Inside Track: The role and thoughts of an SEO

This Inside Track interview features the thoughts of an SEO, James Armstrong.

Actually, as well as being an SEO specialist, James has wider digital marketing, PR and journalism experience.

James also looks at the year ahead for SEO – a ‘lively’ one for sure… 

Your Granny is on an elevator: can you explain your role in a sentence?

I help businesses to make themselves easier to find on the internet. Fair warning; this explanation has never worked.

My late granny never ventured online and told all her friends “My grandson writes things for the internet” which I guess is pretty close…

We’re chatting over coffee: what’s the expanded explanation of your role?

I try to decipher how incredibly complex algorithms (which I can’t see), created by people MUCH smarter I am, will react to the changes made to my client’s websites, in order to make their products/services/content more visible than everyone else’s. It takes a lot of time.

How did you get here in this role? … And what keeps you doing it?

An agency recruited me when I finally admitted to myself that freelance journalism was never going to pay the bills. Fortunately journalism was the ideal training ground for an SEO practitioner; inside of 8 weeks I was training all of their new-starters in how to conduct research and outreach. As to why I keep doing it; I’m good at it & I like to win.

Seen any new techniques or approaches coming on board in SEO that clients should think about (I know, it changes all the time)

The rise in the use of voice search seems to have captured the industry’s attention this year, along with mobile-first indexing and contextual relevancy… I’ve recently heard people discussing how to use these changes to deploy a series of local events to opportunistically grab traffic during valuable times of the year…

The pace of change in SEO continuously opens up avenues to explore.

Grab your crystal ball: In a sentence or two, how do you see SEO evolving in the next 12 – 24 months?

Something I talked about previously and I’m staying with is:

“I’m going to stick my neck out here, and make a fairly dramatic prediction: I think that in 2018 Google is going to test a dramatically cut-down SERP. Look at Google’s recent changes to results pages, and how they display them, coupled with the rise of machine learning. It all trends towards less organic real-estate on SERPs.

Click-through rates on organic listings in the 6 to 10 spots typically total less than 5%. That’s a very attractive amount of page space going to organic listings which users don’t appear to be interested in… If Googles algorithm has gotten good enough at delivering local, contextual, personalised SERPs to its users, then why bother showing them the web pages/websites which are almost, but not quite what you searched for?

Why wouldn’t Google try doing away with those results, and putting something more valuable to users in that space?”

How do you keep current and up to date?

I read the industry blogs, case studies, and official announcements from the search engines (not that there are many).

Have you got any advice for up and coming SEO or digital media practitioners to help them be as effective as they can?

Don’t limit yourself to SEO. Grow your knowledge of digital marketing to include PPC campaigns, PR and branding, affiliate marketing, display advertising, content marketing strategies and social media management.

You’ll only become a better marketer by figuring out how all the elements of a full-mix digital strategy work together. And the more strategically aware you are, the more effective and valuable you become to employers/clients.


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