The Google Patents & Ranking Factors that Will Change SEO with Bill Slawsky
Happy to bring to your attention the fifth episode of our cognitiveSEO Talks: On Search and Traffic, this time with patent master Bill Slawski. He is an outstanding individual, eager to know more about search-related patents and white papers, and providing the SEO industry with in-depth and helpful insights posted on his SEO by the Sea blog. Having worked with a wide range of clients, from nonprofits to Fortune 500, Bill’s the go-to person when needing an expert view on technical SEO topics.
Most times, people understand technical stuff better when they’re provided with examples taken from the real life. And that’s why Bill Slawski is pure gold to the SEO industry – he can make any individual understand the encrypted world of patents, white papers, and search-related setups that Google tunes their search engine with. Moreover, Bill likes to rather exemplify than give you a direct solution. In the long run, that’s the best way to teach someone something – by speaking their language and helping them imagine the mechanism, not learn it by heart without understanding the meaning.
Bill Slawski got involved in internet marketing and web promoting since 1996, which is a lifetime ago, as he shares in our podcast. He has extensive knowledge and experience in developing SEO strategies and tactics meant to push the boundaries and help his clients increase traffic and leads, and optimize their websites. At present, Bill is the President of SEO by the Sea blog and Director of SEO Research for the Go Fish Digital agency.
Bill Slawski He is a veteran of the SEO industry. He has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Delaware, and a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law. Before committing to internet marketing, he worked at the highest level trial Court in Delaware, Superior Court of Delaware, for 14 years as a court manager and administrator, and as a technologist and management analyst.
Bill seeks to give his best in helping the environment and nonprofits and likes to meet others who share those same interests. Furthermore, he’s open to answering people’s questions on SEO and online marketing, and he even made it a statement in our podcast.
Bill Slawski is an analytical guy who doesn’t rest easy with taking search engine patents for granted. He wants to dissect them and see their mechanism in order to better understand his role as an SEO professional.
I’m really curious – I want to know how everything works. I don’t like the mystery of putting a word into a search box, hitting a button, and getting results. I want to have some idea of what’s gonna show up in these results.
Tackled Topics :
Bill’s experience with SEO and patents;
What ranking signal is of paramount importance to get up in SERPs;
Why he started studying patents;
On the top two Google-listed ranking signals: links and content;
Why the water-related names of Bill’s blog and agency (SEO by the Sea, Fish Go Digital);
What to include on a website to attract visitors and leads;
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines EAT: expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness;
Bill’s SEO pet peeves.
10 Marketing Nuggets:
We’ve changed in how we communicate ideas and concepts, we’re focusing more on talking each other through social media, through Facebook groups, through Twitter, and so. We used to use forums a lot more ten years ago. 5:35
I was wondering, you know, is Google making the web more proprietary by releasing those pages (AMP) and excluding other people? […]Everybody’s releasing their own version of HTML. Do we really need that? Do we really need it to be fragmented like that? I’m not sure. 9:01
The ranking signals are very dependent upon the query, which has always been true. 10:16
Everything coming from Google is confusion. 11:43
Google is fighting off some problems they’ve been having, like the whole “fake news” type of thing. They do want to have authoritative sites showing up high and they’re boosting authoritative sites in search results. 14:23
The aim, the goal isn’t to provide the most relevant results, it’s to provide the results that tend to best satisfy a searchers situation and information intents. 16:14
I don’t like the mystery of putting a word into a search box, hitting a button, and getting results. I want to have some idea what’s gonna show up in these results. 21:54
When you write content for a page, if you can make that page more about something, focusing upon the aboutness of the concepts beyond the page, you’re improving Google’s ability to recognize what you’re writing about and return in results for queries to people perform. 32:32
Search engines like using bulleted lists or tables, and those bulleted lists and tables tend to be seen as good answers to those questions. 35:12
The web is the greatest source of information in the world. It’s also the great source of misinformation. 40:47
Razvan: Hello, everyone! This is Razvan from cognitiveSEO, and today I’m here with Bill Slawski.
He is a veteran in the SEO industry, he has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Delaware, and a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law. He worked at the highest level trial Court in Delaware, Superior Court of Delaware, for 14 years as a court manager and administrator, and as a technologist and management analyst.
He found himself intrigued by search engines, by usability, and by how people navigate around and explore webpages. He continued his efforts performing SEO and internet marketing part-time until 2005 when he left the Court to work for an online marketing agency full time. Now he writes about SEO and patents mostly on the “SEO by the Sea” blog that he owns, and he is a Director of Search Marketing at Go Fish Digital.
Welcome to our podcast! Please say a few words about yourself, if you want to add something.
Bill: Well, thank you for having me here! I started promoting websites in 1996 which is a lifetime ago. It’s hard to believe how much the web it’s grown. Around the time that Yahoo started out, with Ben and Jerry’s guide to the Internet, it’s hard to believe that it’s grown that much and Yahoo’s gone through what it’s gone through being sold to Verizon and three billion people being hacked last year – it’s amazing. Equifax being hacked this past year and the IRS hiring their management as a consultant which is hard to believe…
Razvan: Yeah. So, Bill, you’ve been working in the professional SEO and internet marketing field since 1996.
How was the SEO world looking back then and how would you compare it to how it is today?
Bill: It’s like when you go to a conference, and you’re one of the first people there, and all the seats are still empty, and there’s not much discussion going on – that’s what the SEO world was like back then.
Razvan: But it was very easy to rank at that time with any site, I think, compared to today…
Bill: I remember happening upon an SEO forum and just being a lurker, just looking at what everybody was talking about and thinking “this is a strange career, I’m not sure I could do this“.
Razvan: And in the end you did it.
Bill: In the end, I did it. I started out working promoting the website for a couple of friends who started a business, so helping them succeed in business was a pretty good motivation. They started a site that helped people incorporate their businesses and, say, one of the best links I got for their site was in a Polish classified site. I posted a link to their site and it actually brought them business from shipping companies in Latvia and Estonia that we’re creating about 10 companies a week because they were incorporating each ship that was bringing cargo to the US, or to South America, which was great for their business. A lot of leads that were actually buying their services, you know. That helps when you’re just starting a business.
Razvan: Yeah, I agree.
And how would you compare the way SEO world was then to what it is now? How much has it evolved, or changed, and how do you think it will change in the next 10-20 years?
Bill: It’s a good question. We’ve changed in how we communicate ideas and concepts, we’re focusing more on talking each other through social media, through Facebook groups, through Twitter, and so. We used to use forums a lot more ten years ago. Not as much now…
I think places like WebmasterWorld tend to still be pretty active. See, ideas being shared in some concepts that are a little difficult to grasp in some ways, like artificial intelligence, influences promotional websites and rankings of websites. I’m busy right now putting together a presentation for Pubcon in five weeks, and I’m talking about “Keyword research using context vectors and topical modeling using current phrases” which maybe isn’t too different from what things were like 10 years ago. I think we know a little bit more about those types of things than we did then, but…
Razvan: I think the competition now is also much much stronger in any niche on the Internet, because the adoption of the Internet has grown everywhere on the world, much more compared to 10 years ago, and this also increases the changes in the landscape when we’re talking about SEO and any particular marketing tactic, I think…
Bill: We’ve also got to figure out how to fit things like these (smartphones) into our lives. Well, creating a website for a phone is different than creating one for the web.
Razvan: Sure it is, but almost all sites are created for phones, and Google is pushing more and more in this area with their mobile index.
Bill: Right. They may be seen pushing some things a little bit too far like accelerated mobile pages.
Razvan: What’s your opinion on AMP?
Bill: I don’t like the abbreviated versions of HTML and Java that fuel those things. I understand the desire for speed but I don’t like the idea of …
You think it’s closing the ecosystem? It’s moving it on the Google side and it’s not okay from an organic point of view of the Internet or why?
Bill: I saw a patent from Apple, in their version of accelerated mobile pages, and I wondered if that would only be released on Safari browsers. I was wondering, you know, is Google making the web more proprietary by releasing those pages and excluding other people? We have instant news pages from Facebook, the same type of thing. Everybody’s releasing their own version of HTML. Do we really need that? Do we really need it to be fragmented like that? I’m not sure.
Razvan: Yeah. Not really sure about what you say… There are pros and cons for all types of sites.
Coming back to our days, what’s your opinion on the top 5 search ranking signals of the moment for Google?
Bill: I was surprised when Google came out and announced Rankbrain, and said it was the 3rd most popular ranking signal at Google. And I was wondering “How they could say that?”. Yeah, they did say that. I asked it in a Google Hangout on air “What were the first two?”, and the answer was links and content. And, recently, we’ve heard Gary and John from Google saying that there are no top three, that that the ranking signals are very dependent upon the query, which has always been true.
Razvan: Everything coming from Google is confusion. They’re always changing stuff. So I’m not sure what we should believe exactly from what they are saying. They have their own agenda that they want to push forward, and we need to to take each of their words carefully.
Bill: It’s true. There’s so much complexity. And I mean you think about when you do a search for something that’s more news-oriented and if it’s really new, timely information, it hasn’t had time to develop a lot of links. So links aren’t the most important ranking signal for something that’s newsworthy – freshness is. For something that is a little bit more mature, that had a chance to develop and grow and have people write about it and link to it, and so on, links are more important. I mean, because people are showing that they appreciate certain content, find it useful, find it valuable, and link to it. So the content’s got a lot of value and links to things still have a lot of value. We haven’t had a PageRank toolbar indicator for a few years but Google is still using PageRank to rank web pages it seems. I mean links do appear to have an influence on how well something ranks when we develop lots of links to that page, it does rank higher.
Razvan: If we are to talk about freshness, what I usually see is that you publish something on a blog or on a site, or a news site and it ranks for a day or two and then it goes down. But even with the freshness factor, I think that the authority of the main site that is publishing that content matters a lot in order to be able to rank for competitive terms in the news area of the search engine. I mean not any site that would publish a blog post or a new story will be able to rank for the same keywords there.
Bill: Right. Google is fighting off some problems they’ve been having, like the whole “fake news” type of thing. They do want to have authoritative sites showing up high and they’re boosting authoritative sites in search results. If there isn’t an authoritative enough result for a query, they might perform a second query with the query refinement that shows through the query that you chose and if they’re any authoritative results who were query refinements of the showing, they may mix those into the results that you see for your original query. It may not be 100% on point, as relevant as it would have been if it was using the original query but it may be a more authoritative site which is what they’re aiming for.
Hence which are the top 5 search ranking signals, which ones do you think are the most important now?
Bill: In my opinion, it’s so hard to say because it still depends upon the query. The aim, the goal isn’t to provide the most relevant results, it’s to provide the results that tend to best satisfy a searchers situation and information intents. So if I’ve searched for lunch around noon time, I’m looking for a local restaurant, I know one…
Razvan: Yeah, that is different with every search, but in general, let’s say for commercial queries and for informational queries,
Bill: I think the Webmaster Guidelines got that right when they start talking about EAT – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. I think we’re going to see trustworthiness grow as a signal…
Razvan: OK, trustworthiness grows based on the links signal or other signals – users, interactivity with the sites…?
Bill: Are you familiar with the white paper that came out a couple years ago on knowledge-based trust?
Razvan: I think I read something from it.
Bill: It had to do with the knowledge fault, and they were talking about how accurate facts were that showed up in search results, you know. When we have featured snippets that appear, that are just plain wrong, and that’s happened a few times, like recently the shooter in Las Vegas, there’s a featured snippet at Google that was coming from some site and it misidentified the person who is the main suspect and, you know, you don’t want that type of misinformation taking place. So having more accurate answers that are trustworthy is important and growing them in importance. See, the people at Stone Temple Consulting have been doing a series of studies involving the growth of featured snippets – and they do seem to be growing significantly – when a search engine would rather show you a paragraph or bulleted list as an answer to a query rather than a list of web pages, we’ve seen a transformation in search and we are seeing that happen.
Razvan: Yeah. You write a lot about patterns in the SEO industry. I believe it’s because of your background in it …
Bill: It has to do more with my background as an SEO. I was in-house SEO for a company in Delaware that was incorporating businesses and I came across a patent that talked about how you could better optimize pages for location. And for that particular business, it was really important that it was located in Delaware because there are legal advantages, tax advantages to being in Delaware. So most people searching for that business, do the search for Delaware. So I said, “Okay, so how can I optimize for locations better?”. And I found a patent that explained it in a lot of detail how to do that better. So I said “Okay, I’ll try this out and see how well it works”, and it helped, it made a difference. So, I wrote about it in a forum that I was a code administrator at, and when I started my website I said “I should write more about patents!”, and I did.
Razvan: Yeah, we all know you in the SEO industry to write about SEO patents. I think you’re the only one who does it, in the long run I mean.
What’s the challenge for you when you write an article about patents and SEO patents specifically?
Bill: I’m really curious – I want to know how everything works. I don’t like the mystery of putting a word into a search box, hitting a button, and getting results. I want to have some idea what’s gonna show up in these results.
So this is how it all started with “SEO by the Sea” blog – your curiosity for how Google works?
Bill: Okay. There have sort of emerged two concepts: let me backtrack a bit on them. The SEO by the Sea blog – I started it because I’d spoken at a conference in New York City “Search Engine Strategies Conference in 2005” and I looked at the cost and said “The average SEO individual consultants can’t afford to go to this, they can’t afford to fly out there, pay for a hotel room for a week, and pay for the conference itself. Let me put on a free conference in the town I live in, which was at the time the town I worked at, which was Havre de Grace, Maryland, and the East Coast, just right by the Chesapeake Bay. When I came up with the name for SEO by the Sea I was looking at the window of the office I worked in, watching sails bobbing up and down on the bay, and that’s how I came up with the name SEO by the Sea. I live in San Diego now, so I’m still the SEO by the Sea, I just changed seas. The idea behind that site was to provide people information about the conference I was putting on and I did that: I wrote about places to stay, about things to talk about, and some people showed up, we talked about SEO – I think I was a little bit ahead of myself in terms of the idea of having a free conference and people who showed up to attend would also become speakers at, like BarCamp – so I didn’t get hundreds of people showing up – I got less than that. But I had a website and I asked myself after the event “What do I do with this website? I’ll keep on writing – I’ll write about patents”, and so I started doing that.
Razvan: And in what year was this happening?
Bill: 2005. And I like the fact that I was finding patents that were relevant to what I was doing as an SEO – things that gave me ideas on things to test and things to look forward, things I asked questions about, things to discuss with other SEOs.
What’s your favorite patent, that you think is the most interesting and game-changing?
Bill: I’m really excited about phrase-based indexing, which was an idea from a woman named Anna Patterson, who wrote the biggest search engine of the 21st century. It was one called Recall, which was a beta search engine at the Web Archive. It covered billions of pages through lots of versions, lots of iterations, different years. The idea is that if you index phrases that appear on web pages, you can understand what the concept, what the topics are of those web pages by which phrases appear upon the pages. So, for instance, if you write a page about baseball stadiums, there’s a good chance that certain phrases will show up on that page, like “pitcher’s mound”, “outfield”, “concession stands”, “home plate”. And there were a number of patents from Google that followed up with phrase-based indexing, that showed it was something they were working on. Like Google’s inverted index of the web shows words that show up and appear under pages of the web. Well, there’s a phrase-based indexing version of that inverted index that said “Okay, we’ve indexed phrases that show up on webpages and you can find a page by which phrases show up on it”, which I thought was interesting and it showed that Google was actually working on phrase-based indexing. One phrase of the indexing patents talks about how your pages might be boosted in search results based upon phrases that appear upon them, and phrases that appear in anchor texts that link to other pages. So the idea of these body hits phrases that appear on pages, and anchor hits – for instance, it appears anchor texts are boosting pages, it’s something I’ve experimented with a little bit and not too many people, other than me, have been talking about this.
There have been some people doing some stuff with topic modeling to boost web pages, and seen some people writing back successful results…
Razvan: Yeah, we actually created a tool about that does this kind of topic modeling and analyzes the top ranking results for the query that you’re entering, and based on that, it analyzes the content on your page, compares it to everything else that’s ranking out there, makes suggestions based on that, and we saw many quick improvements just by optimizing your content. Not by doing keyword stuffing, but by following the recommendations in terms of using particular topics and keywords that the tool recommends there, and if you write it creatively and you do it completely white hat, you go to Google Search Console once you modify the page on the site and you ask for a re-indexation. There are a lot of situations… And you actually see it go up a couple of positions.
So if you go from five to three, it’s a very high increase in a very short matter of time. We launched this in July and we saw a lot of people using it and responding happily to our support tickets, saying that they had successful increments by doing this. Obviously, it’s not in every situation and in every market that a keyword can work, because when we talk about very competitive keywords the content is not the only signal that can move position in the index for a phrase search that easily. But for longer terms, it seems to be to be working OK. At least this model …
Bill: Right. The amazing thing is that was around 2004 or so… So, it’s been around for a while.
Razvan: In 2004 it was very easy because you just stuffed some keywords there, and you were ranking. Now Google has a lot of smart moves used to detect all this bad behavior from a webmaster, let’s say. So it’s much harder now to trick Google. And this tool is not about tricking Google, it’s actually about understanding Google and how it works, and by reverse engineering, what they do to help you, and help Google better understand that specific content.
Bill: When you write content for a page, if you can make that page more about something, focusing upon the aboutness of the concepts beyond the page, you’re improving Google’s ability to recognize what you’re writing about and return in results for queries to people perform. We’ve got Google using RankBrain in Hummingbird to better understand queries that people are performing, and if your page fits those concepts best, you’re gonna be the one showing up in the top results.
Razvan: You’re a Search Director at your company –
What do you see to be working best now in SEO for your client? What’s the stuff that works best for your client rankings?
Bill: There’s so much variety but one thing we’ve been focusing upon was making sure that structured data is set up well in knowledge panels, appear for clients, and sitemaps show up, site links for pages. We’ve been trying to get featured snippets show up, to attract traffic.
Did you have any success in terms of finding a way to make a Google transform a normal ranking page into featured snippet?
Bill: We have had success.
Okay, but can you replicate it every time you want it?
Bill: It’s challenging, but we can with some success get featured snippets to appear.
Can you share some of the stuff that you think it’s important for a site to have in order to become a featured snippet?
Bill: It’s not too much different from the old days of SEO. You think about what questions an audience might have for a specific company that provides certain goods or services. “What questions do they ask?”, “What do they want answers to?”, and you make sure you have pages devoted to that. You answer the questions. You answer the questions in ways that tend to… Search engines like using bulleted lists or tables, and those bulleted lists and tables tend to be seen as good answers to those questions.
Razvan: Okay, so you say that we need to have questions on the page, bulleted lists, and tables. These are some common characteristics of the snippet pages that we see ranking.
Bill: Right. You want the best answers, the most direct answers that you can provide you. You want to make sure there are good answers because that makes big of a difference.
You’re talking now about getting a featured snippet for a keyword they didn’t have a featured snippet before, or replacing a competitor’s feature snippet?
Razvan: Because these are two different things. When there is a query that doesn’t have already assigned enough high-quality content to market as a featured snippet, versus the situation where Google already decided that “This is a very high-quality article, and we want to rank it for this particular query as a featured snippet”?
Bill: One site we’ve been working with is a site that has been doing a weekly video for years and they have a radio show every week. They have millions of listeners, they talk about financial type news, and they took all the videos and transcribed them and added the transcripts to the pages that videos appear upon. They started getting a lot of featured snippets from those transcripts because transcripts provide lots of questions and answers. So we looked at those, we worked on those a bit to strengthen the answers, to strengthen the formatting of the answers.
Razvan: And you saw an impact for modified video transcription on a page, and it was boosted in multiple snippets compared to before.
But did it also take down other competitors for the same keyword where a competitor was ranking with a featured snippet?
Bill: We weren’t necessarily aiming at reducing the rankings of competitors, we were aiming at being as successful as possible with our own site.
Razvan: Yeah, I imagine that. I was thinking that if Google already decided that a particular page for the featured snippet has a lot of authority and they put it there, then it’s harder to get your content to be that good to put your competitor down. From what I’ve seen, the featured snippets are not as volatile as rankings are. They tend to stay there more if Google decides that that is a strong page. Is this also applied to you?
Bill: The people behind this site were subject matter experts, so when they answered a question, they did it pretty thoroughly. They were giving good answers. We may have looked to see if there were other featured snippets that were answering certain questions, but we weren’t necessarily focusing only upon answering questions that other people had answered. With hundreds of pages or thousands of pages that you had so many opportunities with, spending all your time fixated on whether you can answer somebody else wasn’t necessarily our goal.
What do you think is/are the biggest problem(s) that SEO pros face nowadays?
Bill: Misinformation. The web has become the information-can-do-it to everybody. It’s where I go to answer questions. I used to carry a card in my wallet with the phone number of local library and I would look up books in the old China card catalog of that library. I don’t do that anymore, I don’t look for books first because I can just look the information up on the web.
Razvan: Okay. So coming back to the original question – which are the biggest problems that SEO pros face nowadays – you said misinformation. Can you elaborate a bit more on this? Do you think they are going in the wrong direction because of other people writing incorrect stuff on their blogs or websites?
Bill: So, yeah, the web is the greatest source of information in the world. It’s also the great source of misinformation. There are just so many people; it’s like ten thousand monkeys typing. One of them is going to come up with Shakespeare at some point, but it’s gonna be mixed up with a lot of gibberish. And there is a lot of gibberish on the web, unfortunately.
In terms of SEO, on what direction do you think people should stop wasting their energy on?
Bill: It’s a good question. I’m not sure I should answer that with some of my pet peeves. I hate when people start talking about things like LSI keywords. Say, “Okay, do you know what LSI is? Did you ever bother to Google it?”. It’s an approach that Microsoft developed in 1990 to index static group of documents. The web is not static, it changes all the time. For LSI to be used on the web, the web would have to stop, and then as soon as that changes, you’d have to run an LSI indexing program again. It doesn’t stop and go like that. I see people writing “Google 200 ranking factors” articles and LSI keywords are one of the ranking factors Google uses. No, they’re not!
Razvan: Yeah, that’s more of a concept, it’s a different thing…
Bill: It’s a way the index enterprise document collections.
Razvan: Yeah. SEO is very complex because it’s very technical and lots of the people that are writing this stuff aren’t technical enough to understand the nuances when it comes to things like the ones that you described here, because they take it for granted from other tens of sites that talk about it and consider the thing to be true. And, in the end, that’s what pollutes all this stuff.
Bill: That’s part of the reason why I like looking at patents. So one of the patents that I’m going to talk about in my PubCon presentation in about a month or so, is on something that Google came up with and call “context vectors”. A quick way to describe it: they say in the patent that a horse to an equestrian is an animal, a horse to a carpenter is a tool that you use when you’re building something, a horse to a gymnast is an exercise implement, something they perform gymnastic moves upon. So, based on the context which we learn from knowledge bases, the same words could have multiple meanings. If we can understand the context we can index these better. So as a creator of a webpage, if you can explain the context better, you have already started making other people write about the same things.
Razvan: Okay, so it’s all about describing and writing content as correctly as possible, from…
Bill: From looking at sources like knowledge bases, like Wikipedia or, depending upon the topic, internet movie IMDB, Yahoo Finance’s one they use to describe companies.
How do you think Google voice search will evolve, for example?
Bill: It’s a lot of work on speech recognition and understanding conversations better.
Razvan: I think they made huge steps in the last years to understand speech better and to transcribe. Not until recently we saw that Google launched those headphones that automatically translate 40 languages, and it’s a major step forward compared to, say, three years ago when we talked about understanding language automatically. Only time will move these barriers because technology evolves so quickly. How are we going to use the Internet via voice and how do you see computers transforming our lives (along with the search engines transformation)? We now have the phone, but we’re not always going to talk to the phone as it’s easier for you to type at this moment, from a privacy point of view. And there are a lot of times like this.
Bill: I’ve been trying a lot of searches using Google Now and I’m surprised sometimes by some of the answers, but they tend to understand queries really well.
But do you think that voice search will replace a lot of the normal typing searches that we do now?
Bill: Phones have overtaken desktop search. More people search the web now through a phone than on a desktop. It’s easier to do a voice search, it really is. I’ve been trying as many as I can.
Do you think that this will practically be the future: we are going to search the Internet via voice more and more, compared to what we do today?
Bill: In addition to the announcement they made about the Pixel Buds, yesterday during the translation, they talked about Google Lens and how people will be doing more searches by photograph, by taking pictures of things. And there was a patent that went with those two. They talked about how they tie in those searches with knowledge base information to better understand the queries and provide results. So if you can perform a search by taking the picture of something saying “What kind of car is that?”, we’re going to get one. You know, just taking pictures of the car. We’ll see a lot more searches like that.
Razvan: It will be interesting to see how this develops in the following years.
What’s the one person or brand event that influenced you the most in your career if there is one?
Bill: It’s a tough question. In terms of SEO, one of the ones who influenced me a lot was Ammon Johns, known as the Black Knight, and forums on the web on SEO, because he introduced me to a lot of thoughts and ideas about marketing that I wasn’t aware of and how creative you can be at introducing concepts and developing them on webpages.
Razvan: And the last question:
What are the things that you are most proud of, both professionally and personally?
Bill: We’ve had a lot of success in the past few years with some clients in terms of transforming their businesses to be more successful. For instance, working with one limo company which focused primarily on providing corporate shuttles to businesses. We helped them strengthen their limo service and their everyday consumers – how frequently consumers use their business. And we increased the traffic to their business and their ROI by like 57% which is ridiculous – it was a lot. See, we took a four-page apartment website – it was only four pages – and help them sell out the apartment by helping them understand the entities involved in their website better. They’re in Northern Virginia, they were right above the Washington metro line – you can take an elevator to their basement and get on the metro line from there. They didn’t say it in the website, they didn’t include a lot of facts about that type of stuff, but if you hop on the Washington metro, you can visit 57 different Smithsonian museums from that metro. They’re all free to kids, so if you want something to do with your kids on a Saturday morning you can hop on the metro or go to the museum. This apartment complex wasn’t explaining stuff like that, you know, the benefits of living there, and being that accessible to that many types of things. They were in Northern Virginia, they were next to possibly what is the largest shopping mall in Virginia. It’s four stories tall underground, and most people have never heard of it, but it’s there. And they weren’t telling people about it in their website. You know, it’s one of the things … location is important – you tell people about things like that. So we didn’t know their site to have these. These are the type of things you need to include on your website. You need to tell people more about where you’re at, why they should want to live there. There were headquarters of some of the largest companies in the world, like Lockheed Martin was a couple blocks away, they weren’t telling people “We have these huge places nearby; if you work in those places and you live in our apartments, you have a ten-minute commute. Some people might not like a ten-minute commute to work but if you live in DC area and get to drive into DC – which is a nightmare drive – you want a quick commute. So we help them with the website, we helped inform people better about what was near it, so helped them sell all the apartments in the apartment complex within a year – really quickly.
Razvan: All that via SEO.
Razvan: Okay, that’s a nice thing. A very hard thing to do – to sell an entire apartment complex only via SEO.
Bill: It was effective and the most exciting thing that they had on the site was about 10 or 12 pictures of a dog park they had. They weren’t telling people important things, which would help them sell their apartment and just getting them to understand they had to do those things was really worthwhile. That would really get them excited. They are happy customers.
Razvan: I imagine. Okay, Bill, it was a pleasure talking to you.
Do you want to add anything else at the end of this podcast?
Bill: It was a pleasure talking to you too. So come by, visit me, ask questions, that’s why I’ve got comment forums, follow me on Twitter, Linkedin, and so on, and ask questions there too. I’m happy to spend time answering them.
Razvan: Okay, so you heard the Bill – go ask him your questions, he’s willing to answer everyone.
Thank you, Bill, again for being on our podcast. It was a great pleasure to have you here, and it was very cool to have a discussion with someone who knows what is talking about patterns in the SEO industry. Thank you!
Bill: Thank you!
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