Growth Hacking Interview Series #107: Bill Sebald

Bill Sebald is the co-owner of Greenlane Search Marketing, LLC. SEO, designer, blogger, and occasional speaker. He considers himself as a straight-shooter practicing agile white-hat SEO, focusing mostly on contextual marketing to optimize for search engines on behalf of the searchers.

How would you explain specifically what you do as an SEO?

What I do today is so much different than what I used to do. I used to be very tactical, trying to scale everything and push volume. Now I find myself thinking more like a digital marketer.

“Volume” now is in terms of how loud, I can make my campaigns and strategies work. I still do the traditional blocking and tackling – it hasn’t gone away – except now I supplement with more content strategy, digital PR, CRO, and of course old fashioned technical SEO.

What is your primary marketing goal when it comes to delivering results?

We like to ask that of our clients, and then make them our own. Usually it’s a conversion of one sort or another.

I would always hold myself to page or aggregate organic traffic and conversions/sales before rankings. It’s fairly easy to reasonably correlate efforts to a page, and the most honest way to show if your work is having an impact or not.

Which new skills are most important for SEO’s to learn in the next six months?

Post-hummingbird, I think writing holistically and including relationships and concepts is still the big change SEOs (who write) need to start thinking about.

It tends to change the way a writer writes – especially if they were used to writing chunky, fragmented copy and spreading it out across many pages.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

The wins! Helping a client make money and build their brand. Having a key role in that has always been my motivation. I love challenges.

How do you stay updated with the latest SEO industry news?

I used to be in forums and feed readers every day. Now it’s less easy – my time is split between running an agency these days.

But, I do use Twitter to follow those I really admire. They tend to be great curators of SEO content. I let them be my filter.

I read what I see shared on Twitter. There are a few sites I still hit daily, like Moz and Search Engine Land. Search Engine Roundtable is really important to me as well. What Barry Schwartz does for the SEO community is incredible.

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

What a question! A few years ago I could have shared a bunch. I’m really not sure I have one that works today.

The only hacks (maybe I should say shortcuts) I have are quick ways of pulling data, and that’s mostly from ranktank.org. URLprofiler is outstanding as well.

Are there any particular SEO trends on the horizon that really excite you?

Google’s growing ability to actually comprehend content ala semantic search. A direction like that is great for Google since optimizing for keywords alone appears to only be able to take their results so far.

What are some of the top tools and apps in your SEO stack?

The two I mentioned above for sure. Also, Pitchbox is amazing for scalable outreach. Absolutely a tool everyone should be looking who does outreach. I’m always in SEMrush.

How is your typical work day structured?

1. Review client dashboards

2. Email

3. Meetings

4. Then I work to leave the rest of the day as open as possible for all the ad hoc client and company tasks. I really try to split the day into two halves. It doesn’t always go that way, but I try!

Which one book/blog post would you recommend every SEO should read?

One? Only one? Yikes. Probably the 2015 Ranking Factors study by Moz. Cyrus Shepard oversaw it, so that’s more proof that it’s quality.

What advice would you share with other SEO’s who want to become more productive?

Stop multi-tasking. That’s a killer. At some point it became a badge of honor to be a good multi-tasker. I haven’t met a productive multi-tasker yet!

Among the Google algorithm updates what is the most challenging one that you’ve encountered?

Anything Panda related. Some of the outcomes defy logic! But I’m convinced Google recognizes the casualty of throwing the good out with the bad, for the overall betterment of the index.

If there’s one SEO Guru you’d recommend who and why.

I definitely can’t recommend only one. There are so many that I think always bring brilliance. I mentioned Cyrus; I’d add AJ Kohn, Dan Shure, Mike King, Bill Slawski, Rand Fishkin, Ross Hudgens, Matt Brown, Marshall Simmonds, Dr. Pete, Jon Cooper… the list just goes on and on.

My favorite thing about this industry are the thousands of truly smart SEOs who happily share their discoveries and thoughts on a daily basis. This industry would be nothing without that kind of peer support.

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