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How Apartments.com Automated Contextual Linking - Next10X Boston 2019

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Contextual links placed inside content are one of the best ways to drive traffic gains for large marketplaces. At Apartments.com, we publish thousands of local guides across the country and found a better way to place and update contextual links both helping renters and search engines.

In this spotlight session from Next10X Boston 2019, we dove into how we identified known entities in existing content, connected them to the right related content, and developed a refresh cycle to ensure links always stay up to date on our site.

We explored a variety of techniques including natural language processing (NLP), an application of AI and machine learning, to hone our internal linking strategy, and we learned a few tricks along the way to scale internal linking that can help your organization too.

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How Apartments.com Automated Contextual Linking - Next10X Boston 2019

  1. 1. How Automated Contextual Linking @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session
  2. 2. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Links are the key to Google’s algorithm =
  3. 3. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session As SEOs, we love links!
  4. 4. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session As SEOs, we love links! We know links are not everything.
  5. 5. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session As SEOs, we love links! We know links are not everything. But, links are still great.
  6. 6. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Links are versatile Create relationships Provide accessibility Signal popularity Drive traffic Pass authority and more
  7. 7. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session While many SEOs love external links …
  8. 8. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session ... I prefer internal linking While many SEOs love external links …
  9. 9. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Internal linking often lacks creativity.
  10. 10. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We stuff links in headers and navigation.
  11. 11. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We create long lists of footer links.
  12. 12. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We create myriad combinations of facets.
  13. 13. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session These tactics still work
  14. 14. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session but there’s a better way. These tactics still work,
  15. 15. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Introducing contextual linking!
  16. 16. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Contextual Links 1. Have anchor text Boston University is among the most respected research universities in the nation. Right next door to the Back Bay, the BU campus enjoys a superb location on the banks of the Charles River.
  17. 17. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Contextual Links 1. Have anchor text. 2. Link to important pages Boston University is among the most respected research universities in the nation. Right next door to the Back Bay, the BU campus enjoys a superb location on the banks of the Charles River.
  18. 18. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Contextual Links 1. Have anchor text. 2. Link to important pages 3. Provide context to users Boston University is among the most respected research universities in the nation. Right next door to the Back Bay, the BU campus enjoys a superb location on the banks of the Charles River.
  19. 19. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We think Google trusts contextual links
  20. 20. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Are they harder to spam?
  21. 21. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Are they harder to spam? They make sense for users
  22. 22. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Are they harder to spam? They make sense for users Contextual links don’t scale!
  23. 23. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session At Apartments.com, we have scale.
  24. 24. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We write a lot of local guides. At Apartments.com, we have scale.
  25. 25. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We write them for neighborhoods We write a lot of local guides. At Apartments.com, we have scale.
  26. 26. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session and cities We write them for neighborhoods, We write a lot of local guides. At Apartments.com, we have scale.
  27. 27. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session and cities, We write them for neighborhoods, We write a lot of local guides. At Apartments.com, we have scale. and college/ university campuses.
  28. 28. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Local guides drive traffic Jan-17M ar-17M ay-17 Jul-17 Sep-17N ov-17 Jan-18M ar-18M ay-18 Jul-18 Sep-18N ov-18 Jan-19M ar-19 Started writing
  29. 29. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session They also mention a lot of entities
  30. 30. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session which is an opportunity They also mention a lot of entities,
  31. 31. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session What if we use AI to place the links?
  32. 32. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Created a plan!
  33. 33. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We care about … Quality Accuracy
  34. 34. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session 1 Run an algorithm to identify entities
  35. 35. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session 1 2 Match found entities to our database
  36. 36. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session 1 2 3 Prioritize the matched entities
  37. 37. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session 1 2 3 4 Place the links in the content
  38. 38. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Confirm the link destination works 1 2 3 4 5
  39. 39. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Our plan didn’t work
  40. 40. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session What went wrong? Google’s Cloud Natural Language API • identified a ton of entities • expensive to run to run at scale • entities were largely irrelevant to our database spaCy Natural Language Processing • free (open source) • didn’t identify as many entities • entities were still largely irrelevant to our database
  41. 41. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Models were not trained on our data We could label our own data • Train our own model • This would take months • Would be expensive Come up with simpler solution • May not be fancy • Address most needs • Use the 80/20 rule
  42. 42. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session We flipped the problem
  43. 43. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Start with our database of entities 1
  44. 44. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Prioritize which entities to search for 1 2
  45. 45. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Look for priority entities in the content 1 2 3
  46. 46. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Place the links in the content 1 2 3 4
  47. 47. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Confirm the link destination works 1 2 3 4 5
  48. 48. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session It worked!
  49. 49. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Our solution is live in production.
  50. 50. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Our solution is live in production. Links update automatically
  51. 51. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session What did we learn?
  52. 52. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Data science is key for enterprise SEO
  53. 53. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Simple solutions can be effective Data science is key for enterprise SEO
  54. 54. @jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com | Spotlight Session Simple solutions can be effective Data science is key for enterprise SEO Dream big
  55. 55. Thank you!@jsilton | #Next10xJordan Silton | Apartments.com

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