SEO Then and SEO Now with Bonnie Burns @Burnsie_SEO #vcbuzz

SEO Then and SEO Now with Bonnie Burns @Burnsie_SEO #vcbuzzSearch engine optimization is one the most exciting areas of marketing because it is changing so fast. It’s a young industry but boy it’s maturing!

But what exactly has changed and how to adapt? Let’s discuss!

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About @Burnsie_SEO

Bonnie Burns @Burnsie_SEO has over 20 years of experience in in the world of SEO consultation and practice for web sites, blogs,  and social networks.

Read more about Bonnie Burns over at and connect to Bonnie over at Linkedin

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

I have been doing SEO since the time of AOL and that screeching sound of your phone-line hooking up through the computer sent chills down your spine. Heck, back then, SEO wasn’t even a process and didn’t originate till around 1997. We called it…just get me listed on Yahoo.

Everything was easy. find a template, fill it in, add content and pictures. Getting it listed was practically automatic. I was a really competing against, sex sites and water tables for Boston.

I took some classes as web development became more popular to learn more about search engines, (well, ok, Yahoo). The few classes being taught were soon old news as processes and techniques where growing at rapid speeds.

As such, information on SEO was being pushed online and growing. In 2000 I joined my business with a digital marketing company so the full scope of services could be provided for clients. SEO is a team effort of talented people and I couldn’t do it alone.

The important fact over past 20 years, you will always be changing processes. SEO is more complex. But, some of the old techniques still bare true. They are just updated to meet the newest algorithms and digital marketing needs of businesses and users.

And cats, lots of cat videos.

Q2 A few months ago you wrote a great piece called “SEO Then and SEO Now.” Could you give a few takeaways? How has SEO changed over the years? What are the most essential SEO changes?

We use to focus on just keywords and all their variations and permutations. We would end up creating content that didn’t flow well because of the unnatural keyword usage. We became the double stuffed Oreo cookie. But our stuffing was full of keywords… example:

How many SEO experts does it take to change a light bulb, lightbulb, light, bulb, lamp, lighting, switch, light switch, bulbs, light bulbs (ok, old joke)

The focus was on keywords, not on creating an identity that users would remember and relate to. The vision was more short sighted and focused on immediate client acquisition.

SEO Now: Today we focus on establishing a theme. Google needs to understand the overriding theme of your site, so you can rank for a multitude of keywords that are relevant to the theme. We use natural language and don’t worry so much about fitting in every variable keyword.

Clients wanted ranking reports back in the day. Software was available and we could get rankings for all the top search engines. Clients loved it! Thought we were “Gods”. All they cared about was rankings, not conversions.

SEO folks started running these for everyone and anyone, Google hated it. Pinging to Google to get rankings were outrageous.

Google began blocking IP numbers. Lucky me even got blocked from Google, well our entire company. After a few days of groveling, we got back our access. Ranking were then over for us.

Reporting Now: Now we focus on traffic and the quality of that traffic (looking at bounce rate, length of session and pages per session).

Reporting Now:  With personalization, geo-targeting and more, no one really “owns” a specific ranking anymore, so rankings are dated and not effective indicators of success kpi

Technical vs Marketing Then: SEO used to be seen as more of a science than an art. The focus was on the technical manipulation of code and content on the page.

Marketing now plays a very large role in SEO. It’s all about optimizing for the visitor.

We use keywords, long tail keywords, voice keywords that echo the tone and language people use, we create content that compels them and not the engines, we try harder to capture the eye. SEO is an art and it requires a firm grasp of marketing fundamentals.

User Experience Then: There was very little thought to the user experience, when pages were cluttered with keywords and header tags and bolding etc.

User Experience Now: We now understand the importance of the user experience and are constantly optimizing to improve it.

Strategy Then: Strategy was a little short sighted in general. The focus was on what keywords has the most traffic and how many links you could build.

Strategy Now: The focus now is on connecting with the users via content, so a strategic plan to ensure the content on the site, Blog, social all works together and offers real value to readers.

There are so many more components that are part of “SEO” now, so more planning is required to ensure maximum results. From YouTube video optimization and GoogleMyBusiness, Reviews, reputation management and on and on.

Q3 Viral Content Bee is primarily a content marketing platform, so let’s highlight some content-related changes and tactics too. Which content creation and marketing tactics should we totally abandon these days and which ones should we start implementing? Some examples?

With proper research, you’ll know what type of keyword volume and trends are out there, and you can optimize your post or page to capitalize on that research.

You can have the best piece of content in the world, but if the title tag/headline is not engaging, not many people will notice.

What does Google like. Google likes questions/answers to, who, what, where, when, why and how.

And please, do not get me started on software that will auto-generate. I have seen those results and they are not pretty. Clients think they are saving money. Use a human!

As an SEO, I rely on my content writers. I can optimize anything, but if the content sucks, what good is my work and what results will I have to show conversion.

Q4 What’s the future? What are some of the most essential SEO trends that are starting to show right now?

Off top of my head:

  •     A massive shift to mobile.
  •     Voice search.
  •     Featured snippets.
  •     User experience at the forefront.
  •     Optimization for intent.

1 out of 5 searches already comes from voice queries, according to Google. Optimizing your SEO strategy for voice search today is of vital importance.

30% of search queries on Google have instant answers in the form of featured snippets. In SEO terms, it’s the new position #1 This trend is giving rise to new forms of content, such as Q&A content, which is optimized to provide short answers in response to long-tail search.

Here is an article I recommend: How to Optimize Your Content for Google’s Featured Snippet Box

Mobile Search: It’s probably one of the biggest algorithmic changes in Google’s history that might turn page rankings upside down. As a result, SEOs increasingly adopt accelerated mobile pages and optimize the user experience for mobile.

Optimization for intent. SEOs are starting to factor in the intent behind each search query and optimize the content and user experience accordingly. As such, we see a shift from generic content optimization for keywords to more contextual intent-based content optimization.

For keywords with clear buying intent, Google will prioritize e-commerce sites instead of major media outlets even if the latter are more authoritative. That’s because the goal of the searcher is to buy, not to find information.

Conversely, for keywords with the intent to find more information, Google will more likely prioritize highly credible media sites.

Conversational Search and Natural Language. Start thinking about your writing from a conversational perspective. When you’re talking with someone, do you inherently think through keywords, or long-tail phrases? Of course not. Understanding user intent and vocabulary.

So true. But thank goodness there is software that can help you find reputable and related link partners. Saves time form old days of search and find and pray.

Q5 What are your favorite DIY SEO tools?

And never forget: Google Search Console, Google Analytics, GoogleMyBusiness.

Every SEO needs tools. But it is the human eye and SEO real experience that tops every tool. I use them as a guide. And also to make great reports for clients. Look at competitors, get keyword ideas and so on.

Yes. Google data studio is a good one too. So many tools. So little time.

It does save time. And once you try them for free, pick the one you like. Buying them all costs much.

Let me sum up with this: What is SEO? It’s a process that works with a variety of digital marketing components with the end result to improve your visibility in the eyes of those looking for answers and information.

Our previous SEO chats:


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