Interview with Michael Williams aka Deacyde SEO Specialist at Mailgun
Steve Wetmore – Michael Williams, aka Deacyde Welcome to InstaVIP Podcast. Michael is an SEO specialist at mailgun. Please talk a little bit about
who you are, what you do and your credentials?
Michael Williams – My name is Michael Williams. I’m an SEO specialist and data analyst with mailgun. I have a web developing background as well. I’m an Air Force veteran. And I’ve had 15 plus years as a web developer and 10 plus years as an SEO. I have worked at the House of Representatives and DC, digital marketing agencies and international companies doing everything from webmaster, SEO and data analyst work.
Steve Wetmore – Wow. That’s very interesting. So what was you job function serving with the Air Force?
Michael Williams – I was an F16 Crew Chief a fighter jet maintenance personnel that handled pre inspections, post inspections, and during before and after takeoff, inspections for everything for the mission and flight readiness.
Steve Wetmore – Wow that sounds really interesting.
Michael Williams – It definitely was a fun time.
Steve Wetmore – Were you on a base or an Aircraft carrier or . . .
Michael Williams – I was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. That was the first composite wing of the Air Force, so they were anywhere, wherever there was a wartime situation, they would be deployed there was in 48 hours. For the first composite wing.
Steve Wetmore – You got to be proud of that service you provided the country. That’s awesome.
Steve Wetmore – You’ve became involved in SEO after you had a lot of experience as a webmaster so you’ve probably got a different perspective on SEO or probably have some different thoughts on it. Can you talk a little bit about what you see trending, what you see happening out there and where the near future might take us relative to SEO.
Michael Williams – Certainly, what I see for the future of SEO and 2020 is really honest marketing. I see it achieving more of a spotlight. As companies find out that the gimmicks, the clickbait, the walled gardens aren’t as helpful for goal conversions. That content isn’t King, it’s the Users that are King. Content is just the castle. And that’s seen constantly in your monthly metric pulls. I see more of a deeper need for data relevancy and user intent optimization. As mobile first indexing and Page Speed will continue to become important. It’s user intent, that takes the greater focus and keyword relevancy that’s around that. It’s not just for the Google desktop search, but for your voice searches as well. And as strategy around keywords and content becomes a prime focus, it’s building up that content for the voice searches, Google searches and making sure the schema and Rich Snippets are being obtained or maybe even taking them from competitors. It’s that ability to read data and how your understanding of that data that is really going to make your overall strategy get the most effect.
Steve Wetmore – Excuse me for jumping in like that. But I just wanted to ask you, how would you structure your say, a particular blog post or a landing page to optimize for user intent?
Michael Williams – It depends on what your overall website is geared towards and what your prime focus is even about, are you an informational website? Do you have a service or product to sell? It mainly is around those two big things.
Steve Wetmore – So, okay, so let’s say for example, it’s an Ecommerce site. You’re selling widgets. How would you prepare that page to optimize for user intent?
Michael Williams – You would make sure that you’re answering every question your users might have. Depending on the question, it reveals what the user is going for. You have questions that are asking about what the topic is about. And so the users are not really even in a place to buy yet, they’re still in research mode. And then you can tell based on the search term, even the keyword that you’re focusing on, if it’s on the next level of intent, which is where they learn about the product or service a company offers. And they might even have competitors that they’re thinking about, but they’re now learning about your product as well. And then you have the comparison and decision stage where you’re going to have that information provided to the user that could steer them into your direction to purchase a product or your service. Just based on how you were getting that information across, or your competitor could steal the user spotlight from you, by showcasing their content in just the right way.
Steve Wetmore – So basically answer the questions before you have to ask?
Michael Williams – In a sense, yes, but it’s also, “are you providing the questions in each one of those three areas”, and does each one of those goal funnels link to the one another, to provide a overall user experience, so that they don’t have to go to a competitor for the same answers and get swayed by their information instead.
Steve Wetmore – So you would be working very closely with the marketing team to make sure that you’re, you’re answering those closing questions.
Michael Williams – Yes very closely with content as well, just to make sure that your keywords that they’re writing about are in line with what you’re structuring your overall website content for. It’s been something that makes a lot of sense now, but it’s not something that you’ve seen take priority in the past.
Steve Wetmore – Well I have been talking to a lot of SEOs over the last 10 weeks. I’ve learned that user experience or UX is probably one of the top five website metrics in terms of priorities for content optimization. And, given the fact that SEOs are agreeing that, while technical SEO is important, it’s really what you said. It’s really about user experience. It’s about the quality of the content. Are you really serving the customer? Or are you writing a technical SEO piece?
Michael Williams – Exactly. So a lot of times, it’s a very fine line between delivering for the search bot and delivering for the user. Because you can lean a little too heavy on the user and miss out on SEO still by not being seen by searchbots correctly. But understanding that relevancy as well the technical, so you make sure that you’re playing both sides and in a very equal fashion.
Steve Wetmore – So, I struggled with that myself because I do a lot of the writing myself, I don’t like to hire out the the writing function.
Michael Williams – You, as the key stakeholder, write the best for what you’re intending for.
Steve Wetmore – True, but what I find process wise, is that I write the content first. I try to write the best piece of content I can write and then I format it for SEO. Is that the right is? It sounds logical, but is that the right approach?
MIchael Williams – It can work more so if you are the one doing the whole process. Just because you’re putting SEO before everything else, you’re just not realizing that until after the fact. Because you already have your keyword and your intent planned out, and you’ve written the content around that piece; now it’s more or less making sure you have the internal linking setup and you’re heading hierarchy all set up. And just making sure you have the On Page SEO aspects buttoned up.
Michael I lost a chunk of audio where you were talking about tools
Michael Williams – Data Accuracy, It’s an increasingly important aspect of SEOs daily life. Using Screaming Frog is probably the SEO Swiss Army knife. When you can link in your Google Analytics, Google Search Console AHREF’s and SEMRush. you can look at what matters the most, right away. During your whole coverage of many SEOs, you might have heard of Screaming Frog being used a lot. And that’s mainly because it’s that powerful of a tool to get a whole bird’s eye view of what’s going on with your website. The only other tool that I would say is just as important, is Google sheets or Excel just to display that data and start sifting, sorting and applying formulas / scripts to it. Because that’s where you start to really understand things like,
Does this URL’s content actually help?,
Am I causing any keyword cannibalization?,
Am I structuring my website correctly with URLs?,
I mean, there’s so much information that you can gleam from that tool alone that I constantly find myself using it on a daily basis.
Steve Wetmore – Okay. That’s good advice. I haven’t looked at it yet. I’ve heard people singing, Screaming Frogs praises but not as much as you are so let’s talk about now.
Michael Williams – It has two sides to it. And here’s the secret sauce if you like. It has the Screaming Frog Spider, which is a website crawler. And it has a Screaming Frog File Analyzer, which every time a Search Bot visits your website, it’s crawling just like Screaming Frog is crawling your website (or can be via configurations). But that log file analyzer lets you actually see all those different searchbot agent views from your server access logs. And so you actually get to see how the search bots are crawling your website where they’re getting stuck, URL response codes and timestamps, which is extremely valuable information if you’re doing a site migration, or you’re just curious about how your crawl budget is being used.
Michael Williams – Especially in the world of GDPR / CCPA. And how it’s going to make its way eventually to the rest of United States. It’s going to become a tool that many are going to start using more of, alongside even Google Analytics, just to make sure they’re buttoned up and covered in the case of PII. You know, future issues might arise.
Steve Wetmore – So GDPR is essentially governing storage of Privacy Information. How does Screaming Frog identify issues?
Michael Williams – Screaming frog, is like the tape measurer in the toolbox. Mainly helps you build a URL breakdown of the whole website, so that when you use Google Analytics and other datasets, in conjunction to find things like, PII. Using that info, you can easily match up form URLs that data is coming from, and then start playing detective to find out exactly what the issue is and how to solve. This can be where screaming frog plays another part, via custom searches using regex to find code snippets or other text bits.
Steve Wetmore – What else could you talk about in terms of trending SEO?
Michael Williams – There’s a bigger need with using automation for the simple things and machine learning on larger datasets for cleaning and analyzing. Also, the importance of not panicking every time Google releases an update, not to always rely on what everyone else is always saying, because how the updates affect them could be a much different case for you. And it’s always a lot better to take that information in stride and use it maybe more as a highlighter to look for issues, but not to treat it as the thermometer itself and start saying you’re sick. It’s the same way with case studies because you don’t always know the variables that are involved with that particular case study. So therefore the outcome might not necessarily be the same for your website as the case study.
Steve Wetmore – We talked about Screaming Frog. we reckon we’ve acknowledged the main staple tools like AHREF’s, SEMrush, Moz etc. Any other little tricks you have up your sleeve?
Michael Williams – Mainly, it’s a lot less with the tools that I use and more with how I look at the data. It is amazing what you can pull out of Google Analytics, Google Search Console and SEMrush / AHREFs and even Screaming Frog when you organize and compare the data in certain ways. Be a detective, shine lights in all the dark places, and question everything. SEO is a lot of direct and indirect connections. I would say that the future of SEO, data wise, would be understanding and learning the various ways you can use Google Sheets, Excel formulas, automation, and machine learning to view your website’s relationship to the world on a daily basis.
Steve Wetmore – Michael any final thoughts you want to share?
Michael Williams – Just to Keep it honest and make content that answers users questions and you can almost never go wrong. Pay attention to what the users tell you and the rest kind of follows.