Leading SEO expert Chris Rodgers talks about how artificial intelligence transforms the SEO landscape

What do businesses need to know when Google changes their algorithm? How can a basic or non-existent knowledge of SEO hurt them when this happens? 


Chris Rodgers: Google uses over 200 variables in their ranking algorithm plus multiple AI-based systems that help process search results. The main variables will cover 3 main areas of SEO: On-Page SEO (content relevance, quality, and engagement); technical SEO (ensuring your site is free from technical errors that prevent Google from crawling and understanding content); and off-page SEO (the volume, relevance, and quality of backlinks coming from other websites).


True SEO experts can navigate these factors, for the lay person it is best to focus on matching user intent with good quality content, making sure your site follows basic SEO best practices, is mobile friendly, loads fast (less than 2 seconds if possible), and ask for links from other websites that are relevant to what you do, and offers their audience a genuine online resource existing on your website (blog post, tool, service, whitepaper, etc.). Don’t get too hung up on technical aspects like domain authority/page authority unless you really know what you are doing, this can lead to wasted time or search-engine penalties.


What are some common mistakes businesses make when it comes to SEO?


Chris Rodgers: Planning, designing, and launching a website without first going through a complete SEO research process by a professional is the #1 mistake, and can be, by far, the most detrimental. I have seen companies lose 100’s of thousands of dollars’ worth of SEO value by basing site decisions on stakeholders gut instincts and senior marketing advice without using hard data to drive those decisions. You need to understand what content is driving rankings, traffic, and conversions first. Then you need to create site content and technical structure based on that data, balanced with company objectives for the new site. Lastly, technical SEO testing needs to be performed before and immediately after site launch to ensure a smooth transition. This is one of the processes our agency specializes in because of the huge impact it can have on a successful company website launch.


Silo-ing SEO is another big mistake made, especially by larger organizations. SEO crosses over into top level marketing (both strategy & messaging), PR, IT, product development, content, design, and even business strategy. By understanding all facets of SEO and how it can be leveraged across the organization, forward thinking companies can dominate their competitors and leverage valuable market data for more-informed decision making throughout the business.


With the rise of AI-technology and in-home smart assistants, what should businesses know when considering their consumers and how they shop? 


Chris Rodgers: The way people are shopping may be changing, but the goal of Google and other search-engines has not. Google uses all its search technology and AI-systems to ultimately provide the searcher with the best result to solve their problem; seek to understand the problems your customers face, the way they frame and describe these problems, and then create content that is better than everyone else’s for any given search term. Look at the search result to understand the intent of the searcher, use structured data (schema markup, etc.), answer the questions your customers have, and if you are a local business make sure your local business listings are consistent across name, address, phone number, website link, and services provided. Look up and understand the SEO acronym EAT, what it means, and how to use it with your content strategy.


Should businesses be more concerned with mobile SEO or desktop? Or should they complement one another? 


Chris Rodgers: Mobile. Google implemented mobile first indexing in March of 2018, using the mobile version of web pages as the primary driver of how Google indexes content (not rankings). There are more searches now on Google mobile versus desktop, and more people than ever have access to the internet first and primarily through smartphones. Google’s mobile friendly tool is one of the best resources for digging into issues, as well as Google Search Console.


What are some hot trends happening in SEO? 


Chris Rodgers: Everyone is talking about AI and Google currently uses several AI-systems to understand and rank content on websites to more closely match user intent for any given keyword search. At our agency use a lesser-known AI technology to help us zero in on specific on-page factors and content areas that Google is finding valuable for certain keywords and topics. Google also has a new schema in beta that is related to voice search and personal assistants, it is called speakable schema, it allows sites to provide information to Google for generating direct answers through TTS (text to speech), very interesting stuff.


Chris Rodgers is the Founder and CEO of Colorado SEO Pros.