SEO Interview: Ashley Stuart of SwellPath

Written by: Drew Lyon   Austin, Texas

Posted on: July 9, 2013

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Did we save the best for last? Guess that’s for you to decide (not that it’s a competition or anything). Our Q&A with Ashley Stuart of SwellPath concludes this round of FMC interviews with SEO experts. Sure has been fun for us to reach out to more of our colleagues, and we hope it’s been informative for you as well. Till next time…

When did you become involved with SEO & why?

I started in SEO about a year ago. Previously, I was a media planner/buyer at an ad agency and mainly worked with traditional media. As I saw many of our clients moving away from spending $60k+ on one print advertisement and moving much more of their spend to digital, I knew I needed to make a similar move and familiarize myself with the digital space.

What do you see on the horizon for Google algorithm updates and how do you recommend businesses prepare for these?

In the words of Wil Reynolds: Do RCS “Real Company Shit”. Google is constantly updating their algorithm with the goal of delivering the best user experience. There are no shortcuts to this. As a brand, your primary goal should be on bringing real value to the customer. If that isn’t your primary goal then you run the risk of a hit by Google. So much emphasis is on content, but let me rephrase that by saying “quality content”; don’t just post a blog to post a blog, do it with the goal of providing greater value to the customer. If your goal is the same as Google’s then you wont need to worry about those damn Penguins and Pandas.

Backlinks versus content: Who wins?

Content will always win. In modern SEO much less emphasis is on traditional link-building and much more weight is put on creating researched, sharable content. If you create good content, the backlinks will come naturally.

How do you see the landscape of social media affecting organic search in the future?

Social is becoming an increasingly important factor in todays search landscape. As social recommendations (Google +1s, Facebook Likes, Twitter Tweets) become more of a factor to a brand’s authority online, they will also start to dictate how well that brand performs in organic search, particularly Google+. A branded Google+ Business page is also critical for search visibility. As social recommendation buttons (such as the +1, Tweet, and Like buttons) are becoming more and more popular across the web, its important to have a Google+ Page set up in order to anchor these recommendations and also to connect them to a brand identity.

What do you think of recent LinkedIn search/social changes and how will this affect LinkedIn for business?

It’s about time that LinkedIn made some updates. They are really struggling to catch up in the social sphere but in all honestly LinkedIn is not a Facebook they aren’t a Twitter and they shouldn’t try to be. LinkedIn is a professional networking site, that’s what they are good at. If it ain’t broken, don’t fit it. I do believe if they were to implement more of a MeetUp model, they would be much more successful at user retention and site engagement.

Do you have any advice for a small business needing content but may not have the resources to consistently create content?

For a small business that might not have the resources or bandwidth to constantly be pushing out content, the best advice is to make sure the content that is created is sharable and well researched.

What do you think about the Bing Challenge? Are you a fan of Bing or Team Google?

They are definitely taking a page from Pepsi’s book! As a SEO, would definitely side with Google but that’s not to say that Bing isn’t doing a lot of things right. I think search engines are just a matter of preference (and demographics). It just makes since to use Google if you use Gmail and Bing if you’re more of a Yahoo or MSN user.

Do you have any great SEO tips?

Social recommendations are becoming an increasingly important factor in modern SEO. Be sure to include FASS (fast action social sharing) buttons, with the share count above the fold on homepage, category, product pages as well as any content rich pages such a blog posts.

Be sure to keyword optimize your site by including one or two keywords and use them in the following places: the URL, Page title, sub-headings, meta description, in your meta keyword tag, image alt text, and in the first paragraph of on-page content.

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Thanks Ashley!

Ashley Stuart is a Search Analyst at SwellPath, a digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. She enjoys climbing, hoppy beers, SEO, and social analytics. Find her on Twitter @FancyPants10.

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