In march 2020, I got invited to talk with Australia’s highly respected business coach and marketer James Schramko about how we started to help him and his team to work on their site’s SEO.
Here’s a brief overview about what we were talking about:
01:03 – Enlisting the eyes of an outsider
02:26 – The things that could have been better
06:45 – What the overall diagnosis was
08:01 – Was there anything actually good?
09:44 – The process and experience of working with a pro
12:47 – Gert’s typical SOP with clients
14:40 – What’s been done and what the results are
17:12 – The numbers that are in
19:29 – Making it easy for Google
21:26 – In conclusion…
If you prefer to read, here’s a full transcription of the entire interview:
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com, Episode 723. Today, I’ve brought along a special guest, Gert Mellak, who is an SEO expert. He’s from a business called SEOLeverage.com. And in the course of him being a member of SuperFastBusiness, I got to know him and what he does. And I started referring him to a few of my other clients. And they kept coming back to me saying, “Wow, thank you for the referral. Gert was able to really help us out, and we got a big transformation with our website.”
Enlisting the eyes of an outsider
So I went back to Gert and said, “Gert, would you have a look at our website, at SuperFastBusiness.com?” keeping in mind that we used to run an SEO business. So we know the basics, and we used to be really on top of this, but it’s been about three years since we sold our SEO business. And we’ve been busy doing other things – publishing our book, Work Less Make More, running our SilverCircle coaching community, and building out some side projects. So Gert could come in and have a look as outside eyes on our website.
And in this episode, I want to share with you what Gert found when he came to look at our site, and what we’ve done in the short period since the audit to our site, and importantly, what sort of results we got. So firstly, let’s introduce Gert. Hey there Gert, good to speak with you.
Gert: Hey, James, thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure, because I basically discovered your podcast a few years back and discovered what you do and how you help businesses streamline their efforts and and actually make much more working less. So it’s a special pleasure to be a guest here today.
James: Well, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. And the most important thing for me is when my community members help each other and they get results for each other. And since we came on board and did that website review, we’ve gotten even closer, in business partnership with you now and in SilverCircle. I help you grow SEOLeverage.com. And you’re seeing some significant growth, which is tremendous, because I want to make sure I repay the favor and get you a great result.
The things that could have been better
But importantly, you know, the proof is in the pudding. And I’d love it if we could just open up the SEO report from where we’re up to now. And if you could just start off by giving a little overview – and I’m kind of opening up the kimono here and I’m sharing a little bit of behind-the-scenes stuff with our listener – when you first had a look at SuperFastBusiness, what sort of things were we finding that needed work?
Gert: Essentially, even before the audit, I already knew this was going to be a very complex site, just because you guys are so prolific in content creation, with so many episodes and podcasts, so many transcriptions, so much content out there to help businesses grow.
So whenever you have a lot of content, you need to find a way to structure it properly. So for example, on your site, there were roughly 10,000 pages. So this is quite an amount to put into structure. We had like 2003 directions, we have 1500 different WordPress tags that have been built up over time. There’s nothing too strange. It’s just a normal way of growing your site, you migrate from one system to the other one. You usually don’t want to lose the content you had before, especially when you’ve got rankings, you just transfer everything to the new site, to a new environment, and keep working, keep talking about essentially the same things, and giving more detail, bring on more experts about the same topic.
So it’s basically the challenge to really see what is working, because only a small part of pages are usually ranking and really driving organic traffic from Google. See what’s working, how can we strengthen this, and how can we make sure that the other pages that are maybe too similar to the ranking content are not distracting Google from what we want them to rank.
James: And we also have to consider that there’s a few factors. Firstly, it no longer became our core business. So we didn’t have an SEO specialist in our team, just focusing on our site. We just had a good basic understanding of SEO in terms of site title, how we’re going to write the content, categories and those sort of things. And the other thing to consider is that over time, some SEO practices or techniques actually changed. And we’re dealing with a site here that’s been going for, you know, a long time, like half a decade or more at SuperFastBusiness.com. And before SuperFastBusiness, this site, I think it actually ended up being the recipient of what used to be InternetMarketingSpeed, FastWebFormula.com, BuyWithBonus.com. There was the SEO site, and the website development site at the various points ported content into this site. So it basically had a mashup of content from all these different places. And that’s how we ended up with 10,000 pages.
And then of course, it turns out that in the beginning, you’re getting rewarded for more and more content on similar topics. And, you know, tags used to be very, very, very powerful. But what we discovered is there’s been some subtle changes in the way that Google responds to it, and we’ve actually started making it a bit harder for Google to figure out which content it should promote of the, you know, 20 different versions of a similar theme. Because over time, over 10 years, you’ve got enough time to actually overlay several episodes on the similar theme. I mean, we’ve got a lot of other podcasts on the SEO topic over the years. So we have to start differentiating and treating them differently in our online website structure.
So we also had a few pages that weren’t available, you know, some common sort of errors, like a 404 error. We had some duplicate page titles for some reason, I’m not sure how that happened. We had some missing meta descriptions. We had some previous sort of HTTP version of website redirects instead of the HTTPS. And I’m not sure when we changed that, I know it was a long time ago. But again, we had so much old content there. We had quite a few unavailable pages. And we had a little bit of a low click-through rate from Google, which obviously, you know, 0.9 percent is concerning. It’s saying the content is not giving Google what it wants, and we want to give Google what they want. We’re not trying to cheat them, or trick them or hack them. We just want to have a really well-performing site.
And it was a little bit slow on desktop and mobile, even though we used to develop websites. We’ve talked about mobile first development, we have talked about site speed numerous times. But again, over time, it’s easy to sort of slip and to not stay on top of that.
What the overall diagnosis was
So how would you sort of summarize the health of our site in general, when you first laid eyes on it, you know, behind the scenes with logins and access to our data?
Gert: I think, we were basically doing site audit every day, and it wasn’t too different from what we usually see. It was just scaled up quite a bit, due to the huge amount of content. I’ve been in this game for 19 years now. It was different 10 years ago, sites wouldn’t be that big, they wouldn’t have such a long history. Now we have websites that have been growing over time and have been growing in a manner that’s not exactly healthy. And as you were saying, Google has changed a lot, right? So if you had an SOP in place, a process in place where you would place a certain amount of tags in the past, this has been growing. Google uses tags in a different way now, or tags might be overlapping too much over time. So this is really our point as a consulting firm, where we try to always be on top of what Google expects. And this is different for a certain niche. So in your niche, Google might expect different things than in another niche. And it’s really a matter of going in there, seeing what Google ranks, and then figure out how we can tweak your website to do exactly this in an even better form.
Was there anything actually good?
James: And was there anything good about our site, when you did the audit?
James: Because, you know, I know my team listen to this, and…
Gert: Absolutely. I don’t want to get too technical, but there were three things that are very outstanding. So you had a very good bounce rate.
Gert: It essentially means people, when they get to your site, they want to learn more. They do more clicks, they consume more content, which also definitely translates into your conversions.
Gert: You have a very strong backlink profile. Your brand is consolidated in this space. People know you; people know your podcast, you know, your site, your product. You get very good links from authoritative people in this space. So when you have a strong domain authority, what happens is that whatever content you create on top of this domain is going to rank much faster than on a weak domain.
Gert: For us, as SEO consultants, it’s like a headstart you get when you want to build up new content. We might be talking later about how to get more traffic, how to grow the traffic to your website, in terms of new content. Domain Authority is definitely key.
And then your site had a very good usability. So what we see very often, you mentioned mobile first. So definitely the theme was in your minds, on the minds of your team, when you built the site, when your site was designed. Today it’s really, more than half of people are going to consume websites’ content on their mobile phones. So if your website, if you don’t like to navigate your website on your phone, and you prefer to do it on the desktop, it’s probably for a reason.
Gert: So definitely, the usability of your site was outstanding. And this really helps, because it essentially removes a lot of the technical part that might be involved in creating a better positioning for a website. It removed this from the equation. So we can focus with your team on content structure and content optimization.
The process and experience of working with a pro
James: Now let’s just talk about that process for a minute. I’m interested in the way that we’ve worked together and also maybe compare that to how you might typically work with someone else. So I’ll ask you in a minute to describe how we worked together, and then just let me know if that’s different to how someone listening to this would work with you. If they’re listening to this, and they say, “I want to get an audit from Gert, and see if he can help our website,” is it going to be the same process? Or is it different?
Gert: It’s essentially the same process. We follow a proven structure in our audits. We refine it every day, basically, every month at least, and add more things and tweak more things to what could be expected a certain time. And also based on the type of website. So if this is an ecommerce site, we’re looking at different things than if it’s a content website, or if the website has podcasts, etc. But essentially it’s the same structure.
So we would ask our client for access to their Google Analytics and Google Search Console, so we can do a proper analysis and see what Google actually does with the website. Google Search Console is very important, because it’s basically the only resource you have on how many impressions you get, how many times your search results are coming up for certain queries, for certain URLs. It also tells you a lot about the health of the website, from the eyes of Google. So is there any mobile issue? Sometimes you have, like, a horizontal scrolling or something like this, because the programming wasn’t done right, or the theme is not compatible with a plugin or something like that. So Google Search Console is definitely essential.
And then we also look at Google Analytics, especially we’re focusing on conversions, which very often in SEO gets a little bit to the back, because we really want to know what organic content is doing. So one of the first things we do with consulting clients very often is we establish a custom report on Google where we see where the traffic lands and how it converts. Because this very often streamlines the SEO efforts. You might have a client focusing on a certain keyword, but then if you prove to them that this keyword is not a converting one, but a longer keyword he didn’t really consider that’s bringing in conversions. Or some URL where he answers a question, and this page wasn’t even considered. We want clients to really know what’s working right now, what’s happening with their SEO right now. And it might even be that there are no organic conversions. It’s also a very important information, so they can see if there’s a positive return on investment on SEO improvements for them.
James: Right. And in our case, I’m the business owner. I’m creating content. And I’m doing a bit of the strategy, thinking about what I want to talk about, like you know, I want to have Gert come on and talk about what we’re doing with SEO. Like, that’s my decision. After me, after I record, it’s then team. They take over. And I don’t log in and tune up my website. I’ve got team members to do that. So what we did is, we brought you into our team, into the Slack channel, and we created an SEO channel and you were dealing directly with my webmaster and a couple of other team members who are involved in content.
James: That made it much easier for me, because I’m not the one that’s going to do the stuff. It made it really easy for my team to deal directly with the person who’s consulting on this and actually directing the changes and what’s happening.
Gert’s typical SOP with clients
How did you find working with our team, and is this the sort of process you do with others?
Gert: Absolutely. We either have people direct their questions about the audit, etc. to a help desk, so we use Help Scout, normal help desk ticket system just to get things in order and make sure those tickets are answered first. And another option we offer is connecting directly to the Slack channel of our clients. We usually have, like, a period of 30 days after an audit where we assist clients and their team or their developer with questions. So we even might have a freelance programmer who was not sure how to implement something, so they can direct their questions directly to us. So it gets done in a more efficient way.
And we also make a point in walking people through the audit. So the audit might be, I think the current version usually comes out at about 60, 70 pages full of information, screenshots, explanation. Every part has their analysis: why this is important, how it affects your rankings, what you can do to tune it, etc. But it’s a lot of information. Okay? So we make a point in usually recording a video explaining the audit, and then very often, we’ll jump on a call with clients or their team or their CMO to really talk about the analysis more in detail so the information gets really clear. It’s a lot of information. You get, like, a 360-degree insight into what is right now happening with your site, what was working, what’s not working, what might not be a good idea that 10 years ago seemed to be one.
And we really want that the information comes across in the appropriate way, because we’re trying to see results. Basically, we have a focus on getting a research site audit ready for a great case study we afterwards want to publish. So that’s our approach. And this really requires that the changes are getting implemented in the correct way.
What’s been done and what the results are
James: So in our case, I found it really educational. My team was really interested in the report, and we treated it as a work order. And so I asked the team, can they work their way through it? Now it’s important to point out, at this point, we have not finished implementing all of the suggestions. But we certainly made some good headway in some of the most critical ones, because we prioritize which ones should be having the highest impact. And I can’t remember when we started this process. How many months would you say it’s been so far?
Gert: It’s probably a couple of months or so of implementation.
James: And in the meantime, we’ve had things to do, like promote SuperFastBusiness Live; we’ve been setting up two brand new projects on different platforms on 10XPRO for our business. So we didn’t dedicate all of that time to this project, but we have done some things, and it would be worth coming back later, when we’ve continued doing stuff. I can tell you, for example, some of the things that we are working on right now (and I just had a team meeting today) is we’ve got some really epic feature content posts coming that group together a topic that you’ve identified we should be specifically focusing on. And then we’re going to be linking from that epic post, back to the various sub posts that belong to that group or that silo or related to that topic.
You went into that sort of with a diagram in the SuperFastBusiness membership training that you provided, which was fantastic. And it really makes sense when you have a visual representation of that category theme, and then very similar, logical, related posts. So that’s something we’re working on that I think will have a big impact.
But let’s just have a look at what sort of results we’ve gotten so far, in just a couple of months, doing the first few things on the list. For example, I know we did things like speed up our website. And I know that we started stripping away tags, we probably halved the number of tags we have on our website. We fixed up the obvious things, like the pages where there’s a 404 error that was going nowhere. And we fixed up things like making descriptions unique, etc. So, some of the basic stuff. I’m not sure what else we’ve done technically, but you might explain that. But let’s have a look at some of the results so far, that the pruning and restructuring has done.
Gert: So, the pruning was very important, because it translated directly into an increase in clickthrough rate. Like you mentioned, you had a 0.9 percent clickthrough rate at the beginning.
Gert: With tons of keywords that were absolutely not related ranking on pages 3, 4, 8, etc. on Google, where they don’t really have an impact on traffic, but they have an impact on your overall rating that Google gets on your site. And this is why you had a 0.9 rating. What happened after the pruning is that while the keywords ranking on pages 3, 4, 8, etc., went down, the rankings on page one went up.
The numbers that are in
Gert: So by pruning the website, Google gets a better idea of what you want to rank for, and can then give you more qualified traffic. So someone’s searching for something very related, where you give a very good answer on your website, we see the bounce rate, which is great, are more likely to click on your result, which then plays in the clickthrough rate. So just now, it has been growing since your team started to work on this, and from 0.9 we are now at a 1.6-percent clickthrough rate. That has almost doubled the traffic you get from Google on your result.
James: Right. So it’s basically doubling the traffic.
Gert: And basically, it’s really, we track back to being more concise.
James: So we’ve doubled the traffic from Google to our website by removing stuff.
Gert: Essentially, yes.
James: I love it. That’s really “rank more, content less,” something like that.
Gert: Publish less.
James: What about things like the average pages per session?
Gert: That was an interesting one as well, and it also comes back to the clickthrough rate, because you had, like, an average pages per session of 2.8. This went up to 3.2 in January, and to four pages per session in February.
James: Right. It’s like a 45-percent increase on how many pages people click on.
Gert: It’s a 45-percent increase. People that now come to your site are much more likely to convert, are much more likely to want to know your brand. So it’s not only the rankings that count, but also the quality of traffic that you bring to your website. People very often only focus on their visitors and don’t take into account how many of them bounce. What do these visitors actually do? Are they staying on the site? Are they converting? Do they sign up for any newsletters or subscriptions or whatever you offer? And that’s an important one.
And we have also seen that since your team started to work on the other implementations, rankings on the top three positions have been growing. So you have more rankings on the top three, and you have more rankings on the top 10. So essentially, you have, like, a 30-percent increase in rankings on page one, which are really affecting organic traffic than comparing this to what you did before. And essentially, you’re probably about 20-percent in, in the action steps we had at the end of each audit in terms of implementation, right? So it was very interesting to see how Google reacts when you have them focus their attention more on the important stuff.
Making it easy for Google
Google has something that’s called a crawling budget. Okay? I always compare this and say, Look, it costs money for Google to crawl your website, right? So you don’t want to waste their money. Wasting their money would mean having them crawl pages with very low or no value at all. And this was, on your site, for example, some tags, every tag you add on WordPress, for example, creates a separate page Google is going to crawl, in a normal configuration setting, right? If this tag is only used once, there’s just one tiny snippet of a post there, it’s not bringing you any value, the page seems empty, Google is never going to rank it, is never going to take it into account. It’s not doing anybody any service, and it would be a waste of Google’s resources. Right?
So what we’re trying to do very often is really make Google’s life easier, help them save money. Sounds funny, when you talk about Google, but really help them save money, help them save their processing power for what you really want to rank, what really has an impact, what really impacts your conversions. And users really get value out of it, because at the end of the day, Google wants to provide value to their users through your website.
James: So if you’re in a dark room, it’s like having a flashlight pointing at exactly what you want to spotlight instead of having dim lighting throughout the whole room and making it difficult to see what we’re supposed to be focused on.
James: So we had a couple of technical issues, of course, we’re still working on. Because over time, you create a lot of content. And we’re still working on the duplication, the missing marker head ups and some meta descriptions and page titles. And, of course, the content structure, I think, is really where we’re going to have the big wins, when we start putting those nice pillar content articles, and then structuring the links to the correct posts within the site. Because we have a lot of themes, and you can imagine, with 723 podcast episodes, there’s automatically 723 posts, so we’re just like, how do we bundle those into themes and categories and link them together with a really good strong pillar post structure? So I’m pretty excited about where it’s going.
I want to express my gratitude for you getting involved and for helping us out. And I also want to acknowledge my team and their humility in accepting someone from outside to come in and just show us what we should be doing. We had a little bit of help with the site speed as well from Justin, from TunedWP. I have to give him a shoutout, because he got our site loading so quickly that one of our other friends, who was helping us on the site, did a speed test the other day, and it just blew him away. I think the site loaded in under half a second for him on the thing that he was checking, and he was like, “How the hell did you guys do that?” But we wouldn’t have sped up the site if it didn’t come up in your report.
And I’m really encouraged by the results. I mean, just some of those stats that you’ve mentioned, pretty much we’re getting twice the result from Google that we got before, without adding anything, just by taking stuff away. And people are looking at half as much content again as what they were looking at before, and we’re getting an extra third more rankings than we had before. And this is just as we start down the pathway.
So this was a really valuable audit. I appreciate your commitment to helping our team. I hope my team has been communicating well with you, Gert, and good to deal with. They definitely listen to this podcast, so anything you want to say about them, go for it.
Gert: It’s a pleasure to deal with them. We’re in touch almost every day and pointing out things one to the other is a real pleasure. They are so dedicated, and they are very fast-executing. Just point out something, and the next day it’s essentially done and it’s just confirmed back. It’s a real pleasure. You’ve got a great team there, and I’m looking forward to what we’re going to do in the next weeks and months.
James: Yep. Well, you know, I promised to get you on a podcast to talk about our results, because I figured that might help you make sure we get a good result. And the team knew that we were going to have this spotlight on us. So this is, you know, one of those underneath-the-hood, showing our audience what’s going on behind the scenes at SuperFastBusiness.com. You know, our preferred suppliers are always popular with our listeners, because we’re doing the road-testing and the bench-testing.
And I’ve got to say, it’s been an absolute pleasure working with you too, Gert. And if you’re listening to this, and you want an SEO audit, head over to SEOLeverage.com. It’s the same supply source that I’ve used for SuperFastBusiness.com. And we are getting the results. I’m sure you can look them up on any of the SEO-type tools that exist out there and validate the results we’re getting, but we’ve seen them in our own analytics and whatever reporting tools are available.
Gert’s been a pleasure to deal with, and what I am looking forward to is an update on this. We’ll come back in a future episode, we’ll talk about what happened when we rolled out our new content structure, and we’ll see where we can take this. So, you know, while everyone’s talking about all the sexy stuff like Facebook ads and videos and all the rest of it, just keep in mind that Google is an absolute powerhouse, and your website can be such a tremendous asset if you build it up over time, like we have. We’ve got a lot of our sales coming from direct search, and people looking for things that we happen to rank for. So there you have it, Gert, an absolutely epic update. Thank you.
Gert: Thank you so much.
James: That’s Episode 723. If you want to listen back to some of that technical jargon, find it on SuperFastBusiness.com. And, of course, all of those lovely keywords, part of what’s driving that Google visitation to our website.
And if you got here to this post on SuperFastBusiness because you did a Google search, it’d be really funny if you comment in the comments there below, because it’s proving the point.
Need help with SEO?
Send me an e-mail to [email protected] and let’s have a chat!