About the Guest

Meet Jono Alderson, a globally acclaimed SEO expert and a two-time SEO world champion at SEOktoberfest. Formerly the SEO head at Yoast, he is now working as a full-time SEO consultant and spearheads his very own website, DaysOfTheYear.com.

Known for his deep technical expertise in SEO, web performance and analytics, WordPress, structured data, and conversion rate optimization, Jono thrives on decoding the complex challenges of the web. He is also a core contributor at WordPress and has transformed the digital strategies of leading brands like Trustpilot, Samsung, Microsoft, and Vodafone, among many others.

About the Host

Meet Rohan Sharma, your dynamic host, and a seasoned B2B marketer. He currently leads the Marketing team at Mile. With nearly half a decade under his belt in the ad tech space, Rohan has developed a holistic purview of industry issues.

His entrepreneurial experience has given him a chance to develop an understanding of the industry's intricate dynamics, positioning him to guide listeners through the evolving trends of adtech.

Podcast Highlights

No time to listen to the whole episode? We’ve picked the top conversational highlights from every section to enrich or supplement your listening experience. This can serve as a standalone summary of the conversation as well:

Is SEO just a hygiene check?

  • The conversation here revolves around SEO not being just a hygiene check anymore. Jono highlights the importance of baking SEO strategy into the DNA of the organization, the website, and the product to yield better results. Jono emphasizes that “that's what separates the winners from the losers.”

  • Most publishers only get triggered to comply with SEO once they are impacted. Jono recommends that publishers should instead approach it as “We want to invest in improving because it's going to pay back money, and it's the right thing to do.”

Webflow vs. WordPress: Which is better for your SEO?

  • Jono agrees that newer platforms like Webflow or Wix offer some inbuilt solutions that can be easily optimized for small business owners or bloggers. However, they can have huge complications for large publishers whose major focus can be on content marketing.
  • He opines that “WordPress is going to be harder to set up because you're going to have to think and you're going to have to go shopping for what combination of themes and plugins, but it’ll help you compete in the market with its extensible, flexible, and customizable solutions.”
  • Additionally, he mentions that WordPress has already solved the problems that Webflow throws at users and will continue to do so faster, cheaper, and better than these other platforms.

What will happen in SEO in 2024?

  • The latest Google algorithm updates have made it easy to solve basic user queries without relying heavily on new content from publishers. In this regard, Jono highlights that “the focus has shifted to how we understand the kinds of problems that audiences have and how we solve those in a way that benefits the reader.”

  • AI has enabled SEO practitioners and businesses to produce up to a million articles per week. On this, Jono expresses, “But why produce so much if it no longer guarantees better performance? If every competitor can also generate content at similar scales, the real challenge becomes adding true value rather than just volume.”

Where are the Web Search mechanics headed? Or Is SEO just a technical exercise?

  • The era of “type the thing and get your result” is gone. Now the search mechanics have evolved from where the engine doesn't just react to direct queries with straightforward answers but anticipates and resolves user problems intuitively.

  • When asked, if publishers should focus on Google vs. YouTube, Jono comments that “SEO is no longer about optimizing content for Google search alone.” YouTube, Reddit, and Quora are becoming integral to the search ecosystem.
  • So, “how you're presented and what people say about you on those other sites is probably even more important than having hit a 500-word quota and ticked all the EEAT boxes, etc., on your page.”

  • There is more to SEO than technical optimization and content volume, such as how a brand is perceived across various stages of the user journey. To explain is simply, Jono gave an example of how “if your CEO is in the news for something dodgy, it’ll have a negative or positive impression that can significantly alter subsequent interactions and user decisions.”

What are the top metrics considered as “North Star” for a future-ready SEO strategy?

  • The host and Jono discuss the most overlooked but important metrics that determine SEO success. Jono explains “how integrating traditional marketing techniques, such as brand preference and recall surveys, into modern SEO practices is still the most effective way to understand how a brand stands in the minds of consumers.” This approach is about checking the pulse of brand recognition and preference directly from the audience.

  • Moving beyond traditional metrics, Jono also suggests “that measuring task completion and user satisfaction directly on the webpage by incorporating feedback mechanisms like surveys or polite pop-ups can help brands gather actionable insights into whether their content truly addresses the needs of users — aligning with Google's focus on helpful content.”

  • Traditional click or impression-based metrics sit at the end of the funnel and you might miss all of the stuff that impacts your website. Jono explains with an example, “having a 1-star review right above your highly-ranked webpage can say a lot more about you than what you’re trying to achieve using SEO.”

The most burning question: what about AI in content marketing?

  • The biggest competitive challenge and the problem that Google is trying to solve is “authentic lived experience” in content. Now, a publisher could write hundreds of articles using AI, but the bit that's hard to scale is the human bit.

  • Can you trust AI-generated content? Jono comments, “If your child was sick, would you trust that page with medical information?” The trust factor plays a huge role after a human bit when AI comes into the picture.
  • Jono shares that “he sees AI as an editorial assistant, a great research tool, and a method for either summarizing or expanding and pattern finding to discover narratives that you might otherwise have struggled with.”

Is Video the next big thing in SEO?

  • Acknowledging the constraints of budget, time, or resources, Jono believes that “one must consider investing in short-form videos on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram, as these platforms serve as modern search engines where the initial content consumption can lead to significant consumer action.”
  • However, he also says that every platform has a different purpose – the type of content that an audience wants on YouTube is different from what they want on a web page. Jono continues by saying, “We, as marketers, have video as a tool to influence the buying cycle and user intents while also focusing on how to get an article ranked on a particular keyword.” Simply put, if you have the resources, the video should be in the mix to have a cohesive SEO strategy.

How to recover lost traffic and reclaim visibility?

  • “Reframe how you think about it, as Google is continually refining how it perceives what good looks like,” Jono mentions that it’s not how you improve or recapture the lost traffic or value but how you gain new value and add meaningful and differentiated value to the internet.

  • Jono explains that “instead of thinking about how you can reclaim the lost, you should spend on introspecting what happened, where we lost, and what went wrong, and produce something useful that resonates with what you’re trying to solve as a problem.”

What are the SEO challenges smaller publishers face?

  • Having credibility is important these days, and with so much weightage given to backlinks, it gets difficult for small publishers (businesses) to get these links. “Google has to find your site in order to put it into the system, and you’ll need these backlinks for a certain amount of validation from other sites to say you exist.”

  • The next best way for a smaller business to improve its credibility is to create its niche in a competitive landscape. Jono shares an example where he says, “You may not win in the search results with “best chocolate pastry in New York City,” but you can definitely rank well for “best vegan, pistachio, chocolate cupcake in New York City.”

  • Another suggestion that Jono gives for small publishers is to “Have an opinion, as it will make you stand out and differentiate you. Write content that is written by a named human with a face and demonstrable expertise and opinion. Don’t do this for EEAT, but because it's a type of cut-through that big brands won't compete with.”

How can I build and rank a utility website?

  • It is super hard to compete with Google when it comes to utility sites as it is increasingly capable of providing these utilities directly within search results. Jono points out with an example: “Google can display the required amount of paint for a project directly in the search results, which diminishes the traffic to dedicated utility sites.”

  • He further adds, “However, if you want to do it, you need the proprietary value that you're going to add to it. It can't just be a formula in some JavaScript that provides the answer, but it has to be useful, opinionated, and different.”

  • “Merging utility with editorial content might be a strategic move. It can create a richer resource that Google is less likely to replicate directly.” All that said, Jono also shares an example of a QR Code scanner that has only 12 words on their website and it answers user’s queries with just that

Are you ready for the post-cookie world?

  • While there is another delay in cookie deprecation, Jono says that “Despite the delay, the publishers’ focus should not be on how to rank for as many keywords as possible or convert 2 % of a million visitors but on getting a thousand visitors with 50% conversion. This means that a publisher should invest in tighter targeting, better content, more reliance on social proof and validation, and solving a problem.”

  • Having said that, he also said that the ad revenue will tank for everyone who's doing broad stuff and not adding value to the internet. He said, “Think about how I can help individual users and create content that is super useful, more opinionated, more focused, and more targeted at some people. And this will help you gain the trust of visitors. Ask them to support you by filling out the details for a first-party data capture.”

  • Moreover, build trust with the visitors and “promise them that you’ll create better content, more guides, and resources from the revenue you generate.”

What are effective SEO practices for a fair and open web?

  • “SEO can be ethical and moral and used, even mechanized, for the greater good,” in Jono’s own words. He continues, “As an an industry, SEO has its dark spots and continues to, but it has, in aggregate, improved the quality of the content on the web. And it's not net zero. There is value to be, it's not just about moving rankings around.”

  • Additionally, Jono suggests what he would do to practice SEO ethically. He mentions that “he’d follow Google's EEAT and the quality review guidelines stuff, and ensure that his content keeps the “needs met” approach in check.”

Bonus content: What is one painkiller and one multivitamin for the web publishers?

  • Core Web Vitals as a Painkiller: Despite the prevailing opinion that Core Web Vitals might not be a significant ranking factor according to Google, Jono believes that dedicating energy to these metrics can often lead to uncovering and resolving many other underlying issues, such as outdated technologies, poor hosting solutions, and inefficient coding practices. By addressing these issues, publishers can inadvertently improve various aspects of their site, such as accessibility, SEO efficiency, and overall site health, making Core Web Vitals a critical starting point for deeper technical improvements.
  • Technical SEO as a Multivitamin: There is a huge importance of technical SEO as an essential, ongoing health check for websites. Jono points out that many site owners overlook the granular aspects of their sites' technical setup, such as improper indexing or incorrect canonical URLs, and regularly auditing these elements can lead to significant improvements in how a site is perceived by search engines and, by extension, its performance in search results.

Do you have a story to share?

About how that one idea on a crumpled piece of paper thrown into the bin became a rage on the world wide web. About how adapting quickly to new changes became the backbone of your thriving ad revenue. About how your life progressed from a mistake that you made as an intern to you cheering on interns as a thought leader in the ecosystem.

There is someone out there whose life you could change with your story.

Let’s do that?