The SEO Breakfast event that Arena hosted at the Soho Hotel on 6th June brought together some of the discipline’s key thinkers, each sharing their SEO experiences and predictions, and also talking about how content (the buzzword for 2013) is becoming increasingly important to anyone hoping to rank highly in search.
Before the event, we spoke with two of the speakers, Nick Wilsdon and Kevin Thiele. Today, we’ve caught up with Ian Bowden and Richard Bettinson to talk through a couple of the questions put to them by the audience at the event.
You must be one of the youngest directors of SEO in the country. How did you find yourself here so soon?
I first got interested in SEO aged just 16, so I’ve already got some good experience under my belt. I remember going for a retail job interview, only to be told the hourly rate. I came away from the interview thinking there must be a better way to make money, and that’s when it all started. Not long after, I started building affiliate and Adsense websites and, before I knew it, I was paying my way through university. After that, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work at Arena. Here, I’ve delivered good results for clients, and that’s been recognised by the agency, giving me the opportunity to progress in my career.
What is it about SEO that gets you out of bed every morning?
I’m fortunate to have a job that I enjoy. For me, when it comes to SEO, there really is no ceiling on what you can achieve. Few things give me as much pleasure as ranking for a really high-volume, competitive keyword. There are many barriers in the way that can make it feel like a daily struggle, such as archaic content management systems and legal teams, but when it all comes together it is very rewarding.
During the Arena SEO Seminar, one of the most interesting questions you took from the floor was, ‘Do we have to play by Google’s rules? Isn’t it dangerous to focus only on one company?’ Can you give us a brief reprise of your thoughts on this?
In short, we do have to play by Google’s rules, whether we like it or not. Such is their market share and the value of SEO traffic, it’s impossible to ignore. Just recently for instance, Google has been penalising advertisers who use advertorial without adding nofollow-to links. Advertorial existed before Google, and it can appear frustrating that online marketers have to act differently to accommodate the requirements of Google. However, the answer Google will give you is that you can do what you like; they just reserve the right not to include you in their index.
The rules don’t remain static. Historically, there have been methods of optimisation which have not violated guidelines and been considered the right side of compliance. However, as time has progressed, the ‘rules’ have shifted as search engines have improved at detecting spam. Things that may have been perfectly fine in the past are now frowned upon.
Generally, though, the search engines are broadly working towards achieving the same thing – returning search results which are the most useful to users. It may be perceived as rhetoric, but really, in the majority of verticals, if you do things the right way you will be rewarded. The key is not just in creating great content, but also in making sure it gets links, otherwise – in my experience – you’re not going to grow traffic. If this is your strategy then there is no danger in focusing purely on Google. Great content has to be defined by its ability to earn links.
Beyond that, I’d really recommend making the most of the opportunities that natural search offers – just try not to build an unsafe dependency on it. SEO is just one of many media channels and, ultimately, it should be about building a brand.
As Lead Online Marketing Manager at one of the country’s leading mobile providers, you’re well placed to talk about content in the world of SEO. But first, can you tell us a little about how you got to your current position?
I would definitely regard myself as a cross-discipline online marketer. Before my time at Three, I was an account manager at BLM Quantum, actually focusing on other channels including display, email and lead generation advertising, so digital has been in my blood since the beginning of my career. However, it was really only at Three that I developed my knowledge of SEO, given the opportunity it presented to the business.
One of the attendees at the Arena SEO Seminar asked, ‘In a world where traditional publishing houses and content creators are struggling financially, why should brands invest in content?’ What are your thoughts on that?
The idea that brands should act more like publishing houses is so often repeated now, it’s almost cliché. However, with Google putting so much focusing on author ranking and the importance of authoritative content, it seems like a win-win situation. Journalists and editors with both experience and a strong Google profile would be a valuable asset to any online creative department, helping members of your web-team that are perhaps less confident to build their skill sets. From the other side of the fence, the creatives that are increasingly finding themselves out of work would do well to approach agencies and brands and offer their services. It seems like an obvious fit to me.
You can find out more about Arena’s SEO Breakfast and view videos of the speakers’ presentations by heading to the Arena SEO Seminar website.