The Future of SEO


Shama TV: Episode 38

Shama sits down with Antonio Casanova, VP, Search at Starcom MediaVest Group to discuss the future of search in 2016 and beyond.


Click here for the full transcript!

Shama: Hey guys, welcome to Shama TV we’re shooting from the Dallas Digital Summit. I have with me today Antonio Cassanova who works with Starcom MediaVest Group as VP of search. Antonio, thank you so much for being with us. Search engine marketing is obviously a hot topic, SEO as we both know has changed so dramatically in the last few years. Yet, there is all these misconceptions and myths and still a lot of allow us to build you a 100 links for $100, but I’m really curious as to what you see the future of search being? I would love to get your thoughts on that.

Antonio: Absolutely. Yeah, well thank you so much for having me here.

Shama: Of course.

Antonio: Yeah, in terms of the future of search I think we need to look at the way that search has evolved over the last 10 years, 10-15 years. There have been 2 main drivers of that evolution. One of them has been personalization, and the other one has been semantic search.

The first one personalization is pretty evident, what it means is that Google and the search engines is trying to provide results that are personalized, as personalized as possible to you. They do that by looking at the location you are searching from, by looking at the device that you are using, and your previous search history. On that front, one thing that is kind of interesting and controversial is that right now Google has stated that social media signals as in plus 1’s or likes, they’re not directly part of the algorithm for rankings, but common sense says that’s going to become more important. That’s one of the pieces of the future I think, is that personalization is going to continue to increase and the way for search engines to do that is going to be to look at these signals coming from social media. When you think about it social media is a treasure chest of information about what people like, what people comment on, and Google needs to use that, Google I mean, and the others to refine those rankings and present results that are not just relevant, but also authoritative if you will. That’s one side.

The other side on the semantic search side which really what it means is the engines have tried to look beyond the keyword, or behind the keyword and try to figure out what is the real intent behind this keyword.

Shama: Apple fruit versus Apple computer, right?

Antonio: Exactly, or many other words that could have 2 different meanings or 2 different nuances. For that, they look at all this other different factors, that there is one piece that we advise that webmasters do, which is used semantic markup. Schema markup is an example of how webmasters, web developers, they can tag their websites. They can code their websites in a way that is going to connect to the convention that Google has recommended. That is going to allow Google to see this information and then present it. You have already seen this, and all of you have already seen this.
If you research for recipes on Google you are going to see ratings, the number of reviews. You’re going to see prep time, calorie information, many other things. That’s also applicable to products. You see this a lot for products, electronics, and so on. That’s going to be another area where the future of search and SEO is going to be webmasters getting a little bit better at using these conventions to tack content. Then, Google getting those answers to you faster than they do today. This is happening already for some search keywords. Like you search for symptoms for a particular disease and they are already in there on the Google search and result page, instead of you having to go to a page.

Shama: To go further, so with personalization, right, you mentioned that and you agree it’s such a big part. There is still a lot of companies that are hung up on rankings. Are we top 10 for this keyword, are we top 10? But, you’re top 10 looks very different than my top 10 today based on location based on … What’s metrics should someone be focusing on to see are our SEO efforts successful?

Antonio: Yeah, that’s classic and very good question. With SEO many SEO’s have a tendency to focus too much on rankings, too much on keywords. Instead of thinking, you can think of it as a pyramid. The pyramid right at the top of it what’s really driving business. It could be orders. It could be form submissions.

Shama: Leads?

Antonio: Leads. It could be visibility or shares. There are different metrics, but really the ones that are driving the business should be at the top. Underneath that, you have organic traffic. How much traffic are you getting from search engines. Not just traffic overall, but traffic to specific pages that you know are important, or to pages that you are creating and on an ongoing basis as part of your content strategy.

The foundation of that below conversions, below traffic, you can look at rankings. They can inform, they shouldn’t be a primary metric, but they can inform and there are ways of obtaining a non-personalized rankings from Google, through different tools and platforms. That can help you gain some visibility in to how you are doing. The absolute foundation of all the processes, how well have you optimized. We actually have an approach at Starcom in which we evaluate a client’s website and we give it a score to really determine how well are they compliant with SEO best practices.

The top is always conversions. Then, you have traffic. Then, rankings, if you even look at them. Then the foundation has to be the qualitative optimization of your site.

Shama: Right. That brings us to content, right? Content being such a big part. I mean you’re really SEO, or all the technical side they feel like is on a crutch without good content. That becomes a question of scalability, so for a lot of companies looking to say hey, I thought I could pay a couple hundred dollars a month to optimize my website or whatever it may be. Now it’s you have to blog once a week, and now it’s more and more. Any thoughts on what it takes to scale something like that? To scale a good search strategy?

Antonio: Absolutely. I have a couple thoughts. The first ones got to do with prioritizing those opportunities. The beauty, I think the most exciting piece of SEO and search in general, is you can take data inside, so around how consumes search for things and use that to inform your constant strategy. Instead of just coming up with ideas and what you think my resonant. You can look at the data and the search volume for the different keywords. By looking at the volume of the keywords, the relevance of the keywords for your business, and the competitive of those keywords in SEO, which you can get from a couple different tools, Moz is one of them. You can then prioritize your opportunities and then see, okay, what are the topics I should be writing about first.

Now, in terms of scaling it, it’s a good question. It depends on the team that you have, right? If you have a team internally that can do it, that’s great. There are platforms and agencies out there that connect contributors with brands and can allow you to scale. Skyward is an example of an agency you use for one of my clients from Samson. Connecting the different contributors to the client-

Shama: Either way you have to invest resources to have a good search engine marketing strategies these days, right?

Antonio: Absolutely.

Shama: When we work with clients, search doesn’t work in the silo anymore. I mean there is the search team, but they work with content. They work with social, like all those pieces, all those team leads talk to each other, like that’s the only we find that you can actually really drive results.

Antonio: Yes, that’s an excellent point because when you think about it, sometimes you have resources already that you can use for writing, that you can use for this strategy, but it’s matter as you were saying connecting the social media stakeholders with content and technical, and search, which sometimes are media stakeholders. To put it all together and find the people to create this content.

Shama: Do you think there is more misinformation in SEO than any other field in marketing, in terms of a lot more misconceptions, and a lot of myths, and a lot of just bad information out there?

Antonio: Yeah, I think there is quite a bit of bad information. Also, quite a bit of good information. The thing with SEO is sometimes there is myth that because the algorithm evolves and changes that it’s going to be so hard for you to really catch-up to that. SEO in a way might not be as efficient or as useful. The reality is that the principals have remained the same for a longtime. Then, things have evolved.

Shama: Competitions have evolved, right?

Antonio: Yes, competitions.

Shama: I mean before you were competing with a 100 websites, not it might be a 1,000,000 or more websites.

Antonio: Or may more, but yeah, I think it’s a little bit of an issue of not understanding the practice itself and what the key principals are. Also, the other issue is that some people try to tackle it on a silo basis. SEO is SEO. Let’s do it on the backend. We’ll fix a couple things, and that’s it.

Shama: Our experience is that just doesn’t work, to treat SEO as a siloed kind of part.

Antonio: It has to be part of that technical, content, even media strategy, PR, social, it’s all connected to drive SEO. If you don’t realize that and you miss that SEO isn’t going to provide the results that you want.

Shama: That’s good. On this show we try to separate kind of the wheat from the chaff, so we like having guests like you on here who we can have conversations with and can help enlighten the viewers. Thank you so much, I appreciate you being here with us.
Guys, be sure to subscribe so you can tune into all the other awesome content we have going on. Until then remember to market like Zen master.


–Episode Links–

Starcom MediaVest Group


–Episode Tweetables–

The future of #SEO will include #SocialMedia signals such as +1’s & likes. @Shama @AntonioCasanova Click To Tweet Semantic search is another way #webmasters will advance the future of #SEO. @Shama @AntonioCasanova Click To Tweet #SEO Myth: Because the algorithm is ever-evolving, you’ll never catch up. @Shama @AntonioCasanova Click To Tweet


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