Judith Lewis is the founder of the DeCabbit Consultancy, which specialises in integrated digital marketing consultancy and execution. Judith is a specialised integrated online marketer with extensive experience in SEO, PPC, and Social Media Marketing, as well as other digital marketing techniques. She was doing SEO before it even had a name, and has worked both in-house and on the agency side. Judith blogs for the SEO Chicks and for Mostly About Chocolate, as well as the Huffington Post. She speaks at various conferences around the world and is passionate about teaching and helping businesses large and small (as well as chocolate). We talked to her about the most important questions in the field of Search engine optimization and wanted to know how she sees the future and the changes in SEO future.
Technical SEO is getting more and more into preparing specific parts of the code for specific websites, we now have schema.org, facebook instant articles, Accelerated mobile pages, not to mention twitter and Instagram cards, Open Graph and probably other. Two questions:
How do you see the future of those mark-ups, are they going to merge or diffuse more?
Technical SEO – Of course there are upsides and downsides. Each bit of additional code that a web developer has to implement, while useful for increasing revenue 😉 makes things more complex and increases the risk of errors. I actually believe that mark-up is here to stay, and that it won’t get too much more complex. I don’t know that the different markups we see now (Facebook, AMP etc.) will necessarily merge, but I don’t think that releasing proprietary code will boost any one platform’s popularity, so this won’t be something we will see a lot of in the future. The only exception is probably Facebook, which can get away with it owing to its very large audience.
Do they bring enough traffic (or other benefits) that the regular e-commerce or regular business should implement them?
There’s no easy answer to the question whether they will bring enough traffic to justify implementation.
I never recommend implementing code changes unless it has a significant positive benefit.
So I would recommend not implementing AMP unless you’re engaged in a significant rebuild of your existing site – *unless* you’re a publisher. AMP is now being used by Ebay, but that doesn’t mean a small business should invest thousands implementing AMP as it is.
Should a business implement Schema.org? AMP? FIA? Open Graph? Pinterest? StumbleUpon? Yes, absolutely. Should a business spend money implementing this on an existing, technically well-optimised site that ranks well and has no other problems and that is already driving traffic to the site? Absolutely not. Wait until it’s time to update the site, then implement the code. So in true SEO style, the answer is “it depends”.
Mobile voice search is on the rise and the current suggestion on how to prepare your content for voice search is that FAQ’s are coming back as a way of having an answer for conversational queries.
How should we resolve the problem of creating two different sets of content for those different queries?
In my opinion, I don’t think any site owner should be creating content for the sake of creating content. The argument that FAQs should be created to capture conversational queries only works if the FAQ is actually adding value. An FAQ needs to add actual value by taking information and putting it into a format that helps the user – not just a search engine. And not even for voice searches, that can now be done on Google, Siri or Amazon Echo? Voice search is still a search and requires other signals than just how well something matches the query. If the FAQ isn’t adding value the additional signals will be weak, it won’t rank and it won’t be “visible” in a voice search.
Yes information on our sites does need to be organised in such a way that both people and computers understand. If you look at some of the articles on sites like MoneySupermarket.com, where they have to appeal to specific age ranges for insurance, you see some of the difficulty and complexity that is already present in the market. Duplicating content in an FAQ doesn’t solve the problem, but makes it more difficult for the signals to be understood. Semantically-related term comprehension by search engines is nothing new, so they are already delivering relevance in voice search.
So in the end, I can only offer advice that isn’t really new advice: Don’t create content for the sake of targeting these specific content variations – think mobile first on any new website and design your content for the user and their needs, first.
Rank Brain tells us, that we should not really have a one size-fits-all strategy, but that the SEO strategies should adapt for different categories of websites or queries.
How true is that in your opinion and will we need different SEO experts for every business category?
I don’t think we necessarily need a specialist for every business category, but I do believe that any SEO strategy – like any marketing strategy – has to take into account the unique needs of that vertical. There are unique elements to every vertical that need to be taken into account, whether for SEO or any other marketing channel. Just as you wouldn’t market perfume the same way you would insurance, you wouldn’t use the same SEO strategy for an animal charity that you would a company doing wedding cakes. While I don’t think you necessarily need to be an expert in that vertical I do believe you have to do your research and understand the unique needs of that vertical. When working with Amadeus it took me a while to get a good handle on the B2B travel vertical, but now knowing that well doesn’t preclude me from also understanding the finance vertical. Working with Fidelity in B2B products, Virgin Startup loans, Zopa and others all required me to do a lot of research on their unique needs and then to design a strategy for them.
We need to understand that the days of the one-size-fits-all SEO strategy are long gone.
How important is local SEO and if yes is it really any different than the non-local SEO?
Local SEO is absolutely important for companies with local shops, where being seen in a search of a local area is important – like any company with a physical presence that wants to be found in a search for “coffee shops” when someone is in the local area. It differs from regular optimisation only in that it helps to have schema implemented and images optimised for locals, with map locations for the shops and addresses properly marked up. Use all of the schema possible to ensure potential searchers know what is available to them. All the other tips and tricks should be used from the “regular” SEO toolbox, interesting and on-target web content that is relevant for its visitors.
Social media websites are a big part of the time spent online, but their signals are more or less ignored by search engines. Is it always going to stay this way?
I have a theory that social signals are so easily faked that Google has too many other things it would be doing rather than developing a complex algorithm that will filter out all the fake profiles, animal profiles and networks of fake fakeries to find the real signals among the noise in order to get social to count for more than it might now. I do think they are probably experimenting with it, and that social has an indirect impact much like meta description, but that it is just one signal among many. I’ve changed rankings with clicks on organic search and I’ve seen upticks in traffic when I’ve paid for social amplification. I haven’t necessarily seen a change in the rankings when I’ve boosted social signals, but traffic which leads to sales is the name of the game. If social leads to sales then don’t ignore it.
With all the changes on the SERP page, where with carousels, local and other “different kind of results”, are organic results going to have a place in the future? How is this impacting SEO?
SEO has been impacted by so many things by Google for so long it’s a miracle when you see any non-paid results above the fold these days. I think SEO is always only one part of the marketing mix. Any business has to think about ways of driving business and results and not just about rankings. To focus solely on rankings is far too short-sighted, and risks losing big when the algorithm changes. SEO (and Search advertising is the same here) is a pull marketing strategy that relies on existing market needs. What we need is a well-developed strategy for your business that takes advantage of organic, AMP, local, images, videos, social and any other channels that work for your business. Organic search will always matter – but so will other channels.
Who is The SEO king?
There is no king, no queen. We are an autonomous, anarcho-syndicalist commune though if it maters a watery tart once lobbed a scimitar at me… (from Monty Python and the Holy Grail).