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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

35 The Long-term Value of SEO - Gert Mellak

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Gert Mellak of SEO Leverate joins Erik and Tim to discuss the long-term value that meaningful SEO results can bring to a company.

A quality SEO strategy begins with understanding what your traffic is worth. Gert says, “You can have thousands of visitors, if they don't convert, if they don't do what you expect them to do, they fill in a form, they request a proposal, they download a catalog, they at least click on your about page, your contact page to figure out who you are and where you located, you really don't know what the traffic is worth.”

The amount of traffic a website generates is trivial compared to conversions. Conversions are what is important. Gert says, “So, we try to raise a lot of awareness with SEO around what actually matters, which is conversions. It's not traffic. Sometimes it's even healthy for a site to take off a huge portion of the traffic if it's useless and irrelevant.”

Knowing customers' needs and creating an SEO experience that fulfills those needs is the key to conversion. Gert says, “So, we really need to see what is the traffic worth across the different channels, get those conversions, and now we have a completely different discussion. It's not about how can we get a hundred thousand visitors anymore. It's about how can I make sure that these key content pieces that I know drive the right audience in actually get exposure and actually get conversions.”

Effective SEO takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and patience. Companies need to understand that SEO is a long-term investment. Gert explains, “Obviously, SEO is a long game...”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about creating SEO that produces long-term benefits.

About the Guest:

Gert is the Founder of SEO Leverage, a team of 30 people that helps businesses grow through SEO.

Gert has been doing SEO for 20+ years, almost as long as SEO has been a thing. He is also the author of The ERICA Framework: Your Answer to the Toughest SEO Challenges, which outlines the formula for achieving a high SEO Return on Investment.


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm Tim Curtis, your co-host.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: Today we're lucky to have Gert Mellak on the show. Gert is the founder of SEO Leverage, a team of about 30 that helps businesses grow through SEO. Gert's been doing SEO for 20-plus years, which is almost as long as SEO has been a thing. He is also the author of The ERICA Framework: Your Answer to the Toughest SEO Challenges, which outlines the formula for achieving a high SEO return on investment. Thanks, Gert, and [00:01:00] welcome to the show.

Gert Mellak: Thank you very much, guys. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks for the intro. I'm very much looking forward to the discussion.

Tim Curtis: Good. Well, glad to have you. What we kind of like to do is get started off and give everybody just a real brief description of your journey and how you started SEO Leverage.

Gert Mellak: Absolutely. So, I started out as a web developer. I did my fair share of programming, web programming, web design, Ecommerce programming, all these kinds of things over many years. Too many, if I may say. After even selling my first website, I think I sold it for $200 or something like this to a local shop in my hometown. I very quickly noticed that you can have it the best website, it's not worth anything if nobody finds it. And so I got very early on actually into the place where we had to do something on the website to really get them ranking and get them exposed to the right people.

I'm really thankful for the opportunities those local companies gave to a 16-year-old back then to prove that there's something out there that needs to be done. Really over [00:02:00] the years, we have been doing all kinds of things in digital marketing, but SEO was always like the constant thing we were always focusing on and growing over time. So, a few years back, at some point I said, look let's just strip this down to where we get the best result, and this was really with SEO and with the methodology that we have developed over time.

Erik Martinez: So Gert, that leads right into the next question. You wrote this book called The ERICA Framework: Your answer to the Toughest SEO Challenges. Why did you write the book and tell us a little bit more about it.

Gert Mellak: This was really based on a methodology, the acronym ERICA stands for Evolution, Research, Interlinking, Content, and Action steps, and we're probably going to dive into a few of those points a little bit later. I've learned from my mentor James Schramko that it's a good idea to have acronyms and processes for whatever you have as like a methodology. This one just made sense because those are the steps I want to always go through every couple of weeks on every project we work on, and [00:03:00] this just at some point this became a thing. We internally used this, applied this to a lot of projects and it got like really good results for several reasons.

First of all, many clients came to us and said, look, we were with this agency over there. They ran our SEO for five years. We have no idea what they were doing, and now we even see some keywords drop. So, we are now literally looking for a different approach to SEO than what the normal agency would do with the monthly reporting sent and nobody to talk to. So, this was where the evolution came in. So, every couple of weeks we make sure that we explain to our clients, look, this is the evolution of your SEO. This is where you are right now. This is where your traffic comes in. This is where your conversions come in. Do we understand this? Yes. Great. Let's move on.

The R stands for research and research, for me in SEO, is probably one of the most underrated things ever out there. Lots of people just apply what they think of best practices. Hardly anybody does their research. Here it's really important to understand that Google's algorithm is much more complex these days than a [00:04:00] certain set of ranking factors sometimes, some SEOs publish out there. Because essentially it's a whole set of layers of different algorithms, and every keyword in every location triggers a different set of those algorithm layers.

There is a lot of research that needs to go into what you want to rank a site for. What does Google do and what do they do over time, which can shift heavily? I just was auditing a website right before this interview here, and we just saw that Google suddenly shifted and they now want to see something else. So, you need to really be very, very close to what is happening on Google. And this is where also this two-week sprint comes from, where every couple of weeks we reassess the entire thing.

Then we have this I, for Interlinking, we call this internal and external linking. This just links us still apart from content, the main ranking factor out there, but we also need to make sure that we focus on the internal linking, how we place internal relations between different pieces of content [00:05:00] on a site together with the links from external.

And then we have the C for Content. Content is king. Content ultimately is what we need in order to even be eligible for Google ranking. And A is action steps. So, every couple of weeks we define a sprint. Sprint, meaning these are the three, four things we want to do in the next couple of weeks. And these need to be executed, and these are filtered out from a whole lot of tasks we could be working on. All of them might be good for SEO, quote-unquote, but we try to do a really good job in figuring out what are the best tasks to focus on for our particular client in their situation, in their geography, in their competitive landscape and based on the business goals they want to see supported with SEO.

Erik Martinez: Your book. I've read pieces of it. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet.

Gert Mellak: Appreciate it.

Erik Martinez: By the way, very easy to read, very understandable.

Gert Mellak: It was supposed to be an easy one. Yeah.

Erik Martinez: Yeah. It's very easy to read. SEO can be a very technical topic, and there's [00:06:00] lots of different aspects to it, and I think Gert did a really good job of breaking it down into some simple to understand pieces. It looked like, in reading through the book, that you really are just trying to set the framework for people that they should look at all of these things to help improve their SEO or their agency can help improve their SEO on their behalf. In your experience, where do people fail the most in that process?

Gert Mellak: It's an excellent question. You're absolutely right, a framework is just making sure that whoever works on the SEO if they follow the framework, they're not going to miss out on an important part of the equation. So, if we consistently monitor the evolution and see what converts, what doesn't convert, we are not going to forget about the conversions.

We consistently do competitive research. We are not going to miss out on something a competitor might have discovered and things like those. So, absolutely right. It's the process and it's the guideline [00:07:00] essentially that tells us where to go, but then they still obviously need some experience, and especially being a little bit goal-driven on then figuring out what needs to be focused on.

Where we see people go wrong are probably different areas. So, one is picking the wrong battles directly. Where I say, okay, I believe I'm an SEO agency, I need to rank whenever somebody types an SEO. No, I don't. Right? But many people are going to expect it because they sell iPhone cases. They need to rank for iPhone.

So, people very often pick the wrong battles and then get frustrated because if you have been trying to rank for iPhone for 12 months or 24 months, and you're still not there, it might just be because you picked the wrong battle and you're not even eligible with the type of site to get this ranking. I could try to run a marathon, but if I can't even make the hundred meters, I'm probably not going to be eligible for even starting at a marathon, and this is pretty much the same thing. So, people picking the wrong battle would probably the first that comes to mind.

The [00:08:00] second, people writing content and thinking that just because the content is good, Google should be ranking them, and this is one we very often encounter. We work a lot with very established blogs that used to do really well a few years ago, and then come to us and say, look what has happened in the last three years. I was so busy working through my waiting list that they completely forgot about or lost track of what now is important for SEO. So, they come to us and we slowly rebuild this up.

And this is where we see a lot of people just thinking that if you share your experience and you have just the best content, as much as you can judge out there, Google should really give you the traffic. And this was the case in the past because there was no competition. So, there was a high chance that if you'd had a blog eight, ten years ago that whatever you put out there got traffic because there was just hardly any competition. Today, for every kind of content, you're going to have 500,000 pages who also could be ranking.

So, Google needs to figure out things like user experience, things like search [00:09:00] intent. What do those search users actually want from you? How do they want to consume your content? Which device they're going to use? So, it just got really complex. So, this is where we see people treating Google like a social media platform where they're saying, look, I am so experienced. I'm going to share this now, and now I should be getting the exposure.

Google and a blog isn't the same as social media, so I don't have my followers. I need to really make sure that I serve ultimately the Google user with every single piece of content I put out. Or I just make a conscious decision and say, this is content that's not for Google, and that's fine. I just share this on social media. I can specifically, no index this, telling Google this is not for search. But be upfront about it and say, okay, this is not a piece of content that's going to be for search.

For example, in my own podcast at SEO Leverage, we have content pieces where I tell our writers, look, this is no need to write an article about this. This is just something I want to share with our audience. Let's no index this. Let's not write anything about this. This is not answering any search people [00:10:00] could be typing into Google. So, let's just deal with it as it is, and the next piece of content is then maybe a research one. We know people want to find.

Erik Martinez: I have this belief that most companies, not all, but many companies undervalue SEO, and I think they undervalue SEO, not because they don't know that it's productive and long-lasting, but because of all the things you just talked about. It's really hard work and it sounds very complicated when you describe it in terms of linking and writing a whole bunch of content.

Oh, by the way, you guys are doing this anyways, right? You're creating image assets and you're writing content. You're writing descriptions of your products or services. You are creating content when you do that, it's just a matter of knowing how to deploy that content in a lot of ways.

I also think because it isn't a quick hit. I can turn on Google Ads today and I can start [00:11:00] seeing traffic tomorrow, and SEO doesn't necessarily work that way. It can work pretty quickly. I've seen it work pretty quickly, but I think it could be really undervalued because, in the scale of things that are easy to do, it is, in my opinion, not the easiest thing to do. Is that a fair assessment? If that is a fair assessment, Gert, how do you convince organizational leaders to invest the time and energy to do it right?

Gert Mellak: Quite a few really interesting points and I love talking about this stuff. First of all, I believe clients very often don't see SEO related to their conversions. They see paid traffic and then no paid traffic is supposed to convert. And if I spend $5,000 on Google Ads, I have my cost per conversion. This is the knowledge many people come to us with. But they say, look, this is my cost per lead, or this is my cost per conversion, or this is how much it costs me to make a sale in my Shopify site. And then they see this SEO [00:12:00] thing they should be ranking.

In the first call with a new client, we establish a conversion rate. We established a conversion tracking. It's really interesting, even seven-figure companies very often that we talk to, don't have a proper conversion tracking in place for their Google and Google Analytics. We really start out there because I want to make sure that the client understands this is the value of the current SEO traffic when we start.

And SEO traffic already encompasses both branded traffic, people typing in your brand name in Google, and non-branded traffic. When I take out what kind of traffic comes into my site and I'm already there where I break it down by channel and say, okay, what comes through paid ads and what comes through organic, which would be the SEO traffic as we call it very often, then I'm still not looking at the full picture because part of this traffic has typed in my brand name. If I type in Apple iPad, it's not really an SEO myriad of [00:13:00] to get found because I was typing in the brand name anyway.

The easiest thing you can rank for is your brand name. So, you really want to always break things down to the last level in order to figure out what's happening in all. We try to make sure that we focus on conversions, establish what does your traffic right now do? You can have thousands of visitors, if they don't convert, if they don't do what you expect them to do, they fill in a form, they request a proposal, they download a catalog, they at least click on your about page, your contact page to figure out who you are and where you located, you really don't know what the traffic is worth.

Very often we encounter sites that get a lot of traffic to a couple of pages that just happen to rank well, because two planets were aligned in the full moon or something like that, and it was really just by accident that those articles drive traffic, but they drive zero conversion and zero intent. So, we really need to see what is the traffic worth across the different channels, get those [00:14:00] conversions, and now we have a completely different discussion. It's not about how can we get a hundred thousand visitors anymore. It's about how can I make sure that these key content pieces that I know drive the right audience in actually get exposure and actually get conversions.

Obviously, SEO is a long game, but also if you start a Google Ads campaign today, you're not going to have the best ideal client and highest quality leads right away. You're going to buy data, especially in a new campaign, and if you just start out with Google Ads. So, the first week, sometimes month, you are buying data. You're going to try to get your campaign into KPI, as we say very often, into the KPIs that you actually need to make this work. So, very often we compare SEO is the long game and paid ads is the quick win.

If this was the case, nobody would do anything else because paid ads would be the obvious choice because it just started and it works. It's not that way. [00:15:00] It's not ROI positive very often for weeks or months until you have your funnel figured out and you have it tweaked, and then you still need to continue tweaking it.

So, we try to raise a lot of awareness with SEO around what actually matters, which is conversions. It's not traffic. Sometimes it's even healthy for a site to take off a huge portion of the traffic if it's useless and irrelevant. We just reduce the website by 70% in traffic in order to make sure that what Google actually considers them for is their products and not any irrelevant queries, but we are getting the same conversions.

Interesting. So, we take a 70% off the traffic, but get the same number of conversions because it was only a fraction of the traffic that was relevant in the first place. Then when we talk about conversions, now we really have something our clients can relate to. Where they can say, okay, you're getting 500 opt-ins now per month, you're getting 300 opt-ins. What will this cost in the paid channel? We have a client getting several thousand email opt-ins every month. What will [00:16:00] this cost in the paid ads? He wouldn't be able to afford it. And this is where you get the long-term payoff.

This requires, especially if somebody hasn't dealt with SEO before, requires a lot of information and education. So, we try to make sure people understand where this goes. But we also, I think, have come with our software platform, we have created a long way in showing what we very often call micro progress. So, look, this term was ranking on page eight of Google. Now, it's on page five. Look, this was on page five. Now, it's on page four. This is not going to do anything with your revenue just yet, but you see we are heading in the right direction. This is so important and very often I see agencies miss. Where they just say, look, I'm going to send you the monthly reports. There's nothing in there for you. And then in 12 months, you can expect something there.

Clients need to be taken by their hand. We always try to make sure they understand why we do something. We try not to get too technical, but we make sure that we take them along with us on the way and say, look, this is important because this is a keyword [00:17:00] that's related to high conversions. So, if we get this keyword more exposure or this page more exposure, you are going to get more conversions. And then we say, look, this is what we did. We have a change log inside the app where people can just click on the change log and see this was the change that was done on the website. This was the situation before. This is the situation now. Now, I'm getting 10, 20 leads every month on this article before I got three. This is something that heads in the right direction. Perfect. Let's continue and scale it up.

Tim Curtis: So, a couple of things that you mentioned there, and I kind of wanna go back. There's a lot more work-related SEO in terms of setting the stage about why it's important. I use the exact same analogy with your paid versus your organic SEO. Paid is quick. It's a quick return. It's a short game. SEO is long game. A business is not gonna thrive and survive if they don't take a look at the long game.

I absolutely agree with Erik that inside of organizations, SEO is not necessarily always as high a priority. I think that's a clean miss [00:18:00] because the type of traffic that comes from SEO, you look at all the studies and it typically converts better, it has a longer lifetime value, all the good long-term elements, right? But SEO is complicated. It's sort of like on shifting sand. The example you gave of Google now wanting to look at this. Boom. That stuff happens overnight. You don't always have a good indication that that stuff is coming.

As I sit, and I've sat in the brand seat before, if you're a chief marketing officer and you're looking at your media mix, you're learning about SEO and why you need to be in SEO for some of that long-term game. There's a decision to be made. Do we do this internally or do we do this externally?

Initially, years ago, back when Erik and I were doing this within the brand walls, it was much easier to do internally because it wasn't as complicated. You didn't have as many pages trying to rank. You just didn't have that kind of pressure. Now, it's a completely different game and it's a vocational specialty, is what I call it. You're an agency, so you've already picked aside, but give your [00:19:00] perspective on that in-house versus agency for something as complicated as SEO.

Gert Mellak: It's a really interesting topic. So, there are definitely a lot of advantages, especially at first site for an in-house while speaking in favor of an in-house role. Where I say, look, I'm going to have a person that's growing with the company. They know the ins and outs of our business and they're going to apply, pair this up with the SEO knowledge they come in with, and then represent us on SEO.

If there was a person that had an experience an agency can have. Like, we're working on 40 projects all the time, different industries, different countries, that was an expert of your industry. I would take this person, put it inside your industry and make sure this person never leaves. A few things to this. This usually doesn't happen.

Tim Curtis: Right.

Gert Mellak: So, you usually have an industry expert who learns some SEO, or you have an SEO who learns a little bit of your industry when it's an in-house role. You hardly, I might be stepping on some toes here, in my experience, [00:20:00] I hardly come across in-house SEOs who would have a comparable profile to an agency and who are at the same time industry experts. And then this person might leave tomorrow, and it might take you a few months to find a replacement and get them up to speed to the level this person was if it wasn't the unicorn anyway.

Whereas with an agency, you usually have a contract. You have an agency. That in our case, we spend the first weeks and months learning a client's industry. I have a workshop call with every client, every three months to get additional insights about their industry. So, we make a conscious effort in learning more and more things about them. We run deep analysis on our client's competitors. We get to a very good level of understanding, I would say, in most industries. Some, if they're too technical, it's hard to do SEO anyway without a liaison in the company helping you out with content. But usually [00:21:00] we have a very good understanding of how the industry works. This is usually enough to do very good SEO.

So, I believe as an agency, just with the advantage we have with working on so many different projects at the same time, but still having always a dedicated team of four or five people to a project that really dive into the project, the business goals, the priorities, and the calls, et cetera. I think this puts us in a very powerful position. I don't think it's easy to compete as an in-house SEO.

Tim Curtis: You look at two things that you said there. The piece that I started noticing a few years ago was the turnover within a brand side. So, if you're on a client-side and you have it a vocational specialty like SEO internally, those are positions that are in demand and they're turning over, quite frankly, because there's always somebody willing to pay more.

The damage, the collateral damage from someone leaving in that position is it really cripples the company from moving forward on any of their SEO initiatives. In many [00:22:00] respects, they start over and so they've set themselves back significantly in that long-term game. That's where I think when brands begin to understand that, I certainly did, I started then outsourcing some of those components about, I can't afford to be down that long in a replacement of key personnel. Just can't do it.

Gert Mellak: Absolutely, and there's an additional nuance which people very often forget. I had a client at some point weighing up what our monthly retainer with a salary. We had a really good relationship back then, and he was like, hey, look, I have to just run the numbers in my company, and if I pay you this, I can hire a person and this is now my person working full-time rather than your agency not doing the full 40 hours every week. And I was like, yeah, the calculation is good, but with an agency, you're not only getting one person.

If you want to weigh it up with one person, first of all, this person never can go on vacation. This person can never get sick, and it can never leave your company for a start. But with an agency, you're looking at [00:23:00] a writer, experienced writer with many years of experience. You're looking at a link builder doing this for many, many years. You're looking at an SEO, usually a strategy role, and then on top of that, usually an account manager really managing this entire team.

So, very often with our projects, most clients have a team of five people assigned to their project. So, you need those five roles, which are very, very different in order to do it in-house, what an agency does. It's not like you hire one SEO person. Now they are going to be capable of writing really, really good 3000 words articles everybody wants to read, and then they're able to reach out to 3000 websites in order to run the PR for those articles and get them ranking or do the technical analysis on your side. It's not happening. These roles don't exist anymore.

Tim Curtis: We can move on after this, but the other last example I have is always watch the career progression. What's the career progression on an SEO person? Typically, it's client-to-agency. When they get to a certain point of expertise [00:24:00] and domain expertise and knowledge, they shift into an agency role because that's where they can flourish and that's where they can shine. That's typically the career progression that you see.

So, when you are hiring in-house and you're going in-house, it's not that it can't be done, but it's that it won't be as efficient. There is a much higher risk profile, much higher risk profile because of employee turnover, et cetera, and then lastly, it's just the general knowledge pool. You just cannot replace the learnings that happen so quickly in an agency environment because you're learning from multiple different clients. You're watching industry happenings, and on the client side, they just don't have the same visibility.

As SEO has evolved over the years, it has moved more into, I would say, again, that specialty role. As a chief marketing officer and you're looking at this, it's harder and harder to build all those teams in-house and to have sort of a walled garden.

Gert Mellak: Very often for companies who [00:25:00] don't have a CMO yet, it makes much more sense to get a really good CMO who is able to bring in the experts necessary. Like just for paid ads agency, on SEO agency, Facebook experts, YouTube, whatever it is for specific platforms, rather than trying to have your own marketing department where you are going to end up for every channel with different roles. Just for a pay ads funnel, there are so many different roles you need and so many tools that these people need to be able to manage apart from the strategies.

It's just really, really hard and everything is learned from scratch versus where in agency you already built upon a lot of prior information. If I just think about all the SEO tests we run on all kinds of clients where I can use some tests from one client, apply them to the other one because I have seen this working already.

When a new course site comes in, for example. We have so much experience with online courses. I don't need to start from scratch testing for this particular site, something I already know what has been working in the last three years in this [00:26:00] industry. And for courses and their funnel and how to bring in people and what kind of keywords to look for. We have all this knowledge as an agency, so it's just a big leverage point.

I understand why people really weigh this up as a decision, especially companies that have just grown in a very traditional way maybe, and just hired the experts and want to have them close. But we also look at the landscape where, like you said, the turnover is really big. It's just not realistic that this person is going to stick with you for five or ten years. They might leave after two, and what happens then? You're back starting from scratch. You can always change agency if you're not happy with the results you're getting or don't have the transparency or the ROI you expect. But it's easier to switch agency than finding another in-house person.

Tim Curtis: Exactly.

Erik Martinez: Let's pivot a little bit. You were just talking about testing in SEO. I think a lot of clients don't think about testing in SEO as being something that you can do. Can you just, at a very, very high level, talk about [00:27:00] what types of tests, if a company's not running any tests. What are like one or two examples of tests that you should run that would have a meaningful impact?

Gert Mellak: First of all, we need to see that testing in SEO is different from paid ads channels. So, in SEO, I'm not able to test the exact same URL, same page, in two different versions, and show one version to half of the people, one version to the other one, because I never know when Google is going to come and check my site. So, I can't do this. I can just make changes, on usually a sample of pages.

So, imagine you have a blog with 200 blog posts, for example. Again, we usually do those tests mainly based on conversions. So, we have a theory why certain conversions are not coming through. We might pick a sample of five or ten blog posts and do a drastic change on them and track, what does the conversion do after this change on those blog posts. Then see was this a good idea based on the [00:28:00] data. Or are we better off undoing this change and going back to the last version?

When we see this was a good idea because, for example, just the location of some call-to-action buttons, some opt-ins, or something like this on a page make a lot of difference. The most traditional way you're going to find it is that somebody has a long blog post, and the last line is, if you want to know more, reach out or contact us, like the standard call to action people have on their blog posts. And then you suddenly say, let's just try to put a call action in the middle and on top as well and see what happens. And you do this on a sample of five or ten articles and track the conversion rate.

Chances are the conversion rate is going to go up because you just give people multiple ways to do something. And then when you see this was a good idea, apparently you can do another round and roll this out to 20 other pages and see, can I really prove this again, that when I do this on those 20 other pages, conversions go up. Now this is something maybe we should now make [00:29:00] part of our SOPs, our start operating procedures, for publishing content, that we always have all these call to actions in there.

Another thing can be the layout. So, very often we see today that Google values user experience almost more than the actual content on the page, or equally. So, you might just restructure an article and try to make it more user-friendly and do this for a sample of articles and see how do they perform delivering for more keywords. Do we get better user engagement metrics? Make a decision before you design the test on how you're going to measure the outcome. But very often these changes already matter a lot.

Another thing can be that sometimes people artificially push the content down too much because they have a huge slider on top, which looks really good in design, but it's bad for user experience again. So, maybe take this slider off on a few articles, check what they do. And we have made this inside the platform for our clients, we have just made this easy. They can just paste in the sample of URLs they want to track, and the platform does the rest to tell them if this [00:30:00] was a good idea or not. After a few weeks, it's going to take a few weeks until you have the data necessary, but then you can make a clear data-driven decision rather than a hunch of what you think this should actually look like.

Erik Martinez: Those are excellent examples of simple things that could be done on a website today to do some testing in SEO, and I think a lot of people overlook the power of being able to test in SEO. I want to shift tracks a little bit. One of the things that you say in your book, and I hope I'm not misquoting you, you said there's limited evidence that SEO and paid search working together improves results. I've seen some evidence in favor of it. I've seen some evidence where it didn't make a difference.

When you use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs, and you look and see how many search terms actually have a paid ad associated with it, you realize it's actually a pretty finite [00:31:00] universe. So, in my experience, I see mixed results. I think you're saying you're seeing mixed results. Can you dive into that topic and tell us a little bit about why you think there's no direct correlation between those two?

Gert Mellak: This usually starts with a question I get on calls where clients say, do I need to run Google Ads in order to improve my SEO? Because very often people do not differentiate where results come up. They do not pay attention to those results marked as ads specifically on top. They just say whatever comes up. It was like this long-standing myth. Whoever is on top is probably paying Google in order to be there. It's only the big guys and blah blah and all these kinds of things.

So, we need to understand there are those two channels. So, one is Google Ads. I put in a keyword and I bid on a keyword and tell Google, look, you can charge me up to 50 cents or $5 or whatever in order to show my ad on top. If somebody types in iPhone cases, Madrid, then I want to have my ads shown there, right? So, [00:32:00] this is what Google search ads on a very basic level would look like.

So, people now say, look, if I want to come up organically where I don't have to pay, maybe I need to pay Google ads because then Google is going to treat me better in the organic results, and this is where this question very often comes up. They even see this correlation with Facebook ads and say, if I run Facebook ads and I spend $5,000 a day there, is this going to help my SEO? So, people very often happy to pay more for Facebook ads if this would increase their SEO ranking.

For a start, there is no direct relation we could ever prove, not even limited, no direct connection, neither with Google ads nor with any social media activities per se. Now that being said, I have seen an indirect relation, and an indirect relation around the brand specifically. So, what we have seen several times is people running Facebook ads for example, and suddenly [00:33:00] getting a lot more organic traffic. Why? Because they got more branded traffic.

And this is what I was saying initially, we need to break it down. So, you might get a lot of Google traffic suddenly because you were running a lot of Facebook ads, and you got a lot of brand exposure and a lot of people now search for your brand that weren't searching for your brand before. Google Analytics is going to report it as Google traffic. They say, look, this traffic comes from Google. Because those people memorized your Facebook, your brand name, and typed in your brand plus reviews or something like this and came to your website.

Now, Google Analytics has last click attribution as a standard attribution, I think with GA4, I think this changed, I'm not exactly sure, but where they're just going to show you what the last click was, the last channel was that people used to find you. And what this means is they're going to forget the entire journey before, and they're going to just tell you the Google part. They don't tell you that those people have seen you on Facebook before. So, this is where we just see [00:34:00] that we can't really interpret the data without knowing what is actually happening in entire universe.

I had a client literally tell me the Google search traffic broke down. When we analyzed it, we saw the rankings were exactly the same, just that they had stopped a month prior their Facebook ads campaign where they were spending a considerable amount of money. So, we analyzed this further, and so it was really the branded traffic going down, not the traffic that was looking for their products and services.

So, there is a relation between how people are aware about your brand and what you might be seeing in Google traffic. Then the more people search for your brand, Google is definitely, and this is what I'm convinced of, is definitely taking note of an increased brand awareness, which ultimately makes you a more relevant player in the space, and with relevance comes a higher ranking.

Erik Martinez: Great answer. Thank you for your perspective on that. One last question before we move to wrap up. When we talk about content, I [00:35:00] think a lot of people, and I was guilty of this years ago, really think that SEO is just about written content. You think of a blog and its written content. In your experience when coming up with content, a written portion is a very important piece of it, but there are other elements that are also important. What are those elements and what do you think people should focus on or companies should focus on in terms of creating content that will help maximize the value of their SEO effort?

Gert Mellak: That's an excellent question. I believe the value depends on the search intent. So, the search intent means why does somebody type in a search query in the first place? If I type in height of the Eiffel Tower, all I want to know is how many feet or meter or whatever it is, and that's it. I don't need anything else, and this is why Google is smart enough to even extract this information and show it directly before I hit [00:36:00] enter. They're going to give me the answer. They don't need a website because they know exactly what the search user wants.

A search user looking for, buy brown shoes, searching for buy brown shoes. We know what they want. They want an Ecommerce site, and Google is going to try to serve an Ecommerce site. So, it really depends on the search intent that Google thinks lies behind the search query, what value actually means. I can have 10,000 words about the Eiffel Tower. If I'm not highlighting the meters, and Google is going to send the traffic to the page that, in a very concise format, highlights the height because this is what the searcher wants.

So, we really need to break it down and say, okay, what is valuable for a search user? And if this is an article, what kind of article? If this is somebody looking for a comparison between different products like we see very often on affiliate sites. They are going to expect tables for comparisons. They are going to expect product images. They are going to [00:37:00] expect videos showing how this product is used, ideally firsthand videos, not manufacturer videos. They are going to expect to get some insights, or like an editor's choice, et cetera.

Behind the search intent or a type of content, there is like a little bit of an expectation. Okay, so it is still about written content for the most part, but written content can also mean a few lines and a lot of images on this blog post if this is what people want. If you search, for example, for motivational quotes for gyms, you're going to come across a lot of sites that have quotes as images that you can download.

So, this is like a blog post only consisting of images that you can download, nothing else. There's hardly any text on that, but this is exactly what the search user wants. Google knows this because they have enough data. They can throw a lot of Google search results out and track what people engage in a better way with. So, value or what's valuable, what's good content, what's content that can rank, really depends [00:38:00] on where you want to rank. What kind of keyword do you want to rank and what kind of intent does the search user have that types in this keyword?

Erik Martinez: That's fantastic. I think we've all had those discussions is what content is most important. Either you stray one way or another. I think people have tendencies and companies have tendencies too. They've got a strong writing team. They put out a lot of words, right? If they've got a strong design team, they put out a lot of images, but they don't necessarily blend them the way that you're talking about. And I think that's a really important aspect of SEO today. I think it's also a really important aspect of what you're doing in your social media in your content generation. You should be thinking about how to use this content across all the different platforms, even if it starts primarily as an SEO project. There's lots of other uses for some of this content that you're developing.

Gert Mellak: Ultimately, once you base this around conversions, a [00:39:00] lot of boxes are going to be ticked, a lot of questions are going to be answered anyway by the data that you have. So, when you see certain types of articles never drive conversions, there's definitely something happening there. If you see certain types of articles, never performing, not even getting traffic, there's probably a hidden potential, or maybe not even that hidden, in those types of articles that you have on your website.

Which is where very often we first start with a site audit and the content audit and say, okay, what is the content that's up there and what actually performs? Because Google might only show a fraction, sometimes 10, 20% of your articles to a considerable amount of people. There is probably a reason about this because 80% of your articles might not be written in a way that Google wants to show or Google users want to see. This is where very often it starts where some articles need to be much more visual, especially on mobile phones because if there's a wall of text on a mobile phone, everybody swipes back, and other articles might not have enough content where people just put in a [00:40:00] title and a video and think this is enough, and this might not be enough for Google to stick their teeth in, actually connect the dots necessary to understand what they're actually looking at.

So, we very often compare this to the dot-to-dot game my children are playing where they connect dot number one to dot number two, dot number three, and suddenly this is a cat, right? If you're not connecting all those dots for Google, they have no idea what this page is about. No idea. Google makes us imagine they're so smart, they can figure everything out. They can't. Google, in 2022, still relies heavily on the words on the page. So, either they have the words on the page, they have the words in images, they have the words in links to this page, but they still rely on the words on the page. So, just pasting in an image or a video or an infographic is not enough for Google to figure it out. One of our main roles very often is once we have figured out what kind of content drives the conversions to actually connect the dots for Google [00:41:00] and help them understand what this page is about.

Tim Curtis: So, Gert, as we wrap up here, what's a great way for someone to get ahold of you? If someone wants to reach out, how would you tell them to get ahold of you?

Gert Mellak: Absolutely. Just head over to There's enough information to book a call, get in touch with me. I'm doing usually all the calls and we check out your website. So, this would be an action plan. Can we help you? Can't we help you? If we can't, we point you elsewhere. If we can, we tell you how we can help you.

Tim Curtis: Good. That'd be great. Well, thanks again for coming on the show. We certainly appreciate it. And if nothing else for highlighting a very important and often not talked about topic, which is SEO and its value in long-term wealth for a company.

Gert Mellak: Thank you so much, Tim, Erik, for having me, absolutely. Great questions. Really interesting points we discuss with clients very often as well, so it's definitely been a pleasure.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, it has been. Taking us out, I'm Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: Thanks and enjoy the show. [00:42:00]

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