SEO Specialist Adam Dominik talks content, local SEO and optimising your site for Google

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Search engine optimisation, SEO to the cool kids, is a term that is bandied about a lot, especially when it comes to getting your site to rank on search engines such as Google and Bing.

But SEO today is a completely different beast to what it was a few years ago. Advances in search engine algorithms – the programs and formulas that turn a user search query into a relevant result or answer – mean your site needs to be trustworthy, reputable, and authoritative. Otherwise it has very little chance of ranking, and may as well be invisible.

To demystify it all and find out where we are right now with search I caught up with SEO Specialist Adam Dominik for a chat.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into search engine optimisation (SEO)?

“I had a vast interest in web technology during my University studies. I really enjoyed programming in Python and building websites with basic HTML. I managed to successfully build websites on both the front and back end side of things, but was intrigued as to how to build traffic to them. The obvious next step was to learn how to generate traffic and this is how I discovered search engine optimisation (SEO). I taught myself SEO reading the various blogs from the leading authority sites on SEO.”

“Once my SEO knowledge was sound I was fortunate enough to find myself a position at Australia’s leading agency SEO agency at the time, Bruce Clay Australia (now part of Resolution Media). I was part of a team that handled SEO for a number of Australia’s leading companies. Telstra, Yellow Pages, amaysim and CareerOne to name a few.”

“As my career progressed, I took up an opportunity as Head of SEO at hipages group. I am currently employed as a Senior SEO Manager at Stayz.”

Some people see SEO as some dark science, what is your view?

“The biggest issue with the SEO industry is the lack of understanding of how it works and so called SEO experts promising the world to unsuspecting clients. Clients get burnt and SEO quickly gets a bad reputation.”

“I think this reputation will remain in the SEO industry due to freelancing services like Upwork and Freelancer where you can find an ‘SEO Expert’ for nearly next to nothing. As the old saying goes: “You get what you pay for”, and unfortunately that is the case. This has made it become much more difficult for SEO consultants and SEO agencies to segregate themselves from the rest of the so-called SEO experts promising fact from fiction.”

And how about all the ‘Page 1 Guaranteed’ adverts one sees?

“A scam. 99% of the time these SEO experts promise “Page 1 Guaranteed” on keywords that generate very little monthly search traffic, are very low in competition which makes them very easy to rank highly for. A well optimised web page is all that is required to rank for these types of keywords.”

“Avoid them at all costs, especially those that “cold email” you offering their SEO services.”

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You hear about ‘black hat’ SEO – what is this and what tactics do they use?

“‘Black hat’ SEO refers to manipulating search engine ranking algorithms for quick, short term gains that go outside a search engine’s “terms of use” or “webmaster guidelines” policies. I say quick and short term gains because search engines (Google) are really good at catching and penalising websites appropriately. Penalties can include mass volumes of traffic losses or even worse; removal of the offending website from Google’s own search index.”

“Technology has advanced so much so that it now allows search engines (Google) to run in real-time various “tripwires” that appropriately punish websites the moment a black hat SEO tactic is detected.”

For a business looking to outsource their SEO, what should they be looking for in a service?

“Maile Ohye (Formerly part of the Google Webmaster Team) recently posted a video outlining the key questions any online business owner should ask an SEO specialist before hiring them.

“Ensure the SEO being interviewed cares about your online business and asks you questions about your online business and what your business goals are. That way the SEO expert can then provide the correct and right optimisation techniques that will directly benefit and positively impact your online business.”

“Also, check their experience as experience goes a long way in this industry and really speaks for itself. Use LinkedIn to get yourself a good level of understanding of what your potential new hire’s experience level is.”

What are some of the most common mistakes you see businesses making with SEO?

“Businesses hiring “cheap” SEO experts that feed them the wrong information and providing them with incorrect and poor SEO advice. Some examples of the most common mistakes I see after a business has received poor SEO advice:

  1. Not optimising their website for local search
  2. Submitting articles to low-quality article directories
  3. Mass directory submission to hundreds of low-quality web directories

“Even with all the various penalties put in place by search engines, it still amazes me SEO experts recommend such poor advice to businesses that could get their websites in trouble very quickly.”

In terms of ranking signals, what factors are search engines looking for today?

“As I have already mentioned earlier, it really is about optimising for user-behaviour. The top three user-behaviour metrics that you should pay attention to and optimise for because they make a significant impact in SEO are:

  • Click-Through-Rates
  • Bounce Rates
  • Dwell Time

“One other factor that will not die anytime soon because search engines use it to build trust and authority are links or otherwise also called backlinks. The more links (or votes) your website receives the more of an authority it becomes in the eyes of search engines.”

“Now in 2017 and into the future, low quality links like blog comments, links from forums or links from Mum and Dad type blogs carry very low weight and are considered almost useless for building trust and authority. For this reason, a link building strategy that “automatically earns” links from trusted and authoritative domains is the way to move forward in SEO. Receiving a link from say a University is going to carry far more weight than receiving a link from a Tumblr blog.”

Google’s algorithm is always changing, how do we stay up to speed?

“Build your online business with your target audience first and foremost. With technology advancing at a rapid rate, this will allow search engines to adapt their search engine ranking algorithms to better understand and incorporate user-behavioural signals. Users that show that they love your brand and your website, search engines pick up on these signals and update their search engine ranking algorithms accordingly.”

“Google’s RankBrain is an excellent example of this. It is a machine learning artificial intelligence algorithm that delivers its own set of search results pages all on its own. It is only going to get smarter and faster as technology progresses. It looks at positive user-behavioural signals and the intent behind the search term to deliver its own set of search results.”

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Is Google the only game in town? Does Bing or Yahoo really matter anymore?

“Google still reports a 66% market share. However, take a look at your analytics numbers and you will see that Google accounts for over 90% of all organic traffic.”

“However, you have to keep in mind that when building or optimising your website, always do it with your target audience in mind. In doing so, you will generate a long term healthy online business that will thrive in search engines and deliver volumes of organic traffic, from whichever search engine it might be.”

 How would you rate the importance of local SEO today?

“Local SEO is a tough and a competitive little market. With only three positions available within the “local pack” (two are only visible above the fold!) below the four paid advertising slots, you really have to get every SEO component spot on. The wins are there however if you happen to be in the top slot. The intent behind the keyword search query that results in a local pack search engine results page (SERP) is there ready to make a purchase (so the conversion rates are very high).”

“Local SEO is also important from a mobile perspective. Most of the keyword searches that generate a “local pack” SERP are conducted from a mobile device. The intent behind the keyword from a mobile device is even stronger than when the same keyword search query is conducted from a desktop computer. Which is why emergency locksmiths pay big dollars for the top ad slot position for the keyword search term “247 locksmith <suburb>” from a mobile device, because no one likes being locked out from home and feeling stranded!.”

“If your online business is located in many different suburbs or you can deliver to or service many different suburbs then local SEO for your business is critical.”

Tell us about getting a new site up and running from an SEO perspective?

“There is one key SEO component that a new site needs to look at first before doing anything, and that is to perform keyword research. Conducting keyword research thoroughly allows you to know exactly which keywords and how often your audience are using to potentially find your website using a search engine. Without it, you are flying blind.”

“Once you have completed your keyword research, you can then prioritise new content based on monthly keyword search volume (how many times someone searches for that keyword search term per month) and optimise the content for that particular keyword search term.”

“A website being 1,000 pages in size is going to generate more organic search volume than a website with 1,00 pages. This really puts the importance of content a perspective. However, the content has to be optimised for the keyword search queries relevant to your online business in order to generate the right type traffic that leads to conversions or sales.”

How often should you create fresh content for a site?

“As often as required. Don’t simply update content for the sake of trying to gain higher search engine rankings. You will end up publishing low quality content that will simply hurt your website in the long run.”

What is Google’s Knowledge Graph and why should we care?

“In basic terms, Google’s Knowledge Graph is a compiled piece of long-form content gathered from various sources Google sees as being highly trusted and authentic. This compiled piece of long-form content is then displayed on Google’s SERPs for very broad keywords which are very high in search volume. This is Google’s way of enhancing its search experience for its users. A great example of Google’s Knowledge Graph in action is to perform a Google search for ‘tacos’.”

“There is no need to fear the Knowledge Graph as Google needs us just as much as we need it. Thus, Knowledge Graph will never appear for every single search term possible.”

In Google’s eyes how important is long-form content?

“Back in 2012, Pandu Nayak, technical staff member at Google and the creator of the Panda algorithm (punishes low-quality content) said:

“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”

‘In this case, Google refers to long form content as in-depth articles, however the point being made here is that Google sees the future of search incorporating long form content. So to answer your question, very important. Where applicable, include schmea.org markup for each piece of long-form content to further increase the chances of higher rankings.”

Going forward how does one do SEO right?

“Optimise for user-behavioral metrics to build trust and love between your target audience and your online brand. Establishing an online brand will keep your business afloat regardless of what search engine algorithmic ranking changes that will occur in future or whichever search engine is currently dominating the market. It might even save your business from financial turmoil during tough economic times too.”

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