In Search [Episode 42]: A Behind the Scenes Look at SEO Consultancy
September 3, 2019 |
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Summary of Episode 42: The In Search SEO Podcast
Do not blink because we have the industry’s fastest and brightest here for you today… the one, the only Aleyda Solis
will join us to talk all about SEO consultancy!
- Why SEO consultants should specialize
- How to build a healthy working relationship with SEO clients
- How to bring true value to your clients
Plus, zero-click searches... are they really the end of the world? And no, Featured Snippets are not the great savior, so what is?
Why Zero-Click Searches Are Not the Enemy [00:03:06 - 00:20:11]
This week we want to talk about a major topic grappling the SEO community: The real impact of zero-click searches. We all saw the data from Rand Fishkin and Jumpshot that more than 50% of searches do not result in a click
. We even talked about it here on the podcast a few weeks ago
. Mordy has been thinking a lot about this, particularly about people’s reactions. While Mordy has in the past been very outspoken about Google’s walled garden and its use of SERP features to target users and keep them within the ecosystem, today he’s pulling back a bit.
For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember Napster, Napster was the first website where you could pirate music. It was the advent of downloading a song and not the entire album. This made albums far less profitable than they were previously. In fact, artists now spend more time touring as there’s more money to be made on tours than in selling albums.
What does this have to do with SEO? It brings us the lesson that content is always changing. The type of content we consume and how we consume it is one of the most elastic things on the planet. Think about it, TV killed off radio shows, Netflix killed Blockbuster, and so on and so on. The same can be said for web content, it’s changing too. Yet, we in SEO balk at the notion that web content is changing, we refuse to go with the flow.
Sports scores, today’s weather, movie release dates, this isn’t content that you can create nowadays and expect to get traffic as Google displays these in their Direct Answer snippets. And it’s true, web content is changing and as technology evolves, particularly machine learning, the way we consume content on the web is changing as well. Yes, it’s easy to see that Google has helped facilitate that for sure, but that’s just what it is, it’s the natural evolution of content. The point is web content has changed. The form of content users expect to see when clicking to a site has changed as top-level information is not meant for websites anymore when search engines have got that covered.
So instead of freaking out about how Google is stealing clicks, we should instead focus on where the future of web content is headed and that’s with deep, comprehensive content. If you’re creating a page on George Washington’s history, don’t include just a few facts, you should really get into it. To the point when a user searches for George Washington’s birthday, sees the Direct Answer and wants to learn more, your site will satisfy them. Don’t be that site that lists the weather forecast. Be the site that shows historical trends with tons of data, all of it analyzed.
Deep analysis, that’s what Google can’t afford its users with. This is the future of web content. Trying to solve the zero-click search dilemma with, "Just target the Featured Snippets,” is a last-ditch effort to try to get visitors to your site via top-of-the-funnel, top-level sort of content.
Users are looking for something deeper, that quest will only grow as time goes on. Yes, we've lost top-level content, but that’s just the evolution of content. So unless you advocate we go back to hour-long radio shows by Orson Welles, let’s take advantage of the new web by aligning to what users expect from clicked content! Zero-click is just a sign to tell us what content to move on from and move on to.
SEO Consultancy from A to Z: A Conversation with Aleyda Solis [00:20:11 - 01:11:49]
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Welcome to another In Search SEO Interview Session. I’m so excited because I have my favorite SEO speaker with us today. She has won all sorts of search awards and is renowned
within the industry the world over. She is the "it" SEO consultant
. She is the host of the Crawling Mondays video series
... she is Aleyda Solis
Thank you for the kind words. I’m very excited to be here.
So I’m having you on only because I felt I needed to talk to the only person on the planet who talks faster than I do!
You know, as English is not my native language, I do try to speak slower so people can understand me. I actually speak faster in Spanish.
Really? That’s amazing.
We’re here to talk about SEO consultancy. Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, what is an SEO consultant vs. an in-house SEO team or an SEO agency?
An SEO agency will usually focus on organic search as they don’t do PPC or social. They’ll focus on technical SEO, link building, everything related to SEO. But in my case, as an SEO consultant, I work more on the overall process and I would identify the reason why the client is not ranking and we will establish and develop, for example, a link building strategy that makes sense to them. However, implementing the link building is not something that I will do myself, others will do that.
The thing is usually my clients already have an in-house SEO team and they will hire me for specific challenges like a site migration or even just a validation, a double check, from an external source.
For an SEO consultant, our unique selling point is that it's not that we are going to provide everything, but that we will be able to work along with the client, help the client dig deeper, and develop specific actions to overcome certain specific challenges within SEO.
That’s really interesting. So you don’t recommend being a generalist in the area of SEO consultancy?
It really depends on the company. There’s a difference between smaller and bigger companies. Smaller companies usually don’t have any SEO established which is great that there’s a lot of flexibility, but you need to provide everything for them. They usually don’t have an internal copywriter or PR and you will need to do everything by yourself. So for those companies, an SEO agency will be more fitting as they provide that start, the fundamental pillars of organic search presence. When the business grows and more complex situations and challenges arise, then it makes more sense to hire a specific, more specialized help with much more experience in certain areas.
You mention complexity so what if you’re a generalist or in a niche and you come across an issue that’s way too specific or not in your area of expertise, what do you do?
What usually happens is I’m brought in to solve a problem and let’s say I’ll identify that one of the reasons why their ranking is lacking is because a certain type of page really needs to feature more content. In this case, we will agree that they need to hire a content writer to create content as this is something that I don’t provide. If they don’t have a content writer, I’ll be happy to refer them to someone I know. I’m always happy to refer to other people, other consultancies, and other agencies.
That’s an interesting way to frame that the role of a consultant... to identify problems. We usually think of consultants to fix and improve things. Do you really think the main thing a consultant brings to the table is the ability to aptly identify the right problems to focus on?
It’s also about fixing the issues.
Right, I mean the real foundational value. Where does it all come from?
I think the problem with SEO is when the client hires us and gives us some goals and we’re asked to achieve just by guessing. I don't think that’s necessarily realistic and reasonable. What I like is when goals are set, but only after we validate there’s flexibility, if there are resources, if it really makes sense from a business perspective for the client, if it aligns with their values, and if it aligns with the brand. If there's alignment in general then there's a good fit. Only once the best actions are validated to be consistent with what the client wants is when we are going to set the goals. I think it’s very important that we work hand to hand with the client who hires us and I think our responsibility as consultants is to make sure first that there's an actual fit with the type of challenges that they have, that we can provide values.
My goal as a consultant is not only to identify the issue but to deliver the results. How do you deliver results? By validating and checking that there’s an actual alignment and that it’s possible to develop it all. And I’m afraid that sometimes there's no validation or the people who are working in the SEO process don't feel that they have the capacity or influence to say to the client, "Look sorry, but that doesn't make sense” or "Sorry, but if you don't give us this, we are not going to be able to achieve this desired goal that we agreed with.” These are the ideal actions to prioritize and if you say that these are not possible, that you don't have the capacity and you won't even allow us to provide this for ourselves then we cannot commit for this to happen.
Just to clarify, our goal as consultants is to help our clients achieve their goals. That is our goal. On many occasions, those goals are not achieved because there's not a good fit for what we can provide and the needs of the client.
You took the words right out of my mouth. It’s got to be scary at some points when you give these recommendations to clients and how they will take it. If they will say, "Whoa. Slow down.” It’s got to be a little nerve-wracking, no?
This is why it is important that there are good expectations. This is the first conversation that I have with clients at the beginning: "Tell me what you want to achieve, what are your goals, who are your competitors?” And then you check if this is really realistic based on the current situation of the client and the available resources and the time that the client expects to achieve results.
And after you validate this, you come back to the client and say, "Look, sorry, but it's not realistic that you expect this type of goal because your situation is this and you're available resources are this. Even if everything goes well, we’re going to need a certain amount of time to develop all of these things.”
What I usually do is ask, "What is your development capacity from an accounting perspective, clinical perspective, and PR perspective? Do you launch every two weeks? Do you launch every week? How many resources do you have?” I will take all that into consideration when I propose the ideal recommendations.
There must be so much that goes into understanding the client, understanding the brand, what the brand likes, what works for the brand, etc. It seems like there’s so much work on the backend of being a consultant that you don’t see. It sounds like so much of the work is really way before and really understanding of who you’re dealing with.
I believe that many SEO processes don't achieve results, unfortunately, because we don't work alongside the client as we should. Sometimes this comes from a difference in the way they work, especially in bigger companies. Things like bureaucracy, lack of communication, organizational silos, things like that. So with bigger companies, the most important thing is to have a good project management setting. It's about following certain good practices, always make sure that there is full communication, that that there's alignment, that the client is understanding why is this happening, and that they are happy that sometimes they cannot have it all.
How does it work though when you totally disagree with the client? When they don’t listen to your recommendations is there a certain point where you say I can’t continue or do you just do what the client wants and roll with the punches?
That’s the beauty of being your own boss. One of the reasons why I decided to be a consultant instead of someone working at an agency was because of the fact that I wasn't the agency owner I couldn’t take the opportunity of firing the client and telling the client we need to stop working together because I cannot help you to achieve your goal as it’s not doable or reasonable.
At the end of the day, it’s all about communication. Trust in SEO is very important. Giving SEOs the flexibility of resources, that things need to be done for results, and also to lower people's expectations on goals, what can be achieved, and expectations in general.
Of course, I have been in these situations. I hate these scenarios because I still feel a bit that it has been a failure on my part because I wasn't able to validate my goals which is why the validation at the beginning is very important for me. Neither of us wants to be wasting time or resources. But yes, these situations happen. It's normal. Even if you try to control it and validate and minimize those situations, they will end up happening.
It’s a funny thing, human nature. Most of the time it’s really no one’s fault, but we always have this feeling that we failed in some way.
Yeah, you do feel bad at first because it didn’t play out the way you expected. Then again, you do learn from it and you take what you learned with you.
Let’s jump to the "agency’s perspective.” If you’re an SEO agency, at what point do you stop and say, "Okay, I need to bring in an outside consultant?” How do you know it’s time to bring a consultant in?
SEO agencies will hire specific consultants because they are going through, let's say a migration or rebranding. They are going through certain challenges and they understand that sometimes those types of much more specific challenges require a much more in-depth approach. Some agencies are able to handle some of these cases. The reason they hire a consultant is not necessarily because they are not able to do it themselves, it might be a topic they’ve been out of the loop for a while. There are many different factors which I’ve seen in the past. It's not that companies are trying to move away from agencies. They have agencies but for certain situations, they will go to smaller consultancies for specific help on something.
Optimize It or Disavow It
If you could either offer an SEO team really actionable and highly practical tips versus some really solid SEO theory that they could take and apply as they see fit… which would you offer?
Realistically, I’m all for actionability. So if I had to choose I would go with the actionable and make sure that the actions are implemented and validated.
Thank you so much for coming and joining us today!
Thank you, Mordy. I really enjoyed it.
SEO News [01:12:46 - 01:16:32]
Google My Business Adds New Services:
Google My Business is letting some businesses specify what services they actually offer
which should help them rank better for local searches related to those very services!
No Problem with Multiple Types of Markup:
Did you know that Google has no issue with you using multiple forms of markup
on one page? Now you do!
Exact Size Search Tool Has Been Removed by Google:
Google has removed the exact size search tool
from Image Search.
Bing is Offering Google Integration:
Some weird Bing harmony going on. Bing says you can now verify sites with Google’s Search Console
- This allows you to use your Search Console verification for Bing Webmaster Tools AND you can import your Google My Business listings
directly into Bing Places!
Fun SEO Send-Off Question [01:16:32 - 01:20:25]
If Google were a fast-food chain which one would it be?
Sapir chose In-N-Out Burger. No deep explanation, just that sometimes you’re IN the SERP and sometimes you’re OUT. Also, good burgers.
Mordy chose Howard Johnson's, a restaurant chain that Mordy remembers from his childhood. He recalls how the chain closed down unexpectedly, a shock to everyone, and compares that to Google. Even though Google is gargantuan now, there’s no guarantee it will still be in the future.
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast