Anthony Lavall is VP SEO in Croud’s US office. We spent five minutes with Anthony, delving into his experience to date, why he loves SEO, and discussing his digital marketing predictions for the rest of the year.
How long have you been working in SEO?
I first began working with SEO solutions in Sydney in 2008, selling directory listings for one of Reed Elsevier’s many sub-sub divisions which were monopolizing on the SEO goldrush at the time. We charged thousands of dollars for clients to appear on URLs optimized for terms relevant to the architecture and construction sector. Directories like this were all killed by Google Panda in Feb 2011 and their business pivoted almost overnight but for many years it was a model that worked incredibly well. It was this experience that had me asking why one page appears higher than another and my passion for SEO was born.
I started working on my first SEO accounts at my first agency in Leicester in 2012 and that’s when I realized how much easier the directory listing model was rather than doing actual SEO for websites. I’d take calls from Mom and Pop clients on weekends asking why their website wasn’t flooded with enquiries within a month (with an avg. $500 per month spend). It was a great learning curve and a baptism of fire for agency experience but I’d take what I do today over that 100 times out of 100. Enterprise SEO means those client calls are now much more manageable (and usually confined to office hours too).
Seven years and two cities later, I’m now in New York where I’ve worked for the likes of Verizon, ZocDoc, and Conde Nast to name a few. Now at Croud, I work with a broad range of clients, including CEMEX, TickPick and Forex.com. I’ve worked in SEO across three continents and four cities and I’m incredibly grateful for that experience.
Biggest challenges facing SEO
So many… but so many opportunities too. The biggest one right now is likely the trend of increased clicks to paid search results – Google are getting much better at making users more comfortable clicking ads, and with 86% of their revenue coming from those ad clicks, this trend will very likely increase. It’s not just the clicks though; shopping, careers, flights… there are hundreds of ways that Google are bidding to become the POS rather than the facilitator in Search.
Another challenge for SEO is as old as the industry itself; trust. If someone asked me today to do SEO for $500 per month (which I used to do seven years ago), depending on the site but assuming it’s as small as the budget, it would be very tough to formulate a rewarding strategy. There are still a lot of businesses profiting off this size of budget though – typically those with relatively low-quality link building campaigns. Some of these are still effective but usually not in the long term. To be effective long term you have to be a great brand; great product, great company, be doing great work. Brands that check all three are few and far between but everyone wants SEO. Everyone knows being at “the top” of Google is key to business success. However, not everyone can achieve it.
SEO is such a catch-all and there are so many facets to it. It’s incredibly complex and requires numerous skill-sets, tools and large budgets, in order to do it well. Everything can’t be done at once and I’d like to see agencies being more specialist in their offerings to provide more focus to clients; content, structured data, progressive web apps, mobile, voice search, ASO etc. There is much more to SEO than the brevity of the initials imply. Google’s I/O event provides more specialism inspiration each year, you can read my round up of this year’s event here.
What is key for the future of SEO?
This encompasses many facets but is the most important word describing what websites need to achieve with Google, in order to see organic traffic performance. This includes:
- Trust in quality and authenticity of backlinks to your site
- Trust in the ability to simply and quickly crawl only relevant pages from your site
- Trust in content and content comprehension via structured data
- Trust in the desire to deliver great multi-device experiences to Google searchers
- Trust in content format to be servable via Google Assistant or voice search
- Trust that your website will always be running and has no downtime
It’s all about trust.
SEO & Content
One of my favorite topics. I’ve long been adamant that plugging keyword gaps with rich content is the most simple and effective SEO tactic for the majority (not all) of websites.
We’ve developed a proposition at Croud that incorporates data from multiple sources to achieve a data driven approach to content creation at scale. For an SEO agency, it’s much easier to say, “you could build a page about the NFC features of your smartphone because you don’t have one” than it is to say, “here are the top 100 keyword topics and subsequent new or existing page optimizations that will drive the quickest ROI based on your investment with us”. The latter requires data from a number of sources and a myriad of calculations but it really is the only way to show exactly which keyword groups have the highest possible ROI (based on metrics like CPC, search volume, and AdWord data) but the lowest difficulty (hence the biggest opportunity).
Aside from SEO, what are you passionate about?
Aside from all the clichés that might typically be associated with answers to this question, I can certainly say that I am happy to be able to do something for a living which I truly enjoy. I think web design is an aspect of digital I enjoy the most. Making code work that you’ve previously struggled with is a truly rewarding experience.
I also enjoy championing progressive initiatives aimed at making the world a better place; vegetarianism, recycling, and unifying consumer power to make more ethical purchasing choices are some of the things that I am particularly interested in. I love the idea of combining these with digital marketing and I expect we will see more businesses embracing this movement over the next five years and beyond. Especially as the younger generation continually demonstrate their enthusiasm for progressive and ecological matters.
To speak to Anthony or to the SEO team in more detail, contact us.