Is SEO dead? Well, to answer that and all the questions that keep revolving around the topic, we have Malhar Barai with us. Apart from being an expert in SEO, his key areas of focus are Lead Generation and Branding via omnichannel marketing strategies. This interview comes as a part of our #DigitalQ&A sessions on our Facebook Group.
Q1. Sorav: Is SEO dead or not dead and why?
Malhar: No, SEO is not dead. But the way traditional SEO “experts” were playing around with the system is definitely not working. To understand this, let us agree that the primary goal of any search engine is to give you ‘relevant’ results ‘faster’. So the current day search engines are getting more robust, indexing more content and bringing out more relevance than previously done. This combined with more intelligence coming in is making it difficult for the ‘on-the-edge’ SEO practitioners.
Q2. Sorav: What’s the role of Rank Brain in today’s era? What’s artificial intelligence all about?
Malhar: RankBrain is currently only limited to search queries. A closer look at RankBrain will lead you to a Google patent where they give a certain weightage to each search term. This weightage is done on the basis of context, previous searches, etc which we can call Artificial Intelligence (AI). The results you see thus are more relevant to the current search and also related to what you have searched previously.
Q3. Sorav: What are the 10 things that an SEO beginner must do for his blog or website?
1. A good & reputed host
2. Competitor Analysis – See what others in your niche are doing
3. Site structure – Most important because you need to decide how big the tree would be
4. Focus keyword(s) for the site, URL
5. Site.xml, Robot.txt – Important to tell Google what to look for and where to/where not to look for
6. Loading time – In the age of mobile devices and bandwidth issues, quickest one wins
7. Responsive site – There is no question of when you have to do it NOW with the advent of Mobile First Indexing
8. Register site on Google Web Console, Google Analytics
9. Rich Snippets
10. Proper Meta Descriptions
Q4. Sorav: Which are your favourite WordPress plugins with respect to SEO?
Malhar: I rely on Yoast & All-In-One SEO, still the best ones.
Q5. Sorav: Does SEM hold any relevance in SEO?
Malhar: I always suggest people to leverage SEM for the initial push and then you have to continuously optimize for search engines in order to rank properly and also to stay within the guidelines of Google/Bing. The guidelines change over time, so what was okay yesterday could be spammy in a few years. So invest time in studying guidelines to ensure relevance of SEO efforts.
Q6. Sorav: What’s the impact of direct traffic and brand based keywords search on SEO? Does it show Google popularity of the brand and help in SEO?
Malhar: Something brands often miss is not optimizing for their own branded keywords. It could be disastrous when a competitor starts optimizing for their branded keywords. So advise to brands – keep your own house in order first and then start growing.
Q7. Sorav: What are some of the effective backlinking strategies in today’s era?
Malhar: There are many ‘successful’ strategies and it depends on how you want to grow your brand’s presence. But the one that I would recommend here is Backlinko’s Skyscraper Technique.
The advantage of this technique is that it is a perfectly safe way of generating backlinks and you’ll be safe from any Google penalties.
The Skyscraper technique involves –
a. Looking for the best content depending on your keyword. This research can be done using tools like Buzzsumo
b. Writing content which is better than the best content
c. Understand from which places the ‘best’ content has been backlinked from
d. Reach out to few of the influencing backlinked sites
e. Try transferring or adding the link to your content
Q8. Sorav: What are the 5 biggest mistakes that people do in the space of SEO?
1. Backlinks from spammy websites
2. Keyword stuffing (yes, many folks still do it)
3. Hosting from a low-quality services provider
4. Plagiarism – Copying content from high-quality sites
5. Not optimizing for mobile devices & speed
Q9. Sorav: What’s the role of content in SEO and what kind of content plays a crucial role?
Malhar: In my opinion, SEO is a process every website owner has to follow to ensure their content is discovered. Let us remember that Google/Bing are ‘intent’ based platforms, people come there when they are really ‘searching’ for something, unlike social platforms which are ‘interruption’ based as people come there to connect with others and you interrupt them and tell about your products. So it is imperative that your brand is optimized properly when people search for it, isn’t that the best way to do business?
Q10. Sorav: They say long tail keywords are a win-win, why? Can you share a case study?
Malhar: Do you go into a shoe shop with just a shoe in mind or do you want a ‘black shoe’ or do you want ‘black shoe for man’ or you want a ‘formal black shoe for man’?
Do you see what I just did there? The moment your content is optimized for niche search terms or long tail keywords, your competition decreases.
So while the number of search for a long tail keyword might be less, but they have the best chance of conversion as folks are looking for that exact term.
Q11. Sorav: What are some of those tools that you would suggest to do an analysis of a competitor’s SEO?
Malhar: One of the best SEO as well as competitor research tool I recommend is SEMrush. Their features are cutting-edge and they provide prompt support in case of any issues.
Q12. Sorav: What are some of the tools that allow us to write better content or search for the hot topic?
Malhar: While I rely on Buzzsumo for finding best content on a particular topic, I also go around leveraging Google Search suggestions and related search to dig deeper into the topics I am searching for.
Q13. Sorav: Can you share 10 effective techniques of content amplification?
1. Apart from doing SEO, invest a little in SEM too. It will give a little bump in conversion and also help in reaching relevant folks
2. Mailing list is still one of the best ways to reach out to folks to let them know about your best content
3. Repurposing content – convert your content to snackable bytes and publish over various social networks
4. Offers/Freebies – They still work. Give them a chance to download your content in exchange of email ids
5. Social Bookmarking – Pinterest is one of the best social & visual bookmarking tool and then Stumbleupon
6. Convert to slides and host on Slideshare with some great visuals
8. Referral/Backlinks – Still the best way to get good traffic and rank better
9. Employee Advocacy – Your employees can and should be your best brand advocates, leverage their reach
10. Last but not the least, good SEO with the right set of rich snippets so that your content can be discovered easily
Q14. Sorav: What are your 3 key success mantras for SEO?
1. Read, read, read – You always have to keep an eye on what is changing, how other folks in the industry are optimizing and what Google/Bing are saying about certain tactics
2. Experiment – You have to keep on testing, with constant updates to search algorithm, what worked yesterday might not work today. So keep testing new techniques
3. Engage – Connect with the right set of folks, join us on #SEOTalk Twitter Chat and a few other chats.
Want to learn more about Digital Marketing from experts like him for Free every week? Join our Facebook group, interact with our expert panel and watch them go live every Thursday under the banner #GuruCoolThursdays