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4 Secrets Your SEO Agency Doesn’t Want You To Know

I’ve spent all 23 years of my reklam- career in agencies.

I’ve never had an “in-house” SEO job.

I think working in an reklam- agency – particularly in an agency that is great at search – is the best job in the world.

I’ve worked with clients of all types and sizes, all over the world – including Fortune 10 companies as well as one-man businesses looking for leads.

Believe it or not, even with all that experience, I’m still constantly surprised by new scenarios in the agency/client relationship.

That being said, there are things most folks who haven’t spent time in an agency wouldn’t think about in the day-to-day that goes on between agency and client.

I’m about to shed light on a few of those things.

Annons

Being A Punching Bag Is Part Of The Job

Television shows like Mad Men have made the reklam- industry seem glamorous.

The image of the shiny, modern glass building on Madison Avenue has lured many young hopefuls into learning about account management, traffic, media buying, and even search.

But there is a dark side to the agency world.

I answered client questions on my honeymoon.

I’ve been fired for the results of campaigns that I never even touched.

When my phone rings, no matter where I am I look at the caller ID – and if it’s a client I won’t ever relax until I call them back.

If you work in an agency, your time ceases to be your own.

The proverbial “bovine waste” tends to roll downhill when you work at an agency, and unfortunately, you’re at the bottom of the hill.

Annons

I’ve been told that life in an agency isn’t for the old and weak.

I may be approaching the former, but I’m still far from the latter.

The biggest mistake I see clients make with an agency is coming in the door with a big bluster and immediately ordering agency personnel around.

It’s typically not quite at forward as the stereotype of the yelling client.

It’s more subtle, with lots of passive-aggressive tones and mentions of how the last agency was fired.

But don’t be fooled – the agency personnel is judging you in the first meeting as much as you are judging them – and later in the column, we’ll talk about why that’s important.

Nice Clients Finish First

Anyone who has ever been in the agency when assignments are made will attest to the “underground lobbying” that goes into what team gets a particular client.

Clients that are interesting will be very popular with agency staff at first – at least until the people involved in the account truly reveal themselves.

Annons

Once a client is established in the agency, trust me, the account people know which clients are great to work with, and which ones might bite their heads off for taking a 30-minute lunch break instead of eating a sad sandwich at your desk.

Trust me, you want account personnel who want to work on your account.

If you are nice, you will have the best account people lobbying to work on your account.

This is a really big deal if you work with a larger agency.

Larger agencies are great and have some of the best people, but they also have some of the worst account people.

The team you work with can be directly related to how well you treat the staff you initially interact with.

I’m not saying you can’t hold your agency accountable – in fact, quite the opposite.

Your agency wants you to tell them how they are doing in your eyes – trust me, it’s not always obvious.

Annons

Over the years, I’ve been fired from an agency more times than I can count when I didn’t see the problem coming because the client never told me about it.

No, accountability is rarely ever the problem.

Communicate and be nice.

You’ll be surprised how much those two things will affect your results.

Squeaky Wheel Gets The Work

We’ve already established that nice clients tend to get better work than clients who are mean.

But being nice doesn’t mean being quiet.

Even when working with an agency that employs rigid discipline and defined processes, a silent client can be forgotten.

Every week I go through each client with my team.

Annons

The first thing I look at is if a client’s hours are all being used efficiently.

Even though our firm has more than 15 years of established processes and practices, I still see times when quiet clients don’t get all the time they deserve.

It’s not because the work was done – the work is never done.

It’s not because they weren’t nice – right now all of my clients are nice!

It’s because these clients didn’t want a regular check-in call.

It’s because these clients never give feedback on their reports.

We assume, in many cases correctly, that a quiet client is a happy client.

But we’d rather have a client that gives us feedback.

Annons

And yes, clients that communicate get better service.

Especially when they are nice.

Clients Typically Judge The Wrong Results

I get concerned when an inexperienced client starts digging through analytics.

It can be quite stressful and comical at the same time.

I encourage this behavior at the beginning of an engagement before we’ve done work.

That way, when the client becomes livid about results they don’t truly understand, they are mad at their last agency, not me.

Just kidding – kind of.

I will say that an educated client is typically better than an uneducated one.

Annons

But even educated clients tend to fixate on the wrong things.

I’m not saying we in the agency world are perfect.

Far from it.

But we do have the privilege of seeing how a lot of websites work.

We get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly (if I could only unsee some of the sites I’ve seen).

When you judge months of SEO work by the fluctuating rankings of one keyword – even if it’s an important keyword – show me that you don’t get what we’re trying to do.

And I can guarantee you that if you are a client of mine, intellectually you know that chasing single keyword rankings is a waste of time in most cases.

But even though my clients know this, I see the excitement in their eyes when that keyword jumps in the rankings and I know I’m more likely to get fired when the keyword drops.

Annons

Even if traffic from search has skyrocketed and resulted in an unbelievable return on investment.

Frankly, as an agency what we want to be judged on is how well we help you achieve goals that we set throughout our relationship.

If you aren’t setting goals with your agency, you will never truly know if they are doing a good job.

So set the goals and let the agency do the work.

If the agency is as good as you thought they were when you hired them, you’ll reach your goals.

If they aren’t, be nice but find a new agency.

At the end of the day, it is about which agency you work with best.

And as long as you reach those goals, the relationships can look very different from client to client.

Annons

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10 sätt kodningsfärdigheter kan förbättra SEO-insatser

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10 Ways Coding Skills Can Improve SEO Efforts

It’s not necessary to know how to code to be a good SEO.

Coding skills are not a prerequisite for SEO competency, but additional skills always make one more effective.

Here are 10 ways that understanding code can help turn a good SEO into a great one.

1. HTML Coding Standards And SEO Go Together

En SEO familiar with HTML understands how a web document should be structured and is alert to the consequences of poor coding practices.

An important building block of a webpage is the HTML elements, which are to a webpage what a foundation, door, floor, and roof are to a house.

Search engines may be unable to properly crawl a web page if HTML elements are used incorrectly.

De officiella HTML-specifikationerna begränsar vilka HTML-element som används i <head> avsnitt (plats för metadata som bara webbläsare och botar ser) och vilka HTML-element som används i <body> avsnitt (dokumentet i sig som användarna ser).

Annons

Men när du sätter <body> element (som <a> eller <div>) inuti <head> avsnitt där metadata ska finnas, kommer sökmotorer att börja rendera webbsidan från det normalt dolda <head> avsnitt, vilket resulterar i att metadata indexeras som en del av själva innehållet. Det betyder att Google will fail to index that webpage the way it’s supposed to be indexed.

That error can happen when a Facebook pixel code is placed in the wrong place within the <head> section of a webpage.

Another example of how a lack of coding knowledge influences SEO is the 400 error response message.

Some SEOs believe a 400 error code is a bad thing because they see that word “error” and instantly think it needs to be fixed because we understand errors as something to be fixed, especially when they’re displayed in Google Search Console as errors.

But an SEO who knows HTML coding standards understands that the 400 error response code only means that the browser REQUEST for a page is in error (because the page does not exist).

In most cases, that’s a good thing, it’s what’s supposed to happen, and there is nothing to fix.

Knowing HTML standards makes a person a better SEO because they have the ability to spot even more problems than an SEO who lacks coding knowledge.

They are also better positioned to dismiss common SEO misinformation that springs from a lack of coding ability.

Annons

2. Structured Data

Structured data is a markup language, which means the code has rules that govern how it is written.

There are a few different ways to express Schema.org structured data, but Google’s preference, JSON-LD structured data, is arguably the easiest to understand, which makes it easier to troubleshoot.

Like HTML, JSON-LD has rules that govern how it is written, with a nested structure where you have a subject of the structured data (called a Type) and then the attributes of that subject (called a Property).

Understanding JSON-LD structured data is easy, regardless if you know HTML or any other markup language.

The benefits of understanding how to code structured data cannot be overstated.

Correct structured data markup is essential for achieving many of the highly coveted rich results positions at the top of Google’s search engine results pages (a.k.a. SERPs).

Incorrect structured data markup will make that webpage ineligible for rich results.

One can rely on Google’s structured data markup checker to verify if the JSON-LD structured data is valid and if it’s eligible for a rich result.

Annons

But just because the tool says the code is valid doesn’t mean it’s eligible for rich results. This is where the ability to analyze JSON-LD comes into play to fix the structured data, so that rich results become an option.

Manual troubleshooting ability is important because Google’s structured data checker tells you when it’s broken and provides a general idea of where it’s broken. Still, it doesn’t tell you how to fix it.

One can rely on plugins, of course. There are benefits to setting something and forgetting about it.

But structured data specifications constantly evolve, and plugins don’t always keep up fast enough. Also, they aren’t always specific enough for every situation.

When ranking high in the search results, it’s generally best to know how to code JSON-LD structured data to obtain the highest advantage over the competition.

3. Communicate Better With Clients

Knowing how to code enables a person to simplify an explanation so that a non-coding client can understand the why of a particular problem and the solution.

One cannot explain what they do not understand.

For example, knowing how to code structured data empowers the SEO to explain that not only it is okay to combine structured data, but also explain to explain the benefits of doing so and how to do it.

Annons

Knowing how to code allows one to explain that a client only needs to drop in a few lines of code into their WordPress website’s child theme functions.php file to avoid installing a bloated plugin to do the same thing.

Leaving aside that an SEO without coding skills wouldn’t even know about the functions.php file solution, a person who codes and is literate in PHP can understand when it’s better to use a plugin over the coding solution and then explain it to the client.

Knowing how to code confers the ability to look at the HTML code and zero in on why the site isn’t indexed adequately or is performing poorly.

I once audited an ecommerce site that used a custom-made template and (poorly) featured a crazy level of incompetent coding. Just fixing those codes sitewide enabled the site to have its content indexed accurately.

Knowing HTML allowed me to catch the errors and then explain to the client why it was broken and how they could fix it.

4. .htaccess Knowledge Is Power

.htaccess is (in my opinion) a tricky language to learn but reasonably easy to understand how to use it.

Simply learning about the benefits of .htaccess and what it’s useful for, and then how to add it to a file can generally take a person far.

For example, you can use a plugin to redirect HTTP to HTTPS, a plugin to redirect specific pages that changed, and a plugin to fix broken URLs to the correct URL.

Annons

But all that can be accomplished with a .htaccess file.

Taking the time to educate oneself on .htaccess can help understand how to improve a website without resorting to another plugin.

A .htaccess file can also be used to prevent other sites from linking to your images and other media files (hotlinking).

The use of a .htaccess file can even be used to stop rogue bots from copying your content by blocking the IP address ranges of bad bots that repeatedly access a website.

Doing something like that with a .htaccess file is significantly better than using a plugin or mod that writes the IP addresses to a database because adding tens of thousands to millions of IP addresses to a database will dramatically slow your site down.

5. Diagnose Hidden Problems

In general, coding-related problems are tucked away from view in the HTML code.

Because most sites are templated, the errors will be multiplied across every page that shares the templated structure. Learning how to use an HTML validator is straightforward, but understanding HTML is important for interpreting the results.

Coding errors can be glaring and obvious, like omitting a closing bracket (>).

Annons

Or it could be subtle, like the use of a non-standard character in the code, like a smart quote, the curly type of quotation mark (“ ”) instead of the expected straight form of quotation mark (” “).

This error commonly occurs when someone copies code from a software device that inserts smart quotes as a default feature.

The curly quotes issue can dramatically disrupt how a webpage is indexed and parsed.

That means that if you use something like this in the HTML code:

<meta name="robots content="noindex>

Google will not see it because the curly quotes (smart quotes) stop it from seeing it as a meta robots tag and will therefore proceed to index the content.

Here’s another example.

If you code a link in this manner:

<a href="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/10-ways-coding-can-help-your-seo/45402/example.com/test.htm">exempel</a>

The link will be interpreted like this:

Annons
https://example.com/test.htm

If, however, you use curly quotes for the same code:

<a href="/sv/“example.com/test.htm”/">exempel</a>

The link will be interpreted like this:

https://%E2%80%9Cexample.com/test.htm%E2%80%9D

These kinds of errors are not the kind of thing that an auditing tool is going to automatically find and conveniently add to a list.

You need to know how to code to recognize broken code on a visual inspection or at scale if it shows up as an anomaly on a Screaming Frog scan.

Otherwise, the source of a crawling error will stay hidden until someone who can read HTML or understands the output from an HTML validator can inspect the site.

6. Coding Can Help Break SEO Stalemates

The word stalemate is from the game of chess. It describes a situation where the gameplay is brought to a standstill in which neither side can move to win. It’s essentially a state that counts as a tie.

The same situation happens in competitive industries where everyone uses the same publishing platforms, the same optimization plugins, the same content strategies, and the same link promotion strategies.

The competition between the sites is largely equal, with no site having a clear advantage over the other.

Annons

An SEO with coding skills can break that kind of stalemate.

Coding skills allow an SEO to implement solutions that improve templates, CSS, and JavaScript.

For example, many templates ship with liberal use of headings for things that don’t require a heading element, like the navigation on the side panel.

With coding skills, it’s easy to create a child theme and fix the rogue heading elements so that they use CSS and not headings for styling on-page elements.

I’ve used my coding skill to completely change sections of a template so that it’s more user-friendly, change the colors of various on-page elements so that they’re more accessible for color-blind visitors, and add dynamic bits of content using PHP to custom-make title tags as well as to remove superfluous parts of a webpage.

Coding skills help provide a ranking edge to any site and can be used to improve the user experience beyond what a template offers.

It is especially important in competitive niches where competitors are optimized to the highest degree and where squeezing out advantage is at a premium.

7. Troubleshoot A Hacked Site

Website security doesn’t seem something an SEO should be concerned about.

Annons

But it becomes very clear that website security is indeed an SEO problem when the search rankings of a hacked site start to disappear.

Knowing how to code, particularly with gaining a general understanding of how PHP files work within a given content management system (CMS), can help demystify a hacking event.

Just knowing the broad outlines of how PHP works and how all the parts of the CMS work together goes a long way to understanding what went wrong and how to fix the problems.

Knowledge of JavaScript is also helpful. Many hacks are based on uploading JavaScript files or injecting JavaScript into other files.

Analyzing recently modified JavaScript files can help confirm that a site has been hacked. More to the point, it can help pinpoint if a specific plugin or WordPress itself is responsible for the hacking.

Some vulnerabilities can lay hidden for months or years before they are discovered. WordPress 5.9.2 was released to address cross-site scripting vulnerabilities that were in the WordPress core itself.

In the case of the WordPress vulnerability, the problem arose due to an arcane coding mistake where the order in which security processes were coded created the situation where a hacker could bypass those same security measures.

It illustrates how mistakes can sneak in through legitimate software and not necessarily be caught in time to prevent a hacking event.

Annons

Google might notify the site owner through Google Search Console about a hacked site, but Google Search Console won’t fix it for you.

Some knowledge of how HTML, JavaScript, and/or PHP works can go a long way toward confidently troubleshooting a hacked site.

8. Knowing How To Code Provides Control

When working in a corporate or educational environment where the templates are locked in, and one can’t plug in their way out of a predicament, knowing how to code can speed up the otherwise painful process of publishing webpages.

Whether one works in a Drupal or WordPress environment, having the ability to keep a cheat sheet of code snippets saves so much time, even with something trivial like changing a link without having to go through 10 steps using the native WYSIWYG interface and dealing with idiosyncratic code.

9. Optimize For Page Speed

The suggestions for improving page speed that Google’s PageSpeed Insights provides will no longer be cryptic once one learns how to code.

It’s not like one has to learn how to code an entire website from scratch, either.

All it takes is a general understanding of JavaScript, CSS, and HTML to make sense of what one is supposed to do to make a website work faster.

Concepts like inlining CSS, combining JavaScript, and minifying JavaScript makes more sense when one understands how servers deliver webpages and browsers render the data for site visitors.

Annons

10. Master Python

Python is a programming language that can be used to automate a wide range of SEO tasks from crawling, data analysis, natural language processing (NLP), and much more.

One of the great things about Python is that there might not be a need to code a tool from scratch because there are many Python SEO scripts that can be downloaded online.

A great thing about Python is that one doesn’t have to code scripts for all the different SEO tasks that are needed. Many of those scripts are available as downloadable Python libraries containing the relevant modules.

A Python library is a collection of modules. Python modules are the files themselves.

Enligt Ruth Everett in her Introduction to Python, these are some useful Python libraries:

  • “Pandas: Used for data manipulation and analysis.
  • NumPy: Useful for scientific computing.
  • SciPy: Used for scientific and technical computing.
  • SciKit Learn: Machine learning for data mining and analysis.
  • SpaCy: A great natural language processing library.
  • Requests: A library for making HTTP requests.
  • Beautiful Soup: Used to extract data from HTML and XML files.
  • Matplotlib: For creating visualizations from data.”

Another important Python library is TensorFlow, a free and open source library that can be used for creating machine learning applications.

With TensorFlow, a search marketer can build a neural network or a recommender system.

Directly related to SEO, TensorFlow can be used to automate the process of creating title tags at scale.

En skicklig SEO som lär sig använda Python kommer att kunna skala sina befintliga färdigheter till nya nivåer.

Annons

Lär dig koda

Att få förmågan att koda är (förmodligen) valfritt, och man kan fortfarande vara en kompetent SEO utan den kunskapen.

En person som kan koda är inte nödvändigtvis en bättre sökmarknadsförare än en som inte vet hur man kodar.

Men att lära sig koda kan göra en bra SEO ännu bättre eftersom kunskap ger fördelar.

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