The Art of SEO : An Expert's Approach

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The Art of SEO : An Expert's Approach

“What is the SEO advice you would give to your clients and our audience ?”

SEO is marketing and is about communicating through search results. Treat it as such, and not as a web development need.

“SEO is changing. SEO is evolving. SEO isn’t bad. It’s just different.”

There are hundreds of little things that go into the bigger picture of doing SEO and it takes many years of experiencing what works and what doesn’t to truly do a good job.

The most seasoned SEO experts understand that each individual business requires a different set of SEO tactics to succeed and knows just where to funnel the most resources for maximum effect.

Our interview today is with an expert SEO – Meet John Liu.

John’s fascination with the internet began when he built his first website in 1995. Today, he is an experienced SEO and Paid Search analyst who has designed and implemented successful campaigns across multiple verticals, from EMC (Tech B2B) to Primrose Schools (Early Education and Care). His online marketing philosophy is rooted in driving real, measurable success for campaigns with any objective – brand awareness, targeted site traffic, leads, or sales.

An experienced speaker, John has a passion for sharing his understanding of search and online marketing, helping to bring a better experience to the web for users and websites alike.

Sharing some of his SEO tips, it’s truly an honor to host John Liu – of Blitz, in our Agency expert interview series:

1. How did you get into Account Management in the first place, and how did you get to being where you’re now ?

I have been working in search and digital marketing for 11 years.  I got started in a somewhat random and serendipitous way – I went to school for molecular biology and thought I was going to be a doctor or cancer researcher.  But, in graduate school I realized I didn’t have the same passion for laboratory work and advancing science that the other PhD students did.  I started exploring other options, and ended up working at a Search marketing agency because I had strong Excel skills and familiarity with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

I quickly found that digital marketing was a great field for me – it really is a combination of art and science, bringing together data science with creative and strategy to solve the puzzle of influencing human behavior.  It appeals to my analytical nature and interest in problem solving, but based on real world results generated on a real-time basis with exciting new developments on a regular basis.

2. What do you believe to be the most important task you do on a daily basis? Why?

On an every day basis at BLITZ, it’s staying on top of the client’s priorities and goals, both on an overall business strategy level and on a day-to-day or week-to-week KPI level.  While each discipline within the field of Digital Marketing has unique approaches and tactics, fundamentally digital marketing is marketing – it’s about communicating the right information to the right person at the right time to drive a desired action or shift in attitude.

More than the specifics of an algorithm update, individual top performing keywords, building an individual link, or anything specific to SEO itself; it’s critical to make sure that your activities are laddering up to the overall marketing strategy in a way that makes sense.  That means never losing sight of the overall business objective and the context of your activities while optimizing against a particular KPI.

Fundamentally, as agency marketers, our job is to serve the needs of our clients.  It’s not just about being experts or improving metrics – those are means to the end of delivering business results.

3. What resources or influencers do you follow for staying ahead in the world of SEO?

There are a lot of awesome blogs out there in the fields of digital marketing and SEO, both for aggregating news content and for delivering deep insights through marketing experiments and data.

For staying on top of general industry news, my go to is Search Engine Land.

For deeper insight into technical SEO and new developments, I look at trending content on, what specific influencers are talking about, and presentations at practitioner focused search marketing conferences like SMX Advanced or SearchLove.

Some of the influencers I follow in SEO are Michael King , Wil Reynolds, Justin Briggs, and Bill Slawski.

4. What do you think is your greatest career accomplishment?

I’d say my greatest career accomplishment so far is driving improved digital marketing results across channels, including SEO and Paid Search, every year for 4 years running as part of an integrated, cross-channel marketing strategy for our client Primrose Schools at BLITZ

5. How do you think the art of SEO will evolve in the coming years?

Search engines improve every year at the task of delivering information to searchers as efficiently as possible.  This means search engines are consistently getting better at figuring out what content has actual value, using an ever expanding set of signals for understanding relevance and value.  This also means that search engines have evolved from trying to improve their ability to find the webpage with the right answer, to delivering those answers directly on the search results page.

This means that SEO for legitimate brands will continue to evolve from a technical discipline built around gaming the system and optimizing specific factors to make a page look more valuable than it really is, to more traditional marketing – creating an actually appealing and valuable message and content, and finding a way to get it in front of the right person.

There will always be a need for specific technical expertise and knowledge on how to influence the most important individual factors.  But, the best SEOs will be great marketers who can go beyond that technical expertise to understand how search fits into the overall consumer shopping journey and can develop creative and messaging strategies that fit search’s unique opportunity to reach consumers when they are actively looking for what you have to offer.

6. What’s your favorite method to build links to your site?

Link building is about getting people to find your content valuable enough to share.  The best way to do this is to have a linking audience in mind before the content is created.  Consider what influencers or communities you want your content to appeal to before you create it, so you can tailor it to be as targeted and relevant as possible.  If you’re not sure what that content is, often you can just straight up ask your targets.

7. Share with us your biggest SEO achievement and how you did it. For what competitive keywords have you ranked high and what techniques you used?

SEO success is best judged by final impact on business results – traffic, conversions, leads, and revenue.  Ranking against individual high value and competitive keywords can be really cool, but often doesn’t provide a good ROI as compared to optimizing against entities or concepts that are served by an array of long tail searches that drive stronger business results for a smaller investment in content or optimization.  And, beyond rankings, it’s about actually driving converting traffic once your site is listed on that search results page.

From that perspective, my biggest SEO achievement is driving 42% growth in traffic and 118% growth in leads from SEO over the course of our 4-year engagement with Primrose Schools, across a variety of branded and non-branded search terms.

8. What do you think is the biggest SEO myth ?

The biggest SEO myth is that SEO is something you do after the fact to a website to make it show up higher in Search Engines.

Instead, SEO should be integrated into overall marketing and website strategy from the beginning, understanding the role of Search in a consumer shopping journey, what keywords are best approached via SEO or Paid Search, and building that into your overall cross-channel communications approach.  SEO results are also driven by other marketing channels – consumers turn to search for more information after being activated in other channels, and your marketing should be planned with that path in mind.

9. What SEO techniques do you believe are working best right now?

The most effective SEO technique is also the most fundamental – really good keyword research enables you as a marketer to understand your customers’ search intent, and equips you to create a website experience that serves that intent.  This is universal and core to search, and will continue to be as long as search is still driven by words.

For something a little more “right now”, I would have to say it’s a really good understanding of technical SEO.  Many interactive and cutting edge web technologies are not particularly search engine friendly.  But, building these technically advanced and interactive website experience is important for appealing to consumers with a useful website that’s also and exciting and interesting enough to be shared.  So, the ability to implement these advanced experiences with the appropriate fallbacks, technical workarounds, and smart site structure to still meet SEO technical best practices.

10. What are the top SEO tips you give for your clients and our audience ?

SEO is marketing and is about communicating through search results.  Treat it as such, and not as a web development need.

Today we got to know a few techniques which aim to improve a website’s search engine rankings from John Liu. Going forward there are many more specialists that we want to chat with. We will resume our discussion with another expert in our next post.

Until then, Happy Marketing!!

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