Sara Moccand-Sayegh advises SEOs in 2023 to look directly at the SERP for more information about what is actually being shown, and also ensure that you are presenting a clear and consistent personal brand identity across the web.
Sara says: “Check the SERP. It’s so important. We have tools that support us, but sometimes they don’t give us all the information that we need. Some tools, for example, will not give you position zero, but you want to know what is there – at the top of the search results. Tools often start from position one, but you have position zero before that and you have so many other features in between. It is always better to check.
I was doing some tests on myself, as it’s sometimes easier to test on yourself rather than on clients. I realised something weird was happening with my images and Google was having some difficulty understanding them. I was only able to see that because I was checking the SERPs.
For one presentation that I did for BrightonSEO, they literally changed the picture for my presentation. That was one example. Another was with some other images of mine; it was showing the source and where it came from, which was strange to see.”
When you analyse the SERP, do you also go behind the SERP to see where Google is getting its information from?
“Yes, exactly. That is what helps you to progress, analyse, and understand the system. That is also part of the job: to try to figure out how the system is working and why it’s doing what it’s doing. In my case, for example, I was questioning why it was treating my images that way.”
What trends are you seeing in terms of where Google is more likely to get their information from, compared with a couple of years ago?
“Now there is the machine learning system, obviously. We have all the entities, and they are creating all of the connections. That is the main driver, but you still have to create the entity itself, and you still have to understand the system. Part of all of the tests that they do is trying to better understand what they can see. It’s all about understanding.”
How do you give Google greater confidence about who your entity is, what it represents, and why it should be authoritative in a particular field?
“That is a tricky one, and it’s a big part of the job. A lot of it is about giving consistent information. Don’t give completely different information on one site than on another. Be consistent in the information about you online. There are also other things that can help with Google’s understanding, like schema.
In terms of where you want to have that consistent information, being on a wiki is the dream. Everybody wants to be on Wikidata, Wikipedia, etc. but, from experience, it’s not that easy. The community is very strong, and they check very often. You need to collaborate with those communities. Sometimes, SEOs want to be smart by adding their own information on a wiki without being consistent elsewhere first – that’s counterproductive.
Don’t start with the end in mind. A lot of people go directly to Wikidata, for example, because they want to achieve that listing - but that should be your final goal. Before arriving there, you need to do all of the other work. You need to be consistent in your social network, in your company profile, on your entity home, and all over the web.
This can be difficult. If you are a single person, then you can create your own brand first. If you have your own brand and it becomes strong enough, then you can start thinking about going to Wikidata, Wikipedia, or wherever you want.”
How should someone go about creating a personal brand?
“What I’ve noticed is that, now, social networks are not as important. I have seen some exceptions (people who do not really have a website, but they’re super well-known on a social network, and they still have a Knowledge Panel) but, most of the time, that is an exception.
Having an entity home is the most important thing nowadays, and normally you would have it on your website. You should have your own website, and everything else should be around your website. On your website, you are confirming the information that can be found everywhere else.”
Should a business or corporate website build personal profiles for the authors that create blogs for the site, so that those profiles can function as the entity home for the brand of those individuals?
“I work for a company that does exactly that, even for people who don’t write that many blog posts. You can see the effect directly by typing my name into Google. What comes up is the page that contains all of the information about me, and a list of my blog posts connected to that. Clearly, that is important.
In my case, my entity home is my website, which you will also see in the SERP. That is the site that I am using (through the About page) to confirm the information about me and create consistency on the web. That is because of the tests that I am doing and how I have structured my information online.
If you have a corporate website, it will also help to have one page there with your name, some clear information about who you are, and the blog posts that you have written.”
Can your LinkedIn profile act as your entity home, or is it always going to be more beneficial to have your own domain name?
“I actually found some interesting research about this recently. I was looking at the SERP for Aleyda Solis, and she has a Knowledge Panel. What I realised was that the information in that Knowledge Panel has been taken from LinkedIn. That shows how important your LinkedIn profile is. So, you should make sure you are putting together your profile really well, and being consistent within that profile.
However, I still think that Google needs to confirm all of the information that they have, no matter where they take it from. Having your own website - with your domain and your information inside - will be a place for Google to double-check what other people say on the web. They can ask, ‘Is that correct? Okay, we can see it in your domain, and we can see it outside your domain as well.’ They will be able to get confirmation of what you’re saying.”
What are the best first steps to start building your own personal brand online?
“What really helped me was to start speaking. Speak at some conferences, for example.
Twitter is also very helpful. My Twitter profile is the first result that you find when you search for my name, and I don’t have a lot of followers. You don’t need to have a huge profile on Twitter, particularly if it is very targeted. Like a lot of people in SEO, I tweet regularly and I interact a lot with people in the industry. Start with a consistent profile, then you can interact and use more of your social network in the right way, like using your LinkedIn profile as well.
Even better is if you can start speaking at webinars, conferences, and things like that. That will really help to build your own brand. It’s about creating an understanding of who you are, across all the information about you on the web.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“I often feel that SEOs are a bit too obsessive about Core Web Vitals. They are important, of course, but you shouldn’t be spending hours and hours of your own time, and hours and hours of your developers’ time, trying to arrive at a perfect score. Having less than 2.5 seconds for your Largest Contentful Paint is great, but it doesn’t matter when you don’t have any content or links.
Even if your Core Web Vitals are average, that’s okay - especially if your competitors are not doing great.”
Sara Moccand-Sayegh is an SEO Specialist over at Liip, and you can find her at liip.ch
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