Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.
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David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcasts on WMR. This is your host, David Vogelpohl, I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine, and I love to bring the best of the community to you hear every week on press this as a reminder, you can find me on Twitter @wpdavidv, or you can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at wmr.fm. As a reminder, you can check out the WP Engine agency Virtual Ignite series this month we’ll be featuring strategies of reselling to agency clients like to register for that virtual event please visit wpengine.com. All right for this week’s episode I really happy to really address this conversation. It’s always a hot topic in WordPress. And that’s how WordPress SEO is changing. And joining us for that conversation is is someone who knows a little bit about that from rankmath. I’d like to welcome to Press This Bhanu Ahuwalia.
Bhanu Ahuwalia: thanks a lot for having me.
DV: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us for those listening when the news going to cover today is his thoughts on where he thinks SEO is going particularly WordPress SEO what technologies and techniques are folks getting good at today in order to keep pace with the future and how you can think about your WordPress SEO strategy in the future. So Binu I’m gonna start by asking you the same question I asked every guest Could you tell me briefly your WordPress origin story? When was the first time you use WordPress?
BA: Yeah, definitely. So it was just after I completed my engineering and was a mining. I completed my engineering and I was stumbling on online how to earn money and then I stumbled upon WordPress. Initially I was using Blogger but when I started using WordPress, I realized that it is much more expandable and it was much more fun to work with that and then for from 2009 till 2012 We ran a very successful walks using WordPress. We were among me and my partner for over the using the Google Adsense to on the money and we were among the premium publishers. So premium publishing is something that is being offered only to a few people that are using Google ads. And so we were driving huge traffic somewhere around five to 10 Min, five to 7 million visitors every month through search engines. So we were harnessing the power of SEO during that time and then in google 12. We also realized that it was not enough blogging teams out there that would that would cater to the needs of just bloggers. So we launched a company called Mikey shop and why while we were running my cube shop, we also realized that the SEO plugins were not that good enough for us at least. So we developed something internally and then later in 2018, we launched rankmath Everyone and so it has been quite a long journey with WordPress and we have really enjoyed it so far.
DV: So 2009 You said you kind of got started with Blogger were Did you immediately strikes and you got your engineering degree but did you immediately start building sites for yourself or did you start working for clients like in a freelancer agency capacity?
BA: Initially, I was working for myself and also for the clients but when we are talking about clients, I was working exclusively at that time for Smashing Magazine. I was promoting their articles on the a huge social media platform back then and stumbled upon and driving trust that so that was I wasn’t entirely working for myself during that time.
DV: Gotcha but, you eventually went on to kind of build up these blogging sites that were very popular. I love how you said you were looking at ways to make money online and like you’re the person that found the way like made a whole thing out of it. Maybe not one person but it was funny thinking about like as I talked about that, but in 2009 this would have been right before custom post type senior kind of I feel like really changed WordPress. Did you feel that at the time or were you too early in your blogging journey that custom post types just didn’t mean much to you in 2010 when it came out?
BA: And to be honest, I haven’t I do not know much about the development of WordPress at the time. My entire focus was on running the successful blogs driving the traffic to that. And the only thing that concerned me was the uptime of your site and the plugins that I was using that was it. So I wasn’t much aware of the custom post types when they were introduced to everyone.
DV: There would have been really early on for years. He started in 2009, like in Syria had not advanced enough at that point to really be into that bed. Really interesting to think about what’s happening in WordPress and when people are coming in. But now maybe we could kind of move on a little bit here. You mentioned that you all found it. rankmath. Could you just briefly tell the audience what rank math does and what your role with rank math is?
BA: Yeah, so as I mentioned, when we were running our own WordPress theme shop, we we noticed that several users and including us, all the old SEO plugins that were in the market, they were not evolving as much as Google was evolving. And then we were looking at the GitHub repositories. We were seeing that several requests were turned down or not getting implemented maybe because the vision that the other companies have not aligned with what the requests were getting put up. So we developed a plugin internally it was on 16. That was the first time that rankmath was developed. So we use the plugin successfully on our shop and team shop and also on our various blocks. And when we realize that we have built something very helpful, not just for us, but maybe we can release that to everyone. That was the time when we started cleaning up the code making it more usable and focused much more on a UI UX, and then we launched a plugin because it will late 2018 And since then, in less than 3.5 years, we have gained four 4.4 million active installations on wordpress dot Waje and one of the things that I really want to mention and we feel very proud of it that we have not spent anything on the paid marketing as of now. Everything that we have gained is through word of mouth marketing, and through what the users feel about our products.
DV: Excellent. So it sounds like for you it really was born out of this need for your own publishing business. And then as you started to form it more into an external product, you’re effectively able to take the lessons from your publishing business and apply it in this product. Sense and that’s great to hear about your success without having to market it. That’s fantastic.
BA: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened and Viva because I mean, we were ending up installing, like several plugins just to get over with our technical SEO needs on our website and it was getting really problematic for us to keep up with all the updates and from various developers, you know how it works. It was getting very problematic. So we developed something for ourselves but we are very happy that what we develop not only just helped us but is also being loved by several 1000 people out there.
DV: Excellent, excellent. Well thinking about it then from like your publishing background and now kind of into the SEO product realm. You know, I’m sure like many listening even myself you have like this history of SEO and thinking about like, what’s happened in the past what’s here to stay maybe what’s going to happen in the future. And I kind of like to get to know a little bit more about what you think the pillars are WordPress SEO that will be here to stay. But we’re gonna take our first break we’ll be right back.
DV: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to press this WordPress community podcast on W EMR. We’re in the middle of interviewing venue. volley, about how WordPress SEO is changing, although bunu I want to kind of switch it up and ask you first about what’s here this day. Like are we going to still have to be worried about meta titles in the future? Like what do you think of the pillars of SEO now that will continue to be true in the future?
BA: Yeah, so I mean, as soon as it evolved a lot since we started. And we are seeing that Google is getting smarter maybe because the data set is getting larger and larger every day. They have been collecting this user data of searches and what users like so what we have noticed that schema markup also people a few people know or know that by the name of snippets, we are seeing them they are going to stay because the reason for that is that Google wants to strengthen their data set much further over they currently have and schema markup is something that is helping them directly in understanding what the page is about what the content is about and if what they from their data sets. are perceiving about the page is matching with the schema markup that is being provided by the users. And if that is the case, they know that what they have developed internally and what they have collected internally is going is really strong.
DV: So do you think there may have heard a pardon for interrupting but it sounds like what you’re saying is you feel like schemas here and I think the counter argument to that is but yeah, they’ll figure out the context with artificial intelligence and whatnot. It sounds like what you’re saying is you’re not dismissing the ladder. That you’re just saying though, you believe they’ll continue to use it in combination with schema.
BA: Yeah, definitely. So I mean schema, at least for some time, it is going to save and buy some time, I must mention that. It could be somewhere around five years or seven years because again, Google is evolving way too much and with the advent of AI as as you just mentioned, I mean, things are changing very rapidly. But when we are talking about schema and the on page, SEO data that is going to stay for long because it was there when we started back in 2009. It is still here and we strongly believe it is going to save because no matter what happens AI will definitely need the assistance of the humans to help that help the engine understand better over the content is
DV: what other pillars do you think you’re here to stay? I mean, you know, content is king backlinks any other like mainstays of SEO that you think folks should continue to invest in,
BA: have seep back into something very something that a person cannot control on their own because usually people have ended up building the lens unless they are well known in the industry and they are a brand on their own. So yeah, backlinks is something Google is dismissing because we keep on testing new websites to see if it is working with us or not and we are seeing that if we are able to make strong internal links. Also the structure of the website is good along with definitely the content. We are able to rank the articles much sooner without any external backlinks. So backlinks does play a role but unless you have a brand, which is huge or your budget to spend, which is kind of illegal according to Google’s tos, so those things are going to stay but if your content is good, where the AI again comes into play with the GPT three, because now you can also generate the content on the fly very quickly. But again, that is not perfect as of now so you have to still edit the content. So those things are here, what we are seeing in the coming future.
DV: So we talked earlier about how search engines are leveraging you know things like artificial intelligence different techniques and technologies and research. What do you think is happening with search engines themselves that will change how we optimize sites in the future like you just hit on even today is like internal linking good site structure better or maybe stronger even than External links, but what else is happening? That you think will change how we optimize sites in the future?
BA: Yeah, so I mean, for that, we have to understand what’s the main motive of Google the Google goal really wants it when a person is searching on their website, they get to know they get to be reserved, very fast, which satisfies the content. So great content is something that will never change. You have to but at the same point of time, you have to ensure that you are satisfying the intent of the search right off the bat rather than writing three four paragraphs of random beers. And then coming to the point that is not going to work. And you might have also noticed that Google is now utilizing Rich Snippets, much more as opposed to what it was five years back. The reason for that is Google really wants the users to find what they are looking right in the search box, right, right on that page, rather than visiting a website. So you have to write the content in an in a way that you answer the question right? away. And then also add some sort of a statement so that the users feel entirely enticed to click on that result and come to your website. And then from there, there are several things like you have to ensure that your website loads really fast because the the everyone is moving over to mobile and the mobile data is not as efficient as the broadband that we use on our laptops. So you have to ensure that your website is loading really fast, it is usable, it is easy to read, and you are not bombarding your users with 10s of hours above the fold. And then writing the content. So those are the things from a usability point of view that you have to ensure along with the spirit of the website that you are always ensuring that you have a check checkmark or on your website. If you’re optimizing for SEO.
DV: So it sounds like one thing that’s staying the same in your view is Google’s motive, which is to get searchers the answers fast. But it sounds like they’re getting better about understanding the intent of the searcher and whether the content will answer the searchers query. And so instead of maybe, like, I don’t know, regurgitating a bunch of keyword rich copy and embedding on that to hopefully get you ranked. It sounds like you’re making the case that because Google’s getting smarter about what your copy means and whether it answers these questions that users are searching for. That really focusing more on doing a good job of that is is maybe one change that people need to embrace now and in the future. Yeah, so in other words, thinking more about the content is like someone’s asking you a question and I need to answer the question right away, rather than telling a longer narrative stuff with keywords.
BA: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that was the case back then as well. But now, the reason that is much more important as you mentioned that they are utilizing various tools like aI who understand the intent, but at the same point of time, you have to know that more than 70% of the searches that happen every day, are never been searched before. So people are searching for new things every day. So as long as you’re fulfilling the intent of the user and also ensuring that they come to your website, you’re going to get traffic from Google and then from there on. Once the VU visitor is on your website, it is a whole another story for optimizing for the conversions and ensuring that you get to know more about your customer. And visitors so that you can bring them back again to your website.
DV: Yeah, so again, obviously a mainstay of SEO right which is converting the visitor or to get them but to your point on you know, mobile and obviously its rise in terms of the share of web traffic performance is obviously super critical. And then, you know, we’ve of course seen data indications from Google and others that plays a role and how they rank websites. Which is obviously another aspect of SEO that folks have to keep in mind these days. All right, so I want to talk about folks who are at the cutting edge of SEO, I’m just wondering what those the cutting edge are up to these days. But we’re gonna take our last break, and we’ll be right back. Time to plug into a commercial break. Stay tuned for more press this in just a moment. Everyone welcome back to press this the WordPress community podcast on W EMR. This is your host David Vogel poll. We’re in the middle of talking about how WordPress SEO is changing with the new of Walia the new right before the break. We were talking a little bit about how search engines are changing and how people should be thinking about optimization differently. I’m just curious though, for those at the cutting edge of SEO like what are they doing, what are they looking at what are the pushing the envelope on? What are the non standard SEO techniques that are getting you excited?
BA: I mean, first of everything we all have to understand that SEO is not something that what is working for me will also work for someone else. It is not that simple. But at the same point of time what we have noticed is that applying the 8020 rule has always been a success for almost all the SEO marketers out there. So what I mean by that is you got to ensure that you are optimizing the 20% of your content, which is bringing 80% of the traffic. What people usually do is that they start optimizing everything on their website, which is not something very fruitful and the ROI is low. But what you got to do is head into your Google Analytics and then see which pages are bringing most of the traffic and then start optimizing and by optimizing I mean I mean to say that ensured that the pages are loading really fast to the users, you can use the lazy loading if that is needed. Then by utilizing the AI and for that just few months back we launched the content AI for rankmath where users can utilize the power of AI into their content, we suggest the users how to write the content, what things should be added to the content in the heading in the title or in the meta descriptions and then which pages to link out to and what sort of FAQs to be included. So harness those things along with the site optimization. Those are the things that we usually see people do when they are already getting traffic and they have implemented almost everything else.
DV: So it sounds like one of the cutting edge things folks are doing. We’ve seen success from this in a variety of industries. But it sounds like it’s combining things like artificial intelligence with kind of human guided recommendations or edits if you will, are you feel like folks are using those AI tools and then editing the content? Or do you think folks here I know that we had the founder of birth of AI on presses a while back? And he said their whole homepage is written by bots. But what do you think people are like editing the suggestions by the AIS?
BA: I mean, what we have noticed that you still must edit what the AI has written because sometimes the output that the AI gives is not very useful to us because at the end of the day, as I mentioned earlier, you have to ensure that you are fulfilling the intent of the users and they are not there to read just random bullshit on your page written by some board, which does not make sense to them. Otherwise they go back and they won’t be coming back to your website and then that is also being tracked by Google. And if that they see that the behavior is very common with your website, they are not there to ensure that your that your pages are not shown up in the search pages. So if you are using the AI tools to write the content you have always should interfere and ensure that everything that has been outputted by the AI is up to the mark if not write that on your own, because now you have an idea of what to write.
DV: Yeah, that’s sound advice. I know a lot of people see those tools and they’re like, oh, I can create web pages. No problem and I think you can, but it’s best to obviously read and edit and make sure it’s in the right voice and make sense but check out bertha.ai Like I said their home pages are in it is shocking how good it is these days. Sweet. Well, this was awesome. Thank you so much for joining us today.
DV: Yeah, absolutely. If you’d like to learn more about what Bhanu is up to please visit rankmath.com Thanks, everyone for listening to press this the WordPress community podcast on WMR. Again. This has been your host David Vogelpohl I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on Press This.