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The Evolution (And Basics) of SEO with Eli Schwartz – Episode #123

“66% of websites don’t need to do SEO. There’s no reason that they should bother.”

Eli Schwartz is a seasoned SEO expert and consultant with over a decade of experience, helping prominent B2B and B2C companies like WordPress, Shutterstock, and Zendesk drastically enhance their organic visibility. Formerly leading SEO at SurveyMonkey, he boosted organic search to become a major growth driver. 

An accomplished speaker and author of the book “Product Led SEO”, Eli’s insights regularly appear in top industry publications and events, and he serves as a judge for prestigious awards like the US Search Awards and UK Search Awards.

Questions and topics we covered include:

  • February 24th, 2010—How Google’s Panda update changed Eli’s career
  • Why Eli doesn’t pay attention to Google algorithm updates (the answer is all about UX)
  • Why marketers shouldn’t focus too much on page speed
  • The common misconceptions about SEO
  • How long does SEO take to see results?
  • The basics between editorial vs programmatic SEO
  • The right method for building an SEO forecast
  • Does domain authority still matter?
  • The core skills you need to have before you start your first SEO job

And more!

Relevant  Links:

Our Podcast Partner – MarketerHire

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Full Episode Transcript:


Kenny Soto 0:11  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Eli Schwartz. Hi, Eli, how are you?


Eli Schwartz 0:25  

Great to be here. Thank you for having me, Kenny.


Kenny Soto 0:27  

So prior to starting this interview, I gave you a little bit of background on the podcast. And as always, I think it’s a great way to start this interview by getting some more background on you as a marketer. So my first question for you and for the listeners to get more context on you is how did you become a digital marketer in the first place?


Eli Schwartz 0:50  

Totally by accident, I didn’t mean to be a marketer. Actually, my dream when I was a kid was after his domain like an astronaut, and whenever firemen and all this stuff kids want to be is I want to be, I want to be like rich on Wall Street and watch the Wall Street movies. And I thought like that was it like you go on Wall Street and just get paid millions of dollars and you pick up phones and yell at people. 


So my first job was actually on Wall Street, I didn’t go to college, I went straight to New York Stock Exchange, and got a job as a runner. This was the early 2000s got paid I think the minimum wage in New York City was 475. And I got 515 or six, whatever, six bucks. I couldn’t eat, I had to have two jobs in order to be able to live and pay rent. And that was a dream. And then I got fired from that job. A hole is all terrible. 911 happened, I went to college and figured it all out, and started learning marketing. 


My first job my first real job after college, was in an affiliate marketing company called QuinStreet, where I was working a job in sales. So I’ve always been decent at sales. My job was in sales working with affiliates. And the affiliates would generate traffic online and bring that traffic to my company. And we would sell off to people that were interested in those leads. So mortgages, insurance, home services, all kinds of stuff like I did my own little bit to help out with the subprime bubble buying subprime leads and selling them off to the banks that no longer exist today. So I’m working with these affiliates. 


And we’re sending them checks like huge checks, like 50 grand a month, 100 grand a month. And you know, I met some of them and they were like squirrely little people in their basements and, you know, fun doing fun stuff. But you know, not real business people real scammy stuff, and they were doing SEO and they’re doing paid marketing and social media didn’t really exist. And I’m like, I don’t want to do it. They do. They seem to have all the fun. 


And they make all the money. And they go to these conferences and Vegas and do a bunch of stuff. And I got to sit on the phone and try to convince them to sell me leads. So that’s how I got into digital marketing. So I would hit my sales numbers. And I would talk to my affiliates. I mean, like So tell me, what is SEO? What is PageRank? How do you decide what to bid on on Google? And how do you know what to pay? How do you know if this works? And how do you track your traffic, they taught me everything like everything about SEO, and everything about paid marketing. 


And then I wanted to like learn more. And I realized it wasn’t really a way to learn more. So I decided I knew it. So I became a consultant. Anybody that wanted anything about digital marketing, I told them, I consult for them, and no one paid me. They just like okay, cool. Tell it to tell us everything, you know, which I had learned from all these other people. I started building my own websites. And then I want to get a job in SEO. 


But I didn’t know SEO because I never had a job in SEO. But I figured if I said I knew SEO because I had my own websites, I could start interviewing for jobs in SEO. And that is exactly what happened in my next job was like a half sales half SEO job. And that was it. I was an SEO and have been doing it ever since.


Kenny Soto 3:46  

That’s funny because I got my first agency job that required SEO experience because I created Kenny And there’s like, I don’t know, right now probably like around eight 8000. Maybe Kenny Soto is out there, but I own the whole SERP. And that since been like that since like, 2016 When I got my first job. 


So when I applied, they were like, Oh, you clearly know what you’re doing. All I knew at the time was WordPress, and Yoast, which is not even the bare minimum. And that’s how I got my first job too. So it’s interesting that the stories correlate in that way. Yeah.


Eli Schwartz 4:22  

I mean, when I started doing this stuff, Google wasn’t hiding queries. So and I’ve even known about Google Analytics. I used to look at the logs on my website’s just a fun fact, I have no idea if this is still true, but the most expensive keyword on Google used to be me, Sophie Lee Oma. So I wanted to make a bunch of mesothelioma websites. Like that’s what I learned doing this affiliate marketing stuff. 


And I wrote random blog posts before like aI content existed and I look at my query logs and be like, Wow, this stuff’s really cool is looking at as random stupid stuff people search for certain I’d write more random stupid posts, and like it, all paid off and then I start doing AdSense like took me all down that road. But yeah, this is this Have you learned you gotta learn by getting your hands real dirty?


Kenny Soto 5:03  

Speaking of getting your hands really dirty, I work in SEO myself. So this interview, a selfish interview, if you will. But you could if you want, what would you say is the defining moment in your career? Maybe there wasn’t one. But what were those moments where you were realizing, Hey, I’m onto something, I’m becoming that quote-unquote, expert? Were there a series of moments that started to show you that you were on this path to knowing what you know today?


Eli Schwartz 5:41  

I gotta tell you what, my undefined a moment to us. So my undefined moment came up on my, what year was it? 2010. Coming up on the 13-year anniversary of my undefined moment. It was February 24, 2010. So I was working at the startup. And some of your listeners will know what February 24 2010 was. So working at the startup, and I’m working for this guy who ‘s the CEO. And he was always nervous about Google coming after us. So he was always checking rankings. 


And he was always asking me questions about rankings in automotive content. We had a lot of great rankings, we ranked on some amazing terms like cars and Honda core, like good, good terms, and we generated a lot of traffic. And I felt like I really knew what I was doing. Every 24th of 2010 He’s not in the office, he’s at a funeral. And he’s doing his searches, like usual, just making sure everything’s okay. And it’s not. So he texts me. He’s like, hey, something’s wrong with you know, just look at search. And I don’t see us there. So I ignored it because he did it every day. So it’s like that anymore. 


He starts calling, he steps out of the funeral. He starts calling. He’s like, I think something’s wrong. I mean, I’m drinking my morning coffee. There’s no way I’m interrupting this thing he does all the time. And he calls back and he apologizes like oh, sorry, I was using Bing or something right, like sunlight. So I’m still getting these texts and now we get emails and phone calls and voicemails. So like, I want to check your humor. So I used a tool called Link Assistant Rank Tracker. Just check your rankings. 


I check them all the time I used to tell him, I think we had this consultant who told us we shouldn’t check rankings very often because Google measures that, and then they’re going to screw us, right? Just a shout-out to everyone with dumb SEO advice. Make sure your dumb SEO device has any logical sense checking rankings is not going to hurt your rankings. Google doesn’t know who did it. So I was like, Alright, I’m gonna do an extra ranking check just to make sure even though I’m only supposed to, we had agreed I was only going to do it once a week. Because of her ranking, I got to check our rankings. 


And we had all these hundreds of terms that were in the top 10. And we didn’t, so I was like, Guys broken. I’m gonna do this again. Check him again. And it’s worse. So I was like, maybe the internet’s not working. I mean, just one more time. And it got worse again. So we went from that morning, we lost 60% of our search traffic that morning to the Panda update. So we’re a venture-backed company. With an automotive content company. 


We sold advertising, we pre-sold advertising to Ford and BMW, and we committed eyeballs to them. And now we couldn’t get them because Google screwed us. Google kicked us up. So we had, you know, we lost 60% of our traffic. That was my undefined moment. I was like, I have no idea what to do. I’m Should I quit the company, we’re totally screwed. So we ended up like, we got a consultant to like, counseled us on duplicate content, and our content was thin. We ended up getting all this by the time we got ours, we ripped down more of our traffic and unduplicated more of our content. 


The total loss was 80% of our traffic. And it took us about three months. I’m talking millions, millions of visits, it took us about three months. And we did actually get all the traffic recovered. So it’s my undefined moment. And then when I was able to get it back, I was like, I think I understand SEO, I’m no longer a spammer. Everything’s gonna make logical sense to me. 


There are rules here. If you can’t talk about it publicly, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. And that, that moment, taught me so much, but that was absolutely awful. That going through that experience, and realizing we’re screwed, just I recently remember there was one more kicker on that. That made things a lot worse. So after that, I started doing paid marketing. So we did more AdWords, and we spent a lot of money because we had all these commitments to BMW and Ford. Our Ads account got banned. So this is like, two weeks later, randomly, our ads, we then use an agency I’m doing the whole thing.


Kenny Soto 9:45  

One thing after another, it’s insane.


Eli Schwartz 9:48  

I was literally going to just not be gonna. So I got this email from Google. A friend of mine has been banned by Google, and again, an email from Google about your AdWords account being suspended. I don’t know what to do with this thing. So I was gonna go home, let’s just call it a day and go find another job. So I’m freaking out. I have no idea what I did. Very, very fortunately. So this was February. 


We can maybe in March, right? So it’s March, and it was SMX. So go to SMX and San Jose. Fortunately, it was right there. Fortunately, I had a ticket and I went to the conference and went to the expo hall, where there was a Google booth. So I went over to Google. And I said, Hey, my ads account got banned. Who do I talk to? And the person at the booth is like me. So she’s like, give me your email address here. 


She wouldn’t give me her email address. She’s like, give me your email address. Give me your account number. I’ll have a look. Anyways, I got an email later that day like I had a look, and everything should be all good now. And I always think about that moment. And I’m like, I don’t actually know why the account got banned. I don’t know why it came back. But what if I hadn’t been able to go to SMX that day, like, I would have nobody to talk to you? What if all the other millions of people in the world get their ads accounts banned? They got nobody to talk to you. So I was like, really lucky. 


Like, I lived in a place that had an SMS conference happening right there. And there’s a Google booth, and someone at the booth was helpful. So that’s it. So yeah, it was rough. Like we got the ads to account back. And then October that year. So it’s eight months later, we recovered all the traffic, like slowly but surely got the traffic back.


Kenny Soto 11:18  

I want to follow up on something. And I asked this, let me know if it’s a dumb question. I know that sometimes, yeah. There are no dumb questions. But let me know if there’s probably a better way of rephrasing this. To what degree should someone who manages SEO, find a balance between adhering to the algorithms versus adhering to just creating a good user experience?


Eli Schwartz 11:50  

Don’t even know about Google algorithms. I don’t think about Google algorithms at all, I don’t, I don’t usually get concerned about them. I don’t pay attention to when there are updates, I only focus on user experience. If you’re not creating something that is a good user experience, then there’s no value whatsoever. To me, if a conversation begins with I found this on a keyword research tool, or I use this tool to discover that people are searching and so therefore I’m going to create it that makes no sense to me. SEO should be about this pain that users have, I believe that users use search engines to solve that pain. 


I’m going to address that by creating this sort of content, this experience. And that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what you have to do. I was on a client call earlier today, they were asking me about PageSpeed. PageSpeed is my favorite topic. Like everyone’s always like Google’s gonna punish you if you’re bad PageSpeed. And I said that PageSpeed is when you open up your phone, and you’re on a 4g 5g connection, and you get a white page. 


That’s bad PageSpeed. If your customer base is in rural Indonesia, or rural India and they have slow phones and a slow internet connection, and they can’t load your page, that’s bad PageSpeed. But if a tool says your page is a little bit slower than another page that is very unlikely going to be the kind of thing that takes you down, should you invest in your PageSpeed Yes, because you want to have a fast page, you want to fast checkout, Walmart has a case study about how much more they earned by their paid better click to checkout going faster. 


That little for Walmart billions of dollars, those Not even seconds of like, I’ve loaded up my cart. And now it’s in my cart, and I don’t have to wait, well, it spins and spins and spins to see what’s in there. That makes billions of dollars for them or millions of dollars. But if you’re not there, you’re not getting penalized by Google because Google doesn’t know about those things. It’s really about having a good experience for users. I always focus on users first. In algorithm second, algorithms will change. 


You know, for all we know, you know, like, I don’t know when you’re releasing this, but maybe by the time we release this, everyone’s using Bing. And all that work people put into Google’s algorithm is gone because like beings, the new thing, I don’t think there’s a chance in hell it will happen just in case. It could happen. It’s also possible that you know, tick tock becomes a real search engine, people go on tick tock, and they look for videos. 


But what about if something’s not a video, couldn’t Tiktok also index the web, you got laid? Yep, from H refs, not so hard, and in 2023 to index the web and rank the web, it’s hard to rank it, I mean, to do a good job of it, but not so hard to have a very basic index of the web. So don’t focus on algorithms, focus on users, because users could change which algorithm or search engine they’re using.


Kenny Soto 14:32  

Don’t focus on algorithms. This ties perfectly into my next question. There is an inexhaustible list of misconceptions. When it comes to SEO. What are the common misconceptions that you hear when you’re on a kickoff call with a client? What are the misconceptions that you can just share today? Everyone, we’re making an assumption that future clients might listen to this. What do you want them to know about SEO to say both of your times for that kickoff call?


Eli Schwartz 15:05  

So this is one that I get rid of before we even get to the kickoff call, which is probably two-thirds of websites that, in my opinion, don’t need to do SEO, there’s no reason that they should bother. And the reason is that they can’t conceptualize how SEO plays into user acquisition going back to user experience. So if you’re selling a b2b product, and your primary way of generating acquisition for your b2b product is by going to trade shows, shaking hands, and demonstrating your product. It’s very unlikely that SEO matters. 


Now, should you do a little bit of SEO? Yeah, of course, you should optimize your web, and your homepage, you should put your product name out there, and people should be able to find you, but invest in SEO too, as a channel to put hundreds of 1000s of dollars in this. Not a chance. Not a good investment. So many companies, when I asked them, just explained to me, how users would end up on your website. 


What’s the scenario? What are they looking for? What are they expecting to see, if they give me a blank stare? That’s not fit for SEO? So in my kickoff calls, it’s usually because we’ve determined that there was a fit for SEO, there was an SEO user, and this is how we’re going to target and cater the experience for that SEO user. But if you can’t even answer that question of who was the SEO user? What is it that they’re looking for? Not for keywords? 


What is it that the intent, what is the topic they’re looking for, then you shouldn’t be doing SEO? One mistake I think many people make when they have this misconception that they even need to do SEO, is that they build it like a media experience. So if you’re selling a product and a service, and your product, and service is something that you let’s say experience, let’s say you’re a tour guide, so you’re a tour guide, and people need to book your tours, and you need to like physically go out there, and like bring them on tours around your city. 


And then you create a blog about your city, which is entertaining to the entire world. That’s cool, right? That’s great. People might want to read it, they might want to experience the content you’ve written. But to get those people to translate into actual buyers of your tour guide service. That’s like advertising on your own content. So should you do SEO, I mean content is Great. 


Should you write about your stuff, yes? But to say I’m going to put all my money into talking about, you know, walking around the streets of San Francisco, because that is my acquisition channel, people all over the world are reading that, not necessarily people that are even in the market. So that’s the mistake people make they look at, well, I’m a tour guide for San Francisco. I’m gonna go and optimize around tour guide San Francisco and the best sights are in San Francisco, you’re entertaining the entire world when you have a very small market. You see this a lot in sort of medical spaces, and dentists, a dentist has a website. 


And on the website, they tell you how to brush your teeth and what to do when you think of a cavity. Those websites are available to the entire world when they only service a very, very small geographic market, which means how far someone is gonna go. At least if you’re in a big city, to a dentist, and you’re gonna usually going to find that dentist, from other channels, you’re gonna find that dentist on, you know, from your friends and family, first of all, but if not, you’re going to find it on Yelp, you’re going to find a dentist, you know, maybe on Facebook, you’re not going to Google like dentist near me and be like, Oh, this dentist has some really great content on how to brush teeth, oh, I need to go, I need to call this dentist. That’s not your conversion channel. 


Maybe you find them on Google My Business with their maps location, you call them on the phone. But again, to think SEO is that channel and having all that content that tells you how to take care of your teeth is going to be the conversion channel doesn’t really make so much sense to me.


Kenny Soto 18:40  

So really, what you’re saying here, correct me for wrong is the foundation for a good SEO strategy is first to find out if it’s even applicable as a channel. And to do that you really need to understand your user’s journey.


Eli Schwartz 18:57  

Exactly. To me, I think it’s so much more important to really understand your user and the journey that your user is going to be on, than the keywords that a keyword research tool is going to tell you that your users might search to understand your users. First and foremost.


Kenny Soto 19:16  

I don’t know if I’m touching the third rail. How long does SEO usually take?


Eli Schwartz 19:27  

Depends on what take means. You’ve probably never had that as an answer.


Kenny Soto 19:32  

Well, no, I mean, that that’s, that is a perfect answer. Because sometimes I’ll get a definitive Oh, it takes six months, or oh, it takes about three or four quarters, which is a year like okay, but if everyone is providing different answers, then the true answer probably is it depends.


Eli Schwartz 19:50  

Yeah, so I usually say 18 years, 18 months to two years, because for me it’s I want you to invest a lot of money upfront, and then to me that would take means that you’re getting an ROI on that investment meant, if SEO if success and SEO mean I get my page indexed and then get some traffic to it to take you two weeks, but we’re not looking for that we’re not looking for clicks and impressions, you’re looking for revenue. So put a lot of money upfront. 


And then you start seeing the fruits of that labor, you know, a few months in, but you really see the ROI, you know, in 18 months, here’s the big commonality there is I think many companies take a long time to even launch that first iteration on what they need. So talk to clients all the time. They’re like, Oh, this sounds very easy. We’ll launch it next month, but the reality hits are like, oh, the engineer goes on maternity leave, you know, someone else quits. Deep, right? Something’s deprioritized. Now it’s, you know, there’s a layoff so we have to use fewer resources. I don’t even know if we should be investing in SEO, all those kinds of things. takes a lot longer than you think it will.


Kenny Soto 20:45  

And another common misconception that some people may have is that SEO is only editorial SEO. But that’s just one component of programmatic correctness.


Eli Schwartz 20:56  

Which I call product lead SEO. So you’re building a product around your search user really around your user that you’ve defined in your user journey, and using programmatic efforts to build a product. So you can build it not programmatically but programmatically makes it easiest.


Kenny Soto 21:14  

And just for the listeners, I struggled to conceptualize what programmatic is, correct me if I’m wrong, Eli. But a good example would be Zillow, where they’re ranking for home addresses that are or just home justice in general, but also real estate that’s available for sale. Correct.


Eli Schwartz 21:33  

So yes, but programmatic really means that so the different so the alternative programmatic is editorial. So editorial is your SEO if I’ve written out a piece containing 1000 words written out manually, GBT doesn’t really matter, but it’s worse. It’s something you read. Programmatic is typically something that provides information. And you’re using a variety of data sources. And it’s not manually written, each page is not manually in, but they’re components of the page. 


They’re manually written. So Zillow was my favorite example of programmatic because they’ve invented an entire category and made billions of dollars off that category. But programmatic is Yahoo, Finance, Google Finance, like any of those kinds of things, where you’re looking up, it’s pulling in live data. 


There are lots of sports websites that are programmatic, there are finances an easy place to be programmatic because I can, you can write an entire story about earnings, Tesla’s earnings by pulling in pieces of SEC pieces of the latest, you know, an announcement from Tesla pieces of, you know, an algo amalgamation of Elon Musk’s latest tweets and build an entire page that no one has manually written. So that’s all programmatic is. I also liked that when you’re doing programmatic, it has to be scalable. 


There shouldn’t be like, Oh, I’ve made a programmatic page, but it’s only three of them. The more pages you have, the more opportunities you have for driving traffic, getting them to be high quality has to search that people might look for. But scalability leads you to more potential traffic.


Kenny Soto 23:04  

SEO forecasting is something that you’ve recently posted about. And coincidentally, it’s a task that I have for q1, how to forecast SEO efforts for q2, q3 q4, and what are the basics of forecasting when it comes to SEO.


Eli Schwartz 23:23  

So in my post on LinkedIn, where I mentioned forecasting, I didn’t criticize it directly. But I always mean to criticize the way most people do forecasting, which is this bottoms-up keyword research, you know, estimation of what traffic will be. So you put a keyword into a tool, you don’t get actual keyword data, then you finger in the air, we’re like, I’m not going to be greedy, I’ll probably rank number seven, my click on the click-through rate on number seven is going to be x, which you know, amounts of this amount of clicks. 


And then from there, this is my conversion rate. So this is how much SEO revenue we can generate. It’s less like, wrong from the start because your keyword is wrong, you have no idea what keyword you’ll rank on, and you can try all the things you want all the links you want, but you have no idea if you rank on a keyword, even if you’re right on that keyword, the estimate on the number of searches is totally wrong. 


And just like I’m normalized guests, and rolled up. And then on top of that, you have no idea what your ranking is going to be. And on top of that, you have no idea what your click-through rate is going to be. The only number you may know is your conversion rate. But you only know that if you already have this long stable conversion rate of like for every page like this, we generate 2% conversion, but not everyone has that. 


So that doesn’t work. Even worse than that every time I’ve already ever done a bottoms-up forecast. So try this you do the bottoms forecast for last year. So you start with the beginning of last year. And then what you’ll get is like Oh, I did all of my numbers and I only got to 10% of what we actually generated because the bottoms up never work because you can’t account for all the keywords you didn’t get can account for all the different and variables that were just not there, to begin with. Instead, what I prefer to do is more of a top-down, which is the way most product forecasts work. 


So I’ll say something like, I’m making shoes for 10-year-olds. Again, this is not SEO, I’m making shoes for 10-year-olds in America. This is how many 10-year-olds there are in America. And this is how many 10-year-olds wear shoes 100%. And so of that, this is the total revenue generated by that category. I would like to shoot for based on these calculations, an X percent market penetration of that entire market. 


That’s sort of your dollar amount for every channel. And then you then use other tools to say, of the market. This is how much is generated in stores by people just walking in this is how much is generated by advertising. And let’s say 30% of that would be a fair estimate of my hope, my total market penetration to come from search, that’s always going to be a way bigger number than if you did that bottoms up. These are the keywords, blue shoe, Red Shoe shoe with laces, all that stuff. 


That’s your number. Now is that accurate? also potentially inaccurate. But that top-down is how the product manager is even factoring in how much they’re going to generate and justify making the shoe to begin with. All you’ve done is taken that small piece of it and say this is the SEO contribution. The product managers are already doing that there, let’s say from Superbowl ads. I mean, hopefully, if most of those Superbowl ads before anybody justify doing Super Bowl ads, they’re like, this is the number of eyeballs there are 130 million eyeballs that watch the Superbowl. 


This is how many are going to pay attention to our Pepsi commercials, and others Pepsi commercials. We expect this amount of people. Here’s our ROI from it again, I don’t know if Pepsi needs ROI from their commercials. But there’s a basic calculation. So going back to SEL, do you need an exact approximation? No. But that is a familiar way to do things. And is there a better way to say whether this justifies investment or not?


Kenny Soto 27:05  

Does Domain Authority still matter?


Eli Schwartz 27:09  

So domain authority is not something that the domain authority that you see from href SEMrush is not something that matters, Domain Authority. The way Google looks at domain authority does matter. Because it’s more of a brand authority. So they’re calculating in this will never see and I’m sure it’s probably still called PageRank. All of that together, and what is your relevance within that domain? So there’s a story I shared recently on LinkedIn, where I was at Survey Monkey. 


On three occasions, the Trump White House stole content from the survey monkeys blog. And when they stole the content, this is still on archive dot White House, I don’t know if the legs are still alive. But when they stole the content, they kept the links and they kept the inbound, the links that we had in our blog pointing to our own blog, other pages in the blog, they kept them in there. It didn’t do anything to the link pages. Like I was like, Oh, this is really cool. The White House stole our content. 


And again, they kept it completely whole, they kept the author there. It didn’t do anything to link pages, except the White House is like a da 90 or whatever it is. And that’s because on that the White House did not have enough authority in Google’s PageRank. So it’s not this raw, you know, and getting when Google first calculates PageRank Oh, this is like a PR nine. So everything that touches is now PR nine minus one, not one hole, but like 1.01. 


And it just links off from there. I don’t think it works like that now think that Google calculates, you know, oh, the White House is very relevant in politics. So, therefore, links to this thing. So maybe, in that case, the links would matter. And this is the topic that the content is and this is the query score and all that. Maybe it helps rank. But if it is just a random thing, like a survey, or monkey blog, no, I don’t think it matters.


Kenny Soto 28:52  

Now, another third real topic. This is something that at first when started happening, and I got worried about my job. But then I realized that like with all other things, just be patient, dive into the topic, and see what I can learn. How can I apply today? Artificial Intelligence and search. Should SEO professionals be worried about chat GPT and their integration with Bing? Should they be worried about Bard should start finding new ways to do marketing and picking a new channel like what’s going on?


Eli Schwartz 29:29  

I love this total freakout. And this is where like everything that you do with SEO, you just need to have this logical approach of like, how much does this matter? And how much does that make sense? And how do I incorporate this into what I’m doing? I think there are so many issues with AI and search, not the least of which there are legal implications. So you know, section 230, which they’ve talked about repealing where, you know, Facebook and Google don’t get in trouble on Twitter don’t get in trouble for the kinds of links they share. 


You know, maybe if AI gives you a recommendation, and it’s wrong, they are liable. But if you’re like looking at search results, and you find like, you know, a homepage for a terrorist organization and you become a terrorist, Google’s not responsible, because it’s just like we presented it to you, you clicked it. But if AI tells you how to become a terrorist, or how to make a bomb, maybe that’s a problem. So there are legal implications there. 


Then there’s another interesting thing, which I just heard on the radio, the earliest morning 50, according to Gallup, 50% of Americans think that the news is biased and is meant to trick them into doing something. So there are so many people in the world that when they see AI content, they’re gonna think the craziest conspiracy theorists are gonna think that a human in the FBI is like typing out the result for them. So programming them, like, did Trump win the 2020 election? The FBI is gonna write it out. No, Trump did not win me See, I told you that thing is biased. But even more than that, people just think it’s biased. 


So like now, instead of like using Google and being like, well, I trust Google, because the results are there. It’s not from Google. It just brought me there. There are still people that think that Google is biased and changes results around. But now when Google itself or Bing itself for chacha, BT itself tells you, like, No, I don’t trust that. That’s, that’s like the man, the man is telling me what to think. So I think that people are overthinking how much this will matter, to a person on the street doing a search. 


I guess, you know, we’re all early adopters, we’re all technologists, we all understand search, but it really comes down to personal experience in the street. Now in America, and the entire world, how much will this matter? You know, to people and totalitarian regimes? Do I trust AI? Or do I think it was controlled by the FBI, their country? So? Yes, it’s cool. It’s helpful. I think there are fun things you can do. 


Does this fundamentally change? Most search? Probably not. If you’re in a search world where you like you’re given sports scores, or you’re given financial news and the kinds of facts that can’t be challenged? Like, what did Tesla close out today? And like Chachi, BTS, like, here’s Tesla, you know, is Tesla a better stock than Google? And it’s not objective, like, these are the numbers. 


And yes, you should invest in Tesla don’t invest in Google. Okay, I would, I would trust that, you know, did Trump win the election? Again, you’re gonna have people that are gonna be like, You ignored some statistics there, right? So like, those are the kinds of things like we’re overthinking how much it matters. And if you’re in a space, like, again, factual, be a little nervous. If you are in a space, like a media space, I’m not so nervous just yet. If you’re in an E-commerce space, I don’t think this changes anything.


Kenny Soto 32:41  

That’s good. That’s reassuring to hear. And it’s interesting, because there’s going to be a lot of people listening to this, who are just starting out their career specifically in search, or they’re marketers trying to transition into search. With that being said, if someone were to get into the search this year, what are the core skills you would recommend they know, before starting their first SEO job?


Eli Schwartz 33:09  

Curiosity, I think is the most important tool for anybody in digital marketing. So I don’t think you need skills, I think you need to be curious and think you need to find something and, and be interested to dig in to find out more. Skillswise, I think it’s important to understand a little bit of math. So you can do a little analysis, but very, very, very little math, you don’t need to be any sort of math genius. 


And a little bit of code, as you know, I think it’s helpful if you’re doing digital marketing, to understand the code that underpins things, you be able to look at the source, go to a website, build your own little code, build your own, you know, Python to look things up, and be able to access API’s. But you don’t really need that many skills. If this is something you want to do, and you’re curious about it, you’ll learn things on the fly.


Kenny Soto 33:53  

Yeah, I found that all of the things that I’ve learned are a combination of listening to experts on podcasts, getting newsletter information, then applying it to my actual day-to-day work, seeing if it’s actually moving the needle in the right direction, and just going from there. At the end of the day, you have to do the work to really learn stuff.


Eli Schwartz 34:14  

Absolutely. And you know, some people get lucky, like, Guy day where I got to work on some really big brands. And then you get more data to be curious about and learn more like, you know, there were a couple of companies I worked at where they get over a billion impressions a month on search, so big, that you can’t really play with it in the UI. 


And that’s great for learning. Not everyone gets an opportunity to do that. So if anybody ever gets access to a site that has lots and lots of impressions, lots and lots of clicks, play with it, and you’ll learn a ton about SEO. But if you don’t like to build your own website and get billions of impressions, they can learn a ton about SEO.


Kenny Soto 34:51  

Yeah. Now I have two more questions for you. My next one doesn’t need to be just SEO. It can be marketing in general. For the listeners who want credible resources, and credible experts to follow, can you provide three, maybe four people that you would recommend that we research and follow online?


Eli Schwartz 35:14  

So my favorite person to follow is Barry Schwartz on search engine roundtable. He just reports the news. He is not a consultant. He has a development shop. So he doesn’t even benefit financially from any of this stuff he provides, although people think he controls Google and all that. So he’s just got great updates. 


You know, these are the things I’m seeing on Twitter. These are the things I’m seeing in the forum, so I strongly recommend following him on Twitter. The latest solace is how she has a great newsletter with some great updates, Steve Toth, I, you had him as a past guest and love his newsletter. And Kevin Indyk, my podcast partner, also has great SEO updates.


Kenny Soto 35:55  

Now, Eli, my last question for you is hypothetical because time machines do not exist. But if one did, and you can go back into the past about 10 years, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Eli Schwartz 36:10  

I’d go back 20 years, and I would build more spammy websites. Everyone always looks like Oh, though times are so easy back then. You know what you know right now and be like there was, you know, I didn’t take enough advantage. I had little websites, it’s now if you’re doing affiliate marketing, it’s really hard. A lot of competition, but take what you know now and go back to before that existed. 


And it would be so much more fun and so much more out there. People have made millions of dollars. And the last thing I would say on that is, you know, on the topic of AI content, there was a WordPress plugin. I’m sure it still exists, but I’m sure it’s useless, which I remember having in 2010, maybe 2011, called caffeinated content. And what this plugin would do is you’d pull in, like RSS feeds, which hardly exist nowadays. 


And they would take one of all these RSS feeds and mix up all the content, and it would change like words using synonyms. That’s basically Jeff GBT, the 2009 version. And what they called it back then was spun content. I’m sure you’ve heard that word, spawn content. So there was no AI, it was just like, I don’t know, the washing machine for content. And it worked on Google like you just created absolute crap content. 


And with keywords, you put your main keyword and like, here’s crap content. So we’re way smarter than that now with AI and make it look like real content, but still computer-driven cotton. So anybody is like freaking out like, oh, everything’s changed. Now there’s AI content is gonna be so much crap on the internet. There always was crap on the internet.


Kenny Soto 37:50  

Yeah, and, to add to that I was listening to, I have a new favorite podcast. It’s called My first million with a sandbar, and Sean Perry was talking about naval Raava Khan, and his tweets online. And they highlighted something that I think will always be the case, it’s kind of going to become a cliche if it isn’t already. Finding original content online is hard enough. 


But if you have original wisdom and original insights, that only you can provide from your own life experiences, that’s the gold nugget that you need to market that you need to use for your marketing, where no one else knows this information. Or no one else has this perspective, because it’s coming from a personal point of view. And that’s the kind of source material if you will, that you should be leveraging.


Eli Schwartz 38:39  

That is That sounds very reasonable and very accurate.


Kenny Soto 38:43  

Now, Eli, if anyone wants to find you online, where can they go? Say hi.


Eli Schwartz 38:48  

Check me out on LinkedIn. So just search for me, Eli Schwartz on LinkedIn. Find me on my blog, Eli I have a newsletter on sub stacks product lead SEO dot substack and Twitter five le and of course, check out my book on Amazon product lead SEO.


Kenny Soto 39:05  

And I’ll put all that in the show notes. And again, thanks a lot for your time today. And thank you to the listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. And as always, I hope everyone has a great week. Bye.


Eli Schwartz 39:16  

Thank you for having me, Kenny.

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