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Unleashing SEO Success Through User-Centric Web Design and Content Mastery

In Conversation with Ryan O'Connor

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Ryan O’Connor, Creative Director & Founder of SEO.LA.

They delve into the evolving digital landscape, highlighting the pivotal role of user-centric web design and compelling content in SEO triumph. Ryan underscores the need for professional involvement in website creation and offers insights into crafting relevant, user-focused content. The duo probes AI-generated content’s potential while acknowledging its supplementary, not dominant role.

Watch the episode now for more insights!

Technical SEO is crucial, but user-centered design is paramount.

Ryan O’Connor
Creative Director & Founder of SEO.LA.

Hey, hi, everyone. This is Ranmay here on your show, E-Coffee with Experts. Today we have Ryan O’Connor, who is the founder of SEO.LA with us. Welcome, Ryan, to our show.

Thank you very much for having me. Looking forward to it.

Great. Ryan, before we move forward and pick your brains on SEO and digital marketing, I’d request you to introduce yourself and let our audiences know how has been your journey this far, and what SEO is.LA does, and we’ll take it forward from there.

Yeah, SEO.LA, we’re a digital marketing agency. I’ve personally been in the space for almost 20 years now, which is pretty crazy to think about. Built my first website in 1997, which is what, 25 years ago, 25 plus. Yeah, back in the Geo City days, AngelPie, or back when it was like the Wild West for Web. With, we primarily do website design and development. We do a lot of WordPress, WordPress management on the design side, a lot of emphasis on UX and UI and then SEO marketing, of course, and PPC, and a few other services that go along with all of that, like accessibility. Yeah, it’s got several clients mostly managing on the WordPress side and again, on the SEO side as well. But yeah, it’s interesting. It’s a fun industry to be in. Things are constantly changing. Yeah, crazy business.

It is. And you have seen the digital landscape evolving last 25-plus years as you mentioned. The user experience has become so much more important, especially from an SEO perspective. From your perspective, we just wanted to understand how can businesses create a seamless and user-friendly website that not only satisfies search and algorithms because we’re all fighting for it but also engages and converts those visitors or consumers coming to your website.

I think first off, they should hire a professional. I think a lot of small businesses, I understand and apply when they have that DIY spirit and they want to do everything themselves and I can build the website. And sometimes you can have okay results, but I would say more often than not, it’s not the best outcome. So I think hiring a professional doesn’t even necessarily need to be an agency. I’m not trying to put it over already, but I think at least finding a local freelancer that has some portfolio, and get someone involved to stand there and do that. Because I think when a business owner is trying to do that themselves, they get in their way, just like we can get in our way on our project. So I think finding someone, again, with the experience and ideally, some portfolio that backs up the type of work they’re doing would be a good starting place for a business owner.

You just did a pitch too for our fraternity. Thank you so much.

Yeah, thank you, sir. You’re welcome.

And then when we talk about a website, content plays such an important role. So in terms of content optimization, if we talk about SEO.LA how do you guys do a comprehensive SEO audit and how do you content audit and identify opportunities to improve the existing content that is already there in terms of SEO?

I think first off, having an understanding of what search engines want is very important. But I think it’s also equally or probably more important to understand what your actual visitors wish to do and find a synergy between those two things. And that’s not as easy as it seems. Again, I’m sure that’s something you deal with all the time at your agency, but creating content that’s useful, I think, is what it should boil down to. And if you’re too focused on the marketing side or too focused on trying to, for example, in Yost, try to get the green lights for your content as far as do you have your H1 in the right place? Do you have your subheadings? Is the article more than 500 words? Do you have internal and external links? All these things, while they’re important, sometimes very important. I think making sure that the content is useful is the number one thing. So having an understanding of who your audience is, and what they’re looking for. And again, putting the focus on the user, on the visitor. I think while there are these things that we talk about in the Yost list I gave an example of all the boxes that you want to check with our content as far at least from an SEO standpoint, I think having something useful for the visitor should be there in the forefront.

That’s why Google rewards good content, or at least they’re supposed to most of the time. Sometimes both the Google gods work in mysterious ways. But I think at the end of the day, if you have great content and a great user experience, going back to the first question you asked, Google tends to reward that. And again, along with a million other factors that we can talk about. But I think, yeah, just understanding what the visitor wants. And again, Another way to look at this real quick is to look at what your competitors are doing and do it better. Find out, yeah, okay, these are the top three sites. You don’t need to be an expert with a lot of this stuff. I tell clients all the time, he’s probably a terrible salesman.

But look at it.

What the competitors are doing to get into those top positions? It was some very basic stuff. You can get an idea of okay, these top three pages are very long form and 2,500 words, and you can see that they’re doing a lot of internal linking, and you can run the URLs through free tools like Semrush, where search console is free too, another good one. But you can look and see, okay, these three websites in the top three positions have a backlink profile that has more than 10,000 links to their URL. The domain is 22 years old. There are 5,000 words on the page, and my page is 400 words long. I just posted it yesterday, and my domain is three weeks old. When you look at a situation like that and very quickly understand, okay, I’m probably not going to outrank these guys. Maybe I should adjust my strategy, and I think you’re going to be in for a lot more success. And again, not just the technical side, but looking at it from the user perspective too. What are those top three results doing? You can usually glance and have an idea of, okay, this is the strategy that I should go for.

But again, I think a lot of that just boils down to providing useful content that’s helpful. The basics here are what Google is supposed to rank websites for. Not always.

Yeah, absolutely. And then at SEO.LA, how do you optimize the website content to appear in Richard, featured snippets, or answer boxes on searching?

Just make sure, A, that it’s good content, and then base it around a keyword that’s getting some traffic depending on the client, take a close look at the keywords that you are optimizing for, which again, goes back to what we were saying earlier, is it realistic to rank for this? But even the top positions are what everyone’s shooting for. There’s a significant difference in the traffic that you’re going to get in the number one or number two position versus number eight or number nine. But sometimes, depending on your campaign, sometimes even just getting any traffic, whether that’s the long-form or long-fail keyword that you’re going for that maybe doesn’t produce the traffic is a bigger keyword, but is still getting some traction going? That can be useful too. But I think that just making sure that the content is applicable should always be at the forefront. Because when the content sucks, even if you get that temporary bump, because sometimes Google is passing with the algorithm and they’re seeing how people are responding to your content, sometimes you get that temporary boost, but for the long term, good Evergreen content is always going to win.

I think Evergreen is a big part of that too. Again, every campaign is different, but I would say that type of content and just seeing how it can reward you over the long term is always a nice strategy. When you have something that three years from now it’s still ranking, that’s always a nice thing to see. And I think before we start recording, we’re talking a little bit about PPC as well. And I think while they both have their pros and cons, that’s like I think the nice thing about SEO is when you do have that if it’s that one article that’s pulling in that extra traffic when you see over a long to find that traffic that you’re still gaining versus something like PPC that as soon as you turn off the ads, that traffic disappears. That’s a pretty evidence-data situation for SEO in a lot of cases.

Yeah. We did touch upon topics like content, which brings me really, we cannot skip it. Talking about AI-related content, AI is taking all of us to the industry by a song.

I rolled my eyes as soon as you said it.

Yeah, exciting times for sure. And it scared a few people of their jobs initially. Now things are settling down. It’s there to stay. Everyone is aware of it. I just wanted to understand your take on it. Where are we right now? Where are we headed in terms of AI and marketing at large?

Good question. I think, and I echo your side of it too, where we all start wondering, do we have security? Is this robot going to kill our jobs? You can imagine how I feel. I have an SEO in my domain name and my company name. Is SEO even going to exist in six months? I tried to talk to this analogy, but someone did. But using AI as a copilot, I enjoy quite a bit. Maybe I’ll eat my words, or maybe I’m wrong, but I think we’re a long way off from AI completely taking over everything to the point that our jobs are useless for several reasons.

For one, I still have clients and still speak with potential clients who have zero understanding of the web in general. Things that are second nature to you and me because we’ve been in this business, we’ve dealt with this stuff for 20-plus years. There are still so many business owners out there that some of them are just getting started with their first websites. So I think some of these AI tools are very useful. I think for one, they’re not going to completely take over. But I think when they’re implemented for agencies or freelancers or for whoever is a part of our toolbox. Again, like Copilot, as I was saying earlier, I think they can be super useful, especially for repetitive data entry-type tasks, and train something like that to do the work for you. And also just more candidly, I think the Google results have not been amazing. That’s what I think, at least over the last couple of years. So I think there’s sometimes a disconnect between Google showing useful results and that Google, the publicly traded trillion-dollar market cap company also needs to worry about serving ads and selling their ad service. So I think there’s sometimes a disconnect there.

On that note, I love that AI shook things up a little bit. I like the idea of Google not being able to rest on their worlds. Hey, some things could come along and disrupt our business. So I love AI for that. But in general, though, I think AI content, I haven’t seen, or maybe it’s there and I just didn’t recognize it, but a lot of the AI content that I see is not good. It is okay. I think it could certainly be a fun tool for a kid who forgot to do his report at the last minute and maybe needs to get out of a jam. But as far as useful content, that’s going to stand the test of time and maybe rank well in Google, I’m sure there are some, I know there have been some isolated cases, especially for more like news content on the fly type SEO content that’s done well with SEO as far as AI-generated content. So I’m sure there are some opportunities, but I think as a whole, it’s not going to take over. I’m not firing any copywriters anytime soon. Yeah, what about you?

What are your thoughts on it?

Yeah, it’s good. And one should get it in the armory. It’s what we believe in. Having said that, it is just to, as you mentioned, give this example to my team as well. You have a report to submit at 4:00 PM, you just realize that at 3:00 PM, you need a Head Start. It gives you that head start

but It can never really be your final product. The reason is, if we talk about website content, for example, the content’s website has to be consumed by a human being. AI, the emotional question, and the other factors that a human brings into the equation are missing if you talk about AI content. While it gives you some information to get this going, it can never be your final product. At the end of the day, you need a human touch for that content to make it presentable on your website to your consumer, which is a human being at the end of the day. That’s my take on it. You take it, it’s there to stay, and you can learn a lot more. Your tasks will become easier. You will take less time to complete tasks. All of that said, it is not going to be your end task. That is not the final product that is out for delivery. It cannot be that ever. They need to work on that. Forget about taking jobs. The way I look at it, it’s going to increase jobs.

If the content writers or the exact domain or niche people who think they’re going to get affected by it if they use it in a way that they become more tech-savvy, they understand the platform, they use it, and it’s going to increase more jobs and make them more efficient than they were earlier.

That’s what I think. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And even as far as use cases go, I have just an example client, I won’t say any names, but they have a big e-commerce store and they have at least hundreds of products, probably thousands of products, and their product descriptions are terrible. While I wouldn’t tell them that they just use ChatGPT and you will start ranking amazingly well for all of these products. No, that’s not the case. But to your point earlier, as far as at least giving you a head start on writing that fun pen, something like this could give you that kick in the ass that you need to get things moving. And so I think and then when you look at a situation like that with, is your one sentence or two sentence with spelling errors and grammar issues? Is that description useful or does the five or six-sentence version that ChatGPT stand out for you? Sometimes ChatGPT description scenarios like that are going to be better. Or if it’s just say, a stubborn business owner that they must write the wrong content, but you have to have that conversation with them that hey, you’re not the best content writer.

So in those cases, SEO is the goal, but more just a user experience. There are use cases where it’s fixing little coding issues, too. I think there are plenty of use cases. But yeah, like you said, I don’t think it’s going to start taking away jobs. It could create more. And I think again, I love that Google is getting shaken up a little bit. I don’t know if you’ve observed this, but I feel like maybe I’m just biased, because it’s frustrating sometimes. So we have to be nice. Google is the end-all-be-all. As far as SEO and PPC, you have to play along. Sometimes it’s not fun to play along. I think some of the ranking factors are ridiculous. I think the backlines are smart. Those are the art of faith. And that makes sense that something like that happens organically is going to get rewarded. But I also just feel I’ve seen a lot of useless content in the results. I feel that sometimes there’s just not the results that maybe there were five or 10 years ago.

Not, maybe there’s someone else that’s entered the space that’s maybe giving them a little bit of trouble. But yeah, I think it’s a good thing. Competition is a good thing, and it’ll be very interesting to see where it goes from here because we’re still in the very early stages. Three, five, 10 years from now it’d be dramatically different, hopefully for the Yeah.

Like the symbol of a healthy democracy is a healthy opposition, right?

Yeah, for sure.

There’s no harm in creating another if not Google, at least a parallel world wherein Google gets shaken up a bit.

Yeah, We’ll just turn this into a therapy session where I can complain about Google now. But even some of the technical things that are essentially required with some exceptions, it’s ridiculous. Yes, it’s so repetitive. And then an algorithm update comes along that wipes out X, Y, or Z. So much of it is beyond our control. And I think that’s why we, as agencies, find clients because they don’t want to deal with this stuff. We end up dealing with it relatively at times. But yeah, competition is a good thing.

That is true. Great. Yeah, Ryan, that was it from a podcast and question perspective. But before we wrap it up, I would love to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Yeah, let’s do it.

Great. What is your favorite book?

Where the Red Fern grows.

Okay. Your last Google search. Can I look?

I don’t know.

Yeah, please. This is an open book. Don’t worry. Let’s see.

Google Domains. Okay. Interestingly, we were Googling things that we could get in our marks or whatever.

Right. And what did you do with your first paycheck?

So remember, I remember very specifically getting at which client it was and being thrilled, that feeling of, Wow, someone is trusting me to do this, and this is very real now. This is a business, it’s not a hobby. But I don’t remember what I did. Certainly not saving it. That’s a lesson that the kids listening should make sure to not follow.

Let’s say if we were to make a movie on you, what genre would it be?

That’s a tough question. I don’t know. Maybe some office-type humor, like office-based comedy, You may be very sarcastic. So yeah, I’d go with comedy, I guess. My life is a comedy sometimes with all the wants of life of clients you have to deal with.

Every day is insane. So maybe a psychological thriller would be a better answer. I don’t know.

I like the psychological thriller. That’s nice.

That’s lovely. I was about to mention something like Suites, which in it is a typical law firm thing.

Office thing. Yeah, maybe one of those.

Okay, the last one. What is the best thing that you like about your job or let’s say, our industry?

Generally speaking, being your boss, I think that there’s no other way that I would do it. Certainly, there’s a lot of responsibility, way too much screen time, and all these things that we can complain about, which I probably do complain about daily. But I think at the end of the day, working for yourself versus working for another party, that’s what it boils down to for me. I like feeling like the work that I’m doing is compounding into something that’s benefiting me and not getting my boss richer. I think I’ve always been a bit of a tech turn or lack of a better term. I think just being involved in the technical side of the design is interesting, and I guess to give you a third answer, being involved in the design period, I think, is fine. Just being able to be creative at times, that’s a nice part about it, at least as far as the design part of it. But yeah, all of the above.

Lovely. We’re not really any further. But yeah, and thank you so much for taking your time and doing this.

Yeah, thanks for having me. And I’m so glad we could finally connect with you. I know we spent months trying to nail down a date, so I’m glad we can finally connect. And it’s always a pleasure chopping up with you talking about online marketing and all that nerd stuff.

Lovely. The pleasure is all mine. And you have a great day. Thank you so much.

Yeah, real quick. I have your email and let’s talk about some PPC stuff.

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