SEO ·

SEO Growth with Eli Schwartz (Product-Led SEO) and Bernard Huang (Clearscope)

Bernard Huang

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Clearscope's Bernard Huang joined the Demand Curve Growth Summit with Eli Schwartz author of Product-Led SEO, to discuss SEO Growth.

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About Eli Schwartz

Eli is the author of Product-Led SEO and has helped enterprises and startups develop and implement growth strategies to scale their organic visibility in search. Clients include Coinbase, Gusto, Automattic, Insight Timer, Getaround, Handshake, Faire, Mixpanel, BlueNile, ThePillClub, G2, AllTrails, Gametime, and others.

Follow Eli Schwartz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/5le

About "Product-Led SEO"

When it comes to SEO, success often depends not on what you do but on how you do it. That is why Product-Led SEO digs deep into the logic and theory of SEO instead of offering step-by-step guidelines and techniques. You will learn to develop your own best practices and see where most SEO strategies go astray. If your main goal is driving traffic, you are leaving sales on the table.

Check out Eli's book "Product-Led SEO" on Amazon.

About Bernard Huang

Bernard is the co-founder at Clearscope, the leading SEO content optimization tool. Before that, Bernard was the 500 Startups marketer-in-residence responsible for SEO, consulted for DoorDash, Strava, AllTrails, and other high-growth companies, played online poker professionally, and co-owned a BBQ restaurant franchise.

Follow Bernard on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bernardjhuang

Read the transcript

Aadil:

Everybody gives some love to our speakers as they join us on stage. We have the co-founder at Clearscope, the leading SEO content optimization tool. He was the 500 startups marketer in residence responsible for SEO. He's consulted for Jordache, Strava, AllTrails, and other high growth companies, and played online poker professionally, and co-owned a barbecue restaurant franchise. Please give a warm welcome to Bernard Huang.

Bernard:

Thank you.

Aadil:

Oh, we've got some Pikachu is in the chat. I love it. We have the author of Product-Led SEO and he's a growth advisor to high growth startups like Coinbase, Gusto, Mixpanel, and Quora. He was previously the director of growth at SurveyMonkey. Please give a warm welcome to Eli Schwartz.

Eli:

Hi guys.

Aadil:

Awesome. All right. To give you all a little bit of the lay of the land here. We're going to go through some high level questions about SEO and the state of SEO today. Then we're going to get into more tactical advice, more specific things around SEO, ask about some resources, and then maybe get to some audience questions if we have some time. You can use the Q&A function in the chat in order to ask questions that we may have time to get to at the end. Let's go ahead and kick things off.

At a high level, when do you know that SEO is even a right channel to invest in? Is SEO for everyone and who should actually be paying attention to this? Well, I'll start with Eli.

Eli:

SEO is not for everyone. Billboards aren't for everyone. Even if billboards are for everyone, the right billboards are not for everyone. There was a company I worked for and when I was working there we were begging them to do out of home advertising, to advertise on buses, and subways, and those kinds of things. They never wanted to do it. They said, "It wasn't worthwhile." I was recently in New York and they finally did take out a billboard, but 80 miles from New York City. That was a waste of time and completely useless.

SEO is the same thing. You shouldn't do SEO, because you should do SEO. You would need to have a user story, or persona, or reason someone would want to search for you, and click through, and buy from you. If they're not going to, it's taking out a billboard 80 miles from New York City. You've the checked box, but you're wasting your money. Again, it has to make sense. Many companies that I look at that they've done SEO they've gotten no ROI from it, and they're complaining about that lack of ROI, and that's because it's not a fit.

Aadil:

Who are... Give me some examples. Who are those companies that it's they think it's a fit, but it's clearly not.

Eli:

It's not that they think it's a fit. It's CMOs and heads of marketing come in and they think it's something they have to do. They never really went through that thought process of is it a fit? Should I even do this? I find that B2B companies it doesn't necessarily make sense, because that's not how people buy. People buy by looking at pricing and looking at fit. They're not Googling, "Oh, this tool's number one on Google. It's going to definitely be the right thing for me."

I also find that if something is too innovative, it's also not a fit, because there's no demand yet. You need to go and create that demand and then people search for you. If you can do a bunch of SEO, and I've talked to startups with innovative solutions and they're like, "Well, we're number one for our brand, or we're number one for all these things," but no one's looking. All that money they've invested in that number one status doesn't help.

Aadil:

Got it. Anything to add to that Bernard?

Bernard:

I feel like Eli has hit the nail on the head. It's definitely not for everyone. I'm going to add on to this in a more tactical sense. At a high level, yes, it's not there for everyone. In a more tactical sense, generally, I would recommend if you can't point to a competitor and say, "Wow, they're doing really well in organic search, that's what I want to replicate." Chances are SEOs probably not for you. Another great way to understand if SEOs for you is really to do the paid ads, PPC component. If you're buying ads on Google where people are searching for things that you care about and you're scratching your head being like, "Oh, I can't make these unit economics work," then that's another yellow/red flag that, okay, maybe SEO is not for you. That's perfectly fine.

I'd say the last bit of advice, since I know a lot of y'all are in earlier stages of your company growth I, typically, stay away from recommending SEO for seed, even series A startups, in general, because a lot of the time you're still finding product market fit and SEO takes a long time. At least in terms of SEO time lengths. Right? Six months and you could be out of money. A lot of SEO strategies is six months before you start seeing any semblance of growth or traction. Those are going to be what I boil down the tactical recommendations to. If a competitor's not doing a search strategy and they're really dominant in the space, maybe, not for you. If you're really early and your competitors are doing really well still, maybe, not for you, because it takes a long time. If you can't make PPC work, then probably not for you, as well.

Eli:

Well, I had to disagree with Bernard right there. If a competitor's not doing SEO, that doesn't mean that the SEO isn't necessarily a fit. One of the things that I've seen in my years doing SEO is people are obsessed with competitors. They copy the competitor's keywords, they copy the competitor's content, they copy the competitor's links. I've been in the position where acquired companies we were competing with and they would say things like, "Well, we copied what you were doing." I was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about. This wasn't intentional. This wasn't a strategy. I didn't even notice it worked."

I don't think it's good to start with the competitors as your starting point. Sometimes they're completely wrong, sometimes they have no idea, sometimes they're bad at what they're doing. I like the idea of really thinking about that user journey. Is the user journey there for search and is someone going to buy from search? Doesn't matter whether competitors are doing it. You're smarter than them. Know that. You should do it. If there's no user journey and your competitors aren't doing SEO, maybe, they are smart and they know that there's no user journey.

Bernard:

Definitely. I agree with that. Can't always believe that your competitors know SEO.

Eli:

Most of them don't. That's what I find often is people read a book, they read a blog post, and they think they know SEO and they don't. Which is a huge area of opportunity for people to actually know SEO, and want to do this, and don't want to buy a really cool tool like Clearscope.

Aadil:

There we go, bringing up full circle. Some really great points in there. If it's too innovative, probably not a fit. If you can't point to a competitor crushing SEO it may or may not be a fit, I'll say that. If you can't use paid ads to test SEO demand may not be a fit. Don't have product market fit may not be a fit. Those are some heuristics that we can take note of that may make a difference. Oh... There we go. Let me ask you, Bernard, what do you think most experts get wrong about modern SEO? Is there any advice that you keep seeing year after year, you've been doing this for so long, that you wish would go away?

Bernard:

Yeah, that's a tough question.

I would say as a general high level observation, I think, most experts usually carve out their niche in a specific field or aspect of search engine optimization. In different eras of SEO, you would have seen the rise of the link builder, guru, or expert. You would've seen the rise of a technical SEO guru or expert. Nowadays, you're seeing the rise of the content strategist and high level intent, quality content focus, like search engine optimization, see their time. I think that the biggest mistake then I see experts make is that they cling on too dearly to the field that got them popular in the first place. They start seeing a lot of the problems in SEO like nails and their specialty is the hammer. That's probably the biggest high level mistake is not evolving with the times.

Aadil:

Certainly. Eli, what do you think?

Eli:

I like the idea of really thinking about SEO from the top down. From a logical, strategic standpoint. I think that too many people get caught up in specific things without really thinking about the logic behind it. As an example, this is something I've been talking about in presentations forever, Google has autonomous cars. They have hundreds of autonomous cars, they're licensed as robo taxis, they don't really do taxis for regular people, but they robo taxi employees. They drive on the street, and they don't kill anybody, and they do a pretty good job, and they don't cut cars off, they behave. That's some high level AI. But, then the same company... Now, when people acknowledge that they say "Google's doing a lot of smart stuff," but then when they think about search, you're like, "Well, if I got this guest post from a DA90 site, I'm guaranteed to rank number one on the super competitive term against all my competitors who have actual brands." Suddenly that logic just falls away. It's a technical SEO.

He doesn't really matter in the big picture whether your page speed is perfect or your title tags are perfect. I very rarely see any of these technical SEO recommendations amount to actual ROI. I don't do SEO audits, I've received SEO audits, and when I've given SEO audits, no one really acts upon them, because you have to prioritize that effort. If you say to someone, "Well, I guarantee you if you make your site 10% faster, you get 10% more revenue, they'll probably do it." But if you say, "Well, you're output for making your site 10% faster is your site is 10% faster," hard to justify the significant expense that would come from them.

I think when it comes to SEO, it's really important to think about the big picture. Does this matter? Do you think Google cares that much about this? Page speed is something that people harp so much on, but if you would do a page speed analysis on all of your competitors within a vertical they're terrible, so many sites are terrible. They're slow, they're on shared hosting, they're hosted all over the world. That's the way Google looks at things. Google's not on the fly saying, "Oh, this site is really fast. They're just going to win this. This site is really slow, but nevermind the fact that it's Amazon and they don't deserve it, because they haven't optimized page speed." Big picture, those things don't matter. Big picture, what Google's trying to do is serve the best answers, serve the best information, not give starters an award of who has the best SEO.

Aadil:

Got it. What really got from that was all too often people are in the weeds thinking about, "All right, well, if we just make this little tweak here or that little tweak there that's going to unlock the SEO growth." Really, more often than not, people need to take a little bit more of a step back, look at it from a top down approach, and think from first principles. Why should Google rank me?

Eli:

Exactly. How would you feel if you searched this yourself? If you took that step back? At home I used to do that. How would you feel if you took that step back, and you're looking for yourself, and you found your site. Terrible content, your terrible product offering for what people are looking for, and then put yourself in the user's shoes and see if that makes sense.

Aadil:

Does that align with what you see, as well, Bernard, with Clearscope?

Bernard:

Yeah. I think a lot of people think that SEO is a bunch of check boxes, and you go through, and you check all the boxes. Right? Title tag less than 65 characters, includes a meta description, blah, and really, to echo what Eli was already saying, it's not right. It's a whole variety of different things and I think that a lot of experts get lost in the trees and don't see the forest.

Aadil:

Got it. One thing that you mentioned, Bernard, earlier you talked about how before it used to be about link building, activities like that. Versus, now it's much more about being a content strategist. Talk about the intersection of content marketing and SEO. Are they inseparable at this point? How do you think about the distinction between the two?

Bernard:

Yeah. That's again, a very complicated question to answer. The best answer, of course, in most SEO context is it depends. I think you're starting to see this concept of content marketing, user experience play a larger role in search engine optimization. For a percentage of content being created on the internet, you could imagine more of what you're seeing from Wirecutter, Nerdwallet it's going to be infused with more content marketing. At least, from what a traditional sense looks like, which is written content, good imagery, that sort of thing.

I think in the broader context of content marketing, you also have, on the flip side, this product led SEO component, which is not going to look as much how traditional content marketing looked. Right? It's like saying, "How can we programmatically create pages that are going to be inherently useful for people searching for all kinds of different things that my product and service can fit?" You're going to have a lot of variations of technically generated pages that are interesting and useful that are not going to look like the long form editorial piece.

I think that you're seeing basically this blend of good user engagement, signal user experience, and in some cases that looks like great long form written content that a lot of people would've traditionally called content marketing. Then you're also seeing the expansion of interesting styles of pages that people are able to create through user generated content flywheels or other initiatives that they collect a lot of data. I think that broadly speaking, I guess the most interesting way of framing it is Google and users are a lot more dialed into what is actually useful in interesting content. In some queries that means longer form, great looking content and in other queries it could, literally, be more of a forum or widget based experience.

Aadil:

Got it. Yeah. Anything to add to that, Eli?

Eli:

Yeah, I love that. I love the way of thinking about content from a broad perspective. One thing I tell companies all the time when I tell them not to do SEO, and I'd say two-thirds of the conversation I have is around not doing SEO. Then they say, "Well, should I not write content?" That's terrible question. You should write content, but the only thing is it comes to SEO people think of the two buckets of SEO content and content. They should be one and the same. I tell companies that they should be writing content that they want to share on social media, that they want to share in their email list, and they want to share on their website, and that people are going to directly navigate to. If that content generates SEO traffic, so be it. But to write content that is terrible, because it's loaded with keywords that people want to rank for think they should rank for makes no sense.

If you've written content that's stuff full of keywords, if you've written content on Fiverr and you're too embarrassed to share it on up load, or on your email list, or too embarrassed to have the share it on social media what's the point of that? That's the reflection of your business. Write content, use tools, again, like Clearscope to understand what people are looking for. Write that content, put it out on your email, put it on your website. Again, if it drives SEO traffic, that's great, but make it what people are looking for. If it needs imagery, then it needs imagery. They don't say, "Well, imagery is going to kill my keyword count and it's going to break up this SEO content." There should be no such thing as SEO content. SEO is a channel to acquire users. Again, like I said earlier, if there are users there.

You don't need to do every single marketing channel just because they exist. You don't need to advertise in the Super Bowl, because it exists. You do the things that make sense for your business and if SEO makes sense for your business then you create the content that makes sense for your customers. When it comes to prioritizing that content, again, I think a big mistake people make is they use SEO metrics. They'll go on a keyword tool and they'll search by... They'll search their primary keyword, and look for keywords with the highest volume, and that's how they'll prioritize the content they need to write. Instead, I think they should be prioritizing content by user need. If users don't understand how your product works that's the content you should write. If users just don't understand why you're better than your competitor that's the content you write. If users don't understand the value prop you have you write their content. Don't focus on content that has that keyword in that the keyword tool told you a lot of people search, because you're missing out.

SEO should be about converting traffic and converting traffic is so much easier when it's someone searching you versus your competitor, or what's your return policy, or how fast you ship. That's the content to write. When you're investing in content, put that first. Put the converting content first. Put the content that makes sense for your audience and really don't worry about SEO metrics until later.

Aadil:

Some gold nuggets from what both of you all shared. What stood out, Bernard, you really talk about, think about the query. What is it that people really want and what is the type of content that best serves that query? If you were to go down the SEO route.

Eli, I like how you encapsulate look, the bottom line is make it the content that your customers need. Don't think so much about the volume, and the traffic, and all that. What do your customers actually need, because your content's a reflection of your business. Those are the things that you want to actually be focusing on.

Let's get more tactical here. Bernard, you talked about leveraging UGC for SEO. What's an interesting example of a company that you've seen that's leveraged UGC in a successful way? That you're like, "Oh, there's something to learn from that."

Bernard:

Yeah. On the surface, of course, you have your key players in the space, which has always been TripAdvisor and Yelp, and a variety of those forum type stuffs. Reddit as well, although Reddit doesn't necessarily do that well in SEO. I think that really there are certain queries that deserve a diverse set of opinions and those are often going to be the ones where you see these UGC websites performing better. To be completely honest, I'm seeing a decline though in those specific types of websites to date. They're losing to this more longer form editorial content. If you googled best lunch in Houston or Austin, you're actually seeing Yelp no longer always monopolize the top spots. You're seeing these local food bloggers rising in the ranks. I think that a lot of that is maybe a semblance of this problem that we're facing in terms of quality content.

Okay, most website or most businesses on Yelp more or less gravitate towards a four star rating or a four and a half. You'd have to be really bad to be at three, or two and a half, and whatnot. What people are more gravitating towards now is, okay, I want to know how this specific local food blogger influencer thinks about these specific restaurants. I think that you see UGC work really well in certain pockets and then people's tastes like may change. Perhaps e-commerce is another one of those where there's nothing going through and reading a bunch of reviews, photos, FAQs from people who have purchased the product, because then you know, "Oh yeah. That is more likely to be janky" and whatnot. I think that it's always an ebb and flow. eCommerce makes a lot of sense, reviews made a lot of sense, and then the independent food bloggers, and influencers, and taste makers started creating their own long form content to match that and their competing head to head with very strong authoritative websites now.

Aadil:

Very interesting. Yeah. I didn't even realize that that was a trend going on. You're seeing a decline in UGC heavy sites in certain categories where longer editorial contents are ranking higher. Particularly, from taste makers with topical authority. Eli, are you seeing similar things? Do you have another example of UGC, user generated content working well?

Eli:

The interesting point is that Google actually updated their search this week. Where they're now adding discussions when relevant into the search. They're having a box where they'll pull in Quora, they'll pull in Reddit, because people are looking for this kind of contents. A lot of times it's low quality. You have to understand, back in the day when there were forums and people dominated forums to write opinions, Reddit and Quora on these other UGC platforms can be the same, where they're not necessarily moderated or they're moderated with incentive, like Reddit. Google is telling you that these are discussions, but again, there's so many queries that Google automatically suggests to you that you should append the word Reddit on that query. I'm looking for best doctor near me, Reddit. Right? They're telling you Reddit's a good place to find it. They're not telling you that you could trust Reddit. They're adding that discussion.

I'd say UGC is a great place to really learn from what your users want. You can go on Reddit and look for ideas that seem to be repetitive, that people are asking the same question, and then you can scale it up. What I love to do, which is product led SEO. You understand there's a user need and when you're building a product around your SEO, you need to validate that need. Again, UGC, a great place to validate the need.

Bernard mentioned TripAdvisor, that's my favorite UGC site, and Yelp, of course, from back in the day. Where they were able to validate the need and then they built the architecture around it. They're driving all this value, really, around their architecture. We have a hotel, we have all the hotels in every location, whether or not there's UGC TripAdvisor works. Getting that score whether, again, whether or not there's UGC content, they still have the scores on it.

I love using having UGC to validate ideas, to understand what people are looking for, and to really understand if there's SEO need there that you can fulfill. Rather than, well, people are querying it, so I'm just going to go after it. Like the near me queries. Yes, everyone searches best place to eat near me, but you don't want to write a long piece of content. Here's all the places you're going to go near you. That's not relevant for every single GPS location. I like using UGC as my slug to really build off of, rather than this is the place where I want to create a bunch of UGC or spam UGC even.

Aadil:

Take that further. We're talking about how, particularly for local searches, having folks locally with topical authority are that's starting to rank higher in the SERPs. Do you see now that things are going more video first, TikTok results being shown in the result on the first page of Google? How should we be thinking about video now going into 2023 as that's becoming more important in certain categories?

Eli:

I think that, again, this goes back to CEOs be too tactical. I think the most important thing here is to really understand what users want. If video makes sense for what you're looking for I think a great place you're seeing a lot more video is how to. Like how to change my bike tire, how to understand if my oven is working, how to fix my dishwasher filter. Those are things people want videos for. Therefore, if you are competing in that space you're going to want to create video. Video and text. Don't look past the text.

When it comes to things that are less how to and probably don't make as much sense for video. I don't think you have to worry about it as much. It really comes down to that high level view of what does the user want, and create that content for the user, and know that Google will be using those signals to decide that video makes more sense.

I think the one thing we see is... A lot of times people complain about Google being a monopoly, and Google steals traffic, and Google's evil. Google's not evil, Google is a for profit business. Google is the mall, we're grateful that we have a spot in the mall and they give us free try. At this point they have the right to not do that, because they're alternatives. The one place I think Google can be evil is when it comes to YouTube. When they're giving only YouTube results for something that doesn't seem right. They're driving the traffic directly to their own site that monetizes based on impression advertising and when there's three pages of all the YouTube results that might not be fair.

To address that, Google has been going to TikTok, MEO, and other video providers to get direct feed from them like they get from Twitter, so they can avoid going to Congress having to explain why there's so many results that just feed YouTube. Meditation is one of those things that is full of video results. In the meditation space, you might need a look at me, or video, or audio content as a way to compete.

Bernard:

Eli nailed it.

Aadil:

What do you think, Bernard?

Bernard:

Yeah, that's exactly it. I would say to add on other types of queries where I'm seeing video have more prevalence is going to be outside of how to, of course, you Google most how to and video, a YouTube embedded video slash carousel is going to be there, is what is. You usually see a video carousel for what is. I do think that a lot of content creators do a fairly good job explaining what is this, or that, and that sort of thing. Another one I'm starting to see more of and this hinges on whether the review is of a consumer package good, but is review. Right? If you're doing a review of a vacuum or whatever you're going to see a lot more video based reviews, as well. I think that's, because Reddit's a lot more qualitatively useful to a user who's performing sets of searches on how to vacuum cleaner review. What is that? They're going to be more engaged with video?

I'm going to add on to this idea of Google and YouTube being a monopoly and say that the most interesting thing that is happening is that classes of searches are no longer starting always on Google. A good example of this is in e-commerce if you're on Amazon and you're subscribed to Prime, well, you don't Google whatever you're wanting to buy on Amazon you go to Amazon and you start your search there. I'm going to say the same for video. Right? There's going to be a whole new classes of searches that begin on YouTube, they begin on TikTok. I do think that video then has a special place at least in a content strategy moving forward, because Google, they might end up ranking on Google, but a lot of people might be starting their search on TikTok, on YouTube. Creating video content for those types of searches is going to meet the searcher in the medium that they care about. You get a nice side effect bonus if it happens to rank and Google, as well.

Aadil:

Got that? Yeah. Are there any... Go ahead, Eli.

Eli:

I was going to say I think that people get two focused on Google search, and Google algorithm updates, and they're obsessed with Google. I wrote my book and I actually went and edited every time I said Google. I wrote Google and Bing, and I tried to change it to search engines, because I want my book to be relevant for all search. I think it is relevant for all search. It'll take a little while to be obsolete and think about it like that.

Search will change. There will be other search engines and our search strategies need to account for that. Like Bernard said, Amazon, TikTok, there are other search engine and there could be a day where TikTok actually launches its own crawler and you can do search that's not just TikTok videos. There could be a day where Amazon launches its own crawler and you could do a search where it's not just e-commerce on Amazon. Amazon hosts things from other stores, not just Amazon and they're advertising. Amazon has devices that you could ask questions to and they give you search results that are not e-commerce results. Very likely they could go in that direction if they say, "Well, there's more ads we could sell if we had search results on an actual browser on a phone or a computer." They could do that.

Facebook could do that too. Microsoft may one day figure out how to do Bing search properly. Again, search is not all about Google. If you approach search from a user perspective, Google's a medium. Right now, Google's a medium, but there's one day be other search engines. Google's very aware of that and that's why they're aggressive about thinking about TikTok, because they know they don't own the market. Three years ago you would've said Facebook is the only social media network that will ever exist. Now, they're not. Right? I'd say think about search the same way. Focus on the user, focus on how algorithms want to prioritize results, and don't think about how does the Google algorithm do things, and how do I optimize against the Google algorithm, or how do I find hacks and loopholes of the Google algorithm.

Aadil:

One more question, tactical, before we hop into some audience questions. We've seeing the rise of AI generated content. That is the topic of 2022. Tell me, how do you think about the role that AI tools will play in the content creation process? Let's go with Bernard.

Bernard:

Oh. AI content. Yeah.

I think there is a very real place in content strategy that involves AI. I think that AI is really good at least in the way that it currently works, which is being trained on billions of records, using internet data to inform the likelihood of certain words following other words. You can imagine, if you asked it who's the first president of America? It knows first President America, George Washington goes together. All of that's to say, if you can imagine that AI content is based on the human knowledge of specific facts, things, opinions that we collectively as human society have created where AI content really shines is in things that everybody agrees upon. If we all say that blue is this color that looks like the ocean and everybody can agree on that then AI content shines. You can imagine that's usually facts, most times history, definitions, those types of things.

Where AI content, as you can imagine, starts to struggle is by providing unique perspectives, because again, those haven't been created before and/or when society is very split on certain topics, whether that be politics, religion, all that good stuff. If that's the case, then you can imagine that AI content would be good for summarizing a lot of what has already happened and those types of content, the people that need those types of content would really do well with AI. However, if you are in a more controversial field or a more quick changing field then AI content, at least in its current form, is going to suffer. Because, it's not able to construct as valuable thoughts and opinions on basically topics where we're disagreeing or the way that the topic is evolving is much faster than the model is being trained.

Aadil:

Eli, go for it.

Eli:

I think when most people are referring to AI content they're referring to, they're looking to be lazy. Back in the day, there is this plugin on WordPress called Caffeinated Content, this is probably 10 years ago, and it wrote AI content. It wrote terrible content you put in your words, and it spun out content, and then you were able to rank on search, and then somehow trick people into clicking date links, and your nonsense. That's I think what people are trying to accomplish with AI content today. They're not doing necessarily the smart thing Bernard's talking about where they really want to answer smart questions. They're trying to avoid paying an actual writer. Now, if you want to do that then hopefully you're selling to computers. You're selling to robots who can care about your AI content, but if you actually want to sell to users and your AI looks like AI content then you need to save your time and your money. I've seen so many sites where the content makes no sense. You know it's been written by AI, so, therefore, you just don't trust the website. You don't trust the content.

I think that's the idea. What are you trying to accomplish with it? Are you trying to accomplish saving money and saving time or is there something that's programmatic that you're writing and you can let the AI write for you, because it uses source data? It ends up being a little bit better, rather it were written manually, but I think a lot of AI content right now is just meant to be lazy. It's the same thing that's been going on forever where you have different ways of spending it and AI's just a little bit smarter. It's harder to detect. Again, if you're a user trying to understand what something is, and buy from something, and you're looking for that emotion, and it's missing you're not going to buy.

Aadil:

Got that.

Well, we've got five-ish, five, 10-ish minutes to go. We're going to rapid fire through some audience questions for you all. We're going to keep answers brief, so we can get through as many as we can. One of the things that you talked about, Eli, was figuring out what content your customers need. How can you figure that out? How do you actually determine what content do your customers need that isn't already out there? When your market's really saturated, say you're parenting or baby brands, it's a very saturated market. How do you figure out what content to create?

Eli:

Again, I hate to keep saying it, but users. I like to do what a lot of people don't do, which is ask actual users. If there's a user need ask users. Is this, in parenting, is this something that you would be interested in using? Have those user conversations and you can get lots of ideas of things that people are looking for, but they can't find. Like I said earlier, Reddit's a great place. You go in, don't like at the Reddit queries, actually read the Reddit comments, and go through it, and you'll find ideas. If you see the same thing over again that's a user need that you can build something around. There's amazing Reddit comments that have a thousand words, 1500 words. Those are blog posts that are basically ranking, and you can build on that, and create actual better content that doesn't come from Reddit. Not saying steal it, but use the ideas and this is something people want and they don't want to trust a Reddit comment, here's a piece of content I can create.

Bernard:

Yeah. I...

Aadil:

Can you explain the difference...?

Bernard:

Yeah. Go ahead.

Aadil:

Yeah. Sorry Bernard, we're going to keep rolling.

Bernard:

Yep. Rapid fire.

Aadil:

I'm going to ask you, can you explain the difference between Google search and Google Maps ranking? Is there a different SEO strategy for each?

Bernard:

Yeah, it's basically Google search is what happens when you type in all the queries and you can imagine Maps is a subset of that search. Google understands that if you performed a search that has a localized intent like haircut, groceries, you probably want the Map instead of something. They infer that. If you Google groceries they don't show you the map and then somebody Google's groceries map or groceries near me and then Google says, "Okay, we should probably introduce the map."

Map has to do more with citations. Right? Credibility. Okay, are you actually a local business operating near Austin? If so, how many sources has validated that your hours are indeed 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM? Then within that it's based on whether you have a Google My Business account, and awaiting towards reviews, and overall engagement to your location when provided in the results. It's a different ranking algorithm, but it is a subset of Google search and, in my opinion, it's based primarily on Google My Business reviews, how many local citations that you have.

Aadil:

Localized intent, match with local credibility, and through the medium of Google My Business, and some of those more local Google options.

Eli, in your experience, is it better...? I always... I'm afraid to ask you an SEO question, because I feel like you're going to be like, "Why are you asking me about SEO."

Eli:

I wrote a book on it. It's okay.

Aadil:

In your experience is it better to in high authority back links, but in smaller quantity or to invest in indecent authority back length like DR20 to 40, but in larger quantity?

Eli:

Option C.

Aadil:

What is option C?

Bernard:

Neither. Back links are total waste of time. I know I'm going to get slayed comments here, but Google's got 20 years of building their algorithms to detect spam. If you're buying links for links sake they can detect it. I've been fortunate and then I've actually gotten back links from the White House three times, two or three times. Whitehouse.gov and those links to nothing. I think the domain authority of backlinks don't really matter. It's really the context. Google's algorithms, said it earlier, they drive cars. Same company drives cars without killing anybody. They can figure out backlinks are a waste of time. Some of those links will matter, some of those links won't matter, but the more important thing is people know your business exists and they want to click on the links that you do get. If they don't count for Google, they count for something. Don't invest in backlinks. Invest in your business, invest in your brands.

Aadil:

Bernard, Eli said some controversial things that I want to definitely make sure that you have the ability to add context to.

Bernard:

No, a hundred percent on board. Okay, all right. There are some cases where backlinks will help, especially, if you're just getting started. I believe that Google's looking at semblance of a variety of factors one of which is backlinks, another which is topical authority, or how well your content, your existing content, for a certain topic is performing over time. In the very beginning stage, when you have no content that's doing well for a topic and no authority from a backlink perspective how can Google start to build trust in your website? Early on is, basically, the only time I will recommend doing any backlink building, but once you've already proven to Google that you have content that's crawlable, indexible, and useful to users in a specific topic, I say get off the backlinks and put it all into content.

Aadil:

Fantastic. Way to cap off the session. Any resources, Bernard, that you would recommend people check out when wanting to learn, go deeper on this stuff?

Bernard:

Well, Product-Led SEO, I put the link in the messages. You definitely want to check out this book. Eli goes above and beyond describing the strategies that he invented and crafted at SurveyMonkey. Really also diving more into the tactical of, okay, how do you actually figure out how to create content that your users want? I think that a lot of the time CEOs aren't sitting in on sales calls, they are looking at the common support tickets that people are writing into the help desk center. These are points that Eli points out all the time and is like, "Hey, this is something that is very useful."

The other one that I'm going to give is our YouTube channel, Clearscope. We host awesome web speakers on SEO and content like Eli every week. We record them and we talk about all kinds of different, useful, interesting things like Google EATs, what's been going on with the helpful content update. Definitely would recommend those.

Aadil:

Clearscope's weekly webinars are awesome. They are master classes and they're totally free. Absolutely check them out. Definitely check out Eli's book. I was going to ask you Eli, who should not read your book? Who are the people in this audience that should skip your book and who is it really for?

Eli:

Everyone should read the my book, because I think it's like $6 in Amazon and for some people, actually 2/3 of people, it's going to be the only $6 you ever need to spend in SEO. I want to be clear that SEO is the most amazing channel and can drive so much ROI if it makes sense for you. Really SEO is a marketing channel. I think, again, that we go back to tactics. When people think about SEO, they think about it too narrowly and not in the context of their business. The dollars you spend, like Bernard said earlier, PPC, the dollars you spend on SEO if they're better spent on PPC spend them on PPC. Why would you spend them on SEO? Again, I like to think about SEO as a marketing channel. Dose it make sense and where's most effective?

I don't want to make it very narrowly in the sense of like, "I need to check this box. The agency said it costs $5,000 a month. I'm going to pay $5,000 a month." It's really, is that $5,000 a month better spent on a PR agency? Is it better spent on having another engineer? Is it better spent on PPC? Really think about it in the broad context of the business. Then within SEO, where do you focus those efforts? Do you focus it on PR? Do you focus on writing more content? Do you focus on building a better product? Again, I like to think about everything high level, whether it makes sense. When I had mentioned page speed earlier, that's something that's expensive. Where are those resources better spent? If that's the last thing that you can fix spend it on page speed, but there's always something else and something better.

Hopefully, those ideas come through in the book. Anyone can get some idea out of it. Read the book and hopefully if you don't need SEO, it's the only money you ever spend on SEO.

Aadil:

Spend six bucks, you'll validate whether or not SEO is the right fit. It's a no-brainer. Absolutely recommend it. Bernard Huang's product is Clearscope.io. If you haven't checked it out you absolutely must. It is the premier. If you're writing content and have any sort of SEO angle it is the tool to use. We use it every day at Demand Curve for all of our content. Absolutely recommend it. Check them out in the booths. Virtual booth. I know there's a special that Clearscope has going on for some free reports if you want to pop in there. Where can people reach out to you? How can they connect to with you all after the summit? They want to keep going down learning more about the Bernard and Eli -verse.

Eli:

Well, I also want to shout out to Clearscope. Clearscope is the best tool I know for really understanding what users want. You're writing manual content, not you're not writing AI content. You understand the users and you write for them.

Bernard:

Thanks.

Aadil:

Absolutely. How can people get in touch?

Bernard:

I drop my Twitter in the messages. I think that'll be the easiest place for me to connect with you all. If you have questions, thoughts, things, feel free to @ message both me and Eli. I'm sure why'll debated out or have interesting viewpoints that you can have. I know we didn't get around to all the other Q&A's, but ping me on Twitter. Is that also a good place for you, Eli?

Eli:

Twitter, LinkedIn, my website, I dropped my email address. Last thing I would say on finding me is SEO is about this complete visibility for you. Show up however you show up. I don't even tell you to go specifically on LinkedIn, Google me, the places I want to show up and have visibility those are all there and I trust them all.

Aadil:

Fantastic. What a great way to end. Well, thank y'all both so much for spending your time with us today.


Written by
Bernard Huang
Co-founder of Clearscope

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