SEO in the Lab SEO in the Lab is an SEO podcast hosted by Alexis Sanders. The best and brightest SEO practitioners and webmasters share insights about the craft and give advice they've found useful in their journeys. Thu, 16 Apr 2020 18:29:34 +0000 en © 2019 Merkle Inc. Alexis Sanders episodic Alexis Sanders Alexis Sanders SEO in the Lab is an SEO podcast hosted by Alexis Sanders. The best and brightest SEO practitioners and webmasters share insights about the craft and give advice they've found useful in their journeys. SEO in the Lab is an SEO podcast hosted by Alexis Sanders. The best and brightest SEO practitioners and webmasters share insights about the craft and give advice they've found useful in their journeys. clean No SEO in the Lab 8. Interview w/ Eli Schwartz Tue, 18 Jun 2019 13:35:29 +0000 Alexis Sanders Resources: Eli’s Twitter: Eli’s LinkedIn: Eli’s article on SEO as the most efficient channel: Notes: [0:00] Intro [2:10] How long […]

The post 8. Interview w/ Eli Schwartz appeared first on

full 8 Resources:


[0:00] Intro

[2:10] How long did it take for SEO to be sought out as leaders within company?

  • SEO team should 
    • Have a strategy that works for their organization
    • Be easy to work with

[3:30]  How to do deal with someone that thinks they know everything, but actually know little?

  • Be willing to admit when you don’t know
  • Run tests and experiments

[5:40] How do you establish a testing culture?

  • Test against everything on you can (and it may make sense)

[8:00] What are the challenges of doing SEO for an eComm site with a strong lite/free version?

  • Challenging because we’re moved away from lower funnel conversions
    • An infrastructural advantage that makes SEO more challenging
  • Need to have a strong multi-touch, blended attribution system
  • What about infrastructure? 
    • Should companies offer free versions?
    • Who should SEO report to?

[13:50] What drew Eli to organic search? (specifically because he used to be the “marketing guy”)

[18:00] Any differences you’ve seen in working with different international markets?

  • Huge cultural component
  • Translations can be hard (since context can be lost)
  • What is that people are searching for? How to understand their intent?
  • Don’t discount value of calls to action? (even as an SEO) 

[21:00] SEO extending beyond getting visits?

  • Importance of driving ROI
    • Importance of getting organic team visibility within organization

[23:30] How to get internal visibility (as much as paid)?

  • Use data
    • Much traffic we drove, how much converted
    • How much we’re not spending on brand?

[24:30] SEO as the most efficient channel

[27:00] Does understanding/knowing how to program help SEO work?

  • Helps with being able to ask more clear requests (especially with engineers)
    • Understanding the logical processes
  • Being able to read code and debug issues
  • Being able to use Codecademy, Udemy, or Khan Academy to learn basics would help (not necessary, only if you want to)

[29:00] How to prepare a go-to-market strategy?

  • Understanding competition / players in the ecosystem
    • What do competitors rank for
    • What do their backlinks look like
  • What does the keyword landscape
  • Most challenging:
    • When the product and category don’t exist yet?
      • Super hard to forecast
    • Creating a brand name?
      • Google appear with a “did you mean”
  • Research
    • Keyword research
    • Quora
    • Reddit
    • Google Trends

[31:00] How do we promote SEO within our organizations?

  • Teach SEO at a high enough level that audience understands what you do, how much impact organic search has had, and when they should come to you
  • Talk about success journey / relevant studies

[32:30] What is the relationship between eCommerce and SEO?

  • Amazon team <- prioritized SEO and testing
    • Everyone now playing catch up 
    • It conditions us to go to Amazon

[34:30] Changes in SEO over the next five years?

  • Across every vertical SEO is going to change
  • Paid will grow, get more expensive
  • SEO growing, because everyone is going to want to figure it out

[36:00] Closing question
1. Be super diplomatic – come with plan A, B, and C. 
2. Go back to basics
3. Organic is the most important channel – keep working at it, it takes time to see results, it’s worth the effort

Favorite quotes:

  • “Everyone thinks they can drive a boat, but nobody thinks that they can fly a plane.” (Analogy to how reading one article doesn’t make you an expert in SEO.)
  • “I think of organic as a puzzle. There is no rule book… You really have to figure out the unique fingerprint of each site.”
  • “So you should make sure you team (if you’re on an organic team) has as much visibility and importance (as the paid search team), because you’re  you’re not spending money and doing the exact same thing as the paid (search) team and you’re driving that traffic for free.”
  • “When you’re working with larger companies, nothing is straight-forward.”

The post 8. Interview w/ Eli Schwartz appeared first on

clean No no no 39:24 Alexis Sanders
7. Interview w/ Steve Valenza, REI Mon, 10 Jun 2019 13:02:10 +0000 Alexis Sanders Resources: Steve’s LinkedIn: Little Warden: Uptime Robot: Google’s documentation on checking to see if lazy loading images works: […]

The post 7. Interview w/ Steve Valenza, REI appeared first on

full 5 1 Resources:


[0:00] Intros
[1:20] In-house versus agency (day-to-day, long-term vision, relationships, execution of tasks, etc.)
[2:43] Dealing with different personalities(developers vs. merchandising) 
– developers – close to the project
– merchandising – moving fast
– c-suite – prefer quick/concise, focused in #s
[6:21] Importance of internal education
[7:20] Shift from ranking-focused to customer focused
– work closely with UX
– most sites are good at basic SEO tasks
[10:00] How often to refresh internal trainings? what topics to choose?
– start w/evergreen 101s (e.g., pagination, facets)
– don’t assume anyone knows basic SEO 101s (e.g., meta elements)
– also important to try to build in guardrails for site deployments
[12:00] Structure of SEO team – breaking out content and technical
[13:30] Any reason/finding that people go content or technical? It’s the path
[14:50] What does a day-to-day of a technical SEO in eComm look like?- Start w/looking at log files, reporting
– Focusing on training and documentation
– Trying to get a framework to simple questions (building a resource library)
– Code review
[17:00] What in eCommerce do you need to get right?
– JS renderability
– Facet navigation (e.g., what categories indexed/noindexed? how specific of a facet?)
– Finding and fixing bugs
[23:00] Speed (+try lazy loading images)[25:00] Shifts in eCommerce SEO
– one team moving forward (SEO and development)
[27:40] Challenges large eCommerce sites face today?
– How can we connect users to the entire site? (building an ecosystem)
– Bots being able to find your pages (via log files), reviewing the setup of the site
– Site speed
[32:00] 3 nuggets of advice:
1. Understanding your organization (structure, ppl in it) and make relationships strong
– Being able to explain SEO to different types of ppl
– Make SEO digestible
2. Automate everything you can (e.g., reporting, site monitoring, building safe guards)
3. Pay attention to what Google is doing, keep up with updates

My Favorite Steve Quotes:

  • “I think with developers there’s so intertwined and close to the code, close to the work that they had been putting in on the site that they really have an affinity towards it. It’s kind of like their little piece of art. “
  • ” There’s a really big switch over, I think, from where once was where the SEO team was just trying to rank better or trying to kind of beat Google in a specific way. We’re now more just trying to make our language and make our focus that we’re all here for the customer. And when everyone kind of gets in that same room and that same mentality, I think it’s a huge advantage for any project that goes forward.”
  • ” So we’re really focusing on, when we want to make an SEO move, we talk to the UX team, and we kind of combined our power and our knowledge to make a move that actually propels both programs. That’s what’s kind of in a big unlock for us, that we’re not just making SEO specific moves anymore. We’re really leaning on other departments to make holistic moves, more so. “
  • “You don’t just build trust by throwing work at other departments. You build trust by getting them on the same page, getting them behind your projects and having them actually understand ‘the why,’ not just the actual project that’s going on.”
  • “It’s not just making the fixes, it’s really making the fixes as immediate as possible,”
  • “The goal is to have developers reaching out to us about what to do about SEO.”


[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello. And welcome back to SEO in lab. Today I’m joined with Steve Valenza with REI and I’m so excited to have you here today, Steve.

[00:00:09] Steve Valenza: Well, it’s good to be a part of this, Alexis. I am so happy that you finally put this podcast together because I have been excited to see where this podcast can go, and I’m definitely ready to be a part of it.

[00:00:19] Alexis: Nice. Nice. It’s such an honor. So would you mind giving the audience a little bit of an introduction?

[00:00:25] Steve: Yeah, of course. So, to not go too far back, But I am originally from Pittsburgh. I grew up my entire life in Pittsburgh, PA. So 26 years, and then I had a pretty drastic life change about seven months ago, to where I moved across the entire country. And I’m now officially based in Seattle working for REI on their technical SEO team. So I did work with you at Merkle obviously for a couple of years there, and then decided to come in house over to REI and start the whole inhouse journey with the team here.

[00:01:00] Alexis: That’s awesome! Yeah, and thanks so much for being my co-worker for a few years, you know, miss you over here.

[00:01:07] Steve: I definitely miss Merkle at times. The chaos is definitely something I missed a little bit. Loved it there.

[00:01:13] Alexis: Yeah. Gosh, yeah. Agency life, all the chaos that we have. Has there been any shifts in house versus agency that you’ve seen?

[00:01:21] Steve: My gosh, it’s a totally different world. I came in here not expecting it to be a complete reversal of what I once thought of SEO in the work that we did, but everything from the day-to-day work to the long-term visions and how work is approached, it’s totally different. Not in a bad or good way, just something that I need to definitely get used to. And I’m starting to get used to. I’ve been here for about seven months now. So I guess I better start getting used to it sooner or later, right?

[00:01:52] Alexis: (Lol) Definitely. And so, what would be like one example of something along those lines for someone that’s, you know, maybe works in-house and has never seen the agency side of the business?

[00:02:02] Steve: Yeah, so it definitely relies and comes down to the relationships: relationships with your developers, relationships with product managers (and) project managers. It’s imperative to get work moving forward. Back in agency life, you would do this great deliverable, you pass it off to your contact, whatever client you’re working on. Then they would do the hard part of making the relationships and making that work move forward. It’s definitely a different vibe and a different atmosphere when not only do you do the work, but then you also have to figure out the relationships and how to push that work forward. So that’s probably the biggest hurdle and is something that I’m starting to get used to now.

[00:02:42] Alexis: Definitely. And do you find that there’s any personality differences or things that are really effective with developers versus someone on, like merchandising?

[00:02:49] Steve: Wow, totally different personalities. I think with developers there’s so intertwined and close to the code, close to the work that they had been putting in on the site that they really have an affinity towards it. It’s kind of like their little piece of art. So you almost have to talk to them in a sense of you’re not trying to change this beautiful painting, this beautiful art that they built, you’re trying to work with them. And on with the merchant side of things, they’re kind of just trying to move fast. So the merchants are trying to get things out, they’re trying to kind of do what’s best for the user. So you really have to balance which bets for SEO, which bets for user experience and which kind of bets for conversion rate as well. So that’s kind of balancing a lot of different factors and you really got to put different hats on when you’re talking those different departments.

[00:03:36] Alexis: And do you guys deal a lot with Executives or C-Suite people?

[00:03:40] Steve: So me personally, not so much, but my team, very much so. REI is in a great position where they, up from my level to the C suite, they understand that SEO is imperative for our success. It brings in a massive portion of our business and the C suite really recognizes that. Talking to them and really putting the goals together for them has been a huge switch up for me as well, because they like to have the information quick and it likes to be concise, and I really like to be long winded and fully explain my process, so I’ve had to kind of constrain that and put it into some concise words, but still getting used to it, because I, like I said, very long winded, usually.

[00:04:26] Alexis: (lol) Very long winded, thinking about it right now. Yeah, it can be really tough when you’re really passionate about something to not go or talk too much about it, especially when you’re close to the details. But I can imagine that, you know, someone who has to control everything would have, uh, would want to make sure everything was a little bit more terse in their day. So do you find that it’s really useful or imperative to have that executive support? And how do you think that shapes an organization? Do you think it would be much more challenging to do your job without that?

[00:05:01] Steve: It would be incredibly difficult to do my job without that, especially with an organization the size of REI. Everyone has their own mindsets, and some of them are set kind of in stone. So to actually have that support from the C-suite. It’s where, when we push a project forward, that’s kind of a massive change for the site. It’s not just the three of us on the SEO team pushing that project forward. But we have that buy-in from the C-suite that, as you could be, as you could recognize and be aware that when they get that push from the C-suite, projects tend to move faster forward. So, not only, you know, you could imagine I’m guessing…

[00:05:38] Alexis: (lol) I’m imagining it right now. It’s so nice.

[00:05:42] Steve: I know, it’s something that I didn’t think would play as pivotal of a roll as it did moving projects forward. But right when that project that started and that C-Suite kind of gets behind it, you can watch the project kind of get propelled forward over ones that don’t actually have that backing or that kind of reliance on the C-suite as well.

[00:06:04] Alexis: And so are there any secret tips or tricks to winning C-Suite approval?

[00:06:09] Steve: Numbers, (lol) I would say is the biggest mover. What we really try to do and what I have been actually put a pretty huge focus on for the first seven months here is educating the C-suite, educating the developers, educating the program managers, just to have the knowledge of SEO. So when they actually look at a project and a project comes through their backlog, they don’t just recognize it as something the SEO team’s trying to do. People are starting to recognize in the organization that this is something that the SEO team’s trying to do specifically for the customer. So when, when the C-suite and when the developers start to recognize that the SEO team is just making of strategic moves to enhance the customer’s experience. There’s a really big switch over, I think, from where once was where the SEO team was just trying to rank better or trying to kind of beat Google in a specific way. We’re now more just trying to make our language and make our focus that we’re all here for the customer. And when everyone kind of gets in that same room and that same mentality, I think it’s a huge advantage for any project that goes forward.

[00:07:16] Alexis: You mentioned that we started off more ranking focus and then we fell into a more user experience focus overall, how do you feel that that message has changed? What should you do?

[00:07:27] Steve: Yeah, it’s a super hard balance to kind of get right. You want to make SEO changes and some SEO changes aren’t the best thing for users. So we really, at REI at least, we worked very closely with our UX team to make sure that if we’re making an SEO change, does it also advance the user experience of the site? Because if you make an SEO change and you get that little traffic or ranking boost but then it takes away from your UX on the site, then you lose that traffic, and it kind of goes in all anyway. And that’s the same vice versa. A big UX move could really detract from SEO, and then it nulls out all that work again. So we’re really focusing on, when we want to make an SEO move, we talk to the UX team, and we kind of combined our power and our knowledge to make a move that actually propels both programs. That’s what’s kind of in a big unlock for us, that we’re not just making SEO specific moves anymore. We’re really leaning on other departments to make holistic moves, more so.

[00:08:29] Alexis: Very lovely. And I’m sure Google would definitely appreciate the direction you guys are moving in as well.

[00:08:33] Steve: I hope so. (lol_

[00:08:35] Alexis: Do you think that’s more challenging for other organizations that may have not adapted that mentality?

[00:08:40] Steve: Yes, I think like I said, it was a big unlock for REI and I think it’s just been somewhat recently happening, to where, we’re putting more of a focus on that holistic view. I think companies that either, maybe they don’t have a really big UX team or don’t have the developer buy-in like REI does, It’s going to be a huge problem to get over, but I really do believe in documentation and teaching the organization is a huge and pivotal step for any SEO team. I couldn’t imagine relying on just the trust of, just the other departments trust in the SEO team for what we’re giving them. You don’t just build trust by throwing work at other departments. You build trust by getting them on the same page, getting them behind your projects and having them actually understand ‘the why,’ not just the actual project that’s going on. So it’s going to be, I think, pivotal moving forward because SEO is getting to a point where we’re starting to make everyone kind of good at the overall SEO tasks that you need to do on your day to day and big sites and it’s starting to get to really minute changes that are actually moving the needle. And those minute changes are in desperate need of other departments to help those changes move forward.

[00:09:55] Alexis: And so how do you decide what to educate your developers on or your C-suite on? Especially considering how fast your industry moves, how often do you think it’s important to refresh their knowledge?

[00:10:07] Steve: It’s incredibly tough to keep up with. You know that for sure. We’ve done training programs together in the past, and I’ve been trying to put a training together at REI right now. And it evolves so quickly that what do you what do you teach developers, right? You teach them something one day, and it’s like five days later, like actually, Google changed something and it doesn’t make sense anymore for you. We’ve taken a focus, though, on teaching the incredible basics. So the 101’s of pagination, the 101’s of faceted navigation, things that aren’t going to change anytime soon. No matter what really Google makes a big change or with the search engines they’re actually making and changing, there’s some factors of SEO that aren’t going to change, at least, I would like to think so. So we’re teaching them basic meta-elements, Just what are the meta-elements? You have to really take a stance of, everyone, even though you may think that everyone knows what a meta element is or everyone knows what a pagination is, they definitely don’t. (lol) And that’s not a knock, that’s not a knock on the developers, it’s not a knock on our creative team. Normal people in normal jobs shouldn’t know what the correct way to implement faceted navigation for SEO, it’s as simple as that. So we really get down to the bare facts that these things aren’t going to be changing, this is the correct way to do it. We’re really just going through the simple 101 best practices as a whole with them. And then we build documentation around boilerplate, basically, requirements of you build a site, these are at least the general structural SEO factors that you’re going to need to take into place when you’re building that site. So we do try to build some guardrails around site builds and deployments as well.

[00:11:57] Alexis: Nice. And so you mentioned that you’re a technical SEO. When you talk about REI do you have a content component to your work? Or is it, do you have someone that’s your equivalent on the content side?

[00:12:10] Steve: Yes. So right now we have three people on the technical side and we have two people on the content side of SEO. So they’re doing, as you can imagine, content strategy, content deployment, keyword research. They do, kind of run the whole gambit of content SEO for us. So we’re really more focused on how bots are coming into our site. All the technical aspects, the rendering of our pages, so on and so forth on that side of things.

[00:12:38] Alexis: And you think that breakouts really useful to have?

[00:12:40] Steve: Yes, there is, especially maybe for a smaller business. You might be able to get an SEO that is going to be able to do both sides of the house. But for a company the size of REI or even a middle tier company, there’s just simply too much work to be done. I’ve worked in the agency life where we were a part of both programs, and its overwhelming sometimes. Content SEO and then switch over to technical SEO and then switched back to content SEO. I think it’s absolutely crucial to deploy two different teams that have the time, the energy and the brain capacity to focus on just one technical SEO or one specific content SEO factor.

[00:13:22] Alexis: Definitely. Yeah, I like the idea conceptually, too, because it, do you find that on your team that the people who tend to like more problem solving, more technical development, programming type of things gravitate towards technical, whereas people who are more artistic or marketing based gravitate more towards content? Or are there any like breakouts that you see there?

[00:13:42] Steve: It’s that fact, but also more of just the simple paths that people have taken. For me, when I worked through Merkle, I just gravitated more towards that getting in the weeds factor or that finding out, or kind of put it together, that puzzle of these search algorithms. So I really got interested in the fact, and I kind of started gearing myself more towards the technical side of things, even though I still enjoyed the contents side of things, and I do have that artistic sense when I am focusing on content, I just found my ground and my (Alexis: passion) Well, I guess it would be a passion. My passion towards the technical side of SEO. So I don’t know if it’s a specific skill set that drives you one way or another but more of a specific passion of how you want to spend, you know, forty hours a week, and I found it that technical SEO takes up most certainly all forty hours of my week and I really enjoy it. So I think, yeah, you got to follow your passion on that one.

[00:14:41] Alexis: Nice. That’s so lovely. Okay, so working for a technical SEO in E-com, what does a day-to-day looks like, for instance?

[00:14:49] Steve: Yeah. I mean, like any SEO out there that’s going to be listening to this, your day today changes very drastically. So it is nothing different when you get into a specific technical SEO role. For the most part, I can say every day I come in and I am looking at log files, I am looking at some reporting. We use some reporting tools that we get into and can look at kind of our pulse on the site. So I do that just about every day. And that’s just to kind of stay close to the site and keep understanding how the site’s evolving. Then on the outside of that stuff is kind of a whole mess of things that I could be doing. So some days, and most days, I do focus on, especially that I’m kind of new to this position at REI, I’m focusing on a lot of training and a lot of documentation right now. We want to get our programs, the point where, no matter what position you’re at in the company, there’s an outlet in an asset that you can go look at that can answer your questions about SEO. We have so many questions that come in, and every SEO out there has an absolute absorbent amount of questions that come in throughout the day from different departments. People trying to figure out very, sometimes simple, and sometimes very specific questions. We’re trying to at least get these simple questions off our plate, so people have a resource to go to and kind of answer that simple question. So day-to-day I’m doing a lot of documentation, and then we’re really kind of just, code review is a massive part of our days as well. REI has eight different sites, so we are consistently and continually deploying different pieces across different sites. We always are in code review, making sure that things that are being deployed are going to be SEO friendly. So I think that kind of covers as much as I could be doing throughout the day. Then I know…

[00:16:47] Alexis: That was it. That’s all you could be doing. (lol) Just kidding. It’s a lot. Just going through all the logs and reviewing the entire code of the site.

[00:16:58] Steve: It fills up a day very quickly.

[00:17:00] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So do you think there are any really important elements for eCommerce technical SEO’s to get right?

[00:17:07] Steve: Yeah. I mean, you have the, all the basic technical SEO elements that you need to be getting correct. Those are kind of the broader ones, like pagination tags you need to get correct, internal linking and taxonomy need to get correct. But we’re really in a day and age where, you know, and this is not new to anyone, but JavaScript is a part of sites now, right? JavaScript is everywhere on sites, and although Google says they could render it and we’re in that kind of back and forth phase, the really big focus right now is getting those pages rendered properly, actually getting all the elements on a page recognized by Google. And it’s way more difficult than you could ever imagine, just sitting on the outside looking in. You look at a page and like, well, obviously Google can see all that, so there’s not going to be any problem there. But then you really dig into it, and you can come across just about any instance on any site where there might be a space on the site that isn’t going to be recognized by Google for one reason or another. So getting everything service side rendered or at least in that space is going to be absolutely pivotal for sites moving forward. It’s a really, really tough one to get right, and it could get out of control pretty quickly. Next is facet navigation. So nailing down what categories you want indexed, nailing down what categories you want no index, what categories you actually want people to be finding the products on so on and so forth. Getting that right and getting Google accessible to these pages, it opens up new traffic avenues in a pretty insane way. To be honest, we just started moving into really opening up a good bit of our facets and kind of getting faceted navigation right, and it’s incredible the traffic that starts coming in when you just open up these insanely specific facets. It surprised me at first, actually. And then the last thing I have here is this is more of a minor one, but it’s continuously finding and fixing bugs. I don’t think there’s enough focus on work that was already deployed a year ago or two years ago and keeping up with that work. I think sites across the Internet lose an absorbent amount of traffic from things that have been deployed a year or more in the past. Maybe you’re not keeping up the code or something deploys and just minor changes in a specific section of site. Let’s say something’s deployed and it takes the title tag off of this very small section of product pages or takes the H1 and changes it to an H2 on some of your main pages. These little fixes and letting them actually stay broken for longer periods of time drastically and negatively affect sites. So I think making sure that you have an incredibly acute pulse on your site and know when things break, know when things change, is pivotal to keeping the ground that you’ve already made from all the changes you’ve actually made on the site.

[00:20:24] Alexis: So do use any specific tools to keep up with that? Something like, you know, like a Little Warden or Uptime Robot type of thing?

[00:20:32] Steve: Can you repeat that when you just broke out a little bit, sorry.

[00:20:34] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So I know that one of my favorite tools is Uptime Robot to make sure that the site is live and the robots.txt is live. So you have a crawler that pings your site every few minutes or so and checks to see if every, it’s returning a 200 status code. But then there’s another tool that’s really popular, too, that I’m really interested in called Little Warden.

[00:20:57] Steve: Wow, never heard of one.

[00:20:59] Alexis: Yeah, and basically you set it up to cross certain pages on your site and make sure that I think there’s like thirty SEO elements, that it’s canonical tag is the same, that you know nothing has broken or anything along those lines, because I know that that’s like a huge problem that we have as well where changes will be pushed live on a certain part of the site and you won’t be aware of it until you look at your performance the next month and you’re like, oh, gosh, something’s wrong, and then you go in proactively identify what that is, but at the same time, you still suffer the consequences of having done something wrong.

[00:21:31] Steve: Exactly. It’s not just making the fixes, it’s really making the fixes as immediate as possible, is really the pivotal part there.

[00:22:42] Alexis: And I’m curious too, how do you balance, and how to your developers balance the need for a strong user experience with speed? Because speed is part of that user experience. But at the same time, the more JavaScript, the heavier sites get, the more image heavy and visual, that tends to add on more weight to the site. So how, have you seen anything that you guys have done? Or in the industry that has helped balance those two?

[00:23:06] Steve: That’s a really tough problem. We do, luckily have, I’ve been having the past put audits out there, and had some developers dedicate a large portion of their time towards site speed and actually getting pages smaller and more minified for some of the pieces of code. So we do have some focus there, I think one of the easiest solutions, of course, it’s not an easy solution, but one of the more straightforward solution is getting a little bit more into lazy loading content. And, there’s a huge opportunity, especially for eCommerce sites that, like, for instance, ours that’s downloading thirty products on product page, product display pages. Or just we have videos that are happening below the fold on our home page. So specific pieces of content all over your site can be lazy loaded and it drastically takes the weight off the page. I mean, you can only imagine, let’s say we have 30 products on a product page, but only six are above the fold, you now have to download 24 products at the initial load. It drastically reduces the pace speed. Lazy loading, I would say, is kind of one of the bigger factors to tackle if you really want to shave off a good bit of time on a page.

[00:24:18] Alexis: Definitely. And are you worried about Google being able to crawl that content?

[00:24:23] Steve: No, not for the most part, the way we have it set up and the way Google’s kind of put it out there and made it accessible to understand if they are reading that lazy loaded information or not, there’s a couple documents that Google’s came out with. I think was the puppeteer. You can run, but you can see if Google was actually seeing your lazy loaded content. So there’s definitely documentation out there that, if you give it to a developer they’ll be able to run a few tests that kind of ensure that Google’s seeing everything that they should be seeing on your page. So we don’t have too much of a worry with Google passing up our products or anything like that, that’s lazy loaded throughout our site.

[00:25:03] Alexis: sweet. Yeah, okay, so do you believe the relationship between SEO and eCommerce sites has changed over the last five years?

[00:25:14] Steve: I would have to say yes, in a simple fact, that for me I worked in the agency life for about three years, and I didn’t really get to intertwine with that relationship between the developers. But now, just being at REI for these seven months and hearing about the past conversations that have been had at REI, and these conversations that are now happening at REI, I think these relationships are drastically changing. It’s not, it’s not looked at, as at least for a mature organization that’s really has built this relationship up, it’s getting across the fact that developers and SEOs should not be a segregated division. That is a one team moving forward mentality that really brings success upon a department. When developers started understanding that SEOs are not (if you have a good SEO team at least) we’re not making changes just to improve SEO and just to get their bottom line up, you have to start realizing that everyone has the same goal of more traffic and more time on site. So you have to start realizing that the developers are making the exact same moves as the SEO team in a sense of everyone’s working for the same goal. So there’s not much segregation anymore between the departments, and it’s, it really comes down to developers starting to realize that the work that I’m doing affects SEO and SEO’s start really realizing that the work that they’re doing affects developers and developers don’t like when they’re code is changed. They don’t like when they have people coming in and just blowing up everything they’ve worked on. So you really, as an SEO, you have to step back and start realizing that this is their piece of work, this is their body of work, and they’ve put a ton of time and effort into this, and you have to come in with the with the face and the hat that we’re not trying to explode the work that you’ve done, we’re just trying to enhance it and make the customer’s experience as good as possible. So really coming in with: we understand the work that you’ve done, we understand where you’ve come from, I think is the big change over from where it used to be, where you were just kind of throw work over the fence and say, change this on your page.

[00:27:33] Alexis: Definitely. Okay, that was awesome. Changing gears a little bit. What do you think are the top challenges large eCommerce sites face today?

[00:27:42] Steve: So, I would say first and foremost, it’s building a full ecosystem that inner links itself. What I mean by that is, for REI as another example, we have eight different sites, and a large eCommerce site has a bunch of different avenues that customers are going to be coming into. So for REI customers might be coming into expert advice, they might be coming into the co-op Journal, they might be coming into a product page. We have to realize and understand that when a customer comes into this specific avenue, we still need to provide them the entire site experience. And it’s incredibly difficult. And I’m not saying this in a sense that REI has this figured out. I think that it’s kind of an ongoing project. How can we better connect the customer to the entire site at any time. But once a site gets over that fact and really understands and moves toward connecting a user to the entire piece of content on expert advice when they’re on a product page and so on and so forth, it’s a big unlock for them, I think. It’s a huge and a difficult problem, but that is definitely one of the focuses that REI has to kind of make a full ecosystem. I really do think the search engines, Google specifically, takes into fact that when the site has a full ecosystem and a great customer experience, that kind of inner links the entire site so I think huge there. And the second thing would be findability, so like we were talking about before, really digging in the log files and making sure that Google is actually finding all of your pages. I know that sounds obvious and kind of redundant, but there’s times where I’ve found that a product page just isn’t getting viewed by Google, or one of our main category pages wasn’t crawled by Google in the past week, and you start to dig into these and realize that maybe the setup of my site isn’t as advantageous as I thought it was for the search engines to come to our site. So even though a customer from our site can navigate around perfectly or can understand the layout of our site very easily because they see it all, that does not mean that Google and these search engines are having the same and similar and easy experience, understanding and kind of getting through our entire site.

[00:30:10] Alexis: Nice. It’s almost like the devil’s in the details.

[00:30:13] Steve: The devil is in the details. That’s a great way to put it, I’ll bring that up to my team.

[00:30:19] Alexis: Thanks. It’s only your words.(lol)

[00:30:20] Steve: You know, say it’s getting it to speed. I know we can talk about a site speed, probably for the rest of the time here, but it’s pivotal. I mean, there’s been, it’s evident now that decreasing your site speed just means more customers are staying on a site longer or enjoying the experience more. Google’s come out with a study, Amazon has a study on that they lose X amount of dollars for a site being milliseconds faster, and it’s crucial. I mean shaving off a millisecond or here or there in a second here or there really does drastically improve the business as a whole. You can make all the SEO changes, but if people simply are not getting that above-the-fold content in the right period of time, it really doesn’t matter what SEO work you’ve done in the past. People are not going to stay on your site because of speed specifically. So overcoming that and really understanding that the customer needs a fast site on both mobile and desktop is, it’s crucial.

[00:31:22] Alexis: Definitely, definitely. Well, thanks for sharing all of those tips with us. That was awesome. I think everyone’s really going respond really well to that. So thank you so much. Okay, so closing out, for the closing question today, I’ve been asking everybody that comes on the podcast, this question and I’m really excited to hear what you have to say. But what are three nuggets of advice for an SEO working in eCommerce (and let’s just go for it) in technical SEO eCommerce. And this could be anything that could be interpersonal, site related or something that you found useful.

[00:31:56] Steve: Yeah, so I would say the first big thing for any SEO is understanding your organization, the structure, the people that are in it. So make those relationships first, make those relationship strong, and then start finding a way to make SEO digestible for all of those departments. SEO is not, as we all know, the people are going to listen to this understand that it’s not something you just learn overnight and completely understand the whole ecosphere of SEO. It’s something that you have to practice and keep learning and keep understanding. And so I would say a huge and pivotal breakthrough is when an SEO can make a developer and a person in the creative team and a person on the content team understand SEO in a similar way. So getting SEO to be understood in one way across the entire organization, it’s going move projects faster, it’s going to, not only that, but it’s going to actually make people want to work with the SEO team, and that’s what we’re all kind of striving for, is to get developers reaching out to us about SEO. So I’m saying that’s the first big thing. Build those relationships and make SEO digestible for the people that you’re talking to. The second thing is going to be automate everything as much as you can, make your life easier. All the things. Ah, whether it’s reporting whether it’s site monitoring. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on the same reporting every single week on the same site monitoring every week, and just getting back that five or eight hours a week of time is absolutely incredible. I can’t even imagine not having that time now. So automate if you want to check for canonical tags, or so every time you don’t have to check the code when something deploys because you already have tests set up to catch those kind of things. It just, it saves time and actually in an exponential way, when you really have all that set up. And then the last one I would say, push your team, push your SEO team to be proactive and kind of find and understand where Google’s going, they give, I mean, I know they don’t give us much, but they do give us hints of where the search is going of where their minds are kind of going. Keep close to the algorithm updates because it’s going to start telling you that, okay like for instance, mobile–, when it came out, people started recognizing that, let’s get a mobile friendly site, I wonder what that means. And then all the sudden the mobile first indexing roll rolled out. Some sites were ready for that, and some lagged behind. So we need keep a close eye on Google, what they’re doing and how they’re acting to really predict where you want to take your site, whether it’s going to be voice search or whether it’s going to be whatever is the next thing for Google. Just keep a close ear to everything they’re working on, whether it be their patents that they’re coming out or the new work that their team just picked up. Just keep it really close ear to all the news that’s coming out of that organization.

[00:35:08] Alexis: Awesome. So educate, automate and keep an ear to the ground. I love it. Thank you so much for coming on SEO in the lab today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here. Super cool.

[00:35:21] Steve: I appreciate you having me on this, Alexis. It’s going to be a fantastic thing for the community to have another outlet of awesome information. So thank you.

[00:35:30] Alexis: Yeah, thanks so much. All right. Signing off, ciao.

The post 7. Interview w/ Steve Valenza, REI appeared first on

clean No no no 35:19 Alexis Sanders
6. Interview w/ Brendan Cottam, Wayfair Mon, 03 Jun 2019 13:30:03 +0000 Alexis Sanders Notes: Follow Brendan: How to improve on SEO Do you need to have development skills to […]

The post 6. Interview w/ Brendan Cottam, Wayfair appeared first on

full 6 1 Notes:


[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello and welcome to the podcast. Today we have Brendan from Wayfair. Thanks so much for joining today, Brendan.

[00:00:07] Brendan Cottam: Of course, Alexis. Thanks for having me.

[00:00:10] Alexis: Would you mind giving the audience a little bit of an intro?

[00:00:13] Brendan: Of course. So I have been in the SEO industry since 2012. When I got started, I had always been interested in marketing, and then kind of found some SEO people on Twitter, and from there, it just kind of catapulted into, like, being something I was really interested in. I started leaning in, like, right after I quickly found it, teaching it to myself, and trying to learn from others in the industry. And so then, from there, I kind of looked at a few places to start my SEO career and was super fortunate enough to end up at Seer Interactive. I spent a little over a year there, then ended up moving back to Boston to work for another agency called Co-Marketing, did that for about a year, and then stumbled across an in-house opportunity here at Wayfair, and I’ve been here for just over three and a half years. I really enjoy all aspects of SEO from on-page to off-page to technical, so I really just look at Wayfair as my platform to do SEO and continue to build my skills, and share them with people along the way.

[00:01:28] Alexis: Awesome. Thanks so much. So this was so action packed. First of all… repping Pennsylvania!

[00:01:34] Brendan: (lol) Yes!

[00:01:36] Alexis: PA people just having a quick chat. Awesome. So you’ve been working in SEO since 2012, and one of the things that comes to mind is: what are some of the bigger changes that you’ve seen?

[00:01:47] Brendan: Ah, you know, I think, definitely, one of them early on in that time frame was Hummingbird, right? And Google interpreting synonyms and search queries across a variety of different variations, so I’d say that that is one that started right away, yeah. And then, SERP features and basically taking clicks… sometimes taking clicks away from SEO. Like when I first started, you know, the Knowledge Graph was starting to appear, but it was like, ‘Oh, that won’t come for my industry, oh, that won’t come for e-commerce or something.’ And sure enough, you know, it’s in about every vertical now so say that’s definitely a key theme.

[00:02:32] Alexis: Definitely. No, yeah. We can see it in the local space, like you said, Knowledge Graph, so any sort of informational query, even like the hotel space has such interesting things with, like, transactional type, queries being taken. So that’s so interesting that the whole entire landscape is essentially changing.

[00:02:49] Brendan: Exactly.

[00:02:50] Alexis: So, okay… so, one of the other things you mentioned in your intro; I know I’m going a little bit off track. You just mentioned so many things and I thought they are all so interesting. You mentioned that you taught yourself, and I feel like that’s something that a lot of SEO’s face, regardless of whether they work in-house, in an agency, or they own their own agency or consulting firm. So one of the questions I get asked a lot, and I’m sure you get asked this a lot too, is what resources do you think are some of the best? Is there any way that you feel is most efficient to learn the craft having been through that process?

[00:03:26] Brendan: Yeah. I mean, I had a few key things, you know, first, I immersed myself in the people and the companies that do it well. You know, like Seer… Moz, where some of the first two distilled and the people that work there. So, like, I really immersed myself. I remember one of the ways I did was like, I think one of Rand’s decks. I printed it out and just immersed myself in that. So, you know, it’s one thing to be a passive follower, but I really immersed myself there. Then I made my own site, and just started putting out some content to try to get it to rank. So that was kind of my way to action on it.

[00:04:10] Alexis: Nice. So experimenting from, like, a totally different scale.

[00:04:13] Brendan: Exactly. And I will give you a third, which was, I think… I believe most people hit this one too which is, like, you get the foundation down and you do a little bit, but you’re like, ‘I still want to be surrounded by people who actually know what’s going on.’ Right? You just want some validation. Yeah, so I was, you know, lucky enough to take a course that just kind of touched on… It was like twenty courses that touched on all facets of SEO. So I got exposure to things like information, architecture, internal linking, everything. So that was super helpful and good validation to know I was on the right track.

[00:04:54] Alexis: Nice. And so is that, like, at a local college or something along those lines? Or was that more of an online course?

[00:05:01] Brendan: Yeah, so it was actually online, and it was ending, like, right when my semester was starting. So it overlapped with school a little bit, which was funny. But yeah, it was online. I’m forgetting the name of it. It was Instant E-Training, that was the name of the brand. I don’t know if they’re still around today, but highly recommended. Or, I mean, there’s probably less costly options out there, of course.

[00:05:27] Alexis: Nice. I know Rand has one on, like, Skillshare or something like that. So kind of, like, looking up online courses and just getting exposure, I really like that idea. And, of course, active learning in making a site. This is another question that I get a lot too, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think SEO needs to understand how HTML, CSS and JavaScript work, and be good at it? There’s like two sides of it: there’s the understanding of how websites work, and then understanding programming. What are your thoughts on both of those?

[00:05:57] Brendan: Actually, the first time I came across you in the industry was your JavaScript post on Moz. I remember reading that, and, you know, two things were super valuable: Just the JavaScript frameworks that are out there, so that was a huge resource to help me get familiar with those. And then at the time, we had someone within the company launch a feature that had a URL fragment, so your article was super helpful because there’s a point in there where you talk about fragments and the downside to them. So that’s my intro to saying, you know, I think HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are very important to be able to recognize. I don’t know, I think being able to write those is up for debate…certainly HTML, you should be able to, but definitely recognize them on pages, in source codes and in the DOM is super important.

[00:07:05] Alexis: Yeah, I love that idea of having, like, almost a little bit of understanding so you understand what’s going on, you have a general sense, and you’re able to, therefore, communicate more efficiently with developers, at least at a minimal level, because otherwise it’s going to be way more challenging when you’re trying to get across your point or what you actually need.

[00:07:30] Brendan: Exactly. Exactly.

[00:07:31] Alexis: So I love that. Yeah, thanks for mentioning my article. It’s so interesting because when I remember, before I started writing that article, escaped fragments had been deprecated for probably about a year or two at that point. And that was so fascinating because, you know, like, we never heard about it in our training because it was always like, ‘Oh, well, don’t use this or don’t use that,’ but it was like one of those solutions that was out there that, you know, I mean, at this point now Google’s just said they’re not going to crawl it. And they’ll just crawl the pretty version of the URL, you know, having those elements that understand the history of that type of thing and understand the history of SEO, I think sometimes could be pretty valuable.

[00:08:04] Brendan: Yeah, and it’s interesting how, you know, engineers don’t immerse themselves in what Google’s putting out there. So while it seems obvious to us, you know, other folks writing this code don’t take this information in like we do.

[00:08:18] Alexis: That’s so true. I feel like SEO (and I don’t know if you agree with this), but SEO and tech and development, they grow at such a rapid pace that sometimes it’s really hard to keep up with. So what are some of the ways that, like, you’re able to keep up with what’s going on in the industry so that we can help out our developers?

[00:08:36] Brendan: I mean, you know, some of the standard ways are just staying up on Twitter and following the right people, for sure, you know, that’s kind of table stakes. You know, I think having people around you that you can spitball and bring ideas to is also super important. And I think that takes time to sometimes build out, like, if maybe you’re in SEO and you just switched teams, it’s going to take a little while to get there. But I’ve had a lot of fun being at Wayfair for a little more than three and a half years and just building chemistry with people where we can talk about: if we decide to lazy load this feature will that impact our rankings? And you can really kind of break it out and make the call on that decision together, I think is another way to just stay up on what’s going on and different ideas you have.

[00:09:28] Alexis:  I love this idea, too, because you’re almost touching on this idea of building a culture of learning, and a culture of passion, because to some extent, like, you must have to hire people that are really interested and really passionate about a certain topic. But I love this idea of having a group that shares information, and I know that you’ve obviously experienced an agency world, and we kind of get that automatically. But when you have a team like Wayfair, I’m assuming you guys are probably… you’re a smaller part of a larger marketing team.

[00:10:03] Brendan: Yes, exactly.

[00:10:05] Alexis: So how do you guys flourish and… encourage that type of learning or encourage that and have that, develop that chemistry? Is it just automatic or is there something as a manager that people can do out there?

[00:10:17] Brendan: Yeah, I mean, I think it definitely doesn’t happen automatically, for sure. And maybe unless, like, you know, the chemistry is really firing

[00:10:25] Alexis: That’s such a controversial thing. And I love it. (lol)

[00:10:29] Brendan: Ah, you have to try to find ways to foster it. And, you know, one of the things that I picked up at Seer, that that they did, (which was awesome) was a Friday meeting where the team… like, the format was before the meeting, post what you want to talk about, post how long you want to talk about it, and it just created a lot of energy, and it was a lot of fun. And so, like, I’ve created something similar here where, you know, people just posting slack, what they want to talk about before coming to like, a stand up. And then we just dive into those topics. So that’s a specific way that we’ve definitely built up the chemistry. And then I think, outside of SEO, we’ve been doing things like SEO office hours for certain parts of our company that are really needed most. So that’s kind of a way we’ve evangelized SEO throughout the company.

[00:11:26] Alexis: Oh, nice. So anyone’s welcome to those office hours?

[00:11:28] Brendan: In this case, it’s like merchandising is a huge team that’s making changes that impact SEO, so it’s specifically that team.

[00:11:39] Alexis: That’s so funny because one of the things that Tessa mentioned from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Eric, also, from Aerie, is that merchandising is the one who you have to get in with. So funny.

[00:11:52] Brendan: Yeah, and like, I don’t know… Oh go ahead. Sorry.

[00:11:55] Alexis: No, no, you go ahead.

[00:11:56] Brendan: Yeah, I’ve always wondered what merch is like in other e-commerce sites. I mean ours is between, like, a 150 to 200 person department, so it’s a huge department. Everyone’s vertical lies in different categories, so, we’re bigger than ten, but like, there’s ten of us responsible for interacting with them. And so, like, 10:150, like, that’s insane. (lol)

[00:12:25] Alexis: You’re like, ‘Not even teachers are expected to do that much.’ (lol) That’s awesome. And one of the things you mentioned, the Friday meetings, we actually started that in Pittsburgh probably about a year and a half ago. We call it SEO Lab, and we do, usually we have either somebody comes with news or something like that. I think we could probably do a little bit more preparing, but one of the things that we love in Pittsburgh is doing SEO Jeopardy. There’s kind of this janky tool that you can find online, if you look up, ‘make your own jeopardy,’ and so sometimes people will go in and make their own jeopardy versions. Then we’ll play Jeopardy! And it’s always really fun.

[00:13:03] Brendan: Cool, cool.

[00:13:04] Alexis: Going to learn competition.

[00:13:06] Brendan: Yeah, and going off, that the only other add I would say in terms of like, fostering that culture is like, you know, everyone has to be willing to listen to everyone else, and hear what they’re saying, and understand, and ask follow up questions. And, you know, that’s something that I think is sometimes taken for granted, like not everyone fully fully does that. So I think doing that can help create a good culture.

[00:13:33] Alexis: Yeah, I love when people start trainings and you can hear the trainers say things like, ‘Oh, there’s no such thing as a stupid question,’ because a lot of times, I think people are really intimidated to ask something, but they’ll never learn unless they get something wrong or they ask, or they try to figure something out themselves. So true. Awesome. So you also mentioned you have agency experience combined with in-house. What is that? What was that transition like? Do you feel like it was very smooth? Do you think there’s anything that you’d recommend… any differences that you notice between in-house versus agency life? Got it? Ah, there’s a lot of questions packed into one. (lol)

[00:14:16] Brendan: Because I went from agency to inhouse ecom at a little bit more of like, a lower level per se, you know, the transition was relatively seamless. When I got here, right, I was writing content, doing curated research, working with clients (aka merchandisers) and identifying and diagnosing technical SEO problems. A lot of the same things, like seamlessly transitioned which is definitely one of the reasons why I was able to hit the ground running, you know? And I think I’d say the one difference was: my access to engineers; they were right at my fingertips, right? So they’re part of our team. So finding ways to interact with them and kind of build credibility with them was probably one of the main differences. And then I’d say, if you’re if you’re going from agency to ecom at a higher level, it’s super cross functional. And so you’re going to have to be comfortable putting yourself out there, getting in front of teams that are making changes that impact that SEO, and you’re going to have to build relationships and really make a case for SEO.

[00:15:32] Alexis: So you mentioned you had to build credibility with engineers. How did you do that? How did you approach that process? Donuts every Tuesday (lol)?

[00:15:43] Brendan: I’d say, when I identified technical SEO problems, I said, you know, I brought them to engineers and kind of made sure I said, ‘Oh, like, what are you seeing? This is what I’m seeing. What are your thoughts? And how would you look at this problem, specifically, like when we’re writing engineering tickets?’ One of the things I did right away, because I can kind of sense if, as an SEO, you put in an unscoped or unclear, like, a very unclear SEO ticket, that’s kind of an easy way to not end up on an engineer’s good side. So I was just like, from the start, like before even hitting publish on this ticket, I would kind of go to them and say, you know, ‘I’m seeing a bunch of broken links across this page template. How would you go about fixing this, or what details do you want in the ticket to fix this?’ And just incorporating their feedback into the ticket just helped build credibility.

[00:16:49] Alexis: Definitely. I love that idea of like, giving some cognitive dissonance, almost. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of those studies where basically, they went around all these different neighborhoods and the first time they asked the question: Do you like giving to charity? or something like that… Do you believe that giving the charity is good? or something along those lines. Or do you usually give to charity? And then a week later, they went around again and basically saw whether or not people donated, and if you had, if you were one of the houses where they’d ask that question and you had agreed, you were way more likely to actually donate money. Yeah, it’s actually… there’s a book that actually, my boss made me read, which I thought was very funny, that he was like, ‘This is the best book,’ but one of the things that it said, it was basically: if you have a boss that’s kind of unagreeable (which makes this so funny that my boss gave this to me). If you have a boss that’s unagreeable, or, kind of like automatically defensive or something along those lines, if you ask them that morning like, ‘Hey, don’t you think it’s nice when people are just flexible and just, like, listen,’ or something along those lines, and they agree, they’re like, ‘Yeah, totally.’ Later in the day there’ll be more apt to listen to you.

[00:17:58] Brendan: Because they’re tired (lol)?

[00:17:59] Alexis: But that’s because they affirm something about themselves, and once we say something about ourselves, we have, I guess, (or at least this is the idea) that we have a harder time going against it. So if I agree that I am a flexible person in the morning, then by the evening, if I’m not acting in a flexible way, I’m denying what I believe about myself. So it creates this cognitive dissonance that our brain, like, can’t handle, apparently. So, yeah, going to them beforehand, being like ‘Oh, yeah, like, do you agree that this is a problem?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we agree. This is a problem.’ And then when you send it to them, they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s totally a problem.’ So and then, of course, the idea of clarity: I think that’s such a great idea to make sure, like, you’re including all the details and being specific and honoring their time too.

[00:18:43] Brendan: Yeah, exactly. I like that. This is something I tell my team a lot. I’m like, ‘your time is insanely valuable.’ Everyone’s time is, so just making sure we respect that.

[00:18:54] Alexis: That’s so beautiful. Okay, so you mentioned that you guys are a team of, like, fifteen going up against, like, about one hundred and fifty to two hundred. So how do you deal with having multiple stakeholders?

[00:19:07] Brendan: Ah, good question. And definitely, you know, as a expands, you have more and more stakeholders. So I mean, I’d say one is, you know, always being approachable. So you know, I think if you’re if you’re less approachable, stakeholders are going to go around you, or not include you on things or not be completely upfront. So I’d say that would be a key part. And then, you know, as an SEO, if you get a lot… if you’re at the point where you have, like, you know, a boss to answer to, you know, between five and ten cross functional partners and some reports, like, I believe you have to triage. You might get hit with all of those people asking you something at once, and it’s physically impossible to answer, you know, fifteen people at the same time. So I think I’m always triaging, like, alright, what came in first or what’s most important? Which, actually one of your decks… I saw you did a few conferences last week.

[00:20:17] Alexis: Thank you so much.

[00:20:17] Brendan: Yeah, yeah. But diagnosing technical SEO issues; I just thought it was an awesome deck. And, like, just tying into this is, like, understand the problem, and like, the level of priority. So when you have to answer to a lot of people, you just, you really have to understand the level of priority that each of those requests take.

[00:20:39] Alexis: Is there anything that you found helps you prioritize those like, let’s say you were attacked by, like, fifty requests or something like that– fifties a lot. Let’s say, like, really ten high-stake requests. How do you go about prioritizing those? Is it just best guess? What can you delegate? You know that type of thing.

[00:20:57] Brendan: Yeah, I’d say a couple things: one is a framework. So if the questions are repeated, like similar questions, we have frameworks for how to answer them. So if it might be, you know, we want to make this change that might deactivate a bunch of URLs on the site. Will that impact SEO? Just really templatizing the response so it can be super clear and as fast as possible would be one, and then kind of going off that is like, I’m actually finding, you know, a lot of the same questions just keep coming up. I’m sure this happens on the agency side as well. Like you start to get the same questions. So just documenting this is super helpful, I find, so I point a lot of my questions to existing articles we’ve already created in house.

[00:21:48] Alexis: Definitely. Yes. So having those established best practices, case studies; it’s that type of stuff that really works.

[00:21:54] Brendan: Definitely. Do you find you get a lot of the same questions from clients?

[00:21:58] Alexis: Coming from the same client, we usually won’t get the same repeated questions, but across the agency, I think a lot of people are concerned with the same things. Like, for instance, everyone wants to know what they could do for voice. So we have a voice best practices, type of thing. Where if someone asks us for that, we understand, like, what are the best practices that one can do? What is the level of the industry? What is pretty much going on? So there’s those types of things, and then we also do two things in Americas: we have a set of best practices, which then, people go in and customize them specifically for their clients. But we also print terms of internal training, and we have these things that we call S.O.P’s.

[00:22:36] Brendan: Yeah, yeah. Standard Operating Procedures.

[00:22:39] Alexis: Yeah, standard operating procedures, where it’s basically just like a list of things, like an itemized list of things that people can go through and do steps in the procedure so that they can become familiar. And I think they usually get updated on, like, a yearly basis or so, that enables newer people to go in and follow that specific process. But it’s a very, very time consuming process, so it’s broken up across about, we have probably like a fifty to seventy person team at Merkle, so not all the work lays in one account manager’s hands. But whenever something like that is done, we try to roll it into what the client is doing, and then pull that back into trying to normalize it so that people can accomplish a similar task. Yeah, definitely. But I love that idea, having an established framework, having templated answers so that you can then modify them to answer the correct request. And you mentioned before that you treat your in-house merchandise as clients, basically. So it’s almost similar to like you’re an agency within an in-house company, which is kind of fun to think about.

[00:23:43] Brendan: Yeah, yeah, totally, definitely. I don’t know if it’s because I came from agency, but that’s definitely a way I viewed the team here from the start.

[00:23:52] Alexis: Yeah, I think that’s a great way to do it. And I know that one of my clients actually has the same exact thing. They worked for a big hospital, and they have all the different hospitals as different clients, all the different business lines are different clients to them as well. So I think that it makes sense. Yeah, that’s awesome. Okay, so I’ll dive into some of the questions. I know I got a little bit off topic, but some other things that we had planned to talk about: Why do you think SEO is so important for an e-commerce business?

[00:24:22] Brendan: Yeah… SEO is a way to reach high intent customers like, super efficiently, and I think the power of SEO, it means like, revenue is generated at very low ad cost. So it really increases customer acquisition. And so that’s, I think, why it’s super important. That being said, I think one of the interesting things about e-commerce sites is a lot of them, Wayfair included, have diversified their marketing efforts. Like, similar to how one would, you know, diversify financial investments, right? They’re doing a lot of different things. And so I remember, like, maybe a couple agency clients before I got here, you know, had north of sixty, seventy, eighty percent of traffic coming from SEO… while I think that’s like, awesome for SEO, and super impressive, you’re putting a lot of eggs in one basket. So I think it’s super important and super efficient. But also, I think it’s great that e-commerce sites are diversifying and using other channels as well.

[00:25:26] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. And I love that analogy of finance and pulling it back because in some ways, it’s almost like the market. You have to make bets and hope that they work out. Yes. So do you think that e-commerce SEO is different from other forms of SEO or other verticals?

[00:25:43] Brendan: Some of my thoughts are probably slightly biased to my experiences, in agency, and then here. I mean, I do think the scale is much larger, which means you have to kind of have a system or a systematized way of breaking down data. So in some of my agency experience, it’s like, we were kind of looking at a couple hundred keywords for a client. But when you get in-house, you can really go to the tens and hundreds of thousands. Certainly, that could vary at another agency, but I just had a lot more data in front of me. And so, one of the ways… key lessons I learned in e-commerce is just like, thinking in terms of page types, right? So there’s different page types on the site that drive traffic. Some drive more than others, and all those page types have features that either are important SEO or not important SEO. So really understanding those, and like, living and breathing them is super key to being successful and driving more growth. And I’d say, you know, having a product-focused mindset similar to the page types, kind of understanding them. You know, being product-focused is super helpful for, you know, working with other engineers or working with other product managers within a large company, so you can start to get them making changes that help SEO. And then I would say a couple others, like link building, is something that I believe in, something that we continue to like, see move the needle. But, you know, it varies based off of the site you’re on. And so, like, I’ve had times on agency SEO where I was doing link building for a start-up, right? And so we were like super aggressive, like fully white hat, we had a lot of different strategies running at once, you know, from founder interviews to other things, and that was like, a lot of fun. And again, something here, we’re still doing it to a certain extent, but not as much as I have seen with my agency experience.

[00:27:55] Alexis: Yeah, you probably almost don’t have to, as a brand like Wayfair.

[00:27:59] Brendan: Exactly. Like, we kind of target it and use content marketing in specific ways. But, you know, the scale of, like, a start-up needing links is definitely much different.

[00:28:12] Alexis: Definitely. Definitely. And you think, like you said, you can almost drive it through the content you created by creating like, highly engaging type content. Nice.

[00:28:21] Brendan: Yeah. And then just the last one I wanted to bring up was something… It could have been a mix of where the industry was heading because I’ve definitely followed it, like, Distilled ODN. But testing and experimentation, you know, really took another level while I was here at Wayfair, and so we’re always, you know, testing across our site, split testing and trying to grow traffic. But also, you know, we’ll test if we can learn something about the algorithm that we didn’t know before.

[00:28:54] Alexis: how often do you think it’s important to test? So let’s say, for instance, you found something that was successful or you found something that was unsuccessful. When is it that you renew those assumptions?

[00:29:06] Brendan: That’s a good point, because we’ve had some things that we say around here lately that it’s like, ‘Oh, we ran that, like three years ago. Is it still valid?’

[00:29:16] Alexis: Definitely. That’s what made me curious because, like, when you’re in that testing culture, you almost, like, you do the test and you say, ‘That’s good.’ But I’m always interested in how long. When do people start renewing things and trying different stuff?

[00:29:32] Brendan: Yeah. I mean, I don’t have specific, concrete date on, you know, if a test is older than two years, renew it. You know, I just use my judgment, like, what’s on the road map right now? Can we fit it in? Like, I did one quickly… actually, this is kind of a sad topic which I’d love to nerd out about, like the history of Wayfair is very cool as it relates to SEO, because we basically had a bunch of microsites from 2001 to about 2012, and so it went from one microsite, to 200, and then it merged all those into Wayfair. But recently we’ve gotten some questions about the value of those, so it’s, like, you know, we did a test back in 2015. We knew which ones were valuable and which ones weren’t. But then we were like, we need to look at that again. So that’s an example of one that we felt we could revisit, and it was super quick to do, right? It didn’t take a lot of engineering.

[00:30:34] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. I love that idea of trying to prioritize the efficiency of it as well. Like, how long is this experiment actually going to take? Awesome. Okay, so I’ll ask two more questions just because we’re nearing the end of the forty-minute mark and I want to make sure we have time for the final question. So, what do you think is best-in-class, and what do you think are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve seen in terms of e-commerce?

[00:31:00] Brendan: SEO, you know, best-in-class for e-commerce is: 1) getting the customer experience right, which is, you know, not as SEOs is in our control all the time. So that would be things like merchandising, pricing, you know, customer experience. You know that needs to be super strong and at par with the market. And then from there, like, from an SEO perspective, I think, in order of importance: crawling, indexing, ranking, you know, making sure you know certain page types are super invaluable for SEO, so definitely making the case to block those would be important. And then, from there, it’s optimized topically, I’d say, as well as for internal linking, and like, tweak and iterate those constantly to find out what works. And then like, if you need external authority, ensuring that you’re building links over time, and then continue to test at scale to understand the levers that impact rankings further. So those would be… that’s best-in-class for me.

[00:32:08] Alexis: Awesome, Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. That’s all you have to do (lol). No that was awesome. Thanks so much. Okay, so the final question: so I’ve been asking everybody that comes on the podcast: What are your three little nuggets of advice for SEO working in e-commerce or on an e-commerce site? And this could be anything; it could be interpersonal, it could be site related, just something that you found that’s been useful to you in your career as an SEO.

[00:32:40] Brendan: I love this question.

[00:32:42] Alexis: Thank you. Yeah, it’s been so fun to hear people’s answers; they’re so different.

[00:32:45] Brendan: Oh, nice. When this airs, and the others air I’ll definitely listen so I hear what others say.

[00:32:51] Alexis: Yeah, yeah, I think it’d be cool to compare, like, from the audience point of view, what types of responses people are giving.

[00:32:58] Brendan: So, my first one would be curiosity, And at first (that I talked a little bit about when I first got into SEO) I remember reading a post by Will Critchlow. It was on Moz. It’s like ‘how to learn SEO’ and one of them was, ‘Curiosity is your biggest asset.’ And so that’s been like, I think I still have the print out of that article. I’ve just brought it with me, and when I changed companies, it’s just in my desk somewhere, but I live by curiosity for sure.

[00:33:44] Alexis: That’s so awesome.

[00:33: 46] Brendan: Yeah, and so the second one, which, actually, is super similar to when I looked at your diagnosing technical SEO issue deck, is critical thinking, right? Like completing an objective analysis to form, you know, a judgment and, like, definitely, really liked your deck for that reason, I thought a lot of it embodied critical thinking.

[00:34:04] Alexis: Okay, so I will ask you one question about your first piece of advice, if you don’t mind. For curiosity, you’ve been an SEO for about seven years now, right? And how do you maintain that curiosity and that level of inspiration?

[00:34:20] Brendan: It could be something that’s just fortunate, you know? I’m very fortunate enough to have found something that I’m interested in, and that I just continue to want to understand it. And I guess I’m interested in, you know, looking back on the last seven years, things that make me, like, really excited, right? Like moving rankings, getting those rankings to generate traffic, generating links, uncovering a technical SEO problem and lifting it, like, those things all feel so good when you uncover those things, and they don’t happen every day, but the only way they do happen is if you immerse yourself in it. So I’d say I’ve always been very excited about uncovering things, and that’s a huge way to stay engaged and motivated. Do you have any thoughts on that?

[00:35:15] Alexis: Ways use to stay curious? I think my initial reaction is, to some extent, it’s a little bit intrinsic, almost, that people have to have the passion. Like you said, you’re fascinated by it and it interests you; you like to learn. You like to try something different and that’s almost, I think, it’s hard to capture in a person, but I think that’s just something that some people have naturally, like It’s like passion. How do you spark passion in a person? Like, they have to do it themselves, I think, to find things that you love within the fields, which I think… We’re really fortunate because we interconnect with so many different areas of the business, that there’s always somewhere else to explore. I know that there are a lot of people who, in the industry, have been exploring machine learning because that relates to SEO in certain ways, in terms of like generating text or or even, like, analytics, and analytic analysis, and stuff like that. So just finding areas that you love or things that you’re interested in that continually keep you interested in our line of work. Probably that would be what I have to say, but I like your answer; it was great, it’s almost like an explorer, like a discovery or something.

[00:36:26] Brendan: Cool, cool. And I guess the last I think it is also very important, right? You have to move and execute. And so I think, you know, having the willingness to just move and get something done, right? Maybe you’re new and starting out and you like, don’t really know what to do. It’s like, you know, if you’re lucky enough to have a manager under you who’s outlining something like, listen and go do what he or she says. And then you’ll just continue to learn and figure out things along the way.

[00:36:58] Alexis: Yeah, trying things. Do you think it’s valuable to try things on a smaller scale at first and then expand?

[00:37:05] Brendan: Definitely. It’s good to start small, always. I mean, and another example would be like, maybe there’s a big idea that you want to move forward with, but like, you need to make a case for it internally. So, you know, thinking of a way to start small and get a quick learning to make the case for something bigger is definitely valuable.

[00:37:25] Alexis: Definitely. Well, thank you so much for joining today. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Brendan.

[00:37:32] Brendan: Thank you. Alexis, had a lot of fun.

[00:37:35] Alexis: All right. Awesome signing off, ciao.

The post 6. Interview w/ Brendan Cottam, Wayfair appeared first on

clean No no no 38:36 Alexis Sanders
5. Interview w/ Eric Hammond, American Eagle Sun, 19 May 2019 22:30:19 +0000 Alexis Sanders Episode Notes: Information about Eric: Twitter: Eric’s Podcast:  Timestamps: [0:00] Intros[4:30] Go-to analogy for SEO?[6:30] Why are analogies popular […]

The post 5. Interview w/ Eric Hammond, American Eagle appeared first on

full 5 1 Episode Notes:


[0:00] Intros
[4:30] Go-to analogy for SEO?
[6:30] Why are analogies popular in SEO?
[7:40] What is the best way to train people?
[9:30] Developing case studies to build credibility from the ground up
[11:30] Fashion industry versus SEO
[18:40] SEO is about getting personality 
[21:00] Making friends and leadership
[25:00] Value of creating processes 
[28:00] Automation versus personal
[33:00] Three golden nuggets of advice
1. Best practices
2. Create site with the best UX
3. Start making friends
[43:00] Lunchtime in Rome

Top quotes: 

  • “At the end of the day, we sell common sense. However, common sense is not all that common.”
  • ” I go for basically breaking hearts and finding how people are really searching for it. “
  • “Leaders will like, join you alongside you and guide you through things right. And that’s what I do like It’s taking them on the journey of why we want to do everything”
  • “Are you going to speak to that person in a meaningful way that takes a person to join them in and what they’re looking for?”
  • “As an SEO, everything that everybody else does impacts your channel.”
  • ” Wherever you can get a different perspective, you know, from a different angle. Looking at the looking at the same screen, but from a from a different angle and seeing something differently is always important
  • ” Once you get those, like little quick wins and you explain it and you see results. People start getting it”
  • ” I try to dumb it (complex SEO tasks) down as much as I can, so it’s very, very snackable and …. explain the why of what we’re doing everything. “
  • ” I would say more or so of it is taking them out of the fashion industry and backing up a step and getting them out of like the verbiage in the fashion industry, right? And focusing on what people are actually searching for. “
  • ” It’s kind of like the same old stuff that we’ve been talking about for a long time. Keyword research, content, user experience, you know, making everything much more friendly to the user “
  • “You won’t get any of your great recommendations pushed through unless you have those good relationships. That’s what it all comes down to. If there’s anything I want you to take away, start making friends.”


[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello. Today we’re here, joined by Matthew Grabiak account manager at Merkle, as well as Eric Hammond (Account Manager at American Eagle). We’re so excited to have you on the show, Eric.

[00:00:10] Eric Hammond: Yeah, I’m really excited to be here.

[00:00:13] Alexis: Eric is a longtime friend of ours, and I’m just excited to have a casual conversation with you. So would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?

[00:00:22] Eric: Yeah, so I actually used to work with Alexis here at Merkle and I have since moved on to do SEO at American Eagle Outfitters here in Pittsburgh. I enjoyed it. I want to say this. I enjoyed my time so much here. I miss you guys.

[00:00:38] Alexis: We miss you so much

[00:00:39] Eric: It was a great experience here and now I’ve moved on to American Eagle, which is also great. I love it there too. Tough work. Yeah.

[00:00:48] Alexis: Still reppin’ the Burgh.

[00:00:51] Eric: I love this town! You know I do. I do love it, but yeah, let’s do I am a little bit more about me. I’m a new dad, right? Five month old Maggie Grace. She’s adorable.

[00:01:01] Alexis: She is. I can attest to that Instagram photos on point. Yeah, right. She’s always smiling she’s so positive. Yeah, she really. She’s sleeping really good.

[00:01:12] Eric: just like you would want to keep that going. But, yeah, she’s a really, really good baby

[00:01:17] Alexis: on a scale of one to ten babies, she’s a ten. Crushing it!

Eric: Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s who I am right now.  

Alexis: Nice. And I know you have a series of hobbies, just as some fun facts. I know. You’re a really cool site, Xur. You played drums. Yeah.

[00:01:35] Eric: Yes, it’s funny. Started a website with a friend of mine. So if you’ve ever played destiny or destiny 2 you have probably visited the website, we’ve had a lot of traffic and a lot of cool things happen with that. It’s kind of a pet project. I’m actually gonna be handing off Just because life changes and interest is dropped and moving on. It’s just kind of takes up too much time. But

[00:01:56] Alexis: he owned the [where is] feature on snippet for a long time.

[00:01:59] Eric: Yeah it is pretty cool.

[00:02:00] Alexis: And it was awesome. Yeah, right on.

[00:02:03] Eric: and I also play drums. I love playing drums. It’s my favorite thing to do. I play almost every Sunday at church and I play a couple different gigs at different bars around the city here. And I love that so much.

[00:02:15] Alexis: That’s so Cool. Yeah, so fun.

[00:02:18] Eric: I actually want to build up my Instagram feed with, like, more drumming that’s a goal of this year for me

[00:02:24] Alexis: (Lol) we still need an intro, right?

[00:02:28] Eric: Just to make like me better. You know, you could kind of be more purposeful about it because it really is like genuinely my favorite thing to do.

[00:02:34] Alexis: It’s awesome. You get away from things like that too.

[00:02:36] Eric: Oh yeah. Such a like a release too

[00:02:38] Alexis: It’s really so so true. I have no musical talent, but I got other people do you know.

[00:02:44] Eric: You have so many other talents.

[00:02:47] Alexis: Thank you. Thank you so much! Alright, awesome. So let’s get into the meat of the podcast. So just to get us started, what is your favorite aspect of SEO?

[00:02:59] Eric: I love how it’s like, always changing, like the game is always changing. There’s always like a new element, and it’s probably and I don’t want to fast forward too much, but it’s also probably my least favorite part of it. Like sometimes, like we’re humans right, we don’t like change and there’s sometimes like, My gosh, could we just could we just stay here for a little bit? We’re having such a good success. Can we just live in this success for a little bit. But Google will do what Google does (and also other search engines). But there’s always something to research. There’s always something to study. There’s always something to strategically plan for and it just changes. And that for me is a really great thing that drives me, because I need change. I need something that kind of like something new to focus on and all that, so it very much meets a need there for me.

[00:03:46] Alexis: You want to grow and develop. (Eric: Yeah) Be a part of something that ends up being bigger in the end. So cool. (Eric: Yeah) That’s such a great aspect. I feel like that’s a popular one, because when you come into SEO, it’s always like the whole fire hydrant of information you’re getting. And then you realize as your you develop into an account manager that it’s always a fire hydrant. You’re just always surrounded by so much.

[00:04:10] Eric: It’s different. And I’ll probably talk a little bit about this too, but it’s different than like any other marketing channel. It’s not. We’re going to plan to spend this amount of budget and expect to get this amount of return. (Alexis: Yeah) I mean like all the paid channels and whatnot. So it is more about planning and all kinds of strategic moves and whatnot. Yeah, I’ll talk more about that too, but that’s pretty much the biggest reason.

[00:04:33] Alexis: So do you have an analogy for what you like to, your go-to analogy for SEO because I’ve been hearing from different people different, that everyone has different connections. I was sort of connected back to the like a seed you plant and you garden and you plan, and you hope that the seed comes out because you’ve given all the right conditions for it to grow. Some people use the sports analogies.

Matt: What did Tessa use last episode? I’m blanking on it. (For readers: Spoiled rich kid)

Alexis: It was so good! I heard this week too hedge funds. It was like it’s like you’re hedging your bets. And I thought it was brilliant. I was like, Oh, my God, I never thought about SEO from a financial perspective, It’s like you’re literally planning your estimating what’s going to happen. You know, you’re essentially like a finance type, right?

[00:05:18] Eric: It is hard to, like, estimate it for an analogy. I don’t know, like it’s just cause it’s all over the place. I feel sometimes. So it’s hard to put, like, one analogy to it, you know, oftentimes like, you know, by reference like we all have to basically, like sing in harmony, right? It’s like, like kind of like, yeah, yeah, always goes back to music.

[00:05:39] Eric: you know, you have your director who strategically is guiding everybody through it all, and everybody you know over in the horn section is to be doing this, and you’re playing this note and also, you know, on the other side of things, like in the woodwind section or whatever you want to call

[00:05:55] Alexis: Yeah, I would be the woodman. (lol)

[00:05:59] Eric: Yeah, there you go. Yeah, but it’s all about like making everything sing in harmony from technical SEO making sure that’s going. And also like you keyword research in content optimization. You know, pretty much the nuts and bolts. And it was funny. Is that kind of plays in the like? My whole theme is, like, at the end of the day, we sell a lot of common sense. Yeah, but common sense is not that common. Like I always refer to that

[00:06:17] Alexis: ‘common sense, it’s not that common.’

[00:06:23] Eric: So that’s my, uh, out of pocket analogy for us.

Matt: I love it.. That was a great question. SEOs do seem to love analogies, right? You use analogies, way more than other groups.

[00:06:37] Alexis: Maybe, do you think it’s because explaining SEO, too someone who’s never experienced SEO before or experienced the wonders of the Internet and that it’s something that’s so far off from what they’ve ever experienced that you need to use something that they’re going to latch onto. And so we’ve gravitated to these different analogies.

[00:06:59] Eric: yeah, well, and you have to make it relatable and well, like that’s actually one of my takeaways from this episode (Alexis: Your golden nugs!) is like all the relationships that you have with other people in educating them on what SEO is and having them have a better understanding is really great, you know, like people outside of your team or, you know, big stakeholders in your company, like they don’t really understand what it is. So making those relationships and bringing understanding and educating on what it is, will help you out the most.

[00:07:33] Alexis: I love that. I just wanted to pause on that for a second because I think we could talk about this for hours. I know. Yeah, we talked a little bit with this, with Tessa about this, but what do you think is the best way to give that knowledge to other people?

[00:07:49] Eric: It’s funny. So James, who also used to work at Merkle with me James Patterson. (Alexis: James P!… Jerry.) Yeah. Jerry. Yeah, Um, you know, he’s much more on the technical SEO side of things. And I’m much more on the content side of things. (Alexis: You balance each other.) We do balance each other because he is a great set, like his mind has just a great set of knowledge. But I feel like one of my strengths is like communicating things at a dumb enough level for other people to understand. Because I don’t feel like I’m not, like smart enough. So, like, I try to dumb it down as much as I can so very, very snackable and just, you know, just so you can explain the why of what we’re doing everything.

Alexis: Those little quick bites, those little nibs! (lol)

Eric: And once you get those, like little quick wins and you explain it and you see results. People start getting it. Yeah, yeah.

Matt: and education, We’re only two episodes in. But education has already been a big theme in these two episodes.

Eric: That’s what it is like. And that’s what that’s one of the most like. I feel biggest difference between agency and in house. On the agency’s side, you’re trying to educate somebody on the other side that might not be a SEO guru or whatever, or they might be and they get it. But that communication and education funnel is so important it is so key like it’s probably the most important thing in a SEO like minus keyword research, minus content, minus technical. Like you have to create great relationships. Yeah.

[00:09:14] Alexis: So how do you… Go ahead, You had a question Matt.

[00:09:15] Matt: Yeah. So sounds like communication and education are your top method of doing this. But you have any other tips on ways to get buy-in from internal teams with SEO.

Eric: I think going back to what I said. Like, if you can get a little quick win, if you can develop that relationship with somebody like, may be on the same level as you and you do like a little case study and you provide results that opens it up more and more. (Matt: Right?) So kind of starting from the ground up like, what can you and what relationships can you make that are more of a peer level on another team that you can make a difference and then funnel that up and keep it going? Does that makes sense?

[00:09:54] Alexis: Yeah. So there’s, like a huge focus on “what can I do for you” versus “what can I do for me? Or what can I do for the site?” (Eric: Right.) You know, it’s let’s focus on, you know, I think is can be a little bit different. I feel like sometimes, like a least I’ve always focused on how can we better your experience, your site versus how can we make you into a rock star?

[00:10:17] Eric: Right! I love setting other people up to win. I love, like making other people look great. (Alexis: Yes.) You know, we’ll get those little quick wins like, you know, we have site merchants, and we coordinate with them constantly, right? And we work with them basically on a daily basis. And one of the great things with them is whatever they touch it impacts the site greatly, you know, in terms of eCommerce, right, And I’m sure that resonates with other eCommerce listeners. So if you can

[00:10:44] Alexis: Get all the power.

[00:10:47] Eric: So if you can make them look good to their supervisors in their bosses likes, then you get buy-in, and then you just snow ball It right? Yeah. Great point.

Matt: I agree with that. In my experience, once you get them one win, they’ll continue to come back to

Eric: Yeah, right. Exactly. They come back to you for more, right? Yeah, totally. And with us. Being a fashion Ecommerce website, it’s constantly changing, so they’re wondering, like what can we do for the next season? You know, all that kind of stuff

[00:11:15] Alexis: do you think the mentality of SEO fits really well with the mentality of fashion? Because you mentioned that SEO is constantly changing, fashion is constantly changing. It sounds like you like everyone (Probably) in the company has that same mentality of, like, what’s next? What do we do?

[00:11:30] Eric: I would say more or so of it is taking them out of the fashion industry and backing up a step and getting them out of like the verbiage in the fashion industry, right? And focusing on what people are actually searching for. Right.

[00:11:49] Eric: That’s just best practice keyword research, right? Finding out how people are searching for it, how people are referencing it because it might be different than the lingo or the slang that we use on the inside, right? So it’s a big education piece for eCommerce, and that would go across any commerce, right? It’s not just fashion industry, it’s other stuff, too. And that’s been a great education for our teams.

[00:12:11] Alexis: Nice. So basically, you approach it as you know, we’re going to go in. We’re going to find the keywords that match what people are actually saying. We’re going add those into our copy, and then we’re going to hope that we have some wins, share those wins out to turn into, like, this virtuous cycle. It really them coming back to you and get it more, more integrated into their system.

[00:12:32] Eric: I go back to it really is “common sense is not that common”, right? And it’s just it really is best practice keyword research. I feel like what I was looking through this. I was like, man, I’m gonna be a big letdown.

[00:12:45] Alexis: No, no!

[00:12:46] Eric: Everybody is all about the best practices, you know?

Matt: Yeah, that’s a great point, actually. Have a question about that. Relate to the fashion industry. Is that ever hard sell? I’ve never worked in the fashion industry, but I would imagine that SEO is a little more data driven by some of the decisions that they make, or just the way that the fashion industry works. So yeah, do they ever get married, to keywords or topics that you would I want them to shy away from. And how do you deal with that struggle?

Eric: Absolutely, it goes back to getting those quick wins, if you can, if you can prove that something works and it’s beneficial and it resonates one with you know, performance and analytics. And you know how that’s going. But also how you know your target demographic is responding to it. You know that’s important, too, because that’s another good research you know, with cross functional teams, we have other teams doing research and different strategies there to focus on, like how our specific demographic is referencing things as well.

[00:13:45] Alexis: That’s awesome. I love that idea of personas, audience development, you know, making sure to figure out how the and users actually using systems. And I think SEO actually fits really well into those data teams because we’re always thinking about the user. We’re thinking about their experience. Which do you feel that is different from what SEO, it would have looked like five, ten years ago?

[00:14:08] Eric: I think, like the nuts and bolts of it and reading all the blog’s reading all the speculation. It really does come down to best practices like that. It’s kind of like the same old stuff that we’ve been talking about for a long time. Keyword research, content, user experience, you know, making everything much more friendly to the user. That’s such a big, big focus. And it kind of always has been. Yeah, you

[00:14:32] Alexis: think about the big expertise, authoritativeness,  trustworthiness, like it’s like just a recycling and new verbiage for what we’ve always had. Yeah, I’ve always had.

[00:14:40] Eric: And there’s other things that you can pepper in structure, data. You know, things like that. Just all those best practices. It’s just kind of, for me It’s more monitoring how it’s working for you. And is it? Is it resonating for you?

[00:14:52] Alexis: Yeah, pepper in that structured data.

[00:14:54] Eric: You gotta do it, got to do it.

[00:14:56] Alexis: Little side of Structured data, pepper, technical SEO sauce. It has to be integrated with the meal that you can just… right? Right. (lol)

[00:15:08] Eric: Last time you had the sports focus, I thought you were gonna get into fashion This time around. I expected some really great fashion analogies from you know what (lol)

Eric: With me it would be all food and music based, that’s pretty much where we are.

[00:15:18] Alexis: Do you feel like everyone at American Eagle does fashion analogies? I asked this to Tessa about sports. So I’m like, does everyone and Dick’s Sporting goods use sports analogies? Or do you all of you all gravitate towards other ones?

[00:15:30] Eric: We use, whatever is for the individual, you know? And it’s funny

[00:15:36] Alexis: Focus on the target user.

[00:15:39] Eric:  It’s funny, like, I am not a fashion person. You know, I look good today because I’m wearing American Eagle stuff, right? But that’s because I get a discount for work, right? But, yeah, it’s interesting, like the landscape of people that work on a fashion, you know, eCommerce website or business or whatever that like me are not fashionable, like I don’t have and go back to like keyword research and finding like how people are searching for like, I’m just a normal guy. So I’m going to be less relatable to all the in insider lingo and whatnot. And I go for basically breaking hearts and finding how people are really searching for it.

[00:16:15] Alexis: Breaking hearts. (lol)

[00:16:20] Matt: Do you think there are benefits to you not being a fashion guy working on a fashion site?

Eric: Absolutely. I think like that’s pretty much any anywhere, wherever you can get a different perspective, you know, from a different angle. Looking at the looking at the same screen, but from a from a different angle and seeing something differently is always important, right?

Alexis: Beauty of diversity.

Eric: Right. And, yeah, it’s been a learning experience for me because there’s things that I had no idea what espadrilles were. Now, I do.

[00:16:52] Alexis: I don’t know what they are. What are they?

[00:16:55] Eric: I think they’re like those shoes that have, like, the basket weaving sole, you know, I’m talking about. Yeah, Okay. Yes. I had no idea they had a name.

[00:17:02] Eric: and that’s what they are… Go ahead. I’ve seen it, but I may be pronouncing it wrong.

Matt: I’m trusting you because I’ve never heard it.

[00:17:14] Eric: Right. All right, but that’s how people search for it. I was like, I didn’t know this was a thing. And evidently it’s really popular.

[00:17:18] Alexis: I would love if someone was just thinking I get me some espadrilles, because they’re so hot right now right. All right. Awesome. I love that. I’m going to go. Everyone look up espadrilles. Go to American Eagle. Okay, why is SEO so important for eCommerce?

[00:17:41] Eric: I think it’s unique to eCommerce because we have the opportunity impact someone on many parts of their journey. More than just buying something, right? So you have, basically, from researching something to actually buying it. So you want to create great content to educate somebody on something, and then you want to optimize some things is that they’re finding your product, right? So speaking to it over here and optimizing, like, actual product side. So whenever they are searching and they’re trying to find what they’re looking for doing general research and then they get closer and closer, and adding more words to their keyword. We’re making it a longer keyword as they figure out what they’re specifically looking for, they get down to it, and then they’re ready to buy. So, like, you’re way up high in the upper funnel. But then you’re so close down to the end, funnel to the conversion and you’re like, yeah, and I think that’s so unique is like I feel like other, like, you know, paid stuff is like – buy, buy, buy, buy. (Alexis: Like do it.) Right? But it’s more, it’s more elegant with SEO. Yeah, it’s more of a I don’t know, more personal. Yeah.

[00:18:49] Alexis: I keep talking about analogies, but the one thing that I talked about at the end of my MozCon speech was this idea that SEO really is about building relationships. And being good at Seo is being similar to a good friend. You need to be there, be available. When someone needs you.

[00:19:07] Eric: Right? Be honest. Be honest about what we’re talking about, right? Give a great experience. Yeah. All that.

[00:19:12] Alexis:  Do HTTPS (lol). Got to be secure.

Eric: Got be secure. So I’m really glad you mentioned that.

[00:19:20] Eric: Yeah, And it is going to be one of my takeaways for sure.

[00:19:23] Alexis: OK, we’ll digest that. Love it. Okay. All right. At a high level, what does a day in the life look like?

[00:19:34] Eric: So for me being again, we’re in the fashion industry. It’s all about seasonality. So moving through the moving through the year, different season, like, what are we focusing on next? Right? Like We’re not talking about summer right now. We’re way farther ahead than people think we are, which is pretty interesting. And it’s pretty cool to be a part of. So focusing on what’s coming up and staying focused with all of your cross functional teams is really important and kind of optimizing ahead, making sure that decisions are made and people are OK with all the decisions that you’ve made. So we’re all signed off. And you know when it times when comes time to launch for the season, we’re going from the ground up, and then things like meeting with site engineers, making sure what they’re doing isn’t going to harm anything that we’ve set in place. That wouldn’t set us back. You know, so keeping our finger on the pulse of site changes and all the technical things that they impact. That’s a constant, like that’s a moving target all the time. Because, you know, when you work at a place of, you know, like as big as American Eagle, there’s so much going on. People are constantly testing things. You know, there’s so much that goes into it, that it’s really hard to keep up with everything because that so many people have different ideas, and you wonder like, okay, is that going to impact us. We have to explain why. Let’s pull back a little bit, that kind of thing. It really is again just best practice tests, Tech SEO and making sure everybody’s on the same page. And we’re making the right decision for the user and all that.

[00:21:11] Alexis: Yes, so what would you do if, for instance, things didn’t go on the right page like two people had different pages? Something didn’t happen. What do you think is the best way to resolve those type of issues?

[00:21:21] Eric: I mean, it all comes back to like proving the why and explaining it and getting it. And that’s kind of where James succeeds is like he is a much better idea of how to speak, to get developer and can speak their lingo better than I can help them understand what we need to do.

[00:21:38] Alexis: I love that idea you going in there, speak their language

[00:21:40] Eric: and seek understanding like you want. You want to seek understanding, and that’s kind of what we do to get in on that level. So we want to see what’s their understanding behind what they’re doing and taking it back and trying to have them understand why it’s really important that we don’t do what they’re asking or seek understanding and say this is awesome and promote them, right? It’s on the other side of things too. Yeah.

[00:22:04] Alexis: Do you think, SEO and working as part of a company and starting with the why is good leadership training? Because a lot of times I feel when you’re in leadership, if you can get people to get the why they’re doing something, then they’ll just do it eventually.

[00:22:20] Eric: Can you unpack that a little bit?

[00:22:21] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So you’re essentially in every area. Probably not the boss of every single person that you engage with. Right? So you almost have to be a leader that has no authority from, say, we can fire you or We can lay you off or we can, you know, not promote you. All you can do is essentially give them the why give them the tool set to succeed and then hope that they do that. Yeah. So I for some reason, when you were speaking, I just found this beautiful analogy of leadership in the fact that you guys are already pretty early in your career are trying to have to explain why are you doing something? Why are you engaging with this? And I just thought it was kind of a nice comparison.

[00:23:03] Eric: Yeah, No. Totally. And you do kind of. You’re, like, not a micromanager, But you are like a leader of a very specific thing that touches pretty much everybody that does something for the site. Yes. Right? So you do kind of have to lead a team that you don’t lead, right? Yeah, totally. I see what you’re saying.

[00:23:21] Alexis: That leading without authority? Yeah.

[00:23:23] Eric: I lead without authority all the time. Like I have to, like, make my case. And oftentimes it all goes back to those relationships that you build, that people will listen to you and understand what you’re saying. And they’ll be on your side. And you are kind of it’s interesting. You put it like that. You are kind of a leader without authority. I do feel like that. I feel like I have no authority. (lol)

[00:23:44] Alexis: And I think that having that experience of leading without authority for all these people is going to become so much better when you actually, if you I have a position where you are an authority, because you’ve already been trained in a way of what works. You don’t have to feel like you’re twisting someone’s arm to do something. You know exactly what motivates them, What keeps them up at night, that kind of thing.

[00:24:08] Eric: Yeah, No, totally. There’s a quote out there about leadership, and it’s like, It’s leaders don’t like, I’m not gonna quote it, but it’s basically like leaders don’t like, tell you what to do. Leaders will like, join you alongside you and guide you through things right. And that’s what I do like It’s taking them on the journey of why we want to do everything

[00:24:27] Alexis: Such a leader.

[00:24:35] Eric:(lol) Yeah that’s pretty much what a day to day is like it’s a constantly moving target, and there’s always something to focus on, and almost every day is different because it depends on what comes up. You know, like it’s not like you’re putting out fires, because nothing in seo is incredibly urgent. There’s it’s very rare when it’s like, Oh, this is going to break everything and we can’t do this. Like we deindex our whole site like that like that, Like, you know, that hardly ever happens. But like, you know, it’s very rare. So it really is like staying ahead of things and being in those conversations and being involved heavily.

[00:25:09] Alexis: Yes, okay.

Matt: Sure. Yeah. So you listed a whole lot of things there for your day to day life, right, do you have any tips for just balancing all of that and managing of the teams that you work with and all of the page types that you work with on a day to day basis, especially for a site as big as AE?

[00:25:30] Eric: Absolutely. I think it comes down. A lot of it comes down to process. So once you’ve like, educated the why, what’s one thing that’s really important is to create a process that people can follow right from where, whether it’s keyword research and how we’re going to optimize. Or this is the content that we’re going to create, or this is the technical SEO roadmap for this project. It’s all about creating that follow along color by number way of doing things so that you could, like, start to hand things off. They already have an understanding of the why. You’ve already made your case, but in order to relieve the the oh, my gosh, I have so much work on my table, you’ve got to create processes to lessen the blow when something comes down the pipeline, right? And it’s also like prioritizing things. I think, you know, sometimes we as SEOs we might freak out about things that aren’t so detrimental and, like, you know, we might be like too focused on something like, oh, my gosh, they’re going to do this and it’s going to, you know, cause this you know and really, it’s like, let’s take a step back, let’s prioritize. Let’s take a look at the list of everything that we’re focusing on and create a you know a giant project tracker of What are we focusing on that’s going to get the best bang for our buck, really? Even though we’re organic and don’t spend money. (lol)

[00:26:50] Alexis: Well, your money is time. (Eric: It is, yes, time is money) and all the time that you spend with of all the people that you work with, the efforts, you want to be heading in a direction that’s beneficial. Organic doesn’t necessarily, may not cost money from a user perspective. Yeah, it costs people. (And people are expensive!)

[00:27:12] Eric: It really does. It really is. And then it’s one of my things to take away. It is really about creating those relationships and having like, you, put in your time, of course. But then there’s so many other people that put in time for you just to make sure that everything is resonating for SEO and that really is the resource, like there’s no dollar amount to it. It’s really the people that matter. And that’s why one of my biggest focuses is relationships.

[00:27:36] Alexis: I was going to go with another analogy that sometimes I’ll calculate if I might conferences. How much money you can, you think you’re spending based on how many people are there, how much your estimated salary would be. I usually put it like, I don’t know, like, got 65k, $75k dollars a year, and then I have calculate it by the minute. So how much money are you spending from talking to an audience for thirty minutes? How can you most use that time? So I think that can actually apply to business meetings to, like, you’re in a meeting with five people who are all making $100K thousand dollars a year or something like that. They get paid a lot. How much do you know? How much money are you costing them? By spending that time? And how can you make the biggest impact out of that time? I mean, I don’t think that’s something we need to calculate on a daily basis, but I think just recognizing and appreciating that people are worth and have value. That it is economic.,

[00:28:29] Eric: Yeah, I know machine learning is a big thing, and, like, you know, it’s a big thing in industry, but really like it’s still his people. Yeah, it really is. Yeah. You can’t get anything done without people. Yeah, You know..

[00:28:39] Alexis: Yeah, it’s so true!

[00:28:41] Matt: So I’m glad you brought that up because you might say that you’re focusing with content, and we’re just kind of started to get in the age or people are using machine learning to create content for SEO. Yeah. What is your opinion on that? How important you think the personalized touches versus automation with things like that?

[00:29:01] Eric: Well, two sides to that story, I think in general, I think it could be good. I think it could be it could lessen your workload. And it could be optimized from, uh, if you’re if you have a robot optimizing for another robot and that robot talks to that robot. Sure. Like that in theory, that that sounds good, right?

[00:29:22] Alexis: Robot empathizes more with robot two (continued tangent…).

[00:29:32] Eric: Right. And I know like Machine learning is getting smarter and smarter. But, you know, when you talk about your brand and your brand voice and what that means to the demo that you’re speaking to, I don’t think we’re quite there yet. So it’s more about Are you going to sell the person and not, persuade is the wrong word, But, like, are you going to speak to that person in a meaningful way that takes a person to join them in and what they’re looking for? You know what I mean?

[00:30:01] Alexis: Yeah. It’s got have intact. It’s got a resonate. Exactly.

[00:30:05] Eric: Right. And I don’t I think we’re there yet with machine learning. Probably will be some you someday, but not yet.

[00:30:11] Alexis: Abby and I, my specialist and I, might have talked about the fact that we cannot wait for the day where every kid gets a robot where the robot knows them better than anybody.

[00:30:20] Eric: you’re born in the hospital and there’s Like just a little robot that’s waiting for you.

[00:30:24] Alexis: Yeah. It’s like a little robo baby. (lol) Like, look, it like, You are sad today, Maggie, I will help You deal with these complex emotions, you know, she’ll never feel will never feel lonely or sad. You know, because I do think that with the Internet, with phones, it’s actually in some ways we’re becoming more connected. But we’re becoming less connected at the same,

Eric: Oh totally

Alexis: I’ve been taking some college classes, so I look at the generation Z and I watched how they interact with each other and almost always they’re on the phone. But when they actually connect with the person you could tell they latch on. They’re like, Oh, my God, you want to talk like this is so rare. It’s almost like

[00:31:06] Eric: It’s like getting a letter

[00:31:08] Alexis: Yes! It’s like getting a letter!

Eric: I’m kind of sad that’s where we are.

Alexis: Anybody that wants to send us a letter on the podcast, just send us one at Merkle Pittsburgh office. We accept all fan mail love and we love it.

[00:31:21] Matt: When was the last time that you got personal piece of mail. Something sent to you like a letter. Not an invitation,

[00:31:27] Alexis: I have a pen pal, actually.

[00:31:28] Eric: Outside of like a holiday, Maybe when I was like, 13.

[00:31:35] Alexis: I’m going to send you a letter. I have so many stamps and I collect stationery.

[00:31:42] Eric: I do appreciate good stationery.

[00:31:44] Alexis: God right. I’m a big fan. Yeah.

[00:31:47] Matt: I hope I don’t get this wrong. There’s actually a website. I think it might be called snail mail dot com where you can just automate and they’ll send the letter for you.

Eric: Here’s a personal touch without the personal touch. (lol)

[00:32:02] Alexis: Oh, my gosh. Snail mail pen pals. It looks like dot net.

[00:32:09] Eric: So you have a pen pal And like you, like, physically write letters

[00:32:12] Alexis: I do. sometimes we physically write letters. We I mean, he’s visited Pittsburgh before.

[00:32:16] Eric: No, I mean like, but you don’t like typing anything or like not like writing an email or…

[00:32:19] Alexis: Now, we met online, you know. Okay. Yeah. Alright. Yeah. It’s one of, like, very, very interesting modern relationship. I feel like we met online, and then we just talk since then. It’s very weird…

[00:32:30] Eric: See, I’d rather pull the quill out and, like, dip the pen in ink and can get the wax stamp on the envelope.

[00:32:37] Alexis: Yeah, um it’s been fun, the last six years or so. Yeah, it’s kind of weird to think about this. Some relationships are just naturally long distance. And, you know, sometimes you just connect with someone on like a thinking level. Just love their thoughts. Yeah, totally see what’s going on in their life. Yeah, it’s very odd, but, you know, but I embrace that. It’s pretty, pretty cool. But anyways, okay, getting back to SEO. So we have five minutes left. We don’t really talk, however, but it’s been thirty five minutes, Even talked about you. So I love to get what your little golden nuggets of advice for SEO working in eCommerce. It could be anything could be interpersonal. It could be, like, very specific. Get that structured data pepper on there, whatever. Whatever it is happens to be that you think will be valuable to listeners.

[00:33:30] Eric: Yeah, absolutely. So again, I go back to common sense is not that common. Well, that’s what made up my list. So doing your keyword research and optimizing accordingly, right? Create great content and surround all of your products with great content.

[00:33:47] Matt: Do you have any tips for tools or techniques that you use?

[00:33:52] Eric: Yeah, so we leverage BrightEdge’s data cube tool to perform a lot of keyword research. We do have some rush to do that. They have a great keyword magic tool.

[00:34:01] Alexis: I love their magic tool!

[00:34:03] Eric: It’s a great tool. However, I do find BrightEdge’s more, uh, succinct, is that the right word where you’ll type in a word, and sometimes you’ll get too much of too many things that aren’t related of what you’re trying to research in the keyword magic tool. And you have to like, really, really, really filter out and get down. Where BrightEddge is a little bit smarter? It’s kind of like knows what You’re what you’re getting at, which is which is really interesting and, you know, reverse engineering things and physically looking at competitors and see what they’re doing. Like, you know, all those best practice keyword research techniques that you’ve probably heard before. Like, that’s where it’s at. Yeah, and number two would be create a great user experience with technical SEO best practices getting your site fast as possible, getting you know, page load speed up, use structured data, all those great things that create the great user experience on the technical side is so important. You know, if you visit a website that is much faster and snappier and you’re getting to where you want to get faster, it’s just better. Right? If things were laid out in a way that’s even like aesthetically pleasing or things like that like, you know, that’s so important. So just taking a look at that.

[00:35:19] Alexis: it’s also a trust metric. I feel when you look at the user experience and if you’re not as familiar with the brand, I mean American Eagle, you guys obviously have a great experience. I know because I go on there every year for all of my jeans, the best jeans like no joke. (Tangent stuffs) American Eagle jeans are the bomb dig.

[00:35:48] Eric: I didn’t own a pair of American blue jeans before I worked there. I never shopped at American Eagle I shopped at like Kmart. May it rest in peace, but it was just me. But when I when I was enlightened to how great the jeans are like I wear them around the house like I don’t even wear like, sweatpants. I just wear my really comfortable jeans.

[00:36:08] Alexis: Are themale ones have a little bit of stretchiness?

[00:36:12] Eric: We do, we have like, levels of stretch.

[00:36:14] Alexis: Yeah. I always get, like, super extra stretch. I’m like I need that.

[00:36:18] Eric: They pretty much all stretch. Yeah. Uh, so comfortable.

[00:36:23] Alexis: So you guys have a great experience, but other sites that you’re less familiar with, I mean, like Chicwish dot com or something. People may not be as familiar with that site or that brand. So having an experience where people can trust it and it looks legitimate because there’s so many people online that are, are legitimately trying to hack people and hurt them, so, making sure that, you know, you have all the information – the about us pages like the HTTPS, everything, all of your surround sound online and buy surround sound I mean, other people, How they’re talking about you online is good and positive-ish.

Eric: It’s your reputation.

Alexis: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So important. Yeah, I love that.

[00:37:06] Eric: Number three is again creating great relationships with cross functional teams. Like as an SEO, everything that everybody else does impacts your channel. So creating those relationships and making your case is helping other people succeed and building that trust within the technical development side of teams or the content side of things. It’s all so important, and I love how you put, like, leadership without authority. Like that’s really what you are and like, if you don’t have those good relationships, you’re not going to get anything done. You won’t get anything pushed through. You won’t get any of your great recommendations pushed through unless you have those good relationships. That’s what it all comes down to. If there’s anything I want you to take away, start making friends.


[00:37:48] Alexis: Personal relations, Yeah. Whatever you got to do, what you find out, what kind of coffee they like. Whatever. Whatever you gotta do to persuade them to get on your side. You like I’ve ordered some Argentine imperial. I’m in a lot of debt right now. There’s this ad that came out the other day That was Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, and one of them had posted on Twitter. And basically they’re like We’re ending our Twitter feud. And so they each made an ad for companies that they own. And the whole premise of it is that Ryan Reynolds makes this amazing ad for Hugh Jackman. That’s hilarious. He’s like “Hugh would have thought of this company, Hugh Jackman,” Beautiful. He’s like and he’s like, Wow, that was so good. And Ryan Reynolds was like, “Yeah, I spent a billion dollars” on it, so and then they show Hughes and he’s like, Oh, it’s not ready I’m not ready And all he does is like, pour out the tequila like you know what? “Ryan Reynolds. Not a cool guy. Bet you the tequila is good. I have to try.” And it just cuts back to them.

[00:38:56] Eric: It really is about relationships. Get those going. And you’ll have a really great success. Promise? Yeah.

[00:39:02] Alexis: Okay, So I have a toughie to end on. What do you do if your relationship perhaps gets off on the wrong foot? How do you solve for that type of about emotional and relationship crisis?

[00:39:15] Eric: Um, just that kind of depends on what it is, but I think it goes also back to seeking understanding. So you’ve got to get to where they are, you have to understand where they are and join them in their emotion and where they are, which is actually plug for my podcast, Lunch time in Rome.

[00:39:33] Alexis: like, Oh, my God. Yeah, yeah!

[00:39:38] Eric: But it’s all about getting to where they are joining them in their emotion and like, what went wrong and trying to mend it, you know, giving them some forgiving them, reassurance, all that kind of stuff and joining them where they are so that you can gain it back. Right. Um, whatever you could do, to remedy the situation. Or if you have to apologize or, you know, whatever, just get back on, seeking understanding. Getting back on the page that they’re on. So sometimes you just have to be open, honest and vulnerable and like the key is that vulnerability, right? And you have to Sometimes you have to, you know, let your hair down and admit to things that you might have been wrong on or face a tough conversations. You know that that will benefit everybody. But, you know, again, getting down and seeking their understanding is important.

[00:40:25] Alexis: So do you think that requires you to, like, let go of ego a little bit? Because I know last week I sent you an email. I was totally wrong. I mean, I was like, I was so wrong, and I was like, hey, I think it’s this, but I got to do more research on it. And I knew I needed to do more research in it. And then I did more research, and I sent you this article and they were like, yeah, that article says you’re totally wrong and was like, Okay, I didn’t want to say that. I sent you the article and I was like, You’re right, I’m totally wrong. I’m so sorry.

[00:40:52] Eric: I told you I was going to make fun of you today on the podcast.

[00:40:54] Alexis: you know, now making fun of myself, right? Right. But like, people are wrong. Like, sometimes the assumptions that you have about things are right or wrong and that can occur within, you know, a more technical situation or it can occur in an interpersonal situation that you just didn’t see it from their perspective initially. And then you suddenly are enlightened to that.

[00:41:13] Eric: Exactly. And goes back to that, like seeking understanding and, you know, getting to a place where you see it, you see it, how they see it, and then all of a sudden makes sense to you instead of, like you pushing back. You see it differently now that you see what they’re what they’re speaking to, right?

[00:41:29] Matt: So when you were not able to do that, I feel like it turns it into more of a competition.

[00:41:35] Eric: And then like that, it’s not good.

[00:41:37] Alexis: You don’t compete with your stakeholders.

[00:41:40] Eric: Yeah. Don’t compete like, you know, pull back when you need to and, um and, you know, pivot and move on to something else and maybe get a win over there and then come back to it and bring it up again, if need be.

[00:41:55] Alexis: I have a great mentor who, one thing that he said to me that has resonated throughout my entire life. It’s that everyone else in the world is doing their best with what they’ve been given, Now they may not have been taught how to communicate with others so way that they are communicating a problem to you isn’t coming off in a way that’s effective. But just if you can, get that concept that everyone else is doing their best to every single moment and trying to do what’s best for them and trying to live functional lives, probably I’d probably shorten to that down like 99% of people are trying to do that. I still think that they’re are one percent of people that are just bad people in doing bad things. But I think that 99% of people are good people that end up in situations that maybe they don’t know how to deal with effectively. Just if you can appreciate that about someone, you can say like, “Oh, you know, they’re acting really crazy driving, but they’ve never learned how to communicate in an effective way and they’re frustrated right now because they have to get somewhere, it’s really important to them.”

[00:42:55] Eric: Yeah, there’s more good than bad, no matter what the media puts out. There’s more good than bad. All news is bad news, on TV’s it’s all bad news, but there’s like people like again. It’s back to relationships.


[00:43:16] Eric: Yeah, absolutely, totally.

[00:43:18] Alexis: So let’s talk about a little bit about your podcast before we jump. Okay? So Lunchtime in Rome?

[00:43:23] Eric:,

[00:43:24] Alexis: lunchtime in Rome, lunch in Rome. Lunch time, lunch time. So it’s actually based off of dot com, right?

[00:43:31] Eric: Yeah dot com. It’s actually reference from Romans twelve fifteen in the Bible, so it’s twelve fifteen lunchtime.

Matt: Clever.

Eric:  right, right. But it’s all about just like sitting down and having a conversation and teaching people how to join each other in their emotions and comfort any hurt that they have in their lives. It’s really good, and I really, really recommend it.

[00:43:58] Alexis: If you want to learn to make relationships, go to Eric’s podcast lunchtime in Rome.

[00:44:04] Eric: Check it out! I would like for you to check it out and you can visit the website and give us ah, like a share on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

[00:44:11] Alexis: High ratings.

Eric: Yeah, yeah, five stars.

Alexis: Nothing less. awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Is there anywhere else to find you on the innerwebs?

[00:44:25] Eric: Yes. I am on Twitter at @elhammond that’s probably the best place that you could communicate with me on the level that I would probably want to communicate with you at this point, stranger.

(tangent) Yeah Twitter, hit me up, I’d love it.

[00:44:37] Alexis: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. And thanks, Matt. For coming on and being awesome as always thanks so much!

Eric: Thank you!

Alexis: Ciao, Bye.

The post 5. Interview w/ Eric Hammond, American Eagle appeared first on

clean No no no 45:54 Alexis Sanders
4. Interview w/ Tessa Bonacci, DICK’S Sun, 12 May 2019 20:46:27 +0000 Alexis Sanders Resources: Tessa’s Twitter: Merkle’s Digital Bowl (Super Bowl thing Alexis referenced) Timestamps:[0:00] Intros[4:30] Importance of educating team and keeping everyone […]

The post 4. Interview w/ Tessa Bonacci, DICK’S appeared first on

full 4 1 Resources:

[0:00] Intros
[4:30] Importance of educating team and keeping everyone in the loop
[7:00] power in over-communication 
[8:30] what makes a strong retail site
[10:00] working with other teams
[11:00] preparing for big events
[14:40] the digital shift
[16:30] how to connect with managers that don’t understand SEO
[20:00] what is best-in-class
[22:30] storytelling and using data (+challenges)
[24:20] ways to get buy-in
[25:00] competing with amazon
[28:00] nuggets of advice 
1. (over) communication
2. symbiotic relationship w/paid
3. don’t forget the basics (check site health, tracking events and performance)
[37:00] closing

Tessa’s Quotes:

  • “SEO is like the spoiled rich kid, you can’t pay them off with money. Executives are used to paying and seeing return, SEO just isn’t like that.”
  • “We like to just operate on a basis of over-communication. ” (In reference to working with multiple teams)
  • ” Of course, search engines are still important….Maybe you have a JavaScript based site, customer sees that (and) they love it. It’s great, but Google can’t render it or they can’t see it. We do have to still keep (search engines) in mind, you know, we have to… translate things for them, to make sure that they can understand this well. “


[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello and welcome. This is Alexis Sanders. And today I’m joined by Matthew Grabiak, account manager at Merkle, as well as Tessa Bonacci. That’s correctly pronounced?

Tessa Bonacci: Bonacci.

Alexis: Gah! Pronounced Bonacci. Bonacci, Bonacci. Tessa Bonacci from Dick’s Sporting Goods. And she is an e-commerce senior analyst? Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Tessa.

Tessa: Absolutely. Hi, everyone.

Alexis: And for coming into the office. Of course. Awesome as well. So would you mind giving yourself a brief introduction for our listeners or listener? (lol)

[00:00:43] Tessa: Sure. So I’ve been doing SEO, I think, since around late 2014. Mostly in house, um, consulting here and there, but the majority of my career, in Dick’s Sporting Goods kind of beginning as a specialist and working my way up to senior analyst role have more of a focus on some of, like, the QA testing and working across with some of our third-party vendors. So neat.

[00:01:01] Matt Grabiak: Uh, fun fact. I actually worked on the Dick’s Sporting Goods account in a previous agency and worked with Tessa. So I have been working with Tessa for quite a while now.

[00:01:14] Alexis: Yeah,

[00:01:14] Matt: for a long time.

[00:01:16] Tessa: Yeah, probably think over four years, I would say

[00:01:18] Alexis: Yeah. Yeah. So this is, like, a longstanding professional relationship here?

[00:01:23] Matt: Yeah, sure. I mean, I would say friendship.

Tessa: Yeah, I would say. Yeah.

Matt: That too.

Alexis: Alright. Awesome. And, Matt, do you have any additional things you’d like to tell the audience, any intro facts about yourself?

[00:01:48] Matt: I mean, not really I think you covered it pretty well, I am on account manager here at Merkle. I have done SEO for my entire professional career. So about ten years of SEO and I’ve mainly specialized in eCommerce, but I bounced around different industries as well.

[00:01:57] Alexis: Well, I, for one, am so excited to have you both on the podcast. All right, So I guess a good place to start is why is SEO important for eCommerce and eCommerce specifically?

[00:02:37] Tessa: Sure. So I would say that SEO is important for any type of website in the industry, but most specifically e commerce, because, I mean, bottom line is we sell things online. So, Seo, being such, you know, a big marketing channel, A lot of people using Google, it’s obviously important that we, you know, show up in the search results that way. We contend to anyone looking for any type for products in the dicks sporting goods, obviously sporting goods of people looking for mouthguards, cleats, …. A lot of them are coming from Google. So making sure that we are optimized in appearing for those queries is extremely important.

Alexis: Definitely.

[00:02:41] Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And how would you say that? That differs from just General SEO. What were those secrets for e-commerce that make it different thing?

[00:03:30] Tessa:  so definitely don’t want to give away any of my secrets.

Alexis: Give us the secret sauce! Lol

Tessa: so I did some work and lead generation before, which was definitely a different animal, which relied a little bit more on paid search, then say maybe e commerce obviously paid searches really large in eCommerce as well, but as far as the secrets, I think it’s just, you know, having a very holistic site, You know, everything is kind of important when you’re looking at a site especially as large as ours, so You know, if one piece of the puzzle kind of isn’t functioning correctly it impacts our channel. So just like making sure that the site holistically is kind of all put together, which is, you know, very challenging, especially when it’s something as large as Dick’s Sporting goods,

[00:04:15] Alexis: definitely. And how do you guys do that was so many moving parts? like you have so many different teams. You probably have to work with so many lines of business. Is there anything you find that you guys do that’s effective for to keep everything organized and the flock moving in the same direction?

[00:04:30] Tessa: Sure, it’s definitely a challenge. So our SEO team at the moment is made up of six people, two of which are copywriters, two of which are specialists. I was a senior analyst myself and then a manager. So how we kind of keep things (I guess what you would call together) is we do have the site kind of split in half. So with specialists and a copywriter kind of work on half of dicks sporting goods and then another specialists and copywriter work on the other half. And then we also have representatives on our team that are kind of responsible for those different teams that we work with. So someone is kind of the counterpart for UX, any of our third party vendors we worked for for local or those different things, so definitely organization is a big part of making sure that we keep stakeholders educated because I know SEO is, it’s not that it’s new, but it’s a little bit of a different animal, so it’s constantly changing. So we have to make sure that we’re constantly educating and keeping everyone in the loop and making sure that they understand how their business impacts our business and vice versa.

[00:05:33] Matt: That’s a really great point. I know that your team does a lot of training and make sure that all of eCommerce is involved in SEO. And it’s not just silo to your specific team that has a great benefit to the site in general.

[00:05:46] Alexis: Absolutely. So do you think those training’s are really helpful to getting everybody on the same ship?

[00:05:51] Tessa: I would definitely say, Yeah. So we have a pretty basic presentation that will do that’s like an SEO 101 that will offer across the board because Dick’s has like different educational programs, so the SEO (team) does one. And they do him a lot for merchandising trainees. So people that were, like, newer to the company. So educating them when they first come in, right?

Alexis: Get em when then they get in, when they’re young. (Lol)

[00:06:17] Tessa: When they’re placed into, you know, they’re wherever they’re going to be placed in Dicks, they kind of, like, have that SEO background and knowledge, which is great. And then even for people would have been at the company. You know, 15-20 years we do. We do trainings for them as well. We try to do things more, either on like a quarterly basis or two times a year to kind of just, like, say, “Hey, don’t forget about us. We’re still here Just because we’re a smaller team, we’re kind of in the background a lot.”

[00:06:40] Tessa: you know, we get involved as much as we can. And, you know, it’s definitely improved over the years as far as, like making sure people loop us in. Dick’s does a lot of testing, so your first thought might not be like how does that impact SEO, but as far as like how they’re serving. You know, the test with a redirects or they doing different things like that. So we just try to stay on top of it as much as we can. Definitely not perfect. But we’re working towards it.

[00:07:03] Alexis: Nice. Yeah, it sounds like you guys have a good SEO involved organization where at least SEO is on people’s mind, which is a huge deal to get to that point.

[00:07:13] Tessa: Yeah, it definitely took some time. And like

I said, I’ve been it dicks for a while. And I remember when we first started there, people were kind of likely what is SEO, although everyone is still learning and kind of getting up to speed with what it is, people are at least like, not shocked when they hear the term “SEO.”

[00:07:27] Matt: Yeah. So are there any key pieces of information like, If you want everyone in the organization to remember one or two things about Seo, what are those things?

[00:07:37] Tessa: I would say the first thing is just consider it always important, regardless of what you’re working on. So even if you’re thinking like I’m building these new pages or a new products coming out and it might not be applicable to our channel, communicate it anyway, so we like to just operate on a basis of over-communication. So even if

[00:07:57] Alexis: That’s such a good tip! Over-communicate with me, please! (Lol)

[00:07:59] Tessa: tell me everything you know, Even if it’s something if it’s a sale, something that might not fit into our world directly.

[00:08:05] Alexis: It probably does! (lol)

[00:08:07] Tessa: Exactly, at some point in time, it does overlap. So even if it’s a very small piece or if it’s just understanding, like what’s going on the website, I would definitely say that’s, you know, kind of number one and then as far as number two for people to know, I’m not sure I think number one is just like the pretty much the overarching kind of theme there. So if we can get that done, I’d say we’re pretty successful,

[00:08:35] Alexis: Definitely, because if they come to you and say like, Hey, we’re not really sure about this What are your thoughts on it? Then you can get ahead early in the process. I feel like a lot of SEO’s, especially what I see on a day to day basis Is they’re looped at the last minute and at that point there’s really not much they can do and there’s actually I guess there’s almost like this curve where you have the ability to make most impact and that’s typically towards the beginning and you have less ability to make impact towards the end or changes, it gets like way more expensive at that point. If you’re like – you have to change every way the to develop this entire product, you know, that might be very expensive, so over-communicating is such a good tip.

[00:09:13] Matt: even worse after it’s already implemented. And then you’re spending most of your time fixing problems.

Alexis: Yes.

Matt: Instead of creating solutions from the outset.

[00:09:26] Alexis: Yes, almost like Band AIDS and having that in your process, even having people talk to us top of line is probably like such a huge deal. Absolutely. What are your thoughts on what makes a retail site strong in terms of SEO?

[00:09:42] Tessa: in terms of Seo again, I know I mentioned this before, but I think that the site has to be healthy holistically. And I think that it’s more about the moving parts than just like looking at the site is a whole, especially if you’re a large retail site like such as us. We have to make sure that like I said, we have our hands, almost in everything. So every there’s different teams for every product line, whether it be family pages, category pages, products. We have to make sure that, you know, we’re kind of on top of all those different areas. And then, of course, the technical side of our site is also very important. So because, like new technologies, were constantly, constantly being developed ideas, and DSG has kind of brought a lot of like that technique like technology development in house. That has probably not been our biggest challenge. But probably one of the most important things that we worked on is just making sure if, like, you know, we’re going responsive or something like that, that SEO is involved just because we can do the meta tags do the content. But if the site is not technically sound, can’t be indexed by Google, none of that stuff really matters. So just making sure we kind of start with the basics to make sure the site is built correctly. And then all the fun stuff like content. And there’s different cool testing things kind of come after that.

[00:10:57] Matt: You mentioned Dick’s Sporting Goods, bringing product lines in house so most of eCommerce in retail has another side to it. Other than just the commerce site, a high percentage of sites have to work in tandem with other aspects of the business. How do you adapt to things like that on the day to day basis, say Dick’s Sporting goods decided to change their entire strategy and a product line that you’re working with. They decided to move that in house. How do you change your strategy to work with that?

[00:11:33] Tessa: So, yeah, that’s definitely a huge challenge. In the past… And I think like a lot of retail sites like you’ve mentioned, like we work with a lot of third parties and rely on a lot of other you know, companies or people in other places, to kind of be in charge of, like some of those aspects of the site, so especially if they’re not located, you know, in the same time zone or different things like that. So again, like just the communication of trying to coordinate to make sure that everything is in sync. I think one of the biggest challenges over the years, we’re definitely getting a lot better at now, is that we currently run on an m dot for a mobile site. So one of our big things is we have to have a quick turnaround time. Obviously, Dick’s is a big player in Super Bowl, World Series, those types of things. So when there’s like a clinch for the Super Bowl, you know we have to have things go live immediately and having those two different sites, technically, we have to make sure you know it updates on desktop updates on mobile and kind of check back and forth and just make sure everything is timely in sync and correct.

[00:12:36] Alexis: That must be so nerve wrecking to have like some big events like that, that drive, are just huge days.

Tessa: Yes.

Alexis: because I feel like there’s so many things that could go wrong, like you think, like 84 lumber at one of the Super Bowl’s a few years ago, had the whole site go down, right, because too many people hit it at once, You know.

[00:12:53] Tessa: right or if the wrong banner goes live or the Banner doesn’t go live like hypothetically, you know, you could miss out on like, projective traffic. That’s, you know, in a million. So you have to really make sure.

Alexis: No pressure

Tessa: but you’re just kind of instinct there. Once we bring things in house, it’s definitely a learning experience just because we’ve relied heavily on some of those other vendors in the past and just making sure that you know we’re staying educated and that we’ve leveraged they’re information as much as we can throughout the partnership, that way, because, you know, every business wants to be, you know, self reliant. So I’m just making sure that we’re educating as much as possible and leveraging the people that we have.

[00:13:28] Alexis: So I’m curious. Do you guys have, like, a checklist that to go through and people sign off on. How do you guys make sure that everything that happens on that day is going to happen?

[00:13:39] Tessa: Yeah, so that’s a good question. I feel like a lot of the people that are in charge have been kind of in the same position for a while. So almost veterans kind of in the aspect there.

Alexis: They’ve been through things, they’ve seen stuff.

Tessa: and the process is pretty seamless at this point. We’ve made technology changes that, like we’ve had to adapt to and things like that. But there’s a lot of different departments involved, like we talked before. So you know not just SEO, but the site merchandising team, the technology team. You know, UX people, they’re putting the banners lives. So

[00:14:16] Alexis: shout out to dev team! (lol)

[00:14:17] Tessa: Yeah, that’s basically all We have our own individual checklists. And then we all call in at the same time and kind of go through the checklist based on you know, what’s most important like is the page live?, is banner live?, those things, and then we kind of troubleshoot our own independently. And then we kind of collaborate as a group just to make sure that everything was kind of going off without a hitch.

[00:14:35] Alexis: So cool. It’s like a war meeting. Yeah, this roundtable on a conference line, of course.

Tessa: Right, what people are screaming in the background for the Super Bowl.

Alexis: Yeah, It’s good. It’s a good Sunday. Yeah, habit. I guess that does. That must be hard, too, because you guys have to take off that time because a lot of I would assume Dick’s Sporting goods People are athlete fans too, and have to work during the Super Bowl.

[00:15:00] Tessa: So, yeah, there’s a lot of, like playoff games that you wouldn’t think about it for the World Series like it could be, you know, a long standing Series, same thing with hockey, and there’s different things. So we do have to put some hours and outside of work. But

[00:15:18] Alexis: We’ll pour some out for you. You know, the Merkle team we do a Super Bowl thing where some people sacrifice their Super Bowl Sunday’s to, you know, do some reports too.

Tessa: It’s just the name of the game.

Alexis: It’s a tough, tough life we live here. Goodness, I have a question. So have you felt that over the last few years or the time that you’ve been at dick’s sporting goods there’s been an increasing shift from in store to online (and maybe not in terms of, like, money or anything like that. But I know that for a lot of other retail businesses, e commerce wasn’t a thought in their mind a few years ago, you know, maybe, like 10-ish years ago). But now everyone shops online and Amazon’s doing two-day shipping and the world is going digital. Have you guys felt that focus at dicks or that shift being, you know, more of a highlight?

[00:16:06] Tessa: Yeah, absolutely. So I you know, I work with a couple people that have been at Dick’s for almost ten years now, and they can remember when they started the eCommerce department. And it was, you know, ten people, twenty people, you know now where it’s well over you in the hundreds. So I know we’ve definitely felt it that way. And then as far as Like how people shop. Absolutely. So we’ve been as a company, putting a very strong focus on digital transformation in general. So you know, not just SEO, but social, paid, those different things and making sure that we are offering the customer everything we can, we have a great in store experience, but we would like that to be mirrored online as well, Just because so many shoppers, you know, are on the online world now. People are busy, and they just want to be able to quickly browse and making sure that our site is user friendly so that people can easily do that without any challenge, they could find exactly what they’re looking for the least amount of time. So yeah, we’ve definitely felt that. And especially in SEO, I mean, it’s evolved so much as well. So you know, the old school tactics of just like title tags and metas is like developing all the way to you know, what kind of JavaScript you’re using. So yeah, we’ve definitely felt that over the last few years

[00:17:14] Matt: you brought up a really great point that they’re all these additional digital marketing channels that you’re working with and also Dick’s Sporting Goods has been around for a long time, and there’s all these traditional marketing channels to deal with, How do you fight for SEO and make sure that it has its place in the equation?

[00:17:35] Tessa: That’s a great question. It definitely, you know, could be a challenge at times. So SEO is, like I said before, it’s so unique. So a lot of you know, people in the business or have been around for a while, you know, they’re used to, you know, you put money into something and you get a return. So Seo is one of the only channels, that I can think of off the top of my head that you can’t just put money out and see, you know, your investment. So I like to think of Seo is kind of like, you know, the spoiled rich kid like you. You can’t you can’t buy them off with money. You know, it has to be really thought out and it’s strategic. But it’s very, very difficult to communicate that just because it’s you know it’s not traditional in that way. So we do a lot of education like I mentioned, we do a lot of like pulling stuff together just to kind of show and explain that because at a high level with, You know, it’s difficult to understand. Like this year, Google looks way different than it did last year, and they’re kind of like, what exactly looks different. So, you know, with, like, the featured snippets, those different things quick answers. People aren’t necessarily always clicking through like they used to, Local becoming, you know, a much larger piece of the puzzle. So we do a lot of education. We do a lot of analysis and research and that we share that with, like, stakeholders to make sure that you know, we’re communicating, like why things are different, or you know, how they’re changing. Like I mentioned, it can definitely be a challenge, because even ourselves, sometimes we’re like, What’s going on here? Like, things don’t add up. But the more you dig in, the easier it is to kind of come up with kind of a scenario. But, yeah, it’s definitely challenging just because it’s not like the money returned channel.

[00:19:10] Alexis: Do you guys ever use, like, sports analogies? I train every day together. So, you know, like, you can’t just go to the gym and do one rep. Yeah, you gotta go out there.

Tessa: I think people try to avoid that. Just because sports are so in our face all day long. I mean, occasionally one will be thrown out for some humor, humor. (lol)

[00:18:12] Matt: I feel like it’s not as obvious when you’re in there. every day it’s kind of, you know, just go in one ear and out the other. You just it’s nothing new or surprising.

[00:18:22] Tessa: right? Maybe I don’t even think about this sports analogy like, let’s hit a home run today. I don’t even know what sports they

Alexis: Get Field goals in like, field hockey. Is it a field goal and field hockey? (lol)

[00:18:37] Matt: Uh, I’m not really familiar field hockey, but football.

[00:20:10] Alexis: Yeah, Nice. That’s good to know. Okay, I know sports. (lol) Um, alright. So what do you think defines a best in class experience? Like, what are some of the challenges that are going on in your industry in general?

Tessa: Yeah. So best in class experience that, you know, I feel like that’s, you know, a very broad question. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I feel shooting high. Yeah. Yeah, so you know again, every channel.

Alexis: It doesn’t make sense. It’s a long shot, you know, a penalty. (lol)

Matt: Just keep throwing them (the analogies) out and we’ll pick the best one… (lol)

[00:20:48] Tessa: So the challenge is I think that every team wears a different pair of glasses on what they think of the best experience is. So we’re thinking about it through SEO. Whereas UX is thinking about your interaction on the page. And, um, you know, the product teams that are developing new technologies, we’re thinking about maybe speed for their pages. And while they all come in to play, we all have a very different mindset of you know what you know, best case scenario looks like. so you know, from my opinion, when I try to take everything into consideration, just because, you know, SEO involves so many different, you know, pieces of the puzzle, you know, best in class, I would say is definitely a first begin with a functional site, that is quick, that a user can get to what they’re looking for as fast as possible. So I think, you know, landing on a page, you know, making sure that they land where what they’re looking for, whether that be a short tail query where they’re looking, they’re just looking the browse, and they’re kind of interested in seeing some different options. Whereas if they’re looking for a very specific basketball shoe, making sure that we’re serving. You know that that content, whether it be through email, marketing or, you know, search engine optimization or paid search and just making sure that we’re aligning with what their intent is, I think across the board, it’s probably makes best in class.

[00:22:04] Matt: You mentioned a lot of things that that are, more specific to user experience. And a lot of those opposed of traditional SEO argue that SEO doesn’t always take user experience into consideration. When making your decisions, you’re doing things for search engines. So how would you say that? How would you argue to those people that SEO is valuable for user experience and how those two ideas tie together?

[00:22:36] Tessa: Sure, yeah, I would say, five years ago, people were like, Okay, search engine search engines that work in, you know, Seo, whereas now, I mean, Google has even said themselves like try to manipulate things for search engines like, we’re worried about the customer. And if you provide a good experience for the customer, you know you’re providing a good experience for Google. So you’re looking at things like click through rate. Um balance rate. We do take those in the consideration because we like I said, we want to make sure that we are offering the best experience. So if you know our pages experiencing, you know a lot of the high bounce rates. We’re obviously not giving a good experience and you know that will eventually be reflected in the SERPs. So we see rankings decline because of that. So we just let people know that we do take all of those metrics in the consideration, not just number one on Google, because if we’re not doing those things, we’re not gonna be number one on Google. Since the industry has changed so much that you, you know, you really do have to make sure that you know what you’re doing is for the customer and not necessarily just for search engines. Of course, search engines are still important because even if you know maybe you have a JavaScript based site customer sees that they love it. It’s great, but Google can’t render it or they can’t see it. We do have to still keep in mind, you know, we have to kind of translate things for them, to make sure that they can understand this well.

[00:24:03] Alexis: I love that term translate. So you’re dealing with all these other teams. Does coming to them with a lot of data help you? You’re leaving and coming like we’re also, we’re on the same team like we want what you want, the best experience for the consumer. Does that help you guys?

[00:24:08] Tessa: Yeah, I think anything that we can put numbers behind that his data driven, I think pretty much any industry any team is gonna be like, Okay, here’s the facts. I think the struggle is a lot of the things that we do or have ideas about don’t have direct impact numbers. So sometimes we’ll do some testing with, like, meta tags and those different things, and maybe visits did increase. But when we draw it directly to, you know, the title tag, just because we have so many different things going on at the site at one time, Yeah, maybe, we know, increase the site speed or it’s just hard to silent one thing specifically and say this equals this. So it’s more like this + this + this could = this. Yeah. So that’s definitely the challenge. But we do try to put metrics behind things, especially things like holiday strategy. You know, it’s huge for us just to get some buying for some of the different stuff that we want to do that would require work from different teams. So anytime that we were able to bring numbers to the table, definitely kind of lights a fire.

[00:25:02] Alexis: I’d seen once at a conference that someone suggested trying to do things one at a time. But that’s gonna be impossible. With a site as large as Dick’s Sporting goods and there’s so many other moving pieces besides SEO. So which you may have implemented, you know, the U. S. Team may have exact on a content refresh that no one was told about. But, I mean, obviously you guys are communicated to.

[00:25:24] Tessa: Right, Yeah, we constantly have testing

going on. I think that that would just be in any retail site, the size of our different templates, different experiences. And that’s not something that they can put on hold for us to test. And it’s not something we can put on hold for them.

[00:25:45] Alexis: Exactly. But it’s good that you guys have numbers because I’m sure they appreciate coming, too. You coming to them with all those different information there.

[00:25:47] Matt: Data certainly is a powerful way to sell your initiatives and get find from other teams. Do you have any other recommendations for ways to get by in?

[00:25:58] Tessa: Yeah, that’s a great question. So a lot of the times what we’ll do when we don’t have, like, say, hard numbers to prove something, we try to rely more on visual things. So again, like I mentioned before the shift in the SERPs, while we could see some date around them like maybe visits have declined or shifted to you know more of a local perspective, and it’s like, why? And there’s not any numbers that we can show them directly that illustrate that. So we’ll do kind of like a side by side feature. So we’ll show. Here’s a picture of what the SERPs look like in 2017 for the word basketball. And here’s what they look like in 2019 for the word basketball.

[00:26:33] Alexis: and blow minds, (lol) it’s just changed so much.

[00:26:37] Tessa: It’s such a large, you know, switch, especially for things like site links. When you come to Dick’s Sporting goods, you know, typing in the branded term like, let’s just say two years ago used to be very brand focus the site links that would be shown it’s be different stores. The store locator. Now we’ll see things like sports equipment or anything that’s like trending, you know, are being poured in a site links. So we’re seeing more traffic shift a different ways and just being able to illustrate that and show it like live kind of like a hands on experience definitely helps with that.

[00:27:07] Alexis: All right, so I think we have two more questions. So you guys being a retail site are constantly in competition with Amazon? Do you have any general thoughts about this?

[00:27:21] Tessa: Yeah, sure. I think that Amazon is always a threat for retail

Alexis: slash every industry.(lol)

Tessa: Anything coming out. Yeah, they do pretty much everything. I don’t think that we felt the impact as hard as maybe some other industries. Just because I feel like a lot of the stuff that we sell

[00:27:44] Alexis: you’re known for

[00:27:45] Tessa: right and it’s not as popular. You know, to say on you Amazon, I feel like people still, you know, kind of like Dick’s is a big name in the game. You know, if you’re looking for some basketball shoes, or you know football gear. I feel like we’re still kind of like the dominant person in that industry. in the future, Do I think that it will become an issue? I think it’s definitely something that we need to at least be aware of and keep an eye on and kind of watch. You know what kind of like different things they’re trying like. How did their products that are similar to ours look, and those different things. So while we haven’t really felt a whole lot of impact yet, they’re definitely not someone to count out. Just like we said, they pretty much do everything. And I think another thing that we have, that they don’t have at the moment and I’m sure eventually will be coming is a lot of the stuff that we offer online. Also has like a counterpart in stores. So you know, baseball being a big thing while we do so bats, gloves, those different things. You know, we’re launching new store experiences where people can actually use those bats or, you know, a professional can help them, you know, fit the bat for themselves. Whereas with Amazon you’re kind of in the dark. You can use a sizing chart, but Dick’s has a lot of those different in store features that kind of, like, help the customer along their journey.

[00:29:00] Alexis: Yeah. And I think there’s something really special about getting your first baseball bat with your dad (Alexis note: or mom!), right? You know, we’re in store. Yeah. I mean, specifically, like my family would always go to Dick’s Sporting goods too to do that type of thing.

[00:29:15] Tessa: right? Like you’re fresh pair of cleats for, you know, softball season now, something like that. Yeah. I think we still

have a lot of that. Also, like emotional attachment. I Think Dick’s does a great job with that. We do have that kind of a special thing about us. Still, that kind of competes with the Amazon.

[00:29:28] Alexis: Nice. Alright. Any last thoughts before the closing question?

[00:29:32] Matt: No. Let’s go for it

[00:29:34] Alexis: Great. All right, so we did a little bit of top tips before, but so my question is, what are your three little nuggets of advice for a SEO working in eCommerce? This could be anything it could be interpersonal. It could be site related or SEO specific.

[00:29:51] Tessa: That’s a great question. I would say that the first one we talked a lot about this. Today is communication. You know, Not only do we expect to receive over-communication, we have to, you know, be held to the same standard to give over communications, so while, I know sometimes that could be like Just think about when you’re bombarded from emails from maybe someone like Dick’s Sporting goods and you kind of, like stopped caring as much. But, you know, we’ve seen a lot of success with just making sure that we keep people in the loop of things that we’re working on, or things that might impact their channel or just like how things went overall. So, you asked about data, so we share a lot of case studies of things

[00:30:30] Alexis: was going to say, It sounds like such a great idea.

[00:30:32] Tessa: So even though you know, it might not directly, you know, impact site merchandising. But maybe it’s tied to their area. It’s about baseball. So we just make sure that we communicate as much as possible. And then they do in return because, you know, we want to be good business partners. We don’t you know, just expect everything to be given to us and nothing in return. So making sure you have a really good balance relationship. And, you know, you stay on top of communication would be the first one.

[00:30:55] Alexis: And then how do you make time to build out those case studies? Because I know it sounds like you guys are running all day long. You have so much going on so many moving pieces and sometimes stepping back and appreciating all the hard work that you’ve done and putting it into a case study can be time consuming. Yeah, but so important towards like getting a cohesive team.

[00:31:13] Tessa:  Yeah, and that’s definitely something we put a focus on for 2019 is that we need to make sure that we’re doing that more often, and it is hard to find time because, because, you know, we don’t only work on dicks sporting goods, but we also work on field and stream in golf galaxy, which are, you know, also owned by Dick’s Sporting goods, two smaller sites. So a lot of our time, you know, kind of goes there. We just, you know, I have to find the time. I know that sounds very generic, but, you know, if it’s you know, half hour over lunch

[00:31:40] Alexis: case study Friday (lol)

[00:31:41] Tessa: half hour over lunch or, you know, you’re kind of just hanging out at home and, you know, at least gather your thoughts together, put him into one deck slide. We like to keep it simple, just so that everyone can understand from, you know, the vice president level all the way down to entry level. Yep. That way. You know, the information is kind of cohesive. And if someone is interested, we always, you know, have the details available for them. But

[00:32:06] Alexis: I like that idea, too. Because then if you get a one slide deck, you’re like, Oh, I’ll look at it… Yes, they opened it anyways, right now, and you can screen shot it in the emails, so they’re forced to look at it. Yeah, it’s about what’s in here.

Tessa: Try to draw the good stuff, bait him in to take a look.

Alexis: So yeah, but if you receive, like, a forty slide deck, right, you’re like, I’m never gonna be Oh, sorry. You know the executive somewhere, right? Yeah.

Tessa: Where? The bullets? Yes. Absolutely.

[00:32:31] Tessa: So overall, we just we make the time we make it happen. So communication and case studies the case, it is kind of like a little bonus. And yeah, it’s a nice thought in the number one. Number two, Number two. Let’s think here. Um, so, yeah, number one would definitely be communication.

[00:32:53] Matt: I was gonna say, Can I say something that might spark joy? I know that in Dick’s Sporting Goods you work, the SEO and SEM teams are very closely related. Yes. How do you create the connection between the two? And how do you work with each other to make sure that it’s kind of more symbiotic than it’s two separate teams just doing their own thing?

[00:33:21] Tessa: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I feel like over the years, like the last five years he’d read in order will be like, SEO and SEM should be working together. And like in theory, that’s great. And then when it came down and you sat down and you’re thinking, OK, how? That’s a really challenging. And like everyone thinks like SEO and SEM like one letter difference. They’re not that different. They’re interchangeable. So wrong. (lol)

They, you know, there’s a lot of differences, but we have recently there’s been a lot of restructuring at Dick’s, so we now are on the same team as SEM. We report off the same way. We have a lot more exposure of actually being in the same room versus being on opposite sides of the floor, which definitely helps. But just doing some brainstorming with them and kind of hearing how things go in their world sometimes sparks ideas on our end and vice versa. So we’ve done things where they have specialized ad copy for certain things, and we’ll give it a shot in SEO. And, you know, we’ll see like, how would that performing a title tag is that paid specific. It’s basically kind of trial and error at this point, so we’re definitely learning to work closely together. And, of course, if there’s a launch or something we’re very in sync with this is what Paid is doing. This is what I was doing. And a big part is there’s a lot of restrictions in paid search. So as far as like what you’re allowed to bid on and what’s okay. And pages that will kind of be aware of what their limitations are and kind of try to pick up our traffic in our areas. And then if we have limitations, you know, we’re not as authoritative in one area. Well, We can rely on them to pick up the traffic as well.

[00:35:08] Alexis: It’s like you guys are trying to symbiotically move forward. Yes. You know, it’s like, what can you do? What can I do? Where we limited, right?

[00:35:15] Matt: Is there You touch on this a little bit already, but is there a lot of data sharing between the two departments on what works and what doesn’t?

[00:35:25] Tessa: It probably could be better. I don’t think it’s terrible at the moment. So if we do, you know, work with them on, you know, some kind of, you know, copy that were using anything, we will share the results, but there’s a lot of going back and forth to check to see, You know, if we’re seeing a decline for a certain thing we’re like, is paid picking it up. So that’s what the sharing comes in a lot. So same thing for them that we didn’t perform this one as well this year for, you know, these paid terms like how is SEO performing, you know, was your traffic up in those areas, and we can kind of go back and forth to say like, we’re not losing the traffic it’s just shifting channels.

Alexis: So it’s like a basketball game because our passing the ball to each other! (lol)

Matt: Got to get those sports analogies in… (lol)  

Alexis: Symbiotic relationship with paid,

[00:36:08] Tessa: Yeah, that and then I would say the third is don’t forget the basics. We’re all like you said, We’re always running in different areas. So, like, we’re caught up like, Okay, there’s a new Kyrie launched this week or their, you know, site merch is, you know, building these pages or IT is putting together this new framework when we really need to make sure that we don’t forget about, like, our page is still being indexed, like taking a look and search console and making sure that, like our index pages looks correct. If you know it should be one hundred thousand, it’s four hundred thousand like those basic things there and making sure that you know title tags were displaying correctly, and they’re, you know, they’re being rendered properly and just like checking those things looking at, like the clicks and the click through rate, making sure that everything is how it should be. You know, just a basic things that we try to like sometimes be, like, escalating, like it could be this problem, like, is the site down like all these crazy things when we’re like, Okay, we need to make sure that we’re checking, you know, check the basics, make sure the page is next, you know, Is it the desktop version? Are people getting to the mobile page somehow and just making sure that we keep those fundamentals of SEO in mind and don’t get carried away with like testing and technologies and some of those different things.

[00:37:24] Matt: A lot of those ideas sound kind of simple, but you have a huge site with tons of different areas. You have all these existing pages that you have to keep track of. Plus, their new launch is all the time. How do you handle keeping track of all? At the same time?

[00:37:43] Tessa: It’s difficult. I’m not gonna lie. What I say the basics

are is probably like you said, it may be like mind blowing to someone else. So, yeah, we do have a very complex set up in the moment, like we’re so running on an m dot you know so we have a mobile version of the site, and then we also have the desktop version of the site. We also run a proxy solution just because we’ve had technical limitations in the past, so that’s almost like a third version of the site. So the site plays differently with different, you know, URL structures and different technologies, and it’s definitely hard to keep track of, you know, we have people on our team that are very specialized in a certain area. So I’ve been working on kind of those technical aspects for quite some time now. So it’s a lot easier for me to just be like we’ve seen these issues in the past, kind of like learning from the stakes, right, because they’re doing the same thing over and over again. So we just make sure that we write things now. We keep kind of tracker of site events like this happened in two thousand seventeen and we’ll see the are we anniversary-ing that? just kind of like having a high-level strategy that, you know, that works, being organized. Because if you’re not organized, things can go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick. (lol) So it’s definitely hard to manage. Yeah, um, just keeping on top of it, working and making sure that we’re leveraging everyone that we can. So, you know, a lot of people have it like I’d rather do it myself attitude. I’m one of them, but I have to keep in mind that we have to keep everyone in the loop to make sure that it’s something crazy isn’t happening like we saw, you know, something crazy happened, PDP (product pages). There’s a team which our products that’s responsible for those who like communicating with them, say, like any big changes, stuff like that, so while, it’s hard to manage, it’s definitely something that you get used to and kind of like in a process for. But, yeah, it’s a challenge.

Matt: All interesting stuff!

[00:39:33] Alexis: All right, So we got communications, symbiotic relationship with paid. Stick with the basics and stay organized. Yes. Yeah. Sounds simple, but very complex. Harder. Easier said than done. Yes, Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming on our podcast today. Tessa as well as Matt. I thought this was thoroughly enjoyable.

Tessa: Yes. Thanks for having me. It was awesome.

Matt: Pleasure, to see you and talk to you Tessa!

Alexis: Thank you, Ciao.

The post 4. Interview w/ Tessa Bonacci, DICK’S appeared first on

clean No no no 38:24 Alexis Sanders
3. Interview w/ Jamie Alberico, Arrow Electronics Mon, 06 May 2019 01:01:09 +0000 Alexis Sanders Resources: Jamie Alberico on twitter: Random, fun facts about Jamie: She wrangles in 4-6MM products, 7 languages Her spirit animal […]

The post 3. Interview w/ Jamie Alberico, Arrow Electronics appeared first on

full 3 1 Resources:


Note: Add 15 seconds for intro.

[0:00] Intros
[1:10] How do you deal with having so many product lines?
– Step back and look as an ecosystem (set up rules, breaking up sitemaps, etc.)
[2:58] Working embedded within dev team
– Helpful for: launching new code bases, features
– More interconnected team
[4:00] Origin story as a writer, forming a front-end team, journey to be more technical side
[7:00] What makes our products different? <- The data team implements
[9:00] Origins of “@Jammer_Volts”
[11:25] How do you learn technical SEO?
– Being curious and questioning (I’m seeing behavior that’s different. What is happening?)
– Being able to ask any question 
[12:30] Any tips on working with developers? Resolving conflicts?
– must clearly define what you want
– learning to speak the same language
– documenting issue appropriately
– don’t bother people in deep concentration (if it’s not a priority)
– tip: ask to stand in on a stand-up meeting
[18:20] How have things changed?
– figuring out complex problems
– freedom to fail
– play with code (Give Google Colabs a shot)
[20:20] Relationship with eCommerce and search?
[24:00] Speed vs. UX
– Look on #s of elements on the pages
– Talk about recipes (and having fluff content)
– Keep intent in mind/ user-first
[28:00] Answer questions directly
[29:00] User journey
– Friction points are real
[32:30] What do you need to do to be one of the best in eCommerce SEO?
– Try to buy a product without using search
– Using your own site’s hierarchy to find the product
[35:30] Dealing with c-suite
– Tip: talking in less technical terms
– Tip 2: Speak in $$
[38:30] Can an SEO sit in a boardroom?
[41:30] Nuggets of advice:
1. Buy something on the website (many varieties of tasks in here)
2. Understand how products come on and off your site
3. Understand the user flow and ecosystem (many elements in here)

My favorite Jamie quotes:

  • “SEO is a reflection of your overall site health, it impacts all other mediums, we’re just the ones that can see it.”  
  • “Sometimes when you pull on a thread, it causes more problems than it solves. So sometimes having an awareness of how this one thing affects the ecosystem can help.”
  • “You can’t buy something that doesn’t exist, and if you can’t Google it – does it exist?”
  • “(As a technical SEO) my customer is a search engine, it is googlebot”
  • “Experience what it’s like to wait 11 seconds to load a page”
  • “A website is a window into how a business runs”
  • “We use search engines as a mirror to understand a reflection of site health”
  • “A bug can truly be a feature, it’s all in how we handle it.”


Note 1: Add about ~15 seconds to timestamps to account for intro. 🙂

Note 2: If you see notice any major errors, please reach out to seointhelab [at], we tried our best to stay true to the vocal version.

[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello. And welcome back to SEO in the lab today. I have Jamie Alberico with me. Thanks so much for coming in, Jamie.

[00:00:08] Jamie Alberico: Thank you so very much for having me. It’s really good to chat with you again.

[00:00:12] Alexis: Yes. I’m so excited. I loved your speech at Engage, and I’m just so excited to get this next forty minutes to sink with you about some cool technical SEO concepts.

[00:00:23] Jamie: It was a lot of fun being on the panel with you. I love that we have the tech

SEO panel, we’re in this really beautiful ballroom and it was two women representing.

[00:00:32] Alexis: So true. And that guy with the plaid shirt. I don’t remember your name, sir, but I remember you.

All right. Awesome. For our listeners, would you mind giving yourself a bit of an introduction?

[00:00:44] Jamie: All right. My name is Jamie Alberico. I live in Denver, Colorado. Fun Fact, my name means “usurper elf king.” That is true. I am the SEO product owner for Arrow Electronics, which means I wrangle four to six million products in seven languages.

[00:01:03] Alexis: That’s it. That’s all you do just on a daily basis. (Lol) It’s pretty much…

[00:01:07] Jamie: It’s pretty low key, it’s very chill, you know? (lol)

[00:01:10] Alexis: Like, how do you, How do you even like manage that? How do you deal with having so many different product lines?

[00:01:17] Jamie: You can’t do it on a one off basis. You’ve got to step back and look at the system as an ecosystem. So how do we create systematic rules in play that say, “All right, this new PLP has no translations available in these languages. How do we keep answering the user’s requests and getting them through there? What do we do when we sunset products? How to even break up our sitemaps?”

So initially we had, you know, six million products in a site map on every night it rebuilt, and it shuffled in order. So I’m just joining this team. I’m trying to understand why is there this gap in our product index coverage? Indexation… I dare you, Barry, … (lol)

[00:02:01] Alexis: First line, throwing down the gauntlet. (lol)

[00:02:07] Jamie: For those of you who don’t know if you say indexation three times, it’s like a Beetlejuice effect for Barry Adams. He will appear.

It is called in index coverage and we had a significant gap in it for our electronics so I’m going through the site maps and then realizing this site map is different every time. What is happening here? So worked with my dev team. I have been lucky enough for the majority of my career to be embedded with dev teams to break it out by product line. So now, you know, we have nine hundred forty product lines while our six million products fall into those.

[00:02:40] Alexis: who’s also a technical SEO that’s embedded within a development team. Do you find that that system works well for a technical SEO and do you have a component that is a more content heavy side?

[00:02:58] Jamie: Yes, I am lucky enough to have a content SEO team who handles, you know, building our new content, identifying gaps, places that we can reach more people who are looking for what we offer. But being embedded with a dev team, especially when it comes to, you know, launching new code bases, migrations, new features, every piece of that, when you have the ability to sit down and talk with your devs and go, “Hey, my JavaScript boot-up time is really heavy here,” (mine, like on a page, I’m personifying a page.) (Lol) “How do we go ahead and get this down? What cashing elements can use? It’s It’s really effective because you have the ongoing feedback back and forth and there’s not that dis-connective “I’ve put a ticket, and I’m gonna hope for the best.”

[00:03:42] Alexis: Definitely, definitely. I like the idea of having those two different teams closer and more intimately tied to the source. I feel like that’s an interesting model, and one that’s newer. In the past, have you ever worked with any other companies that did something similar? Or is this kind of also a newer concept for you as well?

[00:04:00] Jamie: My first in-house SEO job I started as a marketing SEO and it was I was primarily focused on this blog on this education center, but I monitored all the pieces and there was a point where wow, my top keywords just dropped 23 spots. What’s going on? Oh no, and my index is bleeding out. I’m losing forty thousand pages a week and by digging into that, began to work more and more with the developers. Eventually we formed a front-end team. So SEO, UX, the developers, our QA team. We were all on one team together. It’s the first time I got an experience with a team build like that. But I found that because we were so interconnected, because we all had different insights and knowledge. Having the team work together is a single, cohesive unit to produce the best product.

[00:04:51] Alexis: And do you think that’s a direction, a strong direction for a lot of e commerce companies that they’re heading into, to more specialized areas of SEO?

[00:05:01] Jamie: I really hope they are. I really hope that people can take an approach of SEO isn’t just about organic traffic acquisition. It’s a reflection of your overall site health. This is impacting all other mediums we’re just the ones that can see it.

[00:05:16] Alexis: Definitely, definitely. And in researching your resume, (which is awesome, by the way), I found that you did a lot of CRO work before, you have a background in writing. What was your journey like to be more on the technical side of things?

[00:05:30] Jamie: Ah, so the trick here is to graduate college during a recession, and while your pondering life. Because all kind of longer than normal and hear where this is going to explain to their student loan officer, I want to pay you and I want to eat. How do we work this out? You being to find a way to take that English degree and put it to some frame of use? For me that started off as blogging. I was actually a blogger outreach manager. I was one of those people that I now ignore in my LinkedIn inbox. This is pre-penguin. We didn’t know any better.

[00:06:05] Alexis: It was okay back that… (lol)

[00:06:07] Jamie: Yeah, it was OK, you know, Listen, thing about her field is it constantly adapts. It’s constantly evolving everything you know, like R. I. P. Well, next and previous…

[00:06:19] Alexis: I was actually wondering how you felt about that.

[00:06:21] Jamie: It makes sense. It truly does. If we look at the use of technical signals when they’re not correct, correctly implemented or there’s just difficulty with the code going ahead in acknowledging and consolidating that it makes sense to go, “No.”

[00:06:34] Alexis: Yeah, I guess too Like the first page is the most important page, typically in those type of sets, right?

[00:06:42] Jamie: I do, you know, if we’ve got any Ecommerce site that has a product line made of sixty thousand products, which is a world I live in, it would be great to be able to break this down and have them be more specific and more relevant. Like what makes these sixty thousand products different from each other?

[00:06:57] Alexis: Yeah, and do you find it a challenge doing that? Like that might be more of your content team too, But like…

[00:07:03] Jamie: No, it’s actually our data team that handles that. (Cool!) Because, this is the thing about being in this place with dev teams is I get to work with architects and get to work with devs I get to work with developers. All these aspects, it’s very much like any form of machine learning: You get good clean data in, get good cleaned data out. Yeah, so identifying, now, I assume that so and so controls this. Well, time to just take a step back, and analyze some assumptions, sit down, have a cup of coffee with me, like ‘Oh, I misunderstood. What’s your rules here?’ But now I know, and now I know the next person I need to talk to.

[00:07:42] Alexis: Now I know you’re really actually very important. So about that email last week, just throw it in the trash. (lol)

[00:07:51] Jamie: I like to think that I don’t underestimate people’s importance. I’m sure I’ve not included a smiley face where I should have and it came off a little to direct, but we do our best and we learn and we grow.

[00:08:01] Alexis: Have you ever watched that Explained episode on exclamation points on Netflix? This is very specific. So Netflix has this show from Vox, which is called Explained, and they have a whole episode about the exclamation point, and you as a writer, you might be more informed about this, but apparently for many years the exclamation point has been considered useless by writers. There’s, like, no point. It’s like nobody uses that ever. And they talk about the rise of the exclamation point as, starting with marketing, but then actually being attributed to linguistically, women being in the workplace. Yeah, you need a way to soften your message, but at the same time be able to express your thoughts out and it was really interesting. So you saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t add a smiley face.’ I was like…

[00:08:47] Jamie: That’s really some genuine feedback I’ve received. (Oh, really?  Sigh… ☹) Oh, sometimes your emails come off as too direct. And to be honest, I’ve often wondered in scenarios like that, if my male counterparts have received that same kind feedback.

[00:08:59] Alexis: Oh they definitely haven’t. There’s no way they have. (☹)

[00:09:05] Jamie: Hey, you will really directing this email. And you made someone over here cry? Why?

[00:09:08] Alexis: You said exactly what you wanted. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s tough.

[00:09:10] Jamie: We were talking about how I got into SEO. We’ve moved into a beautiful tangent.

[00:09:15] Alexis: On this tangent, I want to ask you another kind of tangential question about you. So what does @Jammer_Volts mean? I know that’s your handle and I’m like, really curious.

[00:09:32] Jamie: Literally very little. back in the day In a past life, I had a custom prop shop, so we had our booth at the very first ever comic con we made. A lot of people went into this cosplay outfits and they would paint a Nerf gun. And we always thought I was a little bit well like, alright, I guess it gets the job done. An this shop’s goal was that we’re going to make something that is functional that shoots a fireball. Yeah, we were the people who want the –? that would shoot fireballs and used an antique jewelry box to case them in. I doubt any of the pop culture cons or comic cons would let you in with them. But the idea was, here’s your piece of authenticity, here’s something that makes this world a little bit more real. See, it didn’t last very long, but it was a fun adventure. And my partner was professor Volts. I was, Jammer Volts, cause I had all the communications and Jammer refers back to like World War two radio communications. It’s also a Derby term. So I apologize to every Derby girl out there who’s like “you’re not a jammer, why are you using that?” I wouldn’t know any better. I’ve had this name a long time. I would love to do Derby. I’ve got elbow talents. Let’s do this.

[00:10:58] Alexis: You could reach her at @Jammer_Volts on Twitter. Awesome. So cool. That’s actually like an amazing story for a handle. So that’s awesome.

Okay, cool. So one of the questions that I get a lot is how do you learn Technical SEO? And I feel like you as someone who’s gone through this process, what are some resource is that you’ve learned from and found really useful?

[00:11:25] Jamie: You learn from being curious and questioning. I can honestly say most of my career, most of my success has been from taking a step back from assumptions of how a process works of how, you know, this piece of data gets here, and going: “I’m seeing behavior that’s different. What is the gap between these?”

And being willing to be the dumbest kid in the room has been my greatest strength because it lets me ask dumb questions. And then I can come to understand, oh wait, transaction means something different to you when you’re referring to server hits. And for me, it means an Ecommerce transaction, identifying that Codex and even finding the words for things knowing, Ah, this has a name?

[00:12:17] Alexis: Definitely. So do you think that listening and being able to question is… almost like your weapon?

[00:12:24] Jamie: That is my superpower.

[00:12:27] Alexis: That’s a good one, like that’s actually a really, really good superpower. So if you would have an actual superpower. What would it be? Do you know? (lol)

[00:12:34] Jamie: I would have the ability to teleport.

[00:12:38] Alexis: Oh my gosh that would be such a nice one.

Okay, so you obviously work with developers a lot. Any tips, tricks, thoughts on, like what it’s like to work with developers and getting them to do what you want them to do? And maybe even, I’m interested, too in like, how do you resolve conflicts when they’re very resistant to what you want? How do you get them to come around to your side or like when to back down?

[00:13:02] Jamie: Absolutely. There tends to be two frames of thought, and I actually worked as an advocate to get the marketing SEO side to begin adding Jira tickets. Jira’s a fantastic way of managing your backlog and getting things moving, prioritized. It was a running joke for a while that our lovely head of SEO at the time, his name was Brad. He would just send me tickets that were like “Website broken. Please help”

So it’s became, “Let’s have a conversation about what information’s valuable.” Developers are very literal. They want to give you the product that you want, but unless you clearly defined that it’s a big gap. So part of it is learning to speak the same language. It’s learning. Okay, What does the ticket process look like? when I put a ticket in, what human would I have a conversation with? Because, typically, business analysts are involved and they help get additional information. I’m pretty notorious for when I first joined teams, over-documenting like, “Hey, I found a substantial issue. I’m going to bring it to the table. Do you have questions. Can we hold them until I get through the first 23 pages of this? And then we can get to explore the supporting Excel books, and we can examine this further.” So really making a case, letting them reproduce it, showing them with a diagnostic tool, exactly what is the problem and what the goal is. (Definitely.)

And I’ve worked in teams where they called the Dev Pod the “shark tank,” because everyone was afraid to go in there, you’d eaten alive. Developers, a lot of times are wearing headphones with nothing playing, and it’s a social cue of ‘I am in a complex thought process, and I’m not able to have a conversation right now.’ So part of it’s going to be acknowledging how important the issue you’re facing is. Is the site literally on fire? Okay, if it’s not going ahead and interrupting someone who’s working in a complex process, who is going to have to take 20 minutes to get back to where they were once they stop, may not be worthwhile. So how do you take something like a ticket format layout for all those critical pieces and then have that conversation?

So the first thing I would advocate to any SEO’s out there who are a little bit scared of your dev teams, ask to sit in on stand up. This is the morning meeting where devs, they’re going to go, ‘This is what I’m working on. This is where I’m blocked. This is what I’m working on next.’ Start there. Just be a fly on the wall. It’s okay not to be able to contribute immediately, but you’re going to learn a lot. And once you understand how to speak that language, getting what you are asking for done effectively will become easier.

[00:15:44] Alexis: Definitely. I love that idea of, like, almost going in, infiltrating, be a spy or something.

[00:15:50] Jamie: Be the dumbest kid in the room. Own it.

[00:16:00] Alexis: We could accept it, embrace. That’s awesome, though, because I’m sure eventually, like I’m sure you found that you’ve graduated throughout the ranks and now you’re probably one of the smarter people in the room. I’m sure there’s some really smart people you work with

[00:16:09] Jamie: There’s still on a regular basis. Moments where I’m like Jeff, “I have no idea what you’re saying right now.” I’d like to come, I like to say, Jeff, Dream-crusher last-name. He frequently comes to me and goes, “Hi, this thing that you want to fix, this thing you want to change? Well, you’re pulling on a string.” So a lot of times, really, I’m sure many SEO’s out there have gone: This is the stupidest thing. Why have we done it that way? Why won’t you just do it this way? Well, that comes down to fundamental architecture, and sometimes when you pull on that thread, you’re going to release a lot more problems you’re going to solve. So having the awareness of how this one thing you want to change in the ecosystem will impact other pieces, will impact other teams initiatives, is critical for you to be successful in these large environments.

[00:17:00] Alexis: Definitely. Yeah. You don’t want like a full yarn ball going out everywhere, creating a mess. (lol)

[00:17:05] Jamie: It’s going to anyways, it’s gonna happen. (lol)

[00:17:10] Alexis: One day you will. One day you will bring a site down too.

[00:17:16] Jamie: And that’s still there running joke. It’s not your until you break it.

[00:17:19] Alexis: I guess that’s true. I have broken one too many sites in my day, not obviously our clients’ sites, but…

[00:17:28] Jamie: In full transparency. I’ve been working in a friend’s sites and, you know, doing may have been in the HTaccess file, and I’ve been, you know, just writing the mod rewrite so it could go ahead and resolve all versions to preferred, and accidentally taken down their site. Because I want it done right next day. Yeah, that’ll do it. And it’s like keeping your composure when they ask: What are you doing this weekend? Well. bringing their site back. (lol)

[00:17:00] Alexis: Everything’s Fine. Everything’s great. Yeah, Let’s Why don’t you two talk for, like, two minutes? Yeah, that’s great. Let me just put my headphones in for a second. (lol)

[00:17:00] Alexis: I feel really thankful that I got into SEO very early on. I mean, relatively speaking, starting in 2008, caffeine was 2006. Google’s finally on everyone’s radar. We were Ask Jeeves anymore, but because it was so unknown and it gave me a lot of freedom to fail.

[00:18:14] Alexis: Definitely. What do you feel like are some of the things that have changed within the industry since you started? Do you feel like there’s been like a huge shift?

[00:18:25] Jamie: There’s textbooks now! (lol) I’ve had people ask me, How did how did you learn? What classes did you take them like old boots on the ground and a prayer in my pocket?  (lol) It was, I don’t know, but I figure it out. You know, a lot of complex problem solving and being willing to sit down with people and being willing to sit outside, you know, a CTO’s office for two hours, and wait patiently because something was important enough.

[00:18:52] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. Oh, my gosh, I can only imagine. So I know that one of the things that I’ve always felt about working for an agency is the coolest part is you get to see a ton of different complex problems that different groups have in different industries, and I feel like you’ve almost got that through going through different jobs, seeing different types of things, working with, like particular sites. I think that’s like you said, Learning on the job is probably one of the most important things that one can do.

[00:19:19] Jamie: And you know, if you’re limited, a lot of it’s hard because you don’t have the access to that type of thing. I remember I was. I was lucky enough to work with the Google Analytics product owner in getting enhanced eCommerce in when it was first a thing. And it was really tricky because there were no sites out there that already had these types of things. We were white listed for it. It was a beta. Well, it was It was amazing data to take advantage of. It took it like a year for them to put up the demo-store so you could go ahead and look at this sandbox testing ground. I think Google has embraced that as well. You haven’t gotten a check out Colabs yet or, you know, begun using colab workbooks and your Google drive to start playing around with code. I highly recommend it. It’s that freedom too fast.

[00:20:04] Alexis: Yes. Yeah, And it’s really cool, because I’ve always felt I don’t know if you felt this and your experimentation with programming that the worst part is the set up

[00:20:13] Jamie: Oh, getting your libraries, right? Please kill me now. Actually, Hamlet Batista shared out a great way just over coffee and chatting at Tech SEO boost. Great conference guys. The only tech SEO conference out there. Thank you, Paul and search Catalyst Team. But he was like, Hey, here’s how you export all of your library dependencies when you share.

[00:20:34] Alexis: That’s like thank you.

[00:20:35] Jamie: So one of my biggest challenges was not only setting it up, but I’m making it so someone else could use it on far smarter minds and myself, like Hamlet have gone ahead and figured this out on our sharing that information.

[00:20:46] Alexis: Yeah definitely, and there’s always a lot of people with python will use something like Anaconda. But if you go in blind or, I don’t know, positive optimistic, you’re like, Oh, like, let me download the newest python, Python three, and then, you know, it’s like No, no, no, no, no. They designed it on python 2.7. You’re like, Well, what’s the difference? Nothing works. (lol)

[00:21:06] Jamie: That was our big difference. Very, very big difference. But that’s why those Colab research workbooks are so great because you’re working in a python notebook that gives you that same interface as Anaconda does, where you can run each segment, you can identify your break points. You can rework it

[00:21:24] Alexis: definitely, and you could do some pretty intense stuff in there like some pretty intense machine learning stuff. So pretty cool, pretty cool, great tip. Having worked in eCommerce and Technical SEO, What do you see as the relationship between eCommerce websites and search?

[00:21:40] Jamie: You can’t buy a thing that doesn’t exist. And if you can’t Google it does it exist?

And then we have Amazon as Google’s largest competitors because they’re so effective at selling. And if we really dig deep into the bones of how eCommerce is set up and you start looking at what data are we even sending in our product seats? Because chances are I’m using that same data in my structured data markup.

How can we learn from these other tools? So a lot of collaboration with the channel manager, the person who’s sending out that product feed to Amazon, to Google, to any other of the page search partners. They have a lot of insight that we can gleam. But it’s that willingness to go. I want to learn about your world. I’m going to sit here on be the be the dumb kid for a second and I’m going to come out a lot better for it.

[00:22:29] Alexis: So talking about the dumb kid, I have a question for you. What does “SEO as a function of product mean?” You mentioned that in an earlier conversation we had once and I was like “What does that mean?” (lol)

[00:22:43] Jamie: Oh that one time we talked intensely for like, two days with way too much coffee. (lol)

I know that when it comes to how a report in my current position, my customer is a search engine, it is Googlebot. It is primarily Googlebot because, you know, we have a JavaScript heavy site. We’re working towards moving to more server-side rendering, at least for those critical components. So international search engines are a bit more adapted at picking up what that content means. Personally and persistently on a mission to improve performance, I really encourage anybody out there who was working with an international site. Go travel abroad and don’t rely on your 4G WiFi (if you can). You pick up a SIM card from one of the local shops, pop that thing in and experience what it is like for you to spend 11 cents to load a page and stuff.

[00:23:40] Alexis: and suffer… (lol)

[00:23:44] Jamie: It’ll be five minutes of your life, eleven cents of your dollar. How apt are you at that moment of like yeah it is worth buying. Wonder how long their cart process is. Oh, I’ve gotta register. How much more likely are you to back off?

[00:23:57] Alexis: So how do you balance? I’m always curious with us for e commerce sites. What is there any internal logic on: How do you balance the experience with speed and how do you know when to start focusing on one or the other?

[00:24:09] Jamie: Speed is the experience. It’s is the foundation of it.

[00:24:12] Alexis: Yeah, that’s the tough part too, is they are kind of like the same thing. But then again, there’s always the optimization of the actual experience itself. So…

[00:24:15] Jamie: Define for me optimization. (Alexis note: She’s level setting right now! See advice in action! Way cool!)

[00:24:20] Alexis: So like, let’s say, for instance, you know what you want to have with your website experience. But maybe, not necessarily as fast as it could be physically, getting like a minimal, viable product ready. Your code works, everything’s good, but then it’s not as efficient as it could potentially be.

[00:24:39] Jamie: Look at the number of elements in the page, is something I would advocate for. There is a great Think with Google piece that just came out in the last year. It talks about the number of elements and image on the page. And where is that sweet spot for conversion.

And it is not that you can’t have these functionalities. This is where we begin to look at our user centric key performance indicators (KPIs) on those are things like time to first contentful paint. Yeah, that is one of those metrics in Lighthouse. It’s a very obscure thing to try and understand what it means. The thing I came here for, I can see. No one cares about content that they can’t see loading. So when you even look at the UX, when you look at the experience of your page, keeping in mind that user. What is the reason they came here? It’s like it’s become a little bit of a trope now, but you go and try and read the recipe online. You’re like, “I don’t care about your second cousin’s wedding Can I just find out how to makes muffins please.” (lol) But keep that in mind.

Alexis: So true, like the intent of a website and why you’re going, there is more important to consider. So I guess I like your idea of coming at it from a user-first perspective because I think sometimes, like I think there’s a quote on one of the Google training’s. I’m pretty sure you did the certification, too, but (because I saw you had done it), but basically it says the smallest site is a site with no resources on it, right? And at the same time, like you have to have something to get that experience going, right?

[00:26:11] Jamie: And it has to be worthwhile. If your content is good enough, when I get to the bottom of the article, I promise you I’ll click on that follow-up link. If what you’ve provided to me is of enough value and engaging, I will go out and click that CTA. You do not need to put an overlay on my screen and stop what I came here for like ‘Hey do you like me yet? You’re coming off a little thirsty? Okay, interstitial thirsty, knock it off.”

[00:26:47] Jamie: And a website is a window into how our business runs on. If business’ push to get more email sign ups is more important than why I came here as a user, the resource I came here for, that shows that this is not a user-first company, and there are plenty of companies out there.

[00:27:04] Alexis: I love that analogy of a website is a window to a business. That’s so beautiful. And I think I actually, I think it’s 100% true across the board. You think about it. And if you see a website that you know isn’t necessarily prioritizing the user than you can tell that they’re not, they don’t have that mentality.

[00:27:22] Jamie: Absolutely. And I found our REI does is a great job. Shout out to the REI team made a beautiful work. Even in the values of the company. So how they choose to not only, here is the product you want to buy, but here’s a community that loves the things you do. Or hey, you’re not sure if this thing is right for you, do you want to turn like a day experience for it? And it’s about technology serving the user and that is a, it’s a tipping point right now. A lot of people have reacted with a lot of anger that, you know, Google broke this agreement we had where we would give them content and they would give us clicks. Well, if the content you’re providing could be answered very quickly in this quick little block instead of me having to read about your second cousin’s wedding, I just came get my muffin recipe.

And you must think of it this way – If that’s the only value you were providing -> Sorry, it makes sense to not go ahead and give me that click through. If you’re providing more, if that snippet that I’ve seen is engaging enough and will give me more information, then, yeah, I’m going to go ahead and click that. I’m going to give you my time.

So humans have time, energy and money. We’ve got –? everywhere. We could make more money, but time is limited. That’s the true human factor. That’s why you were…

[00:28:44] Alexis: Are you worth my time? I love that. Exactly, in Frederic’s interview on SEO in the Lab, had talked about websites and the idea that “Are you worthy of me giving you my credit card information?”

[00:28:57] Jamie: Exactly.

[00:29:00] Alexis: I think that idea of “Are you worth my time?” It even goes beyond that, you know, because it’s like, first of all, are you trustworthy? But then also, are you interesting enough? (lol)

[00:29:10] Jamie: Do I feel like I’m empowered? Do I feel smart and capable on your site? (Alexis: Yes.) If I don’t understand how to flow and interact with this to do a simple thing, it’s disparaging. (Alexis: Yeah.) I’m not going to feel like I can handle these next steps. I’m not going to feel like the thing I came here to purchase is going to give me he feeling, the experience that it’s intended to

[00:29:31] Alexis: Yeah, we’re so spoiled because so many websites today have such a strong user experience that we’re not used to challenging user journey flows.

[00:29:43] Jamie: Friction points are real. Absolutely.

[00:29:45] Alexis: No, who I love, they have a great map – Starbucks always has, Like, these amazing used user journey maps that they update all the time. And I’m sure different people in the organization have them. But some of them you can find online that they have, and they map out every single part in the user journey from, like, the feeling that they want them to have when they get in the shop to like the customer ordered the coffee or something. it’s always like, very impressive to see, like that level of user focus and what they want.

[00:30:13] Jamie: Please share that link? Yeah. I would love to see that

[00:30:16] Alexis: Let’s see if I can find it. I think Kevin Indig…

[00:30:18] Jamie: Of course, Kevin has it. That man is, if you guys don’t follow Kevin on Twitter yet. Go do it. He’s from, He’s from the Jira team, actually. So his tool helps save my tail on daily basis, and he’s brilliant.

[00:30:30] Alexis: Thanks, Kevin. Thanks for being you. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was one of the things that he had shared. So he, I’ll follow up with him and I’ll check the site and see if I can find it for the notes in this podcast.

Yeah. Okay, So what do you think are the top challenges facing large eCommerce sites today?

[00:30:49] Jamie: Oh, man, that is such a loaded question. All right, so if you’ve got a large eCommerce site and it was, it was set up a minute ago. You know, it’s been online for a while. It’s trustworthy, it’s got authority. Well, there are two aspects here that are pretty challenging.

One,  how is it scaled out? Is every different section of this site an independent CMS? Are they aware of each other? Are they integrated? It’s an information architecture challenge that can result in cannibalism on a really difficult user journeys, high friction conversion points.

We also have to look at, for a while, sites focused their performance metrics on full page load, and that ended up with a lot of hole punching and going ‘Well, we’ll get the full page on there and they’re gonna make all these asynchronous calls. We’re gonna load everything that way.’ And it was, it was a way to make it appear to be smaller without actually being smaller or faster. Um, so now that’s led to our pivot for these user centric metrics. Where? Well, how long until I could be interactive? They came here an amount of PDP. I want to buy this thing. So get me the content that tells me “Hey, here’s the thing you came to buy. Here’s the critical influence you need to know, a price, how fast it ships.” Here’s a picture, you know, images are so important because of the closest we can get to a product while being online. And here’s our buy by. And the further I go down that page, the further and going to be away from ready to purchase. I need help, I need more information before making the best decision.

[00:32:28] Alexis: Definitely. And this is a question that’s in a similar vein. But what do you see as the most critical elements of eCommerce SEO to get right.

[00:32:37] Jamie: That is, I don’t even know where to start. (lol)

[00:32:38] Alexis: Do it, well. (lol)

[00:32:44] Jamie: I need you to go ahead and pull out your phone, on your own website and try to buy a product going incognito in mode, turn out that WiFi, try and buy a product. If you could do that and you don’t need to go take a walk on the block and chill, you’re doing all right. Taking that back and you’re going to repeat it. And you’re going to try and find that product not using search, by using the categorization.

[00:33:09] Alexis: OooOoo, I love that idea.

[00:33:12] Jamie: Yes, you have to go through your own hierarchy to complete this. Okay, Now you’ve got the one thing, you’ve got a toaster. Now we’re going to switch from I want to buy a toaster too, I’m a user who wants to host a brunch. So that means I’m not just looking for a toaster. I’m looking for napkins. I’m looking for plates. I’m looking for, It’s Kentucky Derby. I think Moscow mules is that where Kentucky Derby, is that the drink of choice?

[00:33:15] Alexis: We’ll go with it.

[00:33:16] Jamie: We’re going to pretend it is. Everyone loves Moscow mules and big fancy hats and there’s horses. But go through that journey and try and have an experience, try and complete that. If you can’t, then we’ve identified another problem. And this is where you start to begin to understand from a user focus where are my gap points? While I’m on this article that tells me how to make a Moscow mule because I’m holding a Kentucky Derby party. But there’s no link for me to buy the thing or there’s various dead ends, and you want to spot those. That’s both for SEO and CRO.

If we look at it from a search engine perspective, Google wants to give us really authoritative  answers. We’re asking higher level questions. So if we’re having a conversation with a topic of Star Wars, we’re going to talk about siths, Jedi’s, Ewok, Han Solo, Yoda. And that’s just gonna be part of a well-informed conversation. That was a thing, that was weird, but that’s just a naturally informed conversation. And search engines want that same kind of interconnectivity between content on your site. It wants you to have a strong branch like on a tree, and then it will judge you based on how these branches go off, is it a healthy branch? Is this a weak one, a parasitic one that’s really detracting and not able to support the user’s intent. But we have a strong one over here. You can also stop me at any time. (lol)

[00:35:20] Alexis: You’re doing so well. I just wanted you to just keep going and I was like, I’ll stop before the closing question, if we get there. (lol)

[00:35:31] Jamie: Okay the downside of my passionate rants, every time I get in front of C-level, and this is another piece of feedback that I get on a pretty regular basis is “you’ve got to take a step back from the technical.” It’s very difficult for me to separate out those pieces because the devil is in the details. He’s in the execution. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. And I’m still personally learning in my own growth, how you effectively communicate those to the people who could push the buttons as they go.

[00:36:03] Alexis: Definitely. Yeah, I think that’s a huge challenge to being able to, like communicate to someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on, I think. But then also, you have to get them to do or invest in what you’re doing, even though they don’t understand what you’re doing.

[00:36:18] Jamie: Absolutely, you know, who am I speaking to you? Is this a good time to make a logical argument? You know, a very passionate, emotional based argument. What is the best way to approach this?

[00:36:32] Alexis: So have you found anything that’s really effective so far in your journey?

Jamie: Dollars signs.

Alexis: Dollars? Yeah. I feel like that sense is telling me how much this is gonna cost me. How much money will I make?

[00:36:44] Jamie: And not even how much it’s gonna cost, but how much can be gained? Yeah. So when you present it as, look, we have the assets here, we have, and this is a great time to work with your product content management team to understand those who are taking in data for new products, who are helping to categorize them. What kind of relationships we’re facilitating with manufacturers, to go on. You basically lay constraints for yourself. So I like to go ahead, I consider SEO as like a booster pack. I’m not going to come in and demand that you guys rework everything that you do, but I’m gonna help you as you execute to be foundationally solid, to be stable, to be scalable and to begin to have an awareness of other parts of the system. So when we connect all of these together when it’s an ecosystem that understands “Ah, my manufacturer over here has, you know, made this new product line, and we have a relationship where we’re promoting them.” What places could we go ahead and put a relevant information about those products on other places?

So I have my manufacturer who’s making copper mugs, Kentucky Derby’s coming up. Where do I place those so they are relevant to a user and provide value as opposed to the thing I have to scroll past or the thing that takes forever to load. And it makes my page jump. If your site does that, please make someone who can push a button go through that experience.

[00:38:15] Alexis: Definitely. But one of the questions I wanted to ask was, do you think in SEO, one day, can sit in the boardroom?

[00:38:23] Jamie: I love that question and I want to take it on. I think if SEO’s like myself, learn how to speak, you know this is the new Codex I’m learning. This is a new Rosetta Stone. How to translate my intent and what I want to see done into words that they understand and have meaning to them.

But we’re advocates of Web presence, of users, of performance. We should absolutely sit in the boardroom. We are a place to go. This isn’t just about selling things, it’s about selling them in a way that is meaningful, that supports users, because when a user feels like you have their back, they’re going to come back to you. So this is an investment in a lifetime value. You can turn and burn through customers. You can, you know, miff them over, but it’s going to run out one day. It’s not an indefinite supply. So by being that presence who goes there. And we use search engines as away, as a mirror to see them, a reflection of overall site health, a reflection of overall user experience through analytics on page. Then we begin to understand, and we can present that in the boardroom and we can grow the business by making that experience better. This is a digital world. How do we keep up with the next step?

[00:39:41] Alexis: Definitely. It’s so fascinating how almost… websites and working on sites have almost gone back to more traditional sales values, cause I just remember watching this. There’s like this ride called ‘It’s a small world.’ I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, at Disney like one of the most daring famous ones, I don’t know, Whatever. I’m not like that.You know, it’s like So basically, you go into it and it takes you in this world, and everyone’s like saying It’s a small world after all for, like, twenty minutes straight. And (lol)

[00:40:10] Jamie: I’m sorry, I don’t know that song, can you sing it again? (lol)

[00:40:11] Alexis: It’s a small world after alllllll. Okay, you guys got my voice (lol)

[00:40:18] Jamie: Worst podcast episode ever. I’m sorry, guys. That was a close, intimate. They’re like ‘Oh, she’s the worst. Derailed conversations for It’s a small world song. (lol)

[00:40:27] Alexis: It’s like shield your ears, Alexis is singing.

No, but basically the woman who created that ride had asked Walt Disney, “What is my budget?”

And she was like, “Oh, I need a budget like, What are you looking at? What are we trying to achieve here? “

And his answer was, “Oh, there’s no budget.”

And she was like, “Well, like we kind of need a budget.”

And he’s like, “No, build the ride that people are going to want to come back to, because if they come back then we don’t have any problems.”, which is kind of, like, a fun business philosophy.

(Jamie: Exactly. And they you have advocates.) And like, that’s almost similar to what you’re saying here is building the site that people are going to want because then you’ll be able to have people come back to it in a way that’s meaningful and interesting to them. Which, man, Disney absolutely ahead of his time, behind his time in many ways, but ahead of his time in like, a few. (lol)

[00:41:23] Jamie: If your frozen head is listening to a podcast right now. Thank you. And also, with the hell man. (lol)

[00:41:29] Alexis: Okay. All right. So for the final closing question, what are your three nuggets of advice for an SEO working on a technical Ecommerce site?

[00:41:47] Jamie: My three Nuggets of advice are: Go buy something, Do it through product categorization. We’ve got to go down and find it. Do when you’re throwing them on the PDP. Do it when you’re trying to have that experience, that conceptual journey that goes across categories

[00:42:06] Alexis: I love that one.

[00:42:07] Jamie: Understand how products come on and off your site? How are they on boarded? At what point is there a PDP? At what point is that PDP go away?

[00:42:21] Alexis: Such a good one too. We could also talk about that for probably another hour. How to offload it.

[00:42:27] Jamie: We’ll talk about that We’ll have a Disney sing along. It’ll be great. I love rocking out to poor unfortunate souls … Ursula, you’re my personal hero or spirit animal… (lol)

[00:42:38] Alexis: Throw in the Little Mermaid, Not like the Disney version, the original story. (lol)

[00:42:44] Jamie: The Disney version bothered me as a child because I just thought to myself ‘Write it down!’ (lol)

Alexis: You’re like, ‘obviously.’

Jamie: This could all be solved if you more the note that was like “Hi, I met you the day, you were drowning. I saved you. I really liked you and impulsively traded my voice for some legs.”

[00:43:02] Alexis: Yes, you’re like “and… it was not a great decision. In retrospect.” (lol)

[00:43:10] Jamie: “I think that ate my friend for dinner. He was a small crab …

Alexis: and I still feel really bad about it. (lol)

Jamie: I feel like, if she had lived on, finished out her days on land, it would have been really sad. Now they’ve been like, “Oh, we’re having flounder for dinner.” (lol)

Alexis: Oh, gosh, that is true. That is very true.  (lol)

Jamie: I think we answered the question of whether or not Ariel was vegan, and Ariel was definitely vegan. She went into the open ocean every day and she sucked in krill. Those are living so that would be vegan. Oh, complex dietary ethics for Ariel. (lol)

[00:43:52] Alexis: I’m there’s a specific word for what she was. (lol)

[00:43:58] Jamie: I say I supposed to answer another nugget of advice. Understand your infrastructure. So say you’ve got a blog and your blog is categorized. Do you use the same categories in your blog as you use in eCommerce? How does that connect through with– you ‘ve got community support or questions? Understand the flow of those.

You begin to use the same words to describe something you create consistency. And baseless words off of what your users are going for. You know, we look at site search more times. The conversion rate is five times that of those who are trying to find another way. How do you facilitate that pathway? Because when you do that, it’s not just about the user experience. You’re also allowing a chance for a greater order value, for a greater sense of investment from user is now engaged with your content. It’s, it’s selfishly altruistic.

[00:44:56] Alexis: I love that word, “selfishly altruistic” But that’s what it’s like, what a lot of friendships are. You know. You have to take care of yourself first. But you also have to take care of the people around you too, you know, And by taking people around you, in a way, you’re taking care of yourself

[00:45:14] Jamie: And loving someone as another person in this works interpersonally as well for their flaws. Being willing to acknowledge your own and figure out how you know you can learn better, do better or just being able to laugh at them. It’s a beautiful thing. (Alexis: So beautiful.) I think the video game goat simulator taught us that a bug can truly be a feature. But it’s in how we handle it. You know, bugs, we treat them as part of the experience. They become a feature.

[00:45:54] Alexis: I love that. And with the goat, which is the bug, which is the feature, we will close out. Thank you so much, Jamie, for coming on the podcast today. we should totally do it again.

[00:46:08] Jamie: Yes, we’ll try and stay better on topic, but I make no promises.

[00:46:11] Alexis: I thought it was awesome! Thank you so much. Signing off, ciao!

The post 3. Interview w/ Jamie Alberico, Arrow Electronics appeared first on

clean No no no 46:51 Alexis Sanders
2. Interview w/ Frédéric Dubut, Bing Mon, 29 Apr 2019 04:00:49 +0000 Alexis Sanders Linked Resources: Frédéric’s Twitter (@CoperniX) Word embeddings Word2Vec Visualization Andrew Ng’s deep learning course Bing’s new indexing API Frédéric’s TechSEO […]

The post 2. Interview w/ Frédéric Dubut, Bing appeared first on

full 2 1 Linked Resources:

Topic Timestamps:

[0:15] intros
[2:45] why the relationship with the search community
[4:05] how can webmasters help Bing (remember Bing!)
[5:45] why is the community focused on JavaScript?
[9:00] frederic’s techSEO boost talk
[12:15] what should SEOs know relating to machine learning?
[14:15] trust, bing, and spam
[15:30] Bing’s approach on dealing with spam
[16:45] importance of high quality results (especially top results)
[17:15] search and SEO community relationship
[20:15] what makes a strong eCommerce site? (trust)
[22:15] bing on accepting feedback
[27:15] internationalization in bing
[28:15] why word vectors
[32:15] related content hubs
[33:15] more word vector stuff
[35:45] Karen Jones -IDF
[37:45] 3 pieces of wisdom
1. remember that we build sites and products for people
2. take Andrew Ng’s deeplearning course
3. sign up for BWT (submit URLs or use their brand new API)
[44:15] closing

Favorite Quotes:

  • “In the end, we build all of this for people. “
  • “One of the one of the way we frame it here (at Bing is) if you look at all the eCommerce websites on the Internet, one question we asked ourselves is, would we give our credit card numbers to that website?”
  • “It comes from the fact that our users really trust us to serve the best and most authoritative results.”
  • “Because when we fail it has real life consequences for these people. “
  • ” We are an industry where we are builders. We build websites, we build products, we build the search engine. We all build these things for people.”


Note 1: Add about ~15 seconds to timestamps to account for intro. 🙂

Note 2: If you see notice any major errors, please reach out to seointhelab [at], we tried our best to stay true to the vocal version.

[00:00:02] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello. And welcome back to the podcast. Today we have Frederic Dubut from Bing as well as Max from Merkle. Max, would you like to give an introduction of yourself first?

[00:00:12] Max Prin: Sure. Thanks, Alexis. My name is Max. I lead the technical SEO team here at Merkle and we focus on the most technical aspects of SEO, such as structural data and crawling and indexing.

[00:00:25] Alexis: And then Frédéric.

[00:00:26] Frédéric Dubut: I am Frédéric Dubut. I’m part of the Web ranking and quality team here at Bing, with the specific focus on anti-spam, anti-malware, and all the bad stuff.

[00:00:37] Alexis: Awesome! And one of the things I found in my research of you, Frédéric, is that you speak five different languages. How did that even happen?

[00:00:46] Frédéric: Well, I don’t speak them very well. And really, I’m truly proficient in French and English. And then they said practice makes perfect and for language. I think like the lack of practice makes you forget very, very fast in France. And Max went through the same system that I believe you have to start studying foreign language when you are like, ten or eleven or so. And you have to say, like seven or nine years of language. So And you have to take two of them. So I picked English and Spanish. That’s why there’s two. And then I was interested in Japan in general. So I learned a little Japanese lived there a little while, and then I start toward Zurich. So I had to pick up a little bit of German. Here are your five languages.

[00:01:29] Alexis: Wow! So we could do this podcast in, like, totally in French, probably with you and Max. And I would just listen in… I’m just kidding.

[00:01:37] Frédéric: exactament.

[00:01:40] Max: Yeah, because after several years living in the U. S. You forget your French. That’s very hard for me.

[00:01:52] Alexis: I imagine that’s so true. Gosh…

[00:01:56] Max: I could actually, actually a hard time like talking about SEO in French. So everything is in English.

[00:02:04] Alexis: Is it just the work terminology?

[00:02:05] Max: Yeah, everything. All the key terms, Everything is in English.

[00:02:09] Alexis: Ah, that’s so interesting! And fascinating. Awesome. Okay, so if we dive into some of the meat of the podcast, one of the things that I’ve been seeing, you (Frédéric) speak on the circuit a lot. And, of course, thank you so much, because it’s so fascinating. One of the things that I’ve been noticing is that Google and Bing as well, especially, have been integrating more in with the search community, which is awesome to see, and one of things from the SEO perspective that I’m really interested in is – what can we, as SEOs, do to support Bing?

[00:02:40] Frédéric: Yeah, that’s a good question in general, the reason why we want to interact with the communities, that they keep us honest. In the sense that we know the product we want to build. we think we know how it’s working and then You talk like ten minutes with SEO’s, and they tell you exactly. No, no, no. This technique you thought you eliminated it actually works Great. These kind of things, eh? So for us, it’s really enlightening. So any feedback the community has, it is definitely the best way to help us make a better product for users.

[00:03:12] Alexis: So it’s almost like by going to these SEO conferences, or search conferences, You guys were doing some product research?

[00:03:17] Frédéric: Yeah, absolutely. And I like the product of a program manager role is very focused on customers, understanding users. And we have, we’re in a very interesting position at Bing, where we have two different set of customers, so to speak. We have the final users who are actually using the product and entering the search queries. But the Webmaster community as well and SEOs is extremely important. Without webmasters, without people who write great content for the Internet, there would be no point in having a search engine. So for us, it’s extremely important to interact with both.

[00:03:52] Alexis: Definitely! that’s awesome! And are there any specific tasks? I know that when you spoke back at SMX East, you talked about how we could optimize our crawl efficiency as something that is helpful to Bing and is really useful. Is there anything else like that that you can think of that at the end of the day makes both our websites better as well as Bing a better search engine?

[00:04:15] Frédéric: Yeah and for a lot of people, it will be just making sure the basics are working (in terms of crawl indexing). A lot of the technical SEO is not very different for Google and Bing. But what a lot of people don’t realize is sometimes they just allowed Google to crawl everything and Bing gets a disallow.

And if you are an SEO, webmaster, and you complain that you feel you’re too dependent on Google to get your search traffic, but at the same time, you’re blocking all the other crawlers, all the other search engines from indexing your website… Well, you’re never going to get away from that situation. And those people don’t realize these are like two very related points, so make sure the basics are working for being in the same with our working for Google is definitely number one thing for most people.

[00:05:02] Alexis: I love that point. Think of Bing, remember Bing.

You obviously can’t see me right now, but I’m wearing a Bing sweatshirt today, so really reppin’ Bing.

[00:05:12] Frédéric: I don’t. (Lol) There’s only one person on this podcast wearing Bing swag.

[00:05:18] Max: That’s not true! I have a Merkle branded jacket that has a Bing logo on the shoulder.

[00:05:20] Frédéric: Nice, nice, there’s only one person on this they’re not for wearing Bing.

[00:05:28] Alexis: That’s awesome. So you reminded me of a tweet that you had recently where you asked people in the search community what they’re interested in hearing whether it was about JavaScript, machine learning or search history, right? And the top one was JavaScript. Why do you think that this search community is so fascinated with JavaScript?

[00:05:48] Frédéric: Well, I think there’s a legitimate concern from the community that as their websites are getting more, more complicated, the search engines are not going to represent them (in their index) in the best way.

There is a lot of misunderstanding around what are the best practices for JavaScript (or for other things we should do or the things we shouldn’t do). Maybe in the search engine side, there was some miscommunication in terms of “do we support JavaScript” or “we don’t support JavaScript”. It’s much more nuanced than just saying, “Oh, yeah, of course we support JavaScript.” Yep, in Bing we can claim with support JavaScript, in the sense that our crawler is able to download those kind of resources. Render the pages for most frameworks. But there is also a relative very process intensive, additionally intensive process. So you have fairly little control in what search engines are going to index on your site from JavaScript compared to a regular HTML. And I understand that can cause some nervousness in the SEO community. So that’s probably why there is a lot of questions and concerns.

[00:06:54] Alexis: Yeah, so like a lot of anxiety combined with probably like you said, some different formats of information. I know that one of the things that we’ve seen is that for certain sites, JavaScript – totally fine. But then you’ll go. You’ll have another site experience where they’ll switch over to a very JavaScript, heavy experience and their traffic will suffer from it. So I think that lack of consistency in terms of experience is so fascinating, and I think it’s something that makes people really anxious because they don’t want to have that type of trend in their performances as well. So thank you for sharing that. So are you going to actually write a piece on that?

[00:07:26] Frédéric: I think the piece will be on ML and guidelines actually. One of the reasons is Google came recently with very good article. I think it was Martin Splitt who wrote it about RenderTron and Techniques to make it easier for websites to be indexed when there is JavaScript. I think there is a lot of literature that has already being written on JavaScript. So I felt that even though, it was fairly clear, I think was forty five forty one percent that close, close enough that I felt there was not enough written around ML and guidelines, and that’s probably why I’m going to write about all that.

[00:07:59] Max: Yeah, I was about to say, That’s the good news about, like best practices for JavaScript. Is that what you can do to make sure search engines can understand your Content is to serve a prerendered or HTML  snapshot and it goes for both like Google and Bing. once again like what you do for one search engine, it’s not different than what you would do to optimize for another search engine, so optimization of time.

[00:08:22] Alexis: Optimization of time. I love it. And I love the idea of basically endorsing content that Google has already done, saying this is fine, it works similar for Bing, let’s focus on what we need to with machine learning. Which brings up the talk that you had a Tech SEO boost, which was so fascinating as well. And I loved your little quip where you said that Bing was the first to have to be powered by a neural net, that’s so exciting and so interesting.

[00:08:45] Frédéric: Yeah, that’s a little known fact that that’s why Christi (Olsen) and I insisted we kind of hammer it like at the end of every conference now. We say it’s like Bing was the first one. Interestingly, these were like very rudimentary neural nets at the time. Like, our founder with deep learning. It wasn’t really deep in it in any way, because only one hidden layer and it was well, it was very simple. It shows that it’s something that’s been tough mind at Microsoft research and Bing search. Now at Bing for quite a while, we believe the best way to scale search is to use machine learning to make the machine learn about one of the best results to be returned for a query. And that’s why we have taken this approach that may be slightly different from what other major search engines do.

[00:09:30] Alexis: I love that it’s like the most shallow, deep learning that you have. (lol) I’m just kidding, of course.

[00:09:36] Frédéric: That’s right. It’s just quite bits. That was thirteen years ago. So…

[00:09:41] Alexis: It was deep for thirteen years ago, exactly. And you mentioned to they had, like a ton of features over, like, five hundred features that were engineered into it. Which, I mean, it’s one of the very challenging things that have probably been custom done.

[00:09:54] Frédéric: Yeah, and honestly, I don’t I don’t know exactly how they did it back in 2005. But future engineering is definitely a big challenge and that that’s why a lot of the discussions around ranking factors sounds a bit funny, especially for us at Bing, because some of the features are like derivatives off like several other features. You combine thing and it’s a very, our engineers take is that it really is a machine learning problem, so they create new features that will really make a lot of sense for humans. But have actually a great predictive power for the for the model. And that’s where, like, this ranking factor thing, like always comes in a bit odd for us.

[00:10:33] Alexis: yeah, I loved how powerful your example of what a machine sees is so different from what a person sees and in your example, You had used a stop sign where basically, all you did they did was cover up a small part of it, and the machine from that saw something totally different, which was a speed limit sign. And I think the idea that machines process information differently than humans process information is so interesting and so fascinating and probably something that you have to deal with on a daily basis.

[00:11:00] Frédéric: Yeah, then that starts, like with some of the worst cases where we see things better, different from what you are seeing, like cloaking and this kind of things that’s more like it. These are considered, like the cardinal sins of SEO and search, because if the machine can’t even access the same thing as users like lose all trust in everything you’re doing. But even like going back to JavaScript, that’s also exactly what the problem is with JavaScript is not having the guarantee that machine is going to see all the goodness you’re showing to users when you have a JS heavy page. So I’m training all these features reading all this knowledge can get complicated for sure.

[00:11:44] Alexis: Definitely. So what do you think is the most important part of machine learning for search professionals To understand? Because you and it is so many complicated elements like Bing’s LambdaMART, vector space, (which I love, that I really hope the “it’s the same in the vector space” catches on in the industry) and of course, RankNET. What do you think is really important for people who are maybe less technical or less well versed in mathematics to understand about what you’re trying to achieve with machine learning?

[00:12:13] Frédéric: So that that’s where I think the guidelines come rolling to play. If you look at the process of machine learning it, it can get pretty complicated from a technical point of view. If you’re not technical, that that sounds like a foreign language. So what is really important to remember is it’s a way to generalize search algorithms that is trained with how humans will be judging the sites according to the guidelines. So the way we train our mission early model, we have a subset of queries and URLs, and we send judges to these websites, and we ask them to rate them according to the search quality guidelines and that makes your training set. And we hold a little bit of this data as, like validation and test set. And then that’s where you train your machine learning algorithm. You want to go with them to perform really great on this small subset of queries and URL’s that have been judged by humans. Then you validate with other metrics that generalized pretty well to the 1,000x more queries and URL’s we see. So in the end, thinking, with my site, according to guidelines, get to perfect or excellent or good rating is probably a good way to think about it.

[00:13:26] Alexis: Nice. I love the idea of using humans as almost like he said, training all of that data so that you can, then iterate on that process to make it more efficient and better in the end, there’s like something very beautiful in that. Hopefully, one day it’ll be all machines, right?

[00:13:40] Frédéric: I don’t know if I would trust machines to the 100% of the work. For one, I like my job. I don’t want a machine to take it. (lol) In the end, we build all of this for people. So keeping people involved in the process, keeping the machine honest. Looking whether the results make sense, not just that the metric looks good. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.

[00:14:04] Max: And Frederic, you talked about trust towards a website. I remember from experience that Bing is pretty aggressive with, like spam or like a big red flags about websites. A few years ago, I remember website that we were launching and it was a dot info. And just for that reason, it could not be indexed right away. Can you tell us more? But like maybe some, some big red flags that Bing, as in the system that say “that website, most likely not a good one.”

[00:14:36] Frédéric: So like in the same way that I don’t think there is any like silver bullet in terms of good ranking factors, when you go outside of the worst offenders like cloaking, I’m not sure there is anything where we would we ban outright a website. I think what happens at Bing, compared to other search engines, is we tend to see violations of a Webmaster Guidelines, as mostly voluntary.

I when I hear Fili Wiese (and I know he doesn’t represent Google anymore), but he talks about this manual penalties and he says, this is mostly education and if people fix their issues, (Google will) remove the penalty and everything is great.

And on our side, we take probably what I more punitive approach, where if you try to cheat the system, you’re going to have a penalty that is going to last for a while because we don’t want you to cheat the system again. And we’ve seen before if we remove the penalty. The sites tends to just do the same things again so that That’s why I like when you say we’re harsher on spam, I think the idea of spam is fairly similar. But the way we approach it is a bit different. Maybe more of a punitive way to make sure like people who live by the rules, actually are ranked higher in the results.

[00:15:45] Max: That makes sense.

[00:15:47] Alexis: It brings back this idea. The fact that you know your site is a relationship between your experience, your users, and then also search engines as well. Because there’s almost like this implicit trust that’s formed and you mention the word trust. Of course, I know that with Google, this whole idea of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is becoming more and more important or popping up a little bit more. But I think it’s so interesting and fascinating that you know you’re using that as a standard, almost as if it’s an actual relationship.

[00:16:16] Frédéric: Well, yeah, and it comes from the fact that our users really trust us to serve the best and most authoritative results, and especially for queries is like the tax season is picking up, and people want to make sure that they’re not giving their social security number out, and all of their confidential information out, scammers. And a lot of people will trust whatever comes at the first positions on Bing. And If they click on the first link, like they cannot even imagine, most of them actually cannot even imagine we will send them to a scam or anything like that. So it is a huge responsibility for us. That’s why we take it extremely seriously. Because when we fail it has real life consequences for these people.

[00:17:00] Alexis: Definitely. And do you think, Oh, I know that one of your articles that you mentioned, that you’re thinking about running with the history of search, which I don’t understand why it was the least popular? Because I feel like to hear from your perspective of the history of search would be so incredibly fascinating, because I felt that (and I don’t know if you’ve felt that this as well) that as time has gone on, people have gravitated more towards that first result. Where is in the past? I mean, when I was younger, just remember almost being told to more critically evaluate all of the results that were coming through, and then now it’s like, oh, just click on the first one. Whatever that says is fine, which probably shifts more responsibility onto you as a search engine and your team.

[00:17:38] Frédéric: Yes, and so there are two aspects to this from one sense, and it makes it slightly easier because if it puts more weight on the number one number two number three results, that means also like the weight of responsibilities is lower for in return, things that are not necessarily the best results like number nine or number ten. For some queries like if you type something like [Facebook log in], there is an excellent number one result I can think of and not much more two, three, four, five that I think would fulfill their user intent.

So to some extent it makes it a bit easier for this category of very navigational like very explicit intent queries. But on the other hand, you’re right, that it’s definitely changing. If you’ll get the best twenty years, search is to be more of an information retrieval problem. So really the idea of like, as you mean, this is a library of all the knowledge in the world. “How can I find the ten best pieces of information or the ten best books in the library” to match this this query and slowly, we’ve evolved towards more like task completion, actual transactional intent, and also more and more money got involved. And so that’s where you get spam and people are between SEO and that that’s probably the main thing that changed like search. Like the idea that you get a lot of people who love to be a number one and we’re going to do whatever it takes to be a number one. It’s not just an information control problem anymore. It’s becoming a really full-fledged products where all of these dimensions relevance, quality, context fall into place.

[00:19:23] Alexis: You know, when you have a lot of money on the line, I can imagine there’s a lot of consequences that could happen. And, of course, we’ve heard recently about so many different breakouts of data and data leakage issues, so super fascinating. So thank you for sharing that with us. Okay. Do you’ve any questions, Max?

[00:19:39] Max: Yeah sure. Since maybe you in Seattle and I hear there’s a big e commerce company in Seattle. If you can tell us, maybe it might be a little bit outside off, like the internal, Bing system. But like what For you makes like a great, like, eCommerce experience like features on the website that user expect maybe, and that then, yes, maybe that Bing will reward without, giving away ranking factors. That’s not really my question, but something that you guys are looking for because users are looking for it.

[00:20:13] Frédéric: Yeah, when it comes to the Bing eCommerce company in Seattle, it makes our life will be easier because one of the one of the way we frame it here if you look at all the eCommerce websites on the Internet, one question we asked ourselves is, what would we give our credit card numbers to that website? And so when it comes to our neighbor in Seattle, sure, like, I think anyone in the world so confident that if they give them their credit card number, is going to be taken care of with the greatest care and they’re not going to get unwanted charges. And on the other hand, there are many websites on the Internet were like, never ever I would even give like four digits of my credit card and when you look at these sites, this is really the question you trust yourself. Like, Would I give them my credit card number? It works in the user’s mind. It’s like, what are the trust factors on this website? Does it look professional that have an actual contact address that we can look up somewhere. I know that Google has in their guidelines has the BBB rating, and I don’t think they use it at the ranking factor or something. But the idea that someone else is vouching for you is something that you need to take into account if you have an eCommerce website from a trust point of view, all of these things are probably the number one thing you want to make sure users are willing to do business with you, are willing to give you their credit card number, And that’s what we’re looking for at the  end, user satisfaction.

[00:21:38] Max: I love that you said that, because just from a design standpoint, it’s today, it’s with frameworks and built-in features and even would Bootstrap in orders like a CSS and HTML like from works that you can find out there. It is pretty easy to make scam looked really good and really professional. So I’m glad to hear that it’s not just about that website can look good and be still a scam. And hopefully we won’t see it popping up in any search results.

[00:22:06] Alexis: Definitely. Just it sounds like it all comes back to trustworthiness. So kind of really excited to hear that. Okay. All right. I’m going to go back to one of your tweets. In your tweet, You mentioned that you review user feedback and that you set aside a specific time to review that, which is really exciting because I feel like I’ve really felt a lot of positive energy coming from the Bing team in terms of almost doing a listening tour and trying to figure out what’s going on in a space. And how can we then learn and react from that? So how has your time that you’ve spent reviewing user feedback ever resulted in a new project?

[00:22:39] Frédéric: Yeah, that’s Ah, that’s if only super important to look at feedback. That’s a personal belief I have that as products or product managers, it’s an essential part of our job. And I don’t know if you can do good product manager work without listening to your customers and users and partners. I can think of two examples where it’s been extremely useful.

And one, it was a very visible feedback. If you remember last spring, I think Yoast posted something about Bing crawling too much. But they have a lot of data, probably from their plug-in, and they are very well informed on these problems. And we took the feedback very seriously and way heard before from other people. That Bing tends to crawl too much compared to Google, and that’s something we definitely started to look at very closely. And that’s what resulted last week. I believe in this new indexing a API were announced at SMX West, as well as the integration with the Yoast Plug in on My Yoast, which was announced at their conference last week.

So this is very concrete case where the feedback we’ve been listening to, and we’ve been aggregating, compounded with someone very visible and very vocal who forced the same feedback resulted in something extremely concrete that we announced in the past couple of weeks.

Something that is a bit fuzzier probably is around spam and all the all the times we are failing our users, so to speak. And I take the feedback extremely seriously. And when I hear several different people tell me, if I type a query for this domain, like the name of the drug or this kind of things, and I really see bad results. This informs where we’re going to invest our resources. And if I hear that a certain area is getting more and more spam, or if some very technical people come to me and say, I notice that this category of site, putting these key words in this way or whatever is ranking higher than they used to. This is just all goodness.

So I invite all the listeners if you have any feedback you want to give to us, you can tweet at me directly on Twitter. Or you can use the feedback form on Bing on the upper right menu and we take it extremely seriously.

[00:24:58] Alexis: That’s awesome. It’s almost like keeping one ear to the ground just to make sure that everything is going well, like a pulse, which is awesome. So thank you for doing that.

[00:25:05] Frédéric: Yeah, and in the end we do it for our users. So, like we have a lot of ways to scale or understanding of user satisfaction with metrics and numbers. But there’s nothing like qualitative feedback, like actual people. I have a personal belief that if you talk to ten users and you listen to their actuals verbatim feedback you learn so much more than just looking at a number, even if the number of covers one billion users.

[00:25:35] Alexis: It’s just so interesting to hear, though, that that qualitative feedback is so valuable because I think a lot of times when we think about data, we think about data and the massive amounts of information that, like even we receive on the webmaster end. And I mean, I can only imagine how much you guys received on your end. But we usually think about all quantitative, quantitative, quantitative. But the value of qualitative data is so interesting and how it can give you a totally different perspective. So thank you for sharing that with us.

[00:26:02] Max: I’d like to go back on the fact that there’s not a lot of differences. And what webmasters technical SEO’s and the SEO can do to optimize for search engines like at least Bing and Google. There was one that I can think in term of, you know, those technical tags that we implement, and things that we do a hreflang tags for international SEO and we all know that hreflang tags – they do work for Google, well most of the time, but it could be extremely complicated, setup and implementation really are to manage. Bing has not been on board with, like a tag, can you tell us a little bit about like, how are you guys like, really handle that? Not duplicate content, but violations, international violations and how you detect like the targeted audience, basically for this website that are multiple, like regional languages to target.

[00:26:55] Frédéric: So I’m going to be a very disappointing answer. I’m not very familiar with the hreflang tag treatment at Bing, so instead of giving an answer that I think would be inaccurate. What I can tell you is if you have a Web sites like, let’s say, blah dot com and in English blah dot fr in French. And if it is the same company and like, we have some ways to detect that this is not duplicate content that this is actually like two different language is the same thing if you have, like, slash en and slash fr on given website. But in terms of hreflang, I just don’t know, so sorry about that,

[00:27:43] Max: Yeah, as well, as we know, like officially Bing does not support hreflang tag again. That’s not something that I’m really surprised of because it’s a very complex implementation. I even heard people at Google that have been working on creating those tags that they’ll not extremely satisfied with the way it turned out. That it turned out to be more complicated, that they wanted it to be.

[00:28:04] Frédéric: Well, What I can tell you is it’s already complicated enough when you have only one language and in two different websites, and you want to do just a simple redirect from one to the other or simple economical. And sometimes when I look at the presentations from other SEOs in in conferences. And they show this super complicated graph for like, four websites, all canonicalizing to one another with the hreflang in like multiple foreign languages like, it just sounds like an extremely hard problem. So I’m not surprised that some people at Google say it is hard, we don’t get it right all the time.

[00:28:41] Max: Yeah, Sure.

[00:28:42] Alexis: That reminded me just a concept of different words going back to the question of vectors, you talked about in your tech SEO boost this idea that when you associate words as vectors, it ends up being more efficient. Why vectors? And I’m mostly curious because I’m in a class, and we literally just learned about how to calculate the distance between two vectors. So I loved when you muttered under your breath, you’re like you could just use the cosine of the angle. I was like, uou totally can. (lol) It was like I can find you the formula for that. But I was curious about what is it about vectors? And for people who are less technical with math, vector is almost like just a direction or an arrow with a line. So if you look at Frederic’s presentation, you can get that type of visual or just Google word vectors. But why are word vectors so useful?

[00:29:28] Frédéric: so so in ah, in summary, like the key concept here is embeddings, and the idea is that you get, I don’t know, maybe one hundred thousand words like a million words in the language, and you want to find similarities between the words. So the way we do that is we convert these words into a series of numbers. And, like, depending on what the exact implementation we have, it’s a one hundred numbers that are going to represent what this word means. And you train your model so that words that mean roughly the same thing or that are similar have numbers are close to each other. And so that’s a nice way to essentially compact the knowledge in your dictionary into a simple representation of one hundred numbers. And so although all these numbers represent different direction in them in the most dimensional space. So if you imagine, like the real world of three dimensions, there, like three numbers, like left right like that so to speak, in this world, it’s like one hundred different dimensions. And so we tried to find the similarities, and in the end, you mentioned like we measured the distance essentially between two different words. And so if you have something like, let’s say apple and orange, these are like fairly different objects. The words are completely different, but these are fruits, so you the concepts are still, like relatively similar. So I expect these words to be relatively close in the space. And the reason why it’s extremely useful for search and SEO in general is it just gets you away from this idea that you need to see synonyms or you need to make sure that you cover like ten different variations of the same concept. The hope here is that the machine is going turns than that. If you are, ah, fruit distributor, you don’t need like apples pears distributor dot com, orange business dot com, pear business dot com. We understand you’re a fruit distributor. All these things like makes sense to the machine so that that’s why it’s extremely exciting for us as A development.

[00:31:51] Max: I love that you say that I always used the superhero example like telling people that, Yes, if you do want to rank like about Superman, then maybe good that your website talk about, like Batman or Spiderman. And again, as you just mentioned about the fruits, they’re all different words. But they are related because there were, like, superhero name, and it will make the website worth more relevant for a particular topic. And, something like that, I need to expand to the context of what the topic is actually about.

[00:32:22] Alexis: Yeah, and it’s almost like a lot of people in the industry I’ve noticed over the last, probably two years have been talking about this idea of entity optimization versus focusing on keywords but focusing on that overall, being known for something, essentially.

[00:32:36] Frédéric: Yeah, that’s very interesting. We will be working on entities for quite a while at Bing, and there was a time like before and entities and vectors, and this concept of similarities really caught on where this was a bit much more, kind of handcrafted, so to speak. And so you would have liked this very strict relationship or like an entity links to another with, like, for example, Microsoft is a company. So next to the type was really a field in the entity is “company”. And then “is CEO” is like Satya (Nadella) and that would be like a related person. And then the relationship and it feels like What is relational? It is a manager and like and what? It’s kind of magical with these vectors and entities is  – all of these relationships come completely natural. You don’t need someone to tell you exactly what is the relationship between Microsoft and Satya. And what is extremely interesting to look at the literature and that that is probably one of the most fascinating properties of these vectors, is if you, the distance between Microsoft and Satya Nadella in the Vector Space is the same as the distance between Google and Sundar Pichai.

[00:33:26] Alexis: Weird…

[00:33:30] Frédéric: And so, like you just drove, like essentially a triangle between Microsoft, Google and Sundar Pichai Then you can extremely easily find that Satya has the same relationship with Microsoft which is similar to their relationship with Google and I find that it’s really fascinating, and that just makes sense, the relationship so much more powerful because you can just learn them in the wild. Instead of being to handcraft them over time.

[00:33:30]: That’s so mind blowing. And when I’m visualizing this, I don’t know if anybody has seen the graph of Word2Vec. But basically it sounds like exactly what you’re talking about, which it’s probably stands for word to vector, but basically it’s like that three dimensional graph of words. So you like, you’re talking about You could almost see the clusters of information of things that are, like, similar and related together as almost like a group of things that air in one area. Just kind of cool to think about. But that’s actually it’s even more mind blowing that like that relationship, the distance is exactly similar. That’s crazy. Yeah, mind blown.

[00:34:52] Frédéric: I think in their example, they used a man, woman, King, Queen, if I remember correctly. And yeah, that’s exactly what I had in mind. So I think if you if you’re if you’re in technical SEO reading the work to make paper or in general like these foundational papers and word embeddings.

[00:35:11] Alexis: that’s so brilliant and so fascinating, too. I really hope the you know it’s pretty much the same in the vector space like no, totally different in the space. I really do hope that catches on. I think it’s kind of like, interesting to think about. I mean it basically, just if you were when you said something like that, it inferred that like, it’s all about relevancy. But I just think it’s kind of like another funny way to say that. I think that SEOs tend to find funny ways to say things. Also, I do want to give you shout out – I thought it was really cool that you mentioned Karen Jones in your speech. I know that she recently passed away, but really cool to have women of science mentioned and especially lauded for their accomplishments. So, thank you for that.

[00:35:52] Frédéric: And she is really one of the most important persons in the field of information retrieval, which is like the precursor to search (and SEO). And if you look at her work, a lot of people talk about tf-idf. So she’s the mother of -idf. And this specific part of the formula is actually one that it survived the time, so if you look at for more advanced things like BM25. The tf- part has been changed quite a bit. But the idea of the -idf is almost exactly the same. BM25 is considered state of the art today for informational travel in in some sense. So it’s quite incredible that her work, really, is still extremely relevant to the field, like forty years after she wrote a paper on the idea.

[00:36:39] Alexis: Isn’t that crazy? I think. Isn’t that, like every scientist’s dream that their work out-lives them? So amazing.

[00:36:45] Frédéric: Yeah, There is in a lot of conferences, They have these conferences there where they call the “test of time” paper for and they look at all the papers that were published ten years before. I think ten years is the canonical time. And they give the award to whatever paper is still relevant or the most relevant at the time.

[00:37:07] Alexis: And I mean, obviously something that we want to encourage our scientists to do is have relevant papers!  

All right, so for the closing question, Frédéric, basically, I’ve been asking all of the other people that have joined the podcast. What are their three golden nuggets of advice, which is essentially – what should you do from an interpersonal level, a site-related level or really, just a personal development level? Could be anything but just three pieces of advice that you have for our listeners.

[00:37:35] Frédéric: That’s ah, that’s a great open question. I would say that the number one is to remember that you build things for people. We are an industry where we are builders. We build websites, we build products, we build the search engine. We all build these things for people. So this is the number one thing, my goal, as a Bing product manager, is to make sure the product is going to be useful to the people who use it and the consequence for you as webmaster or SEO is – it is important that the content you build is going to be useful to my users, because I mean the intermediary between my user and you. So I want I want to be able to vouch for you and say, “Yes, I think this is a great result, and I happily send by users to you.” So that’s definitely like the number one from, Ah, more technical point of view. On. I’m just going to reuse what I said a few years ago.

[00:38:32] Alexis: I totally feel for you. You can totally reuse whatever.

[00:38:35] Frédéric: And definitely start looking at embeddings and similarities and how modern NLP is done with deep learning. If you have a little bit of time, take the Coursera from Andrew Ng. There’s a machine learning 101. And there’s the deep learnings specialization, which is a set of five different courses. I found it easy to take deep learning, even without the machine learning knowledge. I just happen to do the machine learning before, but this is a great course. You don’t need a lot of technical math background, and he’s going to give you a lot of the understanding around deep learning. So that’s That would be my advice. Like if you if you can blow a little bit of time over the next few months to take this specialization or even if it’s not on Coursera just like, learn more about these things, deep learning and how it’s using NLP that that is the future. That is really the future. You get an edge just by learning about these things.

[00:39:37] Alexis: Yeah, I love that. Andrew is definitely the man, too. So…

[00:39:40] Frédéric: absolutely he worked with biggest companies. Like just not Microsoft. We need to hire him at some point, just so he can  have the Grand Slam Big companoes.

[00:39:52] Alexis: Yeah, when you look up his resume, he was very high up in Google. Then he worked at Baidu. So. Yeah. You guys totally need to hire him at Bing So he has, like everything.

[00:40:02] Frédéric: Exactly when, when your lowest achievement is being a professor at Stanford like that, just speaks like…

[00:40:08] Alexis: That’s so true, but yes he’s actually his class on machine learning is also very good on Coursera. And then I think it’s a little bit better than the one that’s on iTunes University because that one’s basically the older class, but specifically for Stanford. Yeah, great, great point. I’ll definitely I’m going to check out that deep learning course too now.

[00:40:29] Frédéric: Yeah, the machine learning one is definitely a bit more technical. I think, and especially he had two versions, one on Coursera, and he had the one on the Stanford website. But they think the iTunes one, that’s really the one he had on Stanford. The one on the Stanford websites – it was really assumed that you basically followed all the classes at Stanford before. And so we have, a lot of knowledge in algebra and like a lot of things like that.

[00:40:58] Alexis: yeah, if you don’t know what partial derivatives are, it’s very discouraging. (lol)

[00:41:01] Frédéric: Exactly. He forces you to compute them. (lol) Whereas the deep learning one, you don’t need that technical background. And a lot of times he says that he actually say, if you know about these partial derivatives and everything – Great – here is like some reading for you. If you don’t know about it, just forget about this. Understanding concept Is somewhat more important than being able to complete it partial derivative.

[00:41:25] Alexis: Yeah, I love that idea of having to understand intuition of what you’re actually trying to achieve in math. I feel like that’s something that’s underappreciated art, which I thought you did a great job in your tech boost talk as well, like saying like, “Well, here’s the intuition of it, you know?”

[00:41:40] Frédéric: Well, I guess I tried to channel my Andrew at Tech SEO boost, because he does that a lot. I think these videos and then when we talk about one hundred dimension vector spaces, it’s gonna be extremely hard to visualize or understand what it is. And so a lot of time in his videos is going to explain the intuition behind it. And like, why we do this a certain way. And that’s why it’s just a great, great series, of course, and not just like good deep learning class, It is just like I think the reference at this point to learn more about deep learning.

And I will use my my third key points, maybe to do a little bit of upselling for Bing. In the sense that, we released this crawling, indexing API very recently. There was an integration with Yoast, but you don’t need to use Yoast.

If you have a website that is running on any platform, you can still go ahead – register with Bing Webmaster Tools and start using the API or even just submitting your URLs directly there. And for most websites, if you do that, you should like differently great improvements in terms of the crawling and indexing. So that would be really my top recommendation. If you feel you’re old Index isn’t crawling properly with Bing start with Bing webmaster tools, submit some URLs and that should solve most of the problems

[00:43:05] Max: Are you saying that we should not use XML sitemaps anymore? (lol)

[00:43:10] Frédéric: XML sitemaps are good, but they are just a least of all – like the way we see it – it’s the least of all the URLs on your website. And if have a million of them, maybe you care a lot about ten thousand of them, not the entire one million.

And that’s great, because you can submit ten thousand URLs to the submit URLs feature on webmaster tools. And these are the ones we’re going to prioritize. So we can discover all million from your sitemap. But instead of letting us decide which ones are more important, we just prefer you telling us which ones are important.

[00:43:40] Max: That is amazing. Thank you, guys, for putting that together and making it available.

[00:43:44] Alexis: Yeah. Congratulations! That’s so exciting and exciting for us as well in the search community, so thanks! Well, I know you have a tight time schedule, but thank you so much for coming on our show and for educating us all on Bing and the history. And of course, some of the more technical knowledge as well, very, very exciting and very honored to have you on the podcast. We’ll definitely have to check out some of the more technical things, like embeddings as well as deep learning. So thank you for that as well! It’s been an honor!

[00:44:12] Frédéric: Thanks for having me!

[00:44:13] Alexis: Alright. Thanks, ciao everyone!

The post 2. Interview w/ Frédéric Dubut, Bing appeared first on

clean No no no 45:11 Alexis Sanders
1. Welcome to the Lab! Mon, 29 Apr 2019 03:00:33 +0000 Alexis Sanders Episode Notes: Thanks for listening and welcome to the lab! We’re going to launch episodes on Mondays! This season is […]

The post 1. Welcome to the Lab! appeared first on

trailer 1 1 Episode Notes:
  • Thanks for listening and welcome to the lab!
  • We’re going to launch episodes on Mondays!
  • This season is going to be 7 episodes, focused on eCommerce
  • Reach out with any questions, thoughts to seointhelab [at]!
  • HUGE thanks to Max Prin (site), Andrew Galuppo (marketing), Cheryl Sansonetti (marketing), Mia Evans (transcript support), Han Shen (music), and Jason Eitemiller (logo)!
  • Plus one more -> thanks to Masaki Okazawa for letting me use his Yeti podcast mic every week. Thanks Saki!!
  • Also, check us out on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and SoundCloud! (or don’t – live the life you want to lead! (but seriously, please check it out…))


[00:00:15] Alexis Sanders:

“Hello, Hello and welcome to SEO in the lab. My name is Alexis Sanders. I am a senior SEO manager at Merkle as well as part of Merkle’s SEO Tech team, and I’m so excited to host this podcast!

The purpose of this is really to learn about other professionals in our industry, what they’re going through, and ultimately garner some advice for them that could be translated into their career.

The name SEO in the Lab is something that’s really special to us at Merkle.  At Merkle Pittsburgh, the office that I work in, we have a biweekly tradition that we call SEO Lab, which is a meeting where all participants come together to explore, discuss, play and ultimately learn more about the craft of SEO.It’s also a casual environment that encouraged engagement as well as growth, which is something that I really wanted to bring to this podcast.  And I think ultimately (this podcast is) going to be something that’s really useful for everyone.

Season one is going to be about seven episodes (after this one). We’re going to update on Mondays, and there’s a primary focus on eCommerce in season one, so get excited. We’re going to be learning about what people at major Fortune 500 companies are going through in their SEO department and from the recordings (we) have done have been really good. (So I’m really excited).

This podcast, even though this is the early stages, we already have so many people to thank, starting with Max Prin for building our website Check that out for notes, transcriptions and bonus content! All that’s coming soon and I think you guys are going to love it!

Second, thank you to Andrew Galuppo and Cheryl Sansonetti from marketing for coordinating pretty much everything (outside of the podcast making) and Mia Evans for editing all of our transcripts from Amazon transcribe! I don’t know what I would do without you!

Thank you so much as well as to Han Shen and for our intro and outro music.

And then, of course, last but not least, all of the guest for this season! Thank you so much in advance. We’re really excited! I’m super excited to show the stuff with you. It’s so useful and I’m super psyched about it!

If you guys have any questions, we have an email that you can reach out seointhelab [at] Reach out with questions. Thoughts be back in the future or if you have thoughts already, which would be awesome. And you can also reach me personally at on Twitter at @AlexisKSanders.

Thanks so much! This is Alexis. Signing off.”

The post 1. Welcome to the Lab! appeared first on

clean No no no 2:54 Alexis Sanders