In the third episode we cover the following:
Q1 (0:05): Do cheaper products have a ranking advantage? Is it possible for a "luxury" brand to compete with other brands for a "basic" product? From Katriona Li, SEO Consultant at OMG
Q2 (8:50): Hyphens or no Hyphens when adding keywords into your articles? From Tanya Lesiuk, Content Marketing Strategist at Complish
Q3 (14:22): A featured representation to the following 2 questions:
A tribute to congratulate Christina LeVasseur (Brodzky,) and celebrate her contributions to the industry. We might have gotten a little too transparent on the topic, so get ready!
Do you have more SEO questions you'd love an opinion on? Please send it our way here: Ask SEO Questions. Also don’t forget to follow TGDC on LinkedIn, Youtube and Twitter, where we share cool documents, expert opinions and useful tips on SEO.
Begum Kaya 0:05
Hello, everyone, welcome to the third episode of Opinionated SEO Opinions with these three "googly" ladies. Here to discuss everything on SEO and digital marketing. We're so happy to be receiving follow up questions from our previous episodes.
And we'll go on and kick our first question with Katriona Li. She asks, "Do cheaper products have a ranking advantage, and is it possible for a luxury brand to compete with other brands for a basic product?"
Tory Gray 0:36
I'm - so I'll get this one because I was, uh, [answering the question initially in the other episode] but - but certainly let you guys jump in. So I'd say - it is not inherently true that "cheaper is better." It is true that people tend to like cheaper, better, right? So I would use the "context of the world" in the answer to this question.
Walmart wins a lot of the time in the world because they are cheaper for more people, and more people do like that. It is true to say, like, often cheaper products do win both online and out in the world.
So if that is your use case, then yes, I'd say that if more people are seeking a cheaper product, then it is more likely that a cheaper product will probably rank better, because more people will engage with it, more people, you know, they look for that in the brand, if they can't just afford the other one. So some differences there - it's a lot about anchoring.
So for instance, it also depends on what you're shopping for, if you're looking for an engagement ring, cheaper is not inherently better, right? Like you have probably a set of requirements about what you expect. So what is cheaper is very much relative to the expectations of the user. And also relative to specifically what they require from this product. So they might be seeking the cheapest solution that involves product feature XYZ, right - so there might be other products out there cheaper, that don't do those things that are still not qualifying for what you need.
It's not as simple as saying "cheaper is better", or I certainly don't want SEOs waving their hands in the air and saying, like, "I can't do it, your products cheaper than me, we can't rank higher, there's nothing I can do." That is certainly not the case. But also, keep in mind that the world is the way it is, and people are price sensitive.
If you as a brand can help people overcome that price sensitivity, then you're doing a great job, and you can help rank those things higher anyway. So you still do a good job at setting pricing and doing your marketing as a whole, and those things impact your SEO ranking. Any other color to add there, ladies?
Sam Torres 2:52
I think that's just where, you know, digital PR, or really just PR in general for your brand will help immensely, right? You know, you look at luxury brands, and they're completely relying on their reputation. There's almost like, even if you're - you know - for your own products, you kind of have to adopt the same mindset. Or I've also worked with brands where they know that they're the luxury or the premium product, and they've just really leaned into it. For example, this was on PPC, but they had ads saying things like, "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford us."
Which is really interesting and a little bit, like, courageous, I guess is the word I'd say, but it worked for them, because they actually started paying only for those clicks where people were actually interested. I think there's even just like a certain level of like, OWN your position in the marketplace, and really lean into it as a brand in general. And if that, if that like brand value or identity is reflected in your SEO, I think that will naturally help with your, with your positioning and attracting that right kind of audience as well.
Because, you know, between even just between the three of us, if we were searching for the same products, we're not going to have all the same rankings, right? Because of the personalized results. So you may find all different - you may just have a better time finding the right types of people that that Google wants to connect you with.
Tory Gray 4:22
Yup. That also means different people look for different things based on our qualifiers, right? Are people looking for watches? Are they looking for cheap watches? Are they looking for luxury watches? Are they looking for watches by a brand?
People - not always - but will often qualify their search terms to help you understand what they're looking for. So if you are Rolex, and you know your cheapest product is $5,000, are you going to rank number one for the query "watches", probably not. But they will probably rank number one for "luxury watches" and things like that. So what your keyword target is should also aligned to your brand positioning.
Sam Torres 5:04
I do think you brought up a really good point about like, just call out the features that maybe are different or like different use cases for your product. And, yeah, the search volume is obviously going to be lower on those. But you know, if you're looking for jeans - if I type in jeans - there's gonna be like probably Levi's coming up.
But if I'm looking for, like, "super comfortable jeans", maybe Seven For All Mankind will now show up. So, you know - obviously very different price points, and so you know, it's still that lower search volume, but also at the end of the day, the person who types that longer term is probably more the person you're looking for.
So I think even just having that level setting of - what are you really going after? If you are a premium product, and your competitors are cheaper than you - are you guys really going after the same audience? And if the answer is yes, then I'd say there's probably some positioning and some pricing you've got to work out internally on, or figure out how are your competitors doing it so cheaply? But otherwise, it's, you know, likely what's happening is you guys actually aren't going for the same same people. Mercedes is not going for the same Toyota audience - most of the time. You know, so I think they're just - figuring out who are you actually going for?
Begum Kaya 6:27
Exactly. And I don't really think it makes that much of a difference. And like - for example - if you're a luxury brand, you would go after luxury terms, but then you wouldn't jump on and want to rank for generic keywords, only because you want more audience to be looking for you, and if you really want that maybe you can work on some demand generation, and just doing your PR and outreaching to those different audiences and providing them what they really want to see rather than having just the basic product, but like, don't you deserve this quality kind of stuff. But that's definitely something that you should work out, like internally first, and then maybe go after the generic keywords if you really want to.
Sam Torres 7:11
Yeah, and this is definitely where any kind of social media advertising can help immensely because it's just it's- it's building that brand loyalty and brand equity. That just always boosts your engagement because people just recognize you. So that they're going to go where we're where they feel a little bit more comfort, or trust has already been a little bit built already. So.
Begum Kaya 7:34
Tory Gray 7:35
Also can I rant for a second? I would really love to stop seeing "Because you deserve it!" in marketing messaging for luxury products, because it's the laziest copywriting and I see it all the time. And I'm like, "Oh, yeah, do I deserve this? And that and that, okay, yeah, I get it. I get it. I deserve it." This is just - thank you. Please stop doing that.
Sam Torres 7:59
I always the response of like, "But do I? Do you even KNOW me?"
Tory Gray 8:03
Do I care? [Laughs]
Sam Torres 8:05
Unless - you know what's interesting, though, unless it's something I actually want. And then I'm like, "I DO deserve that. I work hard. I'm a mom. My daughter's healthy. I do deserve that!"
Begum Kaya 8:17
"I do deserve that new refrigerator!" Oh, yes, ha, I enjoyed that one.
Sam Torres 8:24
Just to fill in people - I - my fridge broke. I finally got a new one. So I was without ice for like four weeks. Which - first world problems? I did not realize how much I depended on having ice. So yes, it came in and I shared it on Twitter, because it's just beautiful. And the guys who delivered it were making fun of me, because I'm so excited about it. It was a lot. Yeah.
Begum Kaya 8:50
Yeah. Did we get this one? I think so. Thank you for bringing it up, Kat.
Off to our next question. This comes from Tanya Lesiuk (I hope I pronounced correctly?) Tanya asks, "Hyphens or no hyphens when adding keywords into your articles."
Sam Torres 9:10
So if you're adding it into the copy, I would say just - "how is it supposed to be written?" - is what I would do.
Tory Gray 9:19
That is accurate?
Sam Torres 9:21
We just want to be natural. I mean - yes, of course, Google and bots are reading our content, but at the end of the day, you should be talking - ideally, we're aiming for talking to Other People. So I would just keep it - you know - like that. How would people expect it to be written?
If you're talking about in URLs, on whether you use hyphens or just like camel case the word or just put it all together - I don't think it really matters. I would say just do whatever's best for readability. You know, we were actually talking about it with accessibility and like hashtags - you want use camel case because those don't - those inherently don't allow for spaces. So that might be something to consider - does it make it more more readable or more accessible if you put hyphens? At the end of the day, I don't, I don't think there's really any different value in that. Like there's no intrinsic organic value.
Tory Gray 10:22
Yeah, I'm guessing the question is something around like, "If the keyword does have a hyphen" - like people look for both versions in Google, right? And if you choose one versus the other in your copy, will you not show up for that? And I'd say no, Google doesn't care - do what's accurate. But yeah, your site and you look weird, because you're not being grammatically correct. And therefore you look kind of shady or spammy. You don't want that. Right. So
Sam Torres 10:49
I'm just thinking like the words "read only." Yeah, I would only put - I probably wouldn't use a dash when I'm searching as a user because I'm lazy.
But when I'm writing it, I would still have the dash because that's how it's supposed to be. And also thank goodness for Hummingbird - however many aeons ago at this point - like Google knows that it's the same thing. Um, you know. Tory do you remember those days of like, having to make a page for every single iteration of a keyword - god that sucked. So glad we don't do that anymore! I would say always, always lean towards, "How is it - how are users expecting it to be? Or like be grammatically correct." Unless maybe your Urban Dictionary and you don't have to care.
Tory Gray 11:39
Yeah, I mean - brand alignment matters. If you're doing it intentionally, just like all copywriting rules, you can throw out the rulebook - if you're doing it well, and it's appropriate for your audience. But generally speaking, default to grammatically correct unless your brand lets you do otherwise.
Sam Torres 11:53
Begum Kaya 11:54
By the way, I think I would do two different searches for the hyphen version and no hyphen version, and look at how many results are there. Basically, whether the competitors are doing it or not, or how it looks on the SERPs. Maybe that can be something like data driven, more of a thing. Rather than going after the audience and trying to decide how they want to see it. Do you think that could be a good idea to do?
Sam Torres 12:20
I think it could be a great study. Because, you know, it's one of those things where I've not seen differences in the research I've done, but I also haven't gone out seeking it, right? So if we do find that there's a difference that would be extremely interesting. And yeah, that'd be cool.
Tory Gray 12:39
Yes that it might be in specific - I mean, if there's a difference, like maybe there's regional differences, or maybe there's different audiences, or you know, it's expectations.
Sam Torres 12:50
I could see a lot of like dev terms.
Tory Gray 12:54
Sam Torres 12:54
I could see that. Because actually, sometimes they mean different things.
Tory Gray 12:59
Sam Torres 13:01
And that's not frustrating at all! Yeah, yeah.
Begum Kaya 13:06
Do you remember how - do you remember how much we used to talk about whether it's "on hyphen page" SEO [on-page SEO] or "onpage SEO" - so even that, in itself, was a thing that we questioned a lot that. But as SEOs I think we can go in and talk about this for eternity.
Sam Torres 13:25
From the first episode we did and then trying to write descriptions and stuff like that as like, "sub domain" - so subdomain, I think, is pretty much traditionally one word but then "subfolder" - do you have a hyphen, or is it just a "sub folder" or like subdirectory? I've seen subdirectory as one word and then subdirectory with a hyphen [sub-directory.] So it's just like "I don't know what's what!"
Tory Gray 13:48
Yeah, I mean, it's a - it's a kind of a line between "When does it go from being - from something we described, to being a noun?" Right? And like, sometimes those things are ambiguous, but for the most part, you can look them up in dictionaries to see like what's correct today.
Sam Torres 14:06
I did that. Yeah, I did. Thank God for Grammarly because they seem to publish all the articles about exactly those questions. Yeah, yeah they do. Great.
Tory Gray 14:19
They've got some good SEO. 😏
Begum Kaya 14:22
Definitely. Okay then the final part of this episode is coming with two questions that are very related to another. One comes from Sara Burke-Allen. She ask, "How long should a piece of content be if the intention is to write specifically for SEO?" And there is another question from Princess Mae Follosco (I hope I pronounced correctly?) "Long in-depth article that answers a query comprehensively versus shorter articles that answers a single question - which one do you think is better for SEO?"
Sam Torres 14:55
Alright, so as always - It depends. Tory, you want to kick us off?
Tory Gray 15:04
Um, yeah, I mean, I think, the simple - the short answer would be, "Generally speaking, longer." If it's supposed if it's a topic that is juicy enough - that it is worthy of long-form strategic content than a blog post makes sense. And it should probably be, quote-unquote "longer."
Now what is "long," we can talk about that. But I think there is a valid use case for "Someone asks a question, and you want a quick answer."
Right? So I would say a blog post is maybe not the right format for something of that nature. So when you think - I think of like the StackExchange [StackOverflow] or other related services, where you have a specific, tailored question that might have a one-line answer, or a one paragraph answer, or five different people arguing about their different solutions to this answer, right?
Sam Torres 15:56
But that never happens in SEO! Oh, no, not at all.
Tory Gray 16:00
But then it's kind of a QA. It is that structured sort of form - "This is a question, and this is an answer." It's not a long form blog post. So the format function of how you choose to answer something should match the need of the user. And a blog post is sort of inherently, I think, especially these days, a little bit longer and more in-depth. I don't want to see a bunch of blog posts that have 100 words. That's not probably valuable content, and it probably is not a good format for people to be able to browse questions and see if there is an answer to it. Like the blog is not a good place to do that. You want to be able to, like filter, and ask questions, and search - it's sort of eCommerce-like. It's just not useful in that regard. So use the right format. Um, anything else on that end?
Begum Kaya 17:00
I also feel like topic clusters can be a good thing to use here. Depending on whether it's useful for you or not. That would definitely be coming from your keyword research, competitor research, and what the SERPs are showing for the query that you're going after. But if you're able to have a pillar content that links out to different cluster contents, and since they're going to create a hub around this main topic that you have at hand, it can increase the chances of those articles ranking. And it may distribute the value of each page better to different articles. And it will also create a semantic hub that you can take advantage of. So...
Tory Gray 17:44
You're still prone to linking to articles that have 100 right answers, right? There individual...definitely,
Begum Kaya 17:50
Definitely, definitely, yeah.
Tory Gray 17:52
1000 to 5000 words a pop, right, like that's a big - if it's deserving of a hub, then it's a big juicy topic with many different angles. And instead of trying to answer that in one big, loooong blog posts, that's 20,000 words - probably think about breaking that up, and grouping it by user intention.
Sam Torres 18:12
Well, I think there's also - with that, like, if, you know - with the second part of the question of like, "Should it be long-form or short, based on, like - how, what kind of topic or keyword?" I think that's just really good opportunity. If there are a lot of those, like, People Also Ask questions, and there are short answers - that's great FAQ content. Like make an FAQ page about your pillar topic, right?
Tory Gray 18:47
Or embed the FAQs on your pillar page!
Sam Torres 18:49
Yeah, 'cause especially with the Passages update, we're just seeing more and more where Google will drop a user directly in the section of the page - where their questions are getting answered. And then, of course, we're seeing more of that content also filter up into the SERP itself. So for me, it's like, if you're going after keywords, where it's gonna be more about, like Rich Answers or Featured Snippets - that's probably that short form very, like Q&A content to me. If it's, you know, I have to - you know, pretty much anything with SEO, there's not really a short answer, because we always have to expand into the, "Here's why, here's why it depends." Right?
Then that's why we write 2000 word keywords because we're trying to explain all the different factors that go along with that, right. Because we can inherently say, "Is long content better?"
But because we're also making the assumptions - that longer means you're speaking authoritatively, you're being expansive on the topic and you're also not filling it with filler or fluff, right? So it needs to be meaningful. It needs to sound like a conversation, and let's face it, nobody likes the car sales guy that just like, adds three adjectives every time he talks.
You gotta - you got to think about - you know, again, that content, you're speaking directly to a user. And, you know, I think, to Tory's point - it's really - from the query itself, what's already ranking? And how is that content organized? Or how is it formatted?
Because it's not just - as SEOs, is our job is not just to answer their question, but it's to answer their question in the way they want to receive it. Right?
If I were to post a recipe that doesn't follow the standard ingredients and directions, nobody would consume it, because it's not considered "in the format that they want to have it." So I think just really aligning with - is there a clear way that that user wants to consume that content? That's what we need to align with. And then, yeah, I think we definitely did talk about, "How long is long?"
Tory Gray 21:14
Yeah. And to your point about competitive research - I'd say the answer is, "it depends," and go do research and understand - how long is the content that's already ranking? What/how does that vary? And what is the quality of the content according to your expert opinion of - are they meandering on and just, you know, rambling and providing a bunch of unnecessary information? Or are they being, you know - are they really nailing it? And then you can anchor - what what subjects do you want to cover within the context of that broader topic that is your target?
I think you can use that competitive research to back into what do you think is appropriate, given your angle, and how you want to answer that question. So I would also say like, that's what Google thinks people are looking for, right? And that's the best information on the web, so that tells you something.
But I wouldn't say, "Just because someone has 3000 words, means you must have 3000 words, or you must have 3500 words, to beat them out." I don't think that's true, either.
But you can take your expertise about the subject and say - I mean - you don't want to be the "copywriter only" version "of I'm just going to spin another version of this same exact content on the web." Like, I'd rather see people creating content that is juicy, that's meaningful, that's new. That brings new perspectives, that brings new expertise.
So again, you're talking about things where maybe, maybe you think people really mean something else when they're asking for this - and that's not ranking. So you can talk about why that is, you can cover the broader subject matter, and then you can add your unique angles on it.
And your post might be shorter or longer than that, because maybe you're getting to the heart of something other people are missing. Review the data, understand your dataset and its limitations, and make the right decision for your business.
Sam Torres 23:14
I would also say to, to your point of like - if what's ranking is a 3000 word article, but maybe you're going after like a more technical audience, and the 3000 word article is covering the basics of like, "What is the internet?" Um, you know, I would hazard a guess that a lot of people, at least for the queries that you're going after, for like a more qualified audience, they don't care, right?
So you know, really, really honing in on - you know, it's always about "who". Who are you making that content for? Now, if you're, you know, Comcast - then you are having to explain what the internet is, you know. Then sure. But I don't know, it's just there's a lot of times where I think people are so stuck on that word count, because that's what's ranking.
But, you know, the first 1800 words are beginner level content that if those are the questions that your leads are asking, they're not qualified.
Tory Gray 24:12
Sam Torres 24:14
So you know, I think all of that goes into play to Tory's point about, just do what's right for your business. But certainly, as a general rule, longer-form content generally performs better. Again, I think it's just because that person or that site is usually talking about a topic more in-depth, more authoritatively, and ultimately, that's - that's what Google's looking for. Someone that they can trust, that actually knows what they're talking about. Yeah.
Tory Gray 24:45
Yeah. And I would actually expand upon that to say, like - what is popular, and what works right now, won't inherently always work.
So I'd say that is true NOW. But that's how Google defines"quality" right now to a large degree. But I do think that how Google defines quality is a moving target.
And I think actually, in our next episode, we will get into that in more detail, when we talk about the Future of Content, so I'm excited about that.
But, you know, to set the stage there a little bit - it used to be volume. If you had the most articles about subject matter, or keyword XYZ, that meant you rank. Now that's kind of a nightmare. And you don't want to do that.
If you are trying to do your best to think about your users, and their needs, and how you - you know, even if Google hasn't caught up to you - try and stay ahead of Google! And that, I think, will play well for you in the long run.
Just because everyone's doing the same thing - if everyone's going after a longtail strategy.... maybe you should go after a head strategy, because there's gaps there. Like do your competitive research - not so you can just copy your competitors - but rather, so you can determine the right way for you to approach it, for your audience. So you can stand out instead of being like everyone else.
Begum Kaya 26:04
Tory Gray 26:09
I interrupt you? Sorry, please go!
Begum Kaya 26:11
Thank you! The thing is, when we say, "Go and do your competitive research, look at what the SERPs are revealing right now." We don't want to say "go and follow it completely." Because as Tory said, it's a moving needle, and you have to exceed it every time and you cannot be following it, you have to set the standard, so that you are somewhat ahead of the game. So I think it was a wonderful thing to say. Thank you for reminding us that it's always moving and changing.
Sam Torres 26:38
Well, and I think as long as you know - to be successful in SEO, the biggest thing, to me, that you have to keep in mind is that Google's job is to provide answers. Provide the most meaningful answer to their user, which, you know - you take everything that Google owns, and still the majority of their income, or the Alphabet Company, whatever - comes from Google ads.
They have to continue being the best source of information for users searching, or else they're gonna lose that revenue, and someone's gonna go on Bing or DuckDuckGo, or, you know, what have you.
So I think as long as we keep in mind, like, at the end of the day, that is the business that Google is in. And so we need - and they're just getting smarter and better. And, you know, they have trillions of data points to show what users are looking for, and their expectations, and what motivated them, and all of that stuff. And then of course, you take in each individual person, and they probably know everything about us. You know, it's fine.
Tory Gray 27:42
Sam Torres 27:43
It's totally fine! Now I have a smart fridge that one of my friends was like, "They're gonna know what you're eating!" I'm like, "I'm sure they do already! I order my groceries through Instacart!"
So, um, yeah, so they have all of that information, and at the end of the day, they're just trying to be that date - that information broker. And so as long as we're aligning with, "Who are you trying to go after? What's the conversation you want to have with them?" Like, as long as you're always moving in that direction, I think you can't fail. So that's where we really need to think about like - the user experience, how are people feeling when they're interacting with our brands, we have to think about that as SEOs, or we're going to get behind the curve. Sorry, I'm really passionate about that subject!
Tory Gray 28:27
I like it! You're not going to win by copying everyone else. You're going to end by identifying gaps and doing it better.
Sam Torres 28:36
I also saw something very motivational. I think it was on - so either on Twitter or LinkedIn today, it's a billboard that Netflix made and it said, like, "Keep going with your dreams. After all, we started with DVDs." So just want to tell everybody that! Like just - just keep going. Just keep trying!
Begum Kaya 28:58
Don't stop believing! Believing in what you do, and never stop testing. Just go out there! Explore. Do it!
Sam Torres 29:06
Don't be afraid to learn.
Tory Gray 29:08
I saw a similar thing for MailChimp - like someone was posting on like some forum that they were thinking they'd start to offer this like "email solution for someone" and then they did some internet troll comes in this, like, "That's not going to be useful and here's why!" And it's - well, you know, it worked out for them. Trust what you believe in.
Begum Kaya 29:28
Thank you for mansplaining [trolls.]
Sam Torres 29:32
Begum Kaya 29:48
Yes, actually, Christina Brodsky has had a poll today on Twitter, saying that, "Did it ever stop you from posting something, or publishing an article, because of the fear that somebody is going to interrupt you and just troll you on the internet." And I think it was 70 to 30% or something.
Sam Torres 30:11
Yeah, it's pretty high.
Begum Kaya 30:12
Last time I checked. Yeah, yeah, that's 70%.
Sam Torres 30:14
Over 200 votes - and sorry, it's Christina LeVasseur. So congratulations Christina!
Begum Kaya 30:22
Yes, yes, congratulations Christina!
Sam Torres 30:26
So yeah. But let's just take down the internet trolls one at a time. It's be fine.
Begum Kaya 30:33
Sam Torres 30:35
And that's why we have this web series! We are doing another episode about the Future of Content pretty soon, yes?
Tory Gray 30:46
Sam Torres 30:46
We'll have some guests. It will be very exciting. That's one you don't want to miss!
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