[Podcast] 'Inbound & Down' S05 E13: A Software Solution to SEO ft. Huckabuy's Geoff Atkinson

Sage Levene

Sage Levene
Published January 03, 2020

A Software Solution to SEO

On this episode of 'Inbound & Down,' host Jon Sasala chats with Huckabuy Founder and CEO Geoff Atkinson about how software can alleviate technical SEO hurdles.

In this era of technology, search engine optimization—or SEO—has evolved from a niche topic to a strategy employed by a diverse set of businesses across industries. With masses of nonprofessionals having an understanding of the baseline practices of SEO, it can be easy to forget how nuanced and intricate it really is.

For the uninitiated, at its most basic level SEO is "the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results," according to SEO software mainstay Moz.

However, SEO is far more complex than that particular definition suggests. The technical practices are typically outside the skill range of even traditional SEO employees or marketers.

That is where the SEO platform Huckabuy comes in.

Founded in 2014 by Geoff Atkinson, who previously served as Senior Vice President of Marketing at Overstock.com, Huckabuy is a cutting-edge SEO platform that focuses on structured data and dynamic page rendering—aka the aforementioned technical aspects of SEO. Huckabuy's differentiator, along with its unique software, is its leveraging of Google, the world's premier search engine.

Google moves at a rapid pace, constantly improving its algorithms. The problem with most search engine optimizers is they are purely reactionary – chasing after updates and making changes based on guessing and checking. Huckabuy is committed to a proactive approach, watching Google’s trajectory and planning ahead for the future. Huckabuy has thousands of conversations with Google each day (through structured data) so we know when things change. We react in real-time by altering your website’s structured data based on our findings.

Structured Data 

Nearly a decade ago, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex gathered to develop the language of structured data markup and founded Schema.org, which is an authoritative language that allows websites to communicate directly with search engines.

That collaborative effort forever changed how search engines receive and deliver information to millions of users.

Let's take a moment to better understand why structured data is important to employ on your website. 

As Schema.org explains: "your web pages have an underlying meaning that people understand when they read the web pages. But search engines have a limited understanding of what is being discussed. By adding additional tags to the HTML of your web pages you can help search engines better understand your content."

Data markup is achieved by using a number of different itemtypes and itemprops, which allow you to declare the content of your pages. Google uses this information to understand the content on a specific page and may even use use that information for a featured snippet. (Sidenote: you are not guaranteed a featured snippet if you use the data markup, but if your page ranks and is selected, it's likely the information will be pulled from this section.)

Blog art featuring a megaphone that says schema with open and close tags. HubSpot sprocket ghosted in the backround.

'Inbound & Down' host and Morey Creative Studios President, Jon Sasala, has written a helpful blog about how to add Schema to a HubSpot website, which includes full website and blog templates. Read the blog here.

Huckabuy's Structured Data Solution

Huckabuy uses the same JSON LD repository for structured data that Google uses, allowing it to receive near instantaneous alerts if something important changes. It's a simple and quick installation, with a JavaScript tag that's usually installed within Google Tag Manager. The JavaScript tag then allows the software to populate a small JSON LD packet on the site.

"What's interesting about structured data—if you put it inline, as you know—Google doesn't always crawl an entire page," Atkinson says. "So they might get 20% down the page and leave. They care so much about structured data that they want it, they want to crawl all of it."

"They asked you to put it in this packet and put at the top of the page. So that's how we deliver it, and then it's dynamic," Atkinson adds. "So as the site changes, as you add products, or you add content, our software is figuring that out and adding the appropriate structured data automatically, which is the only solution that actually can do that."

Dynamic Page Rendering

Webpages load dynamically based on what type of device or browser is being used. For instance, you may see a different version of a webpage on mobile than on a desktop. This used to be the norm until Google published its documentation on dynamic rendering in 2018.

 

Why is dynamic rendering important? For the most part sites have become increasingly complex and slow thanks to front-end technologies, JavaScript, etc., which is bad for both Google and the user. Dynamic rendering, however, provides a simplified, faster version of a web page. The Google documentation states:

Dynamic rendering requires your web server to detect crawlers (for example, by checking the user agent). Requests from crawlers are routed to a renderer, requests from users are served normally. Where needed, the dynamic renderer serves a version of the content that's suitable to the crawler, for example, it may serve a static HTML version. You can choose to enable the dynamic renderer for all pages or on a per-page basis.

Huckabuy's Dynamic Rendering Solution

The team at Huckabuy spends a great deal of time discussing what "Google's perfect world" looks like, Atkinson says, and it uses its unique SEO Cloud tool to improve the user experience.

"Basically, the way that SEO Cloud works is it takes the site, any given page, and it converts it into a flat HTML version of that page," Atkinson explains. "So if you have any JavaScript executing, if you have any dynamic content happening, you'll still have that content. It's just now in flat HTML.

"The craziest part about it is when you look at an SEO Cloud version of a page that we've provided for this dynamic rendering solution, and then you look at the actual page, they're exactly the same," he continues.

"That SEO Cloud version is about 25% the size of the original version, meaning 75% of the page has been stripped out, and nothing happened to the UI/UX," he says, referring to both the user interface and user experience. "We have pages that load in 20 milliseconds, and your average page load speeds [are] about four seconds."

Technical SEO, Overall

Going above the basics of SEO will truly pay off in dividends. The benefits are countless and also compounding. For example, a faster site means a better user experience, yielding an increased time on page, which sends a positive ranking signal to search engines and delivers pages higher in the result pages, (also known as SERPS). And that's just one example of how SEO can improve your site. 

The two SEO practices detailed above—structured data markup and dynamic page rendering—are integral to an advanced SEO strategy but are often overlooked due to lack of technical expertise. Thankfully, there are solutions out there that bridge the technological gap between SEO and Google, such as Huckabuy.

Google makes the rules. Why not play by them?

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This Week's One Thing
  • Jon's One Thing is the accessibility software acessiBe—check it out on the bottom left of our page.
  • Sage's One Thing is teammate DellaB's new baby, Ellie.
  • Geoff's One Thing is the new RV he's acquired unexpectedly and the trips he's been taking with his family in it.

 


 Show Notes:


Do you have questions about structured data or dynamic page rendering? Send them in to inbound@moreycreative.com.

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