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Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience driving successful SEO and growth programs for leading B2B and B2C companies. He helps clients like G2Crowd, Shutterstock, BlueNile, Quora, and Zendesk build and execute global SEO strategies that dramatically increase their organic visibility at scale.

In the past, Eli led the SEO team at SurveyMonkey, building organic search from nearly zero to one of the largest growth drivers at the company. He helped launched SurveyMonkey’s first APAC office and oversaw international SEO pre- and post-IPO. Prior to SurveyMonkey, he led user acquisition at High Gear Media, pushing the company from 500,000 new users to 6 million every month in just three years.

Eli frequently speaks at marketing events across the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and he authors columns published on Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Journal. His work has been featured on sites ranging from the Huffington Post to the Y Combinator blog. He has guest lectured at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Singapore’s Civil Service College, and Growth School for Growth X. Eli regularly appears as a guest on top industry podcasts such as Y Combinator and Search Nerds. He has acted as a judge for the last five years on the US Search Awards, UK Search Awards, and the US Interactive Marketing Awards.  

Eli is live on April 23 to answer your questions!

  • HS

    Henrik Sætre

    7 months ago #

    What's your thoughts on using subdomain vs subfolder for SEO? For example, a lot of companies run their blogs in a blog.company.com setup, rather than company.com/blog. As far as I understand, the subdomain blog.company.com can gain DA as easy as a normal domain, but it needs to start on zero, and does not share its DA with the main domain. Is that a correct understanding? Thanks for taking the time to consider!

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Henrik, thanks so much for asking this, I love this question!

      In general I have never been a huge fan of subdomains since as you said they do tend to start from zero. Whenever I have tested launching a new section of a site as a subdomain vs a subdirectory, it has always taken a lot longer to generate results as a subdomain, and I feel pretty confident in recommending that subdomains be avoided unless they are absolutely necessary for routing reasons OR the subdomain would be substantially different than the core site. An example of this might be a company launching a new product that has no connection to the primary product. An example of this might be an electric car company that wants to start selling a flame thrower. In this case, it might be better if flame throwers do not rank when people are searching to buy a new car.

      • HS

        Henrik Sætre

        7 months ago #

        Thank you very much for taking the time to answer :) Always good to confirm things like this, because there is so much wishy-washy advice out there.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli!

    Great to see you on here.

    1. If you were about to launch a new website, what process would you follow to ensure SEO remains a top priority?
    2. What is the biggest challenge you see when it comes to companies being successful with their SEO strategy? How can it be overcome?
    3. How do you prioritize SEO into growth sprints? Or is it something that should be ran alongside growth? Would love to hear your take on this topic.

    Looking forward continuing to learn from you. :)

    Cheers,
    Dani

    5 Share
    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Dani!! So great to see you here!

      SEO is the most critical when you are first launching a website. This is when you are going to make those crucial decisions about what templates to use, how you are going to structure the site, where it will be hosted, the technology backend - basically everything. Building a site on a foundation that is not the best for SEO means at some point in time big changes will have to be made and I can assure you that those modifications will always be a lot more painful later.

      The basic best practices you will want to follow are to ensure that you site is mostly rendered in simple HTML and scripts are processed server side. Yes, Google can crawl Javascript but it’s still not the same as HTML. There are many out of the box solutions that claim to be good for SEO, but I would certainly verify those claims with others that are using these platforms.

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      #2-
      From my experience, the biggest hindrance to successful SEO is benign neglect. SEO is absolutely not “set it and forget it”. If you leave SEO as an afterthought you will find that you are simply not getting the hoped for organic visibility. The best way to counter this neglect is to not neglect it :). Ensure that there is an owner with in an organization for SEO and that person is tasked with being aware of best practices or seeking out help when necessary. If we are dealing with a sole proprietorship where the owner is the CEO, CFO, COO and CMO - there should be mindshare left over for SEO or they should outsource this task to someone with experience in their vertical.

      2 Share
    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      #3
      For the vast majority of websites on the Internet, SEO is a something that takes a really long time to see results. A typical growth test can be run within a defined period which makes the concept of growth sprints more of a fit. That being said, for larger websites with either more complex SEO issues or enough traffic to run a pure test, I absolutely would recommend growth sprints. As an aside, whenever I work with a larger enterprise that does not have dedicated engineering for SEO, I always push for them to allocate time within each sprint to tackle SEO tasks which more than likely are just items designed to improve SEO rather than a test to learn from.

      2 Share
  • MM

    Michael Magnuson

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli -- I'm interested in your thoughts on the future of link building strategies. We are an independent comparison shopping site in the home furnishings space. In our category, the biggest competitors use what I would consider to be link-building "tricks," including:

    * offering a $500-$1,000 scholarship each year in order to get backlinks from .edu domains
    * including links to their site on lists of "resources" of random sites across the web (veteran's organizations, Cub Scout troops, gardening clubs, etc.) (almost surely paid or swapped, but hard to prove)
    * having random bloggers write promotional articles about them that include links (definitely paid, but again hard to prove)
    * guest posts / article swaps

    Likewise, they tend to have lots of freelance journalists write articles that are semantically related to their core keywords but are completely unrelated to the reason that people use their site. Sort of like when CreditKarma writes articles about 401(k) investing or estate planning.

    My view on tactics like these has always been that if a human can look at them and determine that this company is obviously trying to game the search algorithms, then a software developer could (and will) eventually write a piece of code to determine the same thing. That said, I have heard from other people in the SEO world that even the link-building techniques I listed are not even really considered "black hat." So perhaps I am being too uptight and moralistic...

    Basically I'm looking for a dose of pragmatic advice here. In your view, are these techniques the type of thing that will ultimately wipe these sites off the face of the web in a Google algorithm update one day (eg, the way Panda wiped away most content farmers)? If not, do you see stuff like this as table stakes to succeed in the most competitive categories? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Michael, I LOVE your question and it’s one I get often. I am in complete agreement with you that if a human can assess something as manipulative then it shouldn’t work. On that note, I don’t think all deliberate tactics to drive links really deserve to get lumped into the same bucket.

      As an example, if a website managed to find a corrupt journalist to insert a link in to an article on an extremely reputable news website, should that link not count as a good link? In my opinion, it shouldn’t matter how that link was obtained if it managed to get past all the editorial controls of a news website and is relevant to an article, that is a valid backlink. On the flip side, if the website makes it known that links are for sale, then I don’t think any links should count even if the news website is still very reputable. In my mind, that value of the link is in how much effort it takes to get and is it something anyone else with a checkbook can obtain. A freelance article on Medium is definitely not the same as one in the Wall Street Journal.

      As the AI in the algorithms continue to improve, I think you will find that the links that seem really easy to get like will stop mattering and the investment into getting will be a waste of money. I would focus efforts on coming up with valuable content and then using creative ways for people to want to naturally link to them.

  • DP

    Daniel Park

    7 months ago #

    Currently, I am a Youtuber, but I also launched a website where you can book a group lesson(Group PT/Info Session etc.,). Because my channel has been performing quite well compared to my new site. Whenever I google my search term(my name or my class name) the Youtube contents showed up instead of my website. How can I target my Youtube viewer(subscriber/viewer) to visit my site?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Daniel, thank you for your question! I don’t have a ton of experience with YouTube, but I would assume this might be a common scenario for anyone that builds an audience on one platform and wants to bring them to a website. The common best practice would be to add links to the website in the bio, the video description and maybe even a CTA within the videos directing people to the website. I think it might be hard for your website to outrank you YouTube channel especially if Google thinks users are looking for the YouTube channel and not your website, you could at least build the connection between the channel and the website so the website will rank just under your YouTube channel in search.

      • DP

        Daniel Park

        7 months ago #

        Yeah, I already create the CTA and start to promote the website on Youtube. I believe I still need to do that.
        Can posting or inserting one of the most performing videos on my site help site become more visible on the search?

  • TS

    Tiago Silva

    7 months ago #

    A good SEO strategy is work on:
    1 - content creation cadence (like new posts, pages, keywords, etc) and
    2 - web dev best practives (SEPRS, like structured data, schema.org, pagespeed, AMP, link and backlink, image search, machine learning..)....
    that's it?
    Something not quoted?
    Thanks a lot!!

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Tiago, This is a good summary! The one thing I would add which is really important is something along the lines of PR. Links are less important in today’s SEO requirements than they were in the past, but links are still critical. Using PR efforts to generate awareness of superb content and user experience will go a long way towards driving the quality backlinks search engines will need to understand how valuable of a service you are providing with your website.

      4 Share
  • RS

    Raj Sharma

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli, I am looking for the answers for

    1) Our website gets a roughly 2M session every month from across all the Geo. But, somehow we are not able to increase our traffic from the US. What would you suggest us to to get more users from the US?

    2) What is your distribution plan for blogs/ebooks/whitepapers etc?

    3) How to increase the organic traffic for a particular link/blog/product?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Raj, Great questions. Short of following best practices on SEO, I don't think there's any silver bullet for SEO success. I believe every site has it's own unique fingerprint in Google, and I would suggest you uncover that uniqueness so you can double down on what is already working.

  • ES

    Eli schwartz

    7 months ago #

    Thank you all so much! It's been a blast. Until next time . . . 😊🚀 Feel free to find me on my blog or LinkedIn, and I am always happy to chat SEO!

  • PS

    Prasanna S

    7 months ago #

    I wanna learn digital marketing Can I get a mentor to do forward and get all kinds of help from him?

  • KG

    Kaylin G

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli! I'm curious to know your thoughts on what is traditionally known as "link sculpting"? That is, strategically placing rel='nofollow' directives on links to pages within a website in order to direct crawlers to only go to those pages you want them to with the goal to save crawl budget on your most important pages. Especially if it is a large website. Have you ever done this or worked with a client who has done this and seen success?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Kaylin, This is a great question! I think link sculpting by using no-follows is likely a practice that will not be as effective as it might have been in the past. In my opinion, Google’s ranking algorithm is a lot smarter than needing websites to tell them which links to follow and which not to follow. On that note, I posted a video on my Linkedin a couple months ago that showed a Google self driving car decide how to merge into traffic when there was an oncoming bike. A company that can produce an algorithm that can make decisions like that doesn’t need human input on what links are good!

      That being said, I do think link sculpting works from a standpoint of what links are including as cross links within a site and will help those pages rank better.

      2 Share
  • BH

    Bob Herman

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli:

    I helped my brother start a site at https://bloodytoe.co. Any suggestions for jump starting traffic?

    Thank you!
    Bob H.

  • PF

    Phil Forbes

    7 months ago #

    Hey Eli
    I'm head of SEO for a company that's dominating in all it's target keywords. We're now looking at ranking for keywords that are even more relevant but have a low search volume (think 20 searches a month). Im thinking about creating a massive piece of content but trying to make it rank for as many of these low-search volume keywrods as possible. Advice/guidance?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Phil, I don't think you can ever dominate for all of your keywords! Think about keywords that are not necessarily conversion oriented and build content for those terms. I just wrote a blog post on that topic on finding keywords at the top of the funnel and I strongly recommend you optimize for those terms before working on lower volume traffic.

      That aside, a massive piece of content is never a bad idea and best of luck!

  • PM

    Paul Medrano

    7 months ago #

    Hey Eli,
    For e-commerce, what would be your 3 SEO KPIs for lean management?
    Many thanks
    Paul

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Paul, Great question! I don’t think I have ever seen lean management paired with SEO but I always have the same SEO KPI’s regardless:

      Conversions in whatever metric that might be for a particular company. It can range from pages viewed on a media site to sales for an ecommerce site or leads for a lead gen site.
      Traffics from search. Ideally this is qualified traffic so it is generating the conversions in KPI #1, but your SEO efforts are not working if you aren’t getting clicks
      Impressions on search. This number should always be rising if you are increasing your content and your SEO efforts.

      Do note that I do not mention rankings in any of these KPI’s. Rankings as a metric of SEO is a contributing factor in impressions but it should never be measured as a KPI on its own.

      3 Share
  • AA

    A.J. Alonzo

    7 months ago #

    Hey Eli! Thanks for doing this AMA.

    What top pieces of advice would you give to someone who's just starting to build out their SEO strategy? What about for someone who ranks well for some things but wants to expand their success to other keywords?

    Thanks!

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi AJ, Great questions!! I answered your first question in a lot more detail for Dani Hart but in short, SEO is all about setting a great foundation!

      I love your second question and it is one I hear quite often. Folks think they are done with SEO because “they SEO’ed it already”. In truth, SEO is never done and traffic can always improve. If you use SEO tools you can discover keywords that your competitors are ranking on but you are not. You can do keyword research and find other relevant words to rank on. And my favorite, you can use Google Search Console to find tangential topics and keywords that Google believes you should rank on but do not yet. This is the lowest hanging fruit that everyone must pick before focusing their efforts elsewhere. I wrote a short blog post on this last year about using Google Search Console to mine for opportunities. Thanks for reminding me to expand on this idea!

  • SF

    Scott Fasser

    7 months ago #

    We've just launched a new site - https://www.sigmaiq.com - how do we take on larger competitors in our space who have a much higher domain authority and content profile?

  • YC

    Yosu Cadilla

    7 months ago #

    What has changed in SEO during the last 2 years?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Yosu, thanks so much for your question! In truth SEO is really the same as it has always been - create a great user experience for users that has a clear and easy comprehend structure and the search engines will follow. In practice, search engines are only trying to mimic what real humans would want and therefore the gaps in AI created loopholes that sites were able to exploit for easier rankings. The improvements in SEO over time have really been the outcome of improved AI and intent matching on the search engine’s part. This means that it is a lot harder to game with content created just for search engines and building a backlink profile based on manipulation.

      1 Share
  • MM

    Matheus Mourão

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli,

    if you had only 2 months to make your startup grow with content and SEO marketing strategy (and with a budget of $ 5K per month), what strategy would you use to get there?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Matheus, This is a great question and great to connect! Once you have spent the effort and resources on building a solid SEO foundation, I would recommend using nearly all of your budget on creating great content. You might want to leave some of your funds aside to spend on paid channels or influencers to draw attention and possibly links to your content, but otherwise the key to your SEO strategy will be great quality content.

      3 Share
  • BB

    Barbara Bonfim

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli, thanks so much for your time here :)

    1. Does the SEO strategy vary from industry to industry? More specifically - how would you weigh both content creation/web dev priority ratio? Is it always 50/50?

    2. What're the biggest challenges companies face when trying to achieve a sustainable organic ranking?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Barbara, Thanks so much for your questions!

      For your first question, I don’t think there’s ever a perfect ratio on SEO efforts for any industry. In media, there might be less of a focus on web development once the best template is deployed; however, complex media sites still might have more development needs than content if the content team has a clear process to follow on the best way to write for maximum SEO visibility. On larger sites, there may be less of a need for daily web development but then this might be a great time to do web development just for the sake of SEO testing.

      • ES

        Eli schwartz

        7 months ago #

        To your second question, it really depends on the size of the company. For larger companies, the greatest issue is going to be internal resistance. Whomever owns the SEO goals has to convince other teams who do not have an SEO goal to build and operate in a way that helps or at least doesn’t hurt SEO efforts. I have seen lots of horror stories of what happens when that doesn’t work. In smaller companies, the biggest challenge is going to be using strapped resources for SEO (that could be more content, engineers, or PR) when there are so many demands for those same resources. This is an even bigger challenge when the competitors have deeper pockets and don’t have the same resource constraints.

  • CG

    Colton Gardner

    7 months ago #

    Neighbor.com is a marketplace that connects people with extra space to others who need storage. We are fighting to rank for keywords like "[city] storage units". We currently utilize dynamic landing pages that are automatically generated for each city where we have storage listings. Building backlinks to each of these city landing pages will be quite difficult. Internal linking is something that we currently do, but could improve on. What other techniques would you recommend to rank well for these city-modified keywords?

    • JG

      Josh Grossman

      7 months ago #

      Hi Colton,

      I would recommend extensively studying the blueprints from local search sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Care.com, Zillow, etc. In looking at your site, I'd suggest a few things:

      I'm not seeing a sitemap in the footer. The sitemap should link to your most important pages. Your footer also has a few keyword links that are repeated on every page because they are in the footer. This kind of site-wide linking is no longer used by most SEOs because it looks like you are trying to game the system. Instead, put your most important links on the homepage, but not sitewide. This will help spread the SEO juice down to them. (Notice how TripAdvisor puts a bunch of important hotel links at the bottom of the homepage above the footer)

      Your breadcrumbs are on the bottom of the page instead of the top which is more typical (and Google sometimes displays breadcrumbs from the top of the page in search results). Also, in your breadcrumbs you are linking using the name of the state instead of the main keyword (e.g. you are linking the word "Utah" instead of "Utah storage"). This is a problem in the content on your main storage page as well (https://www.neighbor.com/self-storage). You link the words "Provo, Utah" to the Provo Self storage page and then later on the page link the words "Provo, UT Self Storage" to the same page. The second link has the correct keywords, but the problem is that Google only rewards the first link on a page going to an individual URL. (I see the same keyword linking problem in the related links content on your city pages)

      In terms of external links, you are correct that creating backlinks to each city landing page will be hard. I would recommend using a "hub" page for each state and drive links to them. Each internal link that flows from that state page should benefit from the SEO juice. You have pages like this already, eg. https://www.neighbor.com/Utah-storage but the page is pretty ugly and is just a collection of internal links. You need to build content on that page - content that will interesting enough for people to link to, for example, the average price of storage in Utah, a survey of what most people put in storage, how long on average people keep stuff in storage, the most unusual storage facilities, etc. Then contact all the Utah bloggers you can find and let them know about this page. Repeat for every state.

      Hope this helps.

      • CG

        Colton Gardner

        6 months ago #

        Fantastic advice! I appreciate you taking the time to go through our website and providing such detailed recommendations. Each of them is spot on and I'll be working to implement all of them! We are already working on implementing some of them, so it was helpful to get additional validation. Improved internal linking will be huge for us as well as your recommended "hub" pages. Thanks!

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Colton, This is an interesting question and probably one that has many right answers. In any SEO project an SEO advisor would likely begin with an audit to identify the baseline of a site. In my experience conducting audits I have never failed to find immediate opportunities for improving somewhere on a site, so I have no doubt they exist for you too. My first recommendation would be for you to engage with someone to conduct an SEO audit to uncover those opportunities.

      That aside, it would likely depend on the technical implementation of your site as well as how Google is ranking the sites you are competing on to get a sense of what will win for these keywords. I strongly believe that every site has its own fingerprint in search and there’s no one size fits all playbook. You need to understand your fingerprint in order to win. I know it doesn’t fully answer your question, but I think the areas you mentioned on internal linking are good places to start.

  • ID

    Isaiah Dahl

    7 months ago #

    Hey Eli,

    In the coming months, we're going to be building and launching a new version of our e-commerce site that's been selling downloadable sheet music online for 20 years.

    Our global strategy is to implement so that everything sits behind a "us-en" which would drive store and language.
    .com/us-en/songs/details/id/{song-title}/{product}

    currently it would just look like
    .com/songs/details/id/{song-title}/{product}...

    1. What kind of impact is this going to have on the 20K+ URL's that are ranked without this store and language code

    2. What kind of impact would it have to make a change in our URL's at the same time and remove the word "details". The keywords people are searching for are at the end of the URL where it says the "Song title" and "product". The "detail" word has no impact on site hierarchy or folders, it's just there.
    Is that type of change not worth it?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Isaiah, This is an interesting question! I can’t answer with absolute certainty, so please do consult someone that can best give you advice after understanding all the details. That being said, I would be very cautious about making changes to URL’s. Even with 301 redirects, there will likely be some loss in search traffic, so I would be extremely cautious about making a change unless the upside of the change justified any potential hit to traffic. I don’t know if that really answers your specific question because I am not even sure you should be making a move like this if what you have is working for you.

  • CC

    Contact CBDmap

    7 months ago #

    Hi Eli,

    I've launched a new platform called cbdmap.com - We are store directory with over 1,000 locations and I was wondering if you could recommend any resources/tools in order to optimize our User Generated Content for Local SEO proposes.

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Congrats on the new site! I would recommend just starting with SEO best practices on on-page SEO and then begin optimizing on what is already working once traffic starts coming in. The initial launch of a site is always hard to really know what to optimize since it could take some time before you see results!

  • BC

    Barron Caster

    7 months ago #

    Hey Eli, thanks for answering all these questions! I'm a big fan.

    What does the ideal SEO team look like (SEO, content, backlinks, PR, etc.)?

    • ES

      Eli schwartz

      7 months ago #

      Hi Barron, Great question! It really depends on the size of a company. Ideally you want someone that's really strong technically before starting to expand into backlinks and PR. Content can be part of a separate team or as a part of the SEO team, but again that will be dependent on the org structure and company size.

  • GK

    Greg Kristan

    7 months ago #

    TripAdvisor has over 114k HTML sitemaps on their site. Do you see value in their SEO strategy of programmatically creating HTML sitemaps for user generated reviews? Should TripAdvisor NOINDEX, FOLLOW this content to preservce link equity on their site, or keep the pages INDEX, FOLLOW as they have right now?

    • SF

      Scott Fasser

      7 months ago #

      Hi Greg, it sounds like TripAdvisor is doing Site Map daisy chaining if they have 114,000 individual site maps. This means keeping each site map tighter and linking to more content specific sitemaps (hotels, cities, etc.). This is a common tactic for larger, directory type sites and are important from a crawling stand-point and less about inter-linking. The should keep the pages indexed and followed since they are only linking internally which is what Google would expect. My 2 cents.

  • AD

    androidapp development

    7 months ago #

    Hello Eli Scheartz,

    Recently I encountered a problem

    I updated my on-page perfectly with respective title tag, description and keywords.

    But I can't able see to title what I gave in google search results. It is taking the titles from H2 or H3. May I know the reason for this.

  • FG

    fernando groves

    7 months ago #

    Great information thank you for sharing.

  • BC

    Buzz Cnn

    7 months ago #

    Hey, Eli

    You're doing a great job... I run my blog for startup and tech... in last two year I'm working with many clients for SEO ranking some high competitive keywords and now in 2019... google full changed the algorithm.
    if you're using the valuable right answer as fit according to the google bot... then google understand our content fast and easy then without any high-quality backlink we can rank on the top page of google... recent I have on my blog at buzzcnn.com I'm surprised with a new ranking position of keywords... I didn't saw as before the last 2-year this experience... also the most important update of google webmaster tools for fast indexing the URLs using the google inspection tool... All Changed work well...

    Thanks
    Buzz CNN

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