Q&A with Rebecca Gill: The New SEO and How to Use It
Rebecca Gill helps companies understand and use SEO to grow their market share and position themselves for success.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
The primary focus of my digital marketing agency, Web Savvy Marketing, is SEO consulting. I help smaller or newer businesses get a new, SEO-friendly website up and running. For larger clients, I do ongoing SEO consulting on location to maximize their digital marketing efforts.
I also do education on SEO best practices through my podcast and SEO Boot Camp, which is a 3-day virtual workshop that teaches how SEO works and how to use it effectively in digital marketing.
You have a holistic view of digital marketing. What are the advantages of doing digital marketing in a holistic way?
When I’m working with a client on SEO, we don’t look strictly at data and site traffic; we look at the website as a whole and the client’s target demographic. I guide them through the process of creating content that solves users’ problems.
In 2020, SEO is not just about search rankings; it’s about who you serve. What do they struggle with? What are their problems? When I can help clients address these questions, their overall digital marketing will go beyond just data to address SEO in a larger context that is consistent with their overall marketing objectives.
Can digital marketing typically be handled by a brand in-house? Why or why not?
I would say that it can if the brand has people dedicated to it. However, it’s not realistic for a brand to expect one person to keep up with massive Google changes that only seem to be increasing over time.
Google changes really reflect major changes in the way humans search over the last 10-15 years, which means what worked then will not work now. The kind of research that needs to happen to keep up with these changes just isn’t possible when one person is wearing multiple hats and has a bunch of different jobs to do.
How has SEO changed in the time you’ve been helping clients navigate it?
When I first started out in SEO 15 years ago, we were just trying to figure out how to game the system and get our content to rank well on search engines. Now, search engines have learned to adapt to those tricks, so the focus is much more on the human searcher rather than on gaming the system. Content and links are still important as they were at the beginning, but SEO has become much more advanced and diversified since then.
Where should a business owner focus today to improve SEO?
There are multiple elements to focus on like semantics, technical SEO, structured data and algorithm changes. If you don’t focus on all of these elements together as a whole, your SEO won’t be as effective as it could be. Even after doing all that, you still need to bring it back to the person and whether their needs are being met through your efforts.
What are some common SEO mistakes brands make and how can they avoid them?
It’s a huge mistake to rely on the things you’ve always done, expecting that to continue to work in the future.
People also make the mistake of getting caught up in all the technical aspects of SEO and forgetting to go back to the basics, like content and links. Links are still important, but many people today tend to focus on backlinks and ignore internal links, which can be even more powerful today than backlinks.
Larger organizations often don’t realize that SEO needs to be an organizational effort, with participation from the marketing team, the IT staff and other areas that intersect with digital marketing.
How has online reputation affected your work with clients and what have you learned?
It’s really hard for a brand to be ranked highly in search results if there are negative reviews or other negative content about them online. Reviews and online reputation won’t be able to completely reroute an SEO strategy on their own, but they are definitely a core part of the overall picture of the brand.
Particularly for local businesses or brands with a number of locations, it is really important to have positive reviews and a good reputation because most people now search online before coming to a local business to make a purchase or use a service.
What are the benefits of ensuring a positive customer experience for digital marketing and SEO?
The best thing people can do is listen to customer feedback, even when it’s negative. Sometimes when customers have negative experiences, it’s because they’re just having a bad day or they are coming from a negative mindset. Other times, though, a brand may have done a poor job of execution or may not have set expectations properly.
How important is customer feedback to successful digital marketing and what are the best ways to get that feedback?
Customer feedback is highly important, and it is often available in places brands don’t even think to look for it. I encourage businesses to use their email inquiries and questions people ask in conversations to get ideas for future topics as they make content decisions. That’s a form of feedback they already have and which takes no additional effort to gather.
When companies are just starting out, they can use existing forums like Quora or similar sites that can fill in some of this data and kind of shortcut the process of figuring things out. These sites can also give brands a sense of the language their audience and customers use so that they can be more confident in using keywords that will be seen in searches and search rankings.
What is one challenge you think digital marketers will need to overcome in 2020?
For local businesses, Google my Business is constantly changing, so people need to embrace the changes and continually make adjustments to their SEO if they want to remain effective.
Google’s goal is to keep searchers on their Google results page; the more searchers are there, the more likely it is that they’ll click on an ad and make revenue for Google. So the changes Google makes are to that end. However, businesses have to know about these changes and make their own adjustments based on them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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