CMO Interview: SEO is Evolving—Here’s How to Evolve With It

MarketSmiths CMO Daniel DiGriz speaks on search engine optimization, discussing the effects of coronavirus, the importance of technical SEO, and the common mistake companies make — and how they can do better.

Your SEO strategy should reflect consumer behavior.
As we adapt to a new normal, SEO best practices are evolving.

At the start of 2020, you had your marketing plans all set to go—priorities established, budgets approved, and strategies nailed down. Now all that has changed, as businesses, consumers, and, of course, marketers struggle to adapt to the new normal. 

In response to this disruption, many marketing leaders are re-evaluating their online marketing approach—shifting spend from the paid search to SEO-based efforts.  If you’re looking to adapt your strategy, where do you begin?

To help shed some light on how SEO is evolving, and what that means for your organization, we’re launching a 3-part interview series with MarketSmiths CMO Daniel DiGriz. Let’s dive into post number one:

Q: Obviously, the coronavirus has disrupted nearly every facet of business. Is it impacting how SEO works? 

A: Yes, we’re seeing that. But SEO is continually changing—with or without a pandemic. SEO changes because it’s a pair of behaviors: It’s the behavior of the people doing the optimizing and of the audience—one shifts in response to the other. Not to mention the search engine’s ever-evolving algorithm. So by nature, SEO is constantly shifting. 

Q: How does the changing business landscape impact the type of SEO content being produced? 

A: Budget-wise, we’re seeing lots of companies shift their ad spend to invest in SEO—particularly lead generation content like landing pages, ebooks, and other types of lead generators. This makes sense because that content is owned media that’s sustainable, long-lasting, and provides evergreen value. Fundamentally, SEO is focused on creating deeper, less transactional relationships. Conversely, with ad spend when you turn it off, the value is gone. It instantly disappears. So we’re seeing people develop long-form content, paired with a message of optimism. 

Q: What’s an area of SEO that you feel doesn’t get enough attention? 

A: Technical SEO. That’s because the value of creating content that’s useful to your audience is fairly easy to understand. But many people are missing the technical piece. Across the market, I see a large number of companies generating high volumes of content—but not optimizing links, images, and so on. In this way, companies think they’re doing SEO, but they’re only getting half the value. 

In other cases, companies start out with strong technical SEO practices, but get lax over time. Companies that have been relaxing during more optimal times have gotten loose. Now is the time to tighten up execution of those standards. You can’t afford to spend on content creation and not get your full ROI, so include and revisit technical SEO. 

Q: Can you explain further why technical SEO is so important?

A: It comes back to how search engines function. Right now the search algorithms are closest to artificial intelligence they’ve ever been. But, importantly, AI is both smart and dumb. It’s smart enough to know when it’s being manipulated—and to reject that manipulation. But it’s also dumb enough that it needs help in actually understanding what it’s reading.

This is where technical SEO comes into play. First, you have to properly tag your content so the search engine knows what it’s seeing—this includes both image and links. In addition, there are new types of data called “schema data” that are not being used by many companies yet, but that are helping search engines understand what they’re looking at. 

Here’s an example: You want to deepen your existing client relationship. One way is through educational content—or “how to” content—helping your readers understand how to do certain things. The fact is, search engines are really solution engines. People use them to solve problems. So a “how to” approach to content is extremely valuable. And you can use technical SEO to wrap the elements of your “how to” piece with the right schema data in such a way that not only can a search engine recognize that it’s a “how to” piece, but also intelligently extract pieces of information from your article and display them in featured how-to searches—even if someone is not on your page. This is just one example of the next generation of SEO data standards Google uses to evaluate content. 

Q: What are some common ways companies get SEO wrong? 

A: Here’s something I see all the time: Smaller businesses will hire a person to do a website. The contract ends with that person—but the company goes on producing and publishing content on the site for years. None of that content is getting optimized. When you do this, it’s like driving around town with your car in first gear: You have to floor it to get to 15 miles an hour. 

On the flipside, proper SEO shifts all your content in a higher gear. So as you put  that content out there, you get more out of each piece. A piece of content without SEO is not without value—but it’s like being in first or second gear. 

Q: What’s the one actionable SEO item you want readers to walk away from this interview with? 

A: Focus on long-form, organic content. Specifically, focus on content that is lead generation-oriented. In other words, it’s oriented toward solving problems. Avoid low-quality, thin, fluff content at all costs.

To get started, Google any question you have—how to do X, Y, Z—and you’ll instantly get 3 blog post ideas just by seeing what shows up in search. Don’t do what many other companies do, which is repackage advice from other sources (often in a list post format). Add your own value and voice to the conversation.

Moreover, go deep: a 2500-word guide beats a 500-word blog post. Quality matters more than ever—so make sure your stuff is worth reading. And once that content is created, demand technical optimization from your team.

Q: Sounds great. Any final parting words to share with our readers? 

A: I’ll leave you with this: The public is losing its stomach for companies that are all rhetoric. Don’t just say, “We stand with you.” People don’t believe it. Do something! And make sure to align the help you’re providing with your core operations, capacity, and brand purpose. With COVID, your jeweler sends you a notice that he’s washing his hands, ‘stands with you,’ and is making free donuts. Good for him. But why tell me about it? Contrast that with a distillery that starts making sanitizer, or a boot company that starts making masks out of boot leather. It fits, and it’s actually doing something.

Fortunately, creating useful content—meaning content that solves problems—is one of the best ways you can be helpful to your audience, and actually invest in your long-term business growth at the same time. 

Q: Hard to argue with that. That’s a wrap for our first interview, stay tuned for interview #2, coming next month!

A: Meantime, if you’d like help creating helpful SEO content Google loves, your audience finds valuable, and drives leads to your business—get in touch with MarketSmiths today


Paul Rosevear

Paul Rosevear

What do you get when you combine the soul of a musician with the mind of a writer? Copy that sings. And for the last decade, that’s precisely what Paul has delivered for global brands, bootstrap startups, and everything in between. When he’s not hard at work crafting top-notch communications, you can find Paul hanging with his wife and two young daughters, singing and playing guitar for The Vice Rags, or roaming the streets in search of the nearest slice of pizza.

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