In the most high-level terms, SEO is about providing visibility and making it available to the right kind of audience. If you are working on an ecommerce business, the idea is to do things that can help that business get more visibility and be available to the target audience.
But, how to do that? How to do SEO that can help you achieve your goal, is a tough question to answer. So, I reached out to the person who has the right kind of knowledge, experience, and expertise to answer that.
He is none other than the SEO Director of Shopify, Kevin. Thank you very much for your time, and I am 100% sure that the audience will love your answers. We will learn a lot from this discussion, which is the actual purpose of this interview series that we are doing.
Obviously, I can talk on and on to you about this, but I will stop here and start my questions for you to answer. Here we go!
Question: We all know what SEO is and what it can do for any business that has an audience available online, but how to do it is the real question. If I twist the question a little bit and ask you how NOT to do SEO, what will be your answer?
Answer: I love that question. Inversion is a strong tool.
Here are a couple of things to avoid in SEO: overoptimization. Spam. “Aggressive” link-building. These are all very obvious.
But, there are also “hidden mistakes“ that are made much more often: working in silos, having the wrong priorities, taking public advice at face value.
The “what” question is often easy to answer in SEO. The “how” question is rarely talked about. The “how” is how you get things done, how you prove the value of SEO, and how you figure out what works. So, if you want to know how not to do SEO, the biggest mistake is not thinking about these questions.
Question: I was reading somewhere that growing up you were a computer gamer. My 2 connected questions are, did that help you get better at SEO? And do you recommend companies to prefer hiring gamers when hiring SEO intern/junior position?
Answer: Not every gamer is a good SEO, but a lot of good SEOs are gamers. Playing computer games taught me three things: strategy, making quick decisions, and dealing with uncertainty. I played a lot when I was a kid and teenager and stopped in my early twenties. I know myself and how easy I can waste hours on hours. So, I limit myself hard these days and rather spend the time creating content.
Question: How Important is keyword research, especially for an ecommerce business, and what is your process of doing keyword research for any ecommerce brand?
Answer:When speaking about product listings and categories, the keyword research can easily be derived from the inventory itself. So, you could go as far as to simply put all your inventory online and then see what Google starts ranking you for.
In reality, though, I approach keyword research for e-commerce businesses and other types of marketplaces by taking the inventory, run it through keyword tools, and then group keywords with the same syntax by intent. Then, I seek out opportunities between inventory keywords for editorial content.
Question: Google recently came up with passage-based indexing. You were the VP of content at G2, so my question is, would you advise the content team to craft or plan content differently after this update?
Answer: No, I haven’t. We just know too little about the update to act on it. I’m a fan of observation, execution, and iteration. So far, we have nothing to observe. We can only guess.
Question: How important is Core Web Vitals for webmasters and online store owners in the months to come?
Answer: I think it will be important for sites with low scores, but I don’t think it’s going to be important in the overall universe of ranking signals. I see it similar to page speed right now: slow sites will be ranked lower, but fast sites won’t gain much from squeezing out even more from a pure SEO standpoint.
So, I think sites will need to get their Core Web Vitals into the green and then they’re good.
Question: What are your 3 go-to tools when it comes to SEO and Content marketing?
Answer: SEMrush, Ahrefs, Clearscope/Frase. I could name way more, though ;-).
Question: How important is link building, and with all the new updates on the Google side, do you think link building will lose its importance as a ranking factor?
Answer: I think it’s still very important and will stay important. Some of Google’s recent updates seem to reward authority even more – in part, to fight fake news – and links seem to be a big part of that.
The big thing about link building is that the rules have truly changed. Buying links was never allowed according to Google’s guidelines, but it seems that Google has become really good at figuring out when a link is placed voluntarily or based on an incentive. Part of that seems to be the traffic coming through a link, so Google added an engagement signal. That changed the whole link building game but I don’t think the industry has caught up to that, yet.
Question: There is a big debate for a long time that length of a content matters, and then there is another mindset that says as long as your content is engaging and relatable to the audience, length does not matter. If we talk strictly about rankings, which side are you on?
Answer: I’m on team more content because I’ve seen it work over and over. Just like Google still relies on links to make good ranking choices, it still needs content to understand and evaluate relevance. I’ve tested this at multiple companies over and over, content and much of it still wins.
What this leads to, though, is that the cost of content grows because you more writers, better writers, and more assets like graphics.
Question: 3 People you really respect and look for when it comes to SEO and Content related advice?
Answer: That’s such a tough question because there are so many great people, some of who I talk to regularly, some of which I hired. If I had to give an answer, I would say Aaron Orendorff, Mike King, Glenn Allsopp.
Question: An advice that you will give to your 10-year old you?
Answer: Three things: First, you’re going to be fine. Second, study computer science in 8 years. Third, start working out and stick to it.
Question: If someone is making a movie on SEO and ask you for a name, what will you name it?
It was a pleasure talking to Kevin but most important was the insight that he gave me and I am sure you learned a thing of two too. If you did, subscribe to our newsletter to get access to more interviews like this, knowledge and loads of tips and tricks to help you with your business.
Junaid Hayat is best known as an SEO Optimizer. He is a keen observer and loves to blog. Gaining digital wisdom and spreading it is what he loves. Problem-solver is his second name, as he likes to help businesses that are in the middle of a shipwreck. When he isn’t solving SEO related problems, you’ll find him lost in the sea of Google, learning more about the ranking factors.You can find him on twitter as @Junaidhayat2