Welcome to Growth Interviews!
Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.
Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.
Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business.
In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Jono Alderson, R&D performer at Yoast and one of the most renowned digital marketing experts. He is a true master of digital strategy, SEO, Analytics, WordPress, speed, martech, CRO and much more. Jono could, in fact, be considered a bridge between the ‘big picture’ and technical details.
Have a look at “some of his thinking” from his website:
During the interview, Jono reminded us about a critical subject that everyone is putting more thought into for a while now: website speed optimization. More than that, he revealed that Yoast is preparing a huge surprise that will shake the digital marketing landscape!
Curious enough? The full video interview takes only 8 minutes, so have a look!
We believe this information was indeed essential. To get a closer look, we invite you to read the actual words of Jono Alderson, along with his most important ideas.
How to discover digital marketing at a young age
Jono, tell us how you got into the digital world from the very beginning.
Jono: By accident. I was bored one week – I remember it very well – when I was 13 years old. I taught myself HTML and I just fell in love. I started building little websites that grew into bigger websites. I was a web developer, working from my bedroom for many years, just building stuff: butchers, bakers – local businesses – and I became obsessed with making it better. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I had to tweak this tag, and move and change the order of these. Should I have a tight flow? That’s how it all worked.
I found that I was doing pTec class – if I’d known that’s what it was – and I fell into the agency world. It was in the right place at the right time and I learned a lot from people like me.
By accident, I think, is the short answer!
Take advantage of digital tools in favor of your website
What frustrates you right now about the current digital landscape?
Jono: I think the web is very broken and that’s frustrating. On one hand, we have a blank canvas that allows people and businesses to create beautiful innovative world-changing things. On the other hand, everybody’s website is slow and we all spend our time fixing 404 pages, the web development community is two steps behind, and things break faster than they’re fixed. I think we have the tools and toys, but not necessarily the maturity and experience to use them enough yet.
So, I want to go faster. I want to get to a place where we really learn to take advantage of all this incredible technology we have. But, at the moment, it feels like we’re a little bit stuck. We’re trying to paddle up the water and stop all things from breaking.
Website speed is most definitely important. From user experience, we can tell you that a slow website can lead you to a low rank faster than you think. Five years ago, page speed looked a bit different.
What is new? People’s expectations of how a website should behave, have. These expectations can lead to a huge gap in conversions, trust and interest all together. Here are some fresh statistics on this idea for e-commerce businesses.
What do you think could be the solution for that?
Jono: There is an answer – I’m not sure it’s a great one – which is Google’s vision for what it might become. That’s hugely contentious, and I’m aware that it’s riddled with politics. I’m not sure it’s a great solution, but it feels like there will be some constraints around what we can and cannot do on the web and how things work. That’s one way.
The other is a big part of what I’m doing in my day job: trying to make the architecture and the tools better. Let’s give people websites and technology tools where they don’t have to think about all the technical details and worry about search engines, where it’s just baked in and it works. See each part of what we’re doing with a web developer or an SEO. An average shopkeeper or website owner shouldn’t have to think about XML Schema. It’s so abstract, and we want to be able to solve that problem and get on with other things to do.
One of the biggest losses in e-commerce marketing and what is about to come
What do you think e-commerce marketers are missing out on?
Jono: I think the big thing they’re missing out on is differentiation. They’re just selling the same kind of stuff with the same kind of prices. The world’s changed, when you look at it. In the next few years, we’ll have a proliferation of driverless cars, 3-D printers and drone deliveries. You can’t compete on price, on location, or on same-day delivery, and in a lot of cases many e-commerce retailers have built businesses based on those USPs, and they’re five percent cheaper because they’re a little bit closer, but someday all of those things will just go away. What they really need is a brand story and a reason why people should shop with them and not their competitors. People are waiting too late to get up to that and they’re going to fail.
There are a lot of ideas on this topic. For instance, some of the best ways to differentiate your website from your competition when it comes to start-ups are:
👉 Find out your authentic online voice
👉 Look for influencers
👉 Make amazing content
👉 Never forget SEO
Tell us about one outstanding achievement regarding Yoast.
Jono: It’s about to go live so it doesn’t really count! We’re about to ship out a feature that we’ve been working on for months, which is, we want to automatically take care of Schema markup, at a scale nobody ever has before.
I was saying about websites being a bit broken. One of the things that they often come upon, whether they’re SEOs, developers or anything, is structured data. As JSON-LD in Schema, we’d say, ‘This page has this product which has these attributes at these prices’ in a structured way. It’s really hard to do that well at scale.
I think we’ve cracked it. The stuff we’re launching in the next week or two will just automate all of that in a way that’s beautiful, efficient and huge, and it will pave the foundation for doing new and exciting things on the web.
2019 e-commerce marketing tips
Tell us a few ideas for e-commerce growth related to 2019.
Jono: It’s going to have to be speed, because that’s what I’ve been talking about today. Google is obsessed with speed, users are obsessed with speed. Speed has a direct correlation with conversion, user experience, all the good things. Make it faster! I think, until now, many businesses have settled for, ‘Is it fast enough? Are we faster than our competitors?’ Users are getting pickier, technology is getting better, the platforms they hang out on like Facebook and Twitter are getting faster, their expectations of what ‘good’ looks like gets higher. So, make your site and upload experience better, faster, sleeker, and take advantage of best practices – it’s well-defined now – and go read everything written on the Google Web Fundamentals and documentation, starting from: ‘This is how to build a good website’ right through to ‘Advanced font optimization’. Follow every step there and win the market.
What is your take on customer retention?
Jono: I think retention is a hugely overlooked area. I think there are many challenges with modern capitalism, especially in the digital economy. I think the biggest one is everything being channel centric and tied to month-to-month performance. That kind of thinking makes it really hard to care about anything other than acquisition: an acquisition by channel within any cost. And every business is fighting to reacquire the same lost consumers from other places. If just one of them was brave enough to say, ‘We understand the value of consumer loyalty. We understand the value of storytelling and that people do have preferences when they shop and make post decisions.’ If they’d just step away from ‘How many people have been forced through our funnel this week on this channel?’, they would be a little bit braver and might see that they’re winning.
At Omniconvert, we take the importance of customer retention very seriously. We have countless ideas on this topic, but just to name a few:
👉 We understand the impact of customer lifetime value (CLV) on e-commerce
👉 Keep in touch with your customers through surveys
👉 Analyze your customers and help them remember you
The difference between a good and a bad SEO
Is there anything else you would suggest for SEO professionals?
Jono: It’s increasingly that all these decisions are based on ‘What’s the MVP?’ and ‘What’s the least we have to do to achieve these goals?’ That won’t work anymore from an SEO perspective.
You have to aim for how you can be the best: whether it’s the best web page, the best content or the best proposition. That’s going to be the baseline. It’s not enough to go tweak, tweak, and then test it and see if it works. You’ve got to think, ‘How do we resource and deploy the best thing for this need for this user on the web today?‘ And anything less than that won’t achieve anything. But if you do it right, you’ll absolutely blow the competition away.
How do you think our e-commerce audience should be hiring an SEO?
Jono: I think there’s definitely a trick to understanding the difference between a good SEO and a bad SEO. A lot of you could hire somebody that promises the moon, and give them a list of tactics.
There are two places where that goes wrong.
One is, understanding best practices is easy; anybody can learn SEO. Fundamentals aren’t complicated. The complicated thing is putting it in context for a specific business. It’s not enough to work with a checklist of best practices. You’ve got to understand where the effort versus reward is, so you need somebody who can think about the business challenges and find a way to respond to them and create a strategy.
The other challenge is: a good SEO understands the relationship between SEO and other channels. It’s not a thing that exists in isolation. You can’t do good SEO if your content is bad, your customer service isn’t good, your product is too expensive, or you don’t understand your marketplace. You need somebody who can see through the eyes of the consumer and understand all the moving parts of that business and all the touchpoints for that consumer. It’s all a one-man show. You need all customer service people to help you with FAQ content. You need your product people to understand the market. It’s all joined up. You need somebody who could create that bridge.
Do you think you know the best SEO practices of 2019? Here are some other small tips on this:
👉 Optimize your website images
👉 Check your content authority
👉 Longer content is king now
👉 Consider AMP
Automation is the future
What is your take on AI in digital marketing?
Jono: I’m really excited for a world where we no longer need to be writing ad copy and matching it manually. It feels like that’s a necessary tedious bit. People need things and they’re willing to pay a certain amount. Brands have things and they’re willing to ship that for a certain amount. All of that feels just like a commodity purchase. It should go away and that’s what it does.
We get the freedom to think more about brand storytelling, market fits, expansionism, different relationships, and joining things up. I think anything that removes manual effort of connecting things to things people want and need feels like a good thing.
You should always be in touch with the latest news when it comes to your online image in front of your customers. Know the difference between a good and a bad SEO, optimize and maintain a high speed for your website, and embrace the benefits of automation.
Make a difference with your website!
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