In this episode, we continue our discussions with leaders in the SEO community to understand what’s next for SEO in 2019. Listen in as Ben and Adam Edwards, Senior VP, Head of SEO at Reprise Digital as they discuss rise of Amazon SEO, the impact of free devices and visual search in 2019.
Ben: Welcome to SEO predictions month on the Voice of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro and today we are going to continue our month-long series covering some of the boldest SEO predictions for 2019.
Ben: Joining us for SEO predictions month is Adam Edwards who is a Senior Vice President and head of SEO at Reprise Digital which is an agency focused on providing consumer brands with audience first and end solutions that creatively unify channel strategies to build on their heritage of performance-based marketing campaigns and today Adam is going to share his SEO predictions for 2019.
Ben: Before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise skill businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content and SEO strategies can be optimized.
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Ben: Okay, here is our interview with Adam Edwards, the Senior Vice President and head of SEO at Reprise Digital.
Ben: Adam, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.
Adam: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Ben: It’s great to have you here and looking forward to hearing your bold predictions for what SEOs need to know in 2019 but let’s start of, give us a little background. Tell us about you and tell us about Reprise Digital.
Adam: Sure. So Reprise has been around since 2003. We were one of the earliest search agencies in the field. We got acquired by Inter Public Group or IPG in 2007 and we’ve recently rebranded, just last year so now we’ve incorporated social, mobile, development, data, basically a full service digital agency.
Adam: We have almost 3,000 people around the world working with us and I, myself have been around here for seven years including 20 years in the industry with seven years here at Reprise and leading up the SEO team and we have about 50 people doing SEO just in the US alone, across six cities.
Ben: So that’s a large SEO team. You’ve clearly been in the industry and working on the agency side for years-
Ben: … And been exposed to a lot of brands so I’m excited to hear your view about what’d going to happen in 2019. Let’s start off, what’s your first prediction? What do you think is the big thing that’s going to happen this year in the SEO community?
Adam: So, you told me to be bold and I’m going to be bold by making my first prediction not about Google, to throw you a curve ball. So, I actually believe Amazon SEO is going to become a huge area of focus. We’ve seen it increasing every year with our clients and I think it’s going to become talked about more and more.
Ben: So, Amazon, obviously their SEO is going to be focused on product search.
Ben: Do you think that’s going to be … When you say Amazon SEO, are you talking about optimizing on the Amazon platform or optimizing your Amazon listings to show off?
Adam: Correct, making sure that your Amazon pages show up both in Amazon and in other search engines such as Google.
Ben: And as Amazon expands beyond traditional E-commerce into the digital space, obviously they’re a technology company, web hosting, device creation-
Adam: They own the world.
Ben: Well, they are expanding they are competitive with some of the other major tech companies.
Ben: You can say the same about Apple, you know, they are in content and devices and hosting and all sorts of stuff. Google as well.
Ben: How do you see SEOs needing to prioritize … Are there other places outside of just product search where Amazon SEO is going to become a more important topic?
Adam: It’s possible but we really see products as being the main focus especially for many of our CPG clients. They have really increased their budgets because they see the immediate return on investment. It’s not having to go through multiple steps to decide what you want and as Google’s algorithm gets smarter, they have done a much better job at recognizing the intent of queries and a lot of times when you do searches now, you’ll see products immediately. You won’t necessarily see as much content as you used to.
Adam: Now, of course, Google’s intent is to show as many product listing ads as possible but below that you will eventually get often Amazon product listings in the organic results.
Ben: I do see, obviously, Amazon is a product driven company. It’s an E-commerce company first. That’s their heritage.
Ben: I do understand that the CPG companies are going to be putting more and more of their products onto the platform so Amazon SEO in the E-commerce sense is naturally going to become more important to SEOs. I see another opportunity to take advantage of SEO and it actually has to do with content distribution
Ben: One of the things I’ve started to see marketers doing is taking some of the content that they would normally put in a gated environment like your white paper downloads or your eBooks and they’re starting to put them on Amazon to take advantage of the domain strength of Amazon.
Ben: Do you see any opportunities to take advantage of Amazon from an SEO perspective in terms on content distribution?
Adam: That’s really interesting. It’s certainly possible. You do reference the domain authority of Amazon, which is undeniable so certainly I could see that happening. It will be interesting to see, you know, if services start to show up more. Amazon does have many different stores and so if you can improve engagement as well, if you get people to read their content and connect, that certainly makes sense.
Ben: So tell me, as we start thinking more about Amazon SEO and specifically really going to be focused on E-commerce but maybe in the content space. What advice do you have for SEOs to prepare to expand their view and their understanding of Amazon as a search provider?
Adam: So, Amazon obviously has a very successful E-commerce platform. That’s the understatement of the year but they are not as advanced in terms of their search functionality or their ad platform. They have a lot of opportunities to grow and so, very simple things that we’ve done for, you know, 20 years in the traditional search engine space will be effective in Amazon SEOs.
Adam: Something as simple as bulleted lists can be quite valuable because you’re being succinct to the point and you’re being descriptive. If you pull in and if you look at some of the non-optimized content on Amazon, you get a lot of just very brand oriented messaging which might be great for marketers but when you’re trying to compare feature and you’re already at that, you know, consideration of buying phase of your journey, just being very straight forward with the topics that you are able to be an authority on will be quote successful for you.
Ben: My takeaway from this and it also has to do with a couple different ways that content is being re-factored. The user experience and life in general is just moving at a faster pace and so people are dedicating less time to consuming long form content so it’s more important to distill your content down to its true essence whether it’s shorter form content, shorter paragraphs, bulleted lists, you know, this gets into the type of snippets that Google is starting to promote and put into position zero.
Ben: If they are able to grab a paragraph that describes and answers somebody’s question, they’re just going to show that as opposed to linking off to that article and I think that that same, you know, thought pattern is happening here with Amazon. The more that you can be succinct and bullet out and make it easy to scan through your content, the better off you’ll be.
Ben: So let’s talk a little bit about what your next prediction is going to be. Tell me what else you think is going to happen that SEOs need to be aware of in 2019.
Adam: Sure. So, there’s been a lot of talk about voice. It is has been the year of voice for a couple of years now. There’s obviously a lot of smart speakers out in the market. A lot of people have virtual assistance’s on their phones or TVs. I believe at some point, maybe not this year but maybe next year, that someone will give away a smart speaker for free or at least the functionality.
Adam: The speakers themselves have dropped quite a bit in price. You can see whether it’s Facebook or Amazon. You see a lot more of monitors and screens incorporated into these devices but I think just the speakers themselves, I think it’s incumbent on the advertisers and the retailers such as Google and Amazon to get them in as many places as possible and the device is not that expensive and so I feel like someone at some point will probably take the plunge.
Ben: It’s interesting, you’re talking about towards going towards the AOL disc model where they just mail you the disc in advance, right?
Ben: We’re going towards that path and that’s how much these companies want to win the voice game and be in your home. I think the major device manufacturers that are invested in voice are Apple, Amazon and Google. Do you have any sense of which one you think will be the first to hit the price point of zero?
Adam: Apple doesn’t really give away much for free so that would surprise me. It’s hard to tell if it would be either Amazon or Google. I guess it depends on who could monetize it the best. Amazon would probably be more likely because I think they’ve really tried to figure out how to deliver, for instance, their fire products as affordably as possible but I wouldn’t discount Google from trying, at least in certain tests. Obviously they give Android away so that’s unprecedented.
Ben: My thought is it’s … It would likely be Google hitting price point zero first before Amazon and you mention that Amazon has a clearer path to monetization for their voice products because you can order products from your Echo today. I want to say Alexa but my Alexa’s going to go off. At home we call it Alexa just so it doesn’t listen.
Ben: But there’s a couple trends that I’ve noticed. First, Google has been pretty far forward with allowing other device manufacturers to have their Google assistant and they are starting to build them into some of the IOT devices and also where Amazon has a direct path to monetization through E-commerce, I think Google has a better path to monetizing the data and so, the faster they are able to get that voice footprint, the more that feeds into their larger model of providing search value and even though the experience isn’t there because voice is the first component, eventually when the screens become integrated into more of your home, Google needs that data to understand how voice search is going to work and be able to provide the right experience so my guess would be Google gives away a product for free before Amazon does.
Adam: It’s quite possible. It certainly does fit in with a lot of their philosophies. You know, typically when Google’s hardware, they either have like a very high end phone, I know the Chromebooks are more affordable but I’m not sure how low of a price point they’re willing to go but it’s certainly quite possibly.
Adam: I certainly foresee them trying to do whatever they can to maintain that lead. The fact that we’re even talking about Amazon in a search functionality like we haven’t until very recently.
Ben: Yeah, they’re definitely becoming more of a factor in all channels of marketing. I know that there’s been a big push in terms of their ad platform as well which is starting to be one of the biggest ad platforms in the world.
Ben: Let’s talk a little bit about your third prediction. What else do you think is going to happen or maybe what would you like to happen in 2019?
Adam: So, I’m so glad you framed it up that way. So, as marketers thrive on data and especially at larger agencies like Reprise, companies are always vying for marketers attention. There’re places you know you need to be such as Google and then there’re areas where, you know, you’re always battling for investment or attention so it’s not just ad dollars but it’s also, you know, optimization and other, even just content creation.
Adam: I believe one of the other major platforms aside from Google will release a trend type of product to marketers, hopefully for free. Obviously if you work closely with them, you may have a partner who can provide you with certain data but I could really see a Bing or a Pinterest releasing a trend type tool to the public pretty soon.
Ben: So it’s interesting that you bring Pinterest up because, you know, Pinterest is going to be most likely IPOing in 2019, maybe it gets pushed to 2020 depending on the economic conditions but there’s a business that to me is mostly around visual search or is entirely around visual search and the question for me is, what is their long term growth game? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts about what a Pinterest trends product would look like and what do you think the value is for them to produce it?
Adam: So, they really have been at the forefront of visual search. Really see a lot of upside potential. You know, being able to search visually and there’s a lot of confusion in this space about what is visual search because a lot of people equate that with automatically it has to be augmented reality and I don’t think that is necessarily the case but just in terms of being able to peruse … You know, it’s funny that for, you know, over a decade the major search engines have always had these image functionalities but you know, there was a time when Google admitted to, “Oh, we only update that algorithm every six months,” and so they’ve always like had thee crawl capacity to tackle this but Pinterest has really thought about the user experience and if they continue that focus, I think they have a good opportunity to keep going.
Ben: The interesting thing to me about some of the trends that you’ve raised in that Amazon is going to become a bigger focus for search. Someone, Google or likely Amazon will potentially give away a smart speaker and that you know, Bing or Pinterest can create this trend type product to get some attention and sort of shine the spotlight on their search products. My feelings, if I had to summarize what your takes are is that Google is going to see competition on a couple different beach fronts this year.
Ben: Do you see this being a year where, you know, some market share from the core Google business gets taken away? Or is this just sort of, you know, competitors picking at their heels?
Adam: I think it’s additive. There’s so much focus in the marketplace about, like, oh, there’s a finite pie but you know with everyone having their mobile phone with them, we’re searching more and more all the time. We want to know the answers to thing. We want to shop wherever we want or you know, you can get internet access on the subway now so you’re never not connected. So, I don’t know that Google share will down, I just think the overall marketplace will just continue to grow and I think these are good opportunities for, maybe not new players but players that we haven’t heard as much from till recently.
Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think there’s two ways to think about it. This is either, you know, death of Google by a thousand cuts and the competition is starting to reach them all around their business or, the search industry is growing and evolving and so there are new technologies which Google is involved in all of them and likely to continue to succeed. I think there’s, you know, the truth will be told by the … Hopefully the end of the 2019 but it’s definitely a multi-front war for Google and across the search industry this year.
Adam: In particular for Pinterest, something that we argue about even internally in our own teams is, you know, we talk about Pinterest search but a lot of people in the industry will say it’s a social platform and yes it is social and so, you know, as marketers we look at well, where is the budget coming from? Who is the stake holder that we’re working with on this particular project and so even though we as search marketers might think of Pinterest as search, there’s also social opportunity there and that is good because as I said, it grows the pie, it doesn’t open out budgets.
Ben: Before we let you go, I know that you listened to our SEO prediction series with Jordan Koene. We did SEO week to start off 2019, did you have any reactions to some of the predictions that Jordan made? We talked about content refactoring, algorithm chains, some potential regulatory things that might happen.
Ben: Just want to get your take on, you know, whether you agreed or disagreed with some of the other predictions that we’ve made so far in this podcast?
Adam: Sure. I’d say refactoring makes a lot of sense. Google’s gotten better and better at pulling at key points from within pages so, you know, I used to say as an SEO, “Well, you want as many pages on your site as possible to answer every single question,” now, Google is starting to understand, you know, even a single sentence is potentially answering this question.
Adam: Now, there will be, I’m sure more and more concerns about whether it’s answering it factually but in terms of being able to understand at least semantically, this is an answer to a question whether or not it’s the right answer, I may leave to other people to answer.
Ben: Yeah. I think that’s an interesting point and I’m glad you bring it up because it’s consistent with what you’re talking about with the Amazon strategy of how to optimize your Amazon SEO as the search engines, specifically Google become more sophisticated, as their machine learning algorithms get better, as the Ais starts to take over, you know, my feeling is that the search companies will be able to pick out which pieces of content are relevant more effectively and so that changes the value of long form content and short form content and it’s immobile, it’s an on demand world.
Ben: I think the better short form content SEOs are going to be able to produce on one page or on multiple pages. It’s going to have more value over time whether that hits a tipping point in 2019, is still remained to be seen.
Ben: Any other last predictions or thoughts as we head into or continue on in our journey of 2019? What are some other things that you’re focused on for this year?
Adam: We’re always thinking about position zero, not just in a voice aspect because it’s a quick answer but also just like recognizing, you know, that impression is pretty valuable so looking more at the data we can get from search consoles is valuable. Understanding click through rate from an organic perspective is quite interesting and not a metric that people who aren’t doing SEO at an enterprise level, maybe are always thinking about.
Adam: If you own your own business, of course you’re obsessing over every single number but enterprise marketers, you know, we still need to make sure that we’re looking at ROI and not just rankings.
Ben: Interesting. Okay. Well, Adam I appreciate you coming on the show, sharing your predictions and I look forward to getting together with you. We’re going to have webinar sometime early in February, I’m not if we’ve set the date yet but it will be great to get together with you and some of our podcasts guests to talk about our predictions in 2019 so thanks for making the time.
Adam: Thanks Benjamin.
Ben: Okay, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Adam Edwards the Senior Vice President and head of SEO at Reprise Digital.
Ben: If you’d like to learn more about Adam, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes or you can visit his company’s website which is reprisedigital.com.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can tweet me @benjshap.
Ben: If you’re interested in learning more about how you can use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.
Ben: If you like this podcast and you want to regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we will be back in your feed next week with more SEO predictions for 2019 and lastly, if you’ve enjoyed the show and you’re feeling generous, we’d be honored for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Ben: Okay, that’s it for today but until next time remember, the answers are always in the data.