Rank Higher: Q&A with Instapage SEO Manager Chris Granwehr

by Brandon Weaver in Lead Generation

SEO is a demanding and complex industry. Either search engines can find your website, or they can’t.

An SEO Manager can often be overlooked, but these individuals are crucial to any company’s success. While they may not be spokespersons, they work tirelessly behind the scenes and their work is both visible and public. First, let’s start by defining SEO:

Content might be king but simply publishing blogs, for example, won’t guarantee your company will lead in search rankings. Creating a healthy website and generating quality traffic involves more than just keywords and backlinks. That was the basis for my sit down with Chris to learn how brands can improve their website’s health and increase brand awareness in the digital age.

BW: What is your SEO background and role with Instapage?

CG: I have worked across a wide variety of industries and as an SEO in-house and at agencies before. I have worked at small to medium-sized agencies in industries covering real estate, law firm marketing, e-commerce stores, professional services, food industries, etc.

My in-house SEO experience was mostly in e-commerce (including fulfillment distribution) and reputation management/content marketing before joining Instapage. These companies were Factory Bunk Beds, Brand.com, and Fulfillment.com.

At Instapage, I am the SEO Manager responsible for increasing organic traffic to our website properties and YouTube channel. I started working with Instapage in June 2015 and was among the first San Francisco employees hired.

I am super passionate about SEO, especially after helping remove the Brand.com manual backlinks penalty and seeing first-hand the major revenue impact SEO has on any company that executes it properly.

If you aren’t super interested in SEO, or if the possibilities in SEO don’t seem compelling, then they won’t be as successful in this field. SEO is very difficult and competitive and not for the faint of heart. SEO is so competitive because you’re competing against millions of web pages online, with millions of more pages of competing content soon to be uploaded. It is a never-ending race to provide the best content and user experience possible to the people visiting your site.

Put simply, you need to provide the best possible answers to satisfy their search queries. If the content isn’t the best online, it will be very difficult to rank in the top positions in Google for competitive search phrases.

BW: What SEO tools do you use on a daily or weekly basis?

CG: I use a variety of tools to assess the SEO performance of our website and YouTube channel, I’ll describe briefly what each tool is used for:

I use others as well, but these are the primary SEO tools.

BW: What do you think is the biggest myth about SEO?

CG: That content marketing is the be-all, end-all for SEO. SEO involves a lot more than just strong content including technical SEO, structured data, 3rd party reviews, backlinks, and hundreds of other factors. Here’s the Moz beginner’s guide to learn more about the basics.

BW: When Google announces an update, what do you do?

CG: Well, Google doesn’t announce many updates anymore. The primary reason for this is because there are several updates per week or a dozen per month, and commenting on each little update is cumbersome and not worth their time.

When Google does announce an update ahead of time, it is a big deal and should be paid very close attention. Two examples include the real-time Penguin update and mobile-first index. With the mobile-first index, the signs are loud and clear: use a mobile-friendly responsive website and have your mobile pages be AMP-enabled as soon as possible.

What usually happens is a lot of chatter on the search engine blog sites, such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, etc. speculating that an algorithm update occurred. There are also SEO tools such as Moz.com’s MozCast that can track whether there have been wide fluctuations in the SERP (search engine results pages) activity.

Generally, I check some of the SEO blog chatter about the update, read the comments, see what the Google engineers have said (or not said regarding an update), and then assess which individual keywords or pages may have been affected by the update — and if the update affected mobile, tablet, or desktop devices.

For the most part, I drill down a lot deeper than this, but that’s my action plan when I suspect an update occurred. The SEO at Instapage is all white-hat, and we produce substantial high-quality content that garners dozens of natural backlinks on a monthly basis, so we usually see a nice bump in organic traffic from almost every update, assuming the update affected search quality for either penguin/panda or another part of the algorithm.

BW: What strategies have you implemented at Instapage that made a significant difference in traffic or website health?

CG: We started producing long-form educational guides that are centered around major topics in our industry, such as post-click landing pages and conversion rate optimization. These guides have started generating a massive amount of organic traffic and brand awareness for Instapage. Each guide contains several chapters and are full in-depth content pieces that aim to teach marketers the high-level gist of what they need to know about the topic to be successful.

A few of our SEO guides that rank at the top of Google are about post-click landing pages, lead capture pages, sales pages, etc.

Similarly, we have created a marketing dictionary of 200+ terms that marketers and advertisers should know to be successful with digital marketing and online lead generation. Plus, our blog has grown immensely since we started producing long-form blog posts with SEO in mind.

We no-indexed our internal and customer post-click landing pages, moved our publishing domain option from xyz.instapage.com to xyz.pagedemo.co, and cleaned up the site structure of our URLs. Up until a few years ago, we used actual dates in our blog URLs and now use a blog subfolder /blog/ in its place.

Also, we ramped up our content production efforts, with the goal of increasing our natural inbound link acquisition from high-quality sources. Another thing we did was dramatically increase the page-speed across the site, along with other technical SEO strategies that have cleaned up our source code and site structure, making it more user-friendly for the Google bots.

BW: How will AMP effect brands going forward?

CG: AMP will play a huge role going forward, especially with the mobile-first index coming out in 2018. Besides just having the gray lightning-bolt AMP logo next to your search engine page results in Google on mobile, there are clear financial benefits to implementing AMP.

A few are as follows:

  • You can gain an immediate leg-up on the competition. Assuming your competitors have not all already enabled AMP, this is a significant advantage.
  • Much faster page load times, by a minimum of several seconds.
  • Higher conversions, as people can consume the content faster on mobile and would be more likely to sign up for a service they have a good mobile experience with.
  • Gray AMP logo next to search result pages on mobile devices.
  • Mobile-first index. Google will start to rank mobile pages first, then worry about where desktop fits into the equation. Mobile is the future, so you need to be prepared.
  • Savvy web users are younger and mostly on mobile devices, rather than desktop. You need to be where the customers are, and increasingly that will be on mobile devices in the future.

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BW: What do you think the biggest SEO trend has been so far in 2017?

CG: The massive push from Google for mobile. Their engineers are building the mobile-first index as we speak, and are trying to encourage AMP adoption as quickly as possible. Remember, if all websites were mobile-friendly and used AMP already, Google would make billions more in advertising revenue. So getting everyone to a fast, mobile-friendly experience is a major financial initiative for Google, as advertising revenue is still their bread and butter.

BW: What will be the biggest change for SEO in 2018 and beyond?

CG: I believe Google will announce fewer updates as time goes on, so understanding why traffic has fluctuated negatively for a site will be harder to assess, as no one will truly know exactly what the update involved.

Also, not paying attention to mobile UX and mobile page speed will hurt businesses going forward. SEO’s need to stay on top of the mobile changes to stay ahead of the curve.

BW: What do you like most about SEO?

CG: I love the thrill of ranking for primary, commercially-focused keywords and knocking the competition down. The only way you rank #1 for a competitive keyword is to knock someone down from their perch at #1, and this is why I love SEO, as I can do this consistently every time I perform SEO services on a website.

Increase your brand’s visibility

Continuing to focus on high-quality content and improving your website user experience (especially on mobile) for site visitors will remain the SEO focus in the foreseeable future.

It’s also possible to have post-click landing pages that perform very well from an SEO standpoint if that is one of the goals of the campaign. Sign up for an Instapage Enterprise demo today.

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Brandon Weaver

by Brandon Weaver

Brandon Weaver is one of the worlds leading experts on digital advertising, CRO, & personalization, with more than a decade in the industry.

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