Jono Alderson is a Digital Strategist, Marketing Technologist and Full-Stack Developer, with almost two decades of experience in Web Development, SEO, Analytics, Brand Strategy and Conversion Rate Optimization.
Jono has been a leading figure in the SEO world for a really long time. In 2018 alone, he was named:
- SEO World Champion at the SEOktoberfest conference
- Best SEO Specialist by Serpstat.
Last year he joined Yoast (one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress around the world) in its quest to make the web a better place, to improve the quality, accessibility and performance of websites, and solve technical SEO.
Jono will come for the first time in Romania at GPeC SUMMIT May 27-28 to meet with Digital Marketers and SEO professionals in Bucharest and talk about the changes that will affect the way the industry thinks about marketing and advertising.
We are looking forward to his keynote speech on May 27 and his Google Tag Manager Masterclass on May 28. Until then, here’s an exclusive GPeC interview with Jono on the state of SEO and Digital Marketing in 2019.
Key takes from the interview:
- The brands who dominate the big sectors in SEO all chase perfection.
- Produce educational and assistive resources for audiences who’ll never buy your product, but who might say how useful you are.
- In ecommerce, differentiation is a must. You have to be more than just a retailer.
- If your store lists 100,000 products, that means that you need to create and maintain 100,000 excellent pages (good enough to outdo Google/Amazon, and to win hearts and minds). That’s a huge ask. […] Less can be a lot more.
- The digital revolution is that we don’t control the environment in which our content is consumed.
- We’re seeing a huge shift in behaviour, as our devices change how we interact with brands. Voice search gets a lot of attention, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s really changing is that we’re relying more and more on external devices and systems to handle our decision making.
- Next level digital marketing means your marketing and brand strategy needs to consider your reputation, your pricing, your availability and your suitability.
Read the entire interview below for more insights on the future trends for online businesses and make sure you book your seat at GPeC SUMMIT May 27-28 by the end of the week (May 24) to see Jono live on the GPeC stage.
Q: What’s your view on the current state of SEO and search in general?
A: I think that we’re starting to mature as an industry, which really excites me. Once upon a time, it was very much about tactics, reverse-engineering the latest updates, and finding ways to stay ahead of Google. Now, SEO is more frequently a strategic consideration, and much more closely aligned to ‘brand’, ‘quality’ and ‘product’. That enables us to have more interesting conversations, to get the right level of buy-in, and to do genuinely improve the websites/content/companies we’re working with.
Q: In another interview you were talking about the concept of distance to perfect. How do you scale that in terms of SEO?
A: I love the concept of ‘distance to perfect’. Many business functions – marketing in particular – generally try to find a balance between minimum investment, and maximum return. That means that everybody tends to settle at ‘good enough’ across all of their outputs, as they start to encounter diminishing returns on their spend.
In SEO, you can get outsized results from chasing perfection. It takes some bravery from stakeholders, but closing that gap to perfection on content quality, depth, site speed and other areas can have a huge impact on visibility. If 99 of the websites targeting a particular set of keywords are only ‘good enough’, having a perfect website means winning big. It takes some investment to get there – you can’t ‘test’ building incredible content at scale, or fixing your bloated, slow website – but it really works. The brands who dominate the big sectors in SEO all chase perfection.
Q: There are approaches to the website that are more effective than others on different competitive levels. What would be your top 3 approaches for technical SEO and top 3 for link-building?
As for link building? Have a better product. Improve your brand messaging. Train your customer service team. Lower your prices. Surprise and delight you visitors. Produce educational and assistive resources for audiences who’ll never buy your product, but who might say how useful you are. Break down organizational silos and encourage collaboration and internal disruption. Have a website and content which is worth linking to. I ranted about this a bit more here.
Q: What are the biggest 3 SEO mistakes e-commerce websites still make in 2019?
A: I see a lot of sites which still don’t do a great job of handling faceted navigation. If each of your products is available in multiple categories, colours, sizes and so forth, that can very quickly become a bit of a crawl nightmare. Consolidation, pruning and crawl/index control can have an enormous impact. But people get caught up in wanting more links or ranking for vanity keywords, and they overlook the fact that their website is a tangled mess.
More strategically, differentiation is a must. If your ecommerce site just ‘sells stuff’, Amazon and Google are coming to eat your lunch. You have to be more than just a retailer. You have to own the entire product chain, do something which Amazon and Google can’t/won’t compete on, or, win the hearts and minds of your audience to the point where you become the platform and they associate you with the solution.
Lastly, sell less stuff. Many ecommerce websites started out as digital reflections of their physical counterparts. But realising that there are economies of scale on selling more stuff in the online than offline store, stakeholders got greedy. If your store lists 100,000 products, that means that you need to create and maintain 100,000 excellent pages (good enough to outdo Google/Amazon, and to win hearts and minds). That’s a huge ask. What if you only sold 100 products, and made each of those products 100 times better? Less can be a lot more.
Q: We talk a lot about ‘Mobile first’ and ‘Mobile only’ in e-commerce. You, on the other hand, say websites need to be device agnostic. Can you explain a bit your take on the matter?
A: We started out as ‘desktop only’. Then we entered the mobile age, and started talking about ‘mobile first’. I think that we mischaracterise that shift, though, when we call it a ‘mobile revolution’. It’s not that we live in a mobile world now, it’s that we live in a world where your content is consumed on any number/type/shape/context of devices.
Only thinking about ‘desktop’ and ‘mobile’ precludes smart watches, TVs, home hub devices, and whatever comes tomorrow. The revolution is that we don’t control the environment in which our content is consumed. Sometimes that’ll mean it’s on a small screen, sometimes it’ll mean that it’s on low bandwidth, sometimes it’ll mean that it’s only available in black and white. Our products, services, content and presentation needs to anticipate that it could be consumed anywhere, in any format, and that it needs to be flexible enough to handle that.
Q: “Digital Marketing as we know it is dead”. Why do you think that and what comes next? How will businesses connect with their customers in the new Digital Marketing age?
A: I think that we’re seeing a huge shift in behaviour, as our devices (mobile phones and personal assistants in particular) change how we interact with brands. Voice search gets a lot of attention, but I think that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What’s really changing is that we’re relying more and more on external devices and systems to handle our decision making.
Whether it’s activated by voice, or just something that my phone does automatically in response to my behaviour, we’re increasingly relying on external systems to do things for us. To search. To act. To filter. And that’s the key change. The ‘results’ for queries like “Hey Google, find me a nearby restaurant”, “Hey Google, order me a taxi“ will increasingly filter out results. They’ll choose which brands I don’t see.
This isn’t about voice search having only one singular result, and you working out how to win that – it’s about systems ruling out your brand/product/service because you’re a bad fit. If your taxi company has a bad reputation, is further away than a cheaper competitor, or isn’t open right now, my device won’t recommend you. That means that your marketing and brand strategy needs to consider your reputation, your pricing, your availability and your suitability.
It also means that you need to prove – to an unbiased system – that you’re a good fit for my needs. And you need to have done so before I reach the point of decision-making and purchase. That’s a very different way of thinking than anything we’re used to.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges for online shops in the Voice Search environment?
A: You’ve got to have the best answer – and many brands just don’t. To have the best answer, you need to understand your audience. You need to have a product/service which is a good fit. You need a team who can articulate that. You need perfect content. You need structured markup. You need a solid technical platform. That’s a lot of work – but, it’s the only way to survive a revolution where you need to build brand recognition and preference with your audience.
Q: Tell us a bit about your Masterclass you’ll be teaching at GPeC SUMMIT. Who should attend it and what will they learn specifically?
A: To unlock the kinds of investment which you need to do any of this, you’ll likely need to be able to build business cases, measurements and forecasts. My Masterclass is going to show you how to get started on that – from installing tracking pixels, and work all the way up to creating sophisticated business dashboards. It’s a lightning tour through Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Google Data Studio and Google Optimize. It’ll make sure that you’re in prime condition to monitor your performance as you work on closing the distance to perfect!
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