SEO in the Lab
SEO in the Lab
Jun 10, 2019
7. Interview w/ Steve Valenza, REI
Play • 35 min

Resources:

Timestamps:

[0:00] Intros
[1:20] In-house versus agency (day-to-day, long-term vision, relationships, execution of tasks, etc.)
[2:43] Dealing with different personalities(developers vs. merchandising) 
– developers – close to the project
– merchandising – moving fast
– c-suite – prefer quick/concise, focused in #s
[6:21] Importance of internal education
[7:20] Shift from ranking-focused to customer focused
– work closely with UX
– most sites are good at basic SEO tasks
[10:00] How often to refresh internal trainings? what topics to choose?
– start w/evergreen 101s (e.g., pagination, facets)
– don’t assume anyone knows basic SEO 101s (e.g., meta elements)
– also important to try to build in guardrails for site deployments
[12:00] Structure of SEO team – breaking out content and technical
[13:30] Any reason/finding that people go content or technical? It’s the path
[14:50] What does a day-to-day of a technical SEO in eComm look like?- Start w/looking at log files, reporting
– Focusing on training and documentation
– Trying to get a framework to simple questions (building a resource library)
– Code review
[17:00] What in eCommerce do you need to get right?
– JS renderability
– Facet navigation (e.g., what categories indexed/noindexed? how specific of a facet?)
– Finding and fixing bugs
[23:00] Speed (+try lazy loading images)[25:00] Shifts in eCommerce SEO
– one team moving forward (SEO and development)
[27:40] Challenges large eCommerce sites face today?
– How can we connect users to the entire site? (building an ecosystem)
– Bots being able to find your pages (via log files), reviewing the setup of the site
– Site speed
[32:00] 3 nuggets of advice:
1. Understanding your organization (structure, ppl in it) and make relationships strong
– Being able to explain SEO to different types of ppl
– Make SEO digestible
2. Automate everything you can (e.g., reporting, site monitoring, building safe guards)
3. Pay attention to what Google is doing, keep up with updates

My Favorite Steve Quotes:

  • “I think with developers there’s so intertwined and close to the code, close to the work that they had been putting in on the site that they really have an affinity towards it. It’s kind of like their little piece of art. “
  • ” There’s a really big switch over, I think, from where once was where the SEO team was just trying to rank better or trying to kind of beat Google in a specific way. We’re now more just trying to make our language and make our focus that we’re all here for the customer. And when everyone kind of gets in that same room and that same mentality, I think it’s a huge advantage for any project that goes forward.”
  • ” So we’re really focusing on, when we want to make an SEO move, we talk to the UX team, and we kind of combined our power and our knowledge to make a move that actually propels both programs. That’s what’s kind of in a big unlock for us, that we’re not just making SEO specific moves anymore. We’re really leaning on other departments to make holistic moves, more so. “
  • “You don’t just build trust by throwing work at other departments. You build trust by getting them on the same page, getting them behind your projects and having them actually understand ‘the why,’ not just the actual project that’s going on.”
  • “It’s not just making the fixes, it’s really making the fixes as immediate as possible,”
  • “The goal is to have developers reaching out to us about what to do about SEO.”

Transcript:

[00:00:00] Alexis Sanders: Hello. Hello. And welcome back to SEO in lab. Today I’m joined with Steve Valenza with REI and I’m so excited to have you here today, Steve.

[00:00:09] Steve Valenza: Well, it’s good to be a part of this, Alexis. I am so happy that you finally put this podcast together because I have been excited to see where this podcast can go, and I’m definitely ready to be a part of it.

[00:00:19] Alexis: Nice. Nice. It’s such an honor. So would you mind giving the audience a little bit of an introduction?

[00:00:25] Steve: Yeah, of course. So, to not go too far back, But I am originally from Pittsburgh. I grew up my entire life in Pittsburgh, PA. So 26 years, and then I had a pretty drastic life change about seven months ago, to where I moved across the entire country. And I’m now officially based in Seattle working for REI on their technical SEO team. So I did work with you at Merkle obviously for a couple of years there, and then decided to come in house over to REI and start the whole inhouse journey with the team here.

[00:01:00] Alexis: That’s awesome! Yeah, and thanks so much for being my co-worker for a few years, you know, miss you over here.

[00:01:07] Steve: I definitely miss Merkle at times. The chaos is definitely something I missed a little bit. Loved it there.

[00:01:13] Alexis: Yeah. Gosh, yeah. Agency life, all the chaos that we have. Has there been any shifts in house versus agency that you’ve seen?

[00:01:21] Steve: My gosh, it’s a totally different world. I came in here not expecting it to be a complete reversal of what I once thought of SEO in the work that we did, but everything from the day-to-day work to the long-term visions and how work is approached, it’s totally different. Not in a bad or good way, just something that I need to definitely get used to. And I’m starting to get used to. I’ve been here for about seven months now. So I guess I better start getting used to it sooner or later, right?

[00:01:52] Alexis: (Lol) Definitely. And so, what would be like one example of something along those lines for someone that’s, you know, maybe works in-house and has never seen the agency side of the business?

[00:02:02] Steve: Yeah, so it definitely relies and comes down to the relationships: relationships with your developers, relationships with product managers (and) project managers. It’s imperative to get work moving forward. Back in agency life, you would do this great deliverable, you pass it off to your contact, whatever client you’re working on. Then they would do the hard part of making the relationships and making that work move forward. It’s definitely a different vibe and a different atmosphere when not only do you do the work, but then you also have to figure out the relationships and how to push that work forward. So that’s probably the biggest hurdle and is something that I’m starting to get used to now.

[00:02:42] Alexis: Definitely. And do you find that there’s any personality differences or things that are really effective with developers versus someone on, like merchandising?

[00:02:49] Steve: Wow, totally different personalities. I think with developers there’s so intertwined and close to the code, close to the work that they had been putting in on the site that they really have an affinity towards it. It’s kind of like their little piece of art. So you almost have to talk to them in a sense of you’re not trying to change this beautiful painting, this beautiful art that they built, you’re trying to work with them. And on with the merchant side of things, they’re kind of just trying to move fast. So the merchants are trying to get things out, they’re trying to kind of do what’s best for the user. So you really have to balance which bets for SEO, which bets for user experience and which kind of bets for conversion rate as well. So that’s kind of balancing a lot of different factors and you really got to put different hats on when you’re talking those different departments.

[00:03:36] Alexis: And do you guys deal a lot with Executives or C-Suite people?

[00:03:40] Steve: So me personally, not so much, but my team, very much so. REI is in a great position where they, up from my level to the C suite, they understand that SEO is imperative for our success. It brings in a massive portion of our business and the C suite really recognizes that. Talking to them and really putting the goals together for them has been a huge switch up for me as well, because they like to have the information quick and it likes to be concise, and I really like to be long winded and fully explain my process, so I’ve had to kind of constrain that and put it into some concise words, but still getting used to it, because I, like I said, very long winded, usually.

[00:04:26] Alexis: (lol) Very long winded, thinking about it right now. Yeah, it can be really tough when you’re really passionate about something to not go or talk too much about it, especially when you’re close to the details. But I can imagine that, you know, someone who has to control everything would have, uh, would want to make sure everything was a little bit more terse in their day. So do you find that it’s really useful or imperative to have that executive support? And how do you think that shapes an organization? Do you think it would be much more challenging to do your job without that?

[00:05:01] Steve: It would be incredibly difficult to do my job without that, especially with an organization the size of REI. Everyone has their own mindsets, and some of them are set kind of in stone. So to actually have that support from the C-suite. It’s where, when we push a project forward, that’s kind of a massive change for the site. It’s not just the three of us on the SEO team pushing that project forward. But we have that buy-in from the C-suite that, as you could be, as you could recognize and be aware that when they get that push from the C-suite, projects tend to move faster forward. So, not only, you know, you could imagine I’m guessing…

[00:05:38] Alexis: (lol) I’m imagining it right now. It’s so nice.

[00:05:42] Steve: I know, it’s something that I didn’t think would play as pivotal of a roll as it did moving projects forward. But right when that project that started and that C-Suite kind of gets behind it, you can watch the project kind of get propelled forward over ones that don’t actually have that backing or that kind of reliance on the C-suite as well.

[00:06:04] Alexis: And so are there any secret tips or tricks to winning C-Suite approval?

[00:06:09] Steve: Numbers, (lol) I would say is the biggest mover. What we really try to do and what I have been actually put a pretty huge focus on for the first seven months here is educating the C-suite, educating the developers, educating the program managers, just to have the knowledge of SEO. So when they actually look at a project and a project comes through their backlog, they don’t just recognize it as something the SEO team’s trying to do. People are starting to recognize in the organization that this is something that the SEO team’s trying to do specifically for the customer. So when, when the C-suite and when the developers start to recognize that the SEO team is just making of strategic moves to enhance the customer’s experience. There’s a really big switch over, I think, from where once was where the SEO team was just trying to rank better or trying to kind of beat Google in a specific way. We’re now more just trying to make our language and make our focus that we’re all here for the customer. And when everyone kind of gets in that same room and that same mentality, I think it’s a huge advantage for any project that goes forward.

[00:07:16] Alexis: You mentioned that we started off more ranking focus and then we fell into a more user experience focus overall, how do you feel that that message has changed? What should you do?

[00:07:27] Steve: Yeah, it’s a super hard balance to kind of get right. You want to make SEO changes and some SEO changes aren’t the best thing for users. So we really, at REI at least, we worked very closely with our UX team to make sure that if we’re making an SEO change, does it also advance the user experience of the site? Because if you make an SEO change and you get that little traffic or ranking boost but then it takes away from your UX on the site, then you lose that traffic, and it kind of goes in all anyway. And that’s the same vice versa. A big UX move could really detract from SEO, and then it nulls out all that work again. So we’re really focusing on, when we want to make an SEO move, we talk to the UX team, and we kind of combined our power and our knowledge to make a move that actually propels both programs. That’s what’s kind of in a big unlock for us, that we’re not just making SEO specific moves anymore. We’re really leaning on other departments to make holistic moves, more so.

[00:08:29] Alexis: Very lovely. And I’m sure Google would definitely appreciate the direction you guys are moving in as well.

[00:08:33] Steve: I hope so. (lol_

[00:08:35] Alexis: Do you think that’s more challenging for other organizations that may have not adapted that mentality?

[00:08:40] Steve: Yes, I think like I said, it was a big unlock for REI and I think it’s just been somewhat recently happening, to where, we’re putting more of a focus on that holistic view. I think companies that either, maybe they don’t have a really big UX team or don’t have the developer buy-in like REI does, It’s going to be a huge problem to get over, but I really do believe in documentation and teaching the organization is a huge and pivotal step for any SEO team. I couldn’t imagine relying on just the trust of, just the other departments trust in the SEO team for what we’re giving them. You don’t just build trust by throwing work at other departments. You build trust by getting them on the same page, getting them behind your projects and having them actually understand ‘the why,’ not just the actual project that’s going on. So it’s going to be, I think, pivotal moving forward because SEO is getting to a point where we’re starting to make everyone kind of good at the overall SEO tasks that you need to do on your day to day and big sites and it’s starting to get to really minute changes that are actually moving the needle. And those minute changes are in desperate need of other departments to help those changes move forward.

[00:09:55] Alexis: And so how do you decide what to educate your developers on or your C-suite on? Especially considering how fast your industry moves, how often do you think it’s important to refresh their knowledge?

[00:10:07] Steve: It’s incredibly tough to keep up with. You know that for sure. We’ve done training programs together in the past, and I’ve been trying to put a training together at REI right now. And it evolves so quickly that what do you what do you teach developers, right? You teach them something one day, and it’s like five days later, like actually, Google changed something and it doesn’t make sense anymore for you. We’ve taken a focus, though, on teaching the incredible basics. So the 101’s of pagination, the 101’s of faceted navigation, things that aren’t going to change anytime soon. No matter what really Google makes a big change or with the search engines they’re actually making and changing, there’s some factors of SEO that aren’t going to change, at least, I would like to think so. So we’re teaching them basic meta-elements, Just what are the meta-elements? You have to really take a stance of, everyone, even though you may think that everyone knows what a meta element is or everyone knows what a pagination is, they definitely don’t. (lol) And that’s not a knock, that’s not a knock on the developers, it’s not a knock on our creative team. Normal people in normal jobs shouldn’t know what the correct way to implement faceted navigation for SEO, it’s as simple as that. So we really get down to the bare facts that these things aren’t going to be changing, this is the correct way to do it. We’re really just going through the simple 101 best practices as a whole with them. And then we build documentation around boilerplate, basically, requirements of you build a site, these are at least the general structural SEO factors that you’re going to need to take into place when you’re building that site. So we do try to build some guardrails around site builds and deployments as well.

[00:11:57] Alexis: Nice. And so you mentioned that you’re a technical SEO. When you talk about REI do you have a content component to your work? Or is it, do you have someone that’s your equivalent on the content side?

[00:12:10] Steve: Yes. So right now we have three people on the technical side and we have two people on the content side of SEO. So they’re doing, as you can imagine, content strategy, content deployment, keyword research. They do, kind of run the whole gambit of content SEO for us. So we’re really more focused on how bots are coming into our site. All the technical aspects, the rendering of our pages, so on and so forth on that side of things.

[00:12:38] Alexis: And you think that breakouts really useful to have?

[00:12:40] Steve: Yes, there is, especially maybe for a smaller business. You might be able to get an SEO that is going to be able to do both sides of the house. But for a company the size of REI or even a middle tier company, there’s just simply too much work to be done. I’ve worked in the agency life where we were a part of both programs, and its overwhelming sometimes. Content SEO and then switch over to technical SEO and then switched back to content SEO. I think it’s absolutely crucial to deploy two different teams that have the time, the energy and the brain capacity to focus on just one technical SEO or one specific content SEO factor.

[00:13:22] Alexis: Definitely. Yeah, I like the idea conceptually, too, because it, do you find that on your team that the people who tend to like more problem solving, more technical development, programming type of things gravitate towards technical, whereas people who are more artistic or marketing based gravitate more towards content? Or are there any like breakouts that you see there?

[00:13:42] Steve: It’s that fact, but also more of just the simple paths that people have taken. For me, when I worked through Merkle, I just gravitated more towards that getting in the weeds factor or that finding out, or kind of put it together, that puzzle of these search algorithms. So I really got interested in the fact, and I kind of started gearing myself more towards the technical side of things, even though I still enjoyed the contents side of things, and I do have that artistic sense when I am focusing on content, I just found my ground and my (Alexis: passion) Well, I guess it would be a passion. My passion towards the technical side of SEO. So I don’t know if it’s a specific skill set that drives you one way or another but more of a specific passion of how you want to spend, you know, forty hours a week, and I found it that technical SEO takes up most certainly all forty hours of my week and I really enjoy it. So I think, yeah, you got to follow your passion on that one.

[00:14:41] Alexis: Nice. That’s so lovely. Okay, so working for a technical SEO in E-com, what does a day-to-day looks like, for instance?

[00:14:49] Steve: Yeah. I mean, like any SEO out there that’s going to be listening to this, your day today changes very drastically. So it is nothing different when you get into a specific technical SEO role. For the most part, I can say every day I come in and I am looking at log files, I am looking at some reporting. We use some reporting tools that we get into and can look at kind of our pulse on the site. So I do that just about every day. And that’s just to kind of stay close to the site and keep understanding how the site’s evolving. Then on the outside of that stuff is kind of a whole mess of things that I could be doing. So some days, and most days, I do focus on, especially that I’m kind of new to this position at REI, I’m focusing on a lot of training and a lot of documentation right now. We want to get our programs, the point where, no matter what position you’re at in the company, there’s an outlet in an asset that you can go look at that can answer your questions about SEO. We have so many questions that come in, and every SEO out there has an absolute absorbent amount of questions that come in throughout the day from different departments. People trying to figure out very, sometimes simple, and sometimes very specific questions. We’re trying to at least get these simple questions off our plate, so people have a resource to go to and kind of answer that simple question. So day-to-day I’m doing a lot of documentation, and then we’re really kind of just, code review is a massive part of our days as well. REI has eight different sites, so we are consistently and continually deploying different pieces across different sites. We always are in code review, making sure that things that are being deployed are going to be SEO friendly. So I think that kind of covers as much as I could be doing throughout the day. Then I know…

[00:16:47] Alexis: That was it. That’s all you could be doing. (lol) Just kidding. It’s a lot. Just going through all the logs and reviewing the entire code of the site.

[00:16:58] Steve: It fills up a day very quickly.

[00:17:00] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So do you think there are any really important elements for eCommerce technical SEO’s to get right?

[00:17:07] Steve: Yeah. I mean, you have the, all the basic technical SEO elements that you need to be getting correct. Those are kind of the broader ones, like pagination tags you need to get correct, internal linking and taxonomy need to get correct. But we’re really in a day and age where, you know, and this is not new to anyone, but JavaScript is a part of sites now, right? JavaScript is everywhere on sites, and although Google says they could render it and we’re in that kind of back and forth phase, the really big focus right now is getting those pages rendered properly, actually getting all the elements on a page recognized by Google. And it’s way more difficult than you could ever imagine, just sitting on the outside looking in. You look at a page and like, well, obviously Google can see all that, so there’s not going to be any problem there. But then you really dig into it, and you can come across just about any instance on any site where there might be a space on the site that isn’t going to be recognized by Google for one reason or another. So getting everything service side rendered or at least in that space is going to be absolutely pivotal for sites moving forward. It’s a really, really tough one to get right, and it could get out of control pretty quickly. Next is facet navigation. So nailing down what categories you want indexed, nailing down what categories you want no index, what categories you actually want people to be finding the products on so on and so forth. Getting that right and getting Google accessible to these pages, it opens up new traffic avenues in a pretty insane way. To be honest, we just started moving into really opening up a good bit of our facets and kind of getting faceted navigation right, and it’s incredible the traffic that starts coming in when you just open up these insanely specific facets. It surprised me at first, actually. And then the last thing I have here is this is more of a minor one, but it’s continuously finding and fixing bugs. I don’t think there’s enough focus on work that was already deployed a year ago or two years ago and keeping up with that work. I think sites across the Internet lose an absorbent amount of traffic from things that have been deployed a year or more in the past. Maybe you’re not keeping up the code or something deploys and just minor changes in a specific section of site. Let’s say something’s deployed and it takes the title tag off of this very small section of product pages or takes the H1 and changes it to an H2 on some of your main pages. These little fixes and letting them actually stay broken for longer periods of time drastically and negatively affect sites. So I think making sure that you have an incredibly acute pulse on your site and know when things break, know when things change, is pivotal to keeping the ground that you’ve already made from all the changes you’ve actually made on the site.

[00:20:24] Alexis: So do use any specific tools to keep up with that? Something like, you know, like a Little Warden or Uptime Robot type of thing?

[00:20:32] Steve: Can you repeat that when you just broke out a little bit, sorry.

[00:20:34] Alexis: Yeah, definitely. So I know that one of my favorite tools is Uptime Robot to make sure that the site is live and the robots.txt is live. So you have a crawler that pings your site every few minutes or so and checks to see if every, it’s returning a 200 status code. But then there’s another tool that’s really popular, too, that I’m really interested in called Little Warden.

[00:20:57] Steve: Wow, never heard of one.

[00:20:59] Alexis: Yeah, and basically you set it up to cross certain pages on your site and make sure that I think there’s like thirty SEO elements, that it’s canonical tag is the same, that you know nothing has broken or anything along those lines, because I know that that’s like a huge problem that we have as well where changes will be pushed live on a certain part of the site and you won’t be aware of it until you look at your performance the next month and you’re like, oh, gosh, something’s wrong, and then you go in proactively identify what that is, but at the same time, you still suffer the consequences of having done something wrong.

[00:21:31] Steve: Exactly. It’s not just making the fixes, it’s really making the fixes as immediate as possible, is really the pivotal part there.

[00:22:42] Alexis: And I’m curious too, how do you balance, and how to your developers balance the need for a strong user experience with speed? Because speed is part of that user experience. But at the same time, the more JavaScript, the heavier sites get, the more image heavy and visual, that tends to add on more weight to the site. So how, have you seen anything that you guys have done? Or in the industry that has helped balance those two?

[00:23:06] Steve: That’s a really tough problem. We do, luckily have, I’ve been having the past put audits out there, and had some developers dedicate a large portion of their time towards site speed and actually getting pages smaller and more minified for some of the pieces of code. So we do have some focus there, I think one of the easiest solutions, of course, it’s not an easy solution, but one of the more straightforward solution is getting a little bit more into lazy loading content. And, there’s a huge opportunity, especially for eCommerce sites that, like, for instance, ours that’s downloading thirty products on product page, product display pages. Or just we have videos that are happening below the fold on our home page. So specific pieces of content all over your site can be lazy loaded and it drastically takes the weight off the page. I mean, you can only imagine, let’s say we have 30 products on a product page, but only six are above the fold, you now have to download 24 products at the initial load. It drastically reduces the pace speed. Lazy loading, I would say, is kind of one of the bigger factors to tackle if you really want to shave off a good bit of time on a page.

[00:24:18] Alexis: Definitely. And are you worried about Google being able to crawl that content?

[00:24:23] Steve: No, not for the most part, the way we have it set up and the way Google’s kind of put it out there and made it accessible to understand if they are reading that lazy loaded information or not, there’s a couple documents that Google’s came out with. I think was the puppeteer. You can run, but you can see if Google was actually seeing your lazy loaded content. So there’s definitely documentation out there that, if you give it to a developer they’ll be able to run a few tests that kind of ensure that Google’s seeing everything that they should be seeing on your page. So we don’t have too much of a worry with Google passing up our products or anything like that, that’s lazy loaded throughout our site.

[00:25:03] Alexis: sweet. Yeah, okay, so do you believe the relationship between SEO and eCommerce sites has changed over the last five years?

[00:25:14] Steve: I would have to say yes, in a simple fact, that for me I worked in the agency life for about three years, and I didn’t really get to intertwine with that relationship between the developers. But now, just being at REI for these seven months and hearing about the past conversations that have been had at REI, and these conversations that are now happening at REI, I think these relationships are drastically changing. It’s not, it’s not looked at, as at least for a mature organization that’s really has built this relationship up, it’s getting across the fact that developers and SEOs should not be a segregated division. That is a one team moving forward mentality that really brings success upon a department. When developers started understanding that SEOs are not (if you have a good SEO team at least) we’re not making changes just to improve SEO and just to get their bottom line up, you have to start realizing that everyone has the same goal of more traffic and more time on site. So you have to start realizing that the developers are making the exact same moves as the SEO team in a sense of everyone’s working for the same goal. So there’s not much segregation anymore between the departments, and it’s, it really comes down to developers starting to realize that the work that I’m doing affects SEO and SEO’s start really realizing that the work that they’re doing affects developers and developers don’t like when they’re code is changed. They don’t like when they have people coming in and just blowing up everything they’ve worked on. So you really, as an SEO, you have to step back and start realizing that this is their piece of work, this is their body of work, and they’ve put a ton of time and effort into this, and you have to come in with the with the face and the hat that we’re not trying to explode the work that you’ve done, we’re just trying to enhance it and make the customer’s experience as good as possible. So really coming in with: we understand the work that you’ve done, we understand where you’ve come from, I think is the big change over from where it used to be, where you were just kind of throw work over the fence and say, change this on your page.

[00:27:33] Alexis: Definitely. Okay, that was awesome. Changing gears a little bit. What do you think are the top challenges large eCommerce sites face today?

[00:27:42] Steve: So, I would say first and foremost, it’s building a full ecosystem that inner links itself. What I mean by that is, for REI as another example, we have eight different sites, and a large eCommerce site has a bunch of different avenues that customers are going to be coming into. So for REI customers might be coming into expert advice, they might be coming into the co-op Journal, they might be coming into a product page. We have to realize and understand that when a customer comes into this specific avenue, we still need to provide them the entire site experience. And it’s incredibly difficult. And I’m not saying this in a sense that REI has this figured out. I think that it’s kind of an ongoing project. How can we better connect the customer to the entire site at any time. But once a site gets over that fact and really understands and moves toward connecting a user to the entire piece of content on expert advice when they’re on a product page and so on and so forth, it’s a big unlock for them, I think. It’s a huge and a difficult problem, but that is definitely one of the focuses that REI has to kind of make a full ecosystem. I really do think the search engines, Google specifically, takes into fact that when the site has a full ecosystem and a great customer experience, that kind of inner links the entire site so I think huge there. And the second thing would be findability, so like we were talking about before, really digging in the log files and making sure that Google is actually finding all of your pages. I know that sounds obvious and kind of redundant, but there’s times where I’ve found that a product page just isn’t getting viewed by Google, or one of our main category pages wasn’t crawled by Google in the past week, and you start to dig into these and realize that maybe the setup of my site isn’t as advantageous as I thought it was for the search engines to come to our site. So even though a customer from our site can navigate around perfectly or can understand the layout of our site very easily because they see it all, that does not mean that Google and these search engines are having the same and similar and easy experience, understanding and kind of getting through our entire site.

[00:30:10] Alexis: Nice. It’s almost like the devil’s in the details.

[00:30:13] Steve: The devil is in the details. That’s a great way to put it, I’ll bring that up to my team.

[00:30:19] Alexis: Thanks. It’s only your words.(lol)

[00:30:20] Steve: You know, say it’s getting it to speed. I know we can talk about a site speed, probably for the rest of the time here, but it’s pivotal. I mean, there’s been, it’s evident now that decreasing your site speed just means more customers are staying on a site longer or enjoying the experience more. Google’s come out with a study, Amazon has a study on that they lose X amount of dollars for a site being milliseconds faster, and it’s crucial. I mean shaving off a millisecond or here or there in a second here or there really does drastically improve the business as a whole. You can make all the SEO changes, but if people simply are not getting that above-the-fold content in the right period of time, it really doesn’t matter what SEO work you’ve done in the past. People are not going to stay on your site because of speed specifically. So overcoming that and really understanding that the customer needs a fast site on both mobile and desktop is, it’s crucial.

[00:31:22] Alexis: Definitely, definitely. Well, thanks for sharing all of those tips with us. That was awesome. I think everyone’s really going respond really well to that. So thank you so much. Okay, so closing out, for the closing question today, I’ve been asking everybody that comes on the podcast, this question and I’m really excited to hear what you have to say. But what are three nuggets of advice for an SEO working in eCommerce (and let’s just go for it) in technical SEO eCommerce. And this could be anything that could be interpersonal, site related or something that you found useful.

[00:31:56] Steve: Yeah, so I would say the first big thing for any SEO is understanding your organization, the structure, the people that are in it. So make those relationships first, make those relationship strong, and then start finding a way to make SEO digestible for all of those departments. SEO is not, as we all know, the people are going to listen to this understand that it’s not something you just learn overnight and completely understand the whole ecosphere of SEO. It’s something that you have to practice and keep learning and keep understanding. And so I would say a huge and pivotal breakthrough is when an SEO can make a developer and a person in the creative team and a person on the content team understand SEO in a similar way. So getting SEO to be understood in one way across the entire organization, it’s going move projects faster, it’s going to, not only that, but it’s going to actually make people want to work with the SEO team, and that’s what we’re all kind of striving for, is to get developers reaching out to us about SEO. So I’m saying that’s the first big thing. Build those relationships and make SEO digestible for the people that you’re talking to. The second thing is going to be automate everything as much as you can, make your life easier. All the things. Ah, whether it’s reporting whether it’s site monitoring. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on the same reporting every single week on the same site monitoring every week, and just getting back that five or eight hours a week of time is absolutely incredible. I can’t even imagine not having that time now. So automate if you want to check for canonical tags, or so every time you don’t have to check the code when something deploys because you already have tests set up to catch those kind of things. It just, it saves time and actually in an exponential way, when you really have all that set up. And then the last one I would say, push your team, push your SEO team to be proactive and kind of find and understand where Google’s going, they give, I mean, I know they don’t give us much, but they do give us hints of where the search is going of where their minds are kind of going. Keep close to the algorithm updates because it’s going to start telling you that, okay like for instance, mobile–, when it came out, people started recognizing that, let’s get a mobile friendly site, I wonder what that means. And then all the sudden the mobile first indexing roll rolled out. Some sites were ready for that, and some lagged behind. So we need keep a close eye on Google, what they’re doing and how they’re acting to really predict where you want to take your site, whether it’s going to be voice search or whether it’s going to be whatever is the next thing for Google. Just keep a close ear to everything they’re working on, whether it be their patents that they’re coming out or the new work that their team just picked up. Just keep it really close ear to all the news that’s coming out of that organization.

[00:35:08] Alexis: Awesome. So educate, automate and keep an ear to the ground. I love it. Thank you so much for coming on SEO in the lab today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here. Super cool.

[00:35:21] Steve: I appreciate you having me on this, Alexis. It’s going to be a fantastic thing for the community to have another outlet of awesome information. So thank you.

[00:35:30] Alexis: Yeah, thanks so much. All right. Signing off, ciao.

The post 7. Interview w/ Steve Valenza, REI appeared first on TechnicalSEO.com.

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