Search the web, and you’ll find heaps of articles on SEO: introductions to SEO, tips and tricks, and more in-depth pieces for those already well-versed in the topic.
But among these, you’ll likely come across a range of myths and mis-truths around best practice approaches. That’s why we sat down with Ify Ugada, Curated Digital’s resident SEO expert, to dispel some of the common myths and share insights on what the future of search looks like for brands and marketers.
What are the biggest misconceptions around SEO?
There are a tonne and I’m sure there are some still yet to be found but these are my top 3:
- SEO is a technical minefield — while SEO does require technical actions which can feel alien to many, experts will tell you they spend more time staying up-to-date with search best practises (adaptive & responsive learning), creating curated strategies for brands and businesses to drive organic traffic (implementation) and most importantly having an objective view on key accounts to monitor campaign performance (analysis).
- SEO can be condensed into a checklist — this is a misconception stemming from the early days when search engines worked by trying to return the closest matching files to a user’s query. Back then there wasn’t close to a 10th of the search volume most search engines get today and users weren’t reliant on search engines for their finances and health. So having a checklist only narrows down your team’s objective view on a given account — it’s worth noting that a list can be useful when covering technical requirements but that is only one aspect of SEO.
- Many still believe ‘rankings are everything’ — urgh! This stems from the siloed nature SEO tends to play within digital marketing which treats SEO as a means to an end — “let’s get this page to rank #1 and we will be swimming in cash” (Wrong!). Unfortunately, (or rather fortunately) users are far more knowledgeable and expect more so it takes a lot more than ranking #1 to convince them to buy. Top rankings are just a piece in the overall puzzle of meeting a goal. If anything, they hold a strategic role of meeting a user at various stages of their search journey.
What’s changed? What’s new in the world of SEO?
Well, quite simply, the customer has been empowered. With faster devices and ‘unrestricted’ access to information, the customer now gets real-time info on brands and a single tweet can bring brands crashing down. This has forced businesses to adopt a customer-first approach to marketing which is amazing and has led to truly innovative SEO strategies ~ also BERT happened which puts sentiment analysis and user search intent up there with page speed and internal linking.
Tell us more about BERT
BERT is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) training. In plain English, it can be used to help Google better discern the context of search queries.
BERT is a powerful open-source technique used for training and analysing data. It was so revolutionary Facebook couldn’t keep their hands away and created their own version (RoBERTa). For us SEOs and search marketers, the answer to BERT lies in entities, sentiment analysis, and user search intent.
Entities: These are real-world objects, such as persons, locations, and organisations which are meaningful to a given topic. Running any piece of text into the free Google NLP tool will extract the entities within your text. (Note: Google relies on existing information to correctly identify these entities so the less well-known an entity, the less accurate the tagging. Also, the tool is still in early stages so there might be some slight errors — but that’s what we perfect humans are here for.)
Sentiment analysis: This is purely the context in which a term (entity) is used, which can be positive, negative, or neutral.
This is the in-house psychologist every digital marketer needs because it identifies the emotional tone behind words and phrases. This can provide insights on how people feel about a brand, product, or specific topic. You can use this info to improve customer satisfaction, influence product development, expand brand awareness … the list goes on.
User search intent: Google understands that the intent of a user’s search journey at any given time can be informational, navigational, or transactional. So to serve the right content and provide the best service to users, Google matches keywords and phrases to one of these types of search intents.
A user searching for “what” and “how” questions is very likely in the informational stage of their journey, so it’s beneficial to align your content strategy to provide informational content, and vice versa.
How do you stay updated within a fast-paced and ever-changing industry?
The team at Curated are a close and collaborative group of specialists so the insight and knowledge I gain on a daily basis is immeasurable. Most digital marketing teams are starting to adopt a multi-channel approach to their operations so my advice would be monthly catch-ups where each channel gets to share their top 5 findings or updates within their vertical because a holistic understanding of your customers makes for more successful products and robust services across the board.
I have adopted the mindset of a specialised generalist. My background is technically rooted but I like to acquire knowledge on anything from UX to AI and even video editing — so Youtube, Coursera, and Google’s Digital Garage should be in every marketer’s bookmarks. Innovation is key here so the more diverse your skills and experiences are, the more value you can bring to your team and projects.
What advice would you give someone trying to improve their SEO right now?
Do not just focus on SEO in silo to your other channels. Focus on your strengths and combine this with new skills that complement those within your team. Most websites come ‘SEO ready’ and there are many SEO tools that can find broken links, hreflang errors, and some even provide SERP features for a given keyword (I know, crazy!). Tools will only get better and are great at specialising, but we have the objective advantage.
We are moving away from using ‘SEO’ as a catch-all at Curated. We understand that technical SEO plays a crucial role and insights collected can inform the adopted strategy for a project. So here is the roadmap to a technical framework I’ve been working on which outlines the underlying technical structure that ties most marketing channels together — allowing for transparency, accountability, and measurable insights to take centre stage amongst a unified workflow.
If you want to learn more about Ify’s approach to SEO, or want to talk strategy with him or any of the Curated team, you can get in touch at our website: curated-digital.com