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2014 search marketing interview with Danny Sullivan




Marketing Pilgrim’s Gareth Davies asked search marketing legend Danny Sullivan the ten most pressing questions for any search marketer…

#1 Google:

Danny Sullivan

Gareth: Danny, in the last 2 years it appears to some that Google’s Algorithm may favour a larger brand over a smaller business in the search results. How effective can SEO be for driving organic traffic to a small businesses in 2014?

Danny: I think Google’s algorithm is trying to favor brands — not large brands over small brands but brands over sites that you wouldn’t care if you never found them. Brands have value, usually offer something that you can’t get elsewhere. So I think small businesses can continue to do well with SEO.

#2 Optimization:

Gareth: Getting organic traffic is an ever growing challenge for smaller businesses, and with paid search costs rising, some of the focus of SEO agencies seems to have shifted towards Conversion Rate Optimization. What are the benefits of high converting webpages when it comes to search marketing?

Danny: Traffic is worth nothing if it doesn’t convert. For some, spending more time focusing on how to convert your existing traffic might be a much better effort than trying to get more traffic that doesn’t convert, because you’re not giving them a good pitch.

#3 Guest Posting:

Gareth: There has been talk recently that Google does not approve of guest-posting and is ‘going after guest posters’. Can you shed any light on what you think Google might do here?

Danny: Google doesn’t want guest posts that are done for no other reason that to get links. What it is doing is saying, in my opinion, that if it comes across a site when doing a manual review that seems to run guest posts only to hand out links for ranking purposes, it might crack down on it. Quality guest posts in general still aren’t a problem.

#4 Content for marketing:

Gareth: Apart from guest posting over the years many forms of content have come in and out of vogue such as: Articles, blogging, guest-posting and so on.  In the last 2 years it seems like infographics have been in vogue. Are infographics still a good way to market a business, or has their moment passed?

Danny: I still run them, when I get good ones. And infographics have literally been used for over 200 years. So they’re a great format. It’s just, sadly, that too many people make bad ones.

#5 Social Media:

Gareth: I’ve heard some people at search marketing events say that if you only have 2 minutes a day to spend on Social Media – then spend that time updating Google+ (over Twitter or FaceBook). Would you agree that Google+ should be people’s top priority in the social media space? For people not familiar with Google+, why is it so important?

Danny: Google+ has a huge impact on pages ranking better, if people follow a brand on Google+ and are signed into Google. So ignoring it is ignoring a big SEO opportunity. In terms of direct traffic, it’s less compelling. But it takes so little time to do the same type of sharing you’re already doing on Twitter and Facebook also on Google+ that ignoring it just seems dumb.

#6 Image Search/ Pinterest:

Gareth: It can be surprising how much organic traffic from Google can be from images. Whilst there is some debate about the quality of traffic generated from images, should the average eCommerce company be using Pinterest? And if so why?

Danny: I continue to find it surprising and impressive how much Pinterest can drive traffic for many eCommerce sites and retailers. It seems well worth exploring by anyone.

#7 Link Building & Google Penalties:

Gareth: When it comes to link building in 2014 and all the talk about penalties the general consensus seems to be to proceed with extreme caution. Is Google’s Algorithm still about links? If so, to what extent is pro-active link building still necessary?

Danny: Links still tend to be the most important factor with rankings; pro-active link building can still be helpful, but only when people go after the “hard links.” That’s where most fail. I have an article that explains much more about this:http://searchengineland.com/link-building-means-earning-hard-links-not-easy-links-123767

#8 Mobile:

Gareth: I’m a small business owner with an online store and my website is not mobile friendly…how much of a panic should I be in about this? Why is it important to have a website that renders well for mobile phones in 2014?

Danny: People search a lot on mobile. When they come to your site, if they get a bad experience, you’ve lost the sale. It should be a priority.

#9 Privacy & Google:

Gareth: With more and more people using Google Docs and Gmail – Google is gradually becoming an online storage and back-up option for many people. Can you see any potential situations where Google could justify crawling not only people’s Gmail content, but also their stored documents like spreadsheets and word files too?

Danny: Google already does this with calendar entries. I’m sure they’ll expand support for Google Drive. Justify is an odd word, as if they should’t do that. People may actively want them to do so. They don’t do it with Gmail unless you agree to it, so as long as they make it voluntary, I think they’ll be fine.

#10 Crystal Ball Gazing:

Gareth: Will we still be talking about SEO in 5 years? Where do you see Search Marketing going in the next 5 years – any predictions?

Danny: More use of social signals for rankings. More opportunities for rich descriptions and displays in listings. More opportunities for visual ads. And a whole lot of “who knows” other than it’s always changing. And yes, SEO will still be around. Every year, someone wants to say it’s dead. I’ve seen that for going on 20 years now. If it hasn’t died all those other times, it’s not about to..

Many thanks Danny!

Catch Danny at an upcoming SMX Conference.

  • Daniel Foley

    Speculation, all we ever see, yes it’s nice to have an experts opinion, but time and time again I see different when it comes to search, Google will favour big brands, not because of brand, but instead because big brands have….. you guessed it BIG link profiles, links links links, that’s all that really matters in terms of algorithmic value, yes content is important, but Google cannot interpret content value, it’s algorithmic, and as for Social signals, well, do you not think that it’s unfair to count Google+ as a ranking factor when its proprietary to Google? it’s like saying “If you don’t bother with our social platform you’ll loose out”

    • http://www.andybeal.com/ Andy Beal

      Thanks for adding your own speculation. ;-)

  • cynthialil

    If people only take one thing away from this post let it be this:

    “Traffic is worth nothing if it doesn’t convert. For some, spending more
    time focusing on how to convert your existing traffic might be a much
    better effort than trying to get more traffic that doesn’t convert,
    because you’re not giving them a good pitch.”

    So often I see people running themselves ragged just to raise their Facebook friend count or drive traffic to a broken website. 1,00 people who buy from you is better than 10,000 who followed you because you once offered a cool prize.

  • http://onlinenepal.biz/ Subodh Rkr

    What a reasonable answers of all the question. Thats why Danny is the legend.
    I am so much impressed with the answers from him and the questions are awesome Gareth.