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SEO as a result
So my first title was “SEO without focus on keywords and SEO”, but then a lot of things happened in the world of SEO. So I was thinking of renaming it to “SEO as a result of doing the right things”. And my other idea and last idea was “transforming from SEO to organic marketing”, because I think there is so much happening right now. That focus on SEO alone cannot be enough anymore. To make a business case and to make sure you’re ranking high and achieve visibility. But I will take you through my session.
Content shouldn't be at the SEO department
Let’s start with talking about this article which I published just one week before my session at Emerce. And the title is “content shouldn’t be the responsibility of the SEO department anymore”. I published it at Marketingfacts, which is a quite large and well-known marketing platform in the Netherlands. I talked about why I think that creation of content, shouldn’t be the responsibility of the SEO department anymore.
The first thing has to do with a lot of increasing demands from Google. Google wants more from us than the SEO department can deliver.
Second thing is that I think that we also need to find another motivation to create content because the business case to justify it will be harder and harder.
The third thing has to do with the necessity of great content: without great content you cannot build E-E-A-T. Of course you need it for SEO but it is actually bigger than SEO only.
Read the English version of this article on my own site: Why we should move content out of the SEO department
Google and their war on bad content
Slide 6 + 7
There are some problems we are facing within SEO. So here you see some snippets from various websites about what Google has been saying about SEO. And I think there are several interesting remarks here. So it’s of course the hidden gems, the E-E-A-T, that E-A-T applies to every single query.
Tons of SEO’s produce terrible content not worth indexing
But I think these three are the most important things to have attention for it’s Google saying: Tons of SEO’s and websites produce terrible content, not worth indexing. But also the site-wide ranking signal to target search engine first content. But also Google saying that writing content from keyword lists will result in mediocre content.
And Google is right: it is not worth indexing
And I think that everyone who has ever written content for SEO can agree on this part. When we’re writing from a keyword list we’re also writing the obvious things that we come up with ourselves. And most of the times it matters more to us that the content is actually there. And it’s not that important for us that the content is good enough. So the bar is set at “Can this rank in Google” and the bar is not set on “is this good enough for our audience to read?”
400.000.000 pages on Apple pie
Slide 8 + 9:
But we have another problem. And that is the way we work in SEO. Here you see that we’re doing keyword research and we found the word apple pie. So a lot of search volume on that keyword. And what’s happening more or less all the time.
We find a keyword and write content
So people say, okay, I’m going to write a piece of content for this keyword in this case, a recipe for an apple pie. I put it online. I publish it. And then we’re going to sit and wait for SEO traffic. And what happens? Probably very little happens.
But there is already too much
Did no one notice that there are already 400 million pages of apple pie in the index of Google? So I think 400 million is actually quite a lot. The first thing, because I’m coming back at this at a later point, but the first thing I want to say about this is with 400 million results.
SEO is like trying to get on a full train
Why do we even bother to actually create 400,000,001? What can we expect from this? And it makes me think of SEO like this: this is what we see in Asia, where people are crowding into a train, and this is what we do with SEO. We all want to enter that one train, that one keyword and rank for it. And I think this could work, would work, and hat been working years ago, I have done it myself.
We have to change our approach
But we have to admit: SEO is too crowded at the moment. Everyone is optimizing for SEO. Everyone wants something out of SEO. So this cannot be the way we work anymore. I think the road is ending the way we are working in SEO is ending. We cannot keep on doing what we always have been doing.
Why are we actually creating content?
Google is also saying this in the helpful content guidelines. When you’re creating content, you should ask yourself three questions: who created the content, how did you create a content and why?
“Why was the content created?” most important question
And they say that the why is actually one of the most important questions, you should ask yourself because if the, why is to rank in Google, that is not the kind of content they want to rank and their algorithms wants to show. So I think this is something we should be really very clear about and know about.
Seriously, is there no more reason to create content other than SEO?
The thing is, when it comes to websites and content the only reason to create content is for SEO. And I have been very surprised that with announcement of Google Bard, or Generative Search in Google, people have been saying: well it’s not worthwhile anymore to create content for SEO, or to create content at all.
I was really flabbergasted by this. Is this the only reason we create content? Is that for SEO? Don’t we have another reason to invest in good content? Don’t we think there is more to it than SEO only? And I think this shows what you have to change and why we have to change it, but I will come back at the later point.
We face the limits of indexation
Slide 11 + 12
And then we have a third problem in SEO. You already see it in the screenshot of Dan Taylor who also said something about this. But also Google said it themselves. The web is actually infinite. There are so many URL’s and pages. They cannot crawl an index at anymore all. So they have to make assumptions what is actually worth crawling and indexing.
Awesomess is key
And people have been asking John Mueller a lot of questions about this. And he always says: awesomeness, awesomeness and awesomeness. This is another reason why we need to stop creating content for SEO.
Why do we need 400 million pages on apple pie?
So with the 400 million pieces for apple pie recipes. It’s actually very funny that Google is still indexing it because indexing is not free. You need a data center, you need hardware, you need energy, you need water. You need software, electricity. So indexing is actually quite expensive and comes with a lot of costs.
So why does Google still index 400 million pages for the subject, apple pie? If I were Google I would already have deleted, I think at 90% of it. Ten million pages about apple pie should also be sufficient to fill the first few scrolls. Right?
A new way to approach SEO
So I have not been working for the traditional way we do SEO for years now because I just don’t believe in it anymore. I don’t believe that with finding a keyword, writing content for that specific keyword, we can rank high enough. Markets are crowded. In almost every market, there are like five big players and they own pretty much the search results for the most important keywords. So I have found myself another way of working and I’m going to explain it for this case.
Case De Jong & Laan
Slide 13, 14 and 15
This case is from De Jong & Laan, it’s an accountancy agency in the Netherlands and they’re one of the smaller ones. They started from a local origin. And it was actually quite funny that when they came to me in the October 2022, they had the question: how can we create just good content? That is good enough for SEO, but content that we can also reuse for other channels.
And actually quite funny that in February one of the independent online marketing agencies noticed, while doing research for accountancy agencies, that the De Jong & Laan was actually quite performing very well.
De Jong & Laan fastest grower in non-branded traffic
They focused on companies outside the big four so Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, because those are very big and depending on branded traffic. So they said, we’re going to focus on others outside these four, and then they have a list of five brands, agencies that are doing quite good in SEO. And on number two, you see my client, De Jong & Laan. And what they also saw is Alfa attracts a lot of branded traffic and De Jong & Laan increased by attracting non-branded traffic.
So my other way of doing SEO can very well lead to great results. And I think this case already proves it. The red arrow marks the moment where they came to me and we created a very nice content strategy.
But I have another client case, it’s Andros and they’re focusing on prostate and everything that has to do with the prostate. They are actually already quite an authority. They are very much in front of the developments in their industry, they are in front of the research. They have other research methods then in hospitals. So they are not just the clinic just around the corner but truly an authority.
The red arrow marks the moment when they came to me. And this is what happens with the visibility on keywords. What you see in traffic for Andros is that the traffic did not increase that much as we saw with De Jong & Laan because with Andros Clinics, they have a lot of competition from the “People also ask”. So how do I recognize prostate cancer, things around the PSA, which is a very important thing that matters when it comes to prostate. They’re all answered by Google.
Stable and slowly growing, not decreasing anymore in SEO traffic
So we are attracting more visibility. We are making ourselves more visible, but we are not yet getting the traffic out of it, but we are also note declining. When you’re looking in SEMrush, you see it happening. We are very stable and slightly growing. So I think for this market where we are under so much pressure of the people also ask we are actually doing a good thing.
The secret to SEO: embrace a new way of working
Slide 17 + 18:
And I think you want to know what the secret to my way of working is, and I’m going to disclose it in this session. This is what most people are focusing on: it’s the data we see in keyword tools. You see the ice rock, which I created for my, a book last year which I published, it’s on the cover of the book.
Dig deeper where no one gets
And the things you see above the water is keyword tools. It’s what everyone uses, but also answer the public. That kinds of tools, everything that’s publicly available is these kinds of tools. But I think there is more to understand when it comes to creating content to when it comes to understanding your client or your visitor.
And that’s what’s happened below the sea level, what happens where we, what we can’t see. And this is where we need to get to know our customer. It’s the information that it’s just not publicly available because the information that is publicly available everyone uses it. For example, SEMrush or Ahrefs, or other keyword tools. I think there are like five, six major tools. And I think you can say that 80, 90% of the market is using those tools.
From keyword focus to client focus
So, if you want to be found in Google you have to take a different approach to it and create another kind of content that is not based around keywords.
Goodbye traditional SEO
This flow chart shows the traditional way we do SEO. We start with keyword research. We find a keyword. We think of an angle. We start writing, optimizing, and then start tracking rankings.
I think with everything we just discussed this way of working is outdated, especially when you’re looking at the developments we see in Google. Google wanting more quality. Google. Saying that they cannot index it all anymore. The thing that we’re all working the same way. And now they’re discovering, hidden gems.
A new to SEO: QPAFFCGMIM
I think this unpronounceable word QPAFFCGMIM is actually how we should work. So it stands for the questions, the problems, anxieties, fears, frustrations, concerns, goals, myths, interests and misunderstandings. Everything that matters to your client. What do they want to know? In what situation are they? What things matter to them when they’re in this situation? What kind of questions do they have about the situation about the use of your product?
What kind of things did they hear, but not understand well? What kind of myths are going around for your product or product group? I think that’s all very interesting topics to cover with your content, but not that much people are focusing on this complete part when it comes to what your client wants to know.
The content onion
And here you see a kind of a model I created myself, I call it the content onion.
And in the core of the content, you can find the information from keyword tools. So you will see a content onion I created for my jobs magazine. In the core, you find information from keyword tools: part-time job in Amsterdam, full-time job in Amsterdam. Maybe a like call center, employee job Amsterdam. That kind of information.
There is more people are interested in
But people want to know more when it comes to vacancies, people also want to know what is the job about? What is related to what I want to know? What, how does my day look? What am I doing all day? What are other people doing all day?
But it’s also around a profession. How do I get there? What kind of education do I need? What kind of experience do I need to become this kind of; and then the job. But a lot of people maybe also are thinking about how can I develop myself? How can I make a next step in my career? Or maybe they’re thinking about and it’s already the fifth layer: do I need to start a completely new education or study something really different and reeducate myself to something different because I don’t want to do that job anymore. And then we have some people dreaming about their future to become maybe independent or start their own company in the future. Or start their own beauty practice in the future.
A lot of layers of interest
So there are a lot of layers where people are always thinking about when people are wanting to buy something or do something that’s not an independent stage. It comes with a lot more. And I think all the questions, problems, , anxieties, fears, frustrations, the concerns to goals, the myths, interest and misunderstandings are through all these layers available and people do do have them across all these layers. So we cannot ignore them because keyword tools don’t come up with them. Keyword tools come up with keywords with most of the time, also short tail keywords, they don’t come up with what your client wants to know there or not client research investigation tools.
They are just keyword tools. So we need to take a step further and think about getting to know our client.
Scavenger hunt for information
And that is what I did with the De Jong & Laan. I had the two content marketeers coming over to my house to create our content strategy. But before we could do that, I gave them some homework and that is get to know your clients. I explained why we need to have this information. So to understand why we are doing this.
Get to know your client
We created these kinds of persona files and I asked them to go search inside their company. Talk to people who have actually contact with your clients, your audience, you’re focusing on. But also try to get in touch with the client itself.
See if you can schedule an interview, ask some questions, get more information, try to understand them. And ask everything you really want, be interested in your clients. And then before we started, we had a short call again, to see what they actually found and if it wasn’t enough to in one day or two days completely create a content map. So it was not yet completely enough what they found. They were like 90%. So we had a video call about it and I could point out that they were missing some kind of information. They went back into company, find these other parts of information. And then when you have it, come over here and we start working together.
Put everything in a timeline
And what we did, you can see on this Instagram story, we created a timeline which looks like a customer journey. (Nowadays I don’t call it customer journeys anymore with See, Think, Do and Care because it causes too much distraction. So in new project I just make a timeline with ‘”zero”, the moment suprême, when people are converting).
A time line filled with QPAFFCGMIM’s that made gaps visible
And we started to create the timeline of QPAFFCGMIM’s towards that point. So all the questions we have written down on post-its and pasted them on the timeline. And we said, okay, if you are at moment one, and you have this question, and a moment four you have this question, is that correct? And are there any questions between those two? Is it it’s strange that you come from question one to question two. Are we not missing anything? And then we started to rearranging all the post-its. And also filling in blank gaps, which we didn’t have in sight, things we didn’t know.
What content do we already have?
So we came up with a very interesting content plan and an, an overview of all the QPAFFCGMIM’s that their client has. And we have also collected the content items they already had and put them right there in the timeline so we can say, okay, they have this question. We already have this content item, but we also have apparently a lot of gaps around it. So after two days, this was the result, a complete overview of the customer journey of questions people have. So next step was the content team getting the right content for those actual informational needs.
No keyword volumes? Just write it.
And we also said, if there is no keyword volume just write about it, because we have researched it we have found qualitative data. People are searching for this kind of information. They have these kinds of questions.
So write, write about it, even if there’s no search volume according to tools. So here you see we created the timeline with post-its and we fill in the content gaps that we had. And that’s also the way of working I did with Andros.
Traditional SEO doesn't work anymore
Here you see the traditional way of doing SEO that revolves around keyword research, SEO content, linkbuilding and tracking rankings. And an image that matches a Dutch saying, we call it a monkey with a golden ring. It means that you can optimize as much as you want and make it a golden ring, in the foundation it is still a monkey because it’s SEO content. And great content shouldn’t come from the SEO department.
But this is exactly what we are doing, optimizing a bad foundation. If the foundation is not good enough, you can optimize it as much as you want, but everyone is doing it , you just cannot make it better this way and you also cannot make it good enough for the times we’re living in.
Proposal for a new way of doing SEO
On this slide you see my proposal for a new style of doing SEO.
It starts with getting to know your customer, selecting the QPAFFCGMIM and then find experts with knowledge. That is also what we did with De Jong & Laan, because it’s about tax, it’s about accounting. I don’t know anything about that. I cannot create good content for actually in-depth questions about financial situations or how to act when it comes to tax questions or problems.
Old way vs new way of doing SEO
So, and this is where the old way of SEO would have probably done it themselves. They go online, find information, rewritten it, and published it on the website. But we cannot do that anymore. Go and talk with the expert that can help, really help the potential client. We cannot help it with that information. And then start to create content. Afterwards, we did some checks in keyword tools. Do we need to find other keywords? Are there better words with more search volume that we can use? Then optimize it and then track results, in which results is bigger than rankings and traffic and conversions. But we’re facing another problem.
ChatGPT makes content worthless
But unfortunately there is another problem. We have all seen the birth of chatGPT. And that makes it even a bigger problem because we are used to just having the content and having the content would be good enough to rank or to at least participate in our ranking competition. But in this new times, everyone can create content. In 10 seconds ChatGPT creates content for you for every topic you want. So we can expect some kind of tsunami of really bad, or at least mediocre content.
In times where everyone can create content, it’s not about having the content anymore. It’s just not enough anymore. It is becoming about something else.
The source as key factor for succes in SEO
Slide 27 + 28:
The question is: who is Google going to show in their suggestions when thanks to ChatGPT everyone has information/content? But the same goes for your audience: tho who are they going to listen when they have so many alternatives?
Well, I think it’s depending on this: E-E-A-T. Who is the expert in the industry? Who has firsthand experience? Who is the authority and who is trustworthy? Because they cannot just show any source over there. It’s too big of a deal for them. The stakes are too high when they are giving incorrect information or they are citing incorrect sources or shady sources. It will make them look bad. So they need to identify the E-E-A-T in each industry.
Ccontent from ChatGPT doesn't make you an E-E-A-T
So, if you want to rank in Google, within the Generic Search Experience you have to make sure you are an E-E-A-T. To make it extra clear: with creating content, with ChatGPT, you are not becoming an E-E-A-T because you are just rehashing, what’s already out there on the internet. You’re not adding value. You’re not adding your unique vision. You are not adding the nuances in every answer. So working with ChatGPT to create your content is not how you build E-E-A-T.
Helpful content + E-E-A-T = SEO
Slide 29 + 30:
But there is another reason why it’s very, very important to become an E-E-A-T and it has to do with the 400 million recipes. Example.
As I already said: indexing is not free. Indexing is actually quite expensive for Google. And we can imagine there comes a point where Google says I’m not going to index all that crappy content that you guys are creating.
So if Google needs to decide from who it is, indexing the content. It works for you when you are an E-E-A-T in this example, imagine you’re a Gordon Ramsay or imagine you’re just a nobody writing recipes from your house. And not having that much reach online and not a brand name. Who would Google index?
Whose content would Google index when it comes to this example. And I think we all agree that when Google has to choose, they would choose for the apple pie recipe from Gordon Ramsay and not the apple pie recipe from just a nobody. And this is why it’s very, very, very important to become an E-E-A-T. First of all to rank, but I think second of all, in the future, you need it to eventually become even indexed at all. So. If you want to have success in SEO in the future, you not only need to have the content you also need to be E-E-A-T.
Just having the content is not enough anymore.
Helpful Content + E-E-A-T are older than SEO
I think Helpful Content and E-E-A-T actually don’t have anything to do with SEO. At least: not until Google turned them into SEO concepts because helpful content is already way older than SEO has ever been. In the Netherlands, we have a chain of supermarkets way before Google existed they had a magazine with recipes with tips and trick about cleaning your house, buying food or cooking dinner or meals. And that’s so old, but this was already a good example of helpful content that was offline, helpful content. The small retailer where we used to go and could answer all your questions, that was also helpful content.
But some moment in time and I don’t know where it was, maybe with the rise of the internet we never bothered to create that kind of content anymore. We just we created a website, we put our products on it. And when we need this content, we only created it for the sake of SEO. We actually… we maybe killed content.
And now Google has a kind of relived it again to make sure or saying that we create helpful content and build E-E-A-T. But it is nothing really new. Compare it to the outside world: also in the e offline world, it matters who the source is. If the cancer society is saying you should wear sunscreen or some random organization is saying, no, you don’t have to, everything will be fine. Who do you trust? Probably you will trust the cancer society because they are an authority. They know, they have the knowledge. They did research. So also being the authority is older then SEO. Google just turned helpful content and E-E-A-T into SEO concepts. But that’s also making it a problem because these things are actually bigger than you can expect from an SEO department, see my earlier remark about moving content out of the SEO department.
But what will be left for SEO?
And what I already said when Generative Search was announced by Google people say, well, what what’s what happens to SEO? What is left for us? What kind of traffic can we expect? And they were also saying there is no reason to create great content anymore.
Other motivations to create content
We also have people just browsing on your website. We also need to inform them, help them make the best choice. But we also need to go out there proactively find our client.
What I’m doing right now is also creating content. I’m not doing this for SEO. I am doing this to proactively get in touch with people out at, at our interested in my story. I am turning this into a video. I’m turning this into a podcast. I’m making posts out of this for LinkedIn, and that’s also a reason we need the content.
Your website as a digital archive
And once we have that content, we can reuse it on our website and optimize it for SEO, but then your website becomes some kind of a digital archive where people can find it if they are searching for you.
The end of endlessy amounts of free traffic from Google
We are used to getting endlessly amounts of traffic out of Google. And I think that is going to change. I think we will never, ever have that same amount of traffic anymore as we had the last couple of years or every year up to now. And that makes me wonder: if we only create content for SEO, we cannot make a business case out of it anymore right?
We cannot say, okay: it’s a search volume of 8,000. With a CTR of 20% and a conversion rate of 1% and an average order value of 50 euros, we will get this out of this, because I think that. CTR of 20%… I don’t have that much faith in it anymore.So that’s also why I say: find another reason to create content. And I think we should transform from this ugly frog of traditional SEO.
Transform from SEO to Organic Marketing
When we are writing in content around the question problems, answer anxieties, fears, frustrations, everything and when you turn that content into podcasts, video, short videos, maybe TikTok shorts or an online magazine: you are not doing SEO anymore you’re creating valuable content and working on a great foundation to actually transform to organic marketing.
And you can turn that content later on into texutal content for your website. Like I, what I’m doing right now, I’m also turning my talk at Emerce Digital Live into blog. I’m adding the transcripts for both visitors and Google. I wanted to ask ChatGPT to create a blog article out of my transcript based on my input (but unfortunately the original transcript of 6.000 words was too long for Chat).
My own case as an example
I can give my own example. When I wrote my book last year, people were buying my book. They started to write reviews on their own website about my book. They started linking to my product page because, not because it was just the next book on SEO.
My book was already about why we should stop, how we work now and start implementing a new way to SEO. So it was quite a unique sound at that moment. My podcast is the same. People are finding my podcast and are writing on it online and are linking to it or are talking about it, which proves to Google: oh, people are writing about Chantals book, about her podcast. She’s writing for Marketingfacts, Dutch magazines. Maybe she is an authority. This is how I am doing it. And it also results in great links to my website. But I think it’s even more important that it’s adding up to my entity becoming an entity. And by becoming an entity and having great content that that is what SEO will be in the future.
Two birds, one stone: Google shows all kinds of content
And what you see here is, especially for my Dutch viewers very interesting. I think when you’re watching my video from the United States, you will know this, you have seen this. Overthere we see Google transforming from search engine to answer- and entertainment engine. Unfortunately, at this moment in the Netherlands we still have the old, traditonal, boring search result page.
You can see it in the upper left corner. We only have listers like 10, 15 listers below each other. But when we’re looking at the United States, we see that the Google’s also showing other kinds of content. TikTok shorts, YouTube shorts. Just normal YouTube video, informational content. And what we are doing in the Netherlands is when we found, for example, the keyword [jeans], we are creating a page and optimizing it for [jeans].
But Google is showing like informational content: how to wear your jeans. Jeans for women above 40. I also didn’t know what it was a thing. But Google is showing all kinds of content for a topic. So don’t focus on website content alone, focus also on the TikTok and the YouTube part of it, which helps you build authority.
Which is part of organic marketing and it will help you, maybe help you become visible in Google on very important queries as well. So I think we should transform from SEO to actually organic marketing, where SEO is a result. And it brings us back to where we started. That content shouldn’t be the responsibility of the SEO department, because we are writing for search engines.
Is creating content in your DNA?
We need to create content for the visitor and it should be in the DNA of the company, because if it’s not in your DNA, I see it happen, it’s very hard to actually create that great content.
You can not say we’re going to build E-E-A-T, but only if it brings me this amount of money, or if I have a business case, what it will bring to me. This is not how it works. And when it’s not in your DNA to create great content, to share your knowledge, to help your customer or your audience you will face very hard times in SEO.
Becoming Gordon Ramsay
How we should approach the way of content is that we should have a separate content department. That is always looking after the story. So, for example, when you sell ovens online, that content department is going to talk to people in the culinary industry, how to choose an oven. What kind of oven would you advise? What do you think is important in an oven? Which oven do you prefer? Do you have brand preferences?
Next step is to turn that video or podcast or recording for Instagram, for TikTok, for YouTube into textual content on your website, embed the video next to it. And that is when you actually become the E-E-A-T and then the content department is completely separate, responsible for the story, the information and the content that we are sharing.
And the other channels can reuse it. So they’re building a kind of a library and the other channels are finding in that library, the information they need for their channels. And I think this is the only way to become the Gordon Ramsay in your market.
What you need for it
And for this you need some things. Of course, you need to know your client, the content onion, all the layers, where their questions are. You need to find the actual things that matters to them. You need to talk to your coworkers, your colleagues, what kind of information do they have? Do they talk with the client? What do they know about the client?
You should have the experts and you especially need a separate content department to schedule interviews, to create the content. And of course you need to get time and budget from C-level. And I think this is really, really the hardest part to convince C-level of the urgency of changing the approach to SEO. And I think they only will be convinced with cases. So, this is what I’m going to do building cases, cases, cases. So I can convince and persuade CEOs to have another look at SEO. Another look at creating content and why we should eventually create it.
And I hope one day. We all see the value of actually good content and not just for SEO.
Let's talk about SEO
Do you want to get more out of SEO and get started with People First SEO? I am more than happy to help you with this. Together with me, you will work on creating your ideal customer profile and determine where and when you can reach your audience with the right message. Some content items are suitable for SEO, while others can be used for demand generation and building authority. All the content you create must meet the requirements of the Google Helpful Content Update and contribute to E-E-A-T.