Growth Hacking Interview Series #105: Danny Cave

Danny Cave is a data driven digital marketing and Web analytics expert and leader.

Having spoken at events across the UK and USA on topics of data driven SEO, data journalism and growth marketing he is a proponent of holistic digital marketing, innovation in SEO and high growth marketing. You can read his blog growthbydata.com or follow his tweets at @dancave.

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

A lot has changed since I first started SEO, in the early days this question would have been a lot easier to answer… I’d have listed a series of simple onsite tactics and some fairly raw link building activity.

Since then however, things have come on a long way and What I do as an SEO would be unrecognisable.

The evolution of my, and many others, SEO activity has gone hand in hand with not only developments in the sophistication and versatility of search engines, but also with the trend of SEO’s becoming more integrated into the mainstream marketing teams, and the emergence of data driven marketing as a concept everyone now understands.

So to answer you a little more directly, I don’t ‘do’ SEO, I lead good marketing and PR.

I work with a team of PR experts, event organisers, community evangelists and more besides, to create a strong brand which produces top quality marketing material which then I can guide and shape using SEO best practice, and add to with search focused twists on the themes and content.

By default I influence everything we do so it adds to or leans towards SEO, SEM and Inbound marketing.

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

Right now I work in a high growth VC funded Software as a service (Saas) company who provide data to fortune 500 companies and free users alike.

In the startup tech world, your goals can be slightly different depending on what stage you are at.

Last year while we were in the seed phase, proving the market and driving a story around traction with users, it was all about driving massive growth in user numbers via SEO, growth hacking and paid media.

Now we are moving into our next phase where revenue is more important, we use a different mix of metrics/goals.

Within sales and marketing we use four main marketing goals which drive all the others: Visitors to Site, Signups, Raw Sales Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL).

It’ a nice mix of leading and lagging metrics which gives me a mix of instant and slightly longer term feedback on how we are doing.

Specifically SEO feeds up into these numbers directly, andgood metrics to measure are Organic search visitors who become users, to whom we can market via their email address and in app messages.

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

I suggest that any SEO should be learning additional data collection, mining techniques to expose opportunities in an increasingly noisy world and to refine internal processes.

I wrote several posts, including one on Moz explaining how using data in many aspects of your SEO leads to more success.

Go beyond google analytics, mining your own data is very useful, and I recommend learning strong analytics skills; but use tools like import.io, Linkdex, ahrefs and Moz to collect  external data which you can use to help inform your content product, market research, outreach targeting etc.

Good and fun data analysis tools to play with include: Tableau public, Kumu, silk.co.

What do you find most rewarding about SEO?

It’s nice to build something that (kinda) lasts. PPC is great and has its place alongside native content, distribution platforms etc… but the second you turn off those you stop benefiting from them.

In the same way a lot of agencies place extremely high value recurring income, to keep the business cash-flow moving, I value investing in marketing that has repeat value.

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

Honestly, I don’t. Well, not as much as I feel everyone else does.

Let me qualify that. I see a lot of people obsessing over SEO news, the latest techniques and being part of the ‘scene’ commenting across all the major outlets on every topic.

For me checking in once every month or so to see if there are any big headlines or updates on the roadmap is enough.

When you operate SEO as part of a marketing team producing quality campaigns and activities which a include an element of, and lean towards SEO you generally don’t need to worry.

I focus on exploring the wider marketing industry technology news, this is where the real opportunity lies.

I remember coming across zapier the first time and thinking, “how can I use this for SEO”. That discovery was worth 1000 little tweaks based on the latest news.

Watch your data, set up alerts for negative changes in traffic and rankings and focus doing, not reading.

Operate with empathy to Google and you will be fine, stay interested in what users want and you will be fine, and keep an eye on

As an SEO, what is your favorite SEO hack?

Getting internal ‘Buy In’. Sorry if this sounds like a cop out, but doing one simple presentation about SEO internally is the best thing you can do because, Ten heads are better than one.

If you convince everyone in your company how important your organic traffic is, and how well it performs, they will start coming up with SEO Hacks for you; you will have a bucket full of ideas ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The way to achieve that is getting ‘Buy In’ via an internal presentation with some nice wins included in the deck.

When it comes to content SEO, a nice trick is to simply appeal to ego. If you can get a quote from an industry expert or three within your content, then you are pretty much guaranteed they will share the content with their audience, and help spread it far and wide.

Much like will be putting this post in my newsletter, on reddit, on twitter, on linkedin etc…

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

Hopefully the death of click bait and formulaic headlines? As a marketing manager, I can see why people use them, but as a user they irritate the crap out of me.

“What do we want? CLICKBAIT

When do we want it?

The answer will shock you.”

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

Linkdex, Google Analytics, geckoboard, pipedrive, Import.io, wordpress, Moz, ahrefs, exell, followerwonk, Tableau, usertesting.com, usabilityhub.com, mail chimp, sequel pro, optimizley, goto webinar.

How is your typical work day structured?

There is no such thing at a startup, haha. But it might surprise you how much user testing is playing in a part in what I do on a weekly basis.

Having a site that converts well is a win win, more signed up users, and less ‘pogo sticking’ users sending bad signals to google.

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

It’s an oldie but a goodie, Steve Krug’s: Don’t make me think. It’s the one book that has never become redundant with time.

It’s not specifically SEO focused, but many of the lessons it teaches are applicable to SEO.

If I were going to advise anyone to learn from anything though, it would be from real world connections with people in related industries.

Find a digital marketing person at another company and grab a coffee together, you will learn more from them than any book/blog. Alternatively, go and meet people at your local meetup or conference.

Bonus books: Webs of influence by Nathalie Nahai, and Predictably Irrational are books that will also help shape you as a fully aware marketing person.

You can’t go wrong with Asimov’s foundation series either 😉

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

Experiment. Seek out innovative ways to do things with new technology, and look to other disciplines to see what they are doing well and adapt it to your own needs.

I use Trello for team coms and planning, if that helps.

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

Undoing Penguin Slaps for new clients who had suffered previously was tricky, but ultimately manageable in the most part.

I see the biggest challenge to traditional SEO being the  future updates to the google UI which abstract more and more answers into the SERPs providing answers on page.

And even further into the future, I can see ‘voice for search’ on devices like hololens, bringing challenges to SEOs as the algorithms adjust to account for the much more contextual searches people will do using more natural language.

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

Based on my predilection for data driven SEO, Jono Alderson is a guy with a bird’s eye view of the SEO industry, and particularly on the real data that drives it.

Also, he is a kind chap, who is happy to listen to and chat about SEO.

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