- Follow Brendan:
- How to improve on SEO
- Do you need to have development skills to be a good SEO?
- HTML – should be able to write
- How to inspire passion
- Hire right people
- Weekly passion-based meeting
- Culture of learning and sound boarding
- Willing to listen to everyone else
- Ask follow up questions
- Differences from in-house versus agency
- More access to engineers
- How did you build credibility with engineers
- Ask for feedback on tickets before submitting
- “How would you go about fixing this? What details do you want in the ticket to fix it?”
- Book Alexis’ boss (Chris) made her read: Get Anyone to Do Anything: Never Feel Powerless Again–With Psychological Secrets to Control and Influence Every Situation
- Managing multiple stakeholders
- Triage – prioritize what’s most important
- Understand the problem and level of priority
- What to do if faced with multiple hot priorities
- Developing a framework and documenting common answers (especially for repetitive questions)
- Standard operating procedures (SOP)
- Developing a framework and documenting common answers (especially for repetitive questions)
- Why is SEO important for eComm?
- Revenue is generated at low ad cost
- We are a more efficient channel
- Increases customer acquisition
- Similar to how one would diversify financial investments (24:00)
- Thinking and analyzing in terms of page types
- Testing and experimentation
- How often to retest?
- Use judgment
- What’s on the roadmap? Priorities? Engineering lift?
- What is best in class for eCommerce?
- Getting the customer experience right
- Crawling, indexing, ranking
- Blocking invaluable pages
- Top three nuggets of advice for an SEO in eCommerce
- Will’s article: https://moz.com/blog/how-to-learn-seo
- Finding your passion
- Moving rankings
- Getting ranks to generate traffic
- Uncovering technical SEO problems
- Revealing in the moments
- Critical thinking
- Completing an objective analysis to form an opinion
- Must move and execute
- Be proactive
- How often to retest?
[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.
[00:07:05] 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.