Site Structure, Blog Best Practices & Helping Ukrainian SEOs

by | Mar 31, 2022 | SEO Writing

When Olesia Korobka found herself hiding underground from Russian bombs, whipping out a Google Sheet and creating a database of top Ukrainian SEO talent was probably the farthest thing from her mind.

And yet, if you’ve gone anywhere near the SEO Twitterverse lately, you know that’s exactly what she did.

The former media sales expert, site architecture specialist, and all-around badass has created one of the most helpful SEO documents circulating the internet today — both for displaced Ukrainian SEOs and for companies looking to uplevel their traffic and leads.

Here for the list? Get instant access to Olesia’s spreadsheet with Ukrainian SEOs available for hire.

When we asked Olesia where she was when she first got the idea to create the spreadsheet, she had to think about it for a moment.

“We were either hiding in the shelter or we were being bombed sitting in the basement, and someone approached me from a region where they were much more heavily bombed and told me that they had lost all of their clients because of the war.”

All 200 people in that office were suddenly out of work.

“I was myself in a very similar situation,” recalls Olesia. “I honestly didn’t know what to do.”

But as one of a small percentage of SEOs with connections to the west, Olesia’s community was counting on her to help make an introduction to potential clients outside Ukraine’s borders.

So, she did what any savvy digital marketer would do. She asked for help.

“I went on Twitter and connected with Aleyda. Together, we had the idea to make this list of Ukrainian SEOs who have lost their jobs and are looking for work. I asked if she could help me distribute it. And she said yes.”

With the support of SEO ace Aleyda Solis, Olesia resolved to help her SEO community make new connections. She got to work creating an extensive list of Ukrainian SEOs available for hire.

Today, companies all over the world are using the database to find stellar SEO talent who can help take their online presence to the next level.

But before we get deeper into the list itself, let’s back up a few steps to learn more about Olesia’s story and how she went from a decade in sales for Ukraine’s largest media holding company to becoming a highly sought after SEO consultant for high-growth tech startups.

What we’ll cover:

  • From media sales to self-taught SEO: The backstory
  • Olesia’s advice for a brand new company starting with SEO
  • Why blog structure matters
  • How stellar site structure leads to better messaging
  • Out of chaos came community

Olesia shared a photo from the refugee center in Poland where her and her family fled after the onset of the war.

From media sales to self-taught SEO: The backstory

Olesia entered the corporate world with what many would call the dream job.

As the Deputy Director of Advertising Sales for Ukraine’s largest media holding company, she was responsible for driving revenue growth across seven radio stations and multiple print publications.

But in 2013, about seven years into the role, Olesia had her first child and realized it was time for a change. She gave up her fast-paced corporate role and was looking forward to quality time with her new son — who, as luck would have it, was an incredibly healthy and quiet baby.

Blessed with extra downtime during her son’s regular naps, Olesia began to feed her growing interest in SEO. She learned everything she could online, then began to apply those teachings to her husband’s website for his construction business. Olesia’s newly acquired SEO skills were proving useful and her husband’s company’s website traffic quickly took off.

Olesia and her on a night bus, finally sitting.

With her first case study under her belt, Olesia’s new SEO-focused career path looked promising. But three months later, her former company called. Revenue had dropped since she left and they needed Olesia back in the game to help get sales back up.

She agreed, but on one condition. Olesia’s three-month-old son must be allowed to come with her to work.

Now that she was back in her previous role, Olesia had a lot on her plate. She paused her SEO learning, but vowed to stay connected to the skill. She asked her company to let her help with the website, and they said yes.

“I wasn’t doing SEO then, but I was talking to SEOs who wanted to promote their websites with us,” she explains.

Olesia had successfully amended her old role to include her new passion. She was taking her son with her to work everyday. And she was learning a lot about backlinking and technical SEO. Everything was going great.

That is, until politics entered the picture. Suddenly, even her sales role began to feel political. And it just wasn’t where she saw herself.

“For me, politics is something I don’t engage with. Not for any amount of money.”So, she quit. Olesia fell back on her old friend SEO and began to promote her skills as a consultant in SEO strategy.

“That’s where SEO saved me,” she recalls.

Today, Olesia specializes in helping tech startups all over the world who are just beginning to establish their web presence. And the way she sees it, the best way to get started with SEO is to take the long view.

Olesia’s advice for a brand new company starting with SEO

“I always start with structure,” Olesia explains.

The way she approaches it is to align the structure of a brand’s website with the same structure that supports the actual business.

“You want to structure your website from the point of view of your business structure over the next five to ten years at least. That way, you don’t need to redo anything in the process.”

Messy tags. Missed 301s. Endless sitemap errors. We’ve all been there, and it isn’t fun.

According to experts like Olesia, most of these issues can be nipped in the bud by simply taking a long-term approach to site structure from day one of your SEO operation.

“When you have a perfect structure from the beginning, you can grow around it. But if you change your website all the time, it’s harder for the bots to keep up.”

Taken at face value, this sounds straightforward enough. But Olesia admits this is harder for some brands than others.

“First, you have to decide whether your technology is already on the market — if people know about it and will search for it.”

If that’s you, most SEO experts will agree that it’s ok to start by looking around at the competition. Take note of what they’re doing right and wrong, and mimic the strategies that are working well by recreating them with your own unique message and benefits.

But if you’re going it alone, Olesia warns to make sure that you “Don’t copy what they do wrong!”

Remember, just because your competitors look like they have their SEO game together, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing everything right — especially when it comes to site structure.

And what about brands with first-to-market products? Folks who are in a genuine category of one?

“If your technology is not present on the market yet, it’s something new, or there’s competitors who are doing something like you but they are not successful in delivering their message and getting customers online, then you have to come at it from the other side.”

This is where you go back to the fundamentals and ask:

  1. What problems do the people who need your solution face?
  2. What questions about your business do they have?

According to Olesia, at this point, it’s not about your product documentation, promotional SEO, or anything else.

“When no one knows about your technology and how it works, no one is searching for that. No one will be interested in your documentation as of yet,” she explains.

For brands focused on raising awareness and educating prospects on a completely new product or category, experts like Olesia believe it’s all about investing in your blog. You want to answer all the relevant questions your ideal prospects may have about your product, without being pushy about it.

And as a structure specialist, Olesia warns not to bury your blog.

“Some brands will put their blog on some kind of subdomain or put it on some kind of design where it looks like a separate informational site with no connection to the brand,” she explains.

The way she sees it, that is a BIG mistake. After all, the last thing a reputable brand wants is for its branded blog to look like an affiliate or private blog network (PBN) site.

“It’s important that the design of your blog flies into the face of your customers like, ‘Hey, you can actually buy something here. We don’t have the blog only, we have much more than that.’”

According to Olesia, even the small things matter. For example, you want to always make sure the logo of the blog leads back to the home page so users can easily explore your products when they’re ready to make a move.

“Sometimes clients see the blog as something that’s just for SEOs,” explains Olesia. “Like here’s the SEO part and the rest is our normal website.”

For her, that’s an indication you’re going about it the wrong way.

“They’re taking a whole bunch of keywords from some tool, ordering these blogs from somewhere or automating with Jasper, which most of the time is informational garbage that doesn’t actually help anyone. Sure, you’re ranking for that. But when the person comes and tries to find the solution to their problem, they get very disappointed and leave.”

Rather than using the blog as a tool to help bring their community together, these brands are repelling both their customers and their employees from engaging with their content.

“What I usually see is that the blogs are created by SEOs and that’s why the rest of the company wants to stay away from them,” says Olesia.

Of course, the credibility of your content isn’t the only thing at risk when you take a tool-centric or automated approach to SEO. The ranking and credibility of your entire domain is at stake.

“If lots of these pages have been created across different verticals, sometimes a brand may try and rewrite them somehow and make lots of backlinks via these unimportant blog posts. But spam creates spam.”

Instead, Olesia suggests using real questions from your ideal customer profile.

“Start with questions from your real buyers and answer them in a way that is helpful for them. They may not buy at this very moment, but when you are creating something really, really good, people will remember you. They’ll bookmark you, they’ll put you in their Notion or Evernote to return to you when they are ready.”

Olesia is quick to note that some keywords are extremely overvalued by these tools, especially when you consider all the bloat coming from marketers.

“Do less. Don’t target every keyword out there. If you can make a difference, if it will help with your business, if you can write something worthy, then take the keyword. Otherwise, it’ll do more harm than good.”

Olesia uses lots of tools, including Ahrefs. But she’s also a fan of free tools like Answer the Public and good old-fashioned Google search.

“I suggest you go into forums, Quora and Reddit and see what people are asking there. You’ll have a content plan simply by seeing what people are discussing and asking frequently.”

These days, Olesia spends a lot of time creating SEO strategies that cater to the developer audience. She sees firsthand how relevant keyword selection supported by quality content is the only way to win with discerning audiences.

“For example, say you’re targeting developers. What happens with them when they go to a blog and see that it’s full of trash? What will they think about your company?”

“On the other hand, if they’re searching for something and they come to a blog and see that it is really nice and really helpful and written for them, not just for SEO, you’ll have much more conversions.”

“The best shortcut is having a good structure for your website.”

This being an SEO interview, we had to ask: What’s Olesia’s top tool or tactic in SEO today? 

Tl;dr — there’s no such thing for this SEO expert.

“The best shortcut is having a good structure for your website,” says Olesia with a smile.

“If you have a good structure, if content is accessible, read by bots and loads fine for anyone, if it’s necessary and important — you will rank.”

Problem is, most brands don’t know where to start with structure.

Olesia’s advice? Sit down with someone who has a solid mind for structure, whether it’s your SEO, web developer, or anyone else on the team.

Then, as with the keyword research, go back to the fundamental questions of what drives your business:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are you selling?
  • What pain points does your product solve?

From there, you’ll have your blog, your categories, and your blog posts attached to each category. Each blog post will then be linked to mid-to-bottom of funnel pages, including your product pages.

With the work she’s done to help the Ukrainian SEO community find jobs, people are starting to mistake Olesia for an HR recruiter! 🤣

Of course, Olesia is the first to admit that this exercise can quickly become more complicated for brands that serve multiple verticals.

“You are creating these pieces of content for everyone, but then you are structuring them properly. You’ll have the part of the website for ‘solutions’ and you put your solutions there. If there are too many, you’ll have to structure them between your categories, and these categories will be linked to your posts, which will explain the pain points and solutions in more detail.”

To keep it straightforward, Olesia uses a simplified funnel:

  • Visitors who are not aware of the problem or solution.
  • Visitors who are aware of a problem and in search of a solution.
  • Visitors who are ready to buy.

She believes it’s especially important to optimize your content for top and mid-funnel prospects and link to your products, including solution pages geared towards specific verticals.

However, she also warns brands to make sure your solutions pages are only geared towards the customers who are ready to buy — no hard selling at the top or middle of the funnel!

While this structure may work well for small and medium-sized sites, Olesia is aware that larger sites will likely have more work to do on the structural side — especially for brands with a large library of categories and product pages, like an ecommerce site.

“There, you’ll have to think much more about how you design and categorize your products.”

For this, Olesia recommends starting with the Marketing Director or whoever it is in the business who sees the whole picture of where each product comes in.

“Start by designing a huge structure and know that at first, the client will not like it,” she laughs. “But after a week or two, you’ll have a structure you can use for 10 years or more.”

Olesia has seen more than once how site structures that took multiple iterations (and weeks 😬) to approve end up being a go-to resource for various stakeholders across the company.

“Everybody will be using it everywhere. In logistics, they will be using it to organize products, in marketing and product development they will want to create documentation around it. You’ll have to push them a bit in the beginning because it will help them long-term.”

While the task of getting buy-in on site structure can often be an uphill battle, SEO experts like Olesia believe it’s almost always worth it.

“What happens when you have this really well-structured website is that you give search engine crawlers this perfect shiny structure, they’ll say ‘Wow, I really understand what this site is about.’ They will love you, I promise.”

And let’s face it, who couldn’t use a little extra lovin’ from Google spiders?

Olesia likes a matrix-based site structure with categories and semantic taxonomies (not just your basic WordPress tags).

“When you have different purposes for your content assets and they are interlinked across the site and can be searched by category, purpose, product, and maybe by taxonomy, this is the sign of a good site structure,” Olesia explains.

While knowledge graphs and semantic taxonomies are increasingly important for SEO, Olesia recognizes that these are usually harder for most brands to implement.

In the real world, resources can be tight. Start by avoiding using too many tags on your blog, in order to prevent your content from being labeled as thin by the search engines.

How stellar site structure leads to better messaging

In case you weren’t already sold on the idea of having a truly stellar site structure, you should know it also makes the work of your copywriting and content team that much easier.

No more wondering which asset to create next, or which parts of your funnel are over- or under-optimized. With the right site structure, it’s easy to see where the gaps in your content are and allocate your resources to serving the right parts of the funnel.

“Of course everyone needs conversions,” says Olesia. “After some time of development, you need to help your visitors make the decision to buy. In your structure, you have pages that sell and you promote them accordingly.”

But without a clear plan and structure, it can be hard to know if it’s your keyword selection or your copy that needs to be adjusted for optimal conversions.

Case in point: Olesia was once working with a client who changed the button copy from ‘See demo’ to ‘Talk to us!’ and their conversions plummeted.

“No one wanted to talk to them,” she jokes. But in all seriousness, traffic to the page kept growing, yet somehow the client thought SEO was to blame — clearly, they must be targeting the wrong keyword, right? Wrong.

After a thorough audit of the page, Olesia realized the button copy was the culprit.

“We were selling to developers, a group of people who tend to be more introverted. When they see ‘talk to us’ their panic mode switches on like ‘better leave the website and never touch it again,’” she explains.

Out of chaos comes community

“My brain was totally a mess.”

To say that it was ‘hard to focus’ in those hours underground as Olesia began creating the SEO for hires sheet would be a massive understatement.

“Your brain is only aimed at survival,” she explains.

Today, Olesia is grateful for the SEO community who rallied around her to help make it happen.

Photo from Lviv, where Olesia was working on the list from her friend Olga Kotova’s place.

“Aleyda helped me structure the sheet to make it easy for people to find the SEO they need,” she says. Since then, the sheet has been making the rounds online, with SEOs like BibiBuzz, Steve Toth, Barry Schwartz and Glenn Gabe all sharing the list with their followers.

“Lots of people have helped me with it and I’m very grateful to everyone. But Aleyda was that initial person who helped me and I’m so grateful.”

She also gives a massive shoutout to Mike Blazer, another leading SEO who has had her back since day one.

“When I didn’t know if I’d make it out, or maybe lose internet for too long, he offered to edit the document for me and afterwards created a bot for the vacancies in Telegram.”

Olesia is now continuing her work from her temporary housing in Amsterdam. And while there’s no telling yet what her next move will be, she remains grateful to have had the chance to help the Ukrainian SEO community during one of the most stressful moments in the country’s history.

“We were bombed and we had to move to another area. Sometimes there was shooting and no internet, but people started sending me their details looking for work.”

For Olesia, it was both a welcome distraction and a sliver of light in a dark time.

Olesia has already heard from many companies who have found great SEOs via her ad hoc database. She and her community of like-minded SEOs all over the world will continue to update and distribute the sheet to help make those connections.

While we can’t know what will happen next politically, Olesia’s story proves that we can be there for each other even in times of great uncertainty.

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