Every month, InLinks CEO Dixon Jones is joined by producer David Bain and a panel of digital marketing experts to deep dive into a single question on “The Knowledge Panel”. Join the show live over on YouTube and have your chance to ask the audience or line up the shows on your favourite Podcast system.

Recent and upcoming shows

What does it take to be a success with international SEO in 2021? Is HREFLANG still king or are there other key elements to optimizing your site/s around the world? And what about countries where Google isn’t the leading search engine? Are other search engines looking for something else entirely?

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Joining David Bain to discuss that on episode 15 of the Knowledge Panel show is Aleyda Solis from Orainti, Michael Bonfils from SEM International and Motoko Hunt from AJPR.

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What link building strategies work best in 2021? What link building strategies used to work but aren’t a good idea nowadays? Those are just 2 of the questions covered in the Knowledge Panel Show – Episode 14.

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Joining Dixon Jones on this month’s show are Judith Lewis from DeCabbit, Jonny Ross from Fleek and Bibi Raven from BibiBuzz.

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Are you struggling with getting the most out of your SEO team? Maybe you’ve recently moved into an SEO team management role and your wondering how you can be as effective as possible? Perhaps you’re an agency owner and you’d like to improve your operation. If the above interested you, make sure you tune into this month’s episode of the Knowledge Panel!

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Dixon Jones is joined by Aiala Icaza González (SEO Director at Reflect Digital), Helen Pollitt (SEO Team Manager at iTech Media), Si Shangase (Havas Media Group) and Laura Hogan (Owner, Sweet Digital Marketing Agency).

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What does best-practice local SEO look like in 2021? What platforms do you need to be on and how do you maximize the impact of your local search presence today?

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Joining Dixon to discuss that on June the 21st at 4pm BST is Greg Gifford, Colan Nielsen, Joy Hawkins and Jason Brown.

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What immediate advantages have big brands got over small brands when it comes to SEO? Has keyword strategy changed for big brands over the past few years – if so, how? What are some of the biggest SEO challenges for big brands?

Those are just 3 of the questions we’re asking this month’s panel – joining Dixon Jones are Martin MacDonald from MOG Media, Turgay Akar from PlayStation and Luis Rodriguez from Uber.

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What are the main SEO challenges associated with startups? As a startup, how do you compete with Goliath-sized pre-existing brands that currently dominate the SERP? How do you make an impact when your budget is lower, your team is smaller and your domain is less authoritative? Those are some of the topics that Dixon Jones in episode 10 of the Knowledge Panel with Fabrizio Ballarini from Wise, Hellen Benavides from giffgaff and Kerstin Reichert from Tide.

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Want to Read Instead? Here is the Transcript

Dixon: Hi, everyone. Hello, and welcome to The Knowledge Panel episode 10: SEO for Startups. And I’m really pleased to say that the panel I’ve got today, I think, is ideal for this particular topic, SEO for Startups, because we’ve got three really quite well-known challenger brands that have disrupted their industry sectors since they’ve come into the world. And so having SEO managers from those businesses are absolutely great. So we’re gonna dive in and ask these people to introduce themselves and start with…well, I’m just gotta prove guys that I can pronounce names, and then you can laugh at me when I can’t pronounce them. So we have Hellen Benavides, Fabrizio Ballarini and Kerstin Reichert. And if I’ve got those right, you can…if I got those wrong, you can laugh at me. But, you know, why don’t you guys introduce yourself. So Hellen, who you are and where do you come from?

Hellen: Well, I am SEO manager for Giffgaff. I’ve been working for Giffgaff for the last seven years. So pretty much since the start, always on content and now natural move to SEO.

Dixon: And if there are people out there in markets that don’t know Giffgaff it’s disruptive brand in the telephone… So basically a mobile phone provider and completely disrupted the market with non-long term contracts, I think is a fair bit. Fabrizio, who you are and where do you come from, sir?

Fabrizio: Well, I’m obviously Italian, right? I don’t have many options with such a name, and I work at Wise. I’ve been at Wise for the past six years, and I joined as the first SEO-ish to be in the team. So I’ve been seeing a lot of things happening from where we just launched the website to where we are today. So that’s…and I’m still doing that to some extent. So that’s my line…

Dixon: And for those who don’t know Wise, are you allowed to see what it used to be called, or are you banned from saying that loud?

Fabrizio: Actually, I’m forcing myself or, like, trying to not call it TransferWise very odd because, obviously, I have six years’ worth of history on this. Yeah, like, we just rebranded, like, few months ago, from TransferWise to Wise, and, you know, that’s why these days we are Wise, but most of you probably know us as TransferWise, right?

Dixon: And if you haven’t used Wise, or then you know… If you wanna transfer money between countries, I use it all the time, and we use it to pay people around the world, it’s fantastic. So it really disrupted the, you know, FX industry, I’d say. Kerstin, who are you and where do you come from?

Kerstin: Hello, everyone. I am Kerstin. I am originally from Germany, but I’m in the UK now. And I work at Tide as the senior SEO manager or basically as the SEO department. I’ve been there for a little over two years. That’s mainly where the SEO journey started. So I’m really excited to be there and see what else is gonna happen with the company as we’re fairly new still.

Dixon: Yeah, and I’ve got at least two Tide accounts as well. So if you want a bank account, particularly if you’re from abroad, trying to get a bank account in the UK, the interesting thing about Tide is they kind of have really taken prepaid credit cards to its extreme, I’d say. It’s, you know, not quite fully FCS regulated yet but pretty darn close, and the apps and stuff are released to us. So definitely a big disruptor in the market.

Firstly, thank you very much for coming on, guys. You know, your big successes in the startup world, I would say, you know, for most of us that are startups, we can only dream of being, you know, a Tide or a Giffgaff or a Wise. So I wanna start with really the basic question. What are the big SEO challenges associated with startups in general? What things do you think startups…problems startups face that other businesses that have been around for a long time don’t face? So I don’t know who wants to head that one off. I’ll pick on someone then. Fabrizio, you can.

Fabrizio: I can start. I think that, like…

Dixon: Or even Fabrizio, sorry.

Fabrizio: It’s fine. Like, usually people can be Fab so at the third letter, you get it…

Dixon: I will do that now.

Fabrizio: Yeah. So I think the general problem that like is common among all startups, whether you’re a, you know, super well-funded company or whether you’re, like, a company that you’re starting in your bedroom is time, right? And this is…the timing in both sense of figuring out what to do first and what to prioritize and second is time to, you know, the clock ticking or your business becoming an actual business? And I think, like, that’s definitely the thing that we, you know, even though in our case, when we launched the SEO program, the company was already five years in, right? Into the business with…we already had, like, a funding, yet you still have limited time, you know? And I think that’s generally the biggest problem, as in figuring out what to do first, how to measure it, and, like, how to pick up from there.

Because definitely, I guess from, like, established brands, there’s a little bit less luxury of, like, what you can try and wait, right? There’s okay, if in an established brand if for a couple of quarters things don’t move, if you’re in a fast-moving startup, is unlikely that is okay that you spend like months without not much happening, right? So I think this is definitely the biggest challenge. Even though from a resource perspective, you tend to be a bit more agile, right? Like, it’s a bit faster to get things done. But then time and people, right? We should build on that to begin with is definitely the hardest thing to fix.

Dixon: So balancing resource and focus to sum that up is you think, is…

Fabrizio: Yeah, exactly. Even though you have unlimited money, I don’t think that can fix it either in a way that it takes time to hire the right people, to find them, convince them to join, early days to convince someone to actually join us to come in and build the team with us was not an easy thing to do. So, like, the second person that I had was like an ex-colleague, which I texted on WhatsApp. And then from there, I had to spend a lot of time on LinkedIn telling people, we are TransferWise, this is what we do, would you like to join us? This is how we work, as opposed to you know, people wanting to join other brands that is a bit easier to understand what their company is about, you know, it’s a bit less risky as well. So I think that’s definitely important, yeah.

Dixon: Hellen, Kerstin, any other challenges for startups, with small start-ups?

Hellen: Absolutely. I mean, we’re still not in, like, super early stages, but still early stages. So, I agree with Fab there that time is a massive constraint, because there’s so much you can do, which is also a good thing. Because you can be you know, very creative and basically, whatever you want to do, people will trust you and you can do it. So there’s a lot of scope, but that also means you really really have to become very good at prioritizing. Things move incredibly fast. So, yeah, definitely time, then unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited resources, sounded great, what Fab said there. I think in my case, it’s slightly different. So I am quite limited in, you know, other people’s capacity that I need to get things done. And also budget-wise, of course, we are well funded, and there is budget to go around. But I feel like being at a startup is just, you really have to squeeze as much as possible out of every single pound that you spend, whereas when I worked with bigger companies, that was not quite the case. I guess you had a bit more, you know, I guess you have flexibility in your budget.

Hellen: I agree. Yeah, limited resources, limited budget, and competing priorities in the business with especially with SEO are the challenges up till now, I would say. The way the business can be different is how you are going to rank, at least on Google, on the how you can differentiate your business, this differential point will be the key to get some ranking and traffic I believe for startups.

Dixon: So I think that brings naturally onto the next thing, it’s how the heck are we going to compete with Goliaths, like, you know, the Barclays or the Vodafone or, you know, or, whoever may be your competitor in your world. If you’re a startup by definition, there’s probably gonna be an incumbent or many in there that are gonna be hugely more powerful. So how do you go about making that differentiation? You know, how do you pitch your business so that it is different to other people? So you’ve got some chance in SEO at all? Is that done by you guys or is that fed down from top brass or, you know, because a lot of us as SEOs don’t necessarily have a top brass, we are the SEO. We are the CEO.

Fabrizio: Yeah, I think I can probably go again. I think is definitely a challenge when we first look at one of our direct competitor. They are the equivalent of links as Wikipedia, probably. So, it’s probably not a good strategy to try to beat a couple of links and figure out how you can beat them, right? But at the same time, over time, you know, your profile grows and things happen. So on this point, I was watching, like, it was an interview somewhere from like Kevin Indig a while ago, and he was mentioning, like, it wasn’t necessarily related to startups, but I think on this is very important not to take the same approach, like, like-for-like in every company, right?

So, if you work in a startup that is building Facebook v2 or booking v2, probably you just need to focus on getting the technical things right and then the product will scale pages and content and everything, right? If you’re working on a startup, where there’s no actual front-facing product that get indexed and then get searched, probably you have challenging building landing pages content, or maybe, like, do a blog or long-form content. I think different businesses they’ve got different challenges. And I think the most important that’s what eventually we decided early days is not to try to outlink these people, because it’s not possible on day one, even though we are, you know, a relatively popular startup, we get a lot of press coverage, like, we are in the…at some point, when we first launched, we had, like, a lot of coverage, really a lot of coverage, but it was still nowhere near comparable to anything like that.

And so I think in our case, we decided to, you know, become a bigger brand by building a lot of content and pages and at the search presence that would allow you with time to gain authority, but then equally, you know, not all startups they mean to compete with massive site out there, maybe we just focus in on a very narrow set of keywords, and then you want to take a slightly different approach.

I mean, the important thing is not to do, like, you know, by-the-book play, where you say, okay, I do a bit of technical work, a bit of content and a bit of links, and let’s hope that next month, we’ll do the same and they will go well. Because I don’t think it’s likely that all these things can go well, because you don’t have the team to do it, your website is not an authoritative website to do all these things in one go. So I think that’s the I guess, like, biggest challenge if you wanna face big brands. But we did manage to outrank some of them with time, right? So it’s not impossible. It’s just is, you know, like, if you’re relentlessly focusing, it’s not impossible, it’s just short term is right, that you have limited chances to compete or maybe should pick a fight on just one area, right?

Dixon: Hellen and Kerstin, any other ideas for differentiation?

Hellen: I don’t think, not on differentiation, but I do think in some things, you need to go by the book to start with, for example, the technical part of the website to get it right, to build the website on good technical foundations, to be able to scale, to grow, and take into account that your website in some years won’t be a mess. So this, I think is important to get right from the start. And then it’s the differential parts of the business that are creating quality content, comparing to all the other big brands. This will also help.

Kirsten: Yeah. I think also, it’s not necessarily just the big brands or your direct competitors, right? Because from a business point of view, you might have your top three or top five set competitors, but from an SEO point of view, you actually have a lot more competitors, because you’re competing for different areas, you’re competing with content, not only with your core product. And so I think it’s crucial that you don’t I guess try to mimic what everyone else is doing, just focus on what you’re really, really good at and do that very well. And then yeah, again, its short term is difficult, but you have to build it over time.

Fabrizio: If I could add one second from Hellen’s points. Picking the right technical setup to begin with is really crucial in future. I was thinking now, like, we changed domain five, six years into this. If when I joined we wouldn’t have got the right folder structure or a bunch of these things that we would have had to change at some point and then change domain and, like, I think some choices I think you have to remember that you have to stick them on the wall for a long time, and you don’t want to keep changing them, right? Like, at least, you know, the longer they are out and they’re wrong, the painful they’re gonna get, right, with time.

Hellen: Exactly.

Fabrizio: Yeah, I think some of these things definitely you don’t have to forget them because, yeah. When I first joined someone was about to launch countries on subdomains and they were very weird instruction that I had to stop on my first week. So, like, sometimes you have to make these calls and, like, not be popular, but it’s important, right? Because long term, you don’t wanna go down that path, right? Maybe…

Hellen: If possible to start with the right technical foundations if you have resources and budget, I would advise to get the fundamentals correct. For example, we started with our no-contract theme, was our only offer, and now the website’s real. And we have phones and many other offers, and the website should be fit to follow this growth. This will be ideally the thing to do. Yeah.

Dixon: And I think from the point of view of well, yeah, so the technical bit, really, really important, and if you haven’t got the funds, I think WordPress is still a good place to start. Myself, I mean, I think of a lot of businesses can do quite well with WordPress design well. I know a lot of small businesses seem to be jumping over to Wix now as well, but and if you’re a small, small business, I’m not talking about you guys, because you guys have got online, you know, parts that need to go sort of beyond the WordPress as well. But, you know, WordPress still is a hot favorite amongst SEOs for sure as a technology, but it still needs to be set up right and it still needs to be set up properly. So you can disagree as well.

But I wanna…going over to the, to the product differentiation bit, I mean, the way that, you know, InLinks did it was…I mean, we’re competing, theoretically. Say well, we kinda compete with all of your favorite tools guys, say, and all of the Ahrefs and the SEMrushes and all the other tools, but so we had to kind of say, well, I’m not gonna do that, and so entity SEO was our kind of approach. Because that was what was different for our world, and trying to look at the world from a topic point of view instead of from a QR point of view. And we’re kind of getting there now, you know, so entity SEO as a concept is becoming more well known.

And then we’re in a much smaller field, and I’d rather my chances talking, I think I can try to get to the top of entity SEO than anything that SEMrush is gonna fight me with because they’re big and they’ve just gone public. So, they made it and I’m… Okay, guys. So, getting that technical stuff, it’s great. What else can we do to differentiate ourselves from the competition? What about local stuff? Is that a way for a bricks-and-mortar business, perhaps not one of you like yourselves, but, you know, how can we use Google Local or local business, Google My Business, those kinds of things? Does that help a small business stand out and how do we set ourselves up on that path? Fabrizio, do you wanna jump in again?

Fabrizio: Yeah. We don’t have like physical branches, right? We don’t have shops, right? But we do have offices, right? We have our, like, customer partners, not customers, right? But partners and other people come through. Another bit that when people think local, like one part probably if you have a physical business, definitely there is the, you know, the Google My Business part that you can spend time on. The other bit that it’s very easy to, like, scale and, like, is relatively low internal resources is to think about local within your product, right? And figuring out even within your website, which local variants of your product exist, if they exist, and I guess in our case, we deal with currencies between countries, but even in that situation, we have like banks with the branch and chords and a lot of different, like, setup that are still suited to, like, having local landing pages, right?

So it’s not just about…one side you have the My Business part, but on the other side is the local when it comes to, like, more tailored, like, content or landing pages that your customer might be looking at, which is very simple to iterate on. Because the day you find that this type of article works in one city, right? To convert a customer it’s likely that is gonna work in another city. The only difference is you’re gonna reuse the same brief, the same template or the same, like, setup, you’re just gonna tailor the content, right? And customize maybe the offering, right? For that particular city.

Hellen: For Giffgaff, we have a similar story. We don’t have physical stores, but we have our themes offered in partners. And we are just starting to test local searches because we now have a partnership with O2 in some stores in North England, Northwest England, you will be able to find Giffgaff SIMs. So we are starting to try out these local search, and yeah, it will be live soon. So, I will then be able to let you know, and we are driving a footpath to discuss with local search.

Dixon: I think that that sounds an absolutely brilliant approach, Hellen actually. In that, you know, having, even though you’re, you know, you’ve got distribution outlets. So basically anywhere that sells your SIMs, you could probably set up as a Giffgaff redistributor or a Giffgaff reseller and effectively run all of their local marketing. And so you go onto Google, theoretically, and you know, Giffgaff distributors, it suddenly shows everybody that’s selling a Giffgaff SIM. So potentially could be a really, really powerful way of doing that I would guess. So, yeah, I like that idea. So…

Hellen: Sorry.

Dixon: I’m sorry, go on.

Hellen: Just to clarify why we’re on O2 stores is because we run on O2 network, that’s why the partnership.

Dixon: I understand. Nothing’s… Go on.

Fabrizio: So you can be even a bit brave and do local stuff if your competitor has got stores, right? Like, you don’t necessarily have to be local yourself. But if everyone is using a computer service in-store and you want to offer them, like, a web-only experience, you can still build, like, landing pages for your competitor. Obviously, it requires a bunch of legal trickery in between, but it’s not impossible. You’re not going to open Google My Business for them, right? But you can still try to challenge them on your… Even, like, we realize that apart from like a small percentage of users, a majority of the user, if you’re disrupting a business, they are with someone else already. So, you often have this challenge of trying to, like touch on that brand traffic as well, to figure how to promote your brand or even to let them know that you’re an alternative, right? Yeah.

Dixon: Okay. So we’ve got a question popped up there. If we get that question back on the screen again as well. If anybody has any questions, by the way, whether you’re on YouTube or on Facebook, hopefully, someone’s looking out for the questions on Facebook as well and we can get those off as well. But Mauro says, maybe basic, there’s no such thing as a basic question, but how does this local geo SEO work? Okay, so, anyone wanna jump in that? How does local geo SEO work? Or do you want me to do it?

Fabrizio: Up to you.

Dixon: Okay.

Fabrizio: There was actually a John Mueller, like, hangout, like, article a while ago, and they were talking about event companies having landing pages for local, like, cities, right? And I think when it comes to, like, having these approaches is often down to the content of these pages and their uniqueness, right? And whether you can offer a different proposition in one place or another. If you only have one event nationwide, you cannot be in the page for every city, because it’s the same content, is the same page. But there are companies that have different proposition or different, like, tailored version of the same, like, experience by city or by geographic area, and that where you can, you know, without having the exactly same page, you can offer a slightly more tailored intent and it can work, yeah.

Dixon: I think the interesting thing about local is that Google is much better at under…well, often it’s better understanding where the user is that’s doing the search than they are at understanding where the business is at the other end of the thing. So when I type in “pizza nearby,” that’s kind of where you’re starting to get to local, Google understands this is a local search and has a pretty good idea where, especially if it’s on a mobile phone, where the user is at that particular point. The question then is, if you’re a pizza company, should your results appear or not?

And so, you know, if you’re lucky enough to be able to have used Google My Business, and you have a lot of stores, if you’re a PC World, you’ve got lots and lots of stores around the place so you can find or a Pizza Hut, then it’ll show you the local Pizza Hut. So if you’re one Pizza Hut, you’ve gotta compete against that, and that’s where Google My Business comes in because you can just sign up at Google My Business which is free and get yourself at least in your local results pack or the local search pack in SEO to try and answer Mauro’s question there, I think. So, okay, Kerstin, you’ve…I left you outside, out of the loop for a little bit. So let me jump in. What are some of the common mistakes that you think startups make? You know, where do they go wrong, you know, or perhaps… Yes, go on?

Kerstin: Well, I think, probably not prioritizing, right? Sort of what I said earlier. It’s very, very easy to get distracted and to get overwhelmed because you know, you have huge competition and, yeah, it’s a very competitive space. So, I think not getting distracted and really trying to focus on your strength and where you can compete, and then prioritize and not try to do everything at once. So, we really focus on where you do have the best chances, and yeah, just focus.

Dixon: And how do you think SEO and PPC should balance themselves out, particularly in the early days of a startup? Should people be using PPC or just exclusively SEO or…because PPC, of course, cost money right out the box. So, you know, can people use PPC to enforce or to improve their SEO and vice versa? Should, yes, well, as Mauro says, should they be working together?

Kerstin: Yeah. I think it depends probably on your business. But short term, of course, PPC works straightaway, right? So SEO, you have to work, you have to build it over time. So if you have the budget, definitely go in with PPC, and then balance it over time, you will hopefully get into a position where you can start testing and say, you know, where are you getting stronger and stronger with SEO, but in our case, we rely heavily on PPC. Yeah, it’s just very, very fast and shows good results. So if you have the budget, I would definitely use PPC as well.

Dixon: Fabrizio.

Fabrizio: Yeah, but also, the other bit is for testing purposes, right? It takes a lot of time and pain to build the content, then test landing pages. If you can test them pretty quickly with that, often you’re on the right track, right? And it can accelerate a bit your process of figuring out where to focus even on search if your product goes against, you know, established search demand. The challenge that we had, for instance, in our industry, is that been a disruptive new service, people don’t google a lot the classic transactional stuff that you will do PPC on, right? So there are people searching money transfer and those kinds of terms, but it’s not a lot, right? We’re not gonna build such a big business just waiting for people to Google a bit more of that transactional stuff. So in some situation it’s not so helpful to look at paid search, because there is not enough demand from consumer against your product, and that’s where you have to, you know, work with more longer trail queries or, like different intents that you wouldn’t necessarily be done, right, with paid.

Hellen: Now, but there is the temptation, I think, for the startups, because when you pay, you get it. The temptation of forgetting, leaving SEO to the second plan, because it’s easier to get, to sell your product through PPC than working on your website structure and user journey to get more traffic. So yeah, it needs to have a bond.

Kerstin: Yeah, that’s true. You might get hooked on the quick term.

Hellen: Long term…

Fabrizio: Yeah. Back to mistakes. I sometimes spend time with very early-stage funders, and that started literally companies. And the hardest part is probably to set the expectation what you’re doing within SEO and when they have, like, few options within channels that they wanna test they will need to understand really well that, you know, in a month, they will not break the bank by doing a sale, right? They need to understand how they’re gonna invest, what others you’re gonna see within the landscape. And otherwise, they just get burned and then they lose confidence that this is gonna work, right? And obviously, not everyone has got the benefit of, like, spending a lot of resources and time to begin with, but I think the easiest mistake is to compare this to the other channels. After a few months there’s no results and then just turn it off and just do an IR team that set up an SEO program well, and then you just think that doesn’t work, right? And that’s very easy, especially when your company is well funded to just spend money, right? Like, many well-funded companies, they burn a lot of money for that reason, right?

Hellen: I see a lot of these expectations with digital PR. I don’t know, I would be interested in knowing from you guys, but it’s a lot of investment and sometimes we just get no followed links, I think this is the trend now. And this is a bit concerning because there is these expectations in increase the website authority. And yeah, it’s something that to pay attention when you invest in digital PR for external linking.

Dixon: Yeah, I think that external link bit is an interesting challenge for a startup, but also it’s a great opportunity because you are a disruptive business. You have that opportunity to cut through the story. You know, Barclays going out there and trying to get more links are gonna be just the same kind of links as before unless there’s…I mean, they’ve, they’ve got the same ability to come up with a brand new story or a brand new angle, but, you know, do they necessarily want to? Because they’re taking a punt on changing their existing business base.

Whereas, you know, you guys have got, you know, three very different disruptive businesses in your area. And I think Fabrizio mentioned it, I think, using PPC as a testing tool to work out what your SEO strategy might be, might be a very, very good idea and I think that’s an excellent approach, but you all had the problem of starting out with phrases, I suppose, key phrases that no one might want to search for, that no one’s searching. So no contract telephones or, you know, banking without a branch or, you know, transferring money. You know, all of those three things, or transferring money cheaply, or whatever, all of those three things are things that, you know, were not necessarily…there was no obvious phrase that was being used by people in large numbers, certainly not enough to justify the massive expansion, the rapid expansion of your businesses.

So, I mean, obviously, you know, that the business is not solely based around SEO, but how did you guys, you know, get into, you know, how did those businesses become big enough to have SEO managers like yourselves if there wasn’t enough phrase. An innovative business might start out with a product that has no search phrase at all. Brand new product, this is the first one that’s ever, you know, rains from the stars on a blue summery night or I don’t know whatever it may be, and it’s called a, you know, I think it’d be Bob, you know, and no one’s searching for it. How did you expand that marketplace to get enough terms to warrant SEO, organic search traffic? Who wants to go in there?

Fabrizio: We have a ton of these challenges, actually, that’s pretty much the brand that matter what they do, as in, there was actually not much demand to bank on to begin with. And then equally when it comes to things like links, obviously, you get a bit more coverage or because you know, you’re also a bit more brave, right? Barclays, the CEO, didn’t get naked at any point in time soon. But our CEOs many years ago, they got naked, right? And that makes PR right down the street, and then makes little PR. So there are areas where I guess, you know, being more flexible but there are equally areas where you don’t have such demand and that’s where, like, the…I guess the tricky part is to have confidence by talking to your customers, that sooner or later invest in one area.

And that is not necessarily that close to what they meant to do is okay, right? We even write content for people that may use our product 12 months down the line, right? And we still do it if we think that is a good investment within a certain investment appetite just because it’s better than solely relying on these people trying to, you know, search for something. The other bit that I think SEO can really fix is that your product needs to be good enough, and there needs to be enough word of mouth and enough epic customers that they will tell someone else, right?

And then same reason why I don’t think that neither PR can fix that, right? If you’ve got a boring company with a bad product, no matter how much PR you do, you’re still not gonna fix that that easily, right? It’s very difficult to get journalists to, you know, buy into your stuff. So, I think that when, like, sometimes it’s a bit of a function of how good is your product to some extent up to the point that at some point they justify, and there’s enough growth and there is enough spin to invest in building an SEO team, right?

We started, like, an SEO team when we already had a million customers, right? Like, so we weren’t, like, necessarily just a startup. Which is not the same for everyone, right? There are people that start with a bit less customer than that, but there are points at which I think is important to realize, okay, this product is sticking and therefore I’m gonna invest in something long term, which on the long run, it proves to be the best channel that we have, right? We paid back the investment in SEO like 10 times faster than all the other channel, it’s growing the fastest, it’s getting more and more share within marketing. It’s a good idea, but it just takes a bit of confidence and gut if you have a decent product that you can build upon. Otherwise, the risk is that you can try to fix with SEO all the other problem that your product has got and your company has got and that is very hard to do, right? Like, it’s not super simple.

Dixon: Fair enough.

Hellen: I agree. Word of mouth is key for this. Yes.

Kerstin: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, yeah, if you don’t have the right product, SEO certainly can’t fix that. But if there is not much search demand about your actual product or your product term, you can always think about, you know, what is the need that people have and then try to think along the whole funnel, rather than at the endpoint where you have your product and then get to it that way. So, basically, build your topic universe around that and start very early.

Dixon: So, I mean, on that, Fabrizio said they actually had a million customers before they set up an SEO team. Kerstin, how many business accounts did Tide have before it set up an SEO team? You don’t have to answer, you may not be allowed to answer even if you knew…

Kerstin: Very, very little, I can tell you that.

Dixon: Very few. Okay. All right.

Kierstin: Yes. Very few customers. So definitely grown a lot since then, but I guess…

Dixon: Would you say Tide organic traffic has been a big source of new accounts for Tide or did that come later? Was that right near the start then?

Kerstin: Well, so it did take a while to build up, right? So, like, I said before, we balanced out quite a lot with paid channels with PPC because our I guess issue is not that there was no such demand for business accounts because there is demand for that, it’s more, you know, attracting the right people that are willing to have their account digitally and maybe don’t need a branch. But that’s also depending on how you position yourself, right? Because it doesn’t have to be a primary account. If you still need a branch that you walk into, you can keep your existing account and use this as your digital platform to do all your other business finance. But yeah, growing that customer base, organic, definitely played a big part in that.

Dixon: Sorry, Hellen, anyone want to jump in, or, I mean, how many, you know, Giffgaff must, you know…did you have loads and loads of customers before you became….add an SEO role or do you think Giffgaff also started organically?

Hellen: Yeah, we started organic really well also because of branded searches. So our activation base is a lot of branded searches. So it’s organic, but branded. On the generic, yeah, generic is always the challenge to grow in this area.

Dixon: Of course. So you got people to talk about Giffgaff then. So word of mouth was a big part of your strategy and that fed towards your organic…

Hellen: Exactly.

Dixon: So, which makes absolute sense. So this word of mouth, getting your customers to talk about it, even if they’re not your customers yet, is key, I think to SEO and for a startup. I think it’s a magic way. You know, you got to get your customers to be your salespeople because you can’t afford to do it yourself.

Hellen: Before, we want Giffgaff…we already had the community. So, word of mouth first and then PR, good PR, branding, and the differential of Giffgaff. They all helped a lot with searches.

Dixon: So I wanted to finish up with…we haven’t got very much time left already. But how much does it help if the business has either a flamboyant CEO or a knowledge leader CEO or not necessarily the CEO, but how important is it to a startup to have people in their organization who are already either respected or hated, it doesn’t matter which necessary from a marketing point of view, but they can then create that focus around the sort of the links and the comments you mentioned, you know, your CEO dressing up naked, you know, but, you know, has all of your businesses got somebody in the organization that within their industry sector is seen as a knowledge leader and somebody that’s respected in the field? And do you use them or what would you be worried as a startup that those people then might be too valuable for the business and too valuable for the business to risk as a main plank? Is that…can I go with Kerstin for that? Have you got anybody in the organization that, you know, you use as a content piece, so to speak?

Kerstin: Yeah, I would say it definitely helps. But if you don’t have that person or if your CEO happens to not want to be, like, out there all that much, I think that’s okay as well. But yeah, it definitely helps if you have someone who’s well known in the industry, if you have someone who has like proven thought leadership and you know you can work with that person for your content or PR campaigns and things like that. So I think it’s definitely beneficial. But I think, also doesn’t necessarily only have to be the CEO. If you have more people in your company, yeah, definitely also use them as authorities to speak about certain topics and work with them for PR, you know, content creation and things like that. So yeah, I would not only think about the CEO or just generally, who is there, that is a thought leader and can contribute to just different areas of your work.

Dixon: Hellen, you got anybody in your organization that stands out as a thought leader in your sector?

Hellen: Yes, I do have. And I tried to build up the SEO advocates within the business. So, yeah, this influence to get everyone on board with SEO is a very good point for companies that are not only starting up, but on the growth paths.

Dixon: Guys, we’re nearly to the end of the time. I just wanna finish up with one last question, because it leads into our next one, the next presentation, next month, which I’ll bring David in for it after that. Is there something that big organizations do that small organizations should not attempt to do, that startups should not attempt to do? Where is the, you know…is there something in the world of, you know, big organizations that they can, you know, do things and leverage that smaller businesses are unable to do. I’ve got internal link building comes to mind as a thing, you know, they’ve just gotten so much more content that they can start leveraging that. Any other thoughts in there or, you know…

Fabrizio: I think in terms of, like, not doing is probably even on, like, not doing structure on mistakes in the setup of the teams, right? And then, like, sometimes, it’s not such a good idea to look how these…some of these big organizations are built in terms of team structure and how they operate. And I think these are really important because you have one chance to build the team structure that is gonna scale and would make people happy to come every day to work rather than complaining about developer not shipping, technical changes about the content team not doing things. So, it’s probably your one-off chance to get the ground right.

And back to the probably leaders question as well, I think in our case, more than, like, having leaders that are authority in the space is probably more useful, that leader trust the teams to invest and have the right measurements in place. Otherwise, the risk is that you end up in a very large organization where you have someone making a decision on which keywords you should rank for, right? And this person does not understand much about search, right?

So you shouldn’t make sure that you don’t get to that point, right? And the decision maker, the team in terms of, like, resources, the engineers, everyone, is within your team or at least you have some control within in a smooth way. Otherwise, the bigger it gets, the more painful it gets, up to the point that you have, like, a large organization with SEO teams that are completely unable to move things because it’s blocked by a bunch of people. And luckily when we are in your company, you don’t have this issue because a lot of these people don’t exist yet, right? So you can work out the knots and making sure that they don’t work in that fashion.

I think for us it’s really important because we went from, like, you know, when we started the program, we were, like, a million customers, now we have around 10 million-ish, and then we went from like myself and three engineers to now 50+ people that work around SEO alone. And then in that situation is, yeah, like, the bigger you get the harder it gets. Yeah, it’s not gonna work really well with time.

Dixon: Okay. Well, I also quickly saw that one, that’s a good question to end up on, the sales flags that question came up there. So, let’s say you’ve only got one thing you wanna focus on first because the three experts here today have said, you know, focusing is a really good thing to do. We don’t waste our resources, because we can afford to waste our resources. So sales phrases come up with three really good ways to start developing your SEO. You know, link building, just go and get links to your site, versus writing that killer content, web page content, versus writing a killer PDF and ebook, which is the best for an early stage? Okay, what’s your opinions? Where would you go out of those three if you were gonna focus. And you’re not allowed to say all three now, because you said focus.

Hellen: I would go for killer page, having not only one, your key pages. The thing that startups can do that big ones cannot do because they are too big, is take care, pay attention to each journey, in each page content to build it as good as possible. Because Google is the…I say Google is the most picky user you can have, the most smart user. And if your page is relevant for Google, it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for the user. So, you need to make sure your journeys are sleek.

Dixon: Okay. Cool. Kerstin.

Kerstin: It’s a very, very hard question. It depends on your competitors and what you’re starting out with. So I’m slightly torn to pick one. I sort of agree on strong pages., but if I want to maybe collect leads very quickly, if I want to turn, you know, people interested into customers, I might even go with a PDF. It depends on my resources that I have. But yeah, depends what is my situation that I’m starting with and what’s the objective. So I’m leaning towards a PDF to promote, to get leads very early on that I can then market to you later on.

Dixon: Yeah, okay. Good as a lead gen. Okay, good. Fabrizio, what do you wanna go for?

Fabrizio: I mean, you could do lead gen anyway, regardless of the other two, eventually. But if I have to choose between building links and building pages, always pages, right? Like, you can build all the links you want but if you don’t have the pages, there’s no fun happening, right? So I think I would start there first. And then, you know, at some point if the pages don’t rank, maybe links are a problem, but at least you should build the pages first and then see what happens.

Dixon: I think I kind of agree that I think the page building, doing the killer page first allows you…I mean, you could then create an eBook out of that pillar page as well. So that’s okay, so obviously, if they can read it without downloading the book, then you’ve lost the lead maybe but so I guess you do have a fair point. But also, regardless, those are what, you know, if that pillar content is good, that will generate the links, if it’s genuinely good content, knowledge leadership contents.

Kerstin: I think maybe…

Dixon: Guys…

Kerstin: Sorry. I just wanted to say, because we’ve been talking about SEO and SEO only, but maybe, especially for startups that, you know, don’t have all the resources, I think it’s very important to see SEO, not as something that works in silo and always try to work across teams and make the most out of all the channels and work together.

Dixon: And I think the…I can’t remember his name, a guy…the SEO for LinkedIn for ages, he used PDFs almost exclusively as his SEO building tool. And you think LinkedIn, blame me, it’s LinkedIn, but, you know, he definitely used the PDF approach very, very effectively to generate leads and generate links, which, you know, effectively still lead to reasonably pillar page content, which did the whole thing. So, I guess it is, you know, where you are in your journey and what can stand out most is probably a good answer. Guys, thank you ever so much for your time. David, what do we got on next time? So…

David: We’re gonna be broadcasting live on Monday, the 17th of May at 4 p.m. UK time. We’re gonna be zeroing in on SEO for big brands. We’ve already got Turgay Akar from Sony, gonna be appearing on that one, a couple of other people that we’re still talking to about appearing in that one and…but make sure you sign up at so you can watch us live. We broadcast live on YouTube, on Facebook as well, and, of course, we’re available as a podcast to catch the replays on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Dixon: So guys, thank you very much. It just leaves me to say thanks ever so much for coming along today. If anybody wants to contact you guys, are they allowed to? What’s your Twitter handle, how can they get ahold of you, Hellen?

Hellen: Hellen, LinkedIn. Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn, it’s the best way.

Dixon: Kerstin.

Kerstin: Given the name, easiest LinkedIn, my handle is a bit strange though. LinkedIn, yeah.

Dixon: Okay. And Fabrizio, can we find you?

Fabrizio: Yes, same. Google my name or on, like, Twitter my handle is @Pechnet, but yeah, probably Googling me is…

Dixon: Pechnet, how do you spell that?

Fabrizio: P-E-C-H-N-E-T. It’s my video game nickname. So it’s got nothing to do with everything, but I still keep it, yeah. Just being lazy.

Dixon: Guys, thank you ever so much for coming on today. I really do appreciate it. Your experience has been invaluable and so have the tips. So see you next time. Thanks, guys.

Hellen: Thank you.

Dixon: Bye-bye.

It’s one thing to be able to SEO everything you can touch manually, but what happens when you manage a website that has millions of web pages? What happens to your SEO if you have millions of data points and it’s impossible to process and implement your SEO strategy manually?

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In Episode 9 of the Knowledge Panel we discuss how to use big data to scale SEO with several of the world’s leading experts in harnessing big data to power SEO activities – joining Dixon Jones are Wil Reynolds from Seer, Rachel Hildebrand from MoneyGeek and Laurence O’Toole from Authoritas.

Want to Read Instead? Here is the Transcript

Dixon: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the “Knowledge Panel,” Episode 9. And today, we’re talking about big data sources and how you can use big data to leverage your SEO. I think it’s gonna be a great session. Certainly, it’s a great panel, so if it’s not a great session, I’m gonna blame them. But let’s start by introducing ’em. Thanks, everyone so much to the panel for coming on. Rachel, why don’t we start with you first? And tell us about yourself, where you’re coming from, you know, what you do?

Rachel: Hey, I’m tuning down here from Orlando in my log cabin as you can see in my background. I’ve been in the SEO industry for about 10 years now. I’ve kind of done multiple things. Started out doing [inaudible 00:00:44] and backlinking, moved on to Disney, and then also tried my luck as a…the agency life working with Stone Temple. I’m now proficient. And then after that, yeah, falling in love with some of the clients I worked for there, I jumped into working in addiction and behavioral health. So, getting into a lot of the YMYL heavy EAT-focused niches, and now I’m testing my luck working at MoneyGeek doing credit cards and really learning what the true meaning of big data is.

Dixon: Yeah, a big competitive marketplace to be in as well. So, yeah. So, YMYL, Your Money and Your Life, and authority, expertise,and trust, being EAT, and YMYL. Okay. Laurence, why don’t you go? How are you?

Laurence: Well, hi, everyone. I’m great, thank you very much, Dixon. Good to see some friendly faces.

Dixon: That was [inaudible 00:01:38].

Laurence: Yes, indeed. So, I’m Laurence O’Toole. I am the CEO of Authoritas. I’ve been doing SEO, well, since I had dark hair, which was some time ago, probably a year or two [crosstalk 00:01:54].

Dixon: Yeah. Okay, I remember. I remember you interviewing me with dark hair. That was…

Laurence: Thanks very much. Don’t rub it in. Yeah. So, I started out, I think, in-house hired…I used to run the digital business of a large Yellow Pages company, and we hired an agency back in the, I don’t know, late ’90s and 2000s. They’re now a client of mine, which is nice. And, yeah, I started then, but quickly started out on my own in sort of 2009 building tools and playing with data, and haven’t really looked back. Most people don’t want a spreadsheet of, you know, two million rows, but I’m quite happy playing with big data. I know I shouldn’t. And, yeah, I’m really here in such a lustrous company, hopefully to contribute some pearls of wisdom, but if not, learn a lot myself.

Dixon: That’s brilliant. Authoritas is a great tool. I mean, I remember it when it was… For those who don’t remember, or do rather, I know you’re supposed to not say a tool, really, but it used to be called AuthorityLabs, but you can’t remember. Anyway. But anyway, it’s now Authoritas.

Laurence: Analytics SEO.

Dixon: Analytics SEO. Sorry. Yeah.

Laurence: Yeah. It’s all right. No worries. That’s another one of your old customers.

Dixon: Yeah, yeah. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Yeah. Okay. Analytics SEO, yes. Yeah, yeah. And then you bought out Linkdex on the way, as well, didn’t you?

Laurence: Oh, yeah, we did. Yeah.

Dixon: Wil, long time no see, mate.

Wil: What’s…?

Dixon: How are you?

Wil: I’m good. How are you?

Dixon: I’m great. Tell us about yourself and Seer and everything.

Wil: Oh, geez. So, I started in search August of 1999. Been at it for a little bit. Somewhere along that road, I started Seer. That was 2002. We’re somehow still here, you know, still standing. We do SEO, paid social analytics are basically, you know, our areas of expertise.

Dixon: Excellent. Okay. Guys, thanks everyone so much for coming on. If anybody’s listening out there, we’re streaming on Facebook and YouTube and Twitter. Feel free to tell anyone else that, you know, we got Wil and Rachel on the call, you know, and you can say Laurence as well, if you like. And I’m pinning a link. And if you’ve got any questions, feel free to ask them. We’ve also got the luxury of having some production in the background. David, where are you? Do you wanna come in and say hello and [crosstalk 00:04:20]?

David: Good day, everyone. So, I’m just looking forward to a wonderful conversation. How to use big data to scale SEO. Three wonderful panelists we’ve got here. I’ll tell everyone a little bit about where else we’ll be broadcasting at other times, and also where you can get the podcast just at the end of the show as well.

Dixon: That’s amazing. Okay. So, guys, of course, this thing is all sponsored by InLinks and all put together by InLinks. If you haven’t tried InLinks, okay, well, that is a data source, a big data source. We’ve built our own knowledge graph, and give it a try. It’s free. Well, it starts free anyway. Obviously, we want your money in the end. So, let’s get onto the questions and see what pearls of wisdom we can get out of people. I’m gonna start with you, Wil, and then ask everyone, really. Well, firstly, I wanna say, what does big data mean to you, really? I mean, how do you define big data?

Wil: Oh, geez. That’s tough, but I think it’s when the spreadsheets start to fail to meet. You know, it’s, like, when you start realizing that the time that you’re spending manipulating data multiple times in a spreadsheet, they just start to fail. And that’s when you have to find a new way to manage that much data.

Dixon: Yeah. Okay. That’s fair enough. Particularly, the pivot tables, they seem to take the effort, really. So, yeah. Anyone else wanna stick up a different view of big data? Or shall I just dive into things I…?

Laurence: I’d just say for me, it’s about context more than anything else. It’s when you want to just stretch and go beyond, you know, the basic report. So, basically, look beyond, I don’t know, what keywords your pages are ranking for and how they fluctuated over time to properly understand in your competitive environment. You know, every key page on your website’s not competing with the same set of competitors, for example, for most sites. So, it’s when you just need to stretch yourself and go beyond what you can do in a basic Excel or a basic, you know, Google Sheet, and need more data, and, you know, more analysis or interpretation of that data. You need to slice and dice it in different ways. So for me, it’s about context and going beyond.

Rachel: Yeah, I agree with that. And kind of, like, building off that, we use big data a lot to, like, find how we could differentiate. So, kind of, like, building off what Laurence just said, using multiple data sources, not just looking at the basic SEO ranking factors, sometimes even, like, building your own data sources to figure out how you can be competitive in markets that are more about things other than just keywords and backlinks. We had to use that a lot in my previous experience.

Dixon: I think that’s an interesting and an important take on it, is that oftentimes, big data is about blending other data sources, really. So, data sources that are out of your grasp perhaps for the whole data set. But ultimately, it’s the blending of different APIs and different data sources, and I think it’s an excellent definition of data manipulation and how SEOs use it. And I think, for me, I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve been working with…well, previously, previous life, for Majestic, and now InLinks. Basically, yes, data sources that are too big to fit in a spreadsheet. And then, finding ways to have an output for those so people can then use and manipulate, you know, sort of from server side. It’s probably my approach or my angle on that. So, what, you know, for SEO purpose, or for any other purpose, what are your favorite big data sources to jump into? So, I’ll start with Laurence because I know what his big favorite data source is gonna be.

Laurence: I’m not actually…

Dixon: We might as well get it out. You [crosstalk 00:08:06].

Laurence: I’m not gonna say Authoritas. I’m not. No. You know, obviously, we’ve been building our tools for years, but yes, we build our own data, and, yeah, we capture our own keyword ranking data at scale. So, for me, the biggest source of data, you know, there is Google. You know, we are querying Google and other search engines heavily, as is the whole industry, to try and get the insights that they won’t, you know, give us via API. I mean, if they gave us a nice, handy API, I’m sure we’d rather use that instead. But, so for me, yeah, the search engines first and foremost, and then people’s websites, you know, second. You know, obviously, we are crawling websites, crawling competitors’ websites trying to get insights. So, they are the two data sources. We turn those into a service of course, but, you know, we come third in the queue there.

Dixon: Yeah. No, I understand. Yeah. Wil, what about you? What’s your favorite place to glean data?

Wil: For me, for SEO specifically, it’s paid search data. You know, I think one of the things I think SEOs have always struggled with is articulating our value. And one of the best ways to articulate your value in my opinion is to be able to say, “Hey, if I have all of your paid data, I can see how much you’ve spent for these words, which helps me to make a market price on what you’re currently willing to spend for this basket of words.” And then I apply that to, you know, large-scale scrapes of Google, trying to understand, well, who’s ranking for these different words. But there’s something to be said for… I get conversions, right? I mean, monthly search volume to me is just like… You know, I get conversions, you know, inside of paid, and then I also get how much you spent, which means I can take that and use that as a, “Hey, if you’re willing to spend this much to get these conversions for this word, then blah, blah, blah, on the SEO side.” So, I just love taking paid data and joining it in as just one of the many data sets I enjoy joining to my SEO data set.

Dixon: Okay. I’d like to come back to that in a little bit, but Rachel, what would you go with as your favorite data source?

Rachel: My favorite data source to bring in? Oh, that’s a tough one. But I really…even though, like, I…

Dixon: You can have more than one. It’s okay, you know.

Rachel: Yeah. For me, like, especially working at Advanced Recovery Systems, I got, like, heavy into the local market. So, I spent a lot of time using, like, local SEO data to kind of help influence some of our strategies. So, from going from that front, there’s just, like, kind of, like, not so well-known tool called built by this guy named Zach Todd. All his data sources, which is a lot from Google Local and then some other searches, he and also the UPS index to find out if some of these actual websites are legit or not. Like, he can find the spam, which keywords have the most volatility, and things like that. So that really helped us, like, kind of, like, scale some of our local SEO efforts, which was new to me and something that you had never really thought of.

Dixon: Okay. So, I’ve not heard about, so let’s come back in a little bit on that as well and maybe you can dive into [crosstalk 00:11:14].

Rachel: Yeah. It’s very similar to, like, BrightLocal, but a little deeper.

Dixon: Well, okay. We’ll dive into that one a little bit now. So,, but is that largely U.S.-focused? Because I get the feeling that local results are so much more of a big thing in the U.S. than they are in the UK. And Laurence will know because I’m sure he tracks ’em both. But is all of the data there U.S.-Centric, would you say, Rachel?

Rachel: I would assume so. But it’s just, like, how he’s building it. It’s definitely U.S.-based, and I’ve only used it U.S.-based for primarily the really competitive markets in Florida, California, and New York.

Dixon: Okay. So…

Rachel: Yeah. He has a lot of big data.

Dixon: Laurence, so am I right in saying that, you know, the U.S. just is so much more into the local results than the…? I mean, I see all the SEO gurus talking about local results so much, and yet in the UK, I don’t see that quite as…you know? Amazon can get [crosstalk 00:12:19] gurus.

Laurence: Yeah. I mean, we’re just a small, little island, aren’t we? What, I don’t know, a fraction the size of Texas or something?

Dixon: Very much a fraction. Yeah.

Laurence: So, yeah, I would say, anecdotally, what we’re seeing from our platform is our U.S. clients, I mean, you know, some of them will have hundreds of different locations they’re tracking, or, you know, a dozen or more major cities. So, for them, hyperlocal rank tracking, you know, is really important. And, you know, it still is important in the UK, but possibly less so. So, we see a greater demand in the U.S., certainly.

Dixon: Well, in those paid tools you were talking about, there’s Google’s ad Planner and those kind of technologies that you’re talking about. I remember…it must have been quite a long time back, but all of a sudden, I got to an SMX in New York, and Google had decided to take away the ad-planner APIs, or the local APIs. Oh, we got William Rock in there. Hello, William. They seem to take away all the tools for SEOs and left it for PPC people. And there was a real problem for a while with…SEO companies have been using, you know, those ad-planning tools in their technologies and stuff. Has that calmed down now? Or is that, because you’re such a big PPC player, then they’re not gonna take it away from you? Or is that something you always worry about? Do you get angry about that?

Wil: Yeah, I get pissed regularly because the way that I manage it is I’m actually literally taking what you spent your money on and not your clicks on. Like, I don’t want any estimates, because, I mean, once you actually, like, join the data… So, once you take a tool that says, “Here’s what the monthly search volume,” especially for people that have any kind long tail, and then you join that to your actual paid conversion data, you realize that, you know, the average tool that’s telling you a word has no monthly search volume, that for one of our clients, it was 80% of their conversions. Like, 80% of their conversions came from keywords that all the tools out there were saying have no search volume, which means everybody’s ignoring them.

So, for me, I’m literally taking, like, “How many clicks did you get on this keyword last month, or this search term in paid?” Then I’m saying, “Okay, let me run an analysis on each one of those keywords.” So, at any given point, we’re analyzing, you know, five, six million keywords trying to understand what’s happening specifically on the spend. Now, what Google’s done, is for some crazy reason, they’ve said, “Oh, we’re not gonna show you all the words that you actually paid to get a click on.” And, you know, that kind of sucks.

Dixon: So, they’ve taken away… The Google not provided has now extended to paid as well?

Wil: Yeah, but, you know, it was different with not provided because they were giving you free traffic. They’re, like, “We don’t owe you anything.” You know, I literally just found a client that was bidding on the word “Things.” Things, and spent, like, $20,000, right? And, you know, when you start taking that information away from marketers and saying, “Trust the machines. They’ll optimize your shit,” it’s like, you know, yeah, I could have paid a thousand dollars for this mic. I don’t want somebody looking at my bank account before they choose how much they’re gonna charge me for it. And with Google, it’s, like, “Hey, if you said you wanna come in at this CPA, you came in under.” It’s, like, “Well, just because I came in under doesn’t mean I wanna pay $20 grand a year for the word things, dude.”

So, what we’re doing is we’re pivoting and we’re starting to offset the Google data with the Bing data to help us to better find, because Bing will give you impressions. Whereas Google won’t give you what search terms you showed up for until they get a click, Bing will show you what search terms you showed up for at the impression level, which means I’m actually getting the data faster even though it’s a smaller data set because Google was hiding so much of that before. So, that’s one of the errors we’re going.

Dixon: Can you…?

Laurence: Can I ask you, Wil? [crosstalk 00:16:08].

Dixon: Go on, Laurence.

Laurence: Do you use Google Search Console data tool, or is it just too limited for you to actually, you know, do anything with the kind of clients you work with?

Wil: No. So, I think there is value in Google Search Console data. The biggest valuable area that I find, and others’ mileage may vary, is the click-through rate. Well, I think when you work with big data and you work trying to join data, your whole mentality, to me at least, is 100% focused on what dataset gives me something that no other dataset gives me that I can join to my other data. And for me, Search Console gives me that click-through rate by position, which helps me to do all other kinds of interesting things. So that’s the thing that I like most out of Search Console, but I don’t use it for much just yet.

Dixon: Okay. And I’m sorry, I’ll come back to Rachel and Laurence in just a second. But I saw a video very recently. It’s kind of a promo for Traject. Anyway, you were saying, there’s so much traffic coming through for a client that you say 200,000, 300,000, where I’m only getting one click on a keyword in a year. But, you know, that’s 300,000 clicks of really long-tail, really good converting traffic. And that’s the stuff that you value. So, you’re still very much of the feeling that, you know, long-tail is where it’s at for you in terms of conversions, Wil?

Wil: Well, you know what? I have the data to say where it is and isn’t. That’s the freaking beauty of big data is you stop using your experience as the way that you’re gonna make a recommendation. Instead, like, I can go into BigQuery and find out for every client, what percentage of their conversions are coming on keywords that had less than 10, less than 20, less than 50. So now, I’m not coming out with some blanket, you know, like, “Hey, everybody, look at your long-tail.” I’m like, “No. Bring your data somewhere you can join multiple data sets together, analyze all that data, and then now you can just see what kind of strategies might work for which kind of clients.” If anything, I think that’s the power of big data, is for so long, we had to use our experience. It’s like, “What have I worked on, you know?” A thousand websites? There’s, like, a billion of them. That’s a horrible rate for me to go out and say, “Hey, here’s what I think you should do.” You know, so…

Dixon: “I know what I’m doing. I don’t know.”

Wil: Yeah. I have no freaking clue.

Wil: Yeah. Okay. Rachel, I mean, you’re dealing with data sets all the time. I mean, that sort of long-tail kind of low volume, high-value traffic. Are you finding that harder to analyze these days? Or, you know, how do you find that end of the spectrum?

Rachel: It’s harder to analyze, but I feel like, especially in the industries I’ve worked in, like, that’s, like, my competitive edge. Like, now, especially with credit cards, like, a lot of the competitors aren’t focusing or putting their effort into focusing on those long-tail keywords. And with some of the data sources that we’re able to pull in, which we use a lot of like you said earlier, like a lot of APIs to pull in data sources from government websites, like at Advanced Recovery Systems, CBC, at MoneyGeek, the financial government bureau site, and pulling in those data sources to kind of see where competitors are missing out on, where our competitive edge can be on. So, at least kind of doing the whole run, walk method, breaking for those longer-tail, more intent-focused keywords, and then hoping to rank for those head terms later on.

Dixon: All right. So, using those data sources aren’t necessarily in the front end of your product, they’re to find out where you’ve got gaps in your product portfolio and using that to fill the product portfolio, right?

Rachel: Yeah.

Dixon: That’s kind of interesting.

Rachel: Luckily, I’ve always been on the front end, so I have used it to, like, do my planning. But there have been times, especially at Advanced Recovery Systems, the strategy was kind of already built by the time I got there, but we had to really redefine that after the dreaded medic update. So, that’s another time where we had to, like, kind of go back, look at all our data, and then even do a little crafty ways to bring in our own, I guess, like, big data sources from things that weren’t really quantitative before but we made them quantitative in a way.

Dixon: So, I got a question for you, guys, and this is maybe me going out a little bit on a limb. But I had a demo today where somebody was coming in for the InLinks product. And the new InLinks product, for those that don’t know, most of my audience will, but it’s a knowledge graph. So, we’ve taken our own knowledge graph, we’ve created our own semantic connections between entities and ideas, and everything else is built off of that, really.

But we had someone coming in who wanted it for PPC. And it rings that… Wil was sitting there saying that Google now are sort of taking away that keyword granularity that they used to have within the paid search data stuff. And he was saying that he thought that was largely because Google’s paid products are gonna start moving towards topic-based systems as well and move away from keyword systems at the front end as well. Do you think that… And I don’t know if he’s right or I don’t know if he’s wrong, really. I mean, you know, we’re guessing out there. But it does seem to me that this whole entity-based approach to anything that Google does now is starting to become more important. And I’m wondering if it’s gonna start coming into the to the paid data sources as well, the paid search data sources as well. Any thoughts on that, Wil, or Laurence, or Rachel?

Laurence: Well, I’m definitely not the right person to talk about paid. It was about, I don’t know, year 2000 when I actually built a paid PPC platform. But it does worry me that, you know, it’s like an extension of Google’s dominant market position. Access to data from, you know, a monopoly provider. They need to provide access to data on terms that are fair and reasonable. And I’d say, you know, it’s essential for website owners to understand demand, to build websites, to launch campaigns. And if you are totally reliant on advertising on Google to actually get the data you need, then, you know, clearly that really just strengthens their position even more. So, the specter of them…you know, you can see where they’re going, obfuscating keyword data more. And we’ve seen it on the SEO side with trying to get search volume data out, and then them with the close variance and returning the same search volumes for close variance.

It does look like it’s heading that way. I mean, Wil might know more, or Rachel might know more. They might do more paid campaigns than us. But, you know, it’s a bleak picture you’re painting of them, you know, reinforcing their dominant position and making it harder and harder for us to get the data we need to make decisions.

Dixon: Okay.

Rachel: Yeah. I feel like Wil’s gonna have a lot more to say, so I’ll make my point quick on this. But I feel like it’s heading that direction just with things, like, kind of, like, what Laurence said, things that we’re just seeing in the SEO industry in general. Like, even with Question Hub, everything’s entity-based. Like, you gotta get really specific to find a good question, but from the high level, it’s all entity-based. So, I feel like everything’s…like, Google’s heading that way, so, like, why would they not include paid?

Dixon: Wil, do you wanna jump in with [inaudible 00:23:33] thoughts?

Wil: I mean, the sad part is as long as Google is willing to let people spend $20,000 on the word “things,” they need to show us every freaking piece of data that they have. When I got matched… You know, like, Google’s not using entities for paid because it would kill their business. So, like, I mean, if they use it, right? So, here’s an example. I was bidding on the word exact match GA 360, right? Google Analytics 360. If you type in “GA 360” right now into your browser, you’re gonna get…all their entity work on organic tells them that that’s a Google Analytics 360 query, right?

So why was I getting clicks for words like Georgia 360 on their variant matches? And I’m paying $20 bucks a click for Georgia 360? It’s like, “No, you’re using your entities to build a better organic search engine, but you won’t flip those same entities over on the paid side, because if you did and you stopped showing ads on those, people wouldn’t be spending $20 grand a year on words like “things.” And you know what, then you’re gonna just start to remove the data so we can’t see it as easily, which, you know, you’ll say it’s in my best interest with your machine learning. So, you know, I couldn’t run a business that way, you know? It’s a shitty a way to run a business if you ask me.

Dixon: I’m gonna take a different angle just because there’s no point in us just all agreeing on the whole thing, and I wanna bring it a little bit back to organic, I suppose, as well. But there’s other ways in which entities are starting to come out in Google’s products. And a good one, I don’t even have an Android, but I know on Androids, your phones, you have Google Discover. And so, these things are popping up with ideas, and they’re all topic-based. They’re very much based on, “Here’s some interesting pages about hitchhiking,” or…sorry, “about hiking or swimming or whatever,” because you’ve already shown some interest in that topic.

So, when they’re flipping around to entities, I agree they shouldn’t take away the keyword stuff, but by flipping around into entities, they’ve got this other avenue of traffic that they can start monetizing by understanding the underlying topics that people are interested in. And then, you know, I guess at some point, they’re gonna say, “Well, as long as you’re thinking in terms of topics and ideas on your advertising campaigns, then you’re gonna get good traffic coming back as long as you’re matching hiking to hiking.”

Wil: I think the nasty thing is that they just control both sides of the market, right? So that’s the nasty part. Like, “Oh, trust us,” you know? “This is in your best interest.” And it’s like, “Hey, can I get my data to make sure it’s in my best interest?” “No, we’re not gonna give you all of it.” It’s like, “Well, then who’s gonna police you.” “Oh, we will.” And it’s like, “Well, I don’t know if that’s an idea.”

Dixon: That’s a very fair point. It’s a…

Rachel: It’s even worse in local. Like, oh. Like, Local search is so bad. Kinda, like, what Wil’s saying, there’s so many things Google can do to make it better, but it’s in their money’s or their pocket’s best interest to just leave it as is and just leave the independent SEOs to just submit redressal forms to fight spam or people that are, like, bidding. It’s [crosstalk 00:27:01].

Wil: I mean, it’s the worst. Like, yeah, I don’t even want to talk about it anymore because I get so frustrated because it’s frustrating.

Dixon: We’ll move on. We’ll move on. We’ll move on. But William put a point up and I didn’t get a chance to read it out. So, William said, “Google Ads is difficult, especially since they are forcing enhanced bidding and smart campaigns are a waste of money for high-dollar keywords.” And that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s the high-dollar ones where you…as exact match it as you possibly can in the new Google world, and you don’t want Google to learn because Google’s gonna just go worse from your exact match campaign there, which is not great, I will admit.

Okay. Let’s get back to the organic stuff. I’m sorry for sending Wil off on a little heart attack there and, you know, raising the blood pressure, right? So, I apologize for that. So, you talked about BigQuery. You know, getting these data sources is one thing, mixing them and matching them and visualizing stuff and putting those different data sources together is a completely different kettle of fish, really. What tools do you use to do that? And what’s worked for you in trying to put together different disparate bits of information and matching ’em up? What do you use? Who’s going?

Laurence: Oh, I can…

Dixon: Rachel?

Laurence: Okay.

Rachel: I can go. If the data source is small enough, and depending on, like, how many resources you have, I really like Data Studio. It’s free. It can be slow and clunky, but if your data source is small enough, you can do a lot with it at least just to get your point across. But if you have a lot of data… I think somebody mentioned in the comments, too. I got lucky enough to have the access to use Microsoft Power BI, which I know there’s a ton of other tools that do the same as that, but that was a tool that was super easy and not as expensive as, like, other sources like Tableau. And I’m sure there’s cheaper and better ones, but Power BI was, like, easy enough for me not to know what I was really doing to get a lot of data in a way.

Dixon: And is Power BI…is that Microsoft’s one?

Rachel: Yeah.

Wil: Mm-hmm.

Dixon: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And so, Power BI, I guess is competing with BigQuery, Google’s BigQuery, is that correct or…? No? Okay. What’s, you know…?

Wil: No, I would say, well, Google bought Looker to compete with Power BI. And because Data Studio wasn’t robust enough, like, you know, to Rachel’s point, it was… You know, if you’re dealing with smaller data sets, it’s cool. And they’ve made a lot of improvements, but, you know, I feel like Data Studio is chat to Slack, right? It’s, like, it gets you by and it’s good enough, but when you want to do the real kind of stuff, you know that there’s a better product out there. But, yeah. No. So, you know, usually for most of us, like, I know at least for our team now, is we have a ton of data engineers now just constantly dumping this data into BigQuery, making sure it’s clean so that people like me can easily connect into it and join data.

And the other thing I love about Power BI is, you know, if I wanna mess around with, you know, data, I can just go download a CSV and then join it to all of the data that I’m pulling from BigQuery. So, like, I can do that on my desktop. And I think there’s something to be said for empowering your team to be able to have a clean set of data coming in, and then the tools you’re using being open enough for you to take data from other places and join them into the main data set that you have.

Dixon: Yeah. I think that’s key. So, yeah. And so, Supermetrics is out there, but that’s kind of spreadsheet based as well, as well. But these ideas are all really about how to connect those different tools. And then, in the middle of all that is stuff like Sapia, which is kinda, like, the connecting piece, really. I think if I’ve got a data source, whenever I do have a data source, one of the first things I try and get my dev team to do is to get Sapia endpoints so that, you know… I can’t expect SEOs to really go too far. I mean, unless they’re gonna take my API and program it and build their own connections. But a Sapia connection just means that loads of other tools can theoretically just pull in what we built once. And it may not be the cheapest way of doing it, but I don’t have to develop every single time a tool wants some stuff. What about you, Laurence? How do you visualize data?

Laurence: So, similar comments, really. We use Google Data Studio for clients. Find it a bit flaky. Sometimes, it would just, you know… You just have to refresh it a couple of times to get a perfectly good data source to show. It’s a bit frustrating. But sending data into BigQuery and then visualizing it in Data Studio is a much better way to go. And obviously, once you send the data into BigQuery, to Wil’s point, you can send it anywhere. So Power BI, Tableau, any tool there, you can really sort of visualize this data. And we do for clients. I would probably just mention some different tools, just, you know…

Dixon: [crosstalk00:32:10].

Laurence: I like graphs and looking at graph data, and we use ranking data in graphs to try and give insights on the whole market. So, we have our own tools for that. But there’s some free tools out there which I’ve played around with from time to time and really find valuable, things like I’m probably not pronouncing it right, And GraphComments. They’re two very similar online free graph tools where you can just upload or connect directly to Google Sheets and spreadsheets of data, and you can then, you know, annotate with metadata your nodes and your edges, and you can build a graph on the fly.

And they’ve got some really nice clustering. And I use it for finding frequently asked questions that are central to a theme. So, I look at all my ranking data, I look at all my pages. I can pull all my competitor data in. I throw all that in with all the “People Also Ask.” And I can go, “Hang on a second.” You know, I can put up a graph and it’s, like, a parallel distribution of questions that are central to a couple of topics that I’m interested in, like, I don’t know, keyword, ranking APIs or whatever. And, you know that those questions, really, you’ve gotta be answering this website. This piece page has gotta be answering those questions. So, that’s…

Dixon: I think you’ve used those tools to pull out some pretty good blog posts as well, case studies in the past, I think.

Laurence: Well, yeah, we did a… This is going back a few years. We did a graph of a whole…I did try a graph the whole of the UK with all our ranking data we have, which was a bit foolhardy. And after trying to analyze it for five weeks, we gave up. But it was fun. That was a few years ago. So, then we focused on my… CTO’s tearing his hair out.

But anyway. So, [inaudible 00:33:59] must be able to do it. Now, that reminds me actually, remind me later of some crazy hair-brained idea I’ve got about big data one day. But anyway, we’ll get to that. But, yeah. No, we did an analysis for PriceMinister, a big French eCommerce site. They’re doing okay. They’re ranked for 900,000 keywords on the first three pages of Google. And then, what we did was build a graph, but rather than just look at ordinary ranking data in a sort of SQL type of way, we took every single ranking page and all their ranking keywords, went out and found all the ranking competitors’ pages and all their ranking keywords, and just built out that graph, and then ran a clustering algorithm just to…a community detection algorithm. It was 4.2 million keywords, and we found all the different clusters.

And then, I’m afraid to Wil’s point, we had to use search volume. We didn’t have any other data. But we could use search volume, and we used Majestic link data to help them understand in the clusters against their top 100 competitors how dominant they were, how, you know…so how big the clusters were, so what’s the opportunity? And then based on whether they’re in the cluster or not, you can say, “Okay, well, you’re ranking okay. Out of all these clusters, which ones have the best potential for you and where are you dominant?” You can end up with a matrix. So, you kind of got high potential, high strength quick wins. High potential, low strength, build authority. You know, reasonable potential, fairly strong maintenance, and low load, don’t bother you’ll never get there. So that’s a great way of looking at sort of SEO…

Dixon: I love how you use the word just as you went through that development process. You know, it’s not as if you did it in the morning, is it really, you know?

Laurence: No. No, no. It took a long, long time, but you can now. You know, we have a clustering tool. But you can take all that data and you can aggregate and you can cluster that data and you can run these community detection algorithms yourself and draw insights out. And to Wil’s, yeah, and Rachel’s mentioned earlier, you can factor in… We were using analytics data in eCommerce transactions. And then you go, “Well, all these pages have got a 10X potential. But hang on a second. These 5, these 50, we make 3 times as much per organic visitor than these, so let’s focus on those.”

And then you’ve actually… That, to me, is big data in a context like I said in the beginning. I’ve taken, you know, a site that’s doing well and I found a market of 4.2 million keywords. And I’m not gonna do that manually. And I just wanna press a button and get some insights. And the real skill, I think, for everyone here, and whether we’re using our brains or software or whatever, is using all that big data and distilling the insights into some clear deliverables that can be communicated, you know, up and across the organization and acted upon. And that is the art of it, and we certainly haven’t mastered it yet. But we’re taking baby steps in the right direction, I feel.

Dixon: There’s lots of nods from Wil and Rachel. Anything you wanna add on that? So…

Wil: No. I mean, like, he’s pretty much spot on there.

Dixon: I think that…

Rachel: Yeah, I did. Everything.

Dixon: Get it, yeah. Get it. Finding the needle in the haystack is what we’re, you know… You could have just said that, Laurence, you know?

Laurence: Sorry. One thing I would say, I feel when…and we’re guilty of this. And, you know, lots of old tools out there are much better known than us, Semrush, Ahrefs, everybody, Searchmetrics, etc. They’ve all got visibility tools that analyze you against the competition. And every time I see a graph, it’s like, “I’m an eCommerce brand. I’m competing with Amazon and eBay.” And I see that sort of visibility graph and that competition, or Venn diagrams. I really don’t like Venn diagrams, right? My pet bugbear. And I go, “People aren’t doing competitive analysis properly because they’re not using big data.” And, you know, if you’re an eCommerce site like, or someone like Lowe’s in the states, and you’re competing, yes, with your traditional competitors, but you’re competing with Amazon and you’re competing with the eBays of this world. And, you know, if you were to ask a question, “I got 9% growth in organic traffic last year. Is that good or bad?”

Well, it depends on how the market grows. You know, what happens in the market? And put it in context. And when you compare a graph of your visibility against all of Amazon’s keywords, it’s irrelevant. You’ve got so much noise in there that’s not relevant to you. If I sell bikes, I wanna understand what the gap analysis is and the opportunity analysis against the keywords that Amazon and eBay ranking in bikes. And that, to me, is a really good use of big data to try and give you a better context.

Wil: Hey, Laurence, one of the things that we’ve just started working on…so it’s so in its infancy. But going back, I think it was you, or maybe it was Dixon that asked about Google Search Console. So, when I was talking about using data for where it has such a unique piece of data that you can’t get anywhere else, that click-through rate for Amazon, we’re starting to look at, like, when Amazon shows up in what position do we see that your click-through rate is way different when Amazon’s above you sitting right around you, right? So then all of a sudden, you might say to a client, “Hey, if Amazon’s two positions above you in almost every product category, it’s not worth it because your click-through rate gets crushed.” So instead, let’s look where Amazon’s not in the top, let’s look at the click-through rate as a cluster for that group and say, “Wow, look, your click-through rate actually is 3X higher when Amazon doesn’t show up.”

And then, when you’re running your monthly rank checkers, if Amazon comes in, you’re like, “Let’s go hands off for a little while.” And if Amazon drops out, you might say, “Hey, let’s go in and try to win for a little while.” So that’s an example of how we’re hypothesizing right now on how to use Search Console data to help us to make better decisions. The other part that we are now… It’s funny. Everything with big data becomes a Pandora’s box, doesn’t it? So, the minute we say, “Oh, Amazon’s ranking. What does that do to our click-through rate?” But then it’s like, “Well, now we have to go scrape Amazon to see whether or not it’s our page that’s showing up. Are we listed?” Because then, the money’s still going into the same bank, so then the client’s not really as concerned. So, you know, like, it just becomes this Pandora’s box. But that’s the fucking fun of it, right? Like, that’s the fun of it. It’s opening that…

Laurence: It’s the sould of the business.

Wil: …Pandora’s box up and being like, “Oh.” And then getting it to your point Laurence, to the point where you click refresh one time and you’ve engineered all the data to come in and surface those insights, you know? So, that’s exactly how I’m trying to use Google Search Console data for something that could give us, you know, a little bit of a leg up. I think Rachel was talking about that as well. I think, honestly, these days, in my opinion, like, SEO is like, “Where can you find that little thing that if you do it, gives you a wedge that’s broken between you and your competition?” Because everybody’s gonna have Semrush, everybody’s gonna have Ahrefs, everybody’s gonna have these tools. And the thing is, it’s like, “How can I use their data, joined to other people’s data, or even their data in a different way, that tells a better story or a different story?” And that’s where I think most SEOs are gonna create value these days.

Laurence: Yeah.

Dixon: That’s kind of interesting. And William Rock thinks that you’ve got a killer idea, the Amazon [crosstalk 00:40:57].

Wil: And we’re working on it right now. I just don’t have as much time to play with it as I wish I did, but we have team that’s working on that literally right now.

Dixon: Do you also look at click-through rates? We’ve got something that does above-the-fold analysis on ranking data. So, you can look at where competitors are bidding on your brand term or brand-related terms, and then you can obviously see that impact on your CTR as well. So, if you then drop below the fold on mobile or desktop, and you go, “Hang on a second,” and someone’s bidding here, then that obviously leads you to one set of actions, as opposed to, “Actually, it’s fine. No one’s bidding right now. Perhaps I don’t need to spend as much bidding on my own brand term.”

Wil: Yeah. We’re doing a little bit of that, but that gives me some inspiration to do a little bit more. If it’s also what you’re talking about, you do above and below the fold. What I like about that…and it’s funny how this wasn’t, like, my world before. Like, it’s crazy that once you decide the spreadsheet is the wrong place to win, how you start learning skills you didn’t think you would have to learn, right?

So, for me, you know, when you do above and below the fold, what I like is you’re aggregating that data into two groups instead of position one, 1.1, 1.5, 1 point this, because then when you go to look at the data, it becomes so disparate that you can’t really see a trend. So, one of the things I’ve learned for those of you that are gonna start off newer in big data, you start learning real quick. You start slicing that data super small, and you’re sitting there like, “[vocalization ]What am I gonna do with this?” So, sometimes rolling that up…

Dixon: It’s where you started, really. You might as well click…

Wil: …sometimes rolling that up in the two big groups is like, “Hey, above and below, the fold is a good start because now my 10,000 words are only spread into two categories instead of spread across 50 categories of all these 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3. And it can drive you nuts.

Dixon: That’s great. That’s some good thoughts there. So, I didn’t get an opportunity, and we’re nearly at the end, really, but I wanted to…just because InLink has got its own knowledge graph, you know, the whole idea of inorganic Google moving towards entity-based algorithms and organic search, moving towards an entity approach, you know, how do you think a system like… I know you don’t necessarily know anything about InLinks, guys. I’m not asking you to know about it, but how do you think we, as a data source, could make our data accessible? We’ve got our own knowledge graph. We know how things are related to each other. So we’ve got it categorized so we can sit there and say, “Right. If you want to know about the concept of, you know, history, then we know that if you’re gonna talk about history, you might also wanna talk about geography. You might wanna talk about these whole school subjects. Or within the context of economics, you might wanna talk about these things, like, you know, the South Sea Bubble,” or whatever.

So, you’ve got different topics related to each other, and being able to throw that back out to people. You know, do you think we gotta make that accessible to people to put into data sets like into Google Sheets? Or can we just give people CSV downloads so they can take that data and move from there? How much effort should a data source that isn’t yet commonly available, I suppose, how much energy should they put into making it available to be picked up by anybody else in any other form?

Rachel: Part of me, selfishly, if it’s a really crazy data set, just leave it as a CSV file and don’t let that many people know about it. So the people that are crafty can find it and use it, [crosstalk 00:44:42] a competitive edge.

Dixon: [crosstalk 00:44:43].

Rachel: But I love if I go to a site, especially all the government sites and I see that it’s just a CSV file of data, I am so happy at that moment, because, yeah, it’s gonna take me a little bit more time to splice in and there’s probably better ways to get it, but it’s still like, “Heck, yeah, I have something I can work with at least, so…” [crosstalk 00:45:03].

Wil: Rachel, do you have access to data engineering in your organization?

Rachel: At this one? Yes. It’s a smaller team than what I had at Advanced Recovery Systems. We had a bigger team there that…like, I would basically give it to them and they would do a lot more with it in Power BI, and then make it easily updateable for me to go in there to slice and splice it and just find my little wins when I could.

Wil: Yeah. That’s why I was asking. You know, it’s like, I find that, to not waste my data engineer’s time, I’m just like you. I’m like, “Get me a CSV, ASAP,” right? One of the things I love about Power BI, and I don’t know about other tools because I don’t have time to research them all, but one of the sources you can make is a folder. So, anything that can email you a CSV every day, you can just basically backdoor it as an API. You just have to jump the file out of your Gmail and drag it into a folder, and you just hit refresh and it updates all your visualizations.

So, for me, a CSV is usually good enough. And then, when the CSV starts to show a lot of value, my data engineers are really good at being like, “Wil, don’t even come to us with this idea until you run it through CSVs four or five times, showing it to four or five clients, it all created something that they haven’t seen that they see value in. Then maybe we’ll engineer the data in a way that just to bring it right into our BigQuery instance.” Because early on, I was just wasting people’s time on my team by being like, “Ooh, there’s an API. Let’s attach to it.” And then they would, and I’d be like, “Well, now that it’s here,” I’m like, “That is not what I thought it was gonna be.” So, I just love playing with CSVs until I find the real value and then I throw it over to the real developers.

Dixon: Okay. That’s really useful for me to know, actually. So, Ammon was coming in with some stuff there. Can you bring back the last couple of things, David? So, what was the thing Ammon said before? He had another one before that. “So, accessibility is often about lowering the floor, providing a ramp. Helping identify useful opportunity is always in that ballpark.” And then goes on to say, “So, perhaps identifying very easily and very clearly where a lever is.” I guess above the fold or below the fold is a really good one. That’s a lever, really. “Where ambiguity exists and can be exploited or fixed.” So, if you don’t know Ammon, find him on… He used to be called Black Knight, but I think he probably doesn’t tell anybody that since those days. But that’s where people have been in the industry for many, many moons.

Guys, we’re pretty much near the end of our time. Is there anything massively left unsaid that I really need to bring in here? If not, then David, what are we gonna be talking about next time? And when’s the next show and how do people get onto it? Because we’ve changed our whole system.

David: Well, we’re actually still open in terms of subject. So, we’re working on the subject at the moment, but I can tell you that the next show is gonna be on Monday the 19th of April at 4:00 PM, BST, that’s 11:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. So, make sure that you sign up at to get alerted for that one. We’ve had a great crowd watching us live on YouTube, especially for this one. Thanks for your interaction, Ammon, William Rock, especially. We’ve got some great likes on Facebook. Izzy Wright, Chris Wright, got Tim, Kim Tomfrey [SP], as well. So, thank you so much for your interaction there as well. Of course, you can listen to the show afterwards in a podcast as well. We’ll tell you all about that over the

Dixon: Okay. And the podcast is pretty much anywhere, Spotify, iTunes, you know, those places as well.

David: Apple Podcasts, Google. Exactly. Yeah.

Dixon: So, guys, before we go, it’s time for me to say thank you very much for coming on. I know, you know, taking time out of your day is a big thing, but it’s really great to have experts like yourselves come in and chat about…deep, deep dive onto something like this, a topic that’s there. How do people find out about you? Where do they go to get more information about you? What message do you wanna leave people with? Laurence?

Laurence: Well, I’m easy to find on LinkedIn. So hopefully, you find me there or find the Authoritas website.

Dixon: Yeah. But don’t spell Laurence O’Toole like that.

Laurence: Well, I said, “If Google can have 10 O’s, then why can’t I?” And, yeah, just last thought just on…I think Wil sort of touched on it. Just, you never know how far you can go until you really push something. It’s so easy to play with this data, so, yeah, connect to Google Sheet to BigQuery and, you know, start playing around with it in Data Studio. And from there, you can get more and more advanced. Some of the tools I mentioned, like, you know, and GraphComment, it’s so easy to build yourself a graph. And actually, you know, then it helps you understand the potential of tools like InLinks even more. So just get started, get your feet wet, and you’ll probably be swimming before you know it.

Dixon: Rachel?

Rachel: Yeah, if you wanna follow me for, like, SEO content, I’m normally on Twitter with that. If you like animals, that’s Instagram, which is also linked from my Twitter. And I guess, like, a little word of advice before leaving off. Just, like, always keep digging. Like, one benefit to SEO is, like, you don’t have the limits to some job, so you can take a little time to dig a little deeper in the data. And I feel like when you do, you just find something that you didn’t see with all the other standard SEO tools that will either make your content different, better, or even, like, rank for keywords that you didn’t even know how to rank for. So, yeah, that would be my typical advice leaving off.

Dixon: Your Twitter handle is something a little odd, so what was your Twitter handle, Rachel?

Rachel: I think my Twitter is, just, like, @rachelh_SEO.

Dixon: Okay. That’s it. Yeah. Okay. Wil, how do we find you? What do you wanna leave us with?

Wil: Just google me, you’ll find me. Blabbing somewhere.

Dixon: Just use one L. William Rock. Use one L in Wil Reynolds.

Wil: Or find some other guy. You know, Google will auto-correct it. They’re smart. No. You know, if anything, Dixon, I would just say, thank you for bringing us together. You know, I think honestly, like, this kind of marketing search, whatever, I don’t think there’s a lot of people doing it. It’s not the norm. Let’s just put it that way. And to be able to sit in a room with Laurence and yourself and Rachel today, it’s, like, I think for SEOs out there trying to do more of this work, even if you’re in paid or Analytics, it doesn’t matter. When you’re trying to join this data, itcan be a little bit of a lonely place. So, my recommendation is, you know, find your little tribe. I’m really glad to hear from those folks today because I’m like, “Okay, now I got some other people I can ping,” and be like, “Hey, this is something that I’m working on we didn’t get to talk about.” And vice versa. So, thanks for bringing us together, man. I really appreciate you doing that.

Rachel: Yeah, this is awesome.

Dixon: Well, it was fantastic for us, so…

Wil: Oh, oh. And one thing I would be remiss to not share this. I started messing around in Power BI, like, five years ago to join SEO and PPC data. And I have, like, a library of how to join all your data on YouTube. I must have, like, 30 videos on, like, how to join your SEO and PPC data…

Dixon: Oh, cool.

Wil: …then look at competitors. How to join your SEO and PPC data, and then look at “People Also Ask.” So it’s a huge library out there of literal step-by-step from the CSV level. So, if you don’t have BigQuery, you don’t have all that, we’ve got a bunch of content out there people should watch if they’re interested.

Dixon: Amazing. Guys, that’s absolutely fantastic. I think David, I have said everything I need to say. Just make sure I haven’t missed anything that’s really important. So, it’s just, I’ll just leave to say, thanks to you, David, for making sure I don’t mess everything up again. And I’ll see you all next month, and thanks all of you, guys, and cheers. Thanks for coming to the “Knowledge Panel Show.”

Although big brands tend to have bigger budgets, they also tend to have complicated structures and requirements. And this can also mean that other things get prioritised or thought about rather than a specific aspect of technical SEO.

In this episode of the Knowledge Panel, we’ll be discussing which aspects of technical SEO big brands miss and the ramifications that this has on the brand’s overall success.

Joining Dixon to discuss this are Ant Robinson, Keith Goode and Lea Scudamore.

YouTube player

The Knowledge Panel is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Want to Read Instead? Here is the Transcript.

Dixon: Hello, everyone, welcome to “The Knowledge Panel Show” episode eight. And today we’re gonna be talking about what aspects of technical SEO do big companies miss. And once again, we’ve got a fantastic panel. Unfortunately, one of them is currently in a…I think it’s a storm or goodness knows what somewhere down in Texas, so we’ll get to him in a minute. But in the meantime, thanks so much for coming on to the show. Whilst we get people sort of coming in on Facebook and YouTube, we’ll sort of go around and have introductions for people.

And before we dive into the subject matter proper, I imagine the price of the conversation might be sort of moving towards processes and things with big companies, but technical SEO and big companies, do they do it right? Do they do it wrong? So, before I go on to the audience, I’m gonna say hello to my producer, David. David are you there?

David: I am, indeed. Hi, Dixon. Good to be here again.

Dixon: So, if Keith can’t go through the whole show, I’ll bring in David considerably more than I otherwise was going to. But why don’t we start by introducing guests, and Lea from Aimclear, why don’t you say hello? Who are you and where do you come from, as they say in the game shows?

Lea: I’m Lea Scudamore. I work at Aimclear out of Duluth, Minnesota in the States.

Dixon: And you got snow on the ground there as well.

Lea: Of course, yes, Minnesota and, you know, Minnesnowta. We hear that a lot. So…

Dixon: Okay, fair enough. And thanks so much for coming on. And you’ve been in Aimclear for 6 years I think, so?

Lea: Yep.

Dixon: A fair well. So that’s great. Thank you very much for coming on today. And, Ant, you’ve been moving around recently. So Ant Robinson, why don’t you introduce yourself? And you’ve got new ventures on the horizon.

Ant: Hi, Dixon. Yeah, thanks for the intro. I’m launching a new digital agency called Black Swans Digital. That’s likely to open its doors officially on March 1st. Kind of a long career, as you know, that you and I have known each other a long time. So hopefully, I think this afternoon should be some good fun because I think we’ve both worked on some fairly large corporate projects too.

Dixon: Yeah. And I think when I met you the first time around, you were working for a very large car brand, I think.

Ant: No, a car retailer, a car brand where you could advertise your car.

Dixon: That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. And huge. And I once tried to get Ant to work for me, and I couldn’t afford him. So, that’s a sign of the times really. Okay, and Keith, who works for some little company. Keith, are you there and can we speak to you? And I know we’ve put you on speaker only.

Keith: Yes, speaker only. I am Keith Goode and I work for a small company known as IBM. They’ve been around for a few years. And yeah, you know, it’s fun. I’m a senior SEO strategist for them based out of CHQ, which is corporate headquarters.

Dixon: So, that’s quite good. We can actually hear you quite well. So why don’t you tell us why we can’t see you today?

Keith: You can’t see me today because we’ve just had a historic winter storm plow through all of Texas. It’s literally frozen all of our wind farms, and it occluded, of course, the sun from being able to power our solar farms. And so, we’re all on coal and natural gas right now. And of course, that’s pressing the grid to its extreme limits. So I’m sitting here in the dark shivering slightly, but I am on the phone with you right now.

Dixon: It’s brilliant isn’t it? Technology is amazing. You can talk to anyone in the world, but you can’t warm up. That’s interesting stuff.

Keith: That’s true. These might be my last words, but I spent them with you, Dixon.

Dixon: Well, it’s more likely to be your last words. If you have a last [inaudible 00:03:45], you would spend it with me. Okay, so guys, thanks very much for coming on, all of you. All of you got a huge amount of experience in…well, certainly in technical SEO and in, you know, big companies as well. And so, I wanted to start with one question. And we’re gonna dive into that very, very specific question. What are the aspects of technical SEO that the big companies miss? But before I just dive in and go winding off. I always like to start with this question so that if anybody, you know, on Facebook or YouTube, you know, hasn’t got time to get to the end of the session, there’s one takeaway right at the top of the thing.

So, if there’s one thing that you think, you know, you’d give big SEO…big companies, obviously, advice or point out that you’ve seen a number of times that you could think they could take away, that they could grab and think about, what would that be? So I don’t know who to pick on first really. I think, well, I’ll pick on Keith on the basis that he’s in a big organization and then has to see this every single day, or something every single day. So can you give us one thing that if people left now, they should go away with, Keith?

Keith: Related to technical SEO, I would say get priority for SEO from the highest levels of the organization. Because you’re going to discover the audits and all sorts of other things, problems, that if you have to wait for budgeting and if you have to wait for priority and resources, you’re basically gonna fall behind. So if you can get an executive on your team and understanding the value of SEO, that will go a very long way with you, as you try to fix things.

Dixon: Okay. I’ll come back to that one. Let’s jump in and see what Ant’s got as an idea.

Ant: So, it’s a really similar chain of thought, actually. And actually, my very first conference that I went to in the U.S. was in New Orleans, and you were there, Dixon. I was from Bill Hunt and I was in the audience listening to him. And one of his pieces of advice was to monetize annually with a finance team a landing pages that you have, and that forces senior finance people to do exactly what Keith just asked, or kind of recommended. Because if you monetize landing pages on an annual basis and then multiply that by the number of landing pages that you have, that’s a significant amount of income and a significant amount of revenue that any FD will not want to lose. And you will get immediate protection for the landing pages and all the kind of funding that you’re kind of going to ask for for the next 12 months.

Dixon: I wanna come back on that one, actually, as well, because I got something that’s a follow-up thought on that from Bill. But before I do that, Lea how about one thing for you?

Lea: After you get buy-in, also, you have to start from the very basis of the platform. It has to be accessible for everybody. You can’t try to retrofit accessibility in sites that have already been built. It doesn’t work, it’s way cost-intensive, and it doesn’t always work the way it should. So you just end up eventually scrapping everything and starting over. So…

Dixon: Oh, okay. I can come back on all of these. And so, let me do that. I mean, surely… And by the way, my job here is to, you know, disagree or argue with anybody. So I’m just tying to pick the holes and create the conversation. But surely, sometimes that’s…and especially with big companies entirely impractical. So many companies have built their technologies with, you know, flash, and, you know, they seem to be the last people to get rid of the bad practices. I mean, do you find that, Lea?

Lea: Yeah, well, also, they’re the biggest targets for lawsuits. So you can do that, but you’re playing with fire. And we know, like, in the States side, we’ve already started to see lawsuits go after big brands. So we really can’t wait on it here our side. Also, since the lawsuits are started here, and everybody is starting to rebuild their websites right now for page experience, because May is coming, right? This is the opportune time to do both. Otherwise, you’re gonna end up building a second site anyway.

So since you’re working on page experience and you’re working to get those speeds up and make sure there’s no content layout shifts, you might as well be building in accessibility from the ground up.

Dixon: So, just before we move in and anyone else who’s jumping on UX as well, but, you know, just so we all know what’s happening in May?

Lea: Google’s launching page experience algorithm that will change the way sites are ranked. They have threatened that they are going to expose brands’ accessibility score in the SERPs. So, like, they’ve done before with, like, mobile-friendly. So, those sort of things are…you know, it’s coming. It’s coming in May. And if you aren’t working on your website to make sure it’s super fast, nothing shifts when people are using it, and that it loads quickly and the parts of the site that load are functional really quickly, that’s all coming here at May.

Dixon: So, I get the feeling that this is a Microsoft Clarity competitor product where they’re coming out with. This is Microsoft’s UX products in there. But I mean, so let me bring UX back in with you, Ant, and say, you know, how important do you think UX is in the UK for big brands at the moment and for SEO?

Ant: I think it’s important for SEO for obvious reasons. It’s less important because we have this brought into law back in ’98 with the Human Rights Act. So a lot of sites have been really, really kind of up on accessibility since I’ve been in the industry. And a lot of this then changed in 2004 where there was an actual legal requirement that your site had to be accessible. So, we had this legislation years ago.

So, it will have less impact in the UK legally. It will have more impact in the UK I think from a user-experience perspective, natural language programming is where we will be key in the UK market.

Dixon: So, Keith, I wanna come back to you on your point, and you feel free to carry on with UX bit. But I wanted to come back on your point of getting buy-in right at the top. And so, that’s not always easy to do, of course. But let me flip that around and say, sometimes you’ve got somebody at the top in a small organization, then it’s quite obvious who’s, you know… At Aimclear, Marty is the face of Aimclear and on the face of inLinks and stuff. And it’s there.

In large organizations, in the massive organizations, you probably have got the Jeff Bezos and Zuckerbergs of this world who are faces, Keith. But aside from the buy-in of someone at the top, you know, a lot of SEO is about sort of influencer marketing. And you’ve got somebody at the top of these organizations, or people at the top of these organizations, who are huge personalities, but they’re highly unlikely to get involved themselves in SEO. How do we go about harnessing that person without making them, you know, become a technical SEO?

Keith: Great question. IBM is not really known for having big personalities in our leadership. So I…[crosstalk 00:11:19]

Dixon: [crosstalk 00:11:18] asking you the question though. I was probably talking to the wrong brand at that particular point.

Keith: But, you know, don’t get me wrong. Brand is absolutely vital in sort of shoring up your organic strength across the site. So, we definitely encourage brand building from our brand teams, our executive teams, and making sure that we really strengthen the brand. Because what we know is that we rank really, really well for our own terms, right? Our own branded terms would do very, very well for. What I have to do as an organic person is I have to talk to the executive and I have to say, “Listen, yes, we’re doing very well from an organic perspective, but look at the keywords that are driving our traffic. It’s us. It’s all our stuff.”

So, you know, when I show them that, okay, sure, we’re driving, you know, I don’t know, 33 million visits a month on our organic terms. But here’s 75 million visits per month we could be driving from non-branded terms. That’s when I can sort of go, “Well, there’s your opportunity. This is money you’re leaving on the table because you’re not either funding something that we’ve asked for or we’re not getting priority from other teams.” So you know, yes, play the brand, but certainly brand is a very small portion of the keyword universe that you could be going for.

Dixon: That’s a very interesting answer to a completely different question, which is great. So I’ll follow up on that one really because it’s sort of what Ant said at the start as well of show them the money. And I get that. And I remember the very first time I saw Bill Hunt myself was in Sweden, I think, and he was still at Global Crossing or GSI before he’d sold that business to Ogilvy, or whoever he sold it to.

And they were talking about this idea of a matrix, a cost matrix. And what they were doing was taking, you know, what the paper click volume said it was supposed to be for any given set of words, then showing them, you know, what the actual traffic from organic was, and then monetizing that and showing, “Look, this is the gap. This is the opportunity missed.” If you were number one for all of the phrases you wanted to be, this would be the amount of traffic that’s coming through.

And I thought that was a fairly effective way of demonstrating a massive, great big hole. I don’t know whether they can do that so well now, because, of course, keyword matching isn’t such an easy thing. But, you know, how easy is it, Ant, to get that kind of monetized, you know, that financial imperative view that you kind of suggested in your introduction?

Ant: Like any part of SEO, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge worth doing. And all you need is a mid-level exec who works in the finance team. So, to actually work through, because you have the keyword volume in terms of the search volume. It’s in search console. You have the keyword volume in Google ads campaigns, and you can see what the overall size of the prize is. And then you can monetize what you’re getting now and what the uplift is.

So, once you monetize what you’re getting now, you can protect the asset value of the landing pages that you have, and then explore with finance, “Actually if we can get additional funding for SEO, this is the projected uplift in revenue that we’re gonna get and here’s the evidence.” And if that goes high enough, protecting the asset value is the thing that actually generates revenue for us. Because if you think about an FD, and he has an asset value, and that asset value is at risk by a go-live process not being right. It gives us the support that we need to get things done, but it also gets us the support financially for what we want to do moving forward.

Dixon: Okay, so Keith or Lea, do you wanna jump in? Do you have anything to add?

Lea: Well, I was gonna say if we’re on the hunt for revenue, right, we’re on the hunt for money, and I’m gonna come back to accessibility a little bit. And I know that it’s been a law in the States since 1990, ’94 for the UK. But there’s $249 to $274 billion in discretionary income that people with disabilities have in the UK. Sitemore [SP] did a study and index of your government offices, like your local government offices, only 17% of them are actually up to par where they’re supposed to be.

So, like, if you look…use them as an example for small businesses and businesses that have websites, there’s a lot of money out there and revenue out there. And the biggest thing we hear back from big brands is, “Well, they’re not my audience.” They’re your audience. They eat, they drink, all that.

Dixon: The only thing I’m just going to say facetiously is that most of our government buildings are older than the United States, so that gives us a [inaudible 00:16:07] problem.

Lea: Well, I’m not talking buildings, I’m taking websites, websites not buildings, websites, web properties. It has nothing to do with the physical location.

Dixon: Yeah. I’m sorry. That was being facetious. But I don’t know if you feel… Ant is the only other Brit on here apart from David. But I feel that the government websites have improved over the last 12 to 24 months a lot. They seem to be more user-friendly. You know, there’s a certain more uniformity. And I’m actually, apart from trying to log into my tax system, which has been bloody impossible, but it seems to be getting better. So we’re working on that, Lea, and I take your point, and I think you’re absolutely right.

Ant: Can I quickly jump in?

Dixon: Yeah, please.

Ant: One of the things I think over here as well is that there’s a load of funding for small business for accessibility on websites that doesn’t transfer across to large business in the UK at all. So, if we’re talking about large business, it doesn’t really fit. But definitely small businesses lots of funding available to upgrade websites that are legacy websites into new if you’re a small business.

Dixon: Hey, Keith, you’re sitting right in the middle of big brands. And I know it’s not just IBM. You’ve got lots of other websites that you sit there and manage as well. And of course, I’m sure IBM is perfect. But on the edges, you know, do you think UX is still something that you guys nearly need to work on? Or is it something that you and you think big brands, I’m not trying to pick on IBM specifically, have largely cracked?

Keith: We’ve mastered it. Yes, we have work to do and there’s no question about it. I always reiterate to folks, when they are doing competitive gap analyses and they’re trying to figure out what they need to do with their website compared to their competitors, I tell folks in our UX team, do not look at the Googles, do not look at the Microsofts and the Oracles exclusively. And look at your actual SERP competitor. See what they’re doing very well from a UX perspective and why they’re potentially ranking better than we are, because more often than not, the SEO at Microsoft and Google and Oracle and all of our other big competitors sucks just as bad as ours does.

So, why would we wanna learn from them, right? So, I think that’s a big lesson, especially when it comes to UX. We discovered a while back that we weren’t ranking well for a term that we thought we really should. We looked at the ranking competitor, not Microsoft. And we saw this beautifully thorough and in-depth piece of content on their page that we literally couldn’t put on our page because our template restricted how much content we could put on that page.

So, this was a big learning for us where we could go back to our UX team and ask them, “Where did you pick up these tips from?” And they were like, “We saw it on Google and we saw it on Microsoft.” Well, of course, and they weren’t ranking either. So there you go.

Dixon: Okay. So what you’re saying for a big SEO is what they should be doing is not looking at the big competitor, they should be seeing why that little guy gets into the rankings. That’s a good lesson.

Keith: A hundred percent, yes. And here’s the thing. We have, and of course, we had a big sloughing off of our links last year due to getting rid of some spammy links, but we still have about 450 to 500 million backlinks coming into IBM. Microsoft has, you know, 150 million backlinks, you know, coming into them. Oracle has, I don’t know, 90 million or so. So it’s not links, right? It’s not just links that are powering these things. It’s the little guys who have 48 links coming into their site that are still outranking us. It’s because they do a better job of answering the questions and they really tap into that whole EAT that Lily Ray talks about so much, the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness and the thoroughness of their content. So don’t just learn from the big guys, learn from the little guys, too, and gas.

Dixon: So Ant or Lea, I mean, what do you think stops big brands from doing that out of the box? Surely, surely, they have all the training and stuff to be able to do that. What goes wrong?

Ant: They’re simply just too slow to respond. Sorry, Lea, I didn’t…

Lee: That’s okay. Go ahead, Ant.

Ant: Big brands are just too slow to respond. It’s like getting an oil tanker to change direction. So if you think about over the last, what? Six, eight months, and how much kind of AI and structured data and kind of Google’s aim to be 50% AI by what? 2024, 2028, somewhere between there, and how they’re bridging the gap. Most big brands don’t have any structured data on their website, which are helping to bridge that gap, which is dead simple, dead straightforward. It could go live easy unless you’ve got this leviathan of a CMS that just doesn’t work in exactly they way that Keith just said.

Dixon: Yeah. And of course, this is my advert for inLinks, since inLinks is sponsoring the whole event here today, of course. I mean, the one thing that inLinks does is it just uses one line of JavaScript, and all the schema…well, the content schema anyway, and FAQ schema and internal links can be automated with one line of JavaScript. So, I guess my question on from that then is, obviously inserting a JavaScript is a fairly new thing within SEO, because you couldn’t really do that…until Google started, you know, rendering the DOM, it wasn’t really following JavaScript very well. But now, Martin Splitt and all the guys now, you know, have no problem with rendered JavaScript, haven’t done for some years and things.

So I guess my question is, why is it that we don’t make use of JavaScript more in SEO now? Because, you know, JavaScript can cover your schema. WP schema does that very, very well, or Schema app.

You know, inLinks is doing a pretty good job, you know, including Keith has talked about it. So thank you very much, Keith. So it must work on some big websites. We got some pretty big bands using the thing. But it could be doing so much more to stop that juggernaut of slowness. You know, the fact that the big organization can’t move doesn’t mean to say the people within it can move. And what was holding people up before is the SEOs know what they need to do because they’ve run 20 audits over there last year. But they can’t give them to the developers because the developers are too busy doing something else in the organization.

And so, I guess my question is can JavaScript take that away? And is that something that might develop more and more? Or am I just trying to sing the praises of inLinks and I haven’t got a chance? Anyone wanna jump in with that?

Keith: I’d love to.

Ant: It’s [inaudible 00:23:03] now.

Keith: Yeah, I’d love to speak to that. Because I think part of the reason the adoption of JavaScript hasn’t been there as much as it could be is partially us. It’s partially the SEOs just not knowing…

Ant: We’re just not used to it.

Keith: …it can be implemented. We’re not used to it for one. The second part of that is also us. But it’s because we understand that our developers want to take the easiest way out of developing it. They want to do client-side rendering. And we’re, like, “No, no, you got to do server side.” And they’re like, “But that takes too much work.” “Okay, we’ll do a hybrid.” “Well, that takes even more work.” So, you know, part of it, you know, is really the fact that we don’t trust our developers as much as maybe we could or should. And maybe it’s because they’re not trustworthy enough? I don’t know.

Dixon: Oh, okay. Well, if we’ve got any questions from the audience here, then feel free to jump on in there.

Ant: So I think as well…I think that if you think about most big sites, and a lot of WordPress sites, Google takes a snapshot of the five-second point, and it literally…it renders the JavaScript at five seconds. If your page is loading at 12, then you’re not getting the structured data and everything else put forward. So the reason why I’m really reluctant to kind of use JavaScript in the way you’ve described is because the majority of pages load after five seconds anyway. So it’s not getting a full snapshot of all the content that is on a page.

Dixon: So you’re saying the majority do load or don’t load?

Ant: Don’t load.

Dixon: Don’t load. Okay, so I’d agree with that. If your site hasn’t loaded in five seconds, then you’ve got a speed problem, and that’s kind of like a cliff, I think, for SEO. You know, Google is not all about you have to be faster, faster, faster to write better, better, better, but there’s got to be a cliff, and you’re saying the cliff is five seconds.

Ant: Google’s cliff is there, is there, and it’s there [inaudible 00:25:02].

Lea: I think a lot of brands got burned by Java before, right? We got burned and we ended up losing content or giving up content that we had that we thought was so great because of ranking in Google and all that stuff. So, I think there’s a little bit of a trust issue there. Like, we’ve already dated them, and maybe we’re not ready to jump back into a relationship yet?

Dixon: Possibly, but I think Martin Splitt said Google has done a huge PR job for Google of saying how far they’ve come on and how that’s moved. But back in the early days of JavaScript, it was slow. You know, it’s not now. I mean, you know, so we put defer tag on anyway, so, you know, everything else loads for the customer for the user before our stuff does anyway. But you’re right, you know. It can load in five seconds and, well, you’ve got bigger problems than SEO, I think, possibly.

But to your point, Keith, I mean, I don’t think we as SEOs should be doing everything server-side anymore. It’s not necessarily quicker. And I think we, as SEOs, have probably missed some real opportunities, which we seem to be slowly getting to. But, you know, I’d argue that JavaScript is still the future because it decouples a lot of the problems that large organizations have got.

Okay, let me move on to hreflang, because I can’t really go for too long with big organizations and say hreflang because this is, again, Bill Hunt’s pet peeve. How man big companies seem to get it right? And how often do you see that going wrong? You know, Ant, I don’t know. Lea, I don’t know if your an hreflang person. So I’ll jump in with Ant because I’m sure he’s had his fair share of hreflang problems.

Ant: Yeah, it’s a European problem, isn’t it, right?

Dixon: Yeah, because we have a lot of languages to deal with. Yeah.

Ant: Yeah, I mean, the problem being is that Google wants to be able to kind of group a set of pages together that are delivering the same content just in different languages. And done right, hreflang is the way to do that. It’s kind of…it’s as important as using a canonical tag on duplicate content that you know is duplicate content. The problem being is that implementation is a challenge.

And the reason being is that you’ve got headquarters in every different European city or every different city where a localized language occurs, in every country where there’s localized language. So getting the same content that actually is the different language version of the same content is often a challenge. If you get some data in one country and not in the next and that’s where the challenge arises with hreflang in my experience.

Dixon: Keith, how are you coping with language problems?

Keith: Okay. Okay. I don’t know. All right, no, actually IBM, and I think a lot of companies have a hard time with it in general, simply because the implementation is not always as easy as you would think it would be. Because oftentimes, especially if you’re an organization that has multiple different CMS and different types of content management systems, which is a CMS, never mind, I’ll just say it again. You run into sort of cross-platform issues of getting that hreflang right for one.

Secondly, oftentimes, the content in the other countries is basically just stealing content from other regions. And the need to have a different page altogether is sort of minimum. So, you know, we’re actually taking a language-first approach rather than a country-first approach. And we’re finding that that’s probably going to work out better for us simply as a B2B business.

Now, when it comes to a B2C business, you might absolutely positively need to have a country-first approach because of taxation and different pricing and different, you know, monetary values, etc. But I’m not sure I’ve seen a really, really great example of a very large company doing it extraordinarily well. I think it’s all a bit kludgy. If it works sometimes, it’s just sheer luck.

Dixon: Did he say it’s all a bit Fuji?

Keith: Kludgy. I don’t know if that’s an American word or not, but it just means it’s wonky. Lea, do you have any examples of Minnesotan language for wonky?

Lea: Oh God, if we get into Minnesota language, we’ll be here all day.

Dixon: Minnesnowta is where we got [crosstalk 00:29:44].

Lea: Yeah.

Keith: By the way, Lea, your weather’s down here. Would you please come get it? It got drunk and wound up in our backyard?

Lea: No, it was near 23 when we woke up this morning and that’s without wind. So we would happily take seven degrees back. That’s, like, outside weather. That’s run-around-and-do-stuff weather. We’ll definitely, yeah, send it back home, because we would rather push this stuff north.

Dixon: So let me throw in that whole idea of language back to all three of you and say, “Well, okay, I take your point.” It’s very interesting, Keith, that some countries, or some organizations, are gonna develop, you know, with different businesses in different countries. And so, clearly, you know, they’re not gonna have the same content. They may have started from completely different places, in different countries, because their businesses operate differently that way, and the content is gonna be different.

But by the same token, is there not a real opportunity there if we can only work on that finance piece of demonstrating, you know, where there’s content in one language but isn’t there in another language? So it’s not about hreflang now, it’s just about the fact that, you know, one country has written this massive, great big piece at some university student did as their thesis, and it’s in Spanish and it’s not sitting there in German or English, or Taiwanese, or Chinese.

You know, is there a real opportunity there or is that just going way too far out the comfort zone of SEOs to be able to get that message across and show that opportunity? I don’t know. Lea, do wanna jump in?

Lea: I was gonna say content gap analysis is a content gap analysis, right? You have to look at your audience in the individual areas that you’re going to present products, too. So if you’re missing a page, and you can see that you’re missing it, then you build the page in the right language. So, I think it just comes back to is it actually needed? And you do that by looking at the analysis that you have in front of you.

So, I think you start there versus like saying, “Oh, we have it in Spanish. We should obviously have it in English,” or, “We should obviously have it in German.” I think it honestly has to be by audience.

Dixon: But I mean, it’s not by topic, or if you’re not fighting over the phrase, I don’t know, blue widgets in Germany, because no one’s written a piece of content on blue widgets in Germany. And yet, you know, that blue widgets is money-making in the U.S. or in Canada. Is that not, you know, to your point at the start, Ant, where you said, you know, “Get that monetary value on the table.” And Keith said it as well. You know, can we use that? Shouldn’t we be using that? Or is that too far out the SEOs’ stable?

Ant: It’s absolutely what SEO should be doing. And in Europe, it depends where the corporate headquarters are. In England or the UK, if the corporate headquarters sit in the UK, we’re a little bit arrogant and we don’t really care what’s going on in Europe. And therefore, often hreflang and additional content in different languages, people expect Europeans to read English and English language pages okay. It’s not. It’s eroding traffic. And using that analogy, Dixon, is absolutely the right way to go. It demonstrates clearly at exec level that there’s money being left and somebody else is eating our lunch.

Dixon: Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, I’m only a small business at inLinks, really, but we’ve just launched the knowledge graph in Spanish. And almost the first job I’ve taken on is somebody to start translating all of the pages on the blogs, you know, to go through and start. Before I couldn’t market to the Spanish, but now I can, but I’ve only got my homepage in Spanish, so I’m a long way off being a big company for that kind of reason.

Ant: [crosstalk 00:33:37].

Dixon: Keith anything to add?

Keith: Well, I just think from a page perspective, it’s really a matter of what we’re legally able to sell in certain countries as well. So, it’s not just that we wanna have 180 different versions of the same content out there. Sometimes it’s a matter of us not being able to sell there at all, or we have to go through a government-approved local person to sell these products or services for us. So, you know, it would be lovely if…I don’t know how many countries there are in the world. Is it 182, 184? Somewhere around there? Maybe 220. I could be way off.

Dixon: Yeah. No, there’s more than 200 but maybe not recognized by America, you know.

Keith: And we don’t include the micronations. But it would be lovely if we could have a page, you know, for every single country out there and that would be consistent across the board. It would make doing hreflang so much easier for us, technically speaking. It’s just a matter of, like, legally, can we sell in that country? Legally, can we sell that product in that country as well. So it’s as straightforward as I think the documentation would like to have us believe.

Ant: I think one last point that’s really important, and that’s in including when you are doing translations that you have naturalized people doing those translations. Because writing a piece of content and getting a UK translator who speaks French and is fluent in French isn’t the same as an indigenous French person doing that piece of content automatically and writing that from scratch. It’s so much more effective from an SEO perspective when that occurs rather than kind of using a UK translator whose first language is British. You know, it just doesn’t work as well. It needs that localization, just an intonation of the written language. You know, it changes.

Dixon: I’m loving the sarcasm for a moment. So, yeah, okay. Right. So, Lea, sorry, did you wanna dive in there? Or should I just move on?

Lee: No, I was agreeing with him. It’s just…yeah.

Dixon: I wanna talk a little bit before we go about tiger teams versus SEO teams, and I think the idea about mixing and matching different skill sets. But before I do that, you know, we’re talking about technical SEO. So I think it’s only sensible to ask the question, just because you’re a large organization, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your business overly relies probably increasingly after COVID. But it doesn’t overly rely on everybody coming in. We’re not all Amazons.

We can be a very big organization, but we don’t have to have… You know, I don’t suppose JCB is worrying about a server that has to go over 20 blocks of warehouses and things because their audience is very business-to-business and they could probably operate their site even though they’re a massive organization on the same kind of server that somebody like I could do, if you like.

So I guess when does technical SEO, when does servers become an issue for large organizations? And where does that trouble start happening? Wen that scale problem starts happening? How does a large organization find out? I mean, they probably find out by their site crashing, but what do they have to change? Or do they just carry on relying with, you know, WP Engine server-side hosting, you know? When do you need your own data center then, Keith?

Keith: Great question. Well, for one, you need it when you’re in China, first and foremost, because as you know, we know there’s that great firewall of China that you have to sort of be within in order to do very well there. Secondly, I don’t really deal as much with data centers from an actual data center perspective as much as I do with caching services. We are very much interested in caching services specifically, because, yes, you do need a distributed ability to have fast access to your users across the globe. But you don’t necessarily have to have separate data centers so that you can rely on a caching server for that.

Dixon: Okay, well, I’m caching. So today, we’re talking Cloudflare and Akamai, and these kinds of guys, you know, Cloudfare…

Keith: Exactly, yeah.

Dixon: I mean, because I’m a big crawler, you know, I do find it quite interesting. Cloudflare loves to block anything that they don’t think is human. Do you find that there’s, you know, out-of-the-box Cloudflare actually makes SEO worse? I don’t think that Cloudflare understands, or maybe large organizations don’t understand that saving a little bit of bandwidth is a very cheap way of blocking real people eventually coming to your website.

So I have this argument, and I’ll argue to you, Keith, you know, because I’m sure that IBM does it as well, you know. The blocking bots is not a clever way because it cuts down your marketing channels. What do you say about that? Cloudflare is bad?

Keith: Well, I can’t say that for my former…[crosstalk 00:39:11]

Dixon: For me. No, no, for me.

Keith: Okay, okay. Okay. Yes, I do think that there’s a need to configure outside of what comes in the box for either Cloudflare or Akamai. And we most certainly do that on a regular basis. You know, and there is a need to have a whitelist available for the bots, you know, and so that we can certainly service their needs as well. We don’t block bots until they become malicious in their behavior, generally speaking. So yeah, never take anything out of the box, in my opinion, and just use it as is. You have to configure it especially.

And we have people that do that. I couldn’t do that myself. I couldn’t tell you how to do that. So, that’s why we hire the smart people.

Dixon: Yeah. Lea and Ant, your opinion on bots and big business?

Ant: So yeah, I’ve got a really good example of this actually. So a fairly large corporate that has been one of my clients recently was using a global platform for their E-commerce, and their data centers are all based in one country. And it’s north of where you’re sitting, Lea, somewhere.

Lea: Yeah, it is.

Ant: So that should give you a close to who the platform are. I’m not gonna name them. And literally, they were blocking Googlebot UK, which is not a good thing when we’re trying to do SEO for a company whose main revenue is coming from the UK. So you can imagine the challenges that we got to get a major E-commerce platform to change their firewall settings so that Googlebot UK could go in. But we did, but you can imagine the challenge that that took.

Dixon: I find that really bizarre. I mean, Lea, I mean, what’s your opinion on, you know, blocking bots?

Ant: Crazy.

Lea: I…[crosstalk 00:40:59]

Ant: Sorry.

Lea: No, it’s okay. Blocking bots is not something I’m a fan of just because we have so many times where even our SEO tools are blocked because they’re blocking bots, and so then their clients are looking, or big brands are looking for their reporting, and you’re like, “I’d love to give it to you, but we haven’t been able to do things for…” You know. But when it comes to the big side of that, I’m really lucky I get to lean on Joe Warner, our CTO, and I don’t have to make all those things. I just can say, “It’s broken.” And then he makes everything work. So…

Dixon: I think I found it really interesting for other… I mean, you made the point about Google UK, and that’s obviously huge. But, of course, you know, Google Images has their image bot, you know, or Bing bot or, you know. If the CDN networks or CDNs are going to block bots, by definition, apart from Google and maybe Bing, then they are really by definition forcing the world to go to one of two suppliers. So they’re costing them…what they’re saving in bandwidth, there’s more than costing in advertising revenue, because if there’s only two places where you can go put your advertising dollars, then that price is gonna carry on going up.

And I think that there’s so many different bots that are, especially in a world of entity SEO, you know, where the world is moving towards a topic-based system. And people sort of got this idea of everything being, you know, topic-based rather than page content-based, I think that blocking the bot means you’re not allowing any of those bots, any of those information retrieval systems to scan the content, put it into a machine friendly format, for want of a better phrase, and therefore can’t then reproduce it back.

So you’re not gonna end up in your featured snippets as much as you want, you’re not gonna end up on Google Discover as much as you want, you’re not gonna end up on…you know, if Nokia come out with a new phone or Apple are doing their own crawl, you’re not gonna be [inaudible 00:43:06] seeing if they ever come out with a search engine.

So I think it’s a real problem. And also, on top of that, they’re only blocking the ones that identify themselves as bots, which is just crazy, absolutely crazy. Over half the blocked bot traffic pretends it’s humans, so, yeah, okay, and my pet peeve and then…

Ant: And it only pretends it’s human because it’s blocked otherwise.

Dixon: But Cloudfare and Akamai, you know, make themselves…you know, they stand this up as a USP, but it’s basically saving them pennies and potentially costing them millions, I think, for a custom…

Ant: Yeah, and my take on it is if you look at any kind of analytics of internal traffic, there’s always 10% of your traffic is coming from image search. You know, some of that is…and your audience usually [inaudible 00:43:55] depends on the business that you’re in. But global brands want to have a brand presence, and that is around distributing their imagery that their brand team have produced. And if those brand searches for that imagery are not being found because they’re using a CDN that is being blocked to Google, or any other search engine you can mention, then kind of what’s the point in spending the money on the brand?

Dixon: Yeah. Okay, Keith, feel free to come back on that as well if you want to at the end. But I just wanna cover over the last bit, because we’ve already reached time. And what I want you to finish up with was asking about large organizations and their SEO teams. And I guess I’m gonna ask Keith how big his SEO team is in a second. If you can’t answer, Keith, then that’s absolutely fine. But I guess the reason that I’m asking is, do you think a large organization should have a significant, dedicated SEO team, or do you think they are better off having a tiger team coordinated by an SEO somewhere? So one SEO who then sits there and says, “For this website over here, I’m gonna grab you from UX, you from web design, you from analytics, and you from finance, and get you all into a thing. And you’re going to be my SEO team.” What’s a better approach? And, Keith, I’m gonna throw it over to you.

Keith: Well, it depends. Not really. Actually, it sort of does depend. We have a fairly small team at this point. We lost a couple of our team members going over to a couple of other different companies. And, you know, that sucked. Patrick, you jerk. Anyway.

Dixon: Yeah, he sat next to me at the U.S. Search Awards dinner before I knew, and he was just plugging me for what I was doing before he wandered of and announced it. Thanks, Patrick.

Keith: Yeah, he’s sneaky that way. But I will say that you should have a team in-house if at all possible. I would not rely 100% on agencies. No offense to our agency friends, but I would not 100% rely on them because I think that you have to have someone who has sort of tribal knowledge and can actually work with the internal resources politically to get stuff done.

So, you know, do you need an SEO team of 50 people for a company the size of IBM? Not really. But you can probably get by with a dozen or so ranging from senior to junior SEOs coordinating with a nice agency team, because I definitely do need an agency team to work with 100%. I need somebody to do the grunt work while I’m doing the strategic work.

Dixon: Okay, Ant, do you wanna jump in? You’re on mute. You’re on mute mate.

Ant: Sorry about that. I couldn’t agree more with exactly what Keith just said that internally it does need an SEO team and they should be responsible for managing the agency, because the internal team have the internal working knowledge of the corporate structure and what actually the business is moving towards. I also think that having the expertise in-house that fits strategically, it’s not cost-effective to have that as an external resource, because the cost per hour is just out of the questio, and even large corporates don’t want to spend that with an agency.

And that’s where agencies really do fit well, because we can get that grunt work done quickly and efficiently and change. But what I wanted to say more is, to your original question, the tiger teams I think work really well. So the brand that I used to work with that we started this conversation about had teams that worked in silo. There was an SEO team, there was a mobile team, there was a desktop team, there was a brand team, there was a photography team. And every team sat in silo and no one ever spoke to each other. They just got on with their own jobs.

And the amount of conflict that got created actually caused more problems going back to retrofit what a single conversation would have cured early on. So I think an integrated team with different skill sets in it is much more powerful than managing external agency. That’s where a large corporate gets most of its kind of good work done.

Dixon: Yeah, Lea, do you wanna be the final word?

Lea: Sure, I am. Working with Aimclear, I was embedded in a very large software company’s team for content, and they had eight BU’s, or business units. And each business unit had their own content team. And I was the SEO that led all the content. So I provided strategy and then they did the content and made sure that I was on point for content with the verbiage for the user. And that worked really well and we saw great success that way.

So I don’t know how big of an SEO team you need. But the content to be built off of what SEO provides with strategy was a winner for us.

Dixon: Okay, great. So I’m really grateful for Doc and Ammon for throwing in points there. I didn’t see specific questions. So I’m sorry I didn’t bring you out. And David, if there’s anything I’ve really missed that I should have seen… There is a question. So now you’ve done it right after the 45-minute mark, Ammon, thank you, how much does corporate culture become a limitation?

Ant: It’s huge.

Dixon: Okay, yeah, cool. Yes. Okay. Well, let’s answer that one, then. Yeah. How much does corporate culture become a problem for big organizations? And you’re saying huge. Is it 99% of the problem?

Ant: Yeah, you can’t get things done. If you think of what Keith said right at the start, you need somebody at a senior C-suite level who is gonna champion the SEO campaign. Without that, there isn’t anybody at the board level that can actually make sure that we get the work done that we need to do. And then, the corporate structures that sit in between a senior SEO, for example, or a digital marketing director, there’s probably three layers of people, and never the twain shall meet, you know.

Dixon: I agree. I agree. Keith, do you wanna jump in there?

Keith: A hundred percent I agree. The corporate culture can be quite problematic, especially politically speaking, because executives, I’m not going to say that they’re not smart people, but they are very much like cats in that they are interested in the shiny thing that’s over in the corner that’s getting their attention. And sometimes, that is a very, you know, upwardly mobile and outgoing 20-something-year-old fresh out of MBA school who has an idea and just happens to be in front of them.

The problem with that is is that it can actually distract from really, really higher priorities. So, there’s a corporate culture of getting attention and keeping attention that we can’t always win. And then, added to that, you know, I have to do about 20 hours of mandatory training every year on the exact same material related to harassment and diversity, and all of these other things that really keep me from being able to do my job. Even though, you know, I know it. I know. Yes, I know this, but it’s not to do with the training. So there are all this cooperate limitations [crosstalk 00:51:24]

Dixon: And everybody in your organization should be doing that on SEO, and basically, yeah, your imprint on the world these days as well I think. Yeah.

Keith: Which we really, really need to. Absolutely.

Dixon: Yeah. I think that’s it. And you could use legislation for that. You could sit there and say, “Look, anything I say…” Well, in the UK anyway, you can sit there and say, “Anything I say could be taken as something that the company has said. So therefore, I need to be trained in it and use that as a leverage for SEOs.”

Guys, I’ve got to wrap things up a little bit here. And it’s been a fantastic and fascinating conversation. We’re staying on the big data thing next time round. David, what’s the subject of the next session?

David: So next week it’s going to be how to use big data to scale SEO.

Dixon: Next month. I can’t do this every week. It’s too much work for me.

David: Absolutely, next month. That same date next month, 15th of March.

Dixon: Okay, because we’re not on a leap year. So same time, same date,

David: Same time in the UK, but actually an hour later in the U.S. because that’s a day after the U.S. goes into summertime. So it’s 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time next month, and 4:00 p.m. UK time.

Dixon: That’s never gonna work. I’m gonna run. Good luck. Okay, thank you very much, David. I’m glad you’re ahead of that game because there’s no way I would have got that right.

Ant: I’ve got it [inaudible 00:52:38].

Dixon: And it’s a big data SEO, right? It’s good. Who have we got coming on?

David: So we’ve got Laurence O’Toole from Authoritas . We’ve got Will Reynolds coming on as well. So it should be a great show.

Dixon: Yeah, it should good. Thank you very much. Okay, guys, so it just leads me to let you guys say if people wanna find out more about you, where do they go? And how do they find you, Lea?

Lea: You can find me on Twitter @LeaScudamore.

Dixon: Lea Scudamore.

Lea: Yeah or find me on Aimclear blog too.

Dixon: Okay, Ant?

Ant: Find me @antrobbo at Twitter. Exactly the same.

Dixon: One B or two?

Ant: Two Bs antrobbo two Bs.

Dixon: The you go. Keith, well, obviously we can’t even see you so you’re not allowed to be found or you? You are allowed to answer, Keith. Where do we find you?

Keith: Can’t unmute.

Dixon: Okay, so I’ll tell you how you find Keith. You just go down to somewhere in Austin, Texas and bang on IBM’s door and he’ll be the other side there, and he’ll take your queries in person only. So there you go. Okay guys…[crosstalk 00:53:46]

Ant: Sorry go on.

Dixon: Go on.

Ant: I was just saying you guys are working me overtime.

Dixon: Keith?

Keith: Sorry about that, Dixon. I couldn’t get off mute for some reason, but I am at @keithgoode on Twitter. But maybe not for long I’ve got to go burn some chairs to stay warm, so I may die in a fire so.

Dixon: That’s brilliant. Guys, thank you ever so much for coming along. I’m pretty sure when we press the button here everything goes dead. So we’ll be…okay, Ammon’s pointed out that Keith’s cloaking. He is indeed, but, you know, he’s from Texas, so, you know, they’re gonna have to do that for a while for a few more years. So guys, thank you very much for coming along. I really appreciate it. And see you again soon. David, anything I need to say? Did I miss at all?

Keith: Thank you.

David: No, not at all. Everything doesn’t go dead. Actually, people are still here when we ended the broadcast.

Dixon: That’s fine.

David: We ended the broadcast just now. Bye-bye, everyone.

Is it still possible to drive significant volumes of organic traffic from search engines to affiliate niche sites? Is SEO for affiliate niche sites something that used to be much easier or are there still significant opportunities to drive affiliate marketing success through organic?

In this episode of the Knowledge Panel Craig Campbell, Jenny Abouobaia and Julie Adams explore what’s currently working in the field of SEO for affiliate niche sites.

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THE KNOWLEDGE PANEL Episode #7: SEO for Affiliate Niche Sites

The Knowledge Panel is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Want to Read Instead? Here is the Transcript.

David: “The Knowledge Panel,” episode number seven. SEO for affiliate niche science. “The Knowledge Panel” show is brought to you by InLinks, the entity-based SEO platform that helps you rank higher and stay ranked longer thanks to its advanced content optimization tools. Try InLinks for free over at Hi there. I’m your host, David Bain, and replacing Dixon on temporary basis. But, Dixon, you’re still here, sir?

Dixon: I am. I am. Yeah, I’m in the room. I’m actually out of bed now. It says I’m from a recovery bed but they’ve let me to get onto crutches. I had a phone call with the physio today. And the physio said, “I’m sorry, you’re gonna have to come into this COVID infested hospital to have a check over,” because I can’t work out whether I’m allowed to walk again or not. But, yeah, it’s been six weeks since I’ve had a bike accident and broke a pelvis. So it’s a bit of a pain really. Made a mess of Christmas but a good time to do it, though, because I was locked down anyway. So what else was I going to do? I’ve been on drugs and goodness knows what so I’m really grateful to you, David, for running the show and letting me just not make a mess of it. And I’ll just bail off, bail out now and just leave you guys on to do the show.

David: Well, thanks for coming on and saying hello, Dixon. Great to see you and starting to recover there and Dixon is going to be back next month’s episode. I’m hosting that one that in four weeks today. So we’ll tell you a little bit more about that towards the end of this particular episode. But thanks again, Dixon. Of course, we’ve got three great guests joining me today. You see them on the screen if you’re watching the video live. But before we get to them, we’re going to be talking about affiliate marketing today of course. I’d like to first of all introduce you to a lady who’s heading up the launch of the new InLinks affiliate program. Hello, Red Barrington. Hi, Red.

Red: Hi. Hi. It’s lovely to be here.

David: Yeah, great to have you on here as well. So, obviously, Inlinks has launched its own affiliate program and this is something that you’re going to be heading up. So what’s it all about and I guess who should be signing up for it?

Red: Well, it’s a very exciting time. We’ve relaunched the affiliate program with InLinks and there’s a great opportunity to…for those who are already using perhaps the service know a bit about it, love the product, but enjoying utilizing the product. And now’s the opportunity, obviously, to share with clients or their audiences. And we’ve got two different types of affiliate programs depending on what you fancy. Going forward, there’s one that where you can gain money back straightaway with our promoter program depending on what your audience or clients perhaps are interested in. You can gain some money back based upon what the bill comes in from them. Or we’ve also got a customer kickback program which is fantastic. If you really love the InLinks products, you’re heavy usage of it, means that you never have to basically pay for it based upon, obviously, the amount of referrals you get. So my role now in InLinks is to really grow this affiliate program and help the affiliates get with the content or perhaps the resources that they might need to really help with their referrals. So I’m always on hand. I’m on So do get in touch with me. I’d really love to speak to you all and see how we can boost those referrals from your clients’ audience.

David: Superb. So you mentioned Is there a link directly on the website that people can just go to and sign up for that?

Red: Yep. It’s actually was featured this week in the newsletter. And it’s also on the website as well. There’s a whole detail how to sign up on the website.

David: Super stuff. Well, great to hear from you, Red, and we may hear from you later on. We’ll see. But we’ll have you hovering in the background at the meantime and…

Red: Yeah, if there’s any questions, pop them into the chat area. I’m happy to answer those as well.

David: Sounds great. Sounds great. Well, let’s introduce you to the three main panelists for today’s discussions. First off is a lady who’s been in the SEO game since 2012. She has taken websites from ground level to sold for six figures and is the founder of SEO service SERP Decoder. Welcome, Julie Adams.

Julie: Hi. Yeah. Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Given me a pretty good intro there. Like you said, I’ve been doing SEO since about 2012. I worked originally at an agency and now I’m doing affiliate full time.

David; Pretty good. It could be improved but pretty good. Okay, good to have you here, Julie. Thank you so much for joining us. Next up is a lady who loves to get her hands on a new site, audit it, and find its riddles and then fix it. She’s the founder of Clever Touch Marketing. Welcome, Jenny Abouobaia. I told you is gonna muck it up best, Jenny.

Jenny: No problem. Thanks for having me.

David: Come on, please, tell me what it should be.

Jenny: Yeah, it’s Jenny Abouobaia. And as David said, I’m the founder of Clever Touch Marketing. So we are an SEO agency based in Egypt that deals just with affiliate niche sites. So we build them for clients. We fix ones that are going wrong. And we’ll help them build out portfolios.

David: Great to have you on but you’re not getting back on until you change your name. So thanks again, Jenny. Next up is a gentleman who may just do something unexpected with your domain if you don’t remember to renew it. He is the founder of Craig Campbell SEO. Welcome, Craig Campbell.

Craig: Thank you, David. Pleasure to be here. It’s been a while since we’ve been on a webinar together. So looking forward to today.

David: Absolutely. I’m sure it’ll be great. So, you’re famous on the live streaming world. So good to have you on here. And I’m sure we’ll do more in the future as well. So we’re talking about affiliate marketing today, of course, in relation to SEO. We’ve got three great experienced panelists in that area here. So maybe let’s go back to Julie initially there. Julie, I mentioned 2012 in the intro about you in terms of your involvement in the SEO space. How has affiliate marketing in relation to SEO changed over the last few years?

Julie: Oh, my gosh, it’s night and day. So before 2012, it was the Wild West. I consider 2012/2013 where it started getting a little bit cleaner. But back in the day back when I started, it was a lot of spun content and links that were generated by robots and stuff. And now it’s a little bit more about quality.

David: A bit about quality. Okay. So I remember affiliate marketing in the Wild West, as you say, then. I kind of dabbled or briefly probably about 2007, something like that. So those are the Wild West days. Craig, you’ve been involved in the SEO space for even longer than that. When did you get started in affiliate marketing?

Craig: Probably roundabout the same time as Julie probably. And I used to mess around with Rankin Rain, and you’ll win exact match domain names and everything ranked really well with your one page of content and whatnot. So I used to do a lot of that. And then obviously, roundabout 2012, 2015, the Panda and Penguin updates come out and things will start to be cleaned up. Things will so much went easy. And so that came that impacted my business model slightly in terms of, you know, the ranking rate model, which I found decent, and that’s when I kind of turned more towards affiliate marketing.

David: Okay. Great. And, Jenny, you’ve been involved in a little bit more recently but what was it about this side of SEO that particularly appealed to you?

Jenny: I think basically, I mean, I started out on the content side and I was specifically writing content for affiliate niche sites. And it felt like a kind of natural transition from kind of just the content to the SEO side. And I think I’ve always been the kind of person anyway that I like to kind of stay niche specifics or working with one thing rather than trying to spread yourself too thin. But also, I think, from working on a client side, I’ve always much preferred working on affiliate anyway because most of the clients that already have an idea about SEO, and even if they don’t necessarily have what the need to take the sight of that kind of next level, they have an understanding of what they should be doing and how long it takes where I could never really think of working in other areas of SEO where you’ve got clients kind of banging down your door after a day like what’s happening, this kind of thing. So I always felt, like, affiliate was a good way when working with clients to kind of it makes it project a lot easier when there’s a mutual understanding and they can appreciate the results that they’re seeing even when they’re on the smaller scale, if it’s seen over a short period of time. So that was kind of the thing that attracted us to it mainly.

David: Great. Okay. So you mentioned niche sciences there. And we’ll also dive into whether it’s the right thing to do just to focus in on a specific niche or maybe cover yourself and actually work across multiple different verticals. But just before we do that, maybe let’s talk about some areas that used to work really well but perhaps aren’t good opportunities nowadays, perhaps because of Google changing its algorithm or other things happening to them. And, Julie, I see you’re nodding your head just slightly there. Other niches that you have been involved in that were particularly successful in the past but you wouldn’t really advise people getting into them nowadays?

Julie: Anything at Amazon. So back in 2017, Amazon had their first big commission cut where they went from essentially paying commission on volume and they changed it to flat fees across the board. And if you were pushing 30,000 sales a month, you got your commission’s cut in half. Now, they did that again in March of 2020. So now things went from, like, 8% to 3%. So it’s not necessarily a singular niche. It’s just working with Amazon in general. They’re trending down and down and down. So, yeah.

David: Okay. And you’re nodding a bit there as well, Craig. Is it not the case where maybe there are certain types of products on Amazon that are still worthwhile being in the market for or is Amazon as a whole probably worthwhile steering away from and looking for other opportunities apart from that?

Craig: For me, I think Amazon I would advise people to stay clean over it now mainly because the commissions are so low now. For me, when I invest in content or invest in links and everything else, I’m outsourcing a lot of the grunt work, so to speak. So it’s just not feasible at all with the current commission structure. And after that 2020 update will be done, it basically sold off all of the Amazon websites that had. It was barely making money, and ultimately, decent profits of trying to grow and grow and scale. But a lot of that work was outsourced. So trying to do that unless you will just want, like, 500 bucks a month and it’s your holiday fund and you’ve maybe got an enthusiasm for your golf equipment or whatever it may be, then, of course, you can do that. But for me, I was wanting to scale it from 1,000 to 5,000 to 10,000 to then flipping it on. And I just think that it’s just too much. The commissions are just too low.

And one of the big things that I do now with Amazon websites, I will still buy Amazon websites, but just change the monetization model of them away from Amazon. And basically, by simply buying a lazy Amazon affiliates website, changing the monetization model over, you can basically double the revenue overnight. And that means, basically, if you paid 20 grand for that website, by just doing that and implementing those changes, you’ve doubled the value of your website overnight. So that is essentially what I would be doing if I had my hands on an Amazon website.

David: So, Craig, you’re talking about changing the monetization model. Does that mean simply look for third-party sellers that are offering a higher commission rate for the same products?

Craig: Yeah. So, I had a golf website and I think it gets slashed to 3% on Amazon and 2020 update. Now I could have easily flipped that over and got 10% from an American golf company. So just by flipping that over and sending all the traffic there is really important. But what really works well with Amazon is the really quick delivery and everything else and that it’s a trusted source. So certain instances, some of these private affiliates don’t deliver that quickly. I think that’s changing in general. I think a lot of people are trying to get next day or within a couple of days which is going to help your conversions. But that’s the only downside to it. Not everyone is going to go through a private affiliate in terms of buying and whatnot and people do trust Amazon. But the commissions are too low now for me to be invested in them to be honest.

David: So you mentioned there that, Craig, the Amazon have that trusted brands and then people were probably a little bit more likely to purchase from them. Are you able to share a little bit about the expected percentage conversion rate drop off if you go from Amazon to another third-party site that actually may not be a brand that’s recognizable?

Craig: I mean, I think you can fully expect to get up to 50% drop off anytime that I’ve done it. And it depends on the niche, though, and the type of product you’re selling. But certainly for the golf website that I sold on, I got a 50% reduction in the volume of autos. However, I was still making the same money. And I think over time I just get fed up and peed off and I end up selling the website to a guy. But I think you can expect to have a bit of a reduction because people just instantly when I go on to something, see if I can’t get it next working day, you know, on a website, I’m onto Amazon trying to get it delivered the next day, just for certain things. If it was a laptop or something more expensive, a high ticket item, I’m prepared to wait a little bit longer. But most Amazon affiliate websites people just want this stuff quickly.

David: Okay. So some great live chat there as well. We’ve got someone saying that Julie needs to share her perspective. Absolutely. You need to share your perspective as much as well, Julie. Julie, have you been heavily involved with Amazon or do you try and steer clear of that now?

Julie: So I think that Amazon, like Craig was saying the commissions are super, super low, but there is a big value in that conversion rate. So like Craig was saying, Amazon may convert 8%, whereas the manufacturer may convert 3%. So I actually use Amazon on all of my sites but not to make a ton of money off of it. I actually use it in the beginning in order to get sales data so that when I go to manufacturers I’m not just saying, “Hey, I have 100,000 visitors a month.” I can say, “Hey, I have 100,000 visitors a month and I’m making these sales.” So I kind of use it as a bargaining chip when I start talking to people kind of piggybacking off of Amazon’s really, really high conversion rates.

David: Great tip. Jenny, I see you nodding away there as well. Is that something you’ve been involved with as well?

Jenny: Yeah. Because, I mean, most of the kinds of clients that we work with are coming to us after they’ve just kind of done a course or something like this, learning how to build an affiliate site. So most of the people we work with, for a lot of the time are just building those brand new sites. So obviously, in terms of when it comes to a brand new site, obviously, Amazon is usually the first thing that they would go with just because, obviously, aside from the fact that for the client themselves, like obviously, if you’re building a site and you don’t have that much experience, if it’s your first site, for example, Amazon’s you know, it’s easy to get into. And then also the same as, like Julie was saying, it’s given you a chance to kind of build up that kind of reputation for your site as well. Because obviously if you’re wanting to reach out to other affiliate programs and things like this, a lot of time people get turned down, obviously, if they’re quite a new site and they’ve got nothing to show that their site is converting and then stuff like this. So that’s something that we work with a lot. So in the beginning, obviously, most of the sites are kind of based around Amazon and then with the kind of long-term plan of changing over to something else or even changing away from kind of affiliate altogether and more then maybe it’s digital products or something like this, you know?

David: So we’re streaming live on YouTube, on Facebook, on Twitter as well. We’ve got loads of comments coming in from different places. We’ve got Darren saying on YouTube, what about investments, financial services? Jenny, you mentioned niche-type sites to focus in on. Have you tried financial services in the past?

Jenny: Yeah. It’s something that we’ve done quite a few actually in kind of different areas. It’s one of those things where it’s better to have someone who’s kind of experienced just because of the niche because it’s one of the more kind of difficult niches to get into. So, yeah. I mean, it’s not that it can’t work and you can’t make money and things like that. I mean, we’ll have people doing all kinds of things in the financial space from things like reviewing like your digital banks, like revolute and things like this, all of these kinds of different areas. But again, because it’s a more difficult niche to get into, they’re kind of few and far between and usually left for the more experienced kind of affiliate site owners.

David: Julie, have you found yourself just focusing in on one niche or do you tend to recommend that people do that nowadays or is it better to actually have feet in multiple camps?

Julie: Definitely good to have feet in multiple camps for a couple of different reasons. One, you obviously want to always diversify. Even if you’re in a niche that is very secure, you never know what’s going to happen. COVID happened, entire niches just got obliterated because of something you couldn’t predict. And then also, if you’re only in one niche and you want to go to sell a site, a lot of times there’s non-competes. So if you don’t have some sort of diversification, you’re not really allowed to sell websites with a lot of brokers. So definitely diversify but stick to what you know so you can do the best there.

David: Great. Okay. So I’m gonna get Craig’s thoughts on that just now as well. But just after that, let’s move on to driving traffic. So your thoughts on driving traffic through organic search and perhaps other ways of driving traffic to affiliate sites as well. So, Craig, what are your thoughts on niche sites? Is it important to actually just focus on one niche? Maybe would you recommend two or three different niches or as many as possible?

Craig: I think I’ve got to just echo what Julie says that, you know, having your feet in a few different niches is probably the most sensible way to go forward, especially if you’re going to be flipping websites on. But also I think if you get bored if you’re gonna keep doing the same niche, you’ve got kind of boredom get on as well. So just to learn new things, new products, new search terms and things like that, just keep your brain as the SEO guy active. And I think that’s also quite important. But you know what? I think I’m always looking at new niches. I’m looking for…there’s so many niches out there like I’ve had and I’ve got friends that have ranked really well and [inaudible 00:19:59] niche. And that was the only website that we had. The most bizarre things really can sell well. And I think you’re always just looking for new niches, trying to jump on something that you can take advantage of. And there’s so many untapped markets out there that just you’ve got to do it.

David: Craig, Aamon says in the chat as a rule of thumb niche affiliate sites are much better focusing on services and contracts over physical products. Is that something that you’d agree with from your experience as well?

Craig: Yeah. I’m not one for being that niche with a website. I think you’re better focusing on services and contracts rather than physical products. When it comes to physical products, it starts to broaden out. And your website can be about multiple different things. So niche websites, I don’t know, like plumbing accessories or something like that y’all can probably do really well. And you would focus it only on that because something like kitchen accessories are just not going to be that relevant. So, yeah, I would tend to agree with what Aamon’s saying there. But it really depends. Everyone has got a different opinion on that. There’s no set right way to set up a website. And, yeah, that’s it.

David: I remember a long time ago, you talked about kitchens there. Actually had a website that focused on a home remodeling a long time ago and I did quite well through getting commissions for each coat that people would send off for different home remodeling. But it was a long time ago. And because it was a long time ago used to be able to do things like sell links from PR of a certain authority on your site. And I ended up earning a lot more revenue through that instead of actually the affiliate marketing. So I didn’t focus in on the affiliate marketing so much. Of course the ability to sell links went downhill. So that’s I guess why didn’t focus on it so much there. Let’s move on to driving traffic. Is it still the case then where you rely on Google or you can rely on Google for much of your traffic to many of your niche sites, Julie?

Julie: Yeah. So my strength hasn’t always. Probably will be SEO. But the nature of that, you know, you’re kind of at Google’s beck and call for whatever reason. If they decide they don’t like your website, they can just knock you really for any reason even if you’re following all the rules. So with that being said, it’s still important if the commissions are high enough to diversify with ads and Facebook. So I’m always doing that honing my skills but I do get probably 80% of my traffic from Google organic.

David: And do you have any concerns that certain niches are going to be taken away by the fact that maybe Google is going to compete in that area? Obviously, to a certain degree, they’ve come in to other areas maybe different comparison type websites? Do you have any concerns about certain niches over the coming years or so?

Julie: I think anything in your money, your life, Google is gonna obviously keep cracking down on that. And you’re seeing with, like, certain products, like you were mentioning Google is basically giving the answer to the question in the SERP. So let’s say you’re doing versus query. So this product versus this product. Instead of clicking on the first organic result, Google shows you basically a knowledge panel…not a knowledge panel, but it shows the two products side by side and then you have the option to buy right next to it as an ad. So people aren’t even looking at organic for stuff like that. So in that sense, yeah. If Google keeps trending towards keeping people on Google, it could be a little bit of an issue. But that’s always the case.

David: And so I’m just looking at the chat here and I’m just wishing that I probably hadn’t looked at it actually. I’m going to be sharing all the messages as part of that but that’s thanks to Craig. Jenny, what are your thoughts about driving traffic to niche sites? Because you hear that several years ago Google started clamping down on thin affiliate sites without much added value, without much content. How can you actually ensure that you’re gonna get consistent rankings over the long-term in Google to your affiliate niche sites?

Jenny: I think the one thing that is kind of my pet peeve that I kind of keep telling clients and keep screaming from the rooftops about kind of thing is not just thinking about the SEO side because what I find a lot of the time is when I kind of review a site or someone asks us to audit it, you’ll see that someone’s built a site with so much focus on keywords and ranking in Google that they haven’t thought about anything else. So when you go to the website, it’s rubbish, to be frank, you know. And there’s no kind of quality there, there’s no…especially when, I mean, like Julie was saying about Your Money Your Life sites, there’s no About section, there’s no social media, there’s nothing like this. And I find it quite strange that a lot of the time, even though, essentially, it’s a business, people don’t think about an affiliate website in the same way they would think about any other business in terms of making sure that the site itself is, you know, user friendly, and thinking about user experience and conversion rate optimization. And you find that so much with affiliate niche sites.

And I think, you know, going back years, it was kind of easy to just throw up, you know, a skeleton site and rank. And that wasn’t a big problem but, you know, the further we’ll go forward, especially with the way Google’s going now, is user experience is playing a huge part. So I think you really have to think about those kinds of things because it’s going to make a massive difference. And like I said, even things like, you know, having full About sections and making sure you’ve got social media that you’re driving traffic through as well, and things like that, I think that’s hugely important.

David: Okay, so I love that. So, in essence, you’re creating a proper brand for your affiliate niche sites. You’ve got an About section about that brand and your social handle, as you just said and I guess you’re sharing decent quality content on social media all the time. So what kind of additional content should be sharing on a regular basis? I mean, do you actually create original videos, for example, for your affiliate sites?

Jenny: Yeah, we do a lot of different things with obviously, different clients. One thing that we do is standard for all of our content, because content is probably our main service, it probably always will be. But we create custom infographics with every single piece of content. So then, obviously, they’re easily shared across social media. And they pick up, you know, a lot of Google traffic just from the image itself, and making sure that we’re kind of ranking that infographic as well as the content, and things like that.

And obviously, we’ve worked with clients before, where we’ve done kind of unboxing videos as well for the products and things like this. So anything you can do to build that brand, like you were saying, because obviously that brings a lot of trust factor as well with, you know, the people who are visiting your site. And I think that’s what people forget as well. When you’re looking at it as an SEO, you know, we can look at a site and we know exactly what’s going on. But at the end of the day, we’re not your demographic. Your demographic is Joe Bloggs down the street or, you know, my mom or someone like this, who doesn’t understand how SEO works.

And it’s having that site that is a brand and, you know, looks great, and it’s user friendly, and things like this. It just brings that trust factor and that’s what brings the authority, and that’s boosting conversion. So we see that a lot where people are doing everything they need to do on the SEO side, and then they’re getting that traffic, but that traffic doesn’t convert. So at the end of the day, if you’re not making any money from it, the traffic doesn’t really mean that much at the end of the day.

So I think that’s where, especially as we go forward, and like I say there’s going to be a lot more focus on user experience and core web files and things like this, people need to really put thought into making sure that the website is, you know, ready for users. Once you’ve got that traffic, once you’re, you know, ranking in Google, once you’re bringing people to the site, the site is already ready for those people to be impressed. And, you know, they’re happy, even if you’re not with Amazon, like Craig was saying, which is a well known name, if you’re using other affiliate partners, then, yeah, the site has already got that kind of trust and authority that’s going to help those conversions basically.

David: And you touched on infographics as well there, Jenny. Do you have other goals for your infographics apart from improving your user experience? I’m thinking about do you want to drive traffic from Pinterest or Google image search or other places?

Jenny: Yeah, well, Pinterest, quite a big one for a lot of our clients, obviously, especially kind of certain niches as well, where you’re doing things like recipes, if you’re doing maybe it’s in the grill niche or something like this, where you can make a great infographic to go along with the recipe and it’s really easy to absorb. And, you know, they do really, really well on social media, especially on platforms like Pinterest.

David: Okay, I’m just reading another comment from Aamon there saying trust and reassurance are critical factors when you’re not a leading brand. Doubts or uncertainties make people favor known big brands for safety and people need to be relaxed to try a new brand or product. Comment there for a second term. Julie, what about other ways of driving traffic yourself? Are you a fan of creating original video content? Do you have other ways of driving traffic?

Julie: Not so much video. I have had some success with doing some quizzes. So let’s say you get somebody that comes from some sort of research based term. So they have a problem that they want to solve, but they’re not necessarily aware that they need a product to solve that. So instead of, you know, throwing a product in their face, as part of a blog post, you can essentially drop a quiz in there to help them match with a product.

And, now, that does two things. One, that turns a research based visitor into somebody who would potentially buy, and it makes them feel a little warm and fuzzy, like they’ve been matched with the product. They’re not just given a selection of five. They’ve answered a couple questions, this feels personal to them. So it’s a good way to build trust when you’re not a big brand, is using quizzes and stuff like that. And then also building email lists as well.

David: Yeah, I love that. I love your quizzes idea actually. I think Naked Wines do a great example of that in the UK. They do a Twitter campaign where they drive people towards a quiz. How much does a typical wine cost in the supermarket? How much do you think, actually is profit and how much goes into packaging? And obviously they do an offer at the end of it, but it gets people immersed in the whole conversation about why it’s important maybe to be spending a little bit more money online.

Julie: Yeah. And when using wine as an example, like, if somebody wanted to buy wine for a present and they don’t necessarily know what type of wine somebody might like, they could take a quiz and answer questions. You know, I generally like something sweeter and then they can get actually paired with a product.

David: Yeah, and I guess chatbots would be a great way of doing that as well.

Julie: Yeah. Yeah, you can do it with chatbots.

David: What about yourself, Craig? What are some new and interesting ways to drive traffic from your perspective?

Craig: I think pretty much what Jenny said. Like, I see a lot of people who have affiliate websites and they’re crappy, they don’t have social media, they don’t have a proper persona, if you like, behind that. And, you know, I think people need to start treating these websites like real businesses. The way I see it is, if you invest money in a digital asset, it’s the same way as buying a property. Are you going to go out and use some, you know, £2 tin of paint to paint the house? Absolutely not, if you’re going to be selling that to someone. Why would you do the same with a website? You know, people don’t treat these websites with any great deal of respect.

And I think, for me, just solely relying on organic traffic is hard, because then it’s just not good. And I’ve been playing around a lot with click through rate manipulation over the last year. And I’ve done a lot of videos and a lot of talks on it. And that stuff can…you know, your whole marketing process, using your mailing list, using push notifications, paid Facebook traffic, Pinterest, any way you can drive traffic onto your affiliate website is always going to help your SEO anyway, because of those click through rates and engagement.

And a lot of people don’t actually utilize their assets properly, like using your push notifications to drive more traffic, like using your email marketing list to build more traffic. Half of these guys don’t even have…you know, they’re not even trying to grab emails from people. And having email marketing is one of those things that half of the people out there think it’s dead or worthless or whatever. You know, I get so much value from building just email campaigns alone. So trying to drive traffic in from a whole bunch of different avenues is the smart way to do it.

You know, I go over and above that as well and also use micro workers and everything else. Because you’re doing your SEO, you’re putting your content out, you’re building links to it, you get into possession six, but then it really does come down to…it’s not more content, not more links, you do want to get some click through rate and engagement to push yourself into the top three positions. And one should be, organically, you should stick there because you’re going to be getting the bulk of all the traffic anyway.

But there’s no point in having a crappy website and go into all of that length. And then, you know, you’ve not got social media, you’re not claiming emails, you know, you don’t have push notification set up. It’s just, you’ve got to do everything in sequence and then start retargeting people and everything. You know, people don’t even have Facebook pixels in their website and stuff like that, which is just madness.

David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you’re all talking about some great marketing ideas and some conventional brand led marketing ideas. I think many people perhaps have a wrong perception about affiliate marketing that you have to be a little bit gray or black hat to be super successful at affiliate marketing. Is that kind of perception fear in any way?

Julie: I mean, I think SEO is…sorry, are we talking to Craig or just an open ended question?

David: I thought I’d leave that question hanging just to see who wanted to answer that one.

Julie: I think in, like, white hat SEO, it’s impossible if you’re not a big brand, everybody’s going to be a little bit gray. Now how gray or how black you go, you know, that’s just dependent on technique and, you know, what kind of risk you’re willing to take. But I don’t think you can really compete nowadays without some sort of manipulation. And even just adding a title tag that is based on keyword research, technically, you know, you’re trying to game the system just by doing that, so.

David: Is there any type of manipulation that you would particularly recommend?

Julie: Well, I know Craig does a little bit with the…what you’re saying, the click through rate manipulation. I don’t know a whole lot about that. I know that it’s…you have to have a pretty good scale, and you’ve got to be fairly consistent with it, yeah.

Craig: Yeah, I mean, as I said, you can use paid…you want to mix all of that up, though, you don’t want to be just using bots or kind of traffic or anything. I think using paid, using your emails, using your push notifications, maybe adding in some micro workers just, you know, for a variety of different cliques and stuff like that. And you can use tools like CTR booster, as a bot just with residential rotating proxies just did to have a nice mix of CTR going on.

David: Jenny, do you have any thoughts on using bots, using tools to try and, I guess, enhance the rankings for the new sites?

Jenny: I think, essentially, for me, I’m a big fan of tools. And it’s something that I find that a lot of…especially because we work with a lot of new people, a lot of people don’t invest in. And actually, it’s one of the best things I think you can do is, in any way, not even essentially for manipulation, but even just, you know, things like keeping on top of the SEO, which you see all of the time that, you know, the most basic of things are not being done, because someone doesn’t have something as simple as Ahrefs or an audit and make sure that keeping up with that stuff.

And I just think that, you know, especially like Julie was saying, like, it’s so difficult especially if you want to be white hat. And the market now is getting so saturated, you have to think of everything, and you have to stay on top of everything. And so, I mean, certainly for me, tools is one of the best way to do that. I’ll have every tool at school and I’ll give it a try, basically, to see, you know, where it can save you time, how it can help you in a way that is going to make a difference, really.

David: So, Jenny, you’re talking about tools and staying on top of things. How do you actually ensure you’re staying on top of ensuring that you’re in the best possible affiliate niche market and identify new opportunities as they come up?

Jenny: I think one thing that we try to recommend for people is…which sounds kind of odd, but we try to think long term while staying flexible. So we find that a lot of people will, you know, you buy a domain, before they’ve even kind of done any form of keyword research or anything. Even say that our niche research to see whether that niche is even worth pursuing, whether it’s something that’s going to be worthwhile, long term. So that’s something that, you know, again, what Craig was saying, not thinking about like any other business.

You know, if you are starting any other business, you do a business plan, for example. So, you know, doing something like that, like a huge batch of keyword research to make sure that you’ve got those opportunities, not only, for example, if you think you’re going to start out with Amazon, you’ve got enough money keywords to kind of keep you going as to whether there’s opportunities to diversify. And things like this will obviously remaining flexible all the time because, you know, like Julie said earlier, look at this past year, how things have completely changed. Just with COVID, we’ve seen niches completely disappear off the face of the earth.

So you’ve got to kind of have that plan, but also, like I say, keep on top of things in terms of staying flexible, keep up to date with what’s going on. Because I find that a lot as well that a lot of people have blinkers and they kind of decide they’re going to go ahead with this niche before they’ve looked at anything. They do a first batch of keyword research and they never look at it again. So it’s kind of taking it from both sides if you’d like, to make sure that you are going to be in the best position possible and that you’ve got not only the opportunity to kind of diversify, if you need to, but also having that awareness of what’s going on around you at the time to know as and when to do that if necessary.

David: Craig, how do you go about identifying new niche opportunities?

Craig: I’m asked this all the time, normally stolen from someone else. I’ll hear someone talking about something and I’m like, “Wow, I quite like that.” But I’m not the most creative thinker in the world. And it’s normally stolen if I’m honest. You just hear someone say something and it just clicks in your head, you’re like, “I’ve got the same rush and I’ll just see what the search is.” And you’re like, “Whoa, no idea that, you know, this peculiar thing has so much search.” So, yeah, normally just stealing from people or just analyzing competition or whatever. And I’m like, “Yeah, I quite fancy that.” So, yeah, it’s always stealing. I’m going to be honest.

David: What about yourself, Julie? Any thoughts on how best to come up with a new niche?

Julie: Just being open minded. So I guess stealing is…you know, I can’t say I’ve done that, but you do get inspiration from other people. So I can’t say I’m accepting but [crosstalk 00:40:45] So let’s say you’re on Commission Junction or Ship, Share or Sale, or something like that, you just go in there with an open mind. So you have something that you know you may not want to get into.

So personally, I stay out of your money, your life, just because if I’m not an expert in something, you’re going to be spending a lot more money on content for somebody who is an expert in niches like that. So outside of that, just going into basically those platforms with an open mind and seeing what’s there. I do that probably once a month, just kind of scanning, seeing what offers are available. And then if there’s a good offer, and then you start the keyword research process.

David: What about seasonality, Julie? Are you in any markets that are highly kind of fluctuated based upon seasonality? And how do you plan around that if so?

Julie: Not really. I was in the outdoor niche previously, but it was a really, really small site, and it was my first big site. So I didn’t really have, you know, much thought going into it. But if you’re doing seasonality, that’s definitely something you have to think about and diversify, because like outdoor, for example, winter months, I’m sure you’re selling, you know, a lot less surfboards or whatever it is. So, in that regard, if you know that you’re a seasonality type of niche, just get more diversified.

David: Jenny, are you involved in any seasonal industries?

Jenny: Yeah, not so much anymore. Like Julie, we did a lot of outdoors camping, this kind of thing, which kind of went downhill with COVID a little bit. But with those kinds of niches, a lot of the time, our clients tend to focus on building their money content kind of in the quiet time. So then, obviously, once people are backed by and they’ve already got, you know, the views, that kind of budget, they get all that content ready there. So it’s ready to go and then kind of through the rest of the season, just kind of fill it with, you know, informational content and other areas like that.

David: What about yourself, Craig? Are you involved in industries that might take advantage of things like Black Friday?

Craig: I sell a lot of courses in Black Friday. So, personally, yes. But I think, seasonal niches…I’ve also been caught out in the golfing niche. And I mentioned the golf site earlier. And that was really good from probably around about March until October. And you just have to have more money websites, if you want to keep earning money. And you can obviously double down on your content and whatnot in the downtime.

But what I would say is try if possible to be clear of seasonal niches unless you’re really going to be making millions of bucks in that six-month gap. You know, if it’s just going to be a kind of project where you’re going to be earning, you know, 4k or 5k a month, you probably want to avoid those seasonal niches because it’s just not good.

David: Superb. Okay, so we’re actually coming to the end of this episode. But just before we get there, I’m going to ask you all two questions and actually give you the choice of answering one of them over the other one. So one question is, how will affiliate marketing change over the coming few years? So you can either answer that one or you can leave one affiliate marketing tip that you haven’t shared yet but you want to share with the audience.

And then after you answer your question, I’ll just ask you to share your website or your best social handle for people to say hello to you online. So let’s go to Julie first. Julie, which question would you like to answer? Is it, how affiliate marketing changed over the next few years or what’s your affiliate marketing tip that you’d like to share that you haven’t shared yet?

Julie: I think affiliate, I’ll go with the, how it’s going to change. I think it’s going to continue trending more towards quality. And if there is a good niche and somebody, you know, with a lot of money to spend discovers that potentially they could buy up a bunch of websites and completely dominate. So I think you’re going to have certain niches that are going to be more and more impossible to get into.

Not even just Your money Your life but just anything with you know, 25% commission, you have somebody with a lot of money, they can build 15 websites and just dominate. And one tip buy links, I guess. And be willing to spend money, because links aren’t free, even if you’re building them yourself, if somebody is going to offer you a $20 link, like it’s going to be crap. So you need to be able to invest in that. I get so many people who are like, “How do I get links for free?” And it’s like, it’s not possible nowadays. So just kind of [inaudible 00:45:15]

David: And what’s the best website where people can get ahold of you? And what’s the best social handle that you want people to say hi?

Julie: So I just got on Twitter. It took me a long time. So, Julie Adams SEO is my Twitter and then SERP Decoder is my website.

David: Superb. Thanks for joining us today, Julie. So let’s move on to Jenny. Jenny, which question do you want to answer?

Jenny: I think I’ll probably go with how things are going to change. And I think it kind of reiterates what I was saying before, in terms of, you know, the likes of the quality of websites, that’s going to be the way that things go. It’s going to be gone are the days where you can kind of throw up a half decent website and some crappy content. It’s just going to get as the…especially I think, with the situation we’re in now, where, you know, all over the world, so many people are trying to find ways to earn money online.

And obviously affiliate is kind of an easier route to go. So, just everything’s getting more and more saturated. So I think, obviously, naturally, with that, anyway, there’s going to be huge amounts of competition. So if you’ve got an affiliate website, and yours is not even an early website, if it’s not at the point where you can build a brand and, you know, you can compete or at least look to compete with big name quality sites, then, you know, you probably kiss it goodbye, to be honest.

David: So the days of registering keyword rich domains are over and you just have to focus on a brand, yes.

Jenny: Yeah.

David: Jenny, thank you again. And where can people get ahold of you online? What’s your website and what’s your best social handle to say hi?

Jenny: Yeah, you can catch me over at And I’m still not done with the kids with Twitter. So it’ll have to be, LinkedIn is probably my best one. And…

Julie: It takes a while.

David: Kids have moved on to TikTok, yeah.

Jenny: Yeah, no, I’m definitely not there. But I’ll leave that up, Craig.

David: Thanks for joining us, Jenny. Okay, lovely stuff, Craig, what support questions you want to focus on yourself?

Craig: And I’m going to go for a tip and just to go against these guys just to see if they love it. There’s not much else I can say. What I would say, obviously Jenny saying, you know, be careful, it’s a saturated market. One tip, I would say that many affiliate marketers are not doing that well. And I see a lot of people just blindly authoring content, for example. And they’ll just go, “Right, I want 1000 words.” You know, they’ll order 10 pieces of content and they’ll all be 1000 words long. And they’re all be, like that’s the best or whatever it’s going to be.

Now, what I would say is who says that it should be 1000 words? There’s tools out there now like POP, Surfer, and various other bits and bobs that will tell you that the top 10 sales results have on average, you know, 1800 words. So actually look at your topical clustering, look at your content. Are there extra header tags you can be adding to write for a whole variation of keywords and do that stuff properly.

Because although there’s a lot of people in the market, and are saturated which I totally agree with, not everyone is doing that level of work. And I think if you do want to get in, you can make sure that you go in there, do your research properly, do your topical clustering, don’t have overlapping content, and all of the kind of garbage that we see because people are blindly just authoring your 50 new articles a month and not actually doing that well with them. So that’s just one tip.

David: So I was spinning 200 word articles, is that what you’re saying? That’s the reason it’s not working for me? Craig, thanks so much for joining us. What’s the best place for people to find out more about you online, and what’s the best social handle?

Craig: So you can find me on And you’ll probably find me with the social handle Craig Campbell SEO on TikTok and all of that stuff. So I’ll go for TikTok. You’ll see me goofing around there doing some stupid stuff. So catch me there.

David: Okay. We’ll check out our guests on the various social handles goofing around and say hi there and say you saw them on here as well. Red just popped on there as well. So, thanks for joining us at the beginning there as well. Do you have any thoughts on what we’ve been discussing or anything else?

Red: No, but it’s really interesting. I’ve worked in affiliate marketing since 2002. So, yeah, I’ve come through the Wild West and came out the other side. So it was interesting. I remember quite…well, I know quite a lot actually of some of the tactics that you were discussing.

David: Lovely. Okay, well, thanks again for joining us, Red. Of course, if you want to sign up for the InLinks affiliate program you can do that over at I’ve been your host, David Bain. You can find me producing podcasts for b2b brands over at Dixon Jones we’ll be back hosting next month when we’ll be answering the question, what aspects of technical SEO do big brands miss? Sign up for that over at to be part of the live audience. Thanks for being part of this one. Until next time, take care and we’ll chat again soon. Bye-bye.

Craig: Cheers.

Julie: Bye.