Hey, big hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. I have a very special guest today Geoff Atkinson and he’s going to talk about SEO and a little bit of analytics.
Geoff is a former Senior Vice President of Marketing for Overstock.com, with a lot of B2C experience. Now he is the B2B world, founder and CEO of a software company called Huckabuy. His company handles SEO’s technical side for their clients, such as Salesforce and SAP and many big enterprise customers.
In this episode:
- Where do companies or digital marketers fall short in SEO in general?
- Which better – to have an SEO manager in-house or as an outsource?
- What can businesses do to fix and improve their SEO.
- What is Google’s intent for search and why it’s an essential part of the digital marketing strategy?
- Learn more about Geoff’s company Huckabuy, and what makes their approach to SEO different.
- What are some of the biggest SEO issues and suggestions on where and how to start resolving them?
- Definition of: “structured data,” “dynamic renderings,” and “rich results.” and why do digital marketers need to take these terms seriously.
- What is happening with voice activation, and what are the current trends.
- What is 2021 Google Page Experience update and when to expect it?
Quotes from the episode:
“The mistake I see most companies make is that they’re just throwing dollars at the solution. Instead, they should be thinking about having a strategy, executing that strategy, and making sure that it’s successful, and measuring it.”
“Instead of just doing keyword research, take one of the keywords that you really care about. Search, search it on a mobile device and desktop and see what the search results look like.”
Hey, big. Hello from Portland, Oregon. Welcome to another episode of B2B marketing and more. I have a very special guest today, Geoff Atkinson, and he’s going to talk about SEO and, uh, a little bit of analytics, I think. And we are going to get started.
So Jeff, welcome to my show.
Geoff Atkinson: Thank you, Pam.
Pam Didner: So happy to have you. Do you want to spend a couple of minutes telling our audience who you are, what you do, so they get a chance to know you?
Geoff Atkinson: Sure. Yeah. First off, thank you so much for having me, Pam. Great to be on your podcast. Um, yeah, I’m based here in Park City, Utah. I’m the former Senior Vice President of Marketing for Overstock.com. So I have a lot of B2C experience. But now I’m in the B2B world. I’m the founder and CEO of my own software company called Huckabuy. We’re an SEO sort of technical SEO automation. So we handle the technical side of SEO for our customers, such as Salesforce and SAP and lots of big enterprise customers. Yeah. I would love to pick your brain sometime and learn more about the B2B side. I’m learning as I go now.
Pam Didner: Okay. Sure. Anytime you want to have a chat, bring a drink, then we can talk. (laughs) All right. So with that being said, SEO is one of my favorite topics, and I’ve been spending a lot of time optimizing my website. It’s kind of like a journey that never stops if you think about it. It’s not like, oh, it’s something that you can check off. No, you have to create content, and you have to constantly feed what I call the monster, which is the website, right? So it can rank higher as time goes by.
In many companies, SEO tends to be an afterthought. And also, a lot of senior managers don’t get SEO search engine optimization. Based on what you have seen and the conversation you had with your customers, can you tell me where companies or digital marketers fall short in SEO in general?
Geoff Atkinson: I think the biggest reason that marketers don’t get into SEO as much as they probably should have is that it’s kind of scary. It’s an enormous industry. It’s like a $90 billion industry in the United States, mainly dominated by services–so agencies or consultants–with a net promoter score of zero, which is just shocking. So it’s a really, a lot of snake oil salesman. A lot of people have been burned. Um, you know, they haven’t had pleasant experiences in their past with SEO and therefore just are sort of hesitant to go get into it. It’s also very technical, so it’s not like you’re– most marketers are comfortable with branding and messaging and campaigns and budgets. SEO is just a different beast. Um, and so it just can be a very daunting task.
Pam Didner: Do you think it’s essential to have an SEO manager in-house or outsource?
Geoff Atkinson: I think it needs to be in-house, yeah. I always recommend in-house. Agencies just can’t make the fundamental changes that are required. You know you don’t want a third party writing your content cause they don’t know your product as well as you do. You don’t want a third party handling, you know, the technical side of SEO because they’re just, they don’t have the access. So typically it’s, it’s sort of a combo of a, of a strong content marketer slash a strong technical doesn’t need to be a developer but understands the architecture and what it takes to technically do SEO well. Cause you’re gonna have the best content in the world, but if the site’s not set up correctly, technically, you’ll just never really get anything.
Pam Didner: Yes. I 100% agree with that statement. But that’s very hard to find a person with strong technical skills and can write–that content marketing acumen if you will.
Geoff Atkinson: Sometimes it’s two different jobs. Um, obviously, with Huckabuy, we’ve built a product to check those technical boxes. So you can just have a sort of content and marketing-minded person in charge of SEO. And we take care of the technical side, but, um, it is a tough skill set to find (laughs).
Pam Didner: Yeah, because I worked on my own website’s SEOs constantly to rank organically higher on certain keywords of the fields I want to do the consulting about. I spend a lot of time optimizing my website actually in the past six years. I mean, I did anything that you can think of in terms of SEO. I probably have done it. I make tons of mistakes, tons. Right. And, uh, I also found just like you said, there’s a lot of people trying to sell me in terms of how SEO needs to be done.
Initially, I did not know whatsoever. Zero technical knowledge. Of course, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Yeah. So I listened to them, and I was like, “no, this is not working either. And that is not working either. What kind of tools are you talking about?” Once I started to get into the trenches and start doing stuff on my own, that’s how I learned. So I understand everything you said.
Geoff Atkinson: That’s a daunting task and good for you. I mean, once you get it right, no matter what the company size, it can transform a business from nothing to enormous. So we work hard in our SEO. Um, you know, I call it SEO, sort of the oxygen of the internet. If you don’t have it, it’s really hard to survive. So, good for you getting it done. I mean, you’re never done, right? It’s always—
Pam Didner: I was going to tell you that Geoff, I was, I’m never done. I mean, I’m still working on it. Because there’s always a reason that if you even create a piece of content, right. You need to make sure that piece of content is SEO optimized. Right. So there is a plugin that you have to use, you know, Yost SEO, I think. Yeah. And then, once you optimize it, and before you upload it, you have to think through how you want to promote it. And then say three months down the road or even six months down the road. And then are you going to rewrite that piece of content, you know, using the same link and the, what additional information do you want to add on top of it? And, uh, whatever that you have to do is never done.
Geoff Atkinson: I would agree with that. Yeah. It’s you never just high five and says, “Hey, that was great. We did it.”
Pam Didner: No! (laughs) Well said. So there is another side of SEO that you talked to me about before we started our show, Google. Can you explain a little bit about Google’s intent for search and how brands or companies should take Google’s intent seriously as part of the digital marketing strategy?
Pam Didner: Way faster.
Geoff Atkinson: So they’ve asked a lot dynamic, rendering, structured data. These are all things that allow them to do their job better. And so one of the things to keep in mind is, yes, those other tenants are really important–content backlinks and all those things. But there are opportunities to optimize just for Google and to listen to what they want. And when you do that–and that’s really what Huckbuy is built around–when you do that, you know, the results are incredible. So you might have the best content in the world, but they have a really hard time finding it and crawling it and understanding that it’s valuable. If you get the site to speak to them correctly, all those problems sort of go away, and you get the results you deserve.
Pam Didner: So you have a checklist that you work with your customers?
Geoff Atkinson: No checklists. That sounds like something an agency would do. That’s quite outdated, and they like to make it overly complex and that we have to do these 500 things for you to be successful. And we have to do them for you. There’s no checklist. You install the software. You switch it on. You can talk to us if you want, but most customers don’t even want to. I don’t blame them. Um, we have a knowledge base if you are interested in, you know, best practices and sort of the way that I’ve done SEO throughout my career.
But, with Huckabuy, we’re a very simple solution. Just turn it on. You’re going to get instant page speed. You’re going to get perfect structured data. You’re going to get a dynamically rendered version of your site. You’re going to get our page speed product. Now you can focus on just being a marketer. You know, you can do the things that marketers are great at instead of worrying about these technical aspects.
Pam Didner: So one more question, if this is plugging, or it’s a separate software that people need to install?
Geoff Atkinson: So it’s a simple DNS chain that you’d make. We use, uh, like Cloudflare as an example there, uh, you know, uh, uh, front end. Um, it’s an edge. So all of what Huckabuy’s delivering. And then you can either choose just to have it serve for Google box, or you want to use our page free product to speed up the experience for regular users as well. So it is an installation. It’s not a plugin. But it’s a really simple installation, especially if you’re on Cloudflare, for example, it’s basically like the switch of a button.
Pam Didner: Is it like a code, like DNS type of things that is a code that you have written to it, or you have to install as a part of CloudFare. I’m just thinking out loud because I have Cloudflare.
Geoff Atkinson: So yeah. Think about, think about, no matter what your tech stack is. So whether you’re using WordPress, or you’re using Squarespace, or you’re using Demandware or Shopify, you have this tech stack that’s executing your website. We just catch that at the very top and optimize it for Google over here, which is dynamic rendering, allowing us to just have a flat HTML simplified full with structured data version. That box, or we can also do it for users. This will do a bunch of processing time, which is why sites are slow, you know, there’s plugins and all the things going on in your WordPress site or whatever it is.
We are agnostic to all that. We just sit at the top, and we optimize for Google and the user at the edge. At edge means that it’s cashed around the world it’s instantly available. Um, that’s, that’s what our solution is. We’re not deep into the tech stack. We’re just looking at what’s produced out of that tech stack and what we have to do to optimize it for those two parties.
Pam Didner: So is it fair to say that your product is to optimize for website speed? Is that a fair statement?
Pam Didner: Got it. Got it. So you mentioned “structured data,” “dynamic renderings,” and “rich results.” A lot of digital marketers probably don’t know what these terms mean. And um, why do they need to take these terms seriously?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, probably the best way to explain it is to think about your own user experience as you use Google. So ten years ago, you’d search on Google, and you’d get ten links back–10 blue links back. So say you were looking for a sports score. You had searched for the sports score. You clicked through espn.com. You’d go to espn.com. You’d get the score. Now, when you search, it’s not just ten blue links. Like if it’s just a sports score, they just give you the answer. If you’re searching for the weather, they give you the answer. If you’re searching for something, you know, they’re going to give you top news results in the news. If you’re searching for something image related, they’ll show you images. If you’re searching for a recipe, all those enhancements things that aren’t just pure blue links, that’s rich results.
And rich results are, which have become you know, 50% of searches now are zero clicks. They never even click anywhere. So there’s 50% of the traffic, the rest of it, you know, a huge percentage of clicks are happening through these rich enhancements. And that’s all powered by this language called structured data. So you can’t qualify for those rich results unless you have well-structured data throughout your site. So that’s why structured data’s important. It’s critical in terms of SEO now. It’s how voice search is powered. It powers a ton of things throughout the internet.
So there are two different things, but they’re critical. Dynamic rendering is new, but they’re huge proponents of it, obviously because it makes life a lot better. And, uh, structured data is just sorta what’s powering, you know, a very, very large percentage of what’s happening in terms of search results.
Pam Didner: Very good. So how should a company fix their SEO issues? The biggest. The issue tends to be the high speed or low speed, which you talk about that your product can fix. And another one is the ranking. Organic ranking–how you can rank higher organically. And that, you know, maybe clients or my customers, I asked that questions as well.
So in terms of the SEOs, what are some of the biggest issues that you have seen? And do you have any kind of step-by-step guide? Or any suggestions in terms of what they need to do?
Geoff Atkinson: So the technical side is important. I think of that as having a good foundation for the house. You need a good foundation for them to be able to understand what you’re writing.
So, of course, great content and great things that you have on your site are critical, but you need to have that foundation in place so that when Google comes, they can understand it and be like, “okay, this is valuable. This is, this is not valuable.” So that’s the foundation.
Links are still extremely important. So backlinks and domain authority, page authority. That’s still the leading indicator for them of whether something’s, you know, going viral or is very important. That’s a really big factor today. So having a link building strategy, you know, it’s one of the hardest tasks in all of the marketing, in my opinion.
Pam Didner: I, I, 100% agree with you. The backlinks and also link strategy is very, very hard. Your content needs to be incredibly solid.
Geoff Atkinson: Yes, you know, it’s a hard task. Um, so that’s still really important. I think content, you know, I hate to say it, and I’m a little contrarian here. Still, the content marketing sort of revolution is, from an SEO perspective, we find companies that are spending so much money on content that they’re just doing content for content sake. Like if you ask them what the strategy is behind it or what they’re trying to achieve, but they’re just throwing money at it. And they’re like, “Everybody’s talking about content marketing. So we’re going to have a content marketing manager, and they’re going to, you know, we’re going to pay them this, and they’re going to have all these resources,” but there’s no clear strategy around.
Now really good content is extremely valuable. But the mistake I see most companies and many big companies making is that they’re just throwing dollars at the solution instead of thinking it through having a strategy, executing on that strategy and making sure that it’s successful and also measuring it. And so they just like you do other channels. Is it driving visitors? Is it driving revenue? Is it driving conversions? Um, so that’s one of the biggest mistakes.
But yeah, I think about, you know, putting that foundation in place. Getting the backlinks pointing in is hard, but that makes Google notice and say, “okay, this is important”, And then refreshing that content, so they want to keep coming back. And if you do those things, those sort of three things, you’re most likely going to be pretty successful from an SEO perspective.
Pam Didner: Yep. Uh, what about voice activation on search? What is your thought on that? And, uh, also, where do you think the voice search is going?
Geoff Atkinson: I think voice search is huge. I compare it a lot to what mobile was eight, nine, ten years ago. So I don’t know if you remember. I mean, I used to have like a Trio, you know, those big bulky or a Blackberry, and I’d have a stylus, and it just wasn’t a great user experience. Right? Like it was tough. It was really hard to view the websites. They weren’t built for it. It was difficult. And so you just ended up going to your desktop that was plugged in or whatever, and you’d, you’d browse that way.
But then the iPhone came out, connections got better, and sites started being made for mobile. And now it just went from like 90% desktop, 10% mobile to like 90% mobile, 10% desktop. It just switched because it was more convenient. I mean, voice search is very, and in those early stages, so. It’s used when it’s convenient to the user, but it’s not fully convenient yet.
So say I wanted to buy a product, I’ll probably use Alexa, and that’s pretty convenient, but I do not see the reviews. I do not price comparing. So it’s not quite as good. But if I’m looking for one of those, those zero-click searches, like the sports score, the weather, those are all now voice search will take over because it’s great, it’s a great experience.
Voice search, though, will catch up. So just as people I think, there’s that 90=10 flip that happened with mobile and desktop, that same flips going to happen from typing to talking. The next generation is going to be much more comfortable with it than you, and I are. You know, they already are if you watch kids and how they interact with devices, which is very based on voice. And it’s also very interesting about voices that it’s the first time in a long time that Google has serious competition because Amazon has Alexa, which is very—
Pam Didner: Amazon is doing very well.
Geoff Atkinson: And Apple.
Pam Didner: Everybody has a certain kind of Google, I mean, voice activation devices.
Geoff Atkinson: Apple has Siri. And so they’re really in a dogfight to figure this thing out. So someone’s going to make progress on the user experience, making it a lot better. And you know, they’re investing in that, and it’s developing quickly, but it is the future. It is powered by structured data, which is important to know. So basically, the way that voice search works is just reading those rich results back to you. So it’s taking that structured information and reading it back to you. And there’s only one winner, right? There’s you don’t see ten blue links. You just get one answer. So—
Pam Didner: Yeah, I know. That’s going to be very hard to moving forward in terms of voice activations. Like when you ask one when you asked the question, only one answer, like one answer will come up. Right. If you’re talking about that, it is an organic answer, great. Okay. But I am sure any one of them will monetize it, even if it will eventually be a paid voice response. “Oh, this is the answer. By the way, do you want to know more about this?” (laughs)
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, well for sure, but it is the future and, um, you know, you want to be ahead of it rather than behind it because that switch will happen at some point. And, uh, people are gonna be kind of left in the dust and scrambling at the last minute. And you don’t want to be like that. You want to be prepared.
Pam Didner: It sounds like your suggestion is obviously while you are optimizing your website for a search and that you have the structured data, but when you are creating content for the rich results, also take into account how people are asking questions, uh, using voice and incorporate some of the answers, especially as probably shorter answers into your website optimization.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, it’s sort of like keyword research. Remember when we used to do keyword research, when we were preparing to write some content now, though, instead of just doing keyword research, take one of the keywords you care about. Search it on a mobile device and desktop and see what the search results look like.
Is there a Q &A box? There’s probably something going on where if you build your content around that thing and do you have well-structured data, you can try to grab that number one, rich enhancements.
So it’s just a different way of sort of repairing. Um, but yeah, it’s different, you know, we used to do keyword research that you gotta do go through another step to sort of figure out.
Pam Didner: Another thing. I think that’s related to voice search is, um, if you do a text search, for example, you will, you will just type” best camera in 2020.” But when you are talking, you will say, “what is the best camera in 2020?” So, um, when you are talking, the questions that you said tend to be longer than what you write. So it’s a longer question, but the answer needs to be shorter. Right. So from my perspective, you mentioned keyword search, which I 100% agree with you, but, uh, from a voice activations perspective, the long-tail keywords also play a role. And in terms of how people, um, are talking. And when they are asking, have virtual assistants for a specific type of questions.
Geoff Atkinson: That’s sort of like when we all, first in younger people won’t remember this, but when we all first got Google. And you were like, what do I type in? Right. You think of what you would search for then versus what you do now. And we’ve all gotten good at Googling things, right? Like we know how to play the system, how to work it.
Now, when I try to do a voice search, I’m still at that same phase. Like, “what do I say?” (laughs) I’m not used to it yet. So we’re all still learning, and there’s going to be search, uh, behaviors that develop as a result of, I agree, longer keywords, more tail terms, more questions. Um, that behavior is going to, you know, evolve over the years. And it’s sort of like the early days of Google where you. They know you type 10 words in and a question mark cause you didn’t know how to ask it any other way. Um, that behavior will, will evolve with, um, with voice search as well.
Pam Didner: Cool, cool. Cool.
Geoff Atkinson: One last thing that I’d mentioned that’s probably the most important in the SEO space right now is the 2021 Google Page Experience update, which will be a huge one. They’ve been talking about it for about a year. They pushed it back because of COVID, which shows that they’re taking this very seriously. Um, it’s gonna come in sometime in 2021. It’s all about these things that we’ve been talking about.
Pam Didner: Did Google say when they will launch that or when they will make that announcement?
Geoff Atkinson: They just keep saying sort of early 2021. So I’d imagine that sometime, maybe in the spring. Um, but we’ll see. Uh, it’s ready to go. They’ve already built it. They just wanted the economy to sort of settle down and be okay. Um, but that’s a big one. So search it and check it out. Google’s talked all about it. Um, we’re building products for it. It’s going to be a massive, probably the biggest update they’ve done in at least 20 years. So really important to be aware of that.
Pam Didner: Great, Uh, so Jeff, can you tell our listeners, uh, where they can find you and how you can?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, so it’s Huckabuy, like “buy” a product. Um, we love podcast listeners, so say that you heard us talk in this podcast. Um, we give every podcast listener a nice discount. And just personally, I make sure that they’re well taken care of because podcast listeners are smart, and they’re great advocates for us. So that’s the best way to get in touch.
Pam Didner: Awesome. Awesome. And, uh, so I’m going to ask you one parting question, and these are usually pretty silly, but, uh, all my listeners enjoy that. What is your most useless talent?
Geoff Atkinson: It’s very useless. It’s useless, but I was a collegiate and spent a year on the USP team as a cross-country ski racer. So from the age of six until I was 22 or 23, I was, uh, essentially like a world-class cross-country ski racer. So very, not useful, very useless, but it was useful. Then it helped me get into college, and it opened up lots of doors for me. But now it’s useless.
Pam Didner: (laugh) But you live in Park City, Utah. So do you still do cross country skiing?
Geoff Atkinson: I do. Yeah. I love it. Um, it’s good for me, but it’s not like I can use it in any sort of professional way, but, uh, I live in Park City. I love to ski, and that– it’s not an accident that I live in Park City.
Pam Didner: No kidding. No kidding. Thank you so much, Jeff, for joining us and sharing your SEO insight. Appreciate it.
Geoff Atkinson: Thank you, Pam.
Pam Didner: Thank you so much for listening to my podcast. And podcasting is one-way communication. I don’t know who you are, but your support means a great deal to me. If you want to chat about content marketing, account-based marketing or anything B2B related, reach out to me on any social media channel.
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