell them you admire their journey and want to get to know them a bit more. See if you can do a 15-minute chat with them.

The things I've learned from doing this and the confidence I've grown, made me realize that I can talk to anyone. No one's better than anyone else. It's grown my opportunities tenfold and you never feel alone when you have that network. What’s so important for women in this industry is to feel like they have support.

Sarah: Yes, definitely. There are loads of places like the Women in Tech SEO, but there are loads of ways that you can go out and look for communities to be part of. It's so important, isn't it, because you never want to feel like you're alone. If you just got that back in it, it can help you, can't it?

Abby: Oh, absolutely.

Sarah: We are here today to talk about creating content that humans and search engines love. When I saw your topic suggestion, I loved this because I think this is so, so important. I was very excited when you pitched this talk. I suppose the first question that I have to ask is, why is it important? Why?

Abby: I think this is so important because I know our roles as SEO, at a base level, there are many goals, rank first page, help your client or your business drive traffic and conversions from search. However, what I think, I wouldn't say people forget, but something that even me-- The goals sometimes surpass what is happening which is people are searching. People are on the other end of this query. It's so much more important than just ranking.

The other side of that is people, when they're searching for something on Google, Bing, whatever search engine, they're asking you for help whether it's a more question like, "How do I style a romper," to looking to buy something, someone is asking you for that advice. It's a real person on the other end. You want to make sure that you're providing advice that is not only accurate, which is very important, but also helpful.

Ideally, you're creating something that people take off the internet. If you're looking to style an outfit, you want to influence or inspire someone with that question. That's, I think, what keeps me inspired with this job is how you can change the world one query at a time or help one person with their question.

Sarah: SEOs, I think we can run into the trap of because we want to understand Google, we think search engines first, don't we? Do you think we tend to forget about humans? Do you think that's an issue?

Abby: Yes. A lot of what I'm saying here comes from firsthand experience. I am by no means saying, "Yes, I always do this." This came about because I found myself doing this. Yes. How could you not think of search engines first when your goal is to rank and, say, Google gives you guidelines on how to do that? I think it's sometimes your first instinct like, "Oh, what are other people doing?" Maybe I can try and do that a little bit better, copy that structure or curate some of that similar content.

I think that is a very natural and normal first response. I think that kind of content is fine. I think this is just about challenging yourself to be more than fine because I think just the literacy of searchers is just so far increased. People know when they're getting a copycat piece of content. That's just not going to be good enough anymore. Even though I do see Google still rank that content, over time I think if humans don't like it, Google's going to hopefully start-- Their algorithm will start picking up on that and start rewarding the content that does hit that emotional mark?

Sarah: Yes, definitely. We know that Google takes into lots of different things when it's looking at pages that are performing well and how to rank pages, but one of the things that it's got to be looking into is user experience because they care about that at the end of the day, don't they? They're a product in themselves, and they have customers, so they're going to be looking at things like bounce rate, or where people aren't sticking around and things like that, so it is important.

Abby: I agree, and they're kind of dicey on that topic. It's unclear how much they use bounce rate, or dwell time, time on page, things like that but how could they not.

Sarah: Yes.

Abby: I operate off the assumption, though they haven't said straightforward, like, "Yes, we do, or yes, we don't do this," you have to go with your gut a little bit and know that that's important.

Sarah: You talk briefly there about copycat content. What other issues are there around only thinking about search engines first?

Abby: I think the main issue is, at the end of the day, if people don't like your content, even if it does rank, you're not going to ultimately meet your goals. I have an interesting story about this. One of our clients is in the health care support space, so we write a lot about topics like things cancer, and things like that, so very emotional topics. For one of our keywords, we owned the featured snippet for a very high volume term, so we're in the best position. We've got the featured snippet. Why bother improving it? I was looking at the comments on this page because we like to do that every few months just to see what other ideas people have, and a lot of people were writing that they had an issue with a couple of the things we were suggesting, which showed up in the snippet, as well.

We took note of that, and we actually changed them to be more inclusive, and just better content all around, so maintained the first position. Nothing changed with the snippet. Click-through rate doubled overnight. We went from about, I don't want to get it wrong, it was about 14% to 28% the next day, and clicks were up more than 20% across all keywords. It was one of those cases that shocked me. It was like, "You can have the best position in search results, but if your audience isn't happy with the content, one, they might not even click. If you see that and they're like, "Oh, no, those answers aren't really good.", they're not even going to click into it, despite you may be having the best "SEO result."

That was two or three years ago, and that trained my brain to think like, "You know what, it is so much more than ranking because at the end of the day, that's your audience and if they don't like it, they're not going to refer you, they're not going to share the page, they're not going to sign up for your service or buy your product."

Abby: What's the point of ranking in the first place if you're not going to end up with people on your content, right? The results that you just shared there, that's incredible and that just goes to show you the power of listening to your audiences and thinking about humans. How do we get a balance because obviously, we still have to about search engines and Google, but how do we get a balance? Is it 50/50 or I don't know? How would you tackle it?

Sarah: Yes, absolutely, this great question. I think, first of all, just wanting to state that, fortunately for us, most of the best practices that you see in the quality raters guidelines, most of those things that Google suggests to improve your position and search and optimize your site, those things are also good for users. Just thinking about site structure, having things in a heading format, and having the keywords in there, and just having a very logical site structure. One, yes, that's very good for Google because Google can understand the weight of the important keywords and headings, but guess what, that's amazing for readers as well. It breaks things up. People can scan the page. If you have things like jump links, yes, Google likes that but so do humans.

I think, for the most part, if you look through most of the Quality Rater Guidelines, there's not going to be anything suggested in there that's like, "Wow, humans really hate when the keyword is used in headings." It's like, "No." I think where things start to go awry is when we almost take that too seriously, where it's like, "No, we need to have the keyword in every single heading or every single paragraph."

That's where I think things start to go from like, "Okay, this is not natural anymore. This feels like it was written for Google." and I think that's where things start to diverge with the copycat content which is, instead of people thinking-- Again, this is where I've caught myself doing this. Instead of thinking, "Oh, hey, how can we as a business or my clients, how can my clients use their expertise or use their audience to answer this in the best most original way?"

It's really, really easy to think, "Well, what are competitors doing? Can we do the same thing they're doing and just maybe rank amongst them and it'll be fine?" Guess what, I've been there, and it has worked, it's worked fine. I think it's just about challenging yourself to think beyond results for your client, which, of course, that's important, but also like, "If I was seeing the person who was reading this, would I feel proud of this" That is a big mindset shift and it does take more effort. Going back to your question which is, "How can we do both?"

I think it's keeping the best practices that you know search engines like. Talking about things like formatting, obviously using the target keyword in your page title, things like that. Those are all obvious and they work for readers, but where I think the biggest opportunity is and it's in the actual content and the way we write making things more empathetic and just listening to your audience's feedback. That was a broad answer.

Abby: That was a wonderful answer, so much from that. I just want to go back to where you said where sometimes people think, "Okay, what our competitors are doing? Why is this piece of content ranking above us on positions one or two?" You've said it so many times about standing out and being different because there are so many times where I've been doing some research and on page one, there's similar content about, I don't know, the benefits of a certain product or service, and they all have the same structure. They all talk about the same things, but then the ones that stand out to me are the ones that takes a completely different angle, and whilst sometimes those pieces of content could be further down on page one, it still gets my eye because it's completely different, so I think it's about just readjusting, and thinking about things a bit differently, isn't it?

Sarah: Yes, and I completely agree. I think one of the best first steps in figuring out how you can do that is simply taking an objective standpoint, and for your target keyword, go through the first page of results. You don't need to read every single word, but just take 20 minutes, and go through every page, just taking a couple of minutes on each one. Right away, you'll start to see opportunities, whether it's like, "Okay the format, the readability is poor, or there's a lot of stock images." things like that. Those are what I first notice, but then also reading like, "How does the content read? Is this empathetic? Does this have an angle or is this just spitting out what everyone else says?" and I take mental notes, so you can just have a pen and paper and jot down ideas.

I think some of the biggest opportunities is, I don't know, I feel like a big trend in the last few years has been the best way to beat your competitors is just write more content, like the super page of, "Well, if all your competitors have 1,000 words, if you write 3,000, and include every single question that could ever be on this topic, you will rank." I have seen Google sometimes reward those pages. I've been seeing that less.

Sometimes, when I'm looking through the competitors, what I'll notice, and we did this for one of my clients, I noticed that all the top results buried the answer in a bunch of text, so sometimes being competitive is actually ss and being like, "Okay, let's make a 600-word page instead of 2,000 and answer the question immediately.", so it's just about determining what our competitors missing, whether it's they're using too much content too little, or their titles are boring like just looking where those gaps are. I think I'm starting-- This is something I'm trying to switch my brain with is if I look at the top 10 results, and I truly believe every single one of these pages I cannot get, then I'd like to look at a different keyword. This is pretty rare where there's like not one opportunity to do better.

Sarah: There are always opportunities to better content. You've just said it, to better content. Doesn't always mean more, does it? You don't always have to up the word count or it's just about being a better answer. As you said, if you can give a better answer in fewer words, then surely that's better for Google and better for the user.

Abby: Exactly.

Sarah: How do we know that our content is engaging for humans? I'm saying humans like I'm not one.

Abby: I know. We aren't a robot.

Sarah: [chuckles] How do we know? What sort of metrics should we be looking at and measuring?

Abby: I love this question. I think one really good one is that we, and this won't work for every single site, but for the site, I was telling you about the health care site, we asked for comments. We end every article with a simple call to action, which is just a heading that says, "What are your thoughts on this topic? We'd love to see them in the comments below, so we can keep improving and sharing your ideas with more people." Even if...

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About the Podcast

The Women in Tech SEO Podcast (WTSPodcast) is THE podcast for all things SEO. Each week we invite brilliant women in the industry to join us and delve into specific topics so that we can learn from their stories, knowledge, and experience.

WTSPodcast is part of Women in Tech SEO - a support network aimed for women in the Technical SEO field, to discuss, share and learn from one another. The aim is to empower each other in a positive, inspiring, and beneficial way, and to help build our network and accelerate our careers.

Your hosts are Areej AbuAli (founder of Women in Tech SEO & SEO Consultant) and Sarah McDowell (Podcaster & SEO Manager at Captivate FM).

Website: https://www.womenintechseo.com/podcast/
Twitter: @techseowomenpod

Looking for The SEO SAS Podcast? You can find that show here: https://seo-sas.captivate.fm/listen

About your hosts

Sarah McDowell

Profile picture for Sarah McDowell
I've been in Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for around 10 years, currently working as the SEO Manager at Captivate (part of Global), the world's only growth-orientated podcast host. I am a self-confessed SEO nerd (I find the industry fascinated and love learning how search engines like Google work) and a bit of a podcast addict (with this being the fourth podcast I have hosted). I am also a speaker and trainer. I hope you enjoy this podcast!

Areej AbuAli

Profile picture for Areej AbuAli
Areej is an SEO Consultant with over 8 years experience who focuses on all things technical and on-site. She is the founder of the Women in Tech SEO community and has spoken in industry events such as MozCon, SMX and BrightonSEO.