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Amanda Jordan Future of SEO: Holistic Strategies and AI Impact with Amanda Jordan
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Learn how a strong SEO strategy can amplify your brand’s voice, vision, and mission, driving your business to new heights. We’ll break down SEO essentials and explore the future of search with Amanda Jordan from RicketyRoo, as well as discuss a few common mistakes that businesses make with their SEO strategy.

Future of SEO: Holistic Strategies and AI Impact Summary

Key Takeaways

  • Move Beyond Checklists: Treating SEO as a checklist task can hinder your long-term success. Focus on your brand, company vision, and mission to drive SEO.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: Understand where your customers spend their time online and engage with them across those platforms.
  • Holistic SEO Strategies: Integrate real-world marketing with online efforts to enhance your brand’s visibility and engagement.
  • Adapt to AI Changes: Prepare for AI-driven search results by increasing your online presence and building strong relationships with related entities.
  • Build Thought Leadership: Establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry to boost visibility and attract your ideal clients.

Future of SEO: Holistic Strategies and AI Impact Episode Transcript

Rich: My next guest is an esteemed SEO strategist and consultant renowned for her ability to demystify complex SEO concepts with ease. As an international speaker at conferences, she imparts her vast knowledge, especially in managing the unique challenges faced by franchises, private equity firms, and multi-location businesses.

When she’s not plotting against client competitors, she’s playing video games with her son. I’m looking very forward to talking about the future of SEO and what you need to be doing. With Amanda Jordan. Amanda, welcome to the podcast.

Amanda: Thank you for having me. Yeah, my son is actually downstairs playing video games very quietly right now.

Rich: My first question was going to be is, what is your go-to video game with your kid right now?

Amanda: He’s gotten to the point where he can actually play Halo Infinite. and that makes me very excited. Because that is something that my husband and I, one of the first things that we did together as a date was to play video games, and Halo was one of those. So now we can play with our son, too.

Rich: I remember when I got the first Xbox I ever had, and watching the aliens go over my head and being able to look everywhere around me and being like, this really is next generation experience. So I got chills when I first played that game. That’s excellent.

All right. So you’re a well-respected speaker on SEO. I know that you are going back to MozCon, which is fantastic. Congratulations. You work with lots of businesses, especially as we mentioned these multi-location companies, on their search visibility. What are you seeing out there currently as a common mistake that people make, seemingly all businesses are making, when it comes to their SEO?

Amanda: Treating it as a checklist of things that they’re supposed to do. I think that’s the biggest mistake. I see a lot of businesses still trying to gain the system, versus doing the things that they need to do, to think about the future of their company. That is really how SEO is going. That’s how search is going in general, is that your brand, your company, your vision, your mission, are going to be the things that are going to drive you more than saying that you have a keyword in your page title.

So I think that’s, I think that’s where things are going. And the biggest mistake I see clients are making are getting too caught up in the weeds of, is this the right keyword to have here, should we have this keyword in this URL? Like those things are, you’re missing the fourth for the trees. You’re looking at a single grain of sand on a beach at that point when you’re looking at those things. So closely in the grand scheme of things with what the changes that are happening right now. Those things should not be your top priority.

Rich: But Amanda, those checklists make me feel safe and warm, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something. So when your clients are sitting there freaking out and saying, “Should I change this slug because it doesn’t mention this word that we want to go after”, what is the advice that you’re giving them to get them looking more “holistically” at their SEO and their digital marketing?

Amanda: Yeah. One of the things I immediately go to is, will this create a redirect that we don’t need to our site? Is this going to just cause more issues? What is going to be the benefit of doing it?

Sometimes I will say, let’s do it as a test. Let’s test changing this thing on this other page that is not as high of value. And if we see that improves this page, then we have justification to make a bigger change. But I often push back. I will tell them I don’t think this is the best thing I could do, with your money, for the best impact and the biggest impact on SEO. And I’ll just tell them that.

I actually sent a client that email yesterday, that I understand why you’re interested in this and why you’re looking at this so closely, but if I’m thinking about what would give you the best and biggest return on your investment, this is not it. This is what I would recommend doing instead, and we can look back later, see what results we got. And then make changes and pivot if we need to based off of what the data tells us. And not go off of a feeling that may be incorrect. Or may be correct in some instances for some sites but does not work for your site.

The only way to know what’s going to work is actually to implement things. And I think a lot of people get caught up in the planning phase of things and don’t get to the point where they’re implementing and letting the data tell them what to do next.

Rich: So if we’re not just worried about checking things off and putting the right number of keywords in the right places on the page, thinking beyond SEO, but still with the idea of we want to drive traffic from page one of Google or whatever it’s going to be, what are some of the things that we should be paying attention to in 2024?

Amanda: Your customers, where they like to be on the internet, how they interact with others on the internet, how they interact with other businesses on the internet. It’s essentially going to be a play, where you need to be everywhere where your customers are. So that’s just not just your website. You need to be on the websites that they’re going to and looking at, too.

You need to create relationships with other entities that you know are related to yours. So if a lot of your customers are interested in, I don’t know, say you are a t-shirt company and you create t-shirts that are just related t-shirts. They’ll have designs related to fishing. If you have a relationship with companies and magazine, and marketing agencies, and things like that, that do things the fishing industry, you have a better chance of showing up for people who are looking for those things.

And it’s beyond thinking about what Google wants and is thinking about. Okay, how do I rank for AI now? How do I make sure I’m showing up on Bing? How do I make sure if someone is looking for me and they search for something on TikTok, I show up? Because if you reach your audience, you will reach to people who will be your future audience as well.

And the best way to do that is to understand them on a deeper level and to communicate with them on things that actually matter to them. And to make sure that you’re focusing on their needs, not on this is the keyword I want to rank for to be number one for a car accident lawyer. Because that’s going to change how to be number one for car accident lawyers in any given city is about to change a lot. Probably slowly, but a lot of things that we depend on now for such are going to change. And branding, visibility, social visibility, are going to be factors into that.

Rich: There’s a lot to unpack. You just gave us a lot of good information. So I’m going to just try and do one point at a time. But one of the things you brought up, and of course it makes sense, is to understand our clients or ideal client personas. Where they are, how they interact.

What are some of the steps that you would recommend we take to get a better understanding of where our ideal clients hang out online, and maybe how they choose to engage with either other people or other brands?

Amanda: Yeah, there’s some really cool tools, like SparkToro, that will let you see who they are following. My ideal customer, who are they following online? Who are they interacting with online on Twitter, and things like that?

I think Reddit can be a good resource. I see Reddit more as a research platform, not necessarily as a, go on Reddit and comment on every post that’s about your business. You will get kicked out so fast. So that’s not the way I would do it. I would more so look at it as a place where I can get honest information and feedback from people who are actually interested in my products and services already.

I’ve actually helped a lot of clients do that, especially e-commerce businesses that I’ve worked with to figure out, okay what are the concerns of my clients that I’m not addressing right now in my content that I could, that could potentially lead to more traffic. What are some of the things that someone earlier in the funnel may be looking for or asking questions about, but I don’t currently address in my content because I’m very focused on bottom of the funnel. Things like that. And it’s worked out very well.

I had a client who doubled their organic revenue in March just from doing that. Just from saying, “Hey, what are people actually looking for?” And that’s while losing rankings for some of their most competitive, straight money keywords. It’s because those are hard to keep. It’s hard to stay at the top when all of your competitors are looking at the same keyword. You’re looking at the same keyword, everyone is doing everything they can. We can’t update blog post without one of our competitors updating their blog posts the next day because they want to have the freshest content.

So when it’s really competitive like that, it helps to not focus so heavily on those terms and think about the broader marketing strategy, and how your content can support the needs of your customers outside of focusing on just the action you want them to take.

Rich: All right. You had also talked a little bit about connecting, I think it was the t-shirt with the fish. If it’s all fishing related, making connections with right types of businesses. When you talk about that, if we’re making connections with our businesses, are these connections in real life? Are these connections more online? Like maybe we can share each other’s content or maybe you link to me and I link to you. I know those kinds of links don’t generally have a whole lot of impact. But what exactly are the tactics that we should be thinking about if we’re looking to think beyond just typical SEO?

Amanda: Real world. I think it’s both real world and online, but I think a lot of businesses that focus heavily on SEO forget about real world marketing and they neglect it a little bit. But people in the real world interacting with your brand and sharing it on their own devices for their own reasons, that has built significantly more strength than you parodying the same things that are already on your website over and over again.

Having others contribute to essentially the internet lore of your business is the best thing you can do for yourself. And part of that is by creating a brand, creating a company that people want to engage with. And you have to do that in real life, especially for a lot of the clients that I work with who are local businesses. And even if you are an e-commerce business, try to find partners that do exist in the real world that you can interact with as well.

One of my-freelancing clients is a e-commerce business in the vaping industry, in the cannabis vaping industry. And for them, I told them, why don’t you get in contact with dispensaries that do not sell vapes? So why not get in contact with CBD blogs or sites that focus on CBD? Why not create content for people who are using CBD, which is more widely available and legal, to help broaden your potential customer base because they use the same products?

So helping them see beyond their initial audience and broadening their brand by making it a real-life thing, too. Because that person who goes to order from their local dispensary now knows that you exist, and they didn’t know that you existed before, or they didn’t know that was an option.

So that’s one of the strategies that I use with clients. And also looking at things like YouTube, social in general. It’s, how am I showing up there? How am I connecting with people there and their real lives? So that’s part of the real world, too. The people in the real world are your customers, and making sure that you are building relationships with them in meaningful ways.

Rich: I love everything you’re saying. I think it’s brilliant. I think more people should be saying it. But I can only imagine that you must get some pushback from clients who say, “Look, I hired you for SEO.” How do you convince them that what you’re doing is SEO, but maybe it’s next generation SEO? Or do you just say, look, this is all part of a marketing package, SEO is part of it. Everything we’re talking about here is all towards getting you to get more leads in business?

Amanda: Yeah. All of it is. SEO should not exist in a vacuum. I think more SEO agencies need to expand their definition of SEO. Because first, it’s not Google search optimization, which is what we really treat it as right now. Search Engine Optimization, and what we define as a search engine, is going to change significantly as people have other options to determine how they want to search for things, how they want to look for things. And to be able to do that, you can’t go by what you think Google wants, because that is not relevant to every single potential search option that there’s going to be. And they are going to be more, just because someone can make their own search option now.

They can take an AI tool and search however they want, and it has nothing to do with what you did on your website. You have no control over what they see, but you do have control over how many times you show up on the internet, and how people interact with you on the internet, and what entities you’re related to are in on the internet. And then it will help you show up in those searches when someone is using an AI tool or someone is just not using Google in general.

So yeah it’s honestly, for most of my clients, I don’t really have an issue of getting them on board with that, because I find a lot of clients are like, how can we use AI? How we prepare for AI? And the answer to preparing for AI is, you need to be everywhere your customers are. You need to focus on branding. You need to focus on visibility across the internet. Because all you guys, all these are just scouring the internet, collecting a lot of data, and predicting what you want next based on that data. So if you show up in that data over and over and over again, you’re going to be more likely to be served.

Rich: It’s interesting. The other day I had a lead come in and I always ask, how’d you find us? And he said, “Oh, I have a current agency, and I put it into the Bing GPT and I said, ‘what are agencies that are like this agency’?” And ours came up. And I said, oh, I’ll have to send them a thank you letter over to Bing, or something like that.

But it is interesting, because people are using these new technologies. And it’s a great lead in, because I was curious. There’s been a lot of informational news stories coming out recently about the pros and cons of what had been called SGE, now it’s called AIO. At least that’s what it seems to be called. What are you telling your clients about expectations, now that there is AI overviews at the top of Google pages and other search engines? What advice are you giving them, how are you calming their fears if they start to see their click throughs rates and traffic drop off?

Amanda: Yeah, so luckily because I do have lots of local clients, they’re not directly impacted significantly. It’s interesting, that AIO overview, and I see it as a new version of the feature snippet, and one where they’re not depending on your website necessarily to provide the information. It’s not like a feature snippet, as in the feature snippet makes it very clear what website it comes from. You can click on it and go to that website and everything.

But that’s how I see it. With our clients, what we’ve been doing is we actually have a department of our agency that’s just for testing and figuring out, how do we optimize for these things? And right now we’re just going through and figuring out what types of terms are getting AI overviews for our clients? When our client has a feature snippet, are they also getting the AI overview? Both of them are served. Are there differences in the AI overview, depending on how you search?

And we’ve also seen different features showing up in search results that we hadn’t seen before, where a client is number one organically, but in an accordion that now shows up on the side, they don’t show up. But if you search the same term and look at it in an incognito browser, they are in the accordion there at the top of it, and there’s completely different characteristics and sections of the term that show up in that accordion. So it’ll be like a definition, description, things that categorize it. And it differs based on how you search for it and when you search for it. So we’re trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with that. Whether, like I said, most of our clients aren’t really impacted by it.

But if I did have a client that was impacted by it and was concerned, I would talk about pivoting our strategy a little bit to focus if we can figure out how we can get an AI overview, great but that’s going to have limited value still, I think, because it’s just going to drop your click through rate still anyway.

So I would talk about pivoting focus. What are things that we can do that are going to be more valuable than this? How can we convert more of the traffic that we already have going to the website if our conversion rates aren’t great? What are other things that we can look at that are top of funnel, middle funnel, that could bring in potential clients that aren’t focused on things that were previously in a feature snippet?

So yeah, I focus a lot on pivoting. We can’t force Google to do what we want, so we can either cry about it, or we can be willing to figure out what’s going to actually get us results.

Rich: Yeah. Have you played around much with Perplexity, which is the entirely AI driven search engine? And if so, what are your thoughts about it? Especially from the perspective of an experienced SEO like yourself.

Amanda: I have not played around with it. So now I have something to put on my to do list.

Rich: I found it to be very interesting in certain situations, but I would not know the first thing about how to optimize to get in there, except what you’ve mentioned already. Being connected to as many entities as possible out there that it might pick up on.

One of the things that you talked about a couple times is brand invisibility. I’ve heard this from other people too, that your company’s brand, your personal brand, is going to actually become more important as there’s maybe more AI content out there, maybe more AI results out there. What kind of advice would you give to somebody who maybe hasn’t given a lot of thought about their brand and the impact it has on their search visibility?

Amanda: Yeah, I would definitely go back to, why is this company here? What do we believe in? And what are our goals? And then tie that into creating a type of brand persona. Because we see that just happening in general, personal brands are becoming a huge thing.

If you want people to actually interact with you on social media, you have to have your own voice. You can’t parent things that everyone already knows. You’re going to have your own ideas. Those are people who get the most interaction. So I think it’s just looking at what works and figuring out how to spin it in a way that is genuine to you or unique to you. I know some things it’s going to be very hard to do that. If you’re a plumber, there’s not a lot you can do about your brand other than taking their perspective of focusing on the real world. So making sure that your brand is very visible in the real world, that you are interacting with your customers online when you have the opportunities to.

Because I think a lot of home services, professional service businesses, a lot of their brand, the goal should be to be always there for their customer and their client and be consistent. So that should be essentially your brand. And then as far as connecting with other entities, I think that’s the part that’s probably easier for those types of businesses because they have the ability to look at local businesses that they have relationships with organizations online, that they have relationships with manufacturers that they get products from, all those types of things.

So yeah, part of it is having a brand as in a brand story. That’s great to have when you can, but also brand visibility is going to be interacting on social media using the connections you have, to have more placement or visibility on others websites as well.

Rich: Nice. I wouldn’t sell plumbers short. We actually work with a very cool plumbing company down in Pennsylvania. Great logo, great brand. And they have a special jetter truck. That’s a mobile device that can get through almost any sort of a clog. And apparently, it’s very rare for residential.

So I’m sure that you can find some way to be remarkable, whether you’re a plumber, whether you’re an SEO or anything else, but it is a good point. And sometimes it can be tricky for people who just got into business and didn’t think about having a brand, per se, that this is a scary idea that now they’re expected to have a brand on top of everything else.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t think if you’re a new young business, if you can make brand part of your sales process, I think that’s probably the best way to do it. But for mature businesses, they definitely need to have a brand and have something that they’re wanting to say. In other words, everyone should be trying to be a thought leader in their industry in some way. And I think that’s the best way to put it in a way that makes sense to me with the type of work that I do is that I need to be a thought leader.

Like our clients need to be thought leaders in their industries. Because that makes it so much easier for you to be visible online because people want to talk to you. They want to know what your thoughts are. You’re providing information that’s useful. You’re providing information that they can’t get from every other person who is providing the same service.

Rich: Absolutely. And from a personal brand, as well as your company, RicketyRoo, we talked about it. You spoke at Moz, or you spoke at MozCon, you’re going back again to speak at MozCon. You speak all over the world. You’re coming on podcasts like these. You’re getting the word out. You’re becoming an entity, to use that word again. And this is what you’re recommending for other people as well to find those opportunities to share their voice, to share their brand. Those are the things if I’m, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, that are the future of SEO.

Amanda: Yeah, that’s how I see it. That’s what I see as the future of SEO. Because really, if you don’t have anything new to say, you don’t have anything interesting to say, you don’t have anything different to say, why would you show up over any other business? And I think if we have that mindset, it makes it very clear where things are going. Because there is no other reason to show up unless you have something that is unique and interesting, different, and you’ve shared it enough that other people can see it. And it’s visible on the internet so that it makes the most sense to send people to you online when they make searches.

Rich: Now, I know one of your specialties is in multi-location businesses. They have multiple locations. I’m curious about how do you manage having so many different locations, but having maybe a singular brand voice, how do those things work together? Because it seems like it might be easier for a single location business to have a thought leadership position, as 200 locations spread across the west or parts of the U.S.?

Amanda: Yeah, I think that comes back to maybe a business philosophy. Like, what is the philosophy of the business? What is the brand trying to accomplish overall? And using that as the voice of the company altogether and applying that to all the locations, I do see that some franchises are able to have individual franchisees to really take the helm and focus on marketing. But I find that a lot of them depend on the corporate entity to do the marketing for them. And the stronger that corporate entity is, the more likely they’re going to rank locally too, because those things are all related. They’re likely hosted on the same site and everything, so it makes it significantly easier that way if the main brand, the main entity has worked on creating their own brand identity.

Rich: This may be a tricky question. I hope I’m not throwing you under the bus, but we’ve talked about this thought leadership position. I know that there are a number of listeners out there that might be in an industry like healthcare, or even more specifically, financial advice, where there’s such strict regulations on what they can say online and where they can say it. Is there still an opportunity for them to develop a brand and have thought leaders on their team? Or is that something where it’s no, you can’t get that through compliance?

Amanda: I think there are some opportunities still. I’ve been looking into huh, how can I diversify my investing profiles? And I found that answer that I was looking for on Reddit. I looked at podcasts. I looked at blogs. They did not give me the answer I needed, but Reddit did. And they were recommending other tools, and I would go and get feedback on those tools from people on Reddit. And they were like, nope, this one sucks, use this one instead. And that was enough. I made a decision on who to invest with and trust my finances with based on doing an initial search on Reddit and then doing my own research afterwards. So that heavily influenced my decision.

Obviously, I did enough research to know that my money is safe, but it was part of the decision and someone else could have been part of that decision. Someone else could have been providing that advice. And I think part of it, too, is just figuring out who your audience is.

So if you have a specific audience, I think it makes it easier to stay within compliance. And I think it makes it easier to also develop a voice because you have a group of people that relate to your platform. And it could be a platform of other professionals in your industry. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your end client or customer to be your target audience for your brand or thought leadership. You could be focusing elsewhere. It’s just that gives you the visibility so that you’re everywhere someone looks for your business or industry online.

Rich: Awesome. I do agree. Reddit is a great place to get information. That’s how I found the software to replace Mint when Intuit decided to get rid of Mint after all those years. So yeah. But definitely do your research above and beyond just that, but it’s a great place to start.

Amanda, this has been fascinating and very helpful. If people want to learn more about you, if they want to learn more about the company you work for, RicketyRoo, where can we send them online?

Amanda: Yeah, you can find me on Twitter at @AmandaTJordan. You can find me on LinkedIn at Amanda Jordan. I believe I still have an alligator after my name, so that’s how y’all know it’s me. And ricketyroo.com. If you check out the RicketyRoo blog, you’ll find posts from me and other members of my team.

Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have all those links in the show notes. Amanda, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation.

Show Notes:

Amanda Jordan and her team at RicketyRoo specialize in helping businesses find and target ideal customers. Definitely check out their blog for helpful tips to implement immediately. And be sure to connect with Amanda on Twitter.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.