A few episodes ago, we had Michael King from iPullRank come on and talk about SEO for eCommerce and why SEO matters even on in our Amazon addicted world.
With a pending global recession, it’s possible that SEO matters even more now than ever, because it’s potentially a less expensive way to generate long term traffic and revenue. Today, Lily Ray provides us some next level SEO tips so we can maximize our organic search value and hopefully optimize the value of our business prior to an exit.
Lily Ray is a drummer, DJ, fitness guru, and expert in SEO at Amsive Digital.
Today’s episode of Deal Closers is hosted by Izach Porter, brought to you by WebsiteClosers.com, and is produced by Earfluence.
Lily Ray: the focus should be less on like how many links can we get? You know, let’s get as many as possible and it should just be like, if you just focus on the right things and you build a really strong brand, you’re going to get links organically if you have interest in content,
Izach Porter: All right. You’re listening to the Deal Closers Podcast brought to you by websiteclosers.com. A show about how to build your e-commerce business to be profitable, scalable, and one day even sellable. I’m Izach Porter, and on the show today, we have Lily Ray. She’s a drummer, a DJ, a fitness guru, and an expert in SEO at Amsive Digital. Few episodes ago, we had Michael King from iPullRank come on and talk about SEO for eCommerce and why SEO matters even on in our Amazon addicted world.
With a pending global recession, it’s possible that SEO matters even more now than ever, because it’s potentially a less expensive way to generate long term traffic and revenue. Today, Lily Ray is gonna give us some next level SEO tips so we can maximize our organic search value and hopefully optimize the value of the, our business prior to an exit. Hey Lily, how are you doing?
Lily: Great. Thanks for having me.
Izach: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for being on the show let’s talk about you a little bit first. Which came first, the drumming, the DJing, or, the fitness or the SEO?
Lily: So drumming came first. I started drumming when I was six. And it just kind of like drew me in my, my mother brought me to a drum circle in California and I was hooked ever since. I guess I started doing SEO when I was like 19, 20?
Lily: and then I switched to DJing sort of in New York, cuz it’s much more portable. And fitness I’ve been into since I was like a teenager, so,
Izach: So what’s your current kind of music genre that you’re in? I, I looked up some of your stuff before the show and seemed like it was, you know, kind of like house or EDM.
Lily: Yeah. It’s, technically they call it like melodic house. But I also really like disco. I like down tempo. I like world music a lot, so I try to incorporate a lot of like sounds from around the world, into my music, but I listen to all kinds of things. Love jazz as well.
Izach: So look, some of our listeners are concerned about a pending global recession, kind of economic downturn, some of the macroeconomic forces that are going on. Do you feel like SEO is still a good investment for a small eCommerce business, even though the results maybe are not guaranteed or take, take longer to kind of pay off?
Lily: I mean for the second reason alone, I think it is a good investment because like, it’s something that compounds over time. You know, like I’ve worked on sites where I did a lot of the work, like seven years ago and the, the sites are getting more traffic and visibility than ever, now, without having like tweaked much in the interim.
So I always encourage people to like, yes, absolutely invest in SEO, try to make it a long-term thing. Because it is like, you know, we’ve, we’ve gone through all these different economic situations ever since I’ve been working in SEO and like, it kind of feels recession proof in a way, like this channel because people are always searching.
People always, you know, they always use Google. They always need to shop for things online. And it’s really important to be front and center because if you’re not continually focusing on it and investing in it, it’s your, your competition is so yeah.
Izach: So let’s talk about google a little bit. T think in, in my business, I talk with eCommerce founders and owners every day. Over the last year, we’ve seen a big pullback off Facebook advertising after the, iOS, 14 update to 15, and a, a big increase in spending on, on Google, AdWords as well as, you know, other platforms like TikTok. I think there’s a, a trend to diversify paid search, but relative to organic search, Google has I think something called EAT, an acronym called EAT. Like, what is that? How does that work? Like how does somebody, who’s not an SEO expert think about that and use it?
Lily: Luckily, once you get an understanding of what it means, it’s pretty fundamental, like best practices, like marketing best practices., but yeah, Google created this acronym called the EAT I wanna say, in 2014, and it stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, and it’s something that they have throughout a lot of their different quality guidelines in terms of how Google defines good content quality.
So really what it means is they’re looking for content that comes from people who have real expertise, you know, comes from like real authorities. And that these sites and these content producers are credible and trustworthy to be able to provide this information to the public. And this matters a lot more depending on the type of topic or, or search query that it is.
So if somebody’s searching for like heart attack or investment funds or like things that actually have a consequential impact on people’s health and their safety and their finances, their wellbeing EAT matters a lot. But it’s very like nebulous, it’s, it’s not something that Google has specifically told webmasters exactly how to optimize for it.
Izach: Gotcha, so what’s the best way to go about starting to build that authority, if you’ve got a site or a brand or a service that, that you’re trying to, to market and build traffic?
Lily: Yeah. I mean, if you think about Google’s goals here, it’s really to ensure that their searchers have a good experience searching online, that they feel that they’re getting high quality, trustworthy information. And that, of course, if they are making important life decisions on Google, they’re getting good information to like guide them properly through that decision making process. So everything you can do as a business owner to demonstrate to the user that you can be trusted.
So Google encourages sites to list like who works there, what is the leadership team? What is the about us page? You know, who are the authors that contribute to the content? Why are they qualified? And if you’re eCommerce, anything you can do to make the user feel safe and secure in making a purchase with you, so like your return policy, you know, third party reviews, all those things can contribute towards your EAT.
Izach: You gave a talk in London recently called the five examples of how Google is getting smarter and how you should respond. Can you just give us a couple of those examples and some, some of the tips maybe that you shared with your audience?
Lily: One that comes to mind that’s related to EAT is that I believe, and again, this is just my belief. based on what I’ve seen in my research, but I think that Google is getting better at algorithmically identifying when somebody is an expert, and that’s not just because they put, this is my name and I’m an expert.
Like that’s easy to do, a lot of people can do that. A lot of people are faking that. Like, it’s not just about that. It’s about the language itself. So Google has natural language processing capabilities to understand if a piece of content or, you know, an article or a whatever the case may be, they can analyze that content and say, this was written by somebody who has demonstrated expertise in that area because of the language itself, because of what the page says.
So there’s been a couple of big updates in the last year, namely the product review update. That was three different updates from Google that elevated the visibility of authors and, and website contributors who review products, based on whether Google thinks that they’ve legitimately spent time with those products, tested those products and, and are providing real expertise through those tests that they’ve done, as opposed to somebody who’s maybe just writing product review content, who hasn’t actually done the work of reviewing the products.
So I think that’s something that they’re trying to do across the board is understand who the real experts are and elevate that content. Another exciting one, that’s not exactly related, but I think is interesting and worth paying attention to is what Google’s doing with Google lens and multi search. Are you familiar with, with multi search?
Izach: N no, I, I I’ve heard the term, but really not.
Lily: Yeah, not a lot of people are. It’s pretty new. So Google lens, first of all, is, a feature that they have on, on Google devices on Android, Android devices, you can even get it through your iPhone and you can basically just take a picture of something, and Google’s, you know, technology is able to identify what that object is.
And more specifically, if it’s like a shirt or shoes, like they can understand exactly which brand that is and model and everything like that, just from the image recognition alone. So now with multi-search, it enables you through Google lens to basically like take a picture of something and then modify that picture with a different search query.
So you can say like, you can take a picture of a car and then type the word cost and the, through the image recognition, it’s gonna understand which make and model of that car it is. And then because you type the word cost, it’s going to pull up results that basically combine that make and model plus the word cost and show you those results.
So that’s like one of the biggest updates, I think, to how we can search like our ability to search for things. But very few people know about it yet, but it’s very exciting.
Izach: I don’t know if I got it really, to be honest. So just help me explain it maybe in a, like a, like a plain English example of like, how that plays into a website. So you’re, you’re, they’re searching the image and combining that with the, with the words, that’s the, what’s new?
Lily: Yeah. It’s more about how the searcher is getting information, right? So it’s not like the webmaster has to necessarily do anything different, but it enables Google to say, like, if you’re walking down the street and you really like somebody’s purse, right. You could take a picture of their purse and through Google lens, Google’s going to say, we know exactly which purse that is. Like, it’s gonna pull up a bunch of pictures of like, this is the Coach, blah, blah, blah bag.
Then you can actually modify it by saying like where to buy or, you know, green or something. And if Google knows that purse comes in green, or if Google knows where you can buy that purse, it’s going to serve you the results that match the image with the, the text.
Izach: Okay. All right. So that’s, that’s really a change in the user behavior of how the search starts, starting with an image?
Lily: Yeah. I mean the biggest problem I think Google has right now is that very few people, including search engine optimization, people like even know this exists. So when I spoke in London, I was like, has anybody tried multi search? And it was like, crickets. I was like, so Google needs to do a little bit more marketing that this exists.
But for me, like, so I was actually in Italy and I was standing on the mountain and I saw this really beautiful, like castle in the distance with a restaurant on it. And I was like, I wanna eat there. So I took a picture of the castle. And I typed restaurant and it was like, boom, that’s the name of the castle, this is how you get to it. It was like, this is amazing,
Izach: That is freaking cool. I, I’m going to Spain next week. I’m totally doing that.
Lily: You should use it
Izach: Yeah. And then I’ll start posting about it and spread the word. So look, one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is what’s changing in, in the eCommerce space. You know, what are, what are some trends that you’re seeing right now relative to, to search and, and kind of the, the world as with the lens as you look through it?
Lily: So I wrote an article earlier this year and it’s definitely something that our industry is talking about a lot, which is the fact that Google’s clearly taking a lot of big steps as a business to compete more with Amazon. It’s pretty clear why that’s happening, Amazon’s cutting into their market share and the advertising space in a really big way. That’s been growing a lot over time. You know, a lot of people start their product searches directly on Amazon. I believe it’s like 75% of searchers at this point and that
Izach: I’ve heard that also.
Lily: Yeah. So that’s a huge threat to Google’s bottom line, cuz that’s how they make money. Transactional keywords and, and the ads that they, they generate.
very clear to those of us that are like paying attention to the search landscape on Google, that it’s becoming a lot more Amazon, like in different ways. They’re really encouraging merchants to use the merchant center and to set up, you know, product feeds and to have their products listed on Google shopping.
And there’s becoming more of this blend between what they’re doing with, like paid ads in the Google shopping space and organic. Like now it’s free to enter into Google ads or Google shopping, rather, for example. So they’re really just trying to encourage both merchants and shoppers alike to like start their product searches and list their products in Google’s shopping environment. And there’s a lot of different bells and whistles that they’ve added to the search results to kind of push searchers in that direction of buying directly on Google.
Izach: Interesting. So what opportunities does that create for, for a brand? Should you know, are you seeing brands kind of in kind of pursue multi-channel distribution strategies where they’re on Amazon and Google more often? Of course that’s a trend in the industry anyway, but, you know, do you think that that, that modification of kind of driving people towards Google shopping is, is further, further driving that?
Lily: Yeah. I mean, you know, my team and I primarily focus on the organic side. So for us, the biggest change was that, you know, in 2021, Google made it free to list products in Google shopping. So it used to be pay to play, and now, like if you have free listings, they can theoretically show up there organically. But I know that Google’s making it a more appealing. Marketplace for merchants to list their products there. So there’s some, like loyalty programs that they’re rolling out. Google has different capabilities that Amazon couldn’t compete with currently.
So for example, like, another big update that Google had is that if you search for a specific product, Google can combine it google shopping functionality with Google maps. And it can say, we know that, you know, the, the Nordstrom down the street has this product in stock. Amazon can’t compete with that. Amazon doesn’t have Amazon maps. So I think what Google’s doing is trying to find all these innovative ways to make it more appealing, to list your products on Google, but in terms of how people have responded. I know like our agency, any e-commerce client is using Google shopping feeds for sure, but they’re also probably doing a lot on Amazon. So I can’t speak to how that’s changed over the past few.
Izach: gotcha. So, you know, Website Closers, we’re listing a new company for sale every day. We’re closing on businesses that have been purchased almost every day. And I think one of the big topics that comes up is around due diligence during the closing process. So, you know, if, if you were to be hired by someone looking to buy an e-commerce, you know, let’s say be hired by one of our clients who is a, who is a buyer, what would you be looking for to determine if that website or that brand has long term SEO potential?
Lily: So there’s a number of things you can look at. You can look at like what the history of the site is from an SEO perspective. So if it’s currently, you know, ranking for anything, for example, if you’re able to get like access to search console, you can see if there’s ever like any outstanding manual actions or anything like that.
Like if the site’s ever gotten in trouble with Google, for violating any of its guidelines. Look at the back links for sure. Back links are kind of the currency of SEO for better or for worse. So, you know, you wanna use a tool like Semrush or ahrefs or something, and just see what links are pointing to that site.
The name itself is important. You know, there’s kind of a debate in the SEO space about how much this matters, but I think that the, the domain name itself is pretty important.
Izach: You’re talking about maybe like exact match domain name for the product or, yeah.
Lily: Yeah. There’s a lot of debate about how much that still matters, but there’s definitely many examples we’re having the keyword in the domain is helpful and, you know, having it be something that’s easy to type of course. But yeah, I would probably mostly focus on the links and make sure that the links are not spammy, not anything that goes against Google’s guidelines and also something that makes sense for the business, you want them to be in the same kind of niche, topically as what you’d be launching the site about going.
Izach: Yeah. You know, my, my personal view is that SEO is gonna become increasingly more important and valuable in the sale process, in the exit process we’ve had, I think Facebook made it easy for a long time to get low-cost return on ad spend. That’s, you know, I think people have realized how quickly a, a channel like that can change really through an outside influence, you know, and recently with the, with that Apple update. Amazon changes their PPC terms.
That that world changes a lot. Driving organic traffic and having, having strong organic search, it takes longer to build, but I think it’s much more stable over the long term. And so that provides value because really what, what a buyer of a business, really, any business, whether it’s e-commerce business or brick and mortar wants is predictability of the cash flow that they’re buying.
And so I think as people kind of realize that companies with strong organic search characteristics are more stable, have more stable revenues over time, then that, that should drive valuations. And I think that to, to some extent that’s already been the, the case, but I think it’s gonna become more and more prominent in, in that exit process.
And so I I’m really interested and we’ve done a couple of these podcasts on, on SEO because I’m really interested in ways that our clients can. You know, clients who are a year or more away from, from exiting their business, how they can start to develop this potential. And then, and then how, start to develop SEO potential for their business.
And then how buyers of, of the companies that we’re selling can start to build on, build up organic search traffic to their, to their sites. And so, it’s very complicated. Like a lot of, a lot of the eCommerce business owners that, maybe have, have a single brand or are, are kind of self-taught have figured out paid search, but very few in, in my experience have figured out SEO.
And so like, what are some of the, what’s the lowest hanging fruit? Like if you, if you, if you know nothing about this, should somebody come and hire you or, or can they, are there certain things you can do just to create a foundation and a little bit of structure that will make it easier when you do hire an SEO expert?
Lily: Yeah, it’s, it’s tricky because, there’s so much misinformation in our industry, so it makes it really hard for somebody on the outside to like, oh, I’m gonna learn SEO today, you know? And like, just try to get the fundamentals because you have to make sure that you’re learning from the right places. And I’m always happy to like guide people into what some good places are, but that’s one problem is there’s kind of a lot of snake oil, which really sucks because there’s those of us that are like doing good work and trying to do the right things. And there’s a lot of people that are trying to take shortcuts. And the problem with the shortcuts is that they can get you in trouble with Google, and it’s very hard to fix those problems when you encounter those problems.
Izach: So what’s, what’s a shortcut?
Lily: Yeah. So a good place to start is to read Google’s quality guidelines and like what violations of their quality guidelines are because the biggest one is link building. So there’s this whole of link building in the SEO space. Because as I said before, links are basically currency. A good, authentic, valuable link from a, a big publication like if the New York Times links to your site, that’s worth, that’s like a gold mine for SEO.
Problem is there’s a lot of people buying and selling shady links because they think this still works. In some cases it does, but not for long. So you wanna like evaluate if your site has those types of problems or has every type of problems because you have to reconcile that to be in good standing with Google.
So I would, I would encourage people to read through quality guidelines just to get an understanding of that, but I would say, yeah, it’s a good idea to hire an SEO. You know, it doesn’t have to be the best SEO in the world, but like you should ask them about these things like, hey, like, do you, do you employ any tactics that violate Google’s quality guidelines? what is your approach to SEO? And they should basically say something along the lines of like very focused on content quality and very focused on adhering to best practices that are laid out by Google, because the shortcuts can just like destroy your business and that’s we don’t want that
Izach: Yeah, it could be a big liability.
Izach: is there such a thing as SEO due diligence, you know, have you ever considered performing due diligence services for a buyer of a, of an, of an eCommerce company before they did the acquisition?
Lily: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely a thing. It’s absolutely a thing. And you know, we, we’ve dealt with sites as well that come to us. Having been burned like five times by different companies.
Lily: and they come to us and we’re like, oh geez, that’s bad. You know, we get a lot of that because like, we’re kind of at like, at this point, like the upper echelon of SEO agencies. So when people are ready to like do the real thing, they come to us, like, we, we can’t do this, the shortcuts anymore.
Izach: Right, right. So I’m, I’m sure it’s kind of you, I get what you pay for kind of, kind of thing, but. Just even in my limited experience with SEO, I’ve talked with a number of SEO experts and it does seem, I, I, it seems like there are just a lot of opinions in, even in the conversations I’ve had, I’ve heard different opinions about different topics. So like how about link dilution? What, what is that a, is that a real thing? If can you have too many links that, that dilute the effectiveness of how Google’s gonna, rank your search.
Lily: Yeah, these are like, honestly, like these types of concepts are like I, so Google had this big update in, I wanna say 2012 called the penguin update. And that’s when a lot of these link building tactic theories and ideas about link dilution, all this stuff, they kind of ended it honestly, like there’s still many, many people that build links.
At this point, like the focus should be less on like how many links can we get? You know, let’s get as many as possible and it should just be like, if you just focus on the right things and you build a really strong brand, really good content, and of course you should have some level of PR, some level of like getting the content out there, do social media marketing, do all these things.
You’re going to get links organically if you have interest in content, if you’re doing good research, like the, the strategy that my team and I use. And beyond that, we’re not analyzing like, is it too many from this site or this site? Like, maybe you have a target for like, oh, we wanna get a link from entrepreneur.com cuz it’s very relevant to our business. So maybe there’s like some calls that you can make to try to get a link from that site or whatever.
But generally speaking, we try to just use the approach of like good content first, do some PR, you know, do some, maybe some outreach or just some kind of marketing around your content and the links will come organically beyond that, don’t really scrutinize things like dilution or anything like that.
Izach: Don’t, don’t take the, the shortcuts do, do the good work and, and so to build organic search, you have to build it organic.
Lily: Yeah. And like you said, there’s a lot of different opinions. So you’re talking to one of the most what we call white hat SEOs in the space, in the sense that I echo what Google says to do and not every SEO has that philosophy. There’s many SEOs think taking shortcuts is more effective. Because maybe they get faster results.
I deal with sites that have done those multiple times and gotten in trouble and then they wanna do the right thing. So we have different philosophies, but I’ve been doing this a long time. And I like to think that this is a better long-term approach.
Izach: Yeah, well, I’m, I’m sure it is long. Term’s got to be right. Yeah. And, and we certainly see lot of different websites that have, you know, various levels of kind of gray hat tactics that can add risk to the transactions. For sure.
So, Lily, what’s the, what’s the best way for our listeners to connect with you and, you know, how would you go about doing that?
Lily: Yeah, I think Twitter is my main go-to place at this point. So it’s lilyraynyc. My, my DMS are open for better for worse. Other than that, like LinkedIn is fine or you can just Google me. There’s plenty of places to get in contact.
Izach: That was Lily Ray from Amsive Digital. You can find her at amsivedigital.com. You can also connect with her, Twitter at lilyraynyc. Thanks everyone for listening to this episode of the deal closers podcast brought to you by website closers.com. If you like the show, be sure to rate us, write a review, press the follow button and share it with your network.
And of course, if you’re looking for help selling your eCommerce business, be sure to visit website closers.com. This episode was edited and produced by Earfluence I’m Izach Porter. Follow me on LinkedIn and we’ll see you next time on the Deal Closers Podcast.