Interview with Konstantinos Ntoukakis CTO & Co founder at Studio for Digital Growth
We are welcoming Konstantinos Ntoukakis today from StudioForDigitalGrowth.com . Konstantinos, would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – Hello, Steven, thanks for having me today.
So, a little bit about me, I am CTO and SEO consultant at Studio for Digital Growth, an agency I co-founded at the beginning of this year.
After working for many years in startups and multinationals, we observed the shortcomings of many external agencies we collaborated with, namely they put everyone in the same template and working with them just didn’t feel like working with a partner at all, and so together with my business partner we decided to start our marketing studio and bring this value directly to our target market which is online businesses.
I started with SEO and digital marketing back in 2013, because I needed to know more around this field for another company that I co-founded, Perfecta.io. We were a SaaS business intelligence platform, and as you know growth marketing and organic growth in particular is really important in that space.
Fast forward six, seven years later and a few marketing roles in between, I’m now responsible for the technical aspects of our clients’ web properties and their organic growth. We work with global companies active in the English-speaking and German-speaking markets, from the Middle-East to Western Europe and overseas.
Steve Wetmore – Can you talk about what you feel are the future SEO trends?
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – The first topic I wanted to touch is somewhat controversial, as often trends tend to be, and it’s none other than the “No Click Searches” everyone’s talking about.
There were some studies published earlier this year by Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz and now SparkToro. They found in their study that less than half of Google searches result to no clicks, which of course is a really big number.
What is controversial about this, is that a lot of SEO professionals still see Google as a search engine. And so they believe that Google should encourage users to visit websites to get the information they are looking for, and not serve this information in a featured form at the top of the page before the search results.
To illustrate this with an example, if you ask a specific question such as “how many weeks is a cat pregnant?”, a search engine like DuckDuckGo will not give you an answer -although it’s a simple numerical answer, but instead they will serve you search results of websites that are answering this. This is great for brands that want to create informational type of content to bring in visitors.
Google on the other hand, will just display you the number of days in a panel above the search results, and this will result in a no-click search because since you already got the answer there is no further incentive to visit any of the search results below.
Of course this creates a huge controversy about is the role of a search engine, what should be their limits, and so on; because things like that directly affect publishers.
The trend that I see is that Google becomes more and more a User Experience company; it’s not anymore about finding the most relevant websites for a given search query, but also about providing direct answers for simple queries whenever possible, and developing new technologies that aim to bring a better user experience across the internet and especially on mobile devices.
This has profound implications for anyone who publishes digital content, because if your business model depends on getting people to your website in order to find some very specific information that could have been easily answered in one sentence, then you compete with Google and this is not a position that you want to be in.
Steve Wetmore – That’s very interesting and you’re the first person to bring that up. It’s something I’ve noticed discussed on some forums and people are very concerned. You could argue that Google is doing a great job answering questions, but it doesn’t help people get traffic to their website. Does Google care that people aren’t getting the objective they want; that they’re not getting visitors to their site?
Especially when you consider that Google rewards websites for getting clicks which is proof of relevancy. So if people that are searching for something and a particular website’s information is being served as an answer but get no clicks – will it work against them?
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – It is absolutely, as you say, when Google believes that specific websites serve The Searcher’s intent, then that is a ranking factor.
I believe Google does care both for the website owners and for the users. They are developing technology and constantly pushing the standards for website speed, mobile usability and so on, which brings a positive impact on the internet overall and motivates website owners to create good websites both from the technical and the user perspective. This is a driver of growth in the industry.
When it comes to the publishers, controversy aside, I think the key takeout is that the industry is evolving and so should the online business models. These developments bring a need for adaptation, and we already see a push towards long form content that packs a lot of value. I believe that in the next year we will see more and more quality websites focusing on providing more value to their visitors, rather than trying to channel traffic from simple to answer questions.
On the flipside, there were some news about Google scraping content from websites and serving it without attribution in the form of featured answers. This is of course wrong. At the end of the day though, if your business model is organizing information, you are competing with Google and I’d recommend to reevaluate your online and SEO strategy, especially with Google penetrating more and more industries, for example with Google Travel, Flights, Hotels etc.
Steve Wetmore – that was a great snippet of info that will get highlighted in your interview. Do you have anything else? Any other juicy pieces for us?
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – Actually I do. I think there is something that has slipped under the radar lately, and this is the emergence of AI Content Marketing and the implications of it when it comes to search engines and publishing digital content.
So basically, these are some machine learning algorithms that can create text so convincing, that it could have been written by a human. This was developed by Open AI and earlier this year they released their watered down models to buy some time and study the potential implications before doing a full release.
Last week though, they released their full-fledged model, that can be used to programmatically create convincing and natural-looking content. This might have profound SEO implications.
As an example, there is this thing in SEO called a PBN, this stands for Private Blog Networks. There are people who run websites that although they look independent at a first glance, they all belong to the same person and they are being used to build links to other websites artificially under Google’s radar. This is a black hat SEO technique to trick Google into thinking that you’re getting legitimate links from independent websites, and so you must have an authoritative website and will do well in organic search.
Now, imagine the possibility to create an enormous amount of content programmatically based on real-time SEO data. I believe that the genie is out of the bottle and very soon we’re going to see a lot of websites that are actually not run by humans but are run by artificial intelligence. The technology is out there.
Steve Wetmore – How available do you believe this technology will be to the mass, to the public? Will it be, you know, exclusive to certain people?
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – Well, the technology is open source, it’s on GitHub, and you can run a model on your laptop. On our blog, I published a case study about this a few months ago, I run this model on my MacBook Pro, and I produced something that looked like a blog post that was written by a machine. And if I can do it, there are other developers out there that can also do it. I think it’s just a matter of working with some very technical SEOs or marketing minded developers, it’s not an easy combo to come by but I believe this application is something that will pick up momentum very soon.
Steve Wetmore – Please share with us any SEO tools you use.
Konstantinos Ntoukakis – As an agency we cycle between all the top tools like Ahrefs, Moz and SEMRush, but a new tool I love is from Neil Patel and is called Ubersuggest. It’s absolutely for free and although I haven’t researched its data accuracy it can definitely help you to put together an SEO strategy.
Another tool that came on my radar lately is called JetOctopus. It’s a technical SEO tool that can perform log analysis, in layman’s terms, when you have a technical or server problem Google may spend a lot of time checking these errors repeatedly until they see that they are fixed. And because Google is busy crawling the entire web, if they spend too much time on these pages they might not go through the rest of your site. This tool can give you this type of information.
Steve Wetmore – Thank you Konstantinos for this excellent information.