What can a business do, in 2020, to rank high on Google? Is content still king? Does link building still work? If there’s anyone you can trust to give you SEO tips, it’s Hamlet Batista, founder and CEO of RankSense.
SEO tips with Hamlet Batista: How to help your website rank
When it comes to SEO tips, it’s easy to get lost in the wealth of information you find online. While there’s good advice out there, some of it is contradictory and outdated, and it can easily confuse you.
That’s why we invited Hamlet Batista to chat with us and he clarified a few important aspects about SEO in 2020.
An SEO strategist and industry innovator, Hamlet has been doing search engine optimization for almost 20 years. His extensive experience makes him a thrill to talk to and we’re happy and honored to have him on the ZeroBounce blog!
What about SEO made you want to make a career out of it?
There are several aspects of SEO that made it a great career path for me:
a) what was working for you yesterday might not work tomorrow. That would drive many people insane, but I love change and facing new challenges!
b) when you eventually find repeatable success, you can make a significant impact on many businesses. Especially the smaller ones.
c) we probably have the most open and sharing community in the business world. It is not uncommon to see competing agencies, consultants and tool vendors collaborating and sharing their secrets at conferences. I’ve only seen the AI/ML community sharing more openly and growing exponentially as a result of this.
d) I was very lucky to start early, in 2002, and find success. That helped me build a reputation that now opens a lot of doors.
What has helped you the most in becoming better at what you do?
I think my mindset is the main difference.
I have three key principles that drive me personally and that I look in employees and partners:
a) a growth mindset is the most important. I’m never happy with what I learned so far or what I’ve accomplished. Things can always get better and that it is important to invest time in learning and acquiring new skills.
b) getting motivated from helping others succeed. I enjoy sharing what I know because it inspires and pushes others to do their best work.
I find that very rewarding and at the same time it creates a big responsibility in me to not let them down so I need to consistently deliver.
c) it is easy to say “this can’t be done because of X or Y”. I prefer “maybe it can’t be done, let me find out”.
There is always more than one way to approach a problem or situation. When you find a novel approach that works, you create a massive amount of value.
When it comes to SEO, what are your clients struggling with the most?
The biggest struggle in SEO is wasted efforts. Spending weeks or months completing SEO checklists with nothing to show for the effort.
There are three key elements that I see missing in most SEO programs and we try to help clients with them:
a) a client without a recognizable brand that assumes that because they have a better title tag than Amazon, they should rank above Amazon.
But you need to put yourself in the search visitor’s shoes. Why would they choose your site over Amazon?
People are more likely to want to work with recognizable brands or people/sites they can trust. Google and other major search engines try to figure that out to properly rank sites.
Does that mean you can’t compete because you can’t be better than Amazon? No.
Amazon needs to do stuff that scales and doesn’t have time to personalize the experience in every vertical or product line. They can’t have the intimate customer knowledge that smaller niche players can have.
Amazon often buys companies that do a better job than they do in specific niches.
Having a strong brand story that resonates with your audience can help a lot here.
I apply this idea to our business. Our story is that we don’t think SEO should take 6 months and the solution is to rely on A.I. and automation to compress the time.
b) a fast feedback loop is another piece. When you have to wait months to know if something would work, you could waste a lot of time and make little progress.
It’s very important to fail fast so you can experiment with more ideas and find winners.
One approach we use with success and preach a lot is what we call Agile SEO.
We recommend making reasonable changes incrementally and wait to see if they work. Revert the ones that don’t work and double down on the ones that do.
It is important to have proper key performance indicators and systems to track this.
c) a content marketing plan where each article strengthens the brand story and builds trust through consistency.
How efficient is link building in 2020?
Acquiring quality links is important, but the best links are the ones you earn through smart PR efforts that take more time than most small businesses are willing to invest in.
Good examples are data-driven stories that journalists crave for.
A simpler approach is to focus on brand building to position the business as a niche leader through useful/unique content and social media amplification efforts.
Now, Google doesn’t need to use the link graph to rank all search results. For example, Google uses the knowledge graph to power their answers. So, it is possible to rank some types of rich results without building links.
Many content creators have trouble with keyword research – what’s the best way to go about it? How do you choose your perfect keyword?
I see two primary ways to approach keyword research:
a) Researching what keywords are popular to write content around them.
b) Having expert content that solves a painful problem and using keyword research to validate there are enough people interested. Then, phrasing titles and headlines appropriately.
I have found that option b) is more effective because Google wants to rank useful and unique content. It is the type of content the search visitors expect.
Is there such a thing as a perfect post? What does it look like?
A perfect post is one that hits or surpasses concrete engagement goals. Those could be page views, social shares, email subscribers, press mentions or even sales.
As you can imagine that is relative, but this should give you an idea.
In order to write one, you typically spend more time during research than during writing. You need to have a deep understanding of who you are writing for, what they care about now, and how you will measure success after you publish.
What’s the one thing that hurts websites’ SEO the most right now?
The lack of original content is what hurts the most.
Sites often fail by researching popular keywords, reviewing competitors and writing content that basically paraphrases what someone else wrote without bringing any new value to the table.
Imagine if the New York Times writers simply rehashed the same stories and articles from other publications. They wouldn’t have the readership they have now.
Tell us one tweak you did for a client that got the best results.
Most people (even many SEOs) don’t know what infinite crawl spaces are and they can hold back performance for many ecommerce sites.
We fixed such a technical issue for a client and it led to a massive improvement in a short few weeks.
Tell us one easy thing we could do today to improve our Google ranking.
Create video content, higher quality images and properly code them with structured data.
There is more demand than supply for video and image content and there are still a lot of sites that don’t leverage structured data.
If you have an ecommerce site, make sure to create a Google Shopping feed if you don’t have one. Google made it free.
Hamlet Batista is the founder and CEO of agile SEO platform RankSense.
He started doing SEO as a successful affiliate marketer in 2020 and has made significant contributions to the industry. Apart from helping businesses improve their presence online, Hamlet holds U.S. patents on several innovative SEO technologies.