Unfortunately, SEO isn't as easy as it used to be. In the past, it was a matter of having a decent title, a good description, and a few links to your site from elsewhere. Today, Google's emphasis is on quality content, good user experience, and high page speed - fortunately, at Zooma we have Daniel Falk to help us. In this episode, I discussed SEO with Daniel and found out what companies should prioritise when trying to rank for important keywords.
Daniel has a lot of experience with SEO and plenty of other aspects of online marketing, so it was great to get some tips about keyword research and the other basic building blocks of creating a site that ranks well in search engines.
There's plenty of tools out there that claim to help you find the perfect keywords for your business without too much work for you. But as you can guess, it's not as simple as that. Effective SEO requires manual work and experimentation over long periods of time - but there's no better time than now to get started.
You can listen to this episode on the podcast platform of your choice - you can find all the links you need further down. And if you prefer, the video episode is available below and on our YouTube channel. Enjoy!
AE: [00:00:04] Very nice to have a new guest in the podcast, have you ever participated in a pod before?
DF: [00:00:13] No, actually I haven't. So this is my first time and it will be very interesting to see how this format works.
AE: [00:00:22] Do you consume podcasts a lot yourself?
DF: [00:00:25] Yeah, yeah, I do, almost daily. So anytime I have something boring to do, I just listen to podcasts. It's a good way to learn and to be entertained.
AE: [00:00:38] So you started at Zooma in May, and since then and still we're working remotely. So how has the remote onboarding been so far?
DF: [00:00:50] Yeah, it's actually been good because Zooma prepared stuff in a good way. But of course, it's been challenging. I only met my colleagues for real one time. But actually that time it didn't feel that strange because I had talked so much with almost everyone. So I almost instantly recognised which was which. And I think it's worked quite well so far. The one of the good things is that during these meetings, things are very focused. There is no one coming in and disturbing and the attention of the person you have the meeting with is fully on you. So that's good.
AE: [00:01:42] That's good. Yeah, we haven't worked that much in projects together yet, but it feels like in the meetings we have had, it's high quality, you know? You get a relationship pretty quick when you're one to one.
DF: [00:01:55] Yeah, exactly. It's very, very important. I think so.
AE: [00:02:03] So for the listeners who don't know you yet, could you explain a bit about your background?
DF: [00:02:09] Yeah, I've actually been in the digital marketing area for, it must be, 15, 17 years or something like that. So I actually started in a small SEO company, many years ago now, when SEO was just about creating titles and descriptions that worked, and then you could rank on almost any position with that small work. And I've been working both in-house with digital marketing and also as a consultant, and I've been at a range of different companies, both like pure SEO companies, but also companies working with lead generation towards high competitive markets or in highly competitive areas like finance and gambling. And yeah, I've also worked more like in e-commerce businesses that sell products online and working with digital marketing in this kind of company. And I've been working in the travel industry just recently before I started at Zooma, I worked at a travel company where I worked with digital marketing, but also in setting up a new booking system. We built it almost from the ground up and we replaced the existing one and we had a very good result in doing this. So that was the last thing I did before joining Zooma.
AE: [00:03:49] Yeah, that's great. And I think we're going to dig deeper into the SEO and how the process looks there. But could you first elaborate a bit on what's the main development and changes since you started at the SEO agency many years ago when you worked with titles and descriptions and so on? And what you're focusing on today, what's the main differences?
DF: [00:04:19] Google has evolved a lot since then. It's been harder to rank because in those days, back in the days, it was quite easy because there was no competition, really, the companies that recognised that, "OK, we need to start working with SEO because it's an important area." They usually could rank well quite quickly because there was no competition. What you needed to do was to change the titles, the description, make sure that there was, of course, a page representing the keyword or a phrase that you wanted to rank for. It's the same today, actually. That doesn't change much. But if you did that and you also created some links to that page, because Google was actually, that was the difference when they came as a search engine because they take the links to page into account, that was different from AltaVista and the other search engines used at that time. So linking was still very important. You could just add some links from a link directory or something like that then, and you could rank quite well. But today, things have evolved into much more complicated stuff, where Google takes into account the experience of the user a lot. I think that's one of the main focus today, and it's quite natural that it's going in that direction because people that are searching Google, they want to be satisfied with the result. And that's what Google is trying to understand on the websites that they are indexing and ranking, like how is the experience in speed? How quickly is the page loading? How is the user experience on this page? Is it easy to find what you need? Can you scan the page and understand what it's about? And how long can we stay at the page and stuff like that? And that is something that has changed the SEO work a lot since the beginning because now it's gone from a more technical thing to a yeah, it's a web experience thing right now.
DF: [00:06:30] And still, there are things that are important, like linking to a web page that is a clear quality factor that Google still looks at a lot. So to be able to rank in the really competitive areas, you need to have everything in place. And some of the areas are harder to work with, like linking. But at Zooma we are working a lot with the content of the websites, and that's really the way to go because if you create super content, links and other things or references from other sites will follow if you are creating very good content. It's good that that is the focus today, creating high-quality content within a web structure and UX interface that works, that is the way to go.
AE: [00:07:30] And one thing you're very involved in is keyword research. Could you just explain briefly what it is and why it's important?
DF: [00:07:40] Yeah. Most of the SEO projects start in that end, that you need to understand where the search volumes are and what are people searching for. And that will build your strategy going on with the other SEO efforts like page structures and all the content that you need. So the process is actually to, we have to find where people are or how people are searching for the terms related to the area that you want to be visible in. And yeah, usually I start that process with a kind of brainstorm because most of the time you don't know really exactly what keywords this kind of business is using. We meet a lot of different businesses in our job. And you need to sit down, it's good if you are a group of people to do this initial brainstorming. And also, it's good to involve the customer because they know their business. So that will help us get a kind of starting level of keywords that we can use in further research. So, so that is the first step like sitting down, brainstorming. And from that, I will usually ask Google, if I search for these keywords that we know probably are important, what other sites are ranking for them and how do they structure their content? Because Google is the answer in that case, because if the site's ranking for these keywords, they are doing something right.
DF: [00:09:22] So I think it's good to look at them. Of course, that's where the answers are. So from these sites, I look into the site's rankings, they are competitors, at least at Google, it's not sure that they are competitors in that the business sees them as a competitor, but they are competitors on Google and then we need to take them into account. I continue to do some analyses on these sites. I check what keywords are they using. And there are also some tools that I use where you can just enter an URL and see what keyword this site is ranking for, we sometimes used a tool called SEMRush, but there are plenty of others doing similar things, but from there you can see what areas or clusters of keywords are these sites ranking for. And then I can gather these keywords into a big document. And then I also use some tools that extract data from Google's suggests functionality, because if you start writing something in the Google search field, you get suggestions on related searches. And that is also a gold mine when doing keyword research. So, so that is also a very important thing to look at during the keyword process.
AE: [00:10:47] So you gather all these in one document?
DF: [00:10:50] Yeah, exactly. That's useful. And I group them into different topics. It could be a topic or a main topic. It could be another second topic and then a third topic. Usually, it depends on how big the site is, but that's usually how I do it. And from that, I add search volumes, sometimes from the tools I'm using you get search volumes directly, but you could also extract the search volumes from different Google tools and from other tools because you need to get a hint on if this is a used keyword, is it worth focusing on? Today, Google is not giving away the exact search volumes. They have limited that in their Google ad tool. So they are making things a bit harder, but at least we know that there is a search volume and that is something that we need when selecting the keywords to work with.
AE: [00:11:56] And the volumes, are they based on like global searches or locally?
DF: [00:12:03] You can, depending on how you limit the tool that you're looking into, you can decide to look at the search volumes for a specific country globally or, I think, down to a city or something like that, if there's enough volume. And usually, we are looking, as we are working with different markets, usually, we will look at the search volume for that specific market. If it's English keywords, we may look at it globally as well, because then we are focusing on the whole world of google.com, and then we need to look at it in that way. So, yeah, and from this list, where I have the keywords, like the gross keyword list, and we have the search volumes, we can also take into account the competition for these keywords, because some keywords are, of course, you want to rank for them but the sites that are already there are maybe Wikipedia, Amazon, and like the largest websites in the world. And then the competition is probably too hard. And then it's maybe we should not select that keyword to work with, at least not in the beginning. But then we can choose a keyword that maybe has three or four phrases in it. But the main part of that keyword is high, high competitive keyword. So, so in that case, we can start to create content around that area, and the competition can also be drawn from the search Google ads interface. But I also usually do some manual checking on this because that interface won't tell you everything. It's good to see what kind of sites are ranking for these keywords, and then you need to put some time to manually check that.
AE: [00:13:58] So relevance, volume, and competition? Are there any other indicators on what's a good keyword?
DF: [00:14:09] Yeah, of course, you can have some manual judgment, also, if it's a good keyword because, at this time, you have probably learned a bit about the company that you're working for. And you can, by looking at the keyword and doing this research that I've done before looking at other sites ranking, we can I can usually judge if it's relevant for this site to work with. So, yeah, I use my experience when selecting these keywords. Yeah. And then, when you have this list, you have a good range of keywords to select from. And then you may do some preparations, but then you sit together with a customer and select what keywords we decide to go for. That is the process, and it could take some time because as this is the kind of foundation for your ongoing SEO work, I think it's worth putting in some time into doing this right. And also, this document will be a reference when you're creating content later on. Maybe the site is live, and things are working well, but then you need to create a new section or something like that, and then you can use this initial keyword research as a base for that. Yeah, I think this research is to use both during the initial project of building the sites, but it can also be used later on. So it's definitely worth spending some time on this area.
AE: [00:15:55] That's a very good explanation of the process. Are there any other main learnings you can share from your experience working with keyword research for a long time?
DF: [00:16:10] Yeah, I would say don't trust the tools too much. There are a lot of tools saying that we can just enter a base keyword or a website here, and we will give you the full report, or we will handle the keyword research. And I would say that none of these tools that I tested will give a perfect result. You always need to put in a lot of manual work on this because all of these tools are limited by the data that is put into the tool. Like, someone needs to decide for this tool what kind of keywords or which keywords do we need to check Google on? Which sites are ranking? They are using keyword lists at the basis of their research, and the tools are not better than their keyword lists. And I've seen that especially for like if you're looking for Swedish data in search tools, they're very limited, so you won't be helped much from that. It's better if you look maybe in the US because then they have better base lists of keywords, there you can, you will get a better result. But working with different European markets like we do a lot at Zooma, you need to put in the manual efforts to get a good result. So, yeah, there are no quick ways of doing this.
AE: [00:17:44] So don't trust the tools, trust Daniel.
DF: [00:17:49] Yeah, use them to support you, but don't trust them to make all the work for you.
AE: [00:17:58] Well, thank you very much for participating in this episode, Daniel.