Geeking Out Over Technical SEO with Mercy Janaki

mercy janaki tech seo

Mercy Janaki heads the organic marketing team at Position2, a growth marketing agency that describes itself as a “demand acceleration” company. They’ve helped companies like Citrix, LinkedIn, Kabbage, and more.

Today she sits down with Garrett to talk about some tough technical SEO challenges she faced. She also talks about tools, client education, and a whole lot more. Don’t miss this lively discussion.

The highlights:

  • [1:51] The Position2 client base.
  • [4:27] Working with financial services and health care clients.
  • [8:23] Educating clients on technical SEO.
  • [14:20] Evaluating enterprise SEO tools.
  • [17:40] How Position2 handles reporting.
  • [22:29] Typical crawl budget issues.
  • [27:30] Mercy’s right-now cause.

The insights:

The Position2 Client Base

Garrett asked Mercy to talk a little bit about Position2’s client base.

“At Position2,” Mercy said, “we believe innovators should win.”

What do they mean by innovators?

“If they have a service or a product line that helps solve any issues for humans, the team gets excited about the contribution we can provide.”

They work with companies of every size, from start-ups to Fortune 500 clients. They work with a lot of clients in the financial services, security, health care, manufacturing, and consumer products industries.

Working with Financial Services and Healthcare Clients

Working with financial and healthcare clients comes with some specific challenges. They’re considered a special class of websites commonly known as Your Money Your Life (YMYL). Julia McCoy, who was on the podcast in December, has written about YMYL sites in the past. These industries are highly regulated in most countries, and Google itself adjusts its algorithms with an aim towards pushing the most credible information to the top. 

Mercy says auditing these clients is not a one-size-fits-all prospect, but there are some common challenges.

“The quality of content. Sometimes the client will have a lot of content, but most of the time the content doesn’t actually make sense.”

She says that explaining Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) factors to clients is hard because Google has already stated it’s not a direct ranking factor.

“It’s very challenging to convince the client that your website or your content should match with EAT. It might not be a direct ranking factor, but without authority, without expertise, at least in the healthcare field and the financial field, it’s hard for even bigger brands to rank.”

She says thin content and duplicate content are another source of major challenges on websites like these.

Educating Clients On Technical SEO

Mercy says it’s easier to educate clients when you can show them results from a similar client in the same industry.

“Rather than speaking to them about theoretical approaches, you show them the data. It makes your discussion much easier.”

She says she talks about it while providing a comprehensive technical audit on the website.

What clients really want to know?

“What kind of ROI can I get from [this course of action?] What ranking boost can I get from it? What kind of percentage of traffic lift can I expect out of it?”

She has answers.

I tend to tell them that having a healthy website will enhance your SEO campaign and your conversions.”

Mercy also discusses the process of setting goals for a client campaign.

“We need to understand the business goals of the client.”

She warns against “silo goals.”

“If I had a silo goal that I wanted to do a 20% page speed improvement, it would be a big achievement for the SEO team, but is it going to align with the business goal of the client?”

What kinds of goals are they looking at?

“Say, for example, a client has a consumer product that converts more in winter. Probably Q2 and Q3 that product would be their focus area for SEO.”

Evaluating Enterprise SEO Tools

Mercy is a big fan of Semrush.

“I love that for the simplicity and the user-friendliness, and also for the data they can pull. We’ve tried a lot of enterprise-level tools.”

She loves it because it gives her the industry-level benchmark for technical scores.

“I can tell them: if you belong to the financial services [industry], your technical score of 40 is below the industry benchmark of 70.”

She also says that SEMRush is very user friendly. She brings up using Regular Expressions (RegEx) to identify problems in larger sites and creating reports for SEO that not everyone has the ability to set up. By contrast, Semrush is straightforward. 

“The simplicity is missing in certain enterprise tools, and some enterprise tools don’t cover all parts of SEO. They only focus on crawl, keyword ranking monitoring, and tracking.”

How Position2 Handles Reporting

In addition to using Semrush, Position2 has come up with a reporting tool of their own called Arena Calibrate

arena calibrate

“It consolidates data from Google Analytics and SEMRush through the API, as well as local SEO and GMB data. All of this can be integrated and shown to the client in a single view. It also has the ability to add multiple dimensions of data to a single chart. You can see which pages have keywords ranking and whether those pages are driving traffic to your website.”

She does not like solutions where the SEO has to look at multiple charts.

“We’re trying to build a dashboarding tool to have a better and easier way for people to see the research we are doing. Every client that signs up with us will get a dashboard [like this one].”

arena seo dashboard
arena dashboard

She says they don’t just send over the dashboard expecting clients to interpret the data, though.

“We talk to the client during weekly meetings or monthly meetings.”

However, the dashboarding tool will have different reports for different personas (CMOs, Marketing Managers, Campaign Executors, etc). So, the clients can explore data anytime.

Typical Crawl Budget Issues

“Improper CMS usage leads to a lot of duplication pages or thin pages. We had a client with 2000 pages that were totally failing. Google was not viewing the pages that really mattered for them.”

She says that she sees this a lot in eCommerce, as well as clients who haven’t implemented canonical text properly.

Leading them to a lot of pages with the filters and the sorting options and color variations. All those things can create a large volume of nearly duplicate content.”

Essentially, pages competing with themselves.

She says she typically starts with a Google Search rather than going into a crawl.

“When you use the advanced search properly you get a clear picture of how badly you’re influencing the Google Bot to identify a lot of unwanted pages. Sometimes it will be a pain to see five different subdomains created internally for researchers and communications that the Google Bot is crawling.”

On bigger websites, there is also the struggle of receiving too many warnings from crawl software. So Mercy starts with the robots.txt.

“In Drupal and WordPress and other common CMSes it’s pretty easy to handle these crawl issues, but some enterprise-level clients will come up with their own CMSes you never knew existed. You have to understand how to resolve that issue and sometimes the [custom] CMS doesn’t even have an option to implement a canonical tag. So we try to work around it on robots.txt.”

What’s your right now cause?

Mercy lives in India. 

“During the pandemic things were totally bad. There were so many people who were struggling to make ends meet. It was very painful to see kids, especially, go to bed without even dinner.”

She says a local started using his own money to cook food and share it with 50 poverty-stricken families, and she and her family joined in.

“Things are getting improved.”

Thus? Never underestimate your own ability to impact someone’s life. It may be as simple as cooking some stew and knocking on a door.

Connect with Mercy Janaki

Want to connect with Mercy? This was her very first podcast appearance, so definitely reach out to her!

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Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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