Recently we attended the the SEO Smackdown 2.0 panel discussion luncheon hosted by AMA West Michigan. Thank you to the AMA for having our own Jason Dodge as one of the four featured panelists alongside Joel Leo (Herman Miller), Mike Wolf (Stow Company), and Lauren Milligan (Deksia).

AMA SEO Smackdown

With the discussion being moderated by Symposia Lab’s Tim Haines, the focus of SEO ranged from novice to advanced categories. Given the time allowed, Tim threw some admitted “softballs” at the panelists, followed by a few more in-depth technical questions from the crowd.

The conversations began with Tim’s simple question “Of all the current SEO myths, which do you currently hate?” All four panelists essentially answered variations of two themes:

  • SEO is dead
  • SEO is one and done

While seeming very obvious to some, these myths can be large obstacles to overcome by naysayers or those who have experienced failed attempts at SEO. For us, it’s often an educational opportunity, taking a step back and discussing with internal and external teams about the approaches, anticipated outcomes and expectations.

Through the hour long panel discussion the consensus from the audience, that we gathered, was there is still a large segment of marketers who are not able to keep up-to-date on best practices, or are worried about changes in SEO and how to get started. Gleaning insights from the crowd, here’s some of the areas that really stood out to us.

Where Do I Start with SEO?

Many a times just getting started seems like a daunting task. There are so many places to look, rocks to uncover, and different perspectives. What’s the right way and what’s the wrong way?

The general consensus from the SEO professionals was that you should really take care of things on-page first. Often referred to as “on-site SEO,” these are the elements you have full control over and help dictate how a search engine will render your site. Something as simple as a crawl report could generate a hit list of items you should be addressing. The on-page SEO elements could be anything as simple as meta page titles and page descriptions, to actual physical page content and technical, code-level items that are holding your site back.

What can we expect as Google continues to adapt and change?

If there is anything consistent about the world of SEO, it’s constantly changing. While the panelists mainly agreed that you should not freak out about minor algorithm changes, as they always evolve, it is good to not get too comfortable with the state of your website.

It was recommended to perform regular reviews of the site, both from an SEO perspective, as well as a user experience perspective. Given the fact that Google pays attention to how users interact with your site, should play a factor in your ongoing efforts to keep up.

Ensuring you’re using something like Google Search Console (webmaster tools) as a means to crawl your site. Be it quarterly or biannually. Run your top keywords through search tools and make sure they are still the best performing, or as one panelist stated, still relevant to your audience. It’s ok to get comfortable, as long as the comfort is based on the knowledge that you need to keep things in check.

Outlooks and Future of SEO

Moving into a more in-depth or technical level of SEO, the crowd showed a lot of interest in the concept of recently infamous question of “what is position zero,” aka Featured Snippets in Google; Google’s quest to keep the searcher there without navigating to the end site.

While the panelists discussed the pros and cons of various methods to approach featured snippets, it was obvious there is no one right or wrong way to approach this. It was however agreed that it greatly depends on your industry and what you’re attempting to inform.

For example, if you’re selling a product that fixes a problem and people regularly search “how do I fix ABC,” it would be beneficial to have a featured snippet derived off your page. The strategy would be to create a lead-in to get the viewer to actually click through to your page instead of never leaving the Google SERP.

Educated best practices were given as “this is what I would do,” but ultimately no one was really able to give a defined strategy as mixed results have been seen after multiple tests performed. The only consensus was there being large opportunity and strategizing within your team should be had.

Event Discussion Recap

It was great to see a large group of marketers from all facets of business coming together to learn more about SEO. While it’s an industry that we are most passionate about, we often get too deep in the geekery of our work. The SEO Smackdown was a great reminder for all that we are in this game together. We all have products and services and companies we are trying to improve search traffic for. Be it your own in-house project, or client/agency side, the world wide web will continue to grow. Algorithms will continue to shift and move with the times – as should your site. We are all better as a collective and being a well-informed group of professionals leads to improved conversations, better results, and acceptance of SEO as a craft in an often misunderstood field.