At Pubcon, Las Vegas, we met up with Barry Adams from Polemic Digital and asked him a few questions about where he thinks SEO is headed. He provided some great tips for young SEO’s and what people should be focusing on in 2018. 

Anthony: “What skills should young people focus on when getting into the SEO game?”

Barry: “It’s really hard you know, because SEO isn’t really taught as a course anywhere – at least as far as I know. I think there are a few universities starting to do it now.

For me, I think if you want to become good at SEO, you need to understand how the web works and have a bit of a marketing brain on you and that’s two very different skill sets you don’t see combined very often.

I tend to advise people to go for a marketing degree, because that’s the sort of skill set that never goes out of fashion, but also have a hobby project on the side, like a website for yourself, or if you like your fashion stuff or if you like sports, whatever it is, build your own website, build your own blog, try to make that successful and apply some SEO skills to that.

Nothing really beats hands on experience with that stuff, you know. You can read all the blog posts you want; all the theory that you want; but unless you actually start doing this and seeing the results, that is the best way to learn it, in my opinion.”

Anthony: “How much of a role do you think AI and virtual assistants will be playing in SEO?

Barry: “I think it’s going to be really, really big. I see that as one of the major paradigm shifts in SEO in general, especially with voice assistance and the way conversational search is going to become part of everyday life.

I don’t think it’ll cannibalise desktop and mobile search that much, but I think it’s gonna be similar to what you saw with mobile and desktop, in that desktop will drop a little but then sort of steady off.

I think we still see a bit of a cannibalisations to mobile search with the voice assistant, but then voice is going to be used in scenarios where we’re not looking at a screen, we’re not using mobile or not using laptops. So it’ll be adding on to the existing search already.

You will still need to optimise for desktop and mobile search, but then voice search becomes an extra layer of technology you have to make sure your website is ready for and your content can be used for.”

Anthony: “How much competition do you think Google will be getting from platforms like Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft in the near future?

Barry: “I think what Microsoft did, partnering with Amazon, with the Alexa system, was really clever, because that creates a power block that can actually compete with Google.

Google is so big you have to have multiple companies competing with Google at the same time. If you do it one on one, no matter how big you are, you’re probably going to lose out. So, for Microsoft and Amazon to combine forces was really really smart, and I do think they have a chance at beating Google in the voice search game especially, because with Amazon you have that direct channel to e-commerce, and then Bing as a search engine for pretty much everything else.

Google doesn’t quite have that direct link to e-commerce yet. They have the search engine, they have the knowledge of answers that people want from voice assistance, but not that commercial function that Amazon can offer. So I think that’s going to be very interesting.

I don’t see Facebook playing that much of a role in it, because they’re not really going all in on the voice assistance, but then you know, their user base is over 1.2 billion people, they don’t really need to since they own half the web anyway.”

Anthony: “What have you found to be the biggest issue in the SEO industry?

Barry: “I think a lot of people jump on bandwagons and follow hype a bit too often and SEOs give advice about things that we don’t really understand.

Voice search has been one of them and nobody has really cracked that yet because the technology is so fresh and everybody thinks, “Oh yeah, you need to do this and that”, but the thing is we’re not really sure how search engines do that yet because search engines themselves aren’t really telling us much, and how they optimise for voice search.

So that sort of bandwagon jumping I’m not really a fan of, I think you have to know your stuff and know where your strengths and weaknesses are as a provider of SEO services.

For me for example, I do certain things really really well, and then I don’t do other things as I try not to be that one size fits all service provider – I focus on what I’m good at and send people to other companies that I trust in areas that I’m not good at. And I think that’s where the SEO industry often falls short in that we don’t want to send clients away; we want to keep them, even if we know we can’t necessarily do it at the level that is acquired we make it up as we go along and I think that’s hurting the SEO industry’s reputation in the long run.”

Anthony: “What is your top tip in digital marketing for 2018?

Barry: “Voice search is going to be big, and looking at how to actually optimise properly for that. Just keep an eye on technology in general and like I said don’t jump on the band wagons but keep an eye on what’s happening and be ready to adjust when necessary, which has always been the case in SEO.”

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