Thinking Logically about Search, Social, Links and Engaging Your Audience
The original Russian version is here. In my responses in both interviews I cover future trends in search, linkbuilding vs. social, Google penalties, budget and resource limitations, and some advice to people considering a move to SEO or digital marketing from traditional marketing and PR roles. Thank you, David.
Q1: What is changing in search today? Can you name the main trends?
In my view, the main overall trend appears to be the “humanizing” of search. With Google and Yandex promoting various types of snippets and markup like Schema, Google and Yandex can enhance organic search results by layering in information you would get if you asked a human the same exact question question- you want a legit answer, immediately.
Here’s an example what I am referring to:
Q2: And what is changing in user behavior today?
Comfort and familiarity. What I mean is that people are getting more comfortable using search, and as people understood more about how search works, they will push it to new limits. This alone requires Google and Yandex to deliver results, and an overall experience, that meet the needs of people who are more familiar with using their search products.
Q3: Should SEOs stop linkbuilding or just focus on social?
No, SEOs should not stop linkbuilding if the tactic makes logical sense when used as part of a holistic digital marketing strategy. To me, links are just an output of creating and publishing assets and resources people desire to share with others, especially when it makes them feel good to share with people when it causes a positive emotional reaction.
In my experience, great SEOs understand that the focus should be on what makes the most sense for their clients, whether it be investing more heavily in linkbuilding, social or some other initiative to achieve business objectives.
The thing I appreciate most about linkbuilding is that when do with the right intent it’s a powerful way to keep people on the journey for information that they started in search.
Q4: What kind of linkbuilding strategy do you find the most effective?
Effective linkbuilding techniques typically borrow from what’s worked in the past, I feel. When you know what types of assets and resources show a pattern of earning links, and then you personalize that content to your target audience, it can take a lot of mystery out of being an effective linkbuilder.
Q5: Will guest posting be still alive despite Google’s actions? As you know, Matt Cutts announced that guest blogging is done because it’s just gotten too spammy.
SEOs ruined guest blogging by using it as a tactic to get visibility in search for content that didn’t even deserve to be on the internet in the first place, let alone on the first page of Google. I applaud the move by Google, but Google didn’t kill guest blogging, Google killed worthless, invaluable guest blog- big difference.
If you care more about the narrative of your post and connecting with the audience of the blog, and adding value in a way that can make their life better, you’ve got the right intent.
Q6: Also Google had to penalize for the link schemes of such big sites as Rap Genius and Expedia. Does it mean the end of the linkbuilding?
I would say that Google didn’t have to penalize Rap Genius and Expedia (if they even did penalize Expedia, I don’t know this for sure). I feel like Google uses very public penalties to send messages to the industry that Google is still in control, they hold the power, and they can cripple your business if they choose to.
No, the Rap Genius situation doesn’t signal the end of linkbuilding, it’s just a very public reminder that Google will continue making examples out of sites to maintain their power and control. And that all is alive and well in Google’s search Kremlin.
Q7: What is the optimal number of SEO and Social channels you need to use if you are working in a conditions of limited resources and budgets?
I don’t believe in picking an optimal number of so-called SEO or social channels, no matter what your resources are. Resources are not nearly as big a deal as people make them to be. Just go to where your audience and community is at.
If you’re community mostly goes to Google or Yandex to find information, get more visibility there. If they are most active on Facebook or Pinterest, focus on those channels. It’s all about being more resourceful, not necessarily trying to get more resources.
Marketers should be more concerned about not being annoying on social channels than trying getting their hands on more resources so they can show up on more channels. Annoyingness is expensive.
Q8: Is using Google+ for SEO more effective than using Twitter or Facebook?
If you’re considering which social channel can improve your organic search visibility than I would say Google+ is the channel. Google has made some indication that activity and links on Twitter or Facebook could improve your organic rankings, and there is some credible evidence that says this could be the case.
But, let’s consider moving away from thinking purely about social as a way to improve your visibility on Google or Yandex, rather let’s consider which social channels make the most sense for the business to engage on.
Q9: Which of recent SEO tools do you find the most effective and useful, in spite of Google and Bing securing search via HTTPS?
Google Webmaster Tools, SEMrush and Google Trends are three of my favorite tools. Are all of those tools going to give you 100% accurate, spot-on data? No. But I do feel like they provide good guidance and can help unlock your creativity.
I still love to do keyword research and competitive analyses for my clients, so I find a lot of creative value from tools like SEMrush and Google Trends.
Q10: Let’s talk about the economy. Do you expect to see SEO budgets changing? Is it really hard to work in conditions of reducing or limited budgets, or it is not such a big problem for you?
For me personally budget constraints do not seem to be a major issue. One of my clients is a massive financial services brand that’s part of a Fortune 25 organization. And then I have a much smaller client that’s VC-funded and operating in startup mode in certain aspects.
In both cases, I would say that by presenting strategies and campaigns that align with client goals, and that prove their value by helping meet business objectives, the budget money will be there.
People will always pay you to solve their problems if you keep proving you’re good at solving them.
Q11: Your advice to the professionals – for people who’ve worked in corporate marketing, PR, web development or advertising that are looking to start a new career in search marketing, what advice would you give?
The advice I would give to people in a more traditional marketing role is that before you make the move to SEO, paid search or digital marketing, take some time to understand the nuances of those industries. Understand what those types of marketers do for their clients, what kind of problems they solve, and how they create opportunities.
Once you’ve built a knowledgebase of how those industries work, and you still want to start a new career in search or digital, find an in-house or agency opportunity at an organization that aligns with your personal values and goals.
For example, when people ask me what I love most about SEER, the answer is simple: the people. And by the people I mean my colleagues and clients; they are all truly wonderful people to collaborate with. Deep down inside, I feel that’s what most people are looking for because it’s deeply rewarding.