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"How to Succeed with SEO Ft. Jeremiah Smith of SimpleTiger" (Inbound Success Ep. 57)

"How to Succeed with SEO Ft. Jeremiah Smith of SimpleTiger" (Inbound Success Ep. 57) Blog Feature

September 24th, 2018 min read

With search engine optimization changing so much, what's the secret to succeeding with SEO in 2018?

Jeremiah Smith
Jeremiah Smith

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, SimpleTiger CEO Jeremiah Smith shares his insights on what's working - and what's not - with SEO. As the head of an SEO agency, he's worked with quite a few clients to solve SEO challenges and gets into specific detail on things like how to approach site structure, navigation menus, keyword and backlink strategies and more. He also shares his predictions for how voice search will impact the future of SEO. 

So much good stuff - check it out!

Listen to the podcast to hear Jeremiah's SEO insights and get specific, actionable things you can do now to improve your search rankings.



Transcript

Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcastI'm your host, Kathleen Booth, and today my guest is Jeremiah Smith, who's the founder and CEO of Simple Tiger. Welcome, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Smith (Guest): Thank you so much for having me, Kathleen. I'm happy to be here today.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 11.43.09 AM
Jeremiah and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Awesome. Tell the audience a little bit more about yourself, and about Simple Tiger, and what you guys do over there.

Jeremiah: All right. So I am the founder and CEO of Simple Tiger. We're a digital marketing agency that specializes in doing search engine optimization for softwares and service companies. We do a lot of the inbound marketing follow elements, but we really try to tailor everything tightly around how it impacts SEO, since that's been our specialty for over 12 years now.

Kathleen: Great. And I had a lot of fun combing through your website, and particularly through your profile page on the website. The one thing that stood out the most was in your bios. You guys have these really cool answers to questions and one of them was shark diving, bungee jumping, or ... I think the other one was cliff diving. And you picked shark diving, which is probably the one that would be the last on my list. So-

Jeremiah: That's funny. Yeah, I was thinking through those and I actually ... I always like to challenge myself but I'm pretty calculated with how much risk I can handle. So when it comes to bungee jumping, to me that's like right out, that's so dangerous and crazy, and it's not even enjoyable an idea to me, whipping my neck around and everything.

Cliff diving is something I've actually done a lot of. And that's fun and easy to me. It's not as scary. Shark diving is that one that's right in the midst, the Goldilocks zone for me. That's dangerous, but it's somewhat safe. And so, yeah, that's pretty much where I land on that.

Kathleen: So it's really funny. The reason that stood out to me was that I'm kind of familiar. I read what you wrote about trying to face my fears. And I have not done cliff diving yet, but I have done bungee jumping off of the bridge over the River Zambezi in Africa, which is ... At the time it was the second highest bungee jump in the world.

Kathleen Booth Bungee Jumping
Kathleen bungee jumping in Zambia

And I did it back when I was 30-years-old. And it's so funny, because in the last few months ... I have this picture of myself launching off the bridge, that somebody else took. And the last time I looked at that picture, I was like, "Damn, it's a good thing I did that back when I was 30, because I would never do it now."

Jeremiah: That's amazing.

Kathleen: But I would never swim with sharks. I would never swim with sharks, though. So for me, the bungee jumping was the thing that was right on the edge, and the shark stuff is like, yeah, no way. 

Jeremiah: That's so funny. It's funny how we're different like that. I'm sure someone out there is like, "Cliff diving? That's the one that's right on the edge for me."

Kathleen: Totally. Totally. So I had a good chuckle reading that part of your website.

Jeremiah: That's awesome.

Kathleen: Yeah, so I was interested to talk with you because you all, as you said, you specialize in search engine optimization, and you work with a lot of SaaS or software service companies. And that's a super competitive field. And these are, in my experience, at least, having been in digital marketing agencies for a lot of years, I won't say how many ...

SaaS companies tend to spend money on this kind of stuff. And so it's not like being a garbage hauler and the competition for your keywords isn't as strong. These are companies that are putting some dollars behind not only their pay-per-click marketing, but they're spending money to do SEO right.

So I'm fascinated to learn a little bit more from you on both what you see as working well right now, and how you're helping to prepare your clients for the future, given all the changes that are happening in SEO these days.

What's Working With Search Engine Optimization in 2018

Jeremiah: Yeah. Yeah, that's a great question. And I got to be honest, though. You're going to have to stop me at some point because there's so many answers I want to dive into on that.

Kathleen: Go.

Jeremiah: Let's see. So having been in this for 12 years now, there are so many different things that we've done that, at the time, were valuable things. And SEO is interesting because it's one of those things ... It's one of those marketing methodologies where there are trends within that space. So there are trends in the SEO that right now, for example, might be very powerful for SEO but a year or two ago weren't, and a year from now, won't be.

So you've got to keep that in mind and adapt to those as they come and go. But there are some strong core elements that are always ... They're always strong. They may not be the leaders in the space, but they're strong. And if you do those well, you'll always be successful at SEO.

And so a couple of things that we're doing nowadays that are just a little bit different than before ...

One of the hot topics for 2018 has been content structure and structuring content on your site and navigational structure, which making sure that your navigation's set up in a way where you're actually able to dive in to the depths of the content on the site through the navigation.

That's evolved quite a bit. Google's gone from hating large menus to loving large menus to hating them again to loving them again. And it's a little bit nauseating trying to figure that out. But we've determined some patterns and seen some sites that have really good navigational structures, really good content structures. And we've seen the benefits of that. Everything from a large enterprise eCommerce site, all the way to a small SaaS company that has one product, one offering, very simple.

Like, for example, Stripe. You think about that. Such a simple offering. There's not much to it. But you can go deep on their content because of the developer applications and things like that.

So we're finding the content structure's been a very powerful thing. And I think a large part of that actually has to do with the way Google has devolved in terms of adapting more machine-learning technology to enhance the user experience of Google.

So Google's trying to get more intelligent about what they bring up or what they show as results. And as you're doing that, as you're reverse engineering that, you're noticing what they like more. And what they're liking more is just really, really good content structure, which, I guess good is a subjective term.

But you almost have to know what I mean when I say that. I could probably explain that a little more, but I'd have to show you examples, really.

Kathleen: Yeah, let's go back to the menu for a second because that's something that I think is interesting and easy to overlook, right? A lot of people build their websites and the navigation menu they think, "I need to get it right. But it's not something I need to spend a ton of time on." And I think a lot of folks don't even think of it when it comes to SEO.

So can I dig a little bit deeper in there? And you mentioned larger menus. Are you talking about actually displaying a mega menu at the top of a site? Or are you talking about the page hierarchy and having several pages, subpages, etc.?

Walk me through what that big menu looks like.

Jeremiah: Sure, yeah. So the mega menu discussion is interesting because there are cases ... Theoretically, Google would say that they don't like mega menus. And when we talk about mega menu ... And it makes sense why they wouldn't because, from a user perspective, they're not great either, usually.

What a mega menu means, when we talk about that, is usually a menu that contains upwards of a hundred navigational links or more, just massive. And you could just spend all day just trying to hover through this menu to get to where you want.

That's too much. It's too much for a user perspective. It's too much from a search engine perspective, which mirror each other. And especially with the increase in users on mobile devices, mega menus just aren't making as much sense as they used to.

However, in certain applications, on certain websites, for certain types of content, certain content structure, a mega menu is the only way. And it actually works really well. And so it's real interesting to see the cases where the rules can be broken. And that's probably the hardest thing to learn in SEO, is knowing where and when you can break certain rules in order to succeed because you're going to have to at some point.

For example, Brian Dean does some really cool posts about breaking some of the most common rules in SEO. For example, he's got over 10,000 YouTube subscribers and he's only got 10 YouTube videos.

That's a huge deal. You got a significant amount ... I think he has over 100,000 YouTube subscribers. He's got ... Whatever those huge tiers are, he's got it, right? He's only got 10 YouTube videos.

Kathleen: And he just released a course on that, too, I think. I feel like he just released a course on YouTube SEO, to talk about how he did that.

Jeremiah: Right, right. And that's a great example, though, of him breaking the common rules, where people think you've got to post a ton videos, you got to be on there every single day to get to 100,000 subscribers. He's only done a few, few pieces of content. They're rockstar pieces of content, and he is internet famous because of it.

So when it comes to menus, for example, I think some of the larger sites that have a lot of complexity, over time, I think Google is going to get intelligent enough, and currently is intelligent enough, to deduce the fact that, "Hey, this is a complex subject, what this site is about." And it can be broken off into these relevant subsections or subcategories of deeper subjects. And it makes sense.

Wikipedia is a great example of that, for example. You can't for the life of you use the Wikipedia menu to get where you want to go. You have to use search. And their search engine even sucks. So you have to use Google to get through Wikipedia, appropriately.

But their content structure and linking to deeper, relevant subjects, cross linking, and all that kind of stuff, is really what makes them successful. So I don't know if that answers your question. But there's not really a one-size- fits-all menu solution. It really depends on the case-by- case basis.

Kathleen: Okay, interesting. And then in terms of the other thing you mentioned was structuring your content well. So as you said, that's an easy thing to say but there's a lot of nuance behind that.

Can we dig into that one a little bit deeper, and maybe give some examples of different ways that companies need to think about structuring their content?

Jeremiah: Right, yeah. And I think the best way to structure content, honestly, I don't think is to look at it from a keyword perspective. We did that for a very long time. And we tried to nest everything under keyword umbrellas. And over time, what we learned is that actually the way the user is interacting with your website might be sequential and break from a keyword norm.

So let's think for a second about an example software tool. And I'll walk you through how this might apply, and how we might structure content for this one client, where previously we would nest everything under a keyword umbrella.

So let's think about ... I'll always pick on invoicing software, because I think that's an easy concept to understand and it applies to every business I'm talking to, so they get it. It's familiar.

In this invoicing software, maybe our target is CFOs at software companies. And that's who we want to sell this invoicing software to. Well, that CFO at the software company has a certain list of pain points and things that they really want to work through and boxes they've got to check for them to procure a solution for their invoicing software. They know what they're looking for.

So in the old days, what we would do is take "invoicing software" as a mothership term, and then play with subcategories of keywords related to invoicing software.

In the new days, we'll still do that, but we're going to break out of that and we're probably going to structure it a way where it's the number one pain point the CFO might have with software. Let's do that as our first piece of content, even if that keyword is not our top target keyword. Because from an engagement perspective, that might be their top concern. But that keyword may not have as much search volume as some of the other keywords in invoicing software.

And for our second piece of content, below that in the menu, is their second largest pain point, which, again, may not be a high volume keyword.

By structuring the content like that, we optimize those pieces of content for the keywords that are relevant to them. And we do our best to promote other pieces of content that are relevant to the other keywords that are higher search volume, whether that's large blog articles containing an infographic with all kinds of clickable stuff in the content or not.

But what we're trying to do is set up a flow of content on the site that's going to keep that CFO searcher engaged. And if we can keep that searcher engaged, that's going to trigger some new algorithmic metrics in Google that are actually going to help you rank better.

So I'm starting to get into some deeper SEO stuff with what Google's doing in artificial intelligence here.

But for the longest time, Google has looked at links as the number one ranking factor in search. And everyone always wondered, "How do you build links? How do you build links?" and just trying and competing with each other, and trying to find ways to do it naturally. And it's the hardest thing to do in searching software is link building. Period. No matter what anyone says, link building's the hardest.

Well, Google has now, for the first time, overstepped links in their algorithm as the most important factor with another one, which is user engagement metrics.

So Google is now using clickstream data through Chrome and through other clickstream data providers.

If you have Analytics installed on your site, if you have Google AdWords conversion tracking set up on your site, I don't doubt for a second that they're monitoring traffic usage and how people are interacting with your site.

They're not publishing that content or that information or that data anywhere because of encrypted relationships that Google wants to keep tight and internal and private. But they are using that data to determine how your site ought to rank.

So if people are actively engaging with pieces of content on your site moreso than other pieces of content on your site, those pieces that they're engaging with have a higher likelihood to rank than the ones they're not engaging with, regardless of links.

So that's a really interesting new frontier, if you think about it.

Now that doesn't mean that links don't matter. Links are still extremely important. You've got to have those, too. When it comes down to it, if everyone has 10 of the same high quality links, then whichever pages are getting the best user engagement are the ones to get ranked.

Kathleen: On the subject of user engagement, it's interesting that you bring this up because I've had a couple of other people get at this topic from different directions.

One of the things that has come up is time on page, for example. And I think I had one guest who talked about how they're using more and more video on their pages because it tends to get people to spend a little bit more time. Are you finding that that's the case or are there other page elements that you've seen successfully keep people sticky on pages?

Jeremiah: Yeah, I think any kind of mix of media that is set up in a way where it's going to either force or entice or you coerced the user into spending more time on the page is better.

So what we're looking for, first and foremost, when we're dealing with your clients, a large portion of it is not that we're dealing with clients who just need to get users to spend more time on the page and don't know where to begin with that.

Most of the time something is going wrong with their site that's causing users to leave early, like there are actual problems. And we need to address those first, because those are leaks in the ship. We've got to plug those holes before we do anything about racing the ship.

So some of those plugs are like interstitial popups that we see that aren't working well, we'll try to kill those. If they are working well, we'll try to find ways to just make them a little less intrusive, a little bit of an easier interaction, an easy way to close out. For those who don't realize it, you can just click off of it or click the little X or whatever, try to find a way to close out faster.

Random popups, random little engagement elements that interrupt the experience, we try to find ways to kill those if we see that they're killing conversions or that they're killing user engagement. Some of those things actually increase user engagement.

For example, Drift is a really cool tool that allows for this whole conversational marketing element to take place. That tool alone increases engagement on your site or increases time on page if somebody interacts with it.

If somebody clicks on it and they start a conversation, it doesn't matter that they're just ... the page is just sitting there in the background. Whatever page it is, suddenly they're interacting in this little chat box over here and that page has longer user engagement now. Little metrics like that, little things like that can help.

I would recommend the use of video so long as it makes sense to the audience.

That's something you need to test. When you do load video on your page, something I'd recommend is to use something like Wistia or some kind of video that allows you to have analytics within the video and see how many people are actually interacting with that video element out of the total visitors coming to the page. If it's a very small portion, it may not make sense and it may not help you. You may actually want to A/B test having the video on page versus not.

One thing that I've seen work well is the promise of a video but the video's embedded way down the page, so it forces you to scroll. As you scroll, you're scrolling past really interesting images and bolded text and headings and things like that that catch your eye and slow you down, cause you to spend more time on the page before you even get to the video.

These are all just interesting techniques that I don't think are manipulative, I think are intelligent. If you do it in a genuine way, I think it works really well.

Kathleen: Now are you finding that you're building out or you're working with your clients to build out longer pages because of this?

Jeremiah: Depends again. A lot of times, yes.

A lot of times, the competition is showing long pages and that's what's ranking. We're in a position where we're either going to have to come up with some stellar short content that is just silver bullet short content or we're just going to have to play the game and write some long content, too.

Most of the time we find ourselves in a position where we're trying to write a little bit longer content than whatever is consistently ranking well and just play leap frog.

That just tends to be the name of the game.

Now of course in that regard, you don't want to go stuffing fluff into content. That's something that we're very careful about and we steer away from. If we find that it's difficult for us to break an 800 word threshold on a subject, then we'll start digging into the search results for that subject and use a little bit of the skyscraper technique, which is where you take a keyword.

You grab the top several results and pull from all those pieces as sources and rewrite some of that content into your own and reorganize it. You're adding the average value of the top 10 results in Google into one article. It tends to be a lot more weighty and help you in the rankings.

That's what we find ourselves doing in the event that we can't fill up a piece of content as easily without adding fluff.

Kathleen: Yeah. Gosh, there's so much here that I want to ask you about. It's interesting.

To hit rewind, we have Drift on our site and we implemented it, I want to say, back in March. It's definitely increased engagement quite dramatically to the point where we originally had one person manning the live chat and now we have three.

It's been very interesting to watch. I think especially if you have somebody good who understands how to engage in a live chat conversation, it can make a tremendous difference. I remember though we were worried at the time about what Drift was going to do to our page load speed, especially on mobile, because Google is looking so much more closely at mobile page load times.

I don't think at IMPACT, we have not become subject yet to mobile first indexing, but that's something that we kind of obsess over. I know Drift loads asynchronously and so in theory at least, it shouldn't affect your page rank on mobile. But it's a cool product and it's hugely ... it's made a tremendous difference in terms of engagement.

Jeremiah: Yeah. There is that challenge, too. This is a huge challenge for SEO specifically is the trade-off between user engagement ... well, it's not a trade-off between user engagement. It is a feature that may help user engagement in one way but hurt it in another where, just like what you're saying, where Drift improves user engagement because you're offering a feature that they didn't have before.

There's a technical load that comes with it that actually slows down the experience and that actually hurts user engagement. It's trying to decide, well, is this worth it or not? Is this hurting us or not? There are a lot of those kinds of things that we run into where we have to make decisions. We have to tell clients to maybe cut features that are good features but they're hurting them technically.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: Just wait til a better solution comes around or try to develop one or find one yourself. Those are sometimes better options, but yeah, it's fun to have all these tools to play with, too.

I think that that's something us marketers get carried away with is the next flashy thing. I know we do that at SimpleTiger all the time. We're big nerds, so you'll come to our site and we don't follow the rules we're talking about on our own site. We're testing everything.

Kathleen: Neither do we.

Jeremiah: Oh my gosh. I've got way too much code on the back end tracking everything. I've got Drift and all these things popping up and sliding in. You'd just be like, "Ugh, SimpleTiger's awful."

But yeah, we're testing stuff to see what works, see what we like and what helps, what hurts. That way, whenever a client runs into an issue, we've seen it before at least on our own site. The very first client, we can go ahead and fix something for them.

Kathleen: Amen.

It's so funny because we are the exact same way. We are so "Do as I say, not as I do" because we're constantly testing to see if going the opposite direction of what everybody else is doing might work.

We've always said we need to be a laboratory. We need to make the mistakes on ourselves and learn from them so that we are not exposing our clients to more risk than they need to have.

It's an interesting dynamic with agencies where very often, they are not necessarily exemplifying best practices. That's because we are testing and trying to be a little bit more leading edge, which is interesting.

Jeremiah: Yeah. I agree. My brother and I joked about starting a side business to be our guinea pig for everything so we don't ruin our agency with all the experiments we're running, you know?

Kathleen: Yeah. I'm curious, you mentioned moving from Google used to be all about links and keywords. Now you're moving more in the direction of solving for the user. How much of that do you think is connected with this evolution that Google is undergoing right now from an algorithmic-based search result to using RankBrain and artificial intelligence and contextual information to deliver a search result?

Jeremiah: Sure. I think something that's important to keep in mind when you're talking about this is the idea when we throw around the term 'artificial intelligence', we have a difficult time ... people dream up what artificial intelligence means on the spot.

I think if you asked 10 people, their answers are going to be largely different. But really when we're using a rudimentary calculator, it is a form of artificial intelligence.

It's just a very, very simple form of it, right? It's performing calculations that are very hard for you and me to perform in our minds for us right in front of us using simple inputs that were pre-programmed. It is an artificial machine. Google always has been, in some definitions, artificially intelligent.

What we're going to see though is that Google is going to get so good at predicting what a user wants before the user requests it, that Google already is ready to serve that thing up and give it to them. They're going to do that by reading inputs and reading metrics ahead of time that we have given into Google to show them what we value.

So Google's really following us and then forecasting out making predictions and then trying to provide that forecast right now so that it can get smarter.

If we validate that forecast, then that checks one box over here for Google and they head more in that direction.

If we invalidate it by scrolling through Google and not finding what we want, then they invalidate that forecast and they move a different direction.

We're actually responsible for educating Google on all that and we do have to keep that in mind.

That said, I think the best thing that you could do right now is if you've been playing the white hat SEO game all along, this is your renaissance. This is your chance to just really keep pushing hard with what you've always done because Google now has the system set up to especially reward that.

What I mean by that is the way users are searching for things and engaging with content about their areas of interest and things that they find valuable is now going to become easier for them to do and easier for Google to reward those who provide a good experience for them.

If you are genuinely producing good quality content, you know you are. You've been giving away the farm for years. You've been following the rules, you've been doing everything right, and you're still leaning forward. You're still being innovative, you're still pushing, you're trying to create new types of content, things like that.

You're going to start getting rewarded by watching competition disappear in search, the ones who are really trying to listen to their users in a human way, listen to your actual customers instead of surveys and things like that, have phone calls with them, listen to their pain points and stuff like that.

By listening to that and then producing content, answering questions around it, doing it through social mediums that make the most sense to that audience, you're really going to be rewarded. One example I think of a company that's doing a very good job with that who's always done a very good job with SEO is Sierra Interactive.

Will Reynolds has some really cool projects that he's worked on where they've done very deep, qualitative research into their clients' customer base to get a much better idea of what those customers value, what they're looking for, so that they know what they can provide in terms of content and experience and engagement on the site.

Their clients have been massively rewarded with really good rankings, lots of good traffic, things like that from it.

Kathleen: When you work with clients these days, are there certain things that you see when you go onto a new client's website that are really common items that should be addressed and that have been overlooked?

I'm sure a lot of the companies you're working with have pretty good SEO fundamentals taken care of. They've got their meta titles and descriptions decently well-written. Their image sizes are compressed. I don't know, maybe they're not.

What are the top five things that you're like, "Oh, that again"?

Jeremiah: Yeah. That's a fantastic question.

I've got to be honest, everyone's got a blind spot and nobody sees it better than the third point of view. Sometimes we are just in a beneficial position just because we aren't our client. If anyone was sitting in our position, they would have been better off to hire them as well as us. It doesn't matter.

Just because we're the third point of view and we know what we know, we're able to help them with a lot of the blind spots.

A lot of the stuff that we're seeing is actually stuff that ... well, for example in our industry, we tend to have SaaS companies are really, really good, I think, at simplicity to a large degree.

We work with a lot of SaaS companies who are very lean, very simple, and I love that. They give us a very clean slate to work with. They are minimalist to a large degree. That can hurt you with SEO, but sometimes they understand that all that needs to be there is that which is valuable.

So you look at their blog and you just find, wow, every article is very well-written. They only do one a month, but they're good pieces of content or something like that.

That's not all the time, but what we often see though is that due to that minimalism, they're not honoring other elements that are actually going to serve their business. For example on that well-written blog, there is no way for me to engage deeper with your company or subscribe to your blog or to get some kind of a PDF download or to get something for giving you my email address.

There's no offering, there's no carrot on a stick, there's no foot in the door offer. You're not trying to build a relationship with me, you're just showing me great content.

I appreciate the great content. From an SEO perspective, that's awesome. Once the traffic gets there, what are they going to do? The only other option is for them to just decide, "Well, it's time for me to buy this."

That is, as we know, not the case.

People aren't just going to say "I want to buy this thing" right away, they want to get into a relationship. They want to progressively create buy-in.

What we spend a lot of our times doing is actually suggesting stuff that's not directly related to SEO, but impacts it or impacts the results that make me look good. If I'm bringing traffic to your site but it doesn't move your company's revenue needle at all, you're going to fire us plain and simple.

If instead, the traffic that's coming to your site stays the same and it gets higher quality and that moves your revenue, that looks good on us. If we can bring traffic to the site, it's higher quality traffic, but then we can show you how to convert that traffic into some kind of relationship, marketing or sales relationship, then the conversion rate really improves, then the revenue improves, and we really keep our job for the long haul.

That's what we find ourselves doing most of the time is helping clients equip their sites to actually handle the traffic that we're going to send them. Sometimes by just putting that in place, they start getting conversions and they think we hit a magic button with SEO. We actually didn't do any SEO yet. We were just helping you get your funnels set up and then we're going to start doing the optimization and the improvements.

Kathleen: Got it.

How Will Screenless Voice Search Impact SEO?

Kathleen: Now one of the big changes that I've been watching closely and I'm curious to get your thoughts on is the shift to screen-less search or voice search. I've got an Alexa. I've got actually two. Amazon Echo is in my house. One is called Alexa, one's called Echo.

Jeremiah: Nice.

Kathleen: We had to give them different names, otherwise everything starts going off at once now.

When you think about ... and it's the same with Siri ... when you think about asking a voice search engine a question, really it seems like what we're moving in the direction of is search engines that only deliver one answer as opposed to the SERPs, which have delivered many, many answers and we can scroll through to find the best one.

It feels like we're moving in the direction of letting the search engine do all that vetting and deliver us the one answer.

What are your thoughts on that? How are you preparing your clients for that? What do you think is going to happen in voice?

Jeremiah: Sure. We actually, luckily enough, get hardly anyone asking us about voice search for in regards to our clients asking us "We want to be prepared for voice search." It largely has to do with the industry that we're in. Our clients, there's hardly any commercial interest in voice search whatsoever for our target clientele.

Now if you're out there and you are a pizza shop downtown or you're a restaurant in town or you're an oil change place or a plumber, an air conditioning company, something like that, voice search, I think is actually something you're gonna have to deal with at some point.

And it is going to become more aggressive and there is going to be a future there but I don't think it's quite the final frontier that people that it is.

I don't think that we're going to have a mass exodus from screen engagement into screenless engagement. I think it's just an additional feature, in the same way that the Amazon Kindle is to books. You know, you didn't get rid of books because we have the Kindle. Books still exist. You got a lot there, I got a lot over here, you know?

Kathleen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeremiah: But, I still use my Kindle a lot and I love using my Kindle, it's fantastic. It's a new feature so I think that we need to consider that when we're thinking about voice search, that it is just a new way to search but I don't think it's a replacement for search.

Now, that said, I think that since it's an input, the output is what we're always looking for as searchers. We're looking for the result. Well, is the result that you're looking for, is it contextually relevant to a voice environment or a screen environment?

For example, if I'm looking for E-commerce products, I'm not gonna do that on voice search, unless I know exactly what it is that I was and maybe it's a model number and I rattle it off and my Amazon device verifies that model number, puts it in a shopping cart then I'm fine with that. But even then I still feel a little uncomfortable. I kinda wanna see the picture so I know that it knows what I'm talking about, right?

But when it comes to what time is it, what's the weather like, when is the next full moon, when is Mother's day, things like that, you have a lot less commercial opportunity there, you know? Like what kind of companies could make money off of those searches?

That's what you have to think about and the reason you have to think about that is because search is a money making industry. 98% of Google's market cap is ads wrapped around their search results. It's advertising.

So on a voice search, if I asked for something am I gonna have to hear two or three ads spoken to me before I get to my result? Because if I am I'm not gonna be asking that machine a lot of questions, right? That's gonna drive me nuts. And if I don't hear a bunch of ads then who's making money off of that search, right? So you do have to think about that.

However, pizza shop in town, A/C company, plumber, those kinds of guys I think are gonna have to deal with the fact that a lot of people are gonna start talking to their Amazon devices and using voice search to take care of almost like personal assistant tasks in a way and so that kind of stuff there is commercial intent for.

The pizza shop in town's gonna have to find a way to get into whatever database Amazon considers important or Siri considers important when they go doing those voice searches and getting into those databases and playing with those algorithms because Amazon has usurped Bing and Yahoo as the second largest search engine.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And so they're now up against Google and we have to keep that in mind.

We talk to Google, we talk to Windows machines, Siri machines, Amazon machines. We now have all these new search engines that we get to optimize for based on what industry you're in. But again, I think it all goes back to commercial intent.

Kathleen: Yeah. And side note, if you are an Alexa user, this podcast has an Alexa skill so you can go into the skills in your app and search for "inbound success" and you will find it there, if you want to hear these kinds of conversations once a week coming out of your Alexa.

It's interesting. I don't know how that's going to do. I figured go play around and put it in there but it'll be interesting how many people actually listen to it.

Jeremiah: Yeah.

Kathleen: So I'm curious. In terms of delivering that one result I feel like the corollary on a computer to the voice search is Google Featured Snippets or what people are calling "position zero." Are you working with any clients on how to optimize for the Featured Snippet or for position zero? And also, have you seen your clients lose any organic traffic to position zero?

Jeremiah: Yeah, yeah.

So we've run into some interesting situations with the whole position zero thing. We've had a couple of clients perform well in that space, a couple of pieces of content that we wrote for them got picked and converted into those Featured Snippets and that's always like high fives all around the agency whenever that happens because we're like, "Look at this thing!" because that's completely automatic.

Google is like, "Hey, we will decide if we are going to use that or not." And you really have to throw them something good for them to put it up there because they're trusting you with so much when they just say, "Yeah, here's what this one guy says is the answer to the problem of Google here."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And so that's a big deal but at the same time we're finding that yeah, sometimes we do lose a little traffic to Featured Snippet results but I don't know that it's the best traffic that we're losing. Because, for example, some of our clients are actually, if they're considering, like for example, a SaaS product, they're gonna do a lot of research, they're gonna dig around and they're gonna make a decision after forging a relationship with someone.

That quick little answer may have helped them for a brief moment but if that's all they needed then they're actually not the client that we wanted in our case.

Now that's just us and that's our typical client. That's not everyone. So I totally understand that's not a blanket application there but I would say that, that's something to consider. That's something to keep in mind.

Google ultimately thinks that by providing such a clear, simple result like that, that it's going to help users have better engagement with Google.

But what we also have to keep in mind is how does that serve Google, right? In the long run, the idea there is if we give a good enough experience to the user then they will trust Google more, they'll use Google more and later on they may click an ad.

But it's not all gonna go to this zero search result because if it did then when would people ever click on an ad? And Google would never make money again and now they're a non-profit search engine. That doesn't make sense, right?

Kathleen: Right.

Jeremiah: So I don't see them going that direction either. And I feel like I sound cynical talking about it like this but I just understand the direction of commerce so much that when something like that works well it's almost like a loss leader where they're trying to give us something to keep using Google but they really want us to go click on some ads, you know, once we get there.

Kathleen: Yeah, I mean they're a business too.

Jeremiah: Right.

Kathleen: It's easy to forget that Google's a business too and they are in a competitive landscape and they have to stay on top.

Jeremiah: Right, right.

Kathleen: It makes sense.

Jeremiah: Yup. They're not a free public utility.

Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like I could spend literally hours asking you all of the SEO questions I have in my head that I want answers to but we have limited time and so I wanna make sure that I squeeze in the two questions I always like to ask every guest.

Jeremiah: Sure.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Just to get perspective. So taking a step back, you work with a lot of different companies. You obviously follow a lot of thought leaders online, you mentioned Brian Dean.

Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now? Who would you point to as the best practice?

Jeremiah: I actually have several, to be honest. First of all, I wanna say I genuinely and without patronizing I genuinely think you guys are awesome. I've seen a lot of the work that you guys produce and everything at Impact and I'm blown away at just how simple and clean you guys make things sometimes.

Kathleen: Aw, thank you.

Jeremiah: I like good, clean execution of the inbound marketing methodology and you guys just do a rockstar job of that. It's so cool.

Kathleen: Thank you.

Jeremiah: Kudos to you guys on that.

I think a couple of others that I'm crazy about that kind of come from my SEO industry and just like deep SEO nerds that have over time evolved as leaders, not just in SEO but in marketing in general and I've followed them from day one, would be Distilled and Seer Interactive. I really like what the guys do at those companies.

Distilled, I'm really interested in the fact that they've got this, I think they call it, their optimization distribution network or ODN, and they're constantly using their own artificial intelligence to test their results against Google to see what they're doing for clients works best and then going that direction.

So smart and so brilliant.

Kathleen: Distilled has some pretty cool training programs too you can enroll in online if you wanna learn more.

Jeremiah: Yeah. We've got our team, we have an account with them, Distilled U, and our whole team's gone through. We love Distilled. They're very cool guys. They give away a lot of cool stuff. And I know some people from there too, really good people.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And then Seer Interactive, I really love them. Where Distilled might be that data heavy, data focused kind of side of things - I don't know if you'd call that right brain - Will is almost like the opposite, like left brain. I'm not saying he doesn't use data, he uses data too but he's kind of got this gut and he goes with his gut a lot and you just kind of see his ideas just work and they come off just as well in my opinion as Distilled.

So when I look at the two of them, I'm like, "They're behemoths in my industry." I really love what they're doing, so.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's like how can I combine the two?

Jeremiah: Yeah.

Kathleen: And master the world!

Jeremiah: Right.

Kathleen: I love it.

Jeremiah: Seriously.

Kathleen: Well, those are two really good ones for people to go check out.

Jeremiah: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kathleen: And, you know, what we've talked today, it's such a great example of how quickly digital marketing is changing. I feel its sort of like when you go to the grocery store and they've rearranged the aisles and you don't know where to find the milk.

Jeremiah: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kathleen: I feel like SEO is like that but like, so much faster. It's like they're rearranging the aisles every week or every day.

Jeremiah: Yeah.

Kathleen: How do you stay up to date? How do you educate yourself so you're on top of all that stuff?

Jeremiah: Good question. In every space, everyone always says experience matters the most.

I think in SEO, once you have two or three years under your belt of SEO experience and you stick with it and you just stay with it, you start to pick up the patterns and the trends that make sense ahead of time, where you can see.

That's definitely gonna matter and this is definitely not like what people are talking about over here. It's not a huge concern. And that takes a while to develop that taste and that sense.

When I first got started, Moz was it and back then SEO Moz, they were the ones that I looked to for everything SEO related. Search Engine Land, I followed as the news update there.

And then over time I kind of got used to seeing things on my own that I wasn't as much going outside to get information as I was running our own tests internally and being like, "Well, I know what's happening here. I don't even need to ask someone else about it."

And then I became kind of a thought leader and speaker on it, where now I'm telling people about it so it's a little odd.

So kind of a flip, but I would say pay attention to the common core elements that are important in marketing all the time and you will know what really matters when people starting yelling "the sky is falling, SEO's over, here's the next big thing" and that kind of thing.

You'll know what to do in those moments and you won't have that knee jerk reaction to do every new thing and wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night because you're not using Drift or whatever.

You'll be okay when you figure those core things out.

Kathleen: Yeah. I'm a big fan of - and I'm not a professional SEO, I mean, I need to know about a lot for my job - but I've become a big fan of just reading the Google Webmaster Central blog.

Jeremiah: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kathleen: Just because it's quick, it's easy. They're short posts and if you can keep up with it, it's a great way to just know at least what they're focused on as well.

Jeremiah: Right. And I would say that is definitely Gospel.

Whatever you're hearing what Google is saying, they're usually serious about that and there are a few guys out there who will call them out publicly and say, "That's not what's happening. I got results to prove it."

So if you know those guys and Google Webmaster Central I think you got all your bases covered. You'll be set.

Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like Rand Fishkin is one of those guys.

Jeremiah: He is.

Kathleen: I always feel like he's like "Google, you're not telling the truth."

Jeremiah: Right, right. Yep, I love that about him.

Kathleen: Yeah. Awesome.

Well, this has been so interesting. I love that you came and shared all this knowledge. I'm sure there are going to be people listening who have questions and wanna go deeper into some of this SEO stuff. How can they get in touch with you? What's the best way to find you online?

Jeremiah: Sure, they can shoot me an email at jeremiah@simpletiger.com or they can just check out our website. We've got a lot of content on there. We've got Drift set up, so if you want to start a conversation, we'll be right there. If I'm on Slack that day, I'll answer right away.

But yeah, they can just check us out. We love talking about this stuff and if anybody's interested in just getting a little bit of help or wants to dive in to some of the problems they may be having, then they can get in touch with us for that too.

Kathleen: Great. I'll put those links in the show notes.

Jeremiah: Awesome.

Kathleen: Well, if you're listening and you found value in this interview, please consider giving the podcast a review on iTunes, Stitcher or the platform of your choice. It's super helpful for us in terms of getting in front of new and interested audiences so that's a favor I'm gonna ask if you're a listener.

Go and leave us a five star review and if you know somebody who's doing kick ass inbound marketing tweet me @workmommywork because I'd love to interview them.

And that's it for this week. Thank you so much, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it and I hope I provide a little bit of value here. So thank you for having me.

Kathleen: Oh, definitely. This was fun and I learned a lot.

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