65 | Entity Search, Freshness & Moating with Simon Schnieders

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In this episode we chat about content creation for entity searches, better rankings via freshness (query deserves freshness ranking factor) and an SEO tactic Simon calls moating. 

Simon Schnieders worked for Mail Online and Zoopla before starting his own agency. Simon founded Blue Array in 2015 and has since become the largest specialist agency.

In previous episodes I mentioned my collaboration with Blue Array on Mastering In-House SEO book. I recommend you get it for the expert tips, especially as all proceeds go to charity. 

“Females we approached [for Mastering In-House SEO book contributions] were much less confident than their counterparts.”

Mail Online; educating stakeholders and entity mining software

Simon says it was more about soft skills and getting the job done in his role at Mail Online. Working with the editor there was difficult because Simon was thrown out of the office by suggesting that headlines should be aligned to what users type into search. Instead he went around the problem by teaching the copywriter there about search and optimising via keywords. She then got the most pageviews for her content and so, Simon was welcomed back into the editor’s office when the results were positive.

It’s about educating. When I worked at Tesco, I was educating stakeholders and finding ways to ensure they know what they’re doing and looking for. It’s not just for us, as SEOs to make the changes, but for the changes to be made at the root. 

Example. Simon came up with a technical solution by using entity mining software to create aggregate pages about celebrities or other entities. This caters to Google’s need for ‘query deserves freshness’ and allows for better permanent visibility in SERPs.

Blue Array are creating an Entity Extraction Software using Natural Language Processing API for WordPress called ENSTRACTS. It’s a way to automate the categorisation of content by creating hubs for articles that you’ve written about (around the same entity ie. a celebrity) by tagging content. 

What is an Entity?

In plain terms I see it as any ‘thing’ but the official Google definition is “a thing with distinct and independent existence.”

What is Natural Language Understanding and Processing?

This site defines it as “Natural language understanding (NLU) is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses computer software to understand input made in the form of sentences in text or speech format.” Find out more by listening to the Natural Language Processing episode here.

It’s a great way to create content for EAT by helping topicality of your site and helping you get authority on particular subjects. Google is looking at the whole user journey and where there are a number of pages around the subject rather than one off articles.

This will come in handy for things like Google news and top stories carousel due to the query deserves freshness as a ranking factor. Simon used to republish articles and use the same URL or different URLs and use a 301 redirect. Of course, it’s query dependant, says Simon, as not all searches will need freshness to rank well for it. 

Simon also saw good visibility in the US just by getting good US backlinks. There was a significant shift and so, it was a game changer. Locational links are very useful when youre international, even nofollow links. Tip: ensure your hreflang is correct for that location and check your Search Console is correctly linked up for geo-targeting. 

Simon also worked for Zoopla, which had a huge market size. He worked on acquisition SEO. Consolidating websites and buying other companies. He made sure sites had good backlinks and created partnerships with other sites that can be redirected. Collaborations with other businesses were made to raise their own backlink profile, a strategy that Simon said was incredibly effective. Once they started acquiring sites with similar backlinks though, it was no longer working as well.

Simon said he hit a challenge once as one domain they acquired, they couldn’t redirect, so the challenge was to rank first and second on the SERPs with different websites and duplicate content. What worked well was to change the sort order of the duplicate content on the different sites, it was the only difference between the two but it seemed to have been strong enough to rank both side by side! 

Moating; getting as much share on SERPs as possible. Simon uses the analogy of moating by explaining that you have a castle, which is your main domain, then you’re creating a body of water around it, which is the moat, where you have a relationship or own other sites to power up results. 

Get in touch with Simon on Twitter | Bluearray.co.uk | LinkedIn | Email: simon at bluearray.co.uk

Related Episodes

  1. Natural Language Understanding and BERT with Dawn Anderson 
  2. Content strategy and EAT with Dan Shure
  3. SEO after COVID

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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