9 best initiatives for growing million visitor SEO landing pages | The definitive guide to SEO at scale
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Jeff Chang (@JeffChang30) is a growth technical leader at Pinterest and angel investor. If your startup is looking for an angel investor who can help with all things growth, please send over an email!
SEO landing pages are a huge opportunity that almost every major web company invests in, for example (view in incognito):
These pages receive millions of hits per day and are a large part of these companies' growth. In this post, I'll explain the top opportunities to get there from just having a basic set of landing pages. This guide is more of a 10-100 guide, whereas my previous post on SEO was more of a 1-10 guide.
1. Invest in a SEO Experiment framework
Without an SEO experiment framework, you can't accurately measure the effects of your changes. "SEO experiment framework" might seem intimidating, but you can build a simple one by just writing a bucketing function and a query. I explain in detail how to build one in my previous SEO blog post. You can make run SEO experiments fine with just a basic framework, but here are some upgrades you can make to turn it into a very powerful tool:
Build automated data jobs to remove manual querying
Build a dashboard to display the data
Automatically calculate the daily traffic gain
Build alerts that trigger when certain SEO experiment groups drop below a certain threshold
2. Run title and description tests
Optimizing your title and description are very important because you have to get users to click your link over other links based off only the title and description. They are the best example of a low effort, high impact experiment. Let's take a look at a very competitive query: 'San Francisco Hotel'
All of these companies have likely done some sort of title and description experimentation to reach a similar title that likely performs the best. All of them have '# Best' or 'Top #' because it's a catchy title and generates clicks. In fact, you may have even noticed I use '# Best' in the title of this blog post too, in order to hopefully generate some SEO traffic. In addition to trying numbers, you'll also want to to take advantage of the whole length of the title and add other terms you want to rank for.
I'd say that trying numbers and adding relevant terms are the biggest two opportunities when it comes to SEO titles, but you should also try different variations on every single word in your title. Just like the title, you also want to use up your description to increase the number of keywords you can possibly rank for.
3. Scale the number of pages
To get millions of SEO traffic per day, usually, one page is not enough. You will want to have a page type that can be generated at scale. At Pinterest, we have hundreds of thousands of pages varying across a wide range of topics from login pages to Hawaii vacation ideas. As you can see, having user-generated content is a great way to scale your landing pages, but a lot of work has to be done to convert them to high-quality landing pages that rank high on Google. In addition to having single pieces of user-generated content as landing pages, you can also create aggregates of the best user-generated content.
Now you'll have an additional page type that can rank! One thing you'll have to start considering when scaling the number of pages is pruning lower quality pages. It's usually better to have one page on the first page of a SERP than two on the second page. So, try to build an automated system to flag lower quality pages, perhaps by conversion rate, and no-indexing them. To summarize, invest in methods to scale your number of quality landing pages.
4. Run experiments on the content format of the page
Content is usually cited as the number one SEO ranking factor. A few years ago I wrote a previous blog post about how we built over 5 different page layouts for our pin pages to increase signups and SEO traffic. We've found that moving more content above the fold in general increases traffic. Also, making the page more information dense in general also increases traffic.
The most important thing to know when changing the page is that if you change your image signatures or remove text, there is a good chance that this will cause a SEO traffic drop. This is because if your site has a lot of images, Google will have to re-crawl and re-rank your new images. If we resize images on our page, we will use the same image url and scale it. Also, in general, more text = higher traffic. So, keep these two constant when running these kinds of experiments.
5. Increase the content on the page
In general, if you add more quality text and images to a page, your page will get more traffic because it can rank for more queries on both text and image search. In addition, having more content can increase time spent on site, which is another factor google search considers. We've experimented with how many pins we show on each page and have clear results that the more content, the more traffic we get. However, you have to balance this with web page performance, because adding more content slows the page down. Find the sweet spot where you get a significant traffic bump without decreasing your web performance too much. Also, if you have some sort of paging mechanism, make sure to try rendering your page from Google search console to make sure that your paging system works for crawlers too.
6. Build real time graphs and alerts for traffic
The main real time graphs we have for traffic are combinations between the page types and platforms. For example, desktop board pages or mobile web pin pages. I talked about the importance of these graphs in Growth monitoring done right, but to summarize, defensive growth is just as important as offensive growth and you need to be able to catch and debug traffic drops. The main way these graphs are used is that when a metrics drop occurs, we try to match it to a deploy time. If the drop is on a deploy time, we know we shipped some code that changed the page and drops traffic, and we can revert it. If it happens not during the deploy time, it could be a Google algorithm change in which case it is harder to recover. Traffic grows and drops fast, so be sure to watch it as you would watch any other core site metric. Other key metrics that you probably want to measure and alert on are website errors (ex. 404's), and crawl traffic.
7. Make language specific pages
Another good way to scale your pages and grow internationally is to build language specific landing pages. There is a significant volume in non-english search queries, so by only having english pages, you could be missing out on a lot of google searchers. You want to make sure these pages are almost completely in that language, instead of half half, so users receive the best experience. Also, make sure the title and description are in that language to to rank for the right terms and increase your CTR.
8. Improve page performance
Two years ago, we rebuilt our entire unauth product from scratch in React. It was a large effort and a major win as we saw significant increases in SEO traffic and signups. Since then, we've made a lot of other performance improvements, from decreasing the site package sizes to API response caching. We've noticed that certain improvements increase traffic and certain projects don't. For example, usually, small improvements are not enough to move the rankings. Also, ranking changes due to changes in user behavior are harder to measure in page bucketed SEO experiments. Since I would classify performance as a large effort, medium impact initiative, I would recommend pursuing it after you've gotten all the easy wins such as page title experiments.
9. Invest in AMP
These days, AMP pages rule mobile search results. While I have mixed feelings about the AMP user experience, you need to work on it if you want to compete for mobile web traffic. We've found that it's really hard for us to share components we were already using due to the AMP restrictions, so most parts of our AMP code were written just for AMP. So, AMP is also a large effort, but large impact initiative. One factor you should consider before pursuing AMP is if mobile SEO is a large source of app installs for you. If it is, then it makes sense to invest a lot in AMP. If your product doesn't have an app, then AMP probably is not as high of a priority.
As you can see, building SEO landing pages is a long-term investment, but the results of success are very high. Each of these initiatives is multiple month investments and are complex, and I will to deep dive into a few of them in the future. I hope from this blog post you get an overview of the kind of work it takes to build million visitor SEO landing pages!
Want some advice with building your million visitor SEO landing pages? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org