The State of Technical SEO 2023: Agency and Freelance Experts Webinar
Hosted by Areej AbuAli and Paddy Moogan, our panel of agency and freelance SEO experts from the Women in Tech SEO Community discuss their thoughts and feedback on the results of the State of Technical SEO Report 2023. Our experts discuss topics including:
Ideal technical SEO budgets for agencies and freelancers.
Presentation of technical SEO stakeholders.
The biggest risks to technical SEO success.
How to set expectations with stakeholders for technical SEO changes.
How Google updates can affect agency and freelancer roadmaps.
Thank you to our technical SEO experts for joining us on this webinar:
Emma Thompson, SEO Consultant, Aira
Katherine Nwanorue, Technical SEO Specialist, Fusion Inbound
Sam Torres, Chief Digital Officer, The Gray Dot Company
Paddy: Hi, everyone. Welcome to The State of Technical SEO 2023 webinar. Today we're joined by some agency and freelance SEO Experts from the Women in Tech SEO community. I'm Paddy Moogan, I'm the co-founder and CEO of Aira. We've partnered with Women in Tech SEO community to run The State of Technical SEO survey and report this year. It's actually our second year doing this now, I love working with the regional team at Women Tech SEO to bring it together.
A bit of background on the report, so essentially we try and go out to the SEO community and ask a bunch of questions ranging from SEO tools, how we measure technical SEO, what the future holds for careers in SEO, that kind of stuff, and the skills people should be trying to acquire, a bunch of different topic areas. Then we try and publish those areas in a single report. This year we had about 500 or so responses to that report, so lots of different insights, lots of different opinions on the future of technical SEO.
Today we're going to pull out a few different interesting parts of that report and ask our experts on the panel about what they think about those questions, what their views are, and what the future holds for TECH SEO as well. One of my favorite parts of actually running this report each year is I get to work with Areej from the Women in Tech SEO Community. Welcome, Areej.
Areej: Yes, thank you so much for having me. It's very exciting to do this report for the second year around. Joining us today are some awesome Women in Tech SEO community members. We've got Emma Thompson, who's the SEO consultant to Aira. We've got Katherine Nwanorue, who is the technical SEO specialist at Fusion Inbound. We've got Sam Torres, Chief Digital Officer at the Gray Dot Company, and we've got Tanuja Mahdavi who is the owner at Gold Mango Design. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. I'm looking forward to this discussion.
We can kick off with the first question. In one of the questions in the report, we asked folks, when they work with clients, what is their ideal monthly budget range for working on technical SEO? It was quite interesting there because most agencies, it felt like most of the results fell underneath that $10,000 mark. 27% was between $5,000 to $10,000, and then about almost half was between the $1,000 to $5,000 mark. I thought I'd start with you, Sam. I was wondering how would you typically prioritize work to try and ensure that clients can even see a return of an investment at that level.
Sam: Sure. I did find this really interesting as well and I think a large part of it just depends on what kind of sites are you working on will really determine on whether this is enough of a budget to make a difference. For example, sometimes the enterprise sites we have, there's one that it's 64 million URLs. We could not get anything done in this budget, but for clients with 800 pages, I think that makes sense. I think the biggest thing is really just making sure you have a roadmap put together and have thought about what exactly are the things that you've identified as tasks to clean up, what's maybe some quick wins, because when you do that, you also start thinking about how would you measure that success and show some of those wins.
That's something that we definitely included in all of our roadmaps is just looking at, "Okay, if we were to improve the core web vitals for example, what kinds of metrics are we going to be tracking to make sure that it's working for us or having any return?" Definitely as an agency or a freelancer, you have the responsibility of demonstrating that to your client, or else they're not going to stay a client. Yes, I think it's mostly about when you are planning and creating that priority, all of that's based on what needs to get done, what's really broken, what do you need engineering for, and can you actually get those resources?
I think you also have to think about how would we measure that success later on, to see what's going happen, if it's actually helping. There are times too where what you do doesn't help or is not measurable. I think that's something we have to be prepared to have a conversation about as well sometimes.
Areej: Does anyone have thoughts, for example, if this was the initial agreed monthly budget range, but then once you've actually dug in and realized the amount of initiatives and things that need to be taken on, what is the typical conversation at that point? How would you approach that with your client when it comes to technical SEO work that will require more resources and time from your end?
Sam: If that happens, then I think that is a time where you just have to have a difficult conversation with the client, and also be willing to hear that they're not changing, and that you need to prioritize. At that point, it's just level setting and list like, "Hey, totally understand you've got this budget we need to work in, this is what we're going to do. Here's what we expect to land." Or, "Hey, it's going to take six months to clean up this problem. It's going to be at least 9 to 10 months before you actually see any return on this investment. Are you ready to do that?"
Which definitely, the first few times I've had that conversation with clients was really difficult, but I have found that when you do that, clients tend to trust you more. Also, clients who are not willing to have that conversation, it's a giant red flag. [laughs] Maybe you don't keep them as a client as it is. Yes, that's typically how I handle it. Would love to hear how anybody else goes about it.
Areej: Okay. Tanuja, I know you run your own company as well, based out in the States. Any thoughts?
Tanuja: Yes. Most of my clients are usually very small business websites, so our monthly budget is usually under $1,000 for a client. If things have to be changed, definitely, having a meeting with the client, explain to them what needs to be done and the impacts if those additional things are not done. That usually helps. It is difficult because people, they've decided on, "Okay, I'm going to spend say $1,000 a month on SEO," and when you go back and say, "Okay, there's this additional work that is needed," it's usually pretty difficult to get them to accept the additional cost.
Paddy: Just leading off that, we're going to talk in a second around, I guess presenting, I guess this back to the client. When you are trying to show the cost of what you are doing and the budget you're working at, I'm wondering if it changes much depending on the size of site you are working in. If you're working with a much smaller site and maybe you are working with the owner of that website or that business versus what you were talking about Sam, a 60 million page website, probably hundreds of people working in that business.
I guess I'm interested to hear a great experience of changing their approach a little bit based on the budgets they're working with. Do you maybe change it a little bit for smaller budgets and change a bit for larger budgets? Does that have any effect at all or do you present back almost regardless of what the budget is based on what they need?
Emma: Yes. I think it's really important to know who you're speaking to and also to know who else in their business they need to take that information to. It's very rare as an agency SEO that you are directly dealing with the person who's in charge of the budget. Giving your contact the information that they need to get on board, but also, the information that they need. You could have a conversation, say, "Hey, who do you need to take this to? How can I help you to have that conversation internally? Or do you want me to pick that conversation up with them directly or we can all be involved as a group?" I think that's really helpful.
Another thing that I love doing in that kind of situation is proving the opportunity to them as much as possible. With Tech SEO, it's not always possible to forecast the value that somebody's going to get, but I do love using case studies. It's really effective for site speed especially. You can say, "Hey, a company a bit similar industry and size to you, they increase their page speed by this much and it increased their conversion rate by this much. If we apply that to your site with your numbers, that looks like this and actual revenue, so you will see this return on investment." Doing your research beforehand always pays off.
Paddy: Awesome. Thanks, Emma. That brings us on a little bit towards next question around presenting those recommendations and having those exact conversations with the rep, hopefully, the budget holder, but if not, someone else in the team. The question that we asked on the survey was how people typically present their technical SEO recommendations. These answers were just from agencies and freelancers. You can see the most popular answer was Google Sheets and Excel, followed by slides then docs.
Katherine, it would be great to hear from you first on this is, regardless of the format that someone uses, what do you think are the main points to communicate when you're presenting technical SEO recommendations to your client, your stakeholder, whoever it is that you're speaking to, what kind of things would you try to be including regardless of the format that you use?
Katherine: Okay. For me personally, I actually add into the report, I add in the situation that's the problem. Then I add some context to the issue like, "Oh, this is why this is so, and this is how this is going to affect the website." I go ahead and give the recommended step, the next step. Or something important I do add is, let's say there are some competitors doing something really well and you don't really think you're going to get buy-in on that particular item, I add one or two links to competitors, like, "Okay, this is how Competitor A is doing this so much better than us and this is how Competitor B is doing this so much better than us, and they actually getting results because they're dominating the search engine resource page, right? If we do this for you, we might actually have a chance at actually getting to where we need to get to."
Yes, that helps to really put things in perspective and help them to see the idea in real life.
Sam: I love that. Pulling on the competitive nature of brands and just like, "I can't let those guys do that better than me."
Katherine: Yes. Exactly. [laughs]
Sam: I love that.
Paddy: Yes, it's definitely a great way of bringing in that, I guess that competitive nature, right? That they don't want to see themselves going behind the competitor. I can see that would really help. You mentioned as well, Katherine, around showing the impact on the site as well in terms of presenting recommendation, what the impact could be. Do you try and present the impact in terms of rankings, traffic, revenue, conversions, or you try and focus any of those or whichever ones you can get hold of? How do you try and, I guess, quantify the impact of the change?
Katherine: Okay, so it depends on what the client is actually looking for and they goal at that specific point. In most cases, if for instance, it's a roadmap, it's just a mix of impact of different things. It could be an impact on ranking or impact on user experience. I think it's really important to look beyond the impact itself. You should also take into consideration the development resources involved, right?
For instance, something, it has a really huge impact, let's say on ranking, and is what they really are looking forward to at that point and the developer resources you really need for this is going to take a huge amount of them time, then it really goes a bit down on the list at that moment, because most clients are really-- this might be funny, but most of them are really looking for quick wins in most cases. I look forward to adding a mix of things like maybe some part of quick wins on, I don't know, traffic or rankings or whatever they're looking forward to at that point. Then others that are really going to have a much larger effect but might take a little more time.
Paddy: That makes a lot of sense. I guess those quick wins top-- As we will know, when you speak to a client, they want the quick wins, right? They want to say, what can we do now that's going to have the biggest difference? It's a fair question, but also, as we know as well, not everything is a quick win, right? Sometimes, it'll take a little bit longer. Has anyone got an experience around who you think could change? It's an important one, but they may not see an impact for maybe several months.
If it's quite an important issue, but it's not going to hockey stick that traffic overnight, it'll be a gradual thing. Does anyone have an experience about presenting that to a client and saying, "Hey, it could take three, six, or even 12 months to see the impact of this and how you might reassure someone that it's still worth it?"
Sam: Definitely, I've been in some of those and the reason why it ends up taking a long time, it's not necessarily the time, it's the amount of dev resources needed. I will say that's usually the biggest, and I think we even talk about this in the survey. That's usually the biggest challenge to getting some of these changes implemented is because you're asking for dev resources. I will say the times where we need to ask like, or, hey, there's this big technical debt that really needs to get cleaned up. That if you want to get from here to here, it's going to take this huge change.
The tactic that we take is definitely identifying those quick wins, implementing them so that the client has had a chance to build trust with us and know that we are making recommendations based on what we truly think is in their best interest and not just because I want a project for the next 12 months, right? I really want to be able to help them level up. Honestly, I've never seen that conversation go well without having three to six months of relationship-building first.
Sometimes, I think it's even like as an agency owner, I have to temper my own motivation or hey, I want to get started on this because obviously, the longer we wait, the more opportunity cost. It's just like any relationship, you have to invest in it. You have to build trust because if you don't do that, you're not going to be able to convince anybody to follow you.
Areej: I think that's really interesting. I was agency side for the longest time ever, but actually, when I moved in-house, I realized it's the exact same as well, where you still need to build a lot of that internal trust as well for teams to be able to take some of the things and prioritize them. I think what you say leads very, very nicely to the next question. Because we talk about what is one of the biggest risks when it comes to technical SEO success.
I don't think it comes too much as a surprise, but the majority was around lack of resources within an organization, or technical debt. We see that a lot with enterprise, big websites, or just general lack of buy-in. Emma, it would be really interesting to hear from you around how would you attempt to even overcome some of these challenges when working with clients. I'm sure you have to tons of experience around that.
Emma: Yes. Maybe I'd love to hang on that concept of working with clients. Sometimes I think a bit of an us versus them when you're from an SEO agency. I know so many SEOs who just want to get the SEO tickets done no matter what. That's not really the way that I work. I make it my business to know what other initiatives are the developers working on. What other initiatives do your content team are going on, everything? Because the SEO tickets aren't always necessarily going to be what their best use of resources could be, right?
If I know the development team could be working on something else is going to make more money for my client, then that is okay, I will have the patience and I'll wait. I'll make it really obvious in the conversation that that's what we're doing, so that we know do we need to maybe adjust the SEO KPIs for that? As long as you're totally transparent about it, I think that is such a good trust builder. Something that I say that I think is a little bit cheesy, [laughs] I have a habit when I present a technical issue to a client of saying, it's not on fire. Which means that if I ever do say this is on fire, they know to take it seriously. That also really helps to get things implemented a lot quicker.
I've used it once so far this year and it definitely worked, but just making that connection with your client, being fully transparent, and also saying, "Hey, I'm in your corner. I want what is best for you. What are the goals that you're working towards? Let me help you with that." Rather than saying, "I'm an SEO, I've got my SEO KPIs and I'm going to hit them no matter what," I think is so much better.
Areej: Yes. Sam, I could see you nodding. Anything you want to add to that?
Sam: Oh, just we're all in the services business, so empathy, empathy, empathy. Also, to tack on to what you were just talking about of trying to understand what the developer goals may be and what are they working on, we'll try to do that, yes with dev, with product managers, with brand, because I will say there's a lot of conversations that SEO, I feel like we constantly battle with brand on how do we want to present this information [laughs]. Honestly, a lot of times I like to then figure out what can I do for them to build trust. For example, is there keyword research that I could provide to the product team to help influence or educate on their roadmap? Just things like that.
Because yes, we're all people and we're all working probably because we have bills. I think we all agree, if we were independently wealthy, this is probably not what we'd be doing, for some of us, maybe it is, but at the end of the day, I want to pay my mortgage, I want to go on vacation. How do I get those things done and understand that the person across from me is in the same exact boat? Let's just do some good work.
Paddy: Yes, I totally agree on that. As much as I love SEO, yes, actually, food, travel is going to be a high priority to me. That makes a lot sense. It'd be the same for the people you're speaking to, right? Your developers, the designers, the brand people who you are speaking to, they'll have their own priorities in their jobs and SEO might not be the thing they care about too much either. Actually, one of the things you said there, Sam, which I wanted to go into a little bit more if possible, is you work with the different teams. You mentioned the brand team there.
Have you or anyone else in the panel come across a situation where you're trying to work with a team, but they've never really worked with SEO before that? Either an agency or in-house, they've just never had an SEO go to them and say, "Hey, I'm an SEO, let's work on some stuff together," so you're starting from scratch. How would you advise someone starting that conversation just going through a brand team for the very first time about SEO, or going to hopefully not, but web developers for the first time and talking about SEO? How would you start that conversation?
Sam: For me, what I've done in the past is, again, it's same thing you do with any relationship, really try to get to what matters to you, and then try to adjust from there. Also, one thing I recommend, I've been in SEO for a very long time, and one thing I make a recommendation to everybody who's in it, once you put together that presentation of what is SEO, and why should you care, hang on to it, never let it go. I think at this point, I probably have 50 different versions of that exact same presentation, depending on who I'm talking to. Maybe I'm biased, because I love SEO, but SEO affects everything. It can touch everything. It's affected by everything, too.
Really, just communicating, what are you trying to do, but again, just your normal relationship building, learning about the person across the aisle from you, trying to understand their goals. Then you can see where SEO can help or where you need them and just being really candid about, hey, I'm trying to get this thing done, and I don't know what to do. Can you help me? People really like to help other people most of the time. I think we all know, there's at least that one developer. By the way, I feel like I can say that because I'm married to one and I used to be a developer. There's always that one person who maybe doesn't want to be a team player. For the most part, I think people are probably trying to do it.
I do think it's important that because our industry is so young, there's a lot of responsibility on our part to educate other people. That's definitely something I think every SEO probably needs to have ready in their back pocket, is how do you explain SEO to somebody who doesn't really care? How do you go about and let them know how it's actually impacting their life, to get their buy-in to make them care, and relate it to their life and their job?
Emma: I also think that one of the problems that we run into a lot is that people have misconceptions about what we do. I love starting conversations off way. "Hey, do you want to run me through what are your thoughts about SEO? What's your experience level? Have you worked with an SEO before? What's the biggest thing you think?" Quite often, if it's somebody who's had touch points with an SEO more than three years ago, I'm like, "Okay, it's changed a lot since then. We don't do keyword stuffing anymore. We're pretty well aligned to what you do," and then rebuilding the relationship. Sometimes you need to bust some myths first.
Tanuja: To add to that, one of the toughest things, I think, when people are completely new to SEO, is trying to convince them that this will take a few months, it's not an overnight. It's not like we go in there and do something this month, and next month, you're going to see results. It's going to take four to six months before you see results. I think that's the toughest part of getting buy-in strength, teach the clients that this is an ongoing process, and this is going to take some time and budget before you see results. Again, it may be because I'm working with the small to medium businesses. That's the tough sell, I think, with SEO.
Katherine: Yes. One thing I'll add is, when educating clients, I think is really important for, especially those that don't really understand much about SEO, it's really important to, for instance, let's say you're trying to certain this works, but you're not really sure they understand it, and you've added some context and it's as if they likely don't believe you. Something that would really work is, as Emma mentioned, adding case studies. Also, in most cases, you can add research or stuff from Google developer docs to back it up like, okay, this is how this works. This is what this does. That way, it's not just you making things up.
Because I don't think that there is anybody out of the industry that doesn't really trust that Google knows what they're doing. In that case, if you're pulling in a bigger weight from somebody, or an entity that think knows what's best, you're adding more credibility to the things you're saying to them as beginners, since they don't really understand how things work.
Areej: I think that's a really good point. Tanuja, actually, what you drop there fits really perfectly with our next question, because one of the things that we also asked was, and I think that's very, very tricky when it comes to technical SEO is, when you set expectations with stakeholders, how long do you say it can take for these changes to have an impact? Majority, as expected, were between three to six months. Tanuja, it would be helpful actually, to hear from you, a big challenge, exactly, as you said, that it's not an overnight fix, right? How do you manage clients who may understand this, but are still pushing really hard for quicker results and quicker return on investment?
Tanuja Mahdavi: Yes, it's tough. It's a tough sell, like I said. Especially for people who are completely new to SEO and who've been-- There are other agencies who promise them results in 30 days, a page 1 ranking in 30 days, things like that. Then here you are trying to explain to them that this is an ongoing process, it's going to take some investment, it's going to take time. I usually say four to six months. Since I also do Google Ads, I tell them, "Well, if you want quicker results, we could do a Google Ads campaign, while we're waiting for your SEO to take off."
That usually helps a lot of clients, because they want to get those leads quickly. They feel like there is something that they can do while waiting for the SEO to begin to work for them. I think the only thing we can do is really, provide other marketing methods that they can use while they're waiting. That usually helps, because they those immediate leads.
Areej: I think that's very interesting there. That mix of different channels and the things that they can [crosstalk], and they can do in parallel while other things are being implemented.
Areej: Any thoughts from the panel in general about keeping your clients up to date throughout that time? Things along the lines of reporting structure, automating, some of that, or dashboards that you put in place? Would anyone like to touch a little bit about some of the things they do for their clients?
Emma: Sometimes what we do is, when we put together a strategy for a client, we sit and we think, "Okay, what do we think the outcome of this that we're hoping to get is, what are some of the early warning signs-- Not warning. Or what are some of the early signs of success that we'll see from that? If I've implemented schema for one of my clients, then I'm going to just keep an eye out and as soon as I see a single rich result, I'm going to screenshot it, send it to them on Slack or whatever, and just get excited about it. Then they might not naturally get excited about schema as much as I do, because I'm a bit of a skewer weirdo.
Sam: Because it's magical.
Emma: Don't get me started I love schema!
Emma: It's always been one of my favorite things, and just getting visibly excited and be like, "This is really good green shirts. This is just the starting point, we're going to expect to see more, and we'll keep you updated." As soon as you see that first nice little green shirt, single rich result, screenshot it, let them know how big a deal it is.
Paddy: I think about I'm going to quote, schema is magical on future blog posts, for sure, because I absolutely agree. I've seen you get excited about schema with clients all the time, Emma. It's definitely one of the things that is probably worthwhile. Just before you move on to the final question. In terms of, again, timelines, has anyone ever been in a situation where maybe we've got the development roadmap laid out, they've got their tasks, and they're saying the case go, we're going to work on this next month, then these tasks a little faster?
In that middle period where you're waiting for things to get done, how do you make sure that you are still adding value in that time, because you've found maybe some big priorities and some big areas, and it's been scheduled, he's got to play the waiting game? How do you work with clients to try and make sure that in that middle phase, and whilst you're waiting, you can still be adding value and still trying to find ways to, essentially, as an agency, show your value? Has anyone got any experience or ideas around how to handle that kind of situation?
Sam: We handle a lot of that with our reporting approach, I guess. First off, for all of our clients, we do an organic funnel overview. Regardless of what-- that's probably not fair to say, there's always going to be exceptions. The majority of the changes that we're making, I expect that the first thing we're going to see is that impressions are going to go up. Or average position, we might see some clusters are getting better. Or also, having the conversation that sometimes your average position goes down because suddenly you're appearing for a lot of queries that you weren't appearing for before.
We'll always try to show like, here's the SEO funnel, and we characterize that most of the time by impressions, clicks, users, and then conversions. Really just saying, "Hey, we are seeing impressions move. That tells us that we're moving in the right direction." Unfortunately, to your point, we're in month four, so you're not seeing it affect the bottom line yet, but we're getting there. We're moving in this direction. That's what we wanted to do. I do think part of that is that, Tanuja, I love what you were saying of like, it has to be communicated ahead of time. You have to convey that.
I think it's really just do you level set correctly and then showing those leading metrics because impressions all day, I think any of us who-- We know that that's not going to be everything that you need unless you are an advertising company, right? It is that leading metric. It's that first thing that you can start to see really change. Then if there are specific initiatives that we've had, like, for example, love what you're talking about schema, then basically, we'll create a separate report just for that project and say "Hey, these are the products that we added schema to. We're expecting these kinds of changes. We're going to be watching what's happening with the clickthrough rate, what's happening with competitors as well."
One project I'm thinking of was an e-commerce. Luckily, we actually saw a spike in clickthrough rate, and it only took two weeks, which is fantastic, but I'm not going to expect that most of the time and none of my clients can expect that most of the time. Because we already had the reporting in place, we were able to show those wins. Emma, to your point, taking screenshots, getting excited about it, because for people who don't know that much about SEO, they don't realize you are now taking up 50% more real estate on the SERP. That is huge. It's really cool stuff.
Our reporting, we try to make sure that we're always conveying that value and that we're also always reiterating being agile. We're like, here's what we did. Here's what we're seeing, here's how that changes what we had planned six months ago, because also in that time, Google's probably released seven different major algorithm updates and everything's on fire and they're not trying to give us heart attacks at all.
Paddy: Cool. Thanks, Sam. That actually brings us really nicely onto the final question around Google updates. Particularly, announcements around those updates. I love this question firstly because the answers, as you can see, were split almost 50/50. We asked our respondents, "Do Google's formal announcements around updates actually influence their actual SEO planning in their roadmap." We can see it's slightly tilted towards yes. Things from Danny Sullivan, John Mu, Google in general, have influenced people's priorities and roadmap.
By the way, I think John John Mueller's probably got the hardest job in the world, interfacing between Google and SEO but he does a great does a great job of it. I wouldn't want to do that personally. I think he does a really good job of it. When they do announce stuff, or it could be, okay we're about to roll out a core update or we're about to do this product reviews update. Sticking with you Sam, for a second, has it affected your roadmap or your priorities when Google do come out and say, we are about to do this, or we're about to roll this. Has it ever affected your roadmap?
Sam: All the time? I try to make sure that my roadmaps are living documents, they are not set in stone. Our job changes all the time. It's one of the things I love most about this career. It's also one of the most frustrating and exhausting. It's a little bit of a double-edged sword. I think being agile is required. For example, that project we did with the schema for product pages, it was entirely because of the PRU update or just PRU, because I guess updates in the-- Anyways.
It was entirely because of that. Our reviews were not in the static HTML, and it was like, no, we have to do this. It's been in our roadmap we had it on the backlog and we're saying it's going to be next year, we have to do it now. It has definitely changed my roadmaps pretty consistently.
Tanuja: Definitely, with all the updates too like the page experience updates and the helpful content update, there are ongoing updates that have to be included in SEO planning. I don't think we can ever assume that our SEO plan is never going to change.
Paddy: Cool. Thanks.
Sam: I'd actually be interested-- Is there anybody on here who doesn't change the roadmap? I'd love to get that. I'd love to hear about that.
Emma: I think there are so many updates that the amount that you change your strategy in response to Google updates has to be measured. I think if we completely overhold all of our strategies every time something happen, we'd never see a project through and we would never see the results of what we're doing, and we'd be dizzy. We do try to limit how much heat I pay to-- especially if you're active on SEO Twitter, everything seems like it's constantly on fire. I'm not really active on Twitter anymore because of that.
I think that definitely, as long as you stay core to a few main principles in that you're serving the users of the website first and foremost and you want to give them a good user experience and you want to be able to help them find the site on Google, if an algorithm update offers you a new way to get that, then that's amazing. If it was something that was already in the roadmap that you're bringing forward, that's even better. I think there is also this misconception that SEOs constantly are flipping our strategies completely. I think if we did that, we'd probably lose a bit of client trust.
It's like, "Five minutes ago, you said that this was what was going to get me results, and now what? Google's tweeted and and you've completely changed your strategy?" I think we can be reactive and agile to a certain extent but there has to be a level of foundational, we are always going to be doing this. This is real SEO. [chuckles]
Katherine: Yes, totally. I agree with what Emma said. The algorithm change in most cases doesn't really change totally your strategy and stuff but in most cases, it brings it forward. Of course, I've not really been in SEO for long, so I still have a few years to go. In most cases, it just brings a few items forward. I believe if you're really doing the right thing in most cases and optimizing not just for search engines but actually the users as well, then it makes sense that the strategy completely isn't going to go out of the way. You just have to say, "Oh, okay, we slated this for so so so time and now we really need to bring it forward because this has happened." That's just what I think.
Areej: I was going to say exactly what Katherine just said. In my experience, I feel like sometimes it helps me maybe pivot and prioritize some things, where it was like oh, we're not going to do this until Q4, but then it's like, actually, I think we should probably bring this up earlier in the year. Does anyone have maybe just general advice around clients who read the latest Google tweet or they start panicking a little bit about, oh, what's this new thing that's going to come out. What is the best way to reassure them that this is already baked in, we're doing everything we can?
How do you handle some of this comms where a client might potentially panic a little bit about something new that's been told and you feel actually the strategy you are on is the right one. Any any thoughts on that?
Katherine: Yes, I think in this case, it makes sense that if you really have a roadmap, which in most cases, you do, it comes down to communication, how you talk to the client about those changes. You're like, okay, this is where we are and this is where we are going to and we are already on the right track. Just like Sam said initially, if you're already communicating the results and how things are going, the actions you're taking, then it really helps in this case because they can trust you at that moment. If you're telling them oh, this is what we already have, is in front of us, it's right in front of us, we're already heading there, there's no need for you to panic.
You can also show them, oh, this is your website and it has not really taken the hit and there's really nothing going on, so you should just maybe calm down and we can get to that. I think that would help. Communication.
Sam: We as an agency, pretty much anytime, we're sharing updates in our own internal Slack. We may have a conversation like, "Hey, should we let clients know about this?" I don't know if anybody remembers Mobilegeddon and when USA Today published about Mobilegeddon. The number of phone calls I received that day has burned me for life. We definitely, what we'll do is, the leadership team, my business partner and I, will draft a POV on, "Hey, here's what happened, here's what we think it matters or doesn't."
Then usually pass that off to our account managers and like, "Hey, we want you to add the context for like do you think that means that there needs to be any shift to the strategy? Or are we just going to continue going as is? Or like hey, there's this big thing, but it doesn't really apply to you because you're not a your money or your life site." We basically have email marketing but only for our clients, to let them know about big updates, and frankly, just mostly because of Mobilegeddon, and I don't want people to panic.
Also, I do feel that when our customers are hiring us to be their agency, they are absolutely wanting us to be proactive and be those voices of education so that they don't have to keep a pulse on the industry. That's the value that we bring to them. We just do a lot of comms with our clients. We write really long emails. I'm willing to bet probably half my clients don't actually read them, but the other half that do would be the ones that would be calling me like, "I saw this in the New York Times. What does it mean?" [laughs]
Paddy: I'm going to totally steal that idea, Sam, sending updates These updates.
Sam: Please do.
Paddy: Before we wrap up, this on the Mobilegeddon-esque update where it gets coverage in New York Times and everyone knows about it, not just SEOs and it gets lot of coverage. Something very similar recently as we know is Bard from Google. In terms of ChatGPT, we know Bing is starting to roll it into their search as well. That's something that goes beyond SEO, right? This is something bigger than search itself. Potentially, this technology is bigger than search, but because a lot of it is being funneled through Google and Bing, it's been mixed up with search a little bit.
Has anyone got any views on what this may end up looking like in Google or Bing? Reference search is going to fundamentally change because of the technology that we're seeing now around AI in answering questions. Does anyone think it's just something which like most SEO things, will just go away soon and we'll get back to what we usually do? Has anyone got any thoughts on Bard, AI, ChatGPT, or anything like that?
Tanuja: I think it's going to bring more visibility to Bing. They've been in Google's shadow, and by taking this approach to use AI in search, I think it's going to really help them come forward as a search engine that people should really consider using. I'm sure it's going to increase their percentage of the search market, because people want to try new technology. Google looks like it's in catch up mode now because after Microsoft makes their announcement then Google comes back with announcing Bard. I think here, it really looks like Bing has taken a leadership position with ChatGPT.
Sam: I agree with that and I think some competition in the search space could actually be really good for us as an industry. What I think ultimately will be interesting, because we are seeing that these systems are flawed, and so, was it released too early, that it's going to hurt public opinion, that the public is going to stop trusting it? I think that's something only time will be able to answer. I'm actually a little bit excited though, because I feel like what the ChatGPT, Bard, Bing chatbot, whatever it ends up being, what that does is really-- It focuses on informational queries, I think.
I think for us as SEOs, if you're selling B2B or B2C, if you're doing marketing, and that's why the SEO is around, it may enable us to shift our focus away from informational queries which could ultimately be dent-- I think it will be detrimental to many SEO programs because certainly, for niche industries or something that's highly specialized, you need those informational because you need to do a lot of education. My hope, and I'm just going to ever be the optimistic, is that it enables us to focus more on what are the unique POVs or values that somebody brings to their industry. What is the unique feature of their product that makes it worthwhile and makes them different than everybody else?
I'm hoping we can get a lot more to those types of conversations because I just think back to like-- I had clients where we were writing blogs about the history of concrete to self shoring forms. No nobody who cares about the history of concrete is actually buying concrete forms and vice versa. My hope is that we can continue really honing in on the conversations that actually matter with brands, and not feel obligated to do fluff. I think that's something in the last five years, the SEO industry is just improving, content's getting better because we're realizing that's what we have to do.
My hope is that it just really solidifies that. It'll be interesting to see because Bard and Bing chatbot, they're not doing great and they're getting a lot of bad PR. I think it'll just continue to be interesting to see how that evolves.
Paddy: Cool. Thanks. I think on that note, we'll start to wrap up. Firstly, thank you to all of our panelists, and Areej for bringing this all together today. Thank you to everyone listening as well. You can download the actual report if you haven't checked it out yet, just below the video, in the link. Thanks for joining us today and thanks again to all our experts. Hopefully, see you all soon.