Advanced SEO and Structured Data with Sante J Achille – TravelMedia.ie

By | October 18, 2019


(dramatic music) (upbeat music) – I’ve been in the business,
in the web business and the web technology
business right from the start. I discovered the web in 1994, while I was working at the European Space Agency, my background as an aerospace engineer. And I was totally blown away
by what I saw back then, which was the very primitive version of the commercial web that we know today. But I could see things that were coming, so with my wife Mary, we decided that it would be worth trying it, and well, we’ve been on board ever since. Very, very early, so I did everything, and I know everything about the web, from the underlying
transmission technologies, IT, but very early on I caught onto, let’s say I caught the passion of search. So I started, I think,
my first web optimization activity was in 97, and there it’s been a continuous and constant progression towards today, where we are
today, here in Billings. Why is SEO important today? I think SEO is important,
it’s important today, and it will always be important. There is a constant debate that comes on every now and again, SEO is dead, long live SEO, et cetera et cetera, but it’s important because as the amount of information grows, the amount of pages increases exponentially, day by day, we need to focus our attention also on making our content findable, and comprehensible, I think those are the two important things that anybody who writes something should understand, because it’s not trivial, to index, to identify, and then to match what you have to offer,
what you have to say, to what people are actually looking for. In that respect, in this respect, SEO is definitely a thing to look at. Looking at things, is it more important or is it less important,
it’s probably more important because as the amount
of information out there is growing so fast, it becomes
more and more competitive, every area becomes more
and more competitive. So, the more the search agents understand what you are actually about,
what you’re talking about, what products or services
you have to offer, the better idea they have
of that, the better chance you have at having your
product, your service, in front of the right
person at the right time. Looking forward, in the
direction where we’re going, there are two buzzwords
that are gaining momentum, and that everybody within
the next few months or at the most one to two years will have to deal with,
and these two words are AI, and machine learning,
artificial intelligence, and the capacity that
machines have to learn. So we’re looking at training,
basically, computers, to understand, and to anticipate, and learn, basically,
off of the experience that we as people can
actually transmit to them. Now with these things in
mind, it becomes important to be in line with what’s happening. So all of this intelligence
and machine learning rely heavily on the fact
that the information has a common denominator,
and has a common way of being transmitted, and
the whole underlying concept of enabling all of this machine learning lies in the fact that we
provide an additional level, or layer, if you like, of meta information that is highly structured, so
that we significantly reduce ambiguity, eliminate uncertainty,
and we provide context, which is something that a
machine does not understand. A machine crunches numbers,
machines suck, basically, at understanding words, understanding everything that is related to a word. Words that have different meanings, so that’s the real
issue of structured data also providing that context
that people understand, because the context of a
discussion is understood, or the context of an
article is understood. Machines don’t understand,
machines understand what we tell them, if we do not tell them, they do not understand,
which is a big problem when people write, normally,
because it’s understood normally, because there is context, and so as people we understand,
machines do not understand. Structured data is in
fact a sophisticated, a much more sophisticated, structured data is basically meta tags on steroids. So let’s be practical with an example. For the travel industry, images
or video are the workhorse. So they do a lot of work,
and they’re fundamental in any aspect of
communication for that matter. So with let’s say traditional SEO, you have an oil tank, and in basically around 100 characters,
you need to put together so much that it’s basically impossible. So with structured data,
we can provide information about the image, technical
aspects of the image or the video, the location,
where it was actually taken, the person that actually shot it, and because of all of the properties that we can attribute to that, there is a wealth of information that we can communicate and transmit, and make available to a search engine to actually understand
everything there is to understand about that video or that image, and serve it to the right
person at the right time, because that’s what it’s all about now. We’re going towards a web of niches, very very focused, because
of all of the traffic, so I think anybody who
wants to be successful needs to identify an exact niche where they wanna work,
concentrate on that, and be very focused on that,
and they will be successful. Why should we provide structured data if the machines are intelligent, they should understand these things. Well, the fact is that machines are not born intelligent,
they are born dumb, they are dumb and they
always will be dumb. They are as intelligent
as we train them to be. We may certainly head towards an era where we will be able to interact,
and machines will understand natural language as we speak it, and as we read it, but there’s certainly an interim period of time,
five, maybe 10 years, maybe less, but it also may be more, where we actually need
to foster this process. And fostering this process means providing this additional layer of meta information to make it easier for the machines to understand what it
is that we are trying to communicate, or offer, provide. SEO will, moving forward,
it’s going to become a more complex operation, I
think the future of SEO is becoming a combination
of technical aspects, so what we’re talking about, which is more on the technical side, less on
that of the content creator, but also related to making
it easier to consume information on behalf of the user. So user experience is something that is very much talked about,
but rather neglected. And well of course being the
old school man that I am, I see the benefit in having touched on many different aspects, the technologies, the human interface, content creation, and I think the real added value is in having all of that experience. Today there seems to be a fragmentation, so you have specialists in content, specialists in lead generation, specialists in email marketing, et cetera, maybe wrong, I may be wrong, but I see an excessive fragmentation
in the whole profession, I think what the end user needs is not a room full of people who deal with very specific issues, they need someone who can give them guidance
at a higher level, and deal with one person who
has more generic knowledge. Yoast is definitely already in the space, it’s doing a decent job,
I’ve seen the plugin move forward significantly,
I think it’s okay for a beginner, and for
somebody who does not have too much, let’s say ambition,
at least in the start, they want to get some
structured data on their blog, on their WordPress blog,
it is a way to move, it is not, let’s say,
completely, let’s say, tech free, in the sense that you need
to know nothing about it, there is still a learning curve, you need to invest resources
and time and studying, and understanding how this works for the plugin to be most effective. But then this goes back to the fact that it is getting more complex,
the whole environment in which we are working, and it’s part of, let’s say, the evolution of the web. So it was simpler, it’s
getting more complicated, or complex, and that’s life, isn’t it, it’s part of the evolution,
so you must adapt. So the steps for a small and
medium enterprise to take in order to undertake such a task. To start, I think you
need a reliable partner, an external, or decide to have
somebody in house do this. Not necessarily a programmer,
people tend to think that this is a software
issue, when in actual fact it isn’t, you do not
need to know any code, you do not need to be a
programmer to do this. You need some analytical skills, because what you need to do is rethink your digital
presence, your digital assets, in terms of what it is exactly about, and try to create a model
of your entire website. This model is this sophisticated,
let’s say, metadata, that we’re talking
about, so as we mentioned the meta tags on steroids. So it’s like writing
complicated meta tags. So I think this is really the
skill that you would need, and just start
experimenting, start working on your homepage, look
at the different areas, try to identify little standard procedures that you can use for different segments, different categories within your website, and then start implementing. You’ll make mistakes, everybody does, but that’s the only way to
do it, take it step by step. Google has recently
announced at Google I/O 2019 the launch of a new
service related to images. What they are saying is that
they are going to feature high definition images, and to make it more understandable,
they’re asking everybody to provide the images with a JSON-LD file. This JSON-LD file is then structured data, where we provide additional
information about the image. So I think that is a pretty strong signal that we are definitely moving in a world of meta tags on steroids, if you like. And if we do this, my experience shows me that in doing this, Google rewards you with higher quality in traffic. There’s no doubt about
that, this doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get more traffic, you’re gonna get more relevant traffic. So it’s like a shop,
having thousands of people walking in front of it,
and very few coming in to purchase something,
compared to another one that has very few people,
but one and two walking in, purchasing something and leaving. I’m pretty sure that everybody would find desirable the second situation and scenario compared to the first. So implementing structured
data comes at a cost. But there are undoubted benefits that come from this, and
one of them is immediate, is the change in the keyword profile. So if the website had
some ambiguity issues, where Google wasn’t exactly sure about what the website was, once this is done and it’s done properly,
you’ll notice a change in the profile, so
there can be an increase in keywords, because Google
has suddenly understood what you are actually
about, and so will provide more relevant traffic to
you on that specific topic, and that’s a scenario, there could be another scenario where the ambiguity was attracting dirty
traffic, irrelevant sessions, so that traffic will disappear, so your traffic will go down in that case. But your CTR, your click through rate, will raise significantly,
and that’s a great benefit. And so comparing traditional SEO, and then adding an additional
layer of structured data, this is something that
will definitely happen. This does not mean that you will increase your rankings though, there can be cases where,
once all of this has happened, that you have actually
implemented correctly structured data, you will find
that your CTR has gone up, but you may find that
your average position on some keywords has gone down, because Google has understood
exactly what you are about, but there are other 250 ranking factors that are not working in your favor, and are favoring perhaps your competition. So you know exactly where you stand, but at that point then you
have to work on other things, on gaining link popularity, or on making, creating better content,
because the structured data does not influence what you are saying or how you are saying that. Well here at TBEX I’m having a great time, and I really wish to
thank the organization, and especially Rick
Calvert, for inviting me. It was Rick, talking to Rick
over the last year in 2018, we met because I have
organized SMXL in Milano for three years, and we
crossed paths, let’s say, and we had been talking,
and I mentioned to Rick what I had been doing, my activities, and Rick was very curious
to know more about it, and so I explained, and so rick said hey, why don’t you come over to the next TBEX, I would like to have
you, and have a workshop, and speak about this stuff,
and I said yeah, why not. And so here we are. (dramatic music)

4 thoughts on “Advanced SEO and Structured Data with Sante J Achille – TravelMedia.ie

  1. Michael Collins Post author

    Great interview Sante. It was a pleasure meeting you at #TBEX last month. SEO is not dead. It will never die, only develop. AI and structured data is the future.

    Reply

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