Having a strong online presence is as critical as ever, but is your SEO optimized? And are you taking advantage of the right content resources? In this interview Bob Tripathi talks with Topher Kohan, SEO of the Weather Channel and IBM Business. Learn how influencer marketing, semantic markup and video is playing a big part in the evolution of SEO.
Bob:All right folks, this is Bob Tripathi of Digital Sparx Marketing. And as you guys know, I love talking to industry leaders–people who have been in the trenches in all areas of digital marketing. And today I have a special guest Topher Kohan. And he has been a long-time SEO, if I may add. We go back a long way when he was at CNN and Atlanta Business before that and now he’s the Weather Channel and IBM business.So Topher, welcome.
Topher : Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Bob : So can you talk a little bit about what you do currently the Weather Channel and IBM?
Bob : Yeah sure. So I work for the Weather Company. We own the digital side of weather which is an IBM business. So weather.com, weather underground and those pages and I run the SEO and the growth for them. So I not only helped grow our business and our user base the traditional organic marketing but also look outside the box and also build for just traditional growth–via social, via paid– the across thing with our paid media team our paid social team and those teams kind of bring synergy to the whole thing, too, because it’s you can’t just do organic weather is a pretty commodities data. So I look at the bigger picture that brings people in and try to give them the best experience.
Evolution of SEO
Bob : You’ve been at SEO so long. What have you seen in the evolution? Because we still see the same questions that we use to see 12, 15 years back. What, according to you, has been the biggest change over the years?
Bob : So it’s that joke that the more things change the more things stay the same. Because when I first started doing this for a living technical last year I was everything. If you were technical SEO you own the world and then the way that it was content was king just write good content the engines would figure it out, which is still true. You got to write good content; to create that good content. But we’ve added back to technical SEO rules the world.
It’s all about making sure you have the right semantic markup to own the zero spot; no more 10-blue links. How do you get into the AMP carousel? How do you get into the feature story carousel? How do you ranking Google news now? It’s all about that technical aspect, taking it to the next level and knowing that I can’t just write good content. I have to, but I have to do all the other things. It’s that synergy which I don’t think it’s been there before. It was either technical or content and now that synergy there where you’ve got to have it all.
On-Page SEO Optimization is the key
Bob : So you say on page there is still value in doing some on-page optimization stuff?
Topher : All day long all day long.
Bob : Yeah yeah 100 percent. So you’re looking at what, the title made tag?
Link Building Strategy to Follow When Acquiring New Links
So now the other part of it as you mentioned is links, right? Now, what is the link acquisition strategy that people are adopting, or rather people should adopt these days?
Bob : So believe it or not, I think that obviously all the traditional white hat linked strategy still works 100 percent. But the way I don’t think enough people are putting enough value and things like social media influencers and gaining link acquisition through them. They’re such a great situation. It’s such a big deal. And if you ingrain that going in an acquisition that way then you have an ongoing link building process with those with those. I think that’s an untapped market–especially if you’re dealing with a product brand. If you’re a product brand it’ll give you a theme of your a brand that has a product that is still facing, it’s the way to go.
Bob : So the whole thing about quality focus on feelings but their whole influencer side. There’s a big thing permeating from the social side into the organic.
Bob : Exactly. 100%. And I I think a lot of people aren’t paying attention to it right now.
Bob : The other thing I see in the link building is you see this specialized, like lawyers accountants and there are these big companies who have this link and network. Yeah.
Topher : So as long as the organic link in Texas is well written and there and the links are linking correctly, meaning I’m not saying I’m a link to a page about personal injury law, I’m really linking to a page about business law. As long as that’s all there, then those still work. It’s still one link/one vote right now. Every vote doesn’t have the same weight. We know that. But it’s still one link/one vote as long as you’re setting it up and you are you. And I think I personally believe that Google is looking for that synergy. They’re looking for that is evidence linking back. Is there a synergy between the pages? I think that that’s how that’s why and how it’s still working.
Importance of Semantic Markup
Bob : Right. Right. Right. So you recovered on page recovered link but the other thing you mentioned is it’s going back to technical settings and beyond just redirects to the sector. What technical settings or technical people should be looking forward, but that’s semantic markup.
Topher : You’ve known me long enough. I was pretty semantic markup in 2009. Now it’s the real deal. If you want to be in a knowledge graph, if you want to have that zero placement right on top of that doing AMP, SEOs can talk bad about AMP all they want, but it’s fast it’s quick and you get on that carousel — a mobile Web, especially if you’re a publisher. But now it’s expanded beyond that but that’s why two things are worth looking at — AMP look at semantic markup.
Bob : So when you look at it like people also ask… How critical are those?
Bob : Because I see some amazing value in other great because that can compel that second click. That can get all that second search query. That could in some situations. And pretty dramatically grow your search referrals if you’re also capturing those. Right. You know if we know that people are looking for A, why not try to capture a B C and D also? And I think that’s a good point that people aren’t paying enough attention to that because they’re really focused on capturing a right and owning A and they should own A. But why not try to own B and C also?
Engage Your Audience With Videos
Bob : Right. Right. So content engagement videos? How critical are those?
Topher : Videos everything! Yes with the correct markup, especially now that you can do on page closed captioning and transcripts and not have it make the page look terrible. This wall of text now that you do all of that. That’s fantastic. That really isn’t put over the edge video engagement is where it’s at. We wouldn’t see new sites putting a video on top of every page. And YouTube being the number 1 search engine in the world. So that’s where it’s at out there.
SEO Metrics to Consider
Bob : Yes. You talk about in terms of SEO has so much to be really results-driven and AI driven. What are some of the metrics that people should be measuring through SEO?
Bob : So, I think obviously referrals is top of that. But don’t get caught in a trap where you are worried about whether or not it’s a unique referral or not. I don’t care if it’s your first time to me or your one-hundredth time to me. If you’re continuing to go back to the search and you come to me here, you’re still my customer. That’s the key. I think that’s a KPI that people are missing in the bigger picture. A lot of businesses. My business on top of that is rightfully so obsessed with the monthly unique or the daily unique or the weekly unique rate. That’s great. But also let’s worry about the daily habit customer who isn’t direct typing that day for whatever reason are going to Google and they’re typing in your brand name or your search query..
Increase Leads With A Holistic Approach
Bob : That’s great. Yes. So now you talk like your role you’re going from SEO to growth side. Looking at holistically. How does that play through marketing as we know?
Topher : It’s scary. Let’s be clear. You can get lost in the weeds pretty quickly. But ultimately what it does is it lets you see the bigger picture of your audience–that lets you understand what your audience really wants, really needs. Because if you don’t have that bigger picture, then you’re marketing aspects are too siloed, in my opinion. And without being too siloed, if one of those silos fails, there’s no backup.
By having a holistic vision, if for us a prime example, a weather event happens a hurricane happens right? And you’re there’s there’s a ramp up. High ranking organically we can backfill with, so sure. And we work with the paid team, work with the social team, work with the external marketing teams and get that in there, so we can own the audience until organic has a chance to catch hold. So that’s that’s the key there.
Bob : So I think you’re one of the only people in the country whenever there’s a big weather event everyone is worried but you are the one who’s happy so you can drive more traffic.
Topher : I say on a regular basis. My best day is usually somebody’s worst day of their life. And I feel bad about that but I truly believe part of our core mission is to keep people safe. And I feel like that’s what I’m trying to do.
Bob : This is great. Anything else you want to share that I didn’t ask you?
Topher : I think you did a great job. Thank you as always.
Bob : All right great. Thank you for your time and that’s Topher Kohan.
Go on hit him up on LinkedIn and learn everything about growth. And thank you for joining.Thank you.