After months of researching SEO, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I’m getting there. It’s more that just “Search Engine Optimization”. SEO is a vast dimension in a way. It’s consumer analysis, creativity and ingenuity.
Speaking with experts like Carlton Smith and Elizabeth Ann Lowder helped me greatly. In fact, here is an interview I conducted with Carlton Smith.
1. Basic background info: Carlton R. Smith, 44, Owner, Flagstone Search Marketing, Bachelor of Arts, University of Alabama (English/Journalism)
2. Define SEO in your own words. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process by which search engines match the most relevant content to search queries.
3. Can you give me a brief crash course in SEO lingo? What are the top five terms worth knowing? High DA Link Building or high domain authority link building. This is getting links from quality sites. A website with a high DA is something like Forbes, CNN, or Huffington Post. Obviously, these links are coveted, so companies must work hard to have a credible website and link-worthy content, otherwise they are not going to get them. CRO – Conversion Rate Optimization. Put simply: the process of getting people to take an action on your website such as a purchase for e-commerce or filling out a contact form for local businesses. This also includes many other metrics you’ll find in Google Analytics – bounce rate, time on site, page views per visitor – that Google already knows about your website, thus, it’s important to pay attention to them. If you have a high bounce rate and short time on site, your website has a conversion problem. CTR or Click-Through Rate. This is the rate at which your website appears in search results and how many times it’s clicked upon. A website with a low CTR is appearing but not being click on, therefore, rewriting its meta tags should be a top priority. PPC/SEM Pay Per Click or Search Engine Marketing. This represents paid search. It is a very important part of SEO as for just about all of my clients, I also run PPC campaigns. With Google constantly changing its algorithm, it’s important to also run a paid campaign for very important keywords. My company slogan is, “Plant your flag on Page 1.” The reason for that is that a company must be on page one of search results, and preferably closes to the top; that is where most of the traffic resides.
4. How has the landscape of SEO changed since you’ve been in the industry? Short answer – a significant amount! In the “old days” 1995-2003, it was possible to simply stuff the meta keywords field with keywords and your website would easily appear for those search terms, even if the website’s content was somewhat irrelevant. What we now call “black hat” techniques (strategies designed specifically to game search engines) also worked with ease. These included link building i.e. links from other websites. In those days, it was quantity over quality. One could easily and cheaply build hundreds, if not thousands, of links per month from any number of low-quality, “link farm” websites. Now, it’s quality over quality. I would rather spend two months obtaining one high DA link than obtain 50 low DA (or “toxic” links). About the only SEO tactic that remains relevant from the old days is on-site optimization. This is paying attention to meta contents such as title tags, meta descriptions, image tags, and of course, and heading tags.
5. What’s your favorite search engine and why? Google and it’s not even close. Google took over the search market for a few reasons, the top of them being : 1) speed, results are returned very quickly – this was a big deal a decade ago, not so much today as most the other engines are reasonably quick now. 2) simplicity – the results are displayed in an easily consumable fashion. 3) search algorithm. google basically pioneered a way to rank pages to return more relevant (and more accurately stated, prevalent) results than other engines. They did this by ranking pages based off other pages linking to that page and calculating a score based off that. I.e. if you have a lot of popular sites linking to your page, then your page is considered more relevant for that keyword or term.
6. How important is it for a journalist to be knowledgeable in SEO? Very important. Why? Because any journalist wants his/her content to be found and read.
7. What direction do you see SEO going in the future? Mobile devices and voice search have already changed SEO a great deal in the last few years. Probably the next cutting edge is AI or Artificial Intelligence. Google’s RankBrain is able to apply this knowledge of connections to decipher long-winded queries that it’s never seen before. Google Search receives lots of queries per day – 3 billion, in fact. 450 million of those are queries that no one has ever asked Google before. How is it going to give you accurate results? The first step is making a connection between that query and a simpler, related query. One example Google gave where machine learning is helping out is “what’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of the food chain.”
8. What are some things you’d warn people of in SEO? What do people get too caught up on? People can over complicate it in my opinion. Google’s mission is to connection users with the highest-quality content as quickly as possible. That is why I think it’s most important for websites and publications to focus on doing just that. SEO should be less about the search engines and more about the human audience driving it. A quality piece of content is going to clicked on, read, shared (on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit) and be linked to by high DA websites like Forbes, CNN, or Huffington Post, thus satisfying all the quality metrics Google wants to see
— As you can see, Carlton provided me with the ins and outs of SEO, and it was greatly appreciated. Being such a busy individual, I was glad we were able to chat and he helped me better understand SEO as a I move forward in my graduate studies and professional future.
What about the future of SEO? As of now, brand building is incredibly important. Google’s knowledge graph is progressing, and it is attempting to organize global info and increase its accessibility. The goal for Google is to get a better grasp on semantics and overall user experience in the future. The future is bright for SEO, and I am glad that I was able to learn from some of the best in the business.