Start your SEO strategy with Cocolyze MAAC Framework
I've been talking to marketing professionals in charge of SEO for years now, and I've always had the same complaints: "I don't know where to start! ", "Blog posts contradict each other!” or "SEO rules are never the same, they keep changing all the time!”, and at the end a unanimous conclusion: “with SEO, we’ve got no results”.
But what exactly is causing this problem ? After all these years working in the field and the thousands of articles read about the subject, I’ve come to a conclusion: there isn’t a defined framework for SEO. We can, indeed, find “SEO checklists” all over the place aiming to impress us, but they don’t really solve the problem.
I also realized that SEO is one of the most complex fields because it relies on both technical and marketing aspects.
How many companies I have met that were producing tones of content that weren't even accessible by Google…
All this waste of effort for so little (or none) return on investment brought me to work on the construction of an SEO Framework. And by SEO framework, I mean a structured method aiming at not forgetting anything, and doing things in the right order.
That’s why I created the MAAC framework at Cocolyze. MAAC stands for:
It’s a structured method you can use to ensure you’re doing SEO in the correct order without forgetting anything.
It is compulsory to start by studying your SEO market before creating your content or redesigning your website. Differently from what companies may think, SEO competitors won’t necessarily be the business’ competitors.
During the market phase, you will need to define the centre of your market, evaluate the market size, determine the extent of the market and finally, identify your competitors.
Evaluate the market size
For each keyword, it is easy to determine its search volume, that is, the number of people who each month makes this particular search on Google.
Many tools exist, but make sure you use reliable data. I have myself created a tool to measure the search volume of a set of keywords, but you can as well use Google Trends to work word by word.
Define the scope of the market
The second step is to find a MAXIMUM of relevant keywords (we will see later how to analyze their relevance).
You can use a keyword suggestion tool, such as Cocolyze Keyword Tool for example, but there are many others. I advise you to use several different ones to compare their results.
Be sure you’ve chosen the right competitors
You have got your list of ideal keywords. All these keywords represent your market, you can now estimate its size, define its scope and identify your competitors.
The majority of the companies I’ve met focus on the wrong competitors. They think that their SEO competitors are the same as the competitors of their physical establishments which is a huge mistake.
Your SEO competitors are all the websites ranked on the keywords of your market. For example, in some cases, even Wikipedia can be one of your competitors!
It is often difficult to determine who your competitors are on a large list of keywords. You can of course get out your Excel spreadsheet or use position tracking tools that integrate a competitive analysis to facilitate the task.
For me, this is the most important step and curiously the least worked. To be honest, it’s a notion that is not well understood and answered in the SEO field. For more than a decade we have been chasing to fulfill "Google criteria" in order to get ranked, but with all these we forget the most important thing: Google wants to offer the most relevant results to its users, not the most optimized ones!
If you think it was enough to choose your keywords, write a lot of content and create a few links, well you should think again.
The CTR and Bounce Rate
The way Google works has significantly evolved over the last two decades and the rankings of websites could not be based only on a “perfect understanding” of a content by a robot.
So how could Google determine if one site was more relevant than another? Rather than only analyzing it, Google started considering the users’ behaviors.
Let's take a simple example: Google displays 3 results for the keyword "shoes".
If 80% of Internet users do not click on the first result, but directly on the second result, Google (which, of course, collects click statistics) can easily deduce that the second result is more relevant than the first. So the second result is moved to the first position.
This is called CTR (Click Through Rate) optimization.
The bounce rate is usually confused with the CTR. The bounce rate is the number of users who leave your site after visiting only one of your pages, without going further.
These users, not satisfied by your content, might go back on Google results page to click on the second result.
We could deduce, therefore, that for each bounce from your site, a probable click to a competitor ranked below your site may occur and therefore increase its CTR.
This is why these two notions are closely linked.
Good practices or common sense?
When everyone is looking for "SEO best practices" or "SEO techniques", I have always gone for "common sense", and it works pretty well.
As long as you haven't integrated the importance of working on the user's attractiveness (Appeal), you can throw your content in the garbage.
Put yourself in your users' shoes and try to offer them content that will REALLY meet their expectations. Create value instead of content. Without value, you can optimize your content and your pages, but as long as your content is not attractive, you will not have satisfactory results in SEO.
Create value rather than just content
There are two main stages in the work of user appeal:
- Pre-click appeal
- Post-click appeal
Pre-click appeal is about maximizing your click-through rate results. You only have a few words in the title and meta description of your page, so they must be impactful. The user should think "this site will give me what I am looking for". You can use SERP features to enrich your CTR results, such as highlighting your page's customer reviews, price or inventory.
Post-click appeal includes all the optimizations to convince the user as soon as he arrives on your page. But they still need to access your content without waiting 10 seconds, scrolling through 3 kilometers of pages and closing 8 pop-up messages.
As you can see, I'm talking about usability here. However, you can’t forget to integrate the notion of value in your content. Put forward your differentiating elements that are of real interest to the user on a given query.
For example: on average, e-commerce pages that do not display prices are less well ranked than e-commerce pages that do display their prices. This happens because when we are looking to buy a product, we like to compare several sites and their prices. By displaying your product price, you facilitate the user’s choice and drive more qualified traffic to your page.
Passive SEO vs Active SEO
You rarely see SEO articles dealing with SEO appeal, and for good reason the human brain prefers to be reassured, with checklists and binary criteria, to analyze the number of words on a page rather than think about their usefulness.
The first time I used the term "passive SEO" during a conference in Paris, I got surprised to see that a lot of people started to smile. They had finally understood the principle of causality in SEO.
The passive SEO includes all the optimization actions not directly related to Google's algorithm. In the passive SEO, we group all SEO actions related to the improvement of the Appeal.
Active SEO is very simple: Google must be able to access a page and index its content.
The SERP (Search engine result page) gives a lot of information that permits to analyze the users' search intention, that is, the content they looking for.
In order to check the relevance of your content to a keyword, do the search, or open the SERP, via a SERP analysis tool, in order to visualize the results provided.
The same keyword can correspond to several results. For example, for the keyword "La vie est belle", you can find:
- A perfume with the same name
- Information about the movie La Vie est Belle
- Websites and discussion groups with the same name
Generally speaking, if the first results are mainly oriented on one content rather than another, here the movie rather than the perfume, we can deduce that a majority of users are looking for information on the movie rather than looking to buy the perfume.
It will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to rank content about the perfume in the first position.
This is how you can determine the relevance of a keyword to the content of your website. Don't forget to analyze your SERPs regularly to check the relevance of your keywords.
Accessibility (Definition): The quality of being able to be reached or entered
Don't think of it as accessibility tools for people with disabilities. By Accessibility, I mean what can disable your pages.
Accessibility in the MAAC method comes down to making your pages easily accessible by search engine s crawlers and by your users.
- Making your pages indexable, i.e. making sure that nothing blocks Google's access to your pages
- Improving the performance of your pages, so crawlers and users can easily navigate on them.
- Checking compatibility between different devices (mobile of course) and setups (screens, countries, versions, etc).
Developers as the sworn enemies of SEO
As a former web developer myself, I now understand why so many companies are abandoning Accessibility optimization and focusing on content.
There are two simple reasons. CMS and project management.
1. Most websites are based on a CMS, such as WordPress. The CMS is very convenient to deploy a website quickly and easily, adding functionality via the download of modules. The advantage of a CMS is that it is designed to do everything. This is in fact, the problem, because this system is therefore much heavier. Each downloaded module slows down the website. Each design modification overloads an existing base and makes the code heavier. Although there are many modules to optimize the loading time of a CMS, its optimization is still a headache. Above 400ms of server loading time, you will have no chance to be ranked 1st in SEO.
2. The second problem related to programming comes rather from the management of programming itself. How many developers take into account the loading time of a page in their developments? Not many, because they are simply not asked, or they are asked too late.
Very often, and wrongly, SEO is seen as a service "after" creation of the website. It is then necessary to go back to what has been done to modify it. The problem is that a delivery truck is not designed for Formula 1 racing! It is then necessary to take again many technical elements which pose problems and very often the correction implies an excessive cost, too many problems and too much time to be carried out. You will therefore create a lot of frustration among your team of developers, who will certainly criticize you for these "patch" requests by trying to convince you of their "irrelevance".
Our frustration can finally disappear, because after a lot of work defining the goal and the market, working on the user appeal and improving the accessibility, it's finally time to get out your best pen. However, writing content is not necessarily the easiest part:
SEO copywriting = editorial quality +fine-tuned choice of keywords + clever structuring
Choose the keyword
In your short-list of keywords you determined when defining your market, identify the keywords with the best potential.
There are two approaches:
- Choose a highly competitive keyword. These types of keywords require more SEO work than others, as many websites are fighting for the top position. If you think you have original content to offer, go for it!
- Choose a long tail keyword. Long tail keywords usually contain more keywords because they are more specific. But they have, as a result, a much lower search volume. Questions are long tail keywords that are fairly easy to identify. For example "How to teach a dog to lay down", is a long tail keyword. No matter which keyword you choose, the key is to think Appeal.
In theory, one page = 1 keyword. But it is entirely possible to position a page for several keywords. The opposite is not true: you should avoid working on several pages for the same keyword, except in the case of tests.
Don't fall into the keyword trap. All SEO tools recommend the use of a lot of keywords in an article, whether it is an informative article, a product page or a landing page.
I myself took up this notion when designing the Cocolyze Writing Assistant with my team. In order not avoid and to fall into the trap of abusive repetition of a keyword, we have added an analysis of the keyword stuffing, which consists in repeating the same keyword in an abusive and abnormal way.
This kind of problem usually occurs when you write a content and a collaborator reviews it to optimize it for the SEO. If you've done your keyword selection well through Market and Appeal analysis, your content should be naturally optimized, but above all it should be of better quality.
Content must be structured, not only visually, but also technically.
Heading tags (the famous HTML tags H1, H2, H3 etc) are often misused.
The H1 tag, which normally represents the main title of the page, is often used differently, as it is more graphically appropriate to use another markup. In other words, often the "H2" is larger in font size than the "H1".
The structuring of headings tags in a hierarchical way (H1 > H2 > H3) with a decreasing font size is strongly recommended.
Structured data is very interesting to improve the Appeal, by enriching the SERP (reviews, product prices, stock levels, opening hours, etc.) but also to structure the understanding of the content by robots to, for example, feed Google My Business pages and voice search (opening hours, address, phone number, etc.)
It is important to distinguish it from semantic cocoons! Thematic cocoons allow you to decode the themes explored by your competitors on a keyword in their content. By exploring your competitors' content, you will find recurring themes. For example, for the keyword "Shoes", you will often find themes related to Sports, Delivery or even brands.
Exploring thematic cocoons allows you to generate a list of content keywords that Google already associates with your target keyword. Tools exist, of course, to automate the analysis of thematic cocoons, as we did when we created the Cocolyze Writing Assistant tool.
These keywords allow you to vary your content when you are out of inspiration! A few ideas of relevant keywords can be very useful to avoid abusive repetition.
In general, remember that your content is created for your customers, prospects, audience or users, not for search engine robots!
Backlinks and reputation
Good content can naturally generate links. The more sites (called referrer sites) that link to your site (called backlink), the more influential your site is.
It is important to generate backlinks from as many referrer sites as possible, but also monitor the quality of the backlinks.
Conclusion and implementation
SEO is not a science. SEO is not technical. SEO is not content.
SEO is first and foremost Marketing, which relies on flawless techniques and above all on method.
Many people simply do it in the wrong order and, unfortunately, their work is in vain. The MAAC Method allows us to define the 4 main steps that are essential in an SEO strategy.
Don't forget that SEO is above all a competition and that not everyone can get the first place, so... let the best win!