Continuing our series profiling leading SEO consultants and agencies, CanIRank Community Relations Associate Melissa Gosse interviews one of the SEO industry’s more forward-thinking professionals, Lukasz Zelezny, to learn the tools & methods he uses to successfully keep smaller companies beating the Big Guys on Google. To no surprise, keyword stuffing is not part of his bag of tricks…
Melissa Gosse (MG): The SEO industry evolves extremely quickly. Google constantly releases new rules around what is and is not allowed in “proper SEO”. Algorithms change, often without warning or guidance. Even professionals who have been in the SEO niche for years must keep learning and adapting their methods. But there are a few out there who have mastered the technique to successfully keep small and medium sized companies not only competing with the big ones, but also outranking them!
Our guest Lukasz Zelezny (LZ) has spent 10+ years decoding the complex SEO and online marketing world, finding the trends that work and the ones that should just be kept in the idea journal. This has lead Zelezny to be the Head of Organic Acquisition at online comparison site uSwitch where he utilizes his skills to improve their conversion rate, traffic, engagement, and much more. These sought after marketing skills have allowed Zelezny to take the organic performance of companies like HomeAway, Thomson Reuters, The Digital Property Group and Fleetway Travel to the golden spots on Google. In this interview we’ll discuss his secrets to staying productive and competitive in a continuously evolving and complex industry.
MG: SEO can be challenging – What are your biggest current challenges as an SEO professional?
LZ: I would be lying if I said that most things regarding SEO weren’t challenges, but there are definitely a few challenges that deserve a notable mention.
The overall rate at which search engines tweak their algorithms today is several times faster than it was in the past. This is causing some websites and brands to knee-jerk in one way or another when rankings suddenly shift, which can actually do even more damage. It’s quite alarming how quickly a website’s rankings can change thanks to Panda, Penguin and everything else that’s going on.
Professionally, it’s also a challenge to compete with the absolutely humongous number of so-called SEO gurus and professionals now providing services. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re doing, serving people who don’t know any better, and doing it for unrealistically low prices. This inflation – if you can call it that – is definitely a major challenge.
MG: Fortunately the tools SEO professionals use have evolved as well. What will SEO software look like in 2020?
LZ: 2020 sounds like a long time from now, but it’s less than four years away. If you go back 5 or even 10 years in time and look at the basic practices regarding SEO, there haven’t been many truly foundational changes. The complexity of algorithms has evolved, yes. Mobile now plays a huge role in a lot of SEO efforts. Quality of content is more discernible by search engines today. Yet all of these basic concepts were present in SEO efforts several years ago.
What I expect to see is all of these areas and more continue to become more nuanced. Likewise, SEO software is going to take into account more of what Google, Bing and other search engines demand in their algorithms. Software will continue to become more precise and technical in nature, allowing for perfection in terms of formatting and structure. Nevertheless, I also expect that the abstract “human element” in terms of what people like continue to become more important alongside that.
MG: How has your keyword research process changed in the past years?
LZ: It’s definitely a much more complicated process today than it was 10 years ago. In terms of what you could get away with in SEO, keywords were probably one of the last great frontiers to evolve in terms of expectations.
I used to operate just how any other SEO professional or enthusiast did: stuff as many instances of keywords into content without driving readers and shoppers crazy. Some people always took it too far, but there used to be a lot more leeway in terms of what you could do, and it was quite effective.
The Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner, for instance, used to be much more effective. Today, however, relying upon that alone will leave you without plenty of vital data and context. It was easy several years ago to keep basic spreadsheets of prioritized or targeted keywords; today, I have to keep track of this information and a dozen other metrics in order to make the best decisions regarding selection. I use several other keyword planning and research tools on the web to build a broader consensus on what needs to be done.
When I employ optimized keywords it isn’t always about content. I need to see what would work best in a PPC environment as well as in ad campaigns. Not all keywords will rank as highly throughout all types of media so CanIRank gives me a foundation to work with. From there it’s a matter of knowing where best to place those keywords that I feel will be optimal for that niche.
The best analogy I could give would be in terms of any highly complex mathematical formula. Where it would take hours or even days to calculate with pen and paper, a computer could solve the problem within seconds. This is what CanIRank is best suited for when used by professional SEO experts. Instead of examining and cross-examining results to choose the very best keywords, they are right there for us on the screen. From there it’s only a matter of knowing how best to use them within the budget.
CanIRank saves time.
MG: Besides saving you time, has CanIRank helped you in any other aspects of SEO?
LZ: One of the biggest obstacles I have to overcome when working an SEO campaign for smaller to medium size products is in competing with the big corporations that have literally unlimited funds available to them. I use CanIRank to analyze which keywords will rank with the search engines. It’s all about knowing how they rank sites and then putting that to use when developing an SEO strategy.One of the biggest obstacles is competing with Big Cos w/ unlimited funds. CanIRank can tell me which keywords will rank Click To Tweet
CanIRank provides a great analysis of keywords that I can rank for, but there is also the element of experience that needs to be factored in. Optimal keywords and years of building successful marketing strategies work together. One without the other is much less effective.
MG: How important is it for SEOs to effectively “diagnose” SEO issues & understand the competitive landscape before going after a keyword?
LZ: Keyword research and planning today is considerably more complex than it was just a few years ago. Even in relatively sparse niches, I’ve seen the amount of competition explode in recent years. Surface-level keyword research just won’t cut it anymore.
Addressing any underlying problems with a website’s SEO – either via an audit or through comprehensive assistance from an SEO firm or professional – is crucial in ensuring that any keyword efforts pay dividends. With so many algorithm changes being thrown at us and at an ever-increasing frequency, there are plenty of little problems that could be lurking underneath a website’s surface. This makes it very easy for any keyword research, planning and execution to be all for naught.
Additionally, it’s important to use multiple keyword research utilities in order to comprise an accurate representation of the true situation. I’ve conducted preliminary keyword research on hundreds of occasions that looked promising…only for me to dig a little deeper and find out that the niche is not worth competing in given my goals.
For example, I use CanIRank as a tool in order to conduct that preliminary keyword research, and I can say that it is a very powerful tool to have in the arsenal. There will be some people who benefit more from its use than others, but everybody could gain from using it.
MG: In your opinion what kind of SEOs would benefit most from CanIRank as opposed to other tools?
LZ: SEO firms and professionals who need to perform large amounts of keyword research and who don’t necessarily have the free time to juggle all of the details are the ones most likely to benefit. Additionally, brands and firms with little room for error with respect to marketing and budgets will appreciate how it can drastically fine-tune ROI in a number of ways.
Some people will only have a need for such services on certain occasions; the fair pricing model made it easy for me to pause and resume on a moment’s notice, unlike other comparable services that require contracts or monthly fees. The service does an excellent job of automating various tasks and its attentiveness to how algorithms can change on a dime makes it different than some other tools I’ve seen (that fall behind following algorithm changes more often than they’d like to admit).
MG: What technique would you suggest other consultants/agencies try in order to get the most out of CanIRank?
LZ: Since budget is always a main concern for many clients, I would have to say that consultants and agencies should take a good look at what type of marketing would work best within a given niche and market area.
It is also necessary to determine exactly what you are trying to accomplish through your SEO strategies. Are you looking to drive traffic to a website or are you looking more for foot traffic to a local shop? CanIRank can then work its magic to find keywords targeted for a specific type of marketing.
The reason I mention this is because the type of content or media used to drive traffic differs and keywords that rank within one may not work in another. For example, keywords for local businesses would be best employed through social media and Google Places. Keywords that would work well there may not rank highly in articles perhaps, so it is important to look at how much money someone has to spend and also which type of marketing will work best. It’s all about understanding how SEO works within various forms of marketing in order to determine which technique would suit best.
MG: Do you think SEO is a winner take all game?
LZ: It really depends on your perspective. Personally, I do not see it that way because there are many ways in which a brand can “win” via SEO efforts. Traffic is obviously the main name of the game when it comes to SEO, but how do you measure winning? Is winning getting the most traffic out of anyone in your niche? Is winning getting ten times the amount of traffic you were getting before you started?
Everybody generally has the goal of being ranked as the best in their niche and in their targeted keywords, but that end goal is one that doesn’t necessarily have to be achieved in order to win. The goal is there primarily to ensure that you don’t grow complacent. The hard work I put into building SEO will only last so long without continued maintenance, so having a winner-take-all mindset when it comes to the goal isn’t necessarily a bad thing…but it’s also not necessarily achievable in every case.
A huge thanks once again to Lukasz for chatting with us. I hope you’ll agree it’s been a great insight into the complexity of this industry and methods to overcome that. You can catch more tips and tricks from Lukasz on his Twitter or LinkedIn.
If you’d like to nominate an SEO or online marketing leader to be interviewed here, please reach out to Melissa on Twitter.
If you’re an SEO agency/company interested in utilizing CanIRank as a tool for your business, email us.