This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Nathan Isaacs: Welcome to the Rethink marketing podcast. I’m here today with Kevin Getch, who is the CEO of Webfor and also the president of SEMpdx. SEMpdx is Search Engine Marketers of Portland. Kevin, welcome to the show. Can you tell me a little bit about both organizations?
Kevin Getch: Definitely. And thanks, Nathan, I really appreciate you having me on the show. So first let me start with SEMpdx. I’m very proud and lucky to be the president and serve as the president of SEMpdx. SEMpdx was one of the first nonprofits started to support the digital marketing community. And it really helped me out when I was first starting out in the industry and didn’t have a lot of people around. And so I was able to plug into that community and have been really active over the years. And we put on monthly events to help marketers, small business owners ‒ both in-house and agency folks ‒ to continue their education and continue learning. And we have our big conference coming up March 8th, Engage Conference, which features some of the best speakers from around the world. So, I’m really proud to be a part of that.
My own agency, I found it back in 2009. I’m the founder as well as the director of digital strategy for Webfor. And, again, nothing beats being able to pull in and build the team of people that you would want to spend your days with. And I think we have this amazing group of people. Our focus is on both creative and digital marketing. So we have team members that focus on the design UX development side. And then SEO is a big focus for us, content strategy, paid search, and then of course we provide a base of measurement and analytics for all of that. That’s really our focus area.
Evolving SEO Strategies
Nathan: We’re here to talk about SEO trends that B2B marketers should be thinking about in 2018. Can you summarize what the state of SEO is today? And what have been some of the bigger trends in the last few years?
Kevin: That is a full question. We could talk about that for days. But I’ll try to bring it down to the larger picture. I think today SEO is more complex than it has ever been since its inception. To be successful in SEO today, it’s no longer just these little skills here and there. It takes a team of people with this range of skills and abilities, from creative to very technical skills. So, on the creative side you have people that are creating content, and these beautiful design graphics that delight the user but don’t distract them from the ultimate goal. And then on the technical side you have developers, and you have technical SEO, and you have everything from utilizing regex, to JSON-LD, and injecting schema markup, and log-file analysis, to your basic kind of title tags and HTML coding, and all those kind of things.
So it’s more complex than ever. But it’s great for companies like ours. It definitely gives us a strong future. Because not everyone can do what we do. They just don’t have the resources, the budget, whatever it may be. And so it’s very important that you start and build. You focus on the big rocks first and really understand what are these top priorities. And then move over to the other areas, go down there.
Getting a Jump on Voice Search
Nathan: I’m wondering how companies should be thinking about voice search in terms of their 2018 SEO strategies.
Kevin: The last stat I saw was about 20 percent of mobile searches were voice search, so that’s already a pretty large number of searches on mobile. And it’s projected to hit around 50 percent by 2020. So if people aren’t paying attention to that at this point, it’s something that they should be looking up right now and trying to understand.
The average type of result that shows up from a voice search is different. If they’re looking for an attorney, it’s not: ‘Attorney, Vancouver, Washington.’ They say: ‘An attorney that can help with a car accident near me.’ So [the key is] trying to understand the intent behind that query and then providing the most relevant results.
But there are things that businesses can do to optimize for this trend that is obviously current, but is going to continue in the future. One of those things is use natural language, like the way they write content, the way they answer questions should be in a way that someone speaks often. Not as focused on keyword stuffing and things like that of the past ‒ and hopefully we’re already past that ‒ but that language will be important. And then understanding you can do a competitive analysis or just an analysis of the SERPs and see what queries are actually pulling up instant answers. And often voice searches, instant answers are one of the things.
So you can jump above all of your competitors with optimizing for this one, being the answer to that one question when someone does this voice search. It has so many opportunities. And that’s just the kind of baseline. There’s obviously utilizing schema markup, and there are all those other factors. But in general, the higher up you are, the more visible you are, the better you’re going to get from a click-through rate.
Nathan: And therefore make more money.
Kevin: At the end of the day it comes back to driving revenue.
Deciphering Digital Assistants
Nathan: Digital assistants, how does that come into play? Is that something we should be thinking about as a B2B SEO strategy?
Kevin: There’s always that answer: ‘It depends.’ It depends on your business. Some businesses should be paying more attention to it and other businesses should be aware of it. So there’s that level in between that.
There are options and ways to strategically get in there and be a first actor and get some foothold. They have actions on some of these, like Alexa or whatever, and so you can create apps or games and things like that. One of them is Dad Jokes. I mess around and I say, talk to Dad Jokes. And it’ll tell you all these horrible dad jokes.
But I think one of the biggest things to think about is it has made us think differently about search in general. So sometimes if you’re doing a local search, it might tell you the top three results. So you’re not even seeing the other results. If you say: ‘Hey, what’s a coffee shop nearby?’ or if you say: ‘I want to find a new convenience store to go to,’ it’s going to only tell you the top three results. So you’re not going to see all the other results. And you can say, ‘OK, send option A to my phone.’ And it’ll send it to your phone and you can go out there.
I’d say depending on how far you go out in the future will vary quite a bit as far the functionality that you would use there. At the end of the day it all starts with your user. For some of these businesses, their customers are already utilizing these features. I’m a B2B customer, I own a business, I have a lot of people who are looking to sell to me, and I use the feature all the time. So I’m one of those early adopters that is in there and technologically savvy. And if I fit that profile or that persona for that customer, then they should be paying closer attention to this kind of technology and this kind of information.
The digital assistant is going to be probably one of the most disruptive things that we’ve ever seen ― AI being the driver behind that.
Linking the Past and the Future
Nathan: That’s the future. The past was really built on links. So how big a deal is that still? And what can companies be thinking about as they continue to think about link-building SEO strategies?
Kevin: Content, links, there are a number of things. But links is always up there as far as one of the top ranking factors. And it will continue to be for a long time in the future. The one thing to think about, though, if they haven’t already, is to go way, way away from a quantity perspective and think about a quality perspective.
And there’s a range there where the best link you could probably get is from a site that has a high authority in your niche or industry that is relevant and is linking to some great content that you created. When we look at creating a strategy, we create an endorser profile, who are the people who we want to endorse us. And then we go, OK, who are they linking to, who’d they link to in the past, and what type of content are they linking to in the past? Then create great content and work on getting that in front of those influencers that can link to you potentially.
Being in business for over nine years now, we’ve developed what we call the ‘low-hanging fruit list.’ There are tons and tons of links that you can get that are good, that are valuable, that may even drive traffic to your site, that can give you some value. So you should be getting those while you’re working on the long-term strategy. Because creating great content, and promoting it, and getting it front of the right people takes time, it takes budget, it takes a while. So you can start with this and start going after some of those bigger targets as well.
I often think some of the best SEO is just great marketing, great product, great service. When you’re building yourself as a thought leader in the industry, you tend to find more opportunities to do those kinds of things. That’s why I say that a good SEO strategy, if done right, employs a lot of different factors and tactics, and it has its fingers in many baskets, from content, to social, to branding, and all across the whole area.
Nathan: Kevin, I really appreciate your time today. How can I learn more about you, Webfor, and SEMpdx?
Kevin: So Webfor, just go to webfor.com. I also have my own personal site, kevingetch.com. I occasionally blog on as well there. And then sempdx.org. And come check out some of our events as well and subscribe to the SEMpdx newsletter, as well as on Webfor, and connect with us on social.
Nathan: I look forward to checking it out. Hey, thank you again.
Kevin: Thank you, Nathan, I appreciate it.