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Enjoying its 18th year as a conference, Optimization 2023 is arguably the largest digital marketing conference in Russia.

For the most part, the conference goes under the radar in the Western world.

Going virtual this year for the first time since its inception, the conference plays host to some of the best Russian marketers sharing their insights and experiences, as well as representatives from Google and Yandex.

This year, I also spoke at the conference, alongside other “Western” SEO professionals Kevin Indig and Barry Schwartz.

The talks focused both on optimizing for Google as well as Yandex, with a number of unique takes and insights coming from some of the leading Russian SEO professionals.

In this article, I’m going to summarize five of the key takeaways from the conference, including insights from:

A virtual roundtable featuring a number of leading Russian SEO professionals.

Key members of the Yandex Search product teams.

1. Ranking Factors: Yandex vs. Google

As part of the modern SEO research track, Mikhail Volovich and Olga Yudina, both of Ashmanov & Partners, gave a presentation on the research they have compiled analyzing the ranking factors for both Yandex and Google, and highlighting their differences.

The key takeaways from their presentation are:

The ranking factors identified in 2023 remained relevant to 2023.

The effect of links within Yandex appears to have lessened, whereas it has remained the same within Google.

Perceived website (and business) quality has become a much stronger factor in both Google and Yandex.

On mobile, site speed appears to be more important to Google than Yandex, but in Yandex the number of Turbo pages has increased greatly (outside of the top 3 results).

They also predict, based on observed data that:

Both Google and Yandex will add more weight to establishing website quality (Google’s E-A-T and Yandex’s IKS).

Mobile search will see an increase in both AMP and Turbo pages.

2. Manipulating User Behavior Factors

Yandex monitors this, and do penalize webmasters looking to cheat the algorithm in this way.

The PF filter – and its fairness – has been long discussed by SEO pros in the forums as the tactic can also be used as a weapon against competitors who then fall under the penalty.

During the Optimization 2023 roundtable, this topic came up and was addressed by Mikhail Slevinsky, the head of Yandex Webmaster tools.

He said that they are seeing good progress in their efforts to combat this type of manipulation.

Yandex’s Elena Pershina also added that in surveys conducted by the search engine, more and more business owners are becoming aware of the risks of using such manipulative tactics.

3. The Dominance of Aggregators in SERPs

Another key talking point during the virtual roundtable was that of the dominance of aggregator websites within Yandex search results.

Much like Amazon can dominate certain search results in the U.K., Russia has its own aggregators like Ozon and Wildberries.

Roundtable members posed the question to the Yandex representatives if this is seen as an issue, and what their take on this was.

In response, Slevinsky gave an initial answer of:

“Any offline store where I buy goods is essentially a marketplace. And as a user, it is more convenient for me to buy meat, fish and fruits in one store than to travel to different points. Online is like offline. In my opinion, the situation here is harmonious, and small businesses can definitely get their audience.”

Slevinsky and Pershina continued that the problem is that smaller businesses are potentially not doing enough to establish a USP or differentiation factor between themselves and other businesses (both small and large).

And that if there is no differentiation for the user, then the search engine will also not see enough difference to discern a prominent ranking position.

They did, however, show that if enough users show examples of where this is negative for users, then they are open to seeing it as a problem for users if one exists.

4. What Makes a Quality Website

In a talk by Elena Pershina, head of B2B Marketing for Non-Advertising services at Yandex, the search engine gave some insight into how webmasters can establish a “quality” website.

Pershina began her talk by noting that the website and business, to Yandex, have become separate entities over the past couple of years.

The website is more of a proxy for the business as a whole and not a sole representation

And that for good ranking positions within Yandex you not only need a good website that is “optimized for SEO”, but also a business that’s generating the right signals for the search engine.

We can draw similarities here with Google, that the business itself needs both reputation and EAT.

In 2023, Yandex applied a quantitative, external-facing metric known as the ICS to webmasters to indicate a website’s quality.

Over the past two years, this metric has been refined to become a trusted metric that some Russian SEO professionals believe is updated on an almost monthly basis.

The ICS score is combined with other measures of business/website quality such as the CLI (Customer Loyalty Index) in Yandex.Directory.

“We thought for a long time how to give a signal to the business that something is wrong with customer service. The user found it once, made a call and never returns. To track such moments, to understand how often the user wants to search for you, we made a customer loyalty index.”

The CLI allows the business to take on feedback from users, and improve, as well as allowing Yandex to actively record user sentiment and satisfaction to the associated products and services.

Pershina also confirmed that Yandex is working harder to better understand user-generated content and reviews in relation to a business.

And to better identify scam businesses or just really bad potential customer experiences.

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14 Technical Seo Takeaways From Techseoboost

TechSEOBoost is a tech SEO’s paradise: incredibly technical and actionable sessions inspiring innovative approaches and empowering solutions.

What was a PPC person doing there!?!?!

Usually, if there’s a PPC track, the PPC folks will go there. If there’s an SEO track, the SEO folks will go there.

Too long have the silos between SEO and PPC blocked empathy and knowledge shared between the two disciplines.

This PPC marketer was curious to understand what pain points and innovations our counterparts were exploring.

One of the best parts of the conference was seeing how many parallels there are in where SEO and PPC are evolving.

If there’s one focus point we can all agree on, it’s audiences and understanding the shifting desires in audiences.

The other takeaway weaving its way through most talks was to share data and make marketing a truly cross-department initiative.

Each speaker had great takeaways – here’s the round-up of the main takeaway from each presentation:

1. NLP for SEO

Pragmatism is a beautiful trait, and Paul Shapiro led a great discussion on how to decide which parsing method would serve you best.

In the spirit of pragmatism, Python was a requirement for this talk.

Lemmatization, while more accurate takes more time.

When deciding how you’ll parse, consider the scope of the content and whether the intent could be lost by taking the faster Stemming route.

2. Automate, Create & Test with Google App Scripts

This session solicited audible excitement for good reason: David Sottimano gave us easy hacks to easily analyze 10 BILLION rows of data without SQL!

The “secret” is Sheets data connector and the implications are exactly as exciting as they sound!

Sottimano outlined the following use cases:

Clean and manipulate data quickly in sheets.

Parse URLs quickly.

Scraping Google via SEPapi.

Creating your own auto-suggest.

For everyday SEO, these practical use-cases were suggested:

Checking for indexing and 301 targets in the same action:

Monitoring pages, comparing content and caching:

Machine learning classification using bigML and SEMrush keyword data:

3. When You Need Custom SEO Tools

The first panel of TechSEOBoost focused on knowing when third-party tools might not be enough and it makes sense to invest in proprietary tools.

The panel consisted of:

Nick Vining: Catalyst (moderator)

Claudia Higgins: Argos

Derek Perkins: Nozzle

JR Oakes: Locomotive

While the panelists each had their unique perspective to share, the overarching theme they focused on was cross-department empathy and data access.

Investing the time and resources to build a custom solution may seem daunting, the panelists all agree that having a single source of digestible truth more than pays for it.

Specific soundbites we call can learn from:

Higgins discussed shedding fear around building a custom solution/thinking it’s only possible if you have a really technical background. Don’t allow lack of tech chops get in the way of you solving a problem you know needs solving!

Oakes empowers us to use usage as a good metric to decide if a tool is outdated, as well as never build unless there’s a clear understanding of the outcome.

Perkins reminds us to hold off on automating a function/data set until it happens at least three times. Any less than three and the sample size and data focus will be compromised.

4. Bias in Search & Recommender Systems

To be human is to have bias – and the impact of those biases are felt in our careers, purchases, and work ethic.

Ricardo Baeza-Yates outlined three biases that have far-reaching implications:

Presentation bias: Whether a product/service/idea is presented and can, therefore, be an eligible choice.

Cultural bias: The factors that go into work-ethic and perspective.

Language bias: The amount of people who speak the language most content is in.

Presentation bias has the biggest impact on SEO (and PPC). If you’re not presented during the period of consideration, you’re not going to be chosen.

It’s not sustainable to own everyone’s presentations bias, so we must understand which personas represent the most profit.

Once we’re in front of our ideal people, we must know how to reach them.

Enter culture and language bias.

Baeza-Yates translates culture bias as living on two scales: minimum effort to avoid the max shame.

Depending on the market, you’ll need to tailor your messaging to honor higher/lower work ethics.

Language bias is an insidious one – the majority of content is in English, but only 23% of the internet accessing world speaks English.

5. GoogleBot & JavaScript

Whenever a Googler shares insights, there’s always at least one nugget to take home.

The big takeaways from Google’s Martin Splitt included:

Google knows where iframes are and odds are it is making it into the DOM.

Avoid layout thrashing – it invites lag time in rendering.

WRS is simply HTML + content/resources: That’s your DOM tree.

Google doesn’t just rely on an average timeout metric – they balance it with network activity.

Mobile indexing has tighter timeouts.

If a page can’t render correctly due to a “Google” problem, they’ll surface an “other” error.

Consider which side of the devil’s bargain you want to be on: if you bundle your code you’ll have fewer requests, but any change will require re-uploading.

Only looking at queue time and render time will lead you down the wrong path – indexing pipeline could be the issue.

I will admit as a PPC, most of this didn’t have the “shock and awe” for me as it did for the rest of the room. That said, one big takeaway I had was on page layout and the impact on CRO (conversion rate optimization).

The choices we make to optimize for conversions (page layout, content thresholds, contact points, etc.) align more than I would have assumed with the Google SEO perspective.

That said, the tests needed in both disciplines confirm the value of dedicated PPC pages and the importance of cross-department communication.

6. What I Learned by Building a Toy to Crawl Like Google

It’s easy to complain and gloat from the sidelines. It takes a brave and clever mind to jump in and take a stab at the thing you may or may not have feelings about.

JR Oakes is equal parts brave, clever, and generous.

You can access his “toy crawler” on Github and explore/adapt it.

His talk discussing the journey focused on three core messages:

If we’re going to build a crawler to understand the mechanics of Google, we need to honor the rules Google sets itself:

Text NLP is really important and if honoring BERT mechanics, stop words are necessary (no stemming).

Understanding when and where to update values and is far harder than anticipated and it created a new level of sympathy/empathy for Google’s pace.

The main takeaway: take the time to learn by doing.

7. Faceted Nav: Almost Everyone Is Doing It Wrong

Faceted navigation is our path to help search engines understand which urls we care they crawl.

Sadly, there’s a misconception that faceted navs are only for ecommerce sites, leaving content rich destination sites exposed to crawl risk.

Yet if every page gets faceted navigation, the crawl will take too long/exceed profit parameters.

Successfully leveraging faceted navigation means identifying which pages are valuable enough to “guarantee” the crawl.

As a PPC, I loved the shout-out for more collaboration between SEO and paid. Specifically:

Sharing data on which pages convert via PPC/SEO so both sides know how to prioritize efforts.

8. Generating Qualitative Content with GTP2 in All Languages

Nothing drives home how much work we need to do to shatter bias, than translation tools. Vincent Terrasi shared the risks of being “complacent” in translation:

Different languages have different idioms/small talk mechanics

Gender mechanics influence some languages while have no baring on others

Rare verbs, uncommon tenses, and language specific mechanics that get lost in translation.

The result: scaling content generation models across non-English speaking populations fails.

Terrasi won’t let us give up!

Instead, he gave us a step by step path to begin creating a true translation model:

Generate the compressed training data set via Byte Pair Encoding (BPE).

Use SenencePiece to generate the BPE file.

Fine tune the model (slide)

Generate the article with the trained model

You can access Terrasi’s tool here.

Where I see PPC implications is in ad creative – we often force our messaging on prospects without honoring the unique mechanics of their markets. If we can begin to generate market specific translations, we can improve our conversion rates and market sentiment.

9. Advanced Data-Driven Tech SEO – Pagination

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a crucial part of all digital marketing disciplines.

Yet we often overlook the simple influencers on our path to profit.

One such opportunity is pagination (how we layout the number of pages and products per page).

The more pages clients have to go through to reach their ideal product/content, the greater the risk for mental fatigue.

While there are pros and cons to all forms of pagination, Ghost Block far and away did the best job of honoring user and crawl behaviors.

Here are the outcomes of all pagination formats:

10. The User Is the Query

Dawn Anderson’s perspective on query analysis and audience intent is empowering for SEO and PPC professionals alike.

Way ahead of the curve on BERT, she empowers us to think about the choices we present our prospects and how much we are playing into their filters of interest.

In particular, she challenged us to think about:

The impact of multi-meaning words like “like” and how context of timing, additional words, and people speaking them influences their meaning.

When head terms (“dress” “shoes” “computer”) can have super transactional intent, versus being high up in the funnel.

For example, “Liverpool Manchester” is most often a travel query, but when football is on, it turns into a sports query.

Anderson encourages us to focus on the future – specifically:

Shifting away from text-heavy to visual enablement. We need to come from a place of curation (for example, hashtags) as opposed to verbatim keyword matching.

Shifting away from query targeting and opting more into content suggestions based on persona predictions

Shifting away from answers and weaving ourselves into user journeys (nurturing them to see us a habitual partner rather than a one-off engagement).

This session had the most cross-over implications for PPC – particularly because we have been shifting toward audience-oriented PPC campaigns for the past few years.

11. Ranking Factors Going Casual

I have so much love in my heart for a fellow digital marketer who sees board games as a path to explain and teach SEO/PPC.

This session gave a candid and empowering view on why we need to think critically about SEO studies.

Micha Fisher-Kirshner reminds us to be:

Consistent with our data collection and be honest with ourselves on sample size/statistical significance.

Mindful of positive and negative interactions and what impact they can have on our data sets.

Organized in our categorizations and quality checks.

My favorite takeaway (based on Mysterium) is to be mindful of the onset of any study and be sure all the necessary checks are in place. Much like the game, it’s possible to set one’s self up to have a “no win” condition simply because we didn’t set ourselves up correctly.

I also have to give Fisher-Kirshner a shout out for coming at this from a place of positivity, and not “outing” folks who mess up these checks. Instead, he simply inspired all of us to chase better causation and correlation deduction.

12. Advanced Analytics for SEO

Analytics is the beating heart of our decisions – and getting to learn from this panel was a treat.

Our cast of players included:

Dan Shure – Evolving SEO (host)

Aja Frost – HubSpot

Colleen Harris – CDK Global LLC

Jim Gianoglio – Bounteous

Alexis Sanders – Merkle

While each panelist had their own unique perspective, the overarching suggestion is sharing data between departments and working together to combat anomalies.

Gianoglio reminds us to be mindful of filters that might distort data and never allow a client to force us to a single guiding metric.

Frost shared her skepticism that analytics will be our single source for truth in the emerging GDPR and CCPA world as well as empowering us to explore data blending if we aren’t as confident in SQL to explore data blending.

Harris encouraged us to be pragmatic and realistic about data sources: if the data seems off, we should explore it! Analytics is a means to uncover data distortion.

Sanders encourages us to pull revenue numbers and marry analytics with tools like Screaming Frog and SEMrush to create true attribution for SEO’s impact on profit.

13. Crawl Budget Conqueror

Jori Ford outlined a really pragmatic approach to crawl budgets: honor your money pages and account accordingly!

Her four-step approach is:

Determine the volume of pages and only use the sitemap to correlate if it’s an optimized site map.

Understand which pages are being crawled naturally via custom tracking and log file analyzers (Botify, Deepcrawl, OnCrawl, etc.).

Assess the frequency of pages crawled and how many pages are getting crawled frequently/infrequently.

Segment by percentage type: page type, crawl allocation,  active vs. inactive, and not crawled.

14. Leveraging Machines for Awesome Outreach

Gareth Simpson invites us to explore tasks we can delegate to AI and machine learning. However, before we can, we need to have practical workflows to build machine learning into our day.

Here are the paths to machine learning:

Gather data from sources.

Cleaning data to have homogeneity.

Model building/Selecting the right ML algorithm.

Gaining insights from the model’s results.

Data visualization: transforming results into visual graphs.

Testing machine learning in prospecting might seem crazy (the human element of the relationship is crucial). Simpson helps us uncover delegatable tasks:

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author from (TechSEOBoost slide decks), December 2023

Key Management Leader At Yoast Seo Steps Down

Former co-owner of Yoast, Marieke van de Rakt, followed her husband, Joost de Valk, in stepping away from the popular Yoast WordPress SEO Plugin company. The move ushers in a new era under the ownership of Newfold Digital.

Yoast SEO – Marieke van de Rakt

Yoast SEO plugin, arguably one of the most popular and important plugins in the world, was founded in 2010 by Joost de Valk and co-owned with his wife, Marieke van de Rakt.

Marieke van de Rakt had many roles at Yoast, including Managing Director, CEO, Creative marketing manager and her most recent position at the company, Chief Growth Officer.

She was with the company during a period of remarkable growth when it grew from a bootstrapped plugin to the a multi-million dollar company employing over 140 people.

Her departure follows the sale of Yoast to the leading web presence solution provider, Newfold Digital, in August 2023.

This milestone is part of a steady transition away from the original team of Marieke van de Rakt, Joost de Valk and his younger brother, Thijs de Valk to a team as part of Newfold Digital.

Newfold Digital is home to top brands such as Bluehost, HostGator, chúng tôi and Network Solutions.

Yoast SEO Company Culture Remains

Although the company is transitioning to new leadership, many of the leaders within the company remain, ensuring that the company values nurtured by the original team continue as part of its DNA.

Current Yoast COO Chaya Oosterbroek and CTO Derek Herman will continue as part of the leadership at Yoast.

Sam offered the following observations to Search Engine Journal about the future of Yoast SEO:

“Chaya and Derek together are still running the company as our executive team.

We also have a strong leadership team supporting them and focusing on what this next phase of Yoast looks like.

Each of them are strong believers in WordPress and open source and will carry our mission of “SEO for everyone” forward.

In that team, we have Taco, who is heavily involved in the WordPress community and is well-loved there.

Jono, our Head of SEO who has over 10 years of experience in the SEO world and is also very involved in the core of WordPress continues at Yoast.

Myself as Head of Branding, will also work to carry forward the Yoast culture and our core values.

Marieke is leaving us in an excellent place, and since the acquisition she has been sharing her knowledge with the team.

We have a lot on the horizon and everyone is excited to see what this new phase of Yoast looks like.”

The official Yoast announcement stated:

“Whilst we’ll be sad to see Marieke leaving, it’s a positive reflection on the stability of the company and brand that she’s able to do so safely and happily.

Marieke has spent the last few months working with our teams, ensuring that her wisdom and vision is passed on successfully. “

New Phase for Yoast SEO

There is no doubt that the company culture of nurturing open source through their contributions to the WordPress core and to creating the leading SEO plugin in the world will continue.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Gabriele Maltinti

Where International Standard Units Come From, Part Two: The Second

This week, Sam Kean takes a look at some ridiculously precise standards — the meter, the second, and other international standard units — and the role that elements have played in defining, redefining, and re-redefining them over the ages.

The definition of the second used to be 1/86,400th of one spin of the earth around its axis (less formally, the number of seconds in one day). But a few pesky facts made that standard inconvenient.

The length of a day varies with every trip around the sun because of the sloshing of ocean tides, which drag and slow the earth’s rotation. And metrologists (measurement scientists) didn’t want to tie a supposedly universal unit of time to the transit of a small rock around a mediocre star.

To rectify this, scientists turned to the element cesium. More specifically, they turned to cesium’s lone electron. Like all the entries in its column on the periodic table, cesium has one more electron than the full set it really desires. This electron—which resides at a higher energy level than other electrons and is therefore more exposed—normally zooms around the cesium nucleus on a specific orbit. But if light strikes the electron, it can jump to an even higher orbit.

Now, depending on whether its “spin” (an inborn property) is up or down, an electron can jump to a slightly higher or lower orbit. If the original jump was like moving up an octave from G to G, this jump is from G to G-sharp or to G-flat. These slightly different levels are known as the fine structure. And if you measure things even more precisely and take even more factors into account (like the electron’s charge and nucleus’s magnetic field), you can observe an electron jumping between levels separated by even smaller amounts—like a musical difference not of a halftone but of a quarter-tone, or even an eighth-tone. This is known as the hyperfine structure.

Metrologists exploited those hyperfine differences to create the first atomic clocks with cesium-133. Inside these “beam clocks,” a gas of cesium atoms is gathered into a chamber with a pressure of about one-trillionth of normal atmospheric pressure and excited by an intense maser (a microwave laser). This strumming with the maser excites the cesium electrons and causes them to jump to a certain hyperfine level. The key point is that the electron cannot stay excited for long, so it soon drops back down to another hyperfine level. And when it does, it emits light. This cycle of jumping up and down repeats itself over and over, and each cycle is perfectly elastic and therefore takes the same amount of time. The precision of the maser ensures that all the cesium atoms are in synch, so the atomic clock can measure time simply by counting emitted photons.

Cesium proved convenient as the mainspring for atomic clocks because the solitude of its electron means that scientists don’t have to worry (as they might with other elements) about other electrons jumping up and down and shooting their own photons off. Cesium’s heavy, lumbering atoms are fat, easy targets for the maser as well. But even in plodding cesium, the outer electron is a quick bugger. Instead of a few dozen or few thousand times per second, it performs 9,192,631,770 back-and-forths every one-Mississippi.

Scientists picked that ungainly number instead of cutting themselves off at 9,192,631,769 or letting things drag on until 9,192,631,771 because it matched their best guess for a second back in 1955, when they built the first cesium clock. Regardless, 9,192,631,770 is now fixed as the definition. And nowadays, metrologists rely not on beam clocks but cesium “fountain clocks,” which operate on the same basic physics but at much lower temperatures, barely above absolute zero. Some of these clocks are accurate to within one second every 30 million years.

But while the cesium standard has profited science by ensuring precision and accuracy worldwide, humanity has undeniably lost something. Since before even the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, human beings used the stars and seasons to track time and record their most important moments. Cesium severed that link with the heavens, effaced it just as surely as urban streetlamps blot out constellations. However fine an element, cesium certainly lacks the mythic feeling of the moon or sun.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of our exploration of the standards that make science tick. The series is written by Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon—a collection of funny and peculiar stories hidden throughout the periodic table.

What Customer Services Can Learn From Seo

The principles guiding search engine optimisation are sound business goals for all areas of a company, including customer service. From showing off how local you are, to putting quality of calls above quantity, here’s what your customer services team can learn from SEO…


A good SEO campaign is informed by feedback from your web analytics – highlighting the most valuable keywords on your site and helping to identify any areas that may have been missed.

The point is, whatever your customers are searching for, you can use your analytics to predict the problems your customer service team will be asked to deal with, and take a proactive approach to identifying solutions before the phone calls start to come in.

Social Networking

Social networks redefine search – for a start, they give you a specific, engaged audience who will (in principle) see everything you post. On top of that, there are hashtags on Twitter and free-text searches that bring in more views from relevant but not-yet-engaged members of the network.

It’s also vital to monitor social networks for negative mentions so that your customer services team can proactively respond. Often, a quick and friendly response to an irate tweet can turn a peeved off customer into a loyal fan.


Relevance is perhaps the most enduring aspect of SEO, and it underlines everything from your choice of keywords to raising your conversion rate.

For customer services, relevance is an important quality indicator for both outgoing and incoming calls, letters, emails and so on. Make sure your team is fully equipped with relevant information, even if that requires additional training.

Otherwise you’re simply going to alienate angry customers even further.

Make sure your customer services representatives are not spamming your customers. The response to a support request should be helpful but concise. Solve the problem and move on. The customer can always reopen the support ticket (or simply call you back) if they need to – they don’t need endless callbacks from you to make sure things are still running smoothly.


Frequently updated websites rank more highly, in general terms. The search engines value ‘fresh’ and ‘new’ content – which is why unique text is also important, and why you’ll often see a ‘sort by date’ option even on the main search engine results pages.

But away from the SERPs, the same rules apply to your customer services team. Launch a new product or service, and you need to make sure your support teams are briefed on its features (and on anything that’s not included as standard). If you receive negative press coverage or social network mentions, make sure your team knows about it and understands the company’s official viewpoint on whatever’s gone wrong.

In short, updates do exactly what it sounds like they do – they keep things up to date. Whether that’s your website or your customer services team, it’s an equally important component in working towards ongoing success.


Where are you? Do you identify yourself as a northern or southern company? At town or city level? Or even more specific – a particular suburb or district?

Local search has made location a deciding factor in who shows up for certain geographically specific searches, right down to street level in some cases. For customer support, thinking of location as a many-layered onion in this way can be useful.

For a start, if you’re in a small town, the concept of customer service is probably more relaxed than if you’re a city firm. And that’s fine; a smaller local market gives you the chance to get to know your customers much better (more on that below).

Beyond that, though, even which country you’re in can be important for customer services. Do you have a UK-based call centre? Celebrate that fact, as many people have a real problem with being put through to an operator overseas. Is your helpline an ‘actual’ landline number, rather than premium rate? Make sure your nearby customers know it will be a local call.


Personalised search is changing the nature of search results – and it has clear and direct implications for customer service teams.

It is making word of mouth more significant than it has perhaps ever been – a positive mention on Google+ and you could find your website skyrocketed to the top of a whole circle of search results. But it’s not just this direct effect that has significance for your customer service department.

Think of personalisation in broader terms and there are clear benefits. Get to know your regular customers and you can establish rapport and loyalty. In turn, when they encounter a problem, those customers are much more likely to be rational about it, and to be willing to work with your customer service representatives to find a mutually acceptable solution.


The ‘O’ in SEO stands for optimisation, and making things optimal means making them the very best that they can be. This applies across all areas of your website, from your page titles and headings, through your paragraph text and image captions, to your URL structure and inbound links.

For customer service, this connected-dots way of thinking is crucial. If lots of customers are asking the same question, you’ve got a problem that you may be able to solve simply by issuing a product update or including a usage tip in your next newsletter. If you’ve dealt well with negative publicity via one medium, or you’ve had positive coverage without the negative aspect to come before it, make sure customers know about it across all media types.

The more you connect the dots, the more cohesion your company and your customer service function will have – and you can go a step further by making sure all of your departments are working together to identify and resolve any customer problems as and when (or even before) they occur, so your most skilled employees are involved in problem-solving even if they are not technically a part of your customer service team.

Usability Strategy And Search Engine Optimization

Usability Strategy and Search Engine Optimization

Google is concerned with how people find information and what they do when they access a document found in the Google index. Which document in a site they tend to land on, how long users spend on that document and how much, if any, time does a user spend exploring information in a domain, are all pertinent to how Google perceives the relevance of documents listed in the index. As long-term online marketers know, this is where usability comes into the picture.

Usability, as defined by Kim Kraus Berg is, “… the ability to successfully, comfortably and confidently learn or complete a task. For the web site designer or application developer, it’s the mechanics of designing and building a web site or Internet-based application so that it can be understood and easy to accomplish any task.”

According to local (Victoria-based) website marketing expert, Michael Linehan, a focus on site usability is simply common sense marketing. Leading visitors towards goal-orientated outcomes makes as much sense for a functioning website as it does for a functional building and, to follow through on the analogy, it all starts with a smart architect.

Michael knows his stuff, so much so StepForth considers him to be one of our marketing and site usability gurus. If our assumptions about user-behaviours and the post-Jagger Google SERPs are correct, Michael’s talents will play an important role in our overall SEO techniques.

“It’s all about marketing,” Michael explains (exclaims is probably a better word, ML is pretty passionate about this stuff), “and marketing is all about envisioning an effective strategy.” While most people involved in business understand the concept, surprisingly few actually take the time to implement and follow a marketing strategy in relation to their websites.

“Website owners have to prioritize their messages and make their websites easier to use. It’s a matter of measuring the importance of different parts of their marketing strategy and their websites.”

Michael suggests that over 95% of companies he has worked with use opportunistic marketing tactics with separate strategies being employed out of sync with each other. A simple example would be the Yellow Pages ad that does not mention the website URL or a printed brochure that does not include an email address in the contact information. A more complex example can be found by looking at most business websites.

“When a business owner gets a website for their business, they often expect the designer to know how to market their new website.” said Michael. “That’s just ludicrous. Website designers already have a difficult and mentally demanding job. Expecting them to be proficient marketers is like expecting your architect to act as your real estate agent.”

Michael deconstructs websites, pulling them apart to find or add the little things specific to a business website designers often can’t customize for. His work could be described as user-outcome optimization.

He has a good point. Search engine marketing is becoming much more complicated. The web is rapidly adopting a more professional attitude as it grows into the global mainstream marketplace. As this maturing takes place, two factors should drive website owners and webmasters towards a more professional view of their online marketing strategies.

The first factor is the increased analytic abilities of the major search engines. As previously mentioned, Google is taking stock of a number of user-sensitive factors surrounding documents in its index. In March 2005, Google filed a patent titled, “Information retrieval based on historical data“. The patent application outlines the historic record Google keeps on every document and file in its index. One of the items mentioned covers user behaviours touching on the following points:

* an evaluation of search traffic driven by Google and related keywords the document was found under

The second factor is the evolving needs of website users and their increased analytic abilities. The Web is almost second nature to most of its users. People are experienced in the environment and, at least in the case of work-related web use, know what they want. As it stands today, there are a lot of websites that no longer live up to user expectations because those expectations have moved beyond the design of those websites.

All good marketing strategies are goal orientated and center around a clear vision. As time goes on, it can get pretty complicated, especially when clarity and ease of use are the ultimate design goal. Objective planning might involve rethinking the design of your website but moving into the near future, rethinking the design of your website might just become essential.

Jim Hedger, Search Engine News Writer – Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert working for StepForth Search Engine Placement in Victoria BC. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunity to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements.

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