Episode
20

Alyssa Corso

Mastering Programmatic SEO, Optimizing Content Structure, and Exploring Structured Data

October 18, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Alyssa Corso for the twentieth episode of the Optimize podcast. Alyssa is the SEO Manager at Nourish. She specializes in content SEO and helping healthcare companies increase their traffic and search visibility.

In this episode, Alyssa and Nate discuss the intricacies of optimizing content structure, with an emphasis on outlines, headers, internal links, and structured data. Alyssa also shares her experience with Programmatic SEO, providing an overview of tips she’s learned for you to get a head start on your own content channels. A nod to the recent algorithm updates, Alyssa and Nate discuss how SEO professionals should adapt to a dynamic environment and modify KPIs as a result.

Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions! For more information, please visit www.positional.com or email us at podcast@positional.com.

What to Listen For

Episode Transcript

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

00:00

Because at the end of the day, every site is different. So even when you put, you know, your competitor's website into Ahrefs and you see that they went up from the algorithm update and you went down — that stings, and you need to then think to yourself, like, they might be doing something that I'm not. And SEO is competitive, so you have to then get your site up there as well. You could sulk for a day or two, but I would encourage people to think outside the box — like, because something that's so fun about SEO is that you have full range over what you do with your website. So you could be as creative as you want. And I've seen Google reward creativity time and time again. So I would encourage people, like, to be creative, to think outside the box, and go forward with those ideas that you were sitting on because now's the time to do it.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

00:51

Hi, and welcome to the Optimize podcast. My name is Nate Matherson, and I am your host. On this weekly podcast, we sit down with some of the smartest minds in content marketing and SEO. Our goal is to give you perspective and insights on what's moving the needle in organic search. Today I'm thrilled to sit down with Alyssa Corso. Alyssa is the SEO manager at Nourish, a company that helps people improve their health by making it easy to eat well, and it is covered by insurance. In our episode today, Alyssa and I go from beginner to expert. We will chat about learning SEO and the steps to take if you're just getting started in building this channel. And then we get into the weeds on your money, your life; algorithm updates; the different stages of the funnel; and more.

Ad Spot:

And this episode of Optimize podcast is brought to you by Positional. If you don't know by now, my name is Nate, and I'm one of the co-founders of Positional, and I'm really excited to announce that we just launched our Content Analytics toolset. This has very quickly become my favorite feature. It's one that I've wanted for the last 10 years, and it's really effective in identifying which pages on your site users might be having a low-quality experience on. What we do is we track metrics like scroll depth, bounce rate, and time on page to score your pages and then allow you to go deeper to see where within a piece of content — for example, which paragraph — is causing people to leave, or where, for example, you might wanna add a call to action within that page. This toolset is called Content Analytics. It's our newest feature. I'm stoked about it, and you should be, too.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Thank you, Alyssa for coming, on the Optimize podcast.

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

2:34

Yeah, thanks, Nate, for having me. So excited to be here.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:37

So the first question I ask all of our guests is “How did you get into content and SEO?” What's led you to your role now as the SEO manager at Nourish?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

02:45

Yeah, so I started my journey as a marketing associate at a company called Mira. There, I was doing a little bit of everything marketing-related — so email, social media, blog writing. And while I was there, a few months later, COVID hit, and we were trying to figure out a way to get really solid information to users wherever they are through organic search. Of course, I knew nothing about organic search at the time. So I was helping my manager write articles. I was writing articles myself, interviewing health experts in the field. And all of a sudden we started getting traffic to this content. And to be honest, I didn't really know, like, why — just kind of figured it must be valuable to people, and that's why people are coming across it. But over time, I started to educate myself on SEO and why it was working. You know, we were using really great sources. We were sourcing, like, the CDC and the World Health Organization. We were interviewing doctors and also writing in a way that made people understand what was going on. So from there, I scaled the strategy, kind of learned about different niches in healthcare. One specifically there was healthcare costs without insurance. So we were doing primary research on, like, how much things actually cost in healthcare, and that performed really well for us. I taught our writers SEO and hired additional writers to just scale the whole process. And yeah, I guess the rest is history.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

04:04

You've started your career and transitioned into now an SEO manager role, I think in a similar way that I did. You know, when I first started in SEO 10 years ago, I didn't know what SEO was. I knew I was good at creating content, but that's all I knew. And then I kind of had to, like, teach myself as I went. Like, how did you learn best practices? What allowed you to make the jump from, like, a content creator into, like, an actual practitioner of SEO?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

04:32

Yeah, I mean, you know, to be totally honest, I don't even think I knew that SEO could be a job in and of itself. I just thought, you know, people wrote articles, and if they were lucky enough, it got picked up by Google and people would read it. But over time, I learned that it really was a skill set to learn, that Google was not just putting, like, just great articles in front of people — like, there was an algorithm, and there was certain things that you really had to do to make it valuable to people. I think the number one thing for me that I learned was search intent, and I was doing that, again, like, kind of by accident, creating really nice charts for people to read and that ending up in the SERP — even creating, like, graphs and graphics that people found really valuable. Learning all of those things separately, like, on its own, became really valuable to me. And it also became very rewarding. So when I say that — I mean, I realized that, like, the information that you put in front of people really matters. And it almost felt like you were partnering with Google a little bit to be like, “I want to get the best information in front of people as well.” And not just write stuff because I thought it was cool or because it seemed trendy at the time. It actually felt like you were putting valuable information in front of people and like they were trusting you.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

05:40

And you mentioned search intent. What is search intent? How do we align our piece of content
to search intent?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

05:45

As an SEO manager, the way that I do it is I put —  I think to myself, like, “How would I want to see this information? Would I want to see a chart? Would I want to see a graph? Would I want to see, like, a 5,000-word article and read through the whole thing just to get, you know, the simple answer?” So it's basically, like, what's most valuable to the user. But obviously my thoughts are not everyone's. So another way is to just put it into Google, put your keyword phrasing to Google and see what is showing up. Is it a video? If so, you might want to develop a video to display this information to the user, because Google perceives that as the way that people want to receive that information.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

06:21

Yeah, I think Google has gotten very good here in, like, 2023 at identifying, like, what is the correct content to serve to a searcher. Back when I, like, first got started in SEO — like I've said on this podcast a few times — like, we all used to write, like, 5,000-word mega guides for, like, every keyword, because that was, like, truly what worked the best. But in 2023, like, I very rarely will write, like, a 5,000-word mega guide because no one is actually going to read all of that. And I’ve found that, like, very precise or targeted pieces of content for very specific keywords or phrases actually works much better than trying to hit, like, every keyword with a mega guide. When you talk about graphics — because I actually think that's an area where a lot of SEO teams don't invest enough is into, like, images and graphics. Like, how do you create those? Is that something, like, you create internally? Like, what goes into, like, an awesome graphic within a piece of content?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

07:16

Yeah, for sure. I think the one that I utilize the most is a table because, especially for metric or data-based information…. So like I said, at Mira, I was developing a lot of cost-based content. It was creating a table. And to be honest, that's the best and easiest way to put your information into a way that's easy to understand — and also for Google to crawl and index and show in, like, even a SERP, because all you have to do is create a table, like, in your Google Doc or in Google Sheet — copy and paste it and put it into your CMS. And even if you can't do that, there are tools to, you know, create, like, an HTML to make the table. I always say, like, if you can create a table and put it in your article, that's very valuable — and think of yourself, like, looking at a table: it's really easy to read that information. And then, otherwise, you could always use Canva to make a nice graphic and show your information there, too.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

08:08

Yeah. And now today you're an SEO manager. What does an SEO manager do? Like, what are you responsible for at Nourish?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

08:15

Yeah. So an SEO manager will manage the online search visibility for the company. So there are a few ways that this is done. Just kind of highlighting content because that's what we just spoke about: You know, if you're managing a blog, then you're going to be managing the overall strategy. So how can I develop topics for blog articles that are most relevant to the company and their goals? This would involve, like, a keyword strategy. How am I developing content each and every month so that I can grow the company's traffic and get more visitors and then, overall, like, more revenue to the business? And that may come with hiring freelancers and working with freelancers to develop this content — so content brief creators, writers, editors, and then any other team members there. There's also other aspects like on-page SEO, off-page SEO, technical, that are all really important to the overall SEO strategy, too. So that might involve meta description optimization, image optimization, making sure the site is fast enough and indexable: all of those things are basically what an SEO manager might do with their time. But there's also other things, like maybe website projects, that might not directly touch SEO but would heavily involve an SEO manager.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

09:25

And people always ask me — especially, like Series A or Series B founders — like, how big should, like, a content and SEO team be? Like, how many people should, like, sit on the team? Do you have a sense of, in your experience, like, how big an SEO team or content marketing team should be?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

09:40

Yeah, it's a great question. I think it really depends on, like, where you're starting from and where you want to go. I think it's totally fine to start off with just one full-time SEO person. That's definitely been pretty much my experience, but I've also been on a team where we had multiple SEO people, and we each owned a specific niche of the content strategy. So in this specific instance, it was three people or two people. It would be like I owned a specific topic niche, and I was developing content just for that each month. Or it could be, like, landing page SEO. It all depends on what the company is trying to achieve and how they really want to sector it out. Because you know, if the goals are really hefty and even, like, you want to reach them in a certain time period, you're probably going to need multiple people. Or I honestly really like to leverage freelancers because a lot of them are just so talented and know about SEO as well, and they're great partners for developing a really strong strategy.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

10:34

Yeah, I was gonna ask about the freelancer motion. It sounds like there's a rather, like, substantial freelancer motion at Nourish. Like, what types of freelancers do you hire? I think you mentioned, like, a freelance writer, obviously, but do you also have, like, freelancers helping in, like, the editing or outlining process? Like, what does that freelance team look like?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

10:54

Yeah, we have content brief creators, writers, editors, and that's, like, really what it looks like. And I manage, like, the production, the strategy, and obviously, like, the work that the freelancers are doing.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

And as far as, like, briefs go, like what goes into a fantastic content brief?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

11:10

Yeah, I love talking briefs because I think they're very underrated in SEO. I really think they are the foundation for a great piece of content, which I know you already know, Nate, but it really excites me to talk about them. But I think a great content brief includes how many words the piece should be, a meta description, title, an SEO title if they're going to differ from the general article title. And to me, if a content brief didn't have any of those things, fine, but they really need to have the article breakdown, in my opinion. The headers — like, what are the H1s and the H3s, because if they don't have proper H2s and H3s, the writer's not going to hit the right points so that the article ranks on Google. Of course, optimize for the keywords, but even more so, optimize for the reader. What is the reader trying to get out of this article? And if the content comes out as just, like, generic questions on the topic, that's, like, not even hitting the core answer, then it's not going to be a good piece.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

12:07

Yeah, I think getting the ordering right of a piece of content is very important. Even today, I was, like, looking at a piece of content, and a big mistake that I'll see companies make is they'll have, like, two or three sometimes sections, or, like, H2 sections of filler content before they even get to, like, what is the true search intent of a piece. Like, you have to get to, like, the fourth H2 to actually get your answer to that H1. So I agree with you. I think framing, like, the H2s and H3s and the flow of the piece and that outline is really important. Otherwise, it's going to take a lot more editing after the fact. You're going to waste a lot of your time. But to me, I think it's, like, one of the highest-leverage activities you can do as a content team. And then as far as, like, you know, performance goes or KPIs — ‘cause you mentioned KPIs and goals: Like, as an SEO manager, like, what is like that North star, or, like, what are some of those, like, KPIs or goals that you have that you're trying to hit?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

13:03

I would say my number one KPI is always unique visitors and, like, sectioned out for organic search because that is how I'm going to create my goals overall. So, like, how many unique visitors do I want to reach at the end of the quarter or even mid-quarter, like, once the strategy is up and running. That's really going to help you get, like, a good overview of a healthy strategy. But there are definitely other KPIs, like, that you'll want to look at, like keyword rankings. I definitely keep a pulse on keyword rankings, but I don't take them too, too seriously because they're always changing — usually. You know, like, an article might rank number one on Wednesday, but then it goes down to four on Friday. So it's really hard to kind of paint a great picture at the end of the quarter when the rankings are going up and down. So I think as the SEO manager, you want to keep a good pulse on where they are and also take a look at your top-performing content. Like, why is this one, like, you know, number one, and another article is sitting at 26 for three weeks or whatever it is. So I like to take a look at keyword ranking as well. And to be honest, I like to keep it pretty, like, short and simple. And, like, those are my North star KPIs, like, that I will look at. And I would also say, like, maybe average positioning on Google Search Console is a great thing to know as well.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

14:22

And there's been so many algorithm updates towards, like, the end of the summer into the fall; like, there was an algorithm update in August and September. And now I think people are saying there's an algorithm update in October — like, do algorithm updates just make it incredibly hard to set, like, good goals or KPIs as, like, an SEO manager?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

14:42

They definitely complicate them. Yes. And as soon as I hear about the, a Google algorithm update coming, especially a core one, I'm like, “This is either, you know, going to, like, skyrocket us or, you know, it could just, like, really impact the metrics, you know?” So it is really a core thing to be knowledgeable about what's going on with these updates. But I would also say, like, it's no use to, like, panic and say, like, “Oh, I guess I'm not a good SEO anymore because my traffic went down from a Google update.” Because you likely, like, still are; you're just adjusting to what's going on with the Google algorithm update. And something that I always remind myself is, like, I've experienced multiple Google algorithm updates, and I learned, like, how to come back from that then, and I will do that again. And the way I do that is to stay, like, educated on what's going on. I take a look at what's happening with other sites. I think that's honestly the best way to approach it sometimes, to always know, like, that you're sort of trying your best and nobody has, like, a straight bullet answer of what's really going on sometimes.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

15:44

Yeah, early in my career, I used to panic and we would, you know, have, like, post-algorithm update — like, I don't want to call them, like, panic sessions at times … but, like, group brainstormings where we would try to figure out, like, what do we need to do? Like, what action plan should we put in place? And now, like, I don't particularly worry about them too much. I know that's easier said than done because I've found that, like, every time we put together, like, one of those action plans, like, we were ultimately just trying to make our website better for searchers. Like, everything that was included into that plan was actually something we should have just done last year because it improved the quality of our site for a searcher. And maybe that's the reason Google does this. I don't know, probably not. But as far as, like, you know, what to do after an algorithm update — because I have, like a lot of our customers, like, kind of panicking right now after, like, the September algorithm update. Like, if you were in my shoes, like, what would you tell, like, one of our customers who recently lost, you know, 38% of their traffic?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

16:52

Yes, great question. I think I would tell them straight away, “What can you do to your content to make it more valuable to the user?” Because after every single Google algorithm update, and I know they're doing this on purpose, they come out and say, “Well, we're prioritizing helpful content, and we're prioritizing great user experience.” And sometimes, when you're a little disappointed with SEO, and I know because I've been there before, you're like, “Well, what does that even mean? Like, how can I do that?” And I always kind of go back to E-E-A-T. And the way that I treat E-E-A-T now is I just say to myself, like, “How can I create better ranking factors on this site so that it is more valuable to both Google and the reader?” I'll give maybe a few examples of what this might look like: If you don't think you have a lot of trust signals on your website, what sources can you use to make your content more trustworthy? Maybe that includes using, like, scientific journals. Maybe that includes getting more expert quotes into your articles. Maybe that includes, like, writing a short white paper or something like that to bring more value to what you are doing for your content. Because I think overall E-E-A-T can be scary and almost annoying because it's a vague, like, acronym. But once you make it specific to your site, it makes so much more sense. And it's really helped me to think of things a little bit differently. Because at the end of the day, every site is different. So even when you put, you know, your competitor's website into Ahrefs and you see that they went up from the algorithm update and you went down, that stings. And you need to then think to yourself, like, “They might be doing something that I'm not.” And SEO is competitive. So you have to then get your site up there as well. You could sulk for a day or two. But I would encourage people to think outside the box. Like, because something that's so fun about SEO is that you have full range over what you do with your website. So you could be as creative as you want. And I've seen Google reward creativity time and time again. So I would encourage people, like, to be creative, think outside the box, and go forward with those ideas that you were sitting on, because now's the time to do it.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

18:59

Yeah, and for all of our listeners, E-E-A-T stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness. It's like a set of guidelines that Google uses to determine, like, the quality of search results. And it's often, like, a highly debated topic. Like, a lot of SEOs will say, like, E-E-A-T doesn't matter because they can find many examples where a website that has none of that is ranking quite well. But I take E-E-A-T from the lens of, like you said, like, the user. Like, I'm sure all the work that we do from, like, an E-E-A-T standpoint, whether it's, like, reviewing content by actual experts or including, like, first-person experiences from actual experts or correctly sourcing — like, all of those things just improve the quality of a webpage for a searcher. So regardless of if we're doing it for Google or for the person coming to our website, I think optimizing for — doing it for that person who's coming to our website will probably also reward you in search. And as far as, like, you know, first-party experience goes, I've actually seen from, like, the most recent algorithm updates, like, I would say that the websites that are able to bring in that first-party experience, whether it's, like, their own research, whether it's, like, a study or experiment that they've run — or for example, like, we had a guest on a few weeks back who was in, like, the affiliate SEO space where they had, like, a couches website, and their website has done incredibly well in, like, the most recent algorithm updates, because, like, they were actually buying couches and reviewing them, versus, like, many of their competitors, which wrote, like, regurgitated reviews with, like, no first-party experience. And so it's clear to me that, like, Google is favoring, like, that first-party expertise or experience, that uniqueness to your content. And that's what I always tell our customers. It’s like, you need to create uniquely valuable content. Anyways, my rant is over. Sorry about that. I'll let you follow up.

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

20:51

Wait, Nate, could I just add one thing to that?

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

20:53

Yeah, of course.

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

20:54

You know, based on what you said, like, with this first party information, it's really interesting because I personally was noticing that Reddit and Quora was coming up in my search results after the Google algorithm update. And I was very confused. I was like, “Why, like, am I getting forum search results for, like, you know, personal questions?” Or, like, a lot of questions, like, when I searched around cooking or baking, it was, like, Reddit and Quora. And then of course, like, later on, I saw on Twitter that Reddit and Quora had, like, skyrocketed in traffic after this update. And it's very interesting, like, because these are first-party people, like, you know, talking about how they use a certain cooking method or really just anything at all. So it's just, like, another example of how, like, this is their experience. Not sure if it's really expertise per se, but it's definitely hitting those buckets for them.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

21:45

Yeah. And you're in, like, the your money, your life space where, like, sourcing is incredibly important. And so I think, like, sourcing to that first-party data sources and not to a third-party data source that's regurgitated a first-party data source, I think is something that I would think about. But given, like, you are in the your money, your life space right now, and I'm not, how does that influence or change the way that you think about, like, the content creation process at Nourish?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

22:13

I've always really been in the your money, your life category. So I guess, like,  kind of lucky for me is, like, that it's never really been too much of an adjustment because when I learned SEO, like, this is what I always learned was valuable. But I will say, like, if you're in this category, it's going to be even more important for you to have, like, research-backed content. And when I say that I mean, like ,you're going to be using, like, .edu or .org websites or, you know, just scientific studies, things like that. And the content, it should be a valuable source for the reader to understand what kind of next steps they should take. And I avoid any fluff at all, meaning we're not really storytelling. We're not really adding, like, fluffy content with words that don't bring a lot of value to people because it wouldn't be important to the reader.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

23:03

Yeah, it still pains me in 2023 when I see content teams, like, paying their freelance writers by, like, the word because it often incentivizes people to add, like, a lot of fluff when that might not be required or might not be helpful or maybe even unhelpful. But, yeah, I totally agree with you. Any company in your money, your life, or even your couch's space needs to be backing up their claims with reputable sourcing. And that's something I always tell our customers is you can't source enough any time you're making a claim. And, you know, one of the other things that I've noticed: the Nourish site is, it seems like there's a little bit of, like, a programmatic SEO strategy. People always ask me, like, “What is programmatic SEO?” I feel like it's become, like, in vogue in 2023. What is programmatic SEO? And, like, how do you go about, like, broadly building a programmatic SEO strategy?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

23:53

Well, programmatic SEO is a way of creating a bunch of pages at once that would then, like, rank for the keywords that you're going after. The way someone might go about creating a programmatic SEO strategy is evaluating, like, where in my business can I reach, like, a broad amount of people and then target them with really specific pages. So, like, an example of this would be Yelp, for example. You see, like, if you're Googling, like, best nail salon near me, you're going to get a page with all the nail salons near you in your specific location. So that's a way that a lot of companies approach programmatic SEO. And it could be a really helpful strategy for companies to develop, especially, like, once they get SEO off the ground and start ranking for different keywords.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

24:41

Do you think it's important to, like, lay the foundation for the website with, like, an editorial or, like, a blog strategy before jumping straight into a programmatic strategy? Because oftentimes I'll see, like, startups want to start just with programmatic before they've done anything else. Do you think you need to do content, you know, how we typically think about it before programmatic or does it not matter?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

25:03

It does matter. I would definitely suggest companies doing content before programmatic SEO pages because what content will often do for the website is it'll lay that, like, knowledge foundation for what the site is trying to accomplish. So if you're a website that is selling air conditioners, for example, your content is going to be around, like, air conditioners, you know, it's going to talk about, like, the different types maybe and like where you could buy one. So Google is already understanding, like, what your site is looking to accomplish and, like, also what your expertise is. So now your site is all about air conditioners so that when you do develop programmatic SEO pages about where to buy an air conditioner near me — this is not based on experience, but could assume that this is how it would go — and then your company would develop a page that's, like, air conditioners in San Francisco, California. So that's just kind of an example of how content would then play into programmatic SEO.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

26:02

Yeah, I agree with you. I think, like, building that topical relevance or topical authority before we launch, you know, hundreds or thousands of pages, I think is quite important for showing Google, like, what your website is about and for them to then want to go and index all of those pages. But that's also something I've seen, like, a lot of our customers struggle with, is actually getting, like, programmatically created pages indexed. Is that a big challenge? Is — how do you solve for that if you are launching a programmatic strategy?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

26:31

Yeah, it could be challenging. Before even touching programmatic SEO, I would encourage people to learn about it first. Like, watch videos, look at how other companies do it. And I personally have watched a lot of videos on it because when you see people walking through exactly how they do it, it's really helpful to then give you the confidence to develop the right pages because if you don't do it correctly, there can be a lot of penalties, you know? Let's say you develop a batch of pages that doesn't really have, like, dynamic text. You don't have unique information about, like, the location you're going after or anything like that. Your pages are going to be duplicative, and then you would be hurting your indexing and ranking factors and that could potentially touch your whole site. So you definitely want to make sure, like, you have the right strategy in place.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

27:18

Yeah, one of our customers who I will not name, who is hopefully listening to this podcast, has recently had an issue where, like, all of their programmatic pages had, like, the same title tags and, like, meta descriptions, which is extremely confusing for Google. They fortunately solved for that now. But yeah, I think getting, like, the, you know, spending some time to actually, like, be thoughtful about that one, the uniqueness of the pages you're creating to like their unique value and the reason why they should exist, I think is important because otherwise, in, like, Google's words, you would be creating pages to manipulate search results. And that's not what they want. That's what nobody wants. And so I do think I agree with you: like, spending time up front to think about the unique value and the uniqueness of those pages, despite there being a lot of them — quite important. But when you talk about, like, penalties associated with programmatic content, like, what are, like, one or two of, like, the risks that a startup or a company might face if they have a large number of programmatic pages?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

28:18

I would say, like, one of them could be like, if you're just producing so many pages at once — like, especially if you're a small site, I'll say — it could kind of send a red flag essentially to Google and it creates, like, indexing bloat, for example, and, like, now you just have like a bunch of pages that need to be indexed, and then they don't get indexed properly. So that's, like — that's definitely one risk. And then you're also going to want to make sure the page is set up correctly in terms of, you're creating so many pages that you might not have the opportunity to to go over all of the content on each page. So there's room for error, for example. And, like, you could use a tool to, like, match certain information in the database, but again, like, there still is room for error. So maybe, like, your URL is targeting a certain location, but then your H1 is targeting another by accident. So there could be a lot of, like, confusion there. So I guess that kind of goes back to setting up a good foundation.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

29:15

So SEO, it's changed a lot in the last 10 years. And I think, like, the bar for creating awesome content has gotten a lot higher. Would you say that, like, since you've gotten into SEO, it's gotten, like, generally more competitive, or is it about the same level of competition as when you first started?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

29:34

I would say it did get more competitive. The reason sometimes I think it did is because of the types of tools that are now available to us. So even if you just go on LinkedIn and follow a few people in the SEO industry, you'll see them talking about AI and different tools that you can use for keyword research and content strategy, and, you know, the list goes on. So sometimes people could shrink back a little bit and say, like, “Well I guess there's like the problem solved, right? Like, that you don't really need me anymore. But I actually strongly disagree with that portion. I think, and this is based on, like, my experience in meeting other people in SEO, is we all have such a unique skill set and, like, experience in the SEO realm. Obviously, we have similarities and things that we agree with and disagree with. But I think each person in SEO brings something unique to the table that AI just can't do, or it would take them a little while to do, in my opinion, or not do as well. I personally think there's room for all of us here. You know, you talked about your money, your life, and there's SEO people who specialize in that portion. And then there's people who specialize in local SEO and landing page SEO, and just, like, the list goes on. So while the competitiveness has gone up, I still think there's a lot of value to be brought here to help companies grow their traffic and grow their search visibility overall.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

30:53

Yeah, I think you make a good point. There are different flavors of SEO. We've recently had on someone who only works on local SEO. And earlier this year, we had on a guest who only deals in your money, your life. So there are many different flavors. And then you have affiliate SEO. We had a guest on there. So yeah, you have to kind of pick your lane. If you stay in your lane, it's maybe not as hard as if you cross lanes and you're trying to do too many things at once. As far as, like, backlinks go in 2023, is that something, like, you spend a lot of time thinking about? Like, should I be spending a lot of time thinking about backlinks?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

31:27

To be honest, my answer is no, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about backlinks, and I never have. Because, like I said in the beginning, when I first started SEO, I had like a big knowledge gap. I didn't really know a lot about what I was doing. And over time, like, I obviously did learn about backlinks. And to me, it came off as very spammy, as, like, a lot of people think about backlinks. But obviously, I did learn the value of them. But it's still never been something I seek out, right? Because I actually believe in, like, the skyscraper method. And there's, like, a few ways of, like, going about this. It's when you develop a piece of content that's, like, a whole lot more valuable than what Google is currently ranking in the search. And then, like, you develop something — yeah, you develop something that's, like, way better. And then once your content does rank, you usually will naturally gain backlinks. But then the other way is to use that piece of content to email other websites and ask for backlinks. Google has recently said that backlinks are not the top three ranking factors. And I had a little bit of doubt in myself for a little bit; it's like, “Should I be doing more of that?” But this did kind of confirm that what I'm doing does work, and you don't necessarily, like, need to have such a focus on backlinks to have a successful content strategy, especially if you don't have, like, unlimited resources, which a lot of companies don't when they're starting with SEO. And I think that's completely fine.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

32:49

Yeah, I think, like, it's a mistake I see a lot that startups will tend to focus a lot on backlinks in, like,  the first inning. And unless you've actually done the keyword side of things right, like, the content side of things right, like, a lot of the technical SEO stuff right, then, like, going out and spending 80% of your time building backlinks probably isn't the best use of your time unless you've already done, like, all of those other things right. You know, one of the other things that stood out to me about the Nourish site is that it seems like your pieces of content, your pages, attack, like, different stages of the funnel. Like, how do you think about, like, the different stages of the funnel? What are, like, the different stages of the funnel we should be thinking about with the pages we create on our website?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

33:30

Yeah, so usually SEO content is divided into three funnels. So there's top of funnel, middle funnel, and bottom funnel. The way that you could think about it is that top of funnel is people who may not be ready to buy your product. So they're just sort of thinking about it. And you might develop content that's, like, very high level. So sometimes this content is like, what is, like, XYZ? Or questions that are a little just a little bit more broad. And they also might be short-tail instead of long-tail keywords. So yeah, these people — like, it's more for awareness, and they're not, they're likely not yet ready to buy the product. Middle of the funnel is that they might start thinking about it. So they might be a little longer-tail keywords that you're going after. Your content may address some of the questions that they have that would be surrounding this topic. And then bottom of the funnel is this person is, like, almost ready to buy your product. They might already be thinking about it. They may have already done some competitor research. And then usually these keywords are longer-tail keywords. They might not have a lot of volume, but they're still very valuable because the people that do come in from the keywords would then be ready to buy your product. I like to think of content in those three categories and it's a great way to understand your user and get inside their head a little bit to understand where they're at in their journey. Because if you don't understand that, you might be confused. Like, if your reader, like, is not buying your product, like, you might want to go back to these three funnels and understand where they might be sitting.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:01

Yeah, I think that's super important, especially then when we're thinking about, like, the actual CTAs or what that call to action is. And another mistake — I feel like I just keep talking about mistakes. Another mistake that I see a lot of startups make is they'll only focus on, like, the bottom of the funnel. And there's still like a lot of opportunity or meet, like, in the middle section of the funnel, or even at the top end of the funnel where, you know, you can't probably convert someone to book a demo today, but, like, you could still get someone to sign up for your email newsletter and put them into, like, a sequence. And so I think there's value in all stages of the funnel. It's just the way you convert that customer and the next step for that searcher is probably quite a bit different from one stage to the next. But this has been such a great conversation.

Lightning question round:

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:40

And if it's okay with you, like, I have a few rapid fire questions I'd love to ask. Does that sound good?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

35:50


Sounds good.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:51

So my first question is on SGE. I know there's been a lot of talk about, like, Google's new search experience. Is that something you're thinking about or not too worried about?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

35:59

I am thinking about it, but I don’t — I wouldn't say that I'm worried about it per se, because like I said before, around just, like, core algorithm updates, for example, is we can adapt and we can learn about these new systems that are in place, right? Like, it's not going to be, like, the end all, be all. And like, I see a lot of posts about it where it's just going to be like, “Oh, SEO is dead after this.” But, like, I really don't think that will be the case. And I think there will be a lot of opportunity to learn and expand your skill set within this new feature that Google is developing.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

36:29

Yeah, we've certainly created an opportunity for all of, like, the SEO consultants out there to now start pitching like SGE optimization to their clients. As far as, like, AI-generated content goes, because I know you mentioned it before and I didn't really follow up on it: lLike, should we be using, like, AI-written content on our website?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

36:48

No, I would not use AI-written content on any site. And I know this is —  it could be controversial. Some people say it's completely fine. And some people kind of say, “Oh, like, well, generate it with AI and then edit it heavily, like, to make sure it's being written correctly.” In my opinion, content written by humans is likely made for other humans. So I will always prefer human-created content.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

37:13

Structured data. Is that something we should be thinking about or spending
time on?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

37:20

Yeah, I think structured data could be really, really helpful in terms of Google recognizing what's on your page and presenting the right types of results to the user. So if you're someone who's thinking about structured data, like, I would identify some portions of your website that maybe, like, it's just not like straight up text and like it looks a little different and it's you want Google to read it in a certain way and find some structured data, like, schema markup, for you to apply to your site so that Google recognizes it as such.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

37:47

Internal links, are they important? Is that worth spending time on?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

37:51

Yes. Internal links are definitely important and I didn't know that when I first started SEO, to be honest, and later on I learned the importance. And the reason it is important is because it allows Google to create a more structured map of your site in which each page is kind of connected to each other. And another thing that I'll highlight for internal links is the importance of anchor text. So the anchor text is that text that you're linking the link from to the other page. So to always make sure that's going to be relevant to your keywords to the outgoing
link.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:23
I love how tactical we've gotten in this episode. This was so much fun. Thank you for coming on and you'll certainly get a backlink from us today in the show notes when we post it onto our website. And thank you so much for being a guest. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our listeners?

Alyssa Corso (Speaking)

38:39

Thanks, Nate. No, it was so great being here, and I'm so happy to share some of my SEO knowledge.

Ad Spot:

38:51

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More Ways to Listen

Optimize Episode 020: Alyssa Corso on Mastering Programmatic SEO, Optimizing Content Structure, and Exploring Structured Data

Oct 18, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Alyssa Corso for the twentieth episode of the Optimize podcast. Alyssa is the SEO Manager at Nourish. She specializes in content SEO and helping healthcare companies increase their traffic and search visibility.

In this episode, Alyssa and Nate discuss the intricacies of optimizing content structure, with an emphasis on outlines, headers, internal links, and structured data. Alyssa also shares her experience with Programmatic SEO, providing an overview of tips she’s learned for you to get a head start on your own content channels. A nod to the recent algorithm updates, Alyssa and Nate discuss how SEO professionals should adapt to a dynamic environment and modify KPIs as a result.

Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions! For more information, please visit www.positional.com or email us at podcast@positional.com.

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Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
CEO & Co-Founder at Taloflow

Positional has proven indispensable in our SEO strategy. Its rapid optimization capabilities for our blogs led to noticeable improvements in search rankings within a month. From planning to making our content better, it’s like having a teammate. Our team loves it!

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Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
CEO & Co-Founder at Taloflow

Positional has proven indispensable in our SEO strategy. Its rapid optimization capabilities for our blogs led to noticeable improvements in search rankings within a month. From planning to making our content better, it’s like having a teammate. Our team loves it!

Varun Varma
Co-Founder at Typo

Positional is a must-use tool for any growing startup that cares about SEO. It's simple and easy to use but as powerful as anything out there. Plus their customer support is next level.

Matthew Busel
Co-Founder at Whalesync

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

Lindsey Barnes
SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

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Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Warmly

As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

Lindsey Barnes
SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

Alan Zhao
Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Warmly

As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev
Content Strategy