Are you ready for 2020—and beyond? Set your strategy for the new year with the help of Stephan Bajaio, Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist at Conductor, and Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights at Yext. In our recent webinar, The Future is Now: SEO 2020 And Beyond, the two titans of SEO shared their opinions on some of the most pressing questions facing marketers today.
Read on for their biggest insights, edited for length and clarity.
Is SEO still relevant today?
Duane Forrester: I do believe SEO is still very relevant. Probably the biggest change that we see in SEO is in attitudes towards SEO… I believe that SEO is being normalized within companies. It’s a tactic that’s found a home, but the work needs to get done. So the big change I’m predicting is less “shiny object,” and more “get shit done.”
Stephan Bajaio: Of course it’s still relevant. As long as people are still searching, there will be a need to optimize processes. I don’t care what any search engine tells you, they’re not going to get it right. They’re not. They need human help… Individuals now, when they search, they’re expecting a better set of results.
What’s important for 2020 that may not have been on an SEO’s radar in years prior?
Duane: Let’s take a look at the stuff that was on the radar in 2019 that might have been missed… If you’re gonna run out there and say “we gotta focus on augmented reality, we gotta focus on voice, we gotta focus on this,” I’m gonna tell you: if you haven’t mastered mobile, and securing your site, and deploying structured data, you’re not going to show up in those spaces.
Stephan: You’ve got to get to the fundamental stuff that you’ve been putting off for the shiny object or the fleeting algorithm that you’ve been chasing, because I don’t think anybody should live their life chasing an algorithm.
What changes should SEOs be making that will have an impact beyond just 2020?
Duane: All of those keywords have a meaning behind them, and there’s an action attached to it… I want to create a matrix around that activity, and then I want to understand where all of my various products and services fit into that matrix, because I know exactly the moment in time to position myself to be the most useful to that customer… What you want to be able to do is take all of this data from SEO, and you want to be able to create intent maps, and you want to be able to create intent pages.
Stephan: If your method of measurement is simply going to be organic rank and organic traffic, in 2020, you’re selling yourself short. You have access to more data than anybody else, and you can walk into the room, rooms that frankly you’re probably not invited to right now, and give information that people who are making really important business decisions in your company don’t have. Which, to me, makes you super important.
Which SEO trends do you believe are overhyped? Underhyped?
Stephan: Everyone’s talking about voice like it’s the second coming of the internet, and how many people are using it, and I think it’s being completely blown out of proportion. Yes, I believe that voice is a great input… I believe in voice, I believe voice is a good thing, and I believe that you can input a lot of data quickly… But the results set from an Alexa or any other home assistant is a single-response answer, and I now need to listen and wait for that response… Single result sets are crappy… you could worry about voice, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t necessarily do that above ADA compliance or some of the other things that are really important right now.
Duane: I believe we are missing the ball completely on a lot of the technical stuff that needs to get solved in the background… I would put voice in the underhyped category, I would put augmented reality in the underhyped category… [Also] underhyped? Customer service via social media. So many businesses think social media is a push mechanism for selling. No, absolutely not.
Overhyped trend number one, top of my list, is the oversimplification of the volume of work it takes to be successful today.
What is the best way to leverage SEO data in 2020?
Stephan: Search data is worth more than just SEO. If we’re here to just be rank jockeys and get ourselves to rank, we have done ourselves a major disservice. We need to leverage this data throughout our organizations. We need people to think about it everywhere they can get their hands on it. Most decisions are made in rooms that we are not included in. There are great ways to get invited to those rooms… you just need to think about where and how to use this information, who could be served by this information, and then have no reservations about giving away all the credit. Let the other people take all the credit. You ultimately are the keeper of the data, and they will invite you every time, guaranteed.
Duane: As an SEO, you really need to think beyond what you do on a day-to-day basis… you want a seat at the table that matters in your company? Start running focus groups and getting your customers sitting down telling you how they search for something, how they find something, and what their decision process looks like when they make a purchase. And then take all of that and create intent maps… you will have insights that get you invited to meetings that no one else at your company has. It’s fundamental that you start looking beyond the stereotypical view of what an SEO is or does and you look at areas that will serve your needs that aren’t really the focus of anyone else in your company right now.
Is SEO a good career in 2020?
Duane: If you go look at jobs that are out there today, every job that is tech-oriented or web-oriented in some way has a requirement for knowledge of SEO, even if it’s complete bunk and doesn’t make sense for the job… if you’re good at this, it’s a very good career, but think of it as a starting point, not the end goal.
Stephan: SEO is too limiting… if you want to treat SEO as a tactic, that’s fine, but as a tactic, your career will be limited… If you treat SEO as a culture, you can be a leader of culture, a leader of change… if you can speak both tech and exec, you’re worth a lot. That’s a career that may be founded in SEO, but that’s a career that’s going to really allow you to own marketing.