What This Startup Can Teach CMOs About SEO

CMOs of any brand can learn a thing or two when it comes to SEO. Shutterstock

If you’re a Chief Marketing Officer at a digital business in 2017, chances are a large part of your time is already taken up by dealing with SEO. And thanks to Google’s ever-changing algorithm, what you learn today may not be true tomorrow, meaning you constantly have to stay up to date on the latest algorithm updates and SEO trends. Luckily there are a few constant lessons that remain true throughout algorithm updates and changing times that you can apply to build a future proof site.

The founders of Los Angeles based Everipedia, Inc. noticed that Wikipedia’s model for search engine dominance is ripe for disruption and innovation. They set out to redesign the online encyclopedia for the modern age. To do that, they are required to command a powerful search engine authority similar to Wikipedia’s dominant presence throughout Google’s results. What started out as a small project in a UCLA dorm room has now turned into one of the world’s largest encyclopedias with millions of users and a company valuation of $22 million.

Below, Everipedia’s founders share their most important optimization lessons for CMOs that will help bring your website to the top of Google’s search results.

Focus On Mobile Design And Usability

In 2016, mobile overtook desktop as the primary device people use to browse the web and Google has been quick to update their algorithm to make it more mobile oriented. Many industries and websites are starting to see their percentage of mobile traffic steadily climbing. But even though responsive design has been around for a while now and is well- established, a majority of websites tend to fall short on their mobile usability.

Theodor Forselius, the Head of Design describes what they have done in regards to mobile optimization: “At Everipedia we have actually focused more on our mobile functionality and usability than we have on desktop. All of our pages on mobile are built with Google’s Accelerated Mobile Page(AMP) framework which gives our pages priority in Google’s SERP over competitors.

The AMP framework also significantly improves our page speeds on slow 3G/4G connections which in turn decreases the bounce rate and signals Google that the page is user friendly.”

The lesson for CMOs: If the desktop version of your site is better than the mobile version, your priorities are misplaced.

The second lesson they learned is to optimize their software to quickly serve thousands of real time users from search engines and social media sources. Load speed time is a metric which search engines tend to reward handsomely. Since internet speeds may vary across the globe, all users have one thing in common, from New Delhi to New York. They don’t like to be kept waiting. Not even for an extra second or two. In fact, 40 percent of users will click out of a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

Sam Kazemian, the CEO, confirms: “Your website’s speed is probably one of the most vital elements to think about. We’re constantly testing our page load times and caching architecture because we know our users don’t have time to waste. They’ll just head off to another source.” Kazemian originally came up with the intricate caching layer used at the 2 year-old startup which serves over 4 million articles a month to readers in over 100 countries.

Everipedia uses a complex method of dynamic caching which flushes CDN caches every time an editor makes any changes. A fresh copy of the cache is then generated on the fly and served at lightning speed to readers and then stored for future use. This method while sophisticated and difficult to pull off seamlessly, pays dividends in user satisfaction and server cost reduction.”

The lesson for CMOs: Putting in the unglamorous hours it takes to optimize performance across an entire website will pay off big in the long term.

The Experience is King

Most websites don’t approach the content capacity of sites such as Wikipedia or Everipedia. In total, Everipedia boasts over 1 million unique articles written by their community contributors as well as over 5 million articles imported, restructured, and redesigned from Wikipedia’s English language website. High quality content, richly linked to other webpages and embedded with high quality images, GIFs, and videos is worth its bandwidth in gold in today’s fast-paced, internet-driven lifestyle.

In order to really succeed in gaining a massive following at the scale of Everipedia, Travis Moore the CTO, explains that at the heart of every successful startup operation is a product that people want to buy, consume, or experience. “We design our company around the needs of our audience and our contributors first and foremost,” explains Moore. This is the most important takeaway for any marketer: make something people want.

Google’s algorithms are optimized to measure and reward online properties which engage their audience the most whether it is selling shoes or a knowledge base of millions of articles.

“We’re on a mission to rethink the concept of a modern encyclopedia. We want to allow startups, celebrities and other users to create their own pages, as long as their sources are cited in the articles. To ensure the integrity of our content, new users don’t get full editing permissions right away. They need to build their IQ scores and reputation before their powers increase,” explains Moore who designed the user onboarding system.

“We’re a team of computer programmers, scientists, philosophers and creatives. Our focus every day is on how to improve the user experience and make things like registering for an account, building a comprehensive wiki article, and engaging other users in the community as easy as possible. But, at the end of the day, we still need to dominate search as well. It all has to come together.”

The lesson for CMOs: Content is no longer king. Customer experience is and will be for the rest of time… and then some. 

@steveolenski is a writer who drinks too much coffee and knows a thing or two about marketing.