SEO September 7, 2020

SEO Experts: How would you improve the technical SEO of Indie Hackers?

Channing Allen @channingallen

Context: we're going to start publishing more articles in-house and beefing up the "media organization" side of our business.

From a technical SEO standpoint:

  • What would be the best way to organize our articles?
  • What are the biggest changes we would need to make?
  • What other advice do you have for us?
  1. 27

    I think the site could be much faster.

    Also, I can't see the link to the articles' index page on the nav bar anymore. If I'm not mistaken, it used to be under the "more" drop down. I think it deserves a spot beside the "interviews" link.

    1. 7

      Site performance is defintely an issue, even with a well specced desktop system and a very fast fiber connection.

    2. 5

      Definitely page speed. Not only because of SEO but also for better user experience.

  2. 5

    I agree - I feel like the low hanging fruit here is page speed times.

  3. 3

    As most SEOs would say, it depends.

    It depends on your objective. What do you want to achieve? It all goes from there.

    In general, you would want to:

    • Improve core web vitals metrics.

    • Create a content plan for your blog and structure the content accordingly. Whether it's created around topics or built as a funnel. Or both. The structure is created by interlinking between related content.

    • Promote your content for link building.

    • Make sure your navigation is clear. Use taxonomies for that.

    Everything else is too specific and totally depends on your goals.

  4. 3

    Use categories to organize content and optimize them for head, high volume keywords while using articles to go after long tail ones.

    Also, like others mentioned you should work on speed. Improving these results should be your priority.

    1. 1

      Probably a never ending feed...would do wonders.

      Like fb,..Twitter...

    2. 1

      I second that, a better pagination/menu system will help both UI and also for SEO purposes.

  5. 2

    Not sure how the the Core Web Vitals in Search Console looks, but the Lighthouse reports I get from indiehackers are not great... So improving those would definitely be on the list.

  6. 2

    I do SEO Consulting. As many have mentioned speed seem to be a noticeable issue, and I can see it on lighthouse, pingom and gtmetrix.

    Your evergreen content i feel is hard to find or get buried in the users content.

    Your Start Here button should be more prominent. The users content called my attention way before that page but for a newbie they may be better to go there before starting. On that page, start by quizzing people and ask where they are. Then move them to the proper content / building process according to their answers.

    A section above the footer for the content categories.

  7. 2

    Please go easy on the JS, haven't dug inside the code; But are the quotes being displayed to buy time for the scripts to load?

    A poll asking whether users would like HN, old reddit like UX with minimal JS (or) Keeping current UX but optimising it thoroughly (or) Completely new UX would be helpful.

  8. 2

    As a dummy technical SEO I could recommend:

    • Adding breadcrumb (which topic the post is) & consistent URL path
    • Adding automatic Structured data (JSON-LD) with # comment, author, type=@blogposting, wordcount& reading time, publisher, URL, datapublished/created/modified, description, articlebody, author, @type= Person, name, etc.

    Hope it helps

  9. 1

    Stop worrying about page speed for now. Whilst it's important, it's not what's going to "grow your SEO". Yes, Google is making it a ranking factor - which is fear mongering a lot of people into investing heavy in to their 'web vitals' metrics.

    Looking at this from Google's perspective - their goal is to get webmasters to improve their websites, in order to make their lives easier..

    The one thing that's going to trump anything mentioned in this thread (actually, some touched on it) is your platform infrastructure - how you organise and optimse your current content so that it's easier found (by Search Engines and People).

    (FYI - my agency does nothing bu SEO for online marketplaces and news publishers).

  10. 1

    I run an SEO SaaS with over 100K users a month.

    There's a lot of lot of low hanging fruit & opportunity. Your content is not that well optimised.

    On the whole, you need to more closely align your content to it's current (and prospective) search terms. If you look at current rankings - there is often a decent disparity between the core search term and the actual content. You should do a wholistic exercise of identifying the core search term groupings, and better aligning existing content to those areas through updating individual article or discussion (title, meta desc, H1s).

    You should look to replicate a Quora-like long tail strategy. Ultimately you're a content site, so you want your discussions and articles to rank.

    Expand on the first step of keyword research to find relevant search areas you are not already ranking for and don't have content for, seed conversations in these areas.

    Build simple systems for encouraging links. The most obvious is a badge type system like Product Hunt - give Indie Hackers a badge that shows their real time individual rating/score/comments etc, as well as a badge for their product page that they can add to their site.

    Your URLs are too long - halve the length of your post and product URLs, remove the hash component at the end. These are just too long / messy:

    https://www.indiehackers.com/interview/building-levels-fyi-in-coffee-shops-and-growing-to-profitability-da7a4f5d63

    https://www.indiehackers.com/product/hex-colors/random-color-generator--M0HL96DcFp2jcvWDnlP

  11. 1

    Little late to the party here... But you need to be careful with the UGC and site bloat. If you are indexing everything you are really wasting crawl budget that could be focused elsewhere. I'd recommend only indexing pages that at least have X amount of comments or X amount of upvotes to ensure there is value on that page where if someone landed on that page from Google they would get value rather than an unanswered question.

    You'd be surprised how much cleaning up bloat helps the valuable content on your site. This is coming from someone who overseas 37 social community all driven by being discovered in Google search mainly via UGC pages.

    I recently did a noindex of 1000s of thin UGC pages on said social communities and saw a 4x increase in traffic.

    @channingallen

  12. 1

    Checkout backlinco.com - I've learned more there than anywhere else.

    I recommend building a "flat" seo structure so basically all the categories are accessible in some way for the user, and then ever article is in 1 or more categories. You never want articles linked from an article but not in a category, or your site structure becomes "deep" and is more confusing to Google.

    Make sure to use plenty of internal linking throughout your articles as you build as well.

    I definitely think a clearer menu should be on the agenda, and your new post categories can find their way there as well.

    Definitely focus on keyword research for your articles. My website speed is about 7seconds (baaaaad) and I'm still able to rank on page 1 of Google with a DA of 1 because I know which keywords I can actually compete for and target them properly.

    Otherwise, I honeslty love this site and am so happy I found it. I havnt noticed an issue with the site speed but maybe I'm just patient 😂😂

    Excited to see the articles in store!

  13. 1

    Coming in a bit late to this party. :) I haven’t been very active here lately but this one piqued my interest. I make my living as an SEO consultant, so I have a few things to add.

    I actually exchanged a couple of emails with Courtland maybe a year ago about some ranking issues you were having at the time. Anyway... on to answering your questions.

    What would be the best way to organize our articles?

    There’s not a ton of information in your post to go on here, but just make sure that section is easy to find, and has a great hub page that directs the visitor to relevant content. Don't bury it.

    By having good content and copy, explaining the categories, linking consistently (and interlinking between articles when relevant), you can help add relevance not only to your users, but to Google. Help them understand your content.

    Well-formed, semantic HTML matters here too, and structured data where relevant, more about this later.

    What are the biggest changes we would need to make?

    I’d have a prominent link in your top menu. As I said, make it prominent. Maybe even more prominent during an initial period than you will have it later. You know, the typical “New!” feature shoutout.

    I feel your site can be a bit hard to navigate sometimes since there is so much content. So give it a separate, premier space and URL.

    And well, then we come to this final info dump. I apologize in advance. :)

    What other advice do you have for us?

    Sorry to pile on, I’m sure you're tired of hearing about it, but as many here have mentioned, you have site performance issues. They’re a ranking factor already (both direct and indirect) but will become more important soon, so you might as well start working on improving that (iterate; I’m not saying rebuild the entire site).

    Don’t get too fixated on it, especially not at the expense creating of great, valuable, useful content and nurturing your existing community, but it is something that actually matters.

    Google’s ranking algorithms are increasingly trying to reward good UX (in addition to great content, of course), which is a good thing to keep in mind.

    For example, Google has flagged that the measurements that make up their Core Web Vitals will soon be a proper ranking signal (early 2021-ish?). How important of a ranking signal remains to be seen but if it improves your user experience, it’s a win in my book, regardless of the effect on your rankings.

    For general performance wins, you have a good amount of low-hanging fruit that you probably want to start addressing at some point. Like automatically optimizing the size and dimension of images for less bloat (and less spent on bandwidth ;) ).

    To give you an example, here’s a post that has a 1.2 MB PNG image in it. There’s no reason for that specific image to weigh in over 100kB if properly sized and optimized, but even just dropping it into something like TinyPNG will give you a file size of around 330 kB.

    It also has a 334 kB JPG image that is an unnecessary 3600x2016 pixels (huge!). Resize that to a more reasonable width of for example 1200 pixels and you end up with a JPG file that’s 71 kB.

    Not to mention all the other small, accumulated saving you’d get by doing this across the board.

    All of this can be automated on the backend.

    May I also suggest a free win? Add native lazy loading (it’s now part of the HTML standard) to your img tags. Google introduced it a while ago. It’s as easy as adding loading="lazy" to your image tags.

    And you use a lot of Javascript. :) It’s a performance hog, and if you dig into Lighthouse (in the Google Dev Tools Audit tab) or just check that page in Pagespeed Insights, you’ll see how many areas there are to improve.

    You want to focus on mobile performance, btw. That’s Google’s focus now.

    You’re probably aware of this stuff, but it does matter.

    A few things not related to performance:

    • Adding Article schema.org structured data won’t hurt, but I’m not sure how much it will help either. But why not, right?

    • Someone suggested breadcrumbs, which I think is great. Both visible, and the corresponding schema.org markup. Anything that helps a newly arrived site visitor to orient themselves.

    • Don't underestimate the value of search appearance. Good page titles and meta descriptions do matter quite a lot. Think of your search results as small, free search ads for your content. :) Most of your pages today don’t even have meta descriptions, so you're 100% relying on Google to auto-generate them, which can sometimes yield less than ideal results.

    • Once you start thinking about organic traffic, you realize that every page that gets traffic directly from search engines also should work to some extent as a landing page. Make sure landing directly on your article pages is not a disorienting experience, and encourage further exploration. Hence things like breadcrumbs, tips about similar articles and resources, and so on.

    • Oh, and one more thing. Don’t just set and forget your articles. At least if you want to grow organic traffic. Have a look once in a while how they are performing, what they're ranking for, complement them with additional information, update them with relevant new findings and links, and so on. Make them better, more valuable articles over time, and Google will notice.

    Honestly, without a proper audit and a more in-depth discussion about what your goals are here, it’s difficult to give truly useful advice. Hence the common response from SEO professionals, "it depends." :) But I hope I told you at least one thing you were not already aware of.

    All that said, the first thing you probably want to do is log in to Google Search Console to see what existing issues you have with Indie Hackers. It really is immensely useful. :)

    Ok, this got way long. Thank you for reading, if you got this far.

  14. 1

    What would be the best way to organize our articles?

    This is very general and would depend heavily on the types of articles you intend on ramping up. Are there a series of key categories that each piece of content will fall under?

    For example: marketing, sales, product, development, etc.

    What are the biggest changes we would need to make?

    Pushing more of the content, I find that at the moment this isn't highlighted very much on IH and most people I know didn't even know that IH is more than a forum.

    I suppose this is in large part caused by the structure/design of the site to be focused on driving people to the forum.

    What other advice do you have for us?

    In general, just keep serving the audience. Focusing on SEO once you've already built such a vibrant community is such a luxury. Use the fact that you can focus on quality content & great website design (etc.) to your advantage because that's something that very few websites on the internet have the resources/ability to do...

    Beyond this though, I would say that if you're planning to invest in SEO/marketing as a whole, you should set KPIs for what you're trying to achieve. That way a strategy can be built around your key goals because as of right now it sounds like you just want to dabble in SEO which is great but without clear direction (i.e. "our north star metric is new members" or "we want more pageviews because we want to drive up the price of our podcast sponsorship") there's not much that can be done in the way of working towards that goal without running around like a headless chicken if you know what I mean :)

  15. 1

    *Focus heavily on UX -- I can't stress the importance of this. Don't waste one sentence while writing your content. 0 fluff. Keep things concise and punchy. Use headers and sub-headers to make it easy to jump between sections.

    *Some are going to disagree with me on this one, but don't rely on the old adage "build it and they will come" as paradoxical as that is for SEO. What I mean by that is, create linkable assets and then pound the outreach to web admins / editors to get it placed. You'll thank yourself later. (I used to build a ton of links as one of the many hats I wore as an SEO)

    *Do your keyword research, especially before creating more evergreen pieces of content because unless you have a monster budget and all the time in the world, longtail keywords are likely going to be your go-to.

    *Make your website as sticky as possible. Meaning don't leave the user / visitor wondering what to do next. Leave calls to actions multiple times if it's long form content you're writing.

    *Include pictures, infographics, videos, audiophiles, gifs, outside resources / external links to high-authority websites, screenshots, etc. in your content. Content formatted this way has excellent search ranking value. Many recent studies support this, including one from Neil Patel.

    ******The reason I mentioned these 5 things specifically is because it's based on advice from a post-pandemic perspective. I started 2 websites since it happened and have had to build from scratch --- and have found focusing on these areas had the greatest return on time investment.

    This is also under assumption that you already have plans to remove duplicates, repurpose old content, clean up broken links, etc.

    Coschedule.com also has an excellent headline analyzer tool. Takes some practice, but you'll start to get the hang of it and you'll see that it's worth it. Writing great headlines is key.

    If you're ever confused as to what properly formatted content or great headlines look, the best thing about the digital age is everything is out in the open. Go to the websites or social media of big brands and try to mimic the ones that fit your company's style the best. They pay millions and millions to outside agencies and in-house employees to get these things right, so take advantage of it.

  16. 1

    I wouldn't consider myself a SEO expert, however I have been in the space for a number of projects. Overall I don't see anything technically broken SEO-wise, but i'd recommend looking into:

    1. 1

      I agree with some of your points, but hell not to AMP pages. If you want to know why not, keep an eye on articles in HN.

    2. 1

      I was going to say exactly the same about clustering topics

  17. 1

    Great question.
    I think that Content HUB should increase your Google rate and behavior dramatically.
    As I can see you have already Recommended posts for each post page. It works fine and I often use it. And it is also nice cross linking approach.
    But you have also different content items: interviews, podcasts, meetups, products, articles, store products. Why not connect it by some sense? Maybe by tags or if you can use AI for this algorithm it should be working even much better.
    Additional smart cross-linking approach brings you a better and more targeted traffic, decreases your Bounce rate and makes more reading pages by visitors.
    And, it it is so easy to measure as a result.
    Please read my small article about my early experiments with it and measured results for 2 months. Actually you'll be surprized with results, I'm sure.
    https://medium.com/@mr.gorin/how-content-hub-implementation-improved-the-seo-ranking-69ee16c08278

    This is just a large hypothesis, but rapid growth is always about many continuous hypotheses and sub-hypotheses set and measurement.
    Best, Alex.

  18. 1

    Developers tend to overestimate the impact of site-speed on rankings.

    Here's just one report which found that site-speed did not correlate with rankings: https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking

    While this will supposedly change once Google begins using Core Web Vitals (https://moz.com/blog/core-web-vitals), today Google penalizes extremely slow sites as opposed to rewarding super fast ones.

    I would focus heavily on interlinked content. Look at what existing, longer-form content you have, and see what you can link together in relevant places with contextual anchor text. Oh, and see which content is already ranking for great keywords and start there with your interlinking.

    I would also double-check outbound links. As far as I remember, there are still places on Indie Hackers where members can place a link without it becoming "nofollow" ;) Use the "Outbound links" report in you favorite SEO tool and go add rel="nofollow" to those spots.

    Like @benas11 said, make sure the crawl depth for your important content isn't too deep. A good rule of thumb is keeping it less than 3 if possible.

    And make sure there is nothing you want Google to crawl that is only available on interaction. Google does execute JavaScript, but it doesn't interact with the page (like scrolling or clicking buttons).

    1. 1

      Maybe it does not affect much SEO, but still not very good for UX to have slow pages, and also they do not seem server rendered, as there's a "loading quote".

      I'd suggest using NextJS with incremental static site generation could benefit both SEO, perf and UX

      1. 1

        Totally agree about the UX, it is slow. It's just the question was about SEO.

        Now, the slowness could affect whether IH can be effectively crawled by Google within their crawl budget, but I don't know enough about the scale of the site to say anything about that.

        But again, crawling vs. indexing vs. ranking are all kinda different things that each should be addressed. It's hard to "consult" without having more data haha.

  19. 1
    1. Organisation depends on what type and how much content you are creating. Usually sorting out by categories is enough and going deeper is usually not nesesaacry, but again, really depends on the type of content you are creating.

    2. From first look - don't really see any major changes needed. However, if you want to go after SEO, your "blog" section needs to be very "Google friendly" - meaning, no hidden buttons, content needs to be easily accessible, not having any "rabbit holes" - everything needs to be max 2 clicks away. Naviagtion, internal linking between content are the things to consider as I do believe you will nail the content structure based on IH current website.

    3. Hire or consult with SEO expert (on regular basis) 🙂 having someone to guide you through the whole process and making sure you check all the little details will be crucial to your success.

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