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. Whereisxur.com. 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: lunchtimeinrome.com,

[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.