O/SEO/O™ E4: Opinions About The Future of Content

Published on: 
November 19, 2021
Updated on: 
October 3, 2023
Begüm Kaya
Begüm Kaya
Tory Gray
Tory Gray

We're so excited to introduce our first roundtable discussion of Opinionated SEO Opinions - with our amazing guests! 

We were joined by Chima Mmeje, Viola Eva, and Irina Serdyukovskaya to discuss The Future of Content (albeit with some scheduling issues. So please excuse our video splicing to try and make the timing work to include Chima!) 

Inspired by Rand Fishkin’s article in SparkToro, “The Incentives to Publish No Longer Reward the Web’s Creators,” which pointed out the latest difficulties in the content marketing game - from creating content to promoting it - we evaluate it all, and share our insights and understanding of what really “works” with future projections. 

There’s also a tribute to Ross Simmonds (much love!) on the balance of content creation & distribution.

Make sure to follow our amazing guests (ordered by introduction in the video)! 

Irina Serdyukovskaya, SEO Consultant, Freelance

Viola Eva, Founder & Lead SEO at Flow SEO

Chima Mmeje, SEO Content Strategist & Content Writer for SaaS

You can also find your hosts here - reach out to further discuss what we covered!
Tory Gray

Sam Torres

Begum Kaya
Follow TGDC on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Video Transcript

Begüm Kaya   0:10  
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the first roundtable discussion of Opinionated SEO Opinions™.

We're so excited to have wonderful guests. Thank you for being with us today, ladies. And let me give a brief intro why we're here today and get to know you all better. So it all started when Rand Fishkin wrote a piece on SparkToro about how the incentives to publish being no longer rewarding to web creators.

Tory was quite intrigued with this idea and she wanted us to discuss how there is no end to content marketing, and now it's harder than ever, considering that it's more competitive now, and social distribution is significantly harder.

So here we are today with our lovely guests of experienced SEOs to discuss what's next, how to do - how to get ahead of the curve - and how do we evolve. How to get - how to get better at doing content marketing nowadays!

Now, let's start with the "Zoom-roundtable-thing" that I have. So I'll go on with Irina Serdyukovskaya. And yes, everyone. She has my surname in hers. She's an international SEO consultant. She's helping companies and startups increase organic traffic and brand awareness. And she is also an international speaker. Please add anything if I missed Irina and welcome to the show.

Irina Serdyukovskaya  1:33  
Yeah, thank you for introduction. I would add that I also am studying tourism in master's degree in Italy. So I think that having experience in SEO for almost 10 years, it's very interesting to see how this is represented in tourism, destination promotions and everything.

Begüm Kaya   1:56  
Yeah, that's very lovely. Wonderful. I'll jump off to Viola then. Viola is an SEO consultant and the founder of Flow SEO. I believe we can say that she wears multiple hats from being a digital marketing consultant to an event organizer. Wonderful job with the recent show, Viola, and please take it away.

Viola Eva  2:18  
Thank you so much. I'm very excited to be here today. Yes, we are a digital marketing agency specialized on SEO. And we mainly work with digital businesses, such as software companies, which heavily rely on their content strategy to drive growth. And so I'm very excited to talk about that today.

Chima Mmeje  2:36  
Thank you Tory. My name is Chima Mmeje. I do SEO content and content marketing. Mostly I build topic clusters and execute those clusters for SaaS and tech companies. I don't know. That's, that's basically my entire work life story.

Begüm Kaya   2:56  
Wonderful. Thank you for being here with us today. And I'm your moderator, as always, Begum Kaya. And we have Tory Gray as the host of Opinionated SEO Opinions™. Once again, let's jump off to our topic.

question #1

First Impressions about the article, “The Incentives to Publish No Longer Reward the Web’s Creators”

Tory Gray  3:10  
So we're meeting here today we — I think we both read the Rand Fishkin article about how content distribution is harder these days. And the investment to create your own original content is maybe lower than it used to be, because distribution is getting harder, and because it's so much more competitive than it used to be.

I think it struck a chord with both of us. So I'd love to hear your perspective on that as a whole, and then ask you some some follow up questions as well.

Chima Mmeje  3:39  
Yeah, sure. Yeah. I read the article. It was - there was just so many stuff that was going on there and I found myself just nodding and nodding and nodding throughout the article, because I was like, yes, yes, yes!

Screenshot of the blog article in question - The Incentives to Publish No Longer Reward the Web's Creators
Read more on SparkToro's Blog

Well, I did take away from the article, that distribution is harder, I took away from the article that it's getting harder to create content that ranks and because there is no incentive, the people who create a lot of content - there's kind of be like a drop in the quantity they are creating because showing up is getting so much more competitive. Everybody's doing text content, everybody's doing the same thing.

Everybody's - everybody's doing basically the same thing. Everybody knows now what it takes to rank on Google, Bing and other search engines. And because there's so much knowledge out there; because we're in this age of - even my small business clients know so much about SEO, it's it means that the average person has at least average - above basic skills of what they need to be doing to rank, and if you have so many people creating good content, and then no way for them to get their content in front of the right audience. It becomes very frustrating.

I can attest to this because this year, I've only created one blog content on my website. One, one piece of content! There's just no motivation anymore to create that content on your website when I can get more rich by creating content on social platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, where my audience hangs out.

So definitely agree with Rand on all that — create content for the platforms where your audience hangs out. I get a ton of leads from social media. In fact, 80-90% of my leads complete action referrals from people I met on social media, or through clients who found my work on social media. People only go to my websites when they're 70-80% of the way there. So I'm putting out content - is to convince people that oh, yeah, I really know what I'm talking about. It's less about trying to rank or trying to do anything else? Because honestly, search keeps getting harder every day, as more of these social platforms, and these distribution platforms keep tightening up to prevent anything from linking out.

Tory Gray  6:00  
Yeah, so keeping it within social and not necessarily linking to your website, and keeping it in that ecosystem - is something you're seeing work for you.

Chima Mmeje  6:09  
Yes, exactly. Exactly. So that really resonated, because it's something that I've been doing all year long. And honestly, it's been really successful.

Tory Gray  6:18  
I would love to know from both of you all, just how are you generally feeling about your work in content marketing today? What was harder, the same, or easier than it was previously? How are you feeling about this world right now?

Viola Eva  6:35  
I'm happy, I'm happy to go. Firstly, I do agree with the article of Rand Fishkin that were - that Begum mentioned in the introduction - with the observation that, you know, platforms are becoming more and more closed, and whether that's Google or Facebook or Instagram, they don't really want us to link to our website and drive traffic in such a way. So I do agree with his observation, obviously, I think the development is very real.

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure if in my experience, I came to the same conclusion, and I think the main difference is that I'm much younger in the game than Rand Fishkin is, and so I think Rand Fishkin knows the "good old days" of putting an article up, and it ranks on Google straightaway. And I've - I've never experienced, this has never happened to me. And I've seen this developments, not so much with Google, but more with like, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Clubhouse, where you have a first mover advantage.

There's like this golden period in the beginning of the platforms where you can kind of like hack the system, maybe exploit the platform or any, like, algorithm loops that they haven't caught yet. And you can really get a lot of visibility early on and fast. And I've been a little bit too late to the party for most of this stuff to experience this with SEO.

And so where, where I'm at, or since I started, like six years ago, I — It has always been the case that we kind of needed to put in the legwork, and that we needed to do things that are quote unquote, not so scalable, like really creating meaningful articles, putting words and work into content, credit, quality, creating a brand as well. And so I think I'm a little bit more hopeful than him, maybe, in the things that we do, and that we still can make things happen and that there's still wiggle room to get eyeballs and find followers, even if it's maybe not as easy as it was 15 years ago.

Begüm Kaya   8:29  
That sounds quite reasonable. And also, something happened right after maybe a few days after he published that article. Instagram started having External links in stories and everything. So now it's kind of a little easier. But maybe the reach is not as extensive as it - as it is for normal posts. So it's still worth while to discuss, I think.

Tory Gray  8:53  
Yeah, I think it's also interesting to your point about those early movers and shakers, and it's changing, but that, I mean, it's to some extent, he is the entrenched SEO guy, right? So if it's not working for him in the same way that it used to be, that doesn't mean there's not new opportunities for new voices in different ways, especially in less competitive sectors.

So I mean, we publish content, obviously, primarily around SEO. But that doesn't mean we've covered all the ground of what SEO is for all the different people that need it from these new perspectives, for different businesses at different stages. So I'd say something that we find to work is really identifying what's not out there. It's not the 101 beginner content, and maybe it's not the advanced developer, incredibly detailed content. Maybe there's a lot of ground in between, that's frankly, just not covered yet.

So to me, it's a lot about - how competitive is your individual race? Who are you talking to? How - yeah - how is that working for you based on what your target is? What do you think, Irina?

Irina Serdyukovskaya  10:00  
Yeah, I would say that, as I'm quite long in the game also, but I started in Russia and with Russian market. We also had some quite quick wins there, like 10 years ago, where I had no experience in SEO and we had quite good results. I think, yes, in this case now, it's much harder.

In SEO and Facebook and LinkedIn, even - you need experience, you need to understand the trends, you need to understand your target audience. But I think this is the most important thing, because 10 years ago, you can write about SEO in general, and you will have a big explosion. So a big target audience for you.

But now you could not do this, because all the general topics, they already covered quite well. So for sure, you can update something, you can add your experience, but still general topics out of the game, in most of the industries.

But you have so much more in depth topics. For example, in your - I don't know - in tourism industry, where you think that you already have a lot of content, you don't - actually you don't have very nice, specific content for specific topics. And this is where we have, I think, in all the industries, the opportunity actually to move to the area where we have better content, content from experts in specific fields. And I think this is what helps actually - brands to win. Even if you're a smaller if you don't have that big budget, or you started one year ago, and not five or seven years ago.

Question #2

How did the change in content marketing change the main focus of your projects?

Begüm Kaya  11:40  
Wonderful. I was wondering if this shift in the content game - maybe your priorities, for example, creating the best content out there versus distributing the content, or as Irina pointed out, maybe like, not going as general content, but focusing on more specific content that really talks to your target audience. Anyone?

Viola Eva  12:10  
I'll start with a thing that I heard Ross Simmonds from Foundation, say -which he said, if you're publishing five times a week, but you don't have time to distribute the content, then you're creating too much. And so I do think in this way, striking the balance between mere production and the distribution and promotion. And I think, for me, the the scale is tipping more and more towards the distribution, and promotion, which partly is also obviously - as keywords in SEO specifically get more competitive, it partly becomes a link game.

And so if I have a very hard, difficult keyword, I might not be able to just put the article up and be ranking. And so I'm - my, my internal scale is tipping towards distribution and promotion, and content quality. And I think this plays into SEO beautifully anyways, because we don't want to be writing about the same topic over and over and over again, because we're looking at keyword cannibalization and problems like that. And so that idea of we really want to do the best resource that is evergreen that we keep on updating, actually, content quality feeds into, into SEO success, I think.

Tory Gray  13:28  
Yeah, yeah. Content quality, a focus on user intent and really meeting that need and really identifying - so, for example - there was a particular piece we wanted to write about multiple domain SEO, because what we saw with that, was everyone answering how to do it. No one was talking about why you would want to do it, or why you wouldn't want to do it, right?

Like there's there was a whole front page of people answering the same question in just longer and longer and longer formats. And this to me is part of the challenge with like that AI content or having junior copywriters who really don't understand your market, like you need someone on your content team that truly understands your audience, and what their needs are and how to speak to those needs, so you're not just reinventing the same thing over and over and over again, and trying to do it in a longer word count, and then magically expecting that to work.

I'd say we're also investing more in content distribution, as well, and in diversifying beyond just social media. So more of the Quoras or the StackExchanges of the world and how can we be helpful in those other places with really a focus on community building and being helpful and not just "growth hacking" - "we're gonna post this and do all these tricks and then people will share us," and then "win" with no real engagement.

You know that, that is a lot harder to do these days. And I I would argue that that is not a bad thing.

Chima Mmeje  15:00  
First, when creating a topic cluster as you could build a cluster and then have maybe four content pieces in there, just run on the strength on the cluster, not anymore. Right now, before anyone even comes in starts talking about topic cluster, you need to have a distribution plan in place, need to have a plan for link building.

Before you even ask - just like creating the content for your cluster, you're also budgeting for orders that are for stuff, even if it doesn't work. So it's - it's - I'm at the stage now, where I'm helping my clients, not just view the cluster and others executed, but also, bring in folks who are doing link building and content distribution so that we can get the most bang out of the clusters.

So it's not just enough - at the start of the year, it was mostly "contents, contents, contents, contents, let's put out as much content as possible." And now, this focus right now is distribution, distribution. 100%. That is our mindset. That is where we are at now, distribution is the most important thing in the game. And I keep telling everybody, if you're creating any sort of content, you must have a distribution plan, not just to produce foot traffic, but for the right kind of traffic that is going to bring in those leads that you crave. So we've gone from content creation to content distribution, that is where we are now.

Tory Gray  16:24  
Yeah, well, it's interesting, because you also work primarily in SaaS, where I'd argue topic clustering has been bigger for longer, right?

Chima Mmeje  16:33  
Yes, yes, yes.

Tory Gray  16:33  
So it's a more competitive space specifically. So when we were talking with some of the other ladies, you know, there were interesting insights in terms of like - it really actually does still work well, in certain verticals. So it really depends how competitive it is. But the more competitive it is, in your industry that you're working in, the more critical distribution is.

Whereas a lot of I feel like the people that we're often working with, you know, there's people still are not doing enough distribution, like they're barely, you know, starting that game. There's a reason Ross Simmonds bangs that drum - because people aren't doing it! They're just depending on the content creation, and so it is evolving, and it evolves first, where it's most competitive.

Chima Mmeje  17:17  
Mm, hm. Yes, 100% on that. SaaS, SaaS clusters - this is SaaS, and marketing, and tech, to an extent, well, mostly sales or marketing clusters are very, they're very straightforward. It's easy to visualize the journey. Because once you know what the product is, and you know what the ideal buyer is looking for, then you heard - you can easily do the research to find out where they're entering the cluster from, or where they're starting their journey from, and then create that content at the beginning stage, and then guide them through the funnel with that content to the time they're ready to convert.

And now there's something that we started experimenting with, with our link building strategy. So what we do, instead, is that's - while we have all of this topic clusters, then we take subheadings - from those clusters - and then we turn them into guest posts, so that we are creating parts of the content cluster outside on high authority sites, and then linking them back to the cluster on the client's page.

So it's kind of like this "web," where we have authority externally, and then we have authority internally. Then when the bots are crawling these pages, and you're seeing this whole, really beautiful interconnected web of contents on high authority sites, and both on the websites, everything is just so well linked, then it's easier to rank as you build that authority. So that's something we've been experimenting with for a while. And we're still waiting to see, I'm pretty sure is going to be great, because that's like a no brainer.

Tory Gray  18:48  
Yeah, that's a great approach. That's super interesting.

Chima Mmeje  18:52  
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You don't just publish everything on your website anymore. You publish the core of the cluster on your websites. And then all of this, like, relaxes some of those secondary topics and clusters that you publish them externally. But you also make them just as long form, just as comprehensive, just as awesome as what is on your website, and then use the right anchor text to link from those websites, back to your cluster, because the relationship and the relevance will be super tight.

Tory Gray  19:21  
Yep. Yeah. And what you're also speaking to is like, repackaging that content in different ways, right, like leveraging it for social media, for its own stories, for these external what - medium posts or guest posts on other sites - or

Chima Mmeje  19:36  

Tory Gray  19:36  
Yeah, yeah. Repackaging and distribution is definitely the name of the game, the more competitive it is.

Question #3

Begüm Kaya   19:44  
Definitely. I think that chasing links or trying to attract links can lead to bad ends, just like public, no, not public - private blog networks and everything that we see in SEO as well. Do you think that's a threat that we see with the content distribution being harder and harder? And rather than people focusing on really attracting links, then creating a community where you support each other and really are invested in that idea.

Tory Gray  20:17  
I mean, ANYTHING can lead to bad ends? Oh, go ahead!

Irina Serdyukovskaya  20:19  
Yeah, from my point of view, I think that the community is also not "next big thing". I think it's already big thing, in a lot of industries! And I think that really good example is our community, Women in Tech SEO. Where you - if you provide and produce interesting content for your community, you have a lot of support, and a lot of support in distributing this content.

So I think building this around - for clients, for your company is very important. This is the shift I see, and I think it could be that for for my clients - I advise them, maybe they could not have a community, but at least they can have their email marketing, where they have their community who is reading, who is supporting them.

This is very powerful, I think - the distribution thing. And it also goes to - that you don't want to have a lot of content, like if you're distributing from Facebook, LinkedIn, you could not decide what to read, you have these, all of these things on there. And I think the clients, and we are as a general specialists, we don't want that. That why - that's why email marketing is also some kind of helpful when you build your audience. And actually, it's a win win for you and for other parts because they receive - actually the content they're interested in, and not everything else on social media.

Viola Eva  21:52  
I would quickly like to add to what you said here, exactly, and also, what Tory said earlier, which is that we sometimes have this perception that there's "SEO content," and there's "Thought Leadership Content," and they are two completely different beasts, and there's no way to marry them.

And I think Tory, what you explained is a beautiful example of merging thought leadership and SEO content. So we might have found that topic or keyword that we wanting to rank for. But we are realizing - everyone is rehashing the same information and some industry truism that everyone thinks is a true paradigm. And it hasn't been questioned in forever. And I think that's a beautiful point.

So you can start ranking for a keyword, but you can have an interesting headline where you like something, or why it's not the thing anymore, or why you don't want to do it. And so also on page one, you're the only one who, who stands out because there's advising against it. So that might be interesting for your click through rate. But it also means that people will actually remember you, because if they scrolled through three or four guides that are roughly the same and then you are the one that has an opinion, then that is also where how people become part of your email has become part of your community because they do actually remember you, and - and not "any other guide" that's just the same same.

Tory Gray  23:08  
Yeah, such a great point. I mean, there's - people seem to want to do competitive research, so they can emulate, instead of differentiate, which is such a mess, right.

But Begum, also to your question, I would say, SEOs ruin everything. So of course, we can ruin distribution. But I'd also argue, right now, that's not a problem because people aren't doing it.

People are just all focused on the creation of the content, and they're not distributing it. Like there's a reason Ross Simmonds hammers, or plays those drums so hard all the time, because people just weren't doing it. So a bit like - hopefully it will pick up, and then eventually, inevitably, it will get ugly and be played out, and we will ruin it. But I think there's a lot of room between those two things. So hopefully, hopefully there's room for growth in there in the meantime.

Begüm Kaya   23:59  
Yeah. For your next step, SEOs, please think "What Would Ross Simmonds Do?"

What Would Ross Simmonds Do?
What would Ross Simmonds Do?
Question #4

How much content is “enough”?

Tory Gray  24:10  
Oh my goodness. Alright, so we'd also love to hear from you guys. How much content is "enough"? I'm sure you get this question from clients!

Irina Serdyukovskaya  24:23  
Yeah, I always tell clients because I work with mostly small businesses. And they ask this - it's the first question when we are discussing content strategy, like "how much content we should provide", like one piece per week, two pieces and everything.

II tried to push them that it's a matter - how many good and quality content pieces you actually can produce during the month? If you can make one content, that super! If you can do two content pieces, that's super helpful.

But we don't count that we should have one article per week. Why? Just writing "because we need to write this." And I have seen, like, I have two different examples.

And I see that where are we are just pushing content every week, we are not ranking that well, where we have maybe only five articles, which are really, really good quality, and they are ranking much better and bringing much more traffic. So yeah, I think quantity versus quality quality wins, especially now.

Chima Mmeje  25:30  
I get this question a lot, and I am a big fan of quality over quantity. I think one week is enough. I don't care what you're doing one concrete, original, - except if you're completely dependent on content creation, like Search Engine Land or Search Engine Journal or any of other sites that just live off creating contents, kind of like this publications, then you create for the media.

But if you have like a SaaS products, then I think, one to two topics a week is cool. I think I would prefer to do one because if you spend as much as - $2-3000 asset - if you have a lot of money to spend on distribution, that's the question you need to be asking -how many pieces of content can I afford to distribute, and build enough links to, so that it has reach - so that it performs.

So that it's not just sitting on my website looking ugly or nobody's looking at it, but it's out there in the world looking beautiful and gangly. So that is the real question, how much money can I afford to spend on building links, and promoting each piece of content I'm creating. So once you see that you have that number, then you know how many pieces of content you need to create. There's no number to be honest, you can do every day you can do once a week, but ideally, what most people can afford sustainably, consistently, is once a week.

Viola Eva  26:55  
And also to your point, I think it's changed dramatically how many keywords that page can rank for. So it's not like that page is gonna rank for five keywords. If you do the page well, it might rank for hundreds, if not 1000s of keywords. And so I think in this way, that's very helpful.

I wanted to add, I think the number of content pieces to create also depends on your goals, of course, because not all articles are created equal. Like some we might create for ranking, some we might create as a link asset, some we create for pure thought leadership and opinions, a=some we create to capture downloads, etc. So I do think depending on what you're trying to achieve with your marketing campaign, you might come to the conclusion, okay, I want one or two SEO posts. I want, you know - 1 thought leadership posts or so - and there's going to be this like, variety of articles that you're going to be creating.

If you're purely looking at traffic, I've seen this like "back of the napkin" math, on the Siege Media blog, where essentially you take your traffic and you develop, you take your organic traffic and you divide it by the number of pages that actually bring in traffic, and then you look at your traffic goal, and from that you can kind of extrapolate how many pages might be missing to do that.

Obviously, this doesn't account for the pages that never get any traction or not in the way that you want it. But if you want like some back of the napkin math, do you need to double my content or quadruple or 10x? I think that's a helpful way to think about it.

Question #5

How long should your content be to rank and bring in meaningful traffic?

Tory Gray  28:33  
Totally. So a quick follow up question would be, "what about content length?" So not just how many posts should you do? But how long should they be? It's a question everybody asks.

Chima Mmeje  28:42  
Length is always - I always look at what is ranking, how long are competitors contents, and then I try to do like 500 words over that. Usually, if I see a keyword and the keyword is really competitive, maybe like 5-6k, obviously that's going to be long form. And then if I see that, even three, four people on page one are writing 2, 5, 3000 - then I'm going to try to beat them on that for quantity and quality.

It's always finding that balance.

So like I said, there is no single number on how long content should be long. As a rule of thumb, I don't write any content that is less than 2000 words. As a rule of thumb - 2000 words minimum, and then can go up to 3, 5 or more, depending on how much information you're trying to communicate.

Tory Gray  29:37  
Yeah, I like the answer of "as long as it needs to be."

Chima Mmeje  29:41  
Yes. But not too long! I don't think anybody wants to read it. I don't - I don't, I see 5k posts all the time. It's just - I get bored. I like long form, but long form has to be meaningful. So if you get in too long, then just break it down and add it to the cluster.

Viola Eva  29:58  
I would say I'm a "Shih Tzu-phrenic." In this regard, on the one hand, I'm a big fan of a lot of the correlational SEO tools that allow you to pull like in page one average in word count, and I would say, probably as a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to see - okay, or part, make it part of your equation - like what does Google like to see?

But I think, today, it's more important to - to your point earlier - is to meet search intent. And so I think, as SEOs, we have a tendency to think that an article is always the right answer. And so people write 2000 word guides about stopwatches.

And what is the top result - is a page from Toggle with no words whatsoever, but it's actually a stopwatch. And so I think it's good to take like page one average, maybe as a factor to consider. But really "sense check" yourself. Does that really make sense? Is that what we want? I think another example is actually SEO tool Ahrefs. For the query "backlink checker", you're not getting a guide, you know, you're getting a free spin off of the tool that allows you to actually check the backlink. And so whenever long form guides just make no sense for the query, I recommend to "zig" even - even - Oh, no, or "zag", when everyone is digging into into long guides - and do something that might be actually short, but gives people what they need.

Irina Serdyukovskaya  31:18  
Yeah, I agree. And I use the same, I also check the average the top page, but I would say that - if you want to outrank some of them - "already out content," and it's actually - you need to have a long article for sure. So in that, in there, this is where you can actually write the longest article, and you - even for very competitive keywords, you can still be in top 10, I would say that - maybe not top three, top five. But still, you can compete within your domain if you just write very long, very deep content. So it still works during this last year.

Tory Gray  32:02  
Yeah, I agree. But I'm also starting to wonder if that will change because as soon as SEO start to ruin it, right - as soon as we start writing 6000, and 7000 and 10,000 word articles, like we're just going to take it too far in the other direction, and maybe Google will start prioritizing short, concise "to the point." Like maybe that's a trend of the future, though, I think it's going to be hard to get there.

Viola Eva  32:25  
Well, I tell you my tinfoil hat theory about this, which is - this is why Google put up that featured snippet. Because you know - like - this is where like, you know - you have the recipe blogs, and they always start with like "I traveled to Thailand, I met this lady"... and then the recipe is like after 900 words, you can you can barely find it. And then moving like - recipe features snippet comes right on the Google search results.

Of course, there's other reasons for Google to do that, which is more to Rand Fishkin's point like - so we stay on the search results page, we don't even go to a website. But yeah, like I said, it is my tinfoil hat theory. That's partly because we've been writing so super-long guides that the actual definition and bullet points etc. get lost, that that's why Google also put the Featured Snippet up now for many queries.

Begüm Kaya   33:12  
Yeah, definitely. I think passage indexing was also another outcome of this same thing that we're trying to "ruin things" and... but I think the topic clusters can be a good example to do here, for example, it can also be a good source for you to make users go through - like - wandering your website to discover the content that they want to.

But it's not the - always the case that they may be off for a treasure hunt on your website to find the content that they would find interesting, so. And I think there's another consideration here. Not many small businesses and small websites have the ability to write very long articles or have a dedicated content team who can create 1000s of articles per month.

So I was wondering, does SEO still work for small sites and brands considering their constant constraints, both on the budget and teams? Necessary teams? And what about large brands without strong SEO content backgrounds?

Chima Mmeje  34:15  
So here's the thing, I think we just talked, we talked about that already on how it's getting harder to rank. And since it's getting harder to rank, I don't even advise small businesses that are just starting out to put all their eggs on social media. Instead I would say focus on - sorry, not on not on search, rather not on SEO.

Focus on social media, focus on ads. Ads is like - I call it the devil's bird or something, because he gets those hits of "oh, organic is the angel" and then ads are the devil.

The devil you need! Because you have to spend money to get it. I don't understand all the hate that ads get. PPC works. PPC really, really works if you're working with the right person who really understands performance marketing.

And so - small businesses, when you're starting out - the first thing you need to be doing - yeah, you need to lay down the groundwork first year, yes, you need to be creating content, but it shouldn't be a priority. It should be something you're doing, maybe something that's going to start showing results in a year or two.

More you need to be doing initially - start building authority on social media. First things first, start putting out the word about your business, start creating videos that show your process. Maybe you offer a service, or maybe you sell a product. You need to start putting out as much content as possible to engage people on social media, so that they start making inquiries.

I said, small businesses can run entirely on content from social media=. And then have the websites sitting there, like background information that people can go to, to confirm that you really exist. To make bookings, to see what you offer. And then basically, it just completes all of that purchase journey.

Where the action really happens, if you're a small business, and you're not trying to spend a lot of money, is on social media. You just need to know how to engage your audience and then to grow that audience. And this is weird, because I mean, SEO, I'm advising people to focus on social media! {Laughs}

Irina Serdyukovskaya  36:12  
I would comment regarding small brands first. I would say that they can still compete if they understand, well - their target audience. So they're not targeting general queries, but they are targeting a very niche, non keywords, and longtail keywords. And also when they use their expertise.

Because what I have seen as a huge issue - that they think that you can still work with average content, like very general, and this content doesn't work! But if you have an expertise, and we can tailor these to the keywords and make this article rank, this is a win-win for SEO, and also for them as a brand.

Because for sure they're strengthening their brand. They're strengthening their personal brands of their employees, or founders. So this is, this is what actually works pretty well, still. And you can compete even if you don't have budget for link building, for example, you're just providing the content. You still can be on the top. Not for all the queries, but you can find some queries where you can still drive traffic, even with limited budget for content creation. And even without distributing it heavily with the PR and etc.

Begüm Kaya   37:44  
I feel like it's a very interesting thing for a brand to use the strategic partnerships that they can get for free when it comes to these kinds of stuff, because for example - we're just moving towards remote working and everything, and considering the local cafe, since I also do like local SEO optimizations.

And we need Google posts - GMB posts - is a wonderful tool to be "out there" and reach your audience. I think what - like a cafe, in some sort of suburb, can do is to collaborate with remote workers who might want to go to the cafe and while they're having their croissants with their coffee, they can just write an article for them.

And they would give discounts and do these kinds of partnerships. And also when it comes to events, like the work - kind of going out of like, coming out of COVID, and in person events are also taking place. So they can go for other opportunities and just chase after those to get strategic partnerships, I think, which might be useful for their SEO strategy in return, of course.

So I feel like it may be smart for a brand to start doing SEO early on, or at least considering how they would represent their brand on the digital sphere.

Tory Gray  39:12  
The best time to do SEO is yesterday, the next best time is [today.]

Question #6

How well do you think large brands leverage SEO and do you think they have an advantage over small brands?

Begüm Kaya   39:16  
Definitely. Definitely. What would you say about larger brands? I also talked about like small brands.

Viola Eva  39:28  
I mean, I think - not quite sure when we say large (how large we mean) but what happens to me, when - when I start speaking with prospects in the software space, I sometimes get people that just launched the business one or two years ago. They have a very small site. They don't have domain rating. They don't have a lot of articles.

And then there are brands that maybe got quite big through product lunches or they went through a famous accelerator or they have a product that, you know, they did a tour through conferences and podcasts. So you know the name of the brand, but you don't really find them in Google Search yet. And I do think that that is an advantage.

In the sense that - if they already have that brand recognition, if they already have backlinks, etc, and quote, unquote, the only missing piece is a good content strategy, I do find that a little bit of an easier set of circumstances - to kickstart an SEO strategy, because you can also - when you do outreach, you can leverage that, when you do want to do collaborations, you can leverage that brand, etc. And I, my sense is a little bit that - that they do have an advantage. And to that point, again, quoting the guys from Siege Media again, they just realized - released! - the podcast last week, which was, "why you might not have been hit by an algorithm update."

And they talk about how - very often times when you think that you've been hit by an algorithm update, because your rankings are tanking, it's often that a bigger, more established brand FINALLY got going on SEO. And just because they do have that domain rating, because they do have that brand recognition. And probably took them three years to set up the strategy, get the content team going... but now they're finally going and they're taking over the top position.

I do feel they do have a little bit of an advantage, at least with the more competitive terms, which also might be more middle and top of funnel. And so back to Irina's point, I think, and your point, Begum - whenever you're targeted, whenever your long tail, whenever you're specific, I still think there's so many opportunities for small brands and small businesses. But if you are a big one, and you've never executed on SEO, I do think you can get things ranked probably a little bit more quickly. More - or more competitive terms, maybe rank a little bit more quickly.

Tory Gray  41:55  
And I still think you can move on the competitive terms, if you really have a - something new to say. That's not out there.

But if you don't, if you're not bringing anything really truly unique and special to the table - don't try to go for those terms. But don't shy away from it, if you do, at the same time.

Begüm Kaya   42:15  
I think that's also where the content distribution comes into play. If you have something to say, just use it! Use its power, rather than trying to rank for that keyword. Yeah. In the beginning. Yeah.

Tory Gray  42:27  
Yeah, you can still do your thought leadership content and just not care if you don't think that well! You know, you can still have a meaningful connection with the people that DO consume it and care. And that matters!

Viola Eva  42:38  
Yeah, and it's - I think, also the point is always like - if everyone zigs, you can zag, right?

So I mean, when I started my SEO agency, you know, I have a brand new website, brand new domain, it's - I'm gonna have a hard time ranking for "SEO consultant." But you know, there's other things I can do, which is - I mean, I build my business out of like running workshops on SEO and stuff like this. And so this is a zig and a zag. Or, right now, I'm more focusing on LinkedIn than I do on SEO. And the other way around, if if you are not in the marketing space, and no one else of your competitors is really doing SEO super well, but they are all hanging out at events, this is a beautiful opportunity to say like, "Okay, we're going after SEO now and see what we can achieve."

Question #7

What do you think is the next big thing in content marketing? What are you doing to explore that?

Tory Gray  43:25  
Hum yes. On to next things. What do YOU think is the next big thing for content? What are you doing right now to explore that?

Begüm Kaya   43:34  
Let's start with "what am I doing today to conquer that?" Actually, I'm trying to focus on the long term things that I really have an idea on. So everything that we've been discussing. I don't know why that would be the best strategy that I have in mind. But that's something that I can do, as I'm also consulting for the companies that I consult for.

So it's something that I can contribute to the community and also to the SEO industry. And that's why I'm going after that. And when it comes to the next big thing in content marketing... I think I would still say distribution, because people are not taking as much advantage of it as they can. I see, like Reddit "Ask Me Anything"s, every now and then.

But I feel like we're so limited to certain areas that we had, for example, we conquered Clubhouse, and then it went... among the dusty pages of history, and now it's not a thing. Yeah. So another platform is going to come up, or there are going to be other opportunities that we're supposed to discover. And I feel like if we can combine the digital marketing to the real world that we live in, that may be the next thing in SEO, and also content marketing, of course.

Chima Mmeje  44:56  
Honestly, I'm always scared to see "The Future of Anything!" because COVID-19 has forever changed my mind about making predications.

Tory Gray  45:06  
Fair! Fair.

Chima Mmeje  45:06  
Around this time, we'll be getting prediction articles on the 2021, 2022 trains and - and nothing yet, because everybody's scared about making predictions about what's going to happen. So I don't know, I think I think the future of content is still going to be distribution, because it's going to keep getting harder. It's is going to keep getting harder!

And I, I think we're going to see more people focusing on having a voice on social. Through influencer-ship of the people that already work with them. I think that's something that a lot of brands don't explore enough. I remember Gong, I did not know what Gong was, until I saw two of the employees - I kind of forget the first guy's name, but he's really popular and Indian. And then there's another guy who is the head of content, and they really talk about Gong a lot and their employees. And there are other Gong employees that do this, too, they create content.

And then every time you start to have that memory, that Gong is a company that does this or Gong is a company that does that.... I see that - so it's - I think it's Rise at Seven - I'm really having trouble remembering names, but it's a female-led company that's based in the UK, and I see a lot of employees that create content on social media and are very active. And it really helps when you have employees that are creating user generated content to their audiences.

And then you're having all these people, basically, for me - like, building authority for your brand, and it's all going back to your brand. So that's something I think people need to be considering more. Having a brand mission that encourages or inspires your employees to create user generated content that leads to people inquiring about what you do as a business.

Tory Gray  46:50  

Chima Mmeje  46:51  
That's just one side of it. Yeah, that's just one side of it. And I also that isn't - that's a BIG form of distribution. If you have five employees who have 10,000 followers on LinkedIn, sharing content, from your company, on their walls, that's a lot of engagement. That's a lot of referral traffic back to your website. So it's something that I think more people should tap into, because the few of us who can do that - they've been really successful creating new businesses for their employers.

Tory Gray  47:21  
What about like - topic clustering? I feel like, I mean, obviously, it's already a thing. But there's so many industries that just aren't leveraging it yet. So I feel like there's still a lot of legs there.

Begüm Kaya   47:32  
Definitely, I think... I have been kind of trying to do that for a few customers that I had. And it's going pretty well, actually, at the moment. But I wouldn't say that it's something that many brands are ready to leverage yet, since it's a big investment, and the strategy and the processing of things takes a lot of time. So not many companies are like, focusing on doing what's right and expect the returns in a few months, but they want quick results. So it may not be the thing that the sector is ready for it. Unfortunately!

Viola Eva  48:12  
I will say how I think about like next things, strategies - maybe the next thing is also the old thing, in the sense that I do think a successful strategy in the future has three main components.

And one of the components, I think, is catering to the algorithms, which is like being on top of the latest techniques. I remember last year, I did a bunch of Instagram reels when that first came out, and it was good. And this year, I'm doing a lot of like Instagram, like PDF carousel posts, because they tend to perform quite well. And so I do think one part of the strategy is maybe "being on top of how the algorithm is evolving", what are they rewarding right now and moving in that direction as part of what we do.

But I do think the two other things that have always been there - and I think will always be there - is just, really understanding what do people want? What is the WHY behind them typing in that search query? And how can I offer something new and beneficial. And so back to the point - maybe that is saying the opposite of what the industry is doing.

Then lastly, I do think especially now - in the software space, where I'm in - when you look into into Trustpilot, into Capterra. You can go into pretty much any category - and there's 200 software tools in there! - and they have remarkably similar feature sets. And so I do think that idea of brand is really starting to land in that entire industry so strongly, and we can see that with ConvertKit for example, now honing in on the fact that they're for artists and musicians and creatives etc.

I think thinking about your brand, thinking about your positioning and what makes you unique is - has been a bit neglected, I think, from SEO specifically, maybe even by content marketers. But I think as SEOs, we tend to ignore that. And I think it's becoming increasingly important.

With that, also, I do think doing things that don't scale, right? You might not be able to do that, like "SEO fuel thought leadership post with three industry influencers" and a "big content collaboration" every month. But it might be the thing that moves the needle, and so - paying attention to that. So yeah, I would say, thing is - so to summarize, three things like: (1) seeing where the algorithm moves and catering to that, (2) keeping an eye on what customers and clients actually want, and then (3) making sure that you're actually someone that people remember, and a brand that they understand what, what what you stand for.

Tory Gray  50:47  
What about you, Irina?

Irina Serdyukovskaya  50:50  
Yeah, I would say that - not a "next big thing", but in general, I see that when people are think about content marketing, they - they make it because of the SEO, they don't think that SEO or content marketing is a part of a bigger marketing strategy. And I think steal this beacon of luck, that people don't think that they have PR team so they don't have - for example, and they think that SEO can do everything.

Basically, they think that this is the - not next big thing, but I think this is where the interest is, which has not moved yet, SHOULD move.

That you think that SEO or social media or email marketing. Actually, this is - all helps you with your content marketing, and it should be viewed as - a bunch of tools, and not that you're expecting something from SEO, and not investing in other tools. Because it's yeah, the same, I think. What I like in the article, we're discussing from Rand Fishkin that, yes, you need still to build your brand!

Even if you're good at SEO, now, or if you're not good yet in SEO. And I think this is also lies in what I already told, that in your expertise, because this is the main thing that... Okay, you have everything you understand that you need to invest in different marketing channels, and they work - they should work with each other, and not doing separate things.

The second thing - build it around your experience/expertise in the area. And yeah, for sure distribute anything. That you _not only_ produce the content for SEO, but you can actually use these for your existing clients, for your new clients. I don't know - speak about these during events you're taking part. So yeah... not making different things, try to make ONE thing which can work in different fields, and actually support your brand as a whole... and not for one marketing channel.

Question #8

What do you think about AI content?

Tory Gray  53:07  
I like that. We've only got like five minutes left, but I also wanted to poke the bear a little bit here. What about AI content?

Viola Eva  53:17  
I'm - ha - it's like interesting. I think it's one of these developments where I'm like... the way that AI content writing was... that where it was at, about a year ago, kind of felt like the content spinners of the "good old days" because it just wasn't that mature. But even in the last 12 months, I think it got significantly better.

And so I'm - I'm of the school of thought where it's - use it as your assistant, and not as your competitor. And what I mean by that is - I'm not sure if I want like my B2B blog posts written by AI, just because they don't know what a leader, or a C-level executive really wants.

They only know what other people have already written about. But I do see - I do see application, where we work with a few - like big, big sites that have like 1000s of categories, or descriptions, or you think about eCommerce product descriptions, etc. And so the these are places where I'm more interested in experimenting with that. And I think that, again, that's unique SEO fuel.

Thought leadership content probably wouldn't be my use case, at least not today. But I do see something for more simpler content, or answering quick questions to think about topic cluster, where you have a short article that maybe answers a quick simple questions. I do think there's maybe an application on where it can assist us.

There seem to be some copyright issues also related to it. And obviously the question - what data set does it feed off? What can I really say or not say? But I think not playing it.. if you're not playing with it and experimenting with it, you're probably missing out

Screenshot of article: The Search Singularity: How to Win in the Era of Infinite Content
Recommended reading on the future of AI content: The Search Singularity

Tory Gray  55:00  
I think it's also interesting from the perspective of like, what I see as the inevitable pain coming for Google and therefore for the world, because people are going to start doing this. And they're going to do it well, but they're also going to do it very badly... at scale.

And Google's going to have to learn to deal with that, and that is going to be a learning curve! And in the meantime, like - I'm already seeing results... kind of suck more than they use too? To not put it nicely?

I don't want to see a list of lists! I'm sick and tired of Googling something, and then coming up with all the top 10 results are "the 101 list of all the thing." Like... all 10 results are just lists of more lists.  Is that really what everybody wants? I don't know. I don't. Anywho, any last thoughts?

Begüm Kaya   55:55  
Probably considering everything - yeah - I was also kind of wrapping up. Nothing for me.

But actually, let's say... "too long didn't read" (TLDR)?  We're not lost. Either as SEOs, or content marketers, we still have tools that we can use to leverage for ourselves and also for the brands that we work with. And yeah, there's more to discover.

Tory Gray  56:21  
Yeah. Well, thank you both so much for joining us for this episode of Opinionated SEO Opinions™. I learned a lot from both of you. So thank you again.

Viola Eva  56:30  
Thank you so much Tory and Begum for hosting. It's been beautiful to be here.

Irina Serdyukovskaya  56:35  
Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to talk with you.

Tory Gray  56:40
Well, thank you so much for your insights. That was wonderful. I think it brought a lot more additional color and new opinions to Opinionated SEO Opinions™, which are what we like best, so thank you for joining us.

Chima Mmeje  56:50  
Yeah, for sure. For sure, for sure, for sure. Thank you so much. Thanks so much for having me today.

Tory Gray  56:56  
Thanks again. Have a good one. Bye!

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