Ryan has worked within the SEO industry since 2015. In that time, he has collected a vast amount of experience within different companies, all with the end goal of helping him to improve rankings, grow traffic and build revenue for his employers & clients.
Ryan has worked agency-side, growing traffic and improving rankings for clients in a massive range of industries. From ultra-niche websites in the packaging industry to estate agents and architects.
Ryan also has a huge amount of experience in-house, having worked within several different companies. He has worked on digital marketing campaigns for a multi-million-pound office design firm, ran SEO for an IT company, and ran the SEO for an eCommerce brand in the interiors space.
Fast forward to today and you will find Ryan speaking at SEO conferences and events, BrightonSEO being one of them, along with marketing the SEOTesting brand and growing their user base.
The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Ryan Jones
Watch the interview
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Listen to the podcast
(60 minutes long)
The unscripted questions Mark A Preston asked Ryan Jones
What's your SEO story, Ryan?
What was your perception of SEO when you first entered the industry?
In the early days of agency life, what training did you receive?
What was the moment in time when you thought, yes, I've got this SEO thing?
Within the whole SEO space, do you have a specific speciality?
What does your role as Marketing manager at SEO Testing look like?
What was your experience working in-house for an eCommerce brand?
What makes you want to share your negative SEO growth scenarios on social media?
What was it about working in eCommerce SEO you found so interesting?
How did it honestly make you feel when you got your first job as SEO Lead?
Do you believe that context is something missing within SEO?
What's your thoughts when it comes to SEO career goals?
Why do you think that junior SEOs are less inclined now to ask SEO questions on social media than they used to be?
What personally annoys you about or within the SEO industry?
How do you see the content side of SEO evolving moving forward?
Have you done any SEO testing on the impact of human vs AI written content?
Do you believe that the higher quality your content is, the less backlinks you need to generate great impact?
What's the highest competitiveness level you can get great quality content ranking without any backlinks to that specific page?
Do you think that you can more or less guarantee rankings if the brand is strong enough?
How can an unknown brand compete with the big established very well known brands?
Has your perception of SEO changed since you have moved into a much broader marketing role?
Why do you think that a lot of the SEO industry are disconnected with revenue?
How creative do you have to be marketing SEOTesting against all the established SEO SAAS brands?
What really excites you about the career journey you are on?
Do you think generating results and impact is much easier if you work for a highly trusted brand?
What does your self satisfaction feel like when you secure solid results despite your marketing budget is your salary?
How has your love of speaking at search related events and conferences evolved?
How nervous do you get before jumping on the stage to present your talk?
How important is it for SEO events to give new speakers a chance of stage time?
What do you think needs to change within the SEO industry?
How important is it to share the bad as well as the good when it comes to real life SEO results?
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The unscripted conversation between Mark A Preston and Ryan Jones
Mark A Preston: Welcome to the unscripted SEO Interview podcast. Yes, it's 100% unscripted, 100% unrehearsed, 100% unedited, and 100% real. Now, today we have join us Ryan Jones from SEO testing. Now, I've not known Ryan for too long, maybe about three years, but the reason I invited him onto the podcast is because we've been chatting a while over Twitter and he told me he's got a really interesting story to tell you. So, on that note, I want to hand over to Ryan. Hi, Ryan.
Ryan Jones: Hi, Mark. Thanks for having me on. Good to be here.
Mark A Preston: Good. Now, just for those people listening and watching who doesn't know who you are, could you basically give us a walkthrough of your story and how you got into the industry?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, I guess the interesting thing to know is I know there's a common theme with people getting into SEO kind of by accident, whether from a journalism background or they were doing something completely different before and they were asked to edit some website content or something similar. Mine is vaguely similar, but comes down to just pure look. So, the only thing I knew that I wanted when I left school was, I didn't want to go to university and I always knew I was good with computers, technology, all that kind of stuff. So I looked down the apprenticeship route and pretty much just looked for something that fit two categories, like how good was the money doing it? Obviously it's an apprenticeship, so it's still quite little, but how good was the money and how much sort of technology could I be involved in? And came across an apprenticeship with a local agency doing just digital marketing; I had no idea what that was, but jumped in anyway first and yeah, I'm three months away from entering my ninth full year in SEO now, makes me feel a bit old anyway when compared to some people, but there we go.
Mark A Preston: All right, well, when you first got into the digital and SEO industry, what did you have any perception or what did you get told it was?
Mark A Preston: Right. Do you feel as though in your apprenticeship days, you actually got nurtured and trained or was you just left alone? How was your personal experience in those early days?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, well my personal experience of it was it was very hands on, I think I suppose the joy of it being with Agency was you had and this was obviously before remote work really kicked in, in any sense of the world. So you were sat with a team of people who knew their stuff, had been doing it for, I think, maybe the newest guy who was more senior; he'd been maybe doing it for four years already. So, it was always good to have that shoulder to lean on or someone that you could literally turn around to in the same office and just ask them a quick question. So, my experiences, were always very positive with apprenticeships and it's why I spent a big part of my life on Twitter or LinkedIn or anything like that, and trying to maybe get people into apprenticeships, if they feel like that might be what they want to do, especially if they are like a hands-on learner. So, I think if you go down the marketing route with university, not to say it's necessarily a bad thing, but it's definitely less hands on until you get to kind of work experience or internships or anything like that. It's all theory based, whereas I know, like myself, and there's a lot of other people out there who would just prefer to be let loose on a website and make mistakes and learn from them and carry on like that.
Mark A Preston: In what period or what happened, when you thought yes, I've got this, I understand it. What did that look like?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, I can almost remember the day, to be fair, not in terms of the exact date, but I can remember exactly what happened was it was a Monday morning, got into the office and I had my task list set out, which was I had to write a new piece of content but then I had to go through and analyze the previous week of all the content that had been written, using universal analytics and search console and all that sort of stuff; so I was like going into drilling into the analytics of these posts that had only really been maybe indexed for a few days, and this one particular piece of content which was on something stupid, it was like proper niche manufacturing type content. But just see, I saw that graph just shoot up from pretty much like the moment, it had been indexed in impressions and clicks and all that. And I remember what I was doing when I was researching the post, I remember the structure, I'd used to write it and I remember, what I asked when I needed of help. And that was kind of the moment for me when I realized especially content, like the content level, I was like, holy shit, yeah, this can do something, this can be successful. Because even in terms of the clicks, might have been quite small when you look at it now on a graph, but to that particular business at that time, it was massive for me.
Mark A Preston: All right, so what would you say your individual SEO specialty is? Where do you fit in the whole SEO bubble?
Ryan Jones: Mainly content. I've always kind of prided myself on being able to, not necessarily as like a content writer role, because I kind of do the full experience; I'll research it, write it, then I'll move on to distributing it and doing some link building for it as well and I've always been pretty good at link building side as well. But a lot of the success, I've had in my career so far and a lot of the success that I'm having now with SEO testing in the sort of short, immediate term has been through content. And I feel comfortable with learning about a new industry, going forward, writing new blog posts, creating content, clusters, all that kind of stuff, and I think that's a big part of the reason that I took on the SEO testing job, even though it's like marketing management as a whole and there's all of the bits to my role, like speaking at conferences or doing podcasts like this and stuff. It's like, I know SEO, I've been doing it for not too far off ten years now, and I knew, I can make a big impact like coming in straight off the bat, because it's writing about something that I don't really need to research straight off the bat.
Mark A Preston: Right. For those people listening who doesn't know what SEO testing is, please could you give an overview of what it is, the company and your role that you are responsible for?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. So mine SEO testing first came about as sanity check. I think you may have spoken to Nick, little bit on Twitter here and there, and it was kind of developed for his personal need. So of his role at the time was like, going through into search console and trying to take data from individual pages and Nick's got a massive development background as well as SEO, and he realized, obviously, Google search console has its API that can be bought, and it’s kind of messed around with. And he was like, well, what if I can build a tool that will make it easier for me to export this data? Or can I make use of search console data, without even having to necessarily go into search console in itself? So he built that for his own personal need, realized there's kind of like a bit of a market for it from speaking to other SEO friends of his, and went through into like a beta testing phase with sanity check and then eventually the tool got released and, yeah, it was rebranded to I can't remember the date, but it was rebranded to SEO testing and the team's grown steadily but swiftly from there. I brought on Phil, as technical co-founder maybe two years ago and it's, like, kind of transition from a bootstrap business with just Nick at the helm to now there's, I think, seven of us now, full time, all fully remote, and then my role is managing the marketing for it. So whether that's SEO or eventually they'll be moving into bits, like maybe paid advertising and we've got plans to relaunch a podcast as well. We did a few episodes of a podcast last year and the year before, and yeah, so it's exciting for me; because it's the first role that I've had, where I'm moving away from strictly doing SEO and now kind of taking on the full spectrum of marketing, so to speak.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. And I know that your previous position was it an ecommerce brand, is that correct?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. So Land of Rugs, was there at my previous role, full that was essentially the SEO lead. So took them prior to me starting, I think they were at annual revenue 400,000 something, maybe 500,000 and then I think full revenue for the last four year I was there before I left was like touching 1.5 million. So nice bit of growth there. I'm definitely not naive enough to say it was all me and I'm just going to strut (11:12) around acting like a badass because there was definitely some pandemic growth there, but we managed to keep hold of that when physical stores opened as well and keep hold of a good chunk of that market share that we'd built. So definitely a successful time 100%.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. I remember you posting a tweet about your experience in the audience, basically tweeting a screenshot of the graph going down, which no one ever does, and just saying, look this is reality, this is sometimes what happens because people stop searching…., for what we provide. You're all about getting out there and being truthful and getting the honesty out.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, 100%. In my experience, and hopefully in the experience of everyone else, that's kind of like, the only way you can be, right? Maybe that tweet got so much traction because it was like, maybe the first time they'd seen something that said, yeah, here you go, here's our organic traffic, and it's actually going down. Everyone likes sharing these hockey stick growth graphs with no X or Y axis, and you actually have no context as to what the growth is, right? But if I can actually show people the search demand is going down; like, our rankings were still there, and they were actually still improving, but it was purely a thing of like, search; okay, search demand is now dropping because especially with what we sold with, like, home interior stuff, people really want to kind of buy that stuff in person because they want to touch it and feel it and see how it's going to look in their home. So, yeah, we had a big problem with search demand going down, and we had to find fun new ways to either bring search demand back up or try and find new routes to market to kind of negate that. But yeah, that kind of thing happens all the time in SEO and I don't really know why people don't want to talk about it.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Did you find working on ecommerce SEO interesting or not?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, massively and it's like a whole new sort of way of thinking about SEO, like, my previous roles at agency level were more prior to working at Land of Rugs; I'd never taken on the SEO as a whole for an ecommerce site, so there was a big risk on both sides, and we both knew that going in. Like, I fully explained that I have bits of ecommerce experience, but I've never been the one to take charge and lead the SEO strategy for an ecommerce site. And it was quite interesting because ecommerce SEO is very technical. You've got to make sure technical SEO is absolutely on point. So, it was definitely a fun experience at times with my background as like, a content based SEO. But, yeah, it was all good. The team were absolutely incredible, and obviously with the limited knowledge, they helped out where they could and we did have the help of a freelancer as well, who was there to kind of help from a technical point as well. So it definitely wasn't all me but, yeah, it was an interesting. I think it was about two years I was there, or just over two years, but so it was a very interesting time, very fun time, and loved every second of it.
Mark A Preston: So when you progress the ladder, and you got your first role as an SEO lead, how did you feel?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, okay. So that's a weird one. Obviously very proud, very accomplished but then I remember speaking to a few people kind of offhand at conferences, mentioning that I was, like, leading the SEO and I think that's maybe where the age range or the age maybe stigma comes into it a little bit. I'm very open about the fact that I turn 24 next Friday. So it's like, I'm fully aware that I'm younger than maybe quite a few people in the industry and maybe younger than a lot of the SEO leads out there; but at the same time, I started when I was 16, so I think a lot of people are; I didn't do Uni, so I didn't have the whole experience of doing A levels from 18 to 20 and then doing three years of Uni and everything like that; I jumped straight into it when I was 16, so I've got that work experience down. I absolutely knew what I was doing but there were definitely some comments from a few people that I remember, and I will continue to remember on Twitter, or just like, offhand comments at conferences going, oh yeah, be fun to see how it goes for you with a limited experience and all that.
Mark A Preston: You know, these people, they haven't a clue about context. The people that make statements or comments without understanding context, you don't want to listen to anyway.
Ryan Jones: Oh, yeah, 100%. I try and just stay away from the fact that, I'm very open about it but I don't rattle on about this young and I've already accomplished this, this and this, and I'm a conference speaker and all of this. That's not what I want. In reality, I kind of want a nice little private life; like, I just want to get up, do some SEO, finish the day off a nice reasonable hour and go and play some football. I don't I don't really want to be someone who's, like I don't want to end up as one of these hustle bros that you see on Twitter who's like, I'm making X amount at 25 or whatever, and this is how you can do it too. And there's a lot of very nice people in the industry that I've met as well, and some who've gone on to become, like, absolutely amazing friends of mine. Azim is a big example, he's speaking at Nottingham tomorrow, so it'll be good to see him again and I'm funny enough and playing with football with him in person as well like next month with Screaming Frog. Yeah bit of a massive tangent there but yeah, I don't want to be one of those people that's, like, just hopping on about Twitter and how you should be successful at a young age and everything. Everyone moves at their own speed, and I just want to do, what I love doing and help people do the same.
Mark A Preston: That's it. Over the years, I've mentored a lot of people in the SEO industry, and I've always said, what's your goal, your personal goal? You know, it doesn't matter you don't have to take over the world, you don't have to speak on stage, you don't have to do anything; what do you want to do? Because I've mentored a lot of people said, I just want to do nine to five, you know, it really depends on the personality of the person. Nothing as long as you're enjoying yourself and progressing, you'll learn.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, massively. And I think part of that with the big explosion of people on Twitter preaching like Solopreneurs and hustle culture and everything like that, and there's no hate on my part whatsoever about them, but if that works for you, then absolutely you should go for that, if that's what you want to do and that's what makes you happy but this seems to be a bit of not a hatred that's, like, completely the wrong word. But there does seem to be a bit of backhanded comments. It's like, oh, you work for a company and your salaries, and why aren't you working for yourself and doing your own thing? And why aren't you a consultant? And everything like that. There's a lot of people out there who are happy just being successful with an agency or being successful in house and then having a completely different life outside of work. There's nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, 100%. I think a lot of more junior people in the industry, I get messaging me privately, they said because I don't want to post it on Twitter in case I get shot down and you know, I think there's been a lot of that over the years. I used to see a lot more sort of junior SEOs asking questions, and I'm seeing less and less of that nowadays.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, I'm seeing the same as well; maybe not to the same extent as you. I don't have a lot of people like private messaging me in the same context, but I've always been an active social media user, purely because I've grown up in that kind of generation like, Facebook and everything was a big part of my life, and Twitter and everything like that. I've always been very active on social media, but I've never let it; there's always going to be bad comments from people, as much as a sad fact as that is, there's always going to be comments here and there from people, who think you're too young to do something, or you can't possibly have that job role because you're too inexperienced and whatever. But yeah, no, same as you. I'd encourage anyone, if they're feeling like that, to reach out to me. And I can point you in the direction of wonderful people in the community who will be happy to help in any way they can, or even if it's just to offer Twitter advice or something, or a place to rant, even. Absolutely. If you want to do that, do that because at the end of the day, more and more people are going to join the workforce, and we've got to be accommodating to that, and there's room for everybody like 100%. Whether you've been in the industry thirty years or two years, it doesn't matter.
Mark A Preston: So what annoys you in the industry personally?
Ryan Jones: You mean aside from hockey stick growth graph?
Mark A Preston: Just anything just what really gets you back up? What is it that in the industry as a whole? What is it that really annoys you?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, well, we've touched on a couple already. I mean, obviously like, case studies with no context are a big one, that takes a lot for me to read something like that on Twitter and not comment. I don't really want to get involved with it, so I'll just read it and move on, whatever and then we've talked about, obviously like, stigmas around age and everything like that. But I think one of the key ones that I have is, when you're trying to offer advice to someone and you say it, I think it happens a lot with case studies as well, is we've done this, this and this to this particular website and its increased clicks 300% or something like that. I mean, you can add as much context as you want. You can say you've taken the website from 100 clicks to 70,000 clicks a month. That's absolutely fine. But I think people need to still realize, that they can't just read a case study and do the exact same thing and expect the same results, because it's going to depend totally on the niche you're in, on the country you're in, like what level of experience your writers have and everything like that. Because the algorithm weights different things to different industries and niches and websites, and whether it's a new website or an old website and everything like that, there's so much that there needs to be in place to get those kind of results. So I think that's a big one for me is, like, full respect to people who are putting these case studies out, because obviously they take a lot of time to write and they are incredibly helpful in a sense; that you can read them and you can have ideas as to what to do, but don't ever expect that you can just do the exact same thing and be annoyed when you click don't go 300%.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So you mentioned earlier that your love is really around the content side of it. Now I feel as though the SEO industry is going through the biggest change it's ever gone through, and we won't mention that their word but for you personally, how do you see things evolving on the content side?
Ryan Jones: It's a good question and it's, it's something that like obviously with my background as a content based SEO, it's something that I've definitely been thinking about a lot and especially with like Google SGE being sort of slowly released and beta testing and everything like that. But I think at the end of the day, there is always going to be a need for human written, human research and human published content. You can have all the generative or the generated AI text that you want, that's absolutely fine and if that we, we use bits of it, like SEO testing has a chat GPT integration, like it's absolutely fine but there's always going to be a need, no matter what industry you're in, for content that has been exclusively researched and written by humans, purely because there's some things that machine learning just can't quite do; and whether it's case that changes in the future and AI is suddenly capable of doing massive things and it no longer makes up facts on the spot and everything like that but I still believe that there's a reason why Google changed Chat GPT (25:13) to include experience as well is because that is still what's important to readers. That's why we see maybe a change in search patterns and people might nowadays not go to Google for specific things; they might go to Quora or Reddit or TikTok, for instance. They want to see people who have had experience, who have used certain products or they had ten years in whatever industry it is and those are the people that they choose to learn from. Some people just don't want to learn from machines. Obviously there's a massive use case for AI for different search is like quick hit, easy to understand information but for those in depth pieces of content, for those especially in the medical field, for example or something like that, there's always going to be a need for people who have been there, done that, done the research and got it out there of their own accord.
Mark A Preston: So regarding SEO testing, and I'm talking about testing, have you personally done any tests on handwritten content versus machine written content and the impact from it?
Ryan Jones: Not me personally, it's a good idea, actually. I have seen some case studies on Twitter about that kind of thing where they've done tests. Maybe they've done a bit of an A/B test or something like that, where they've taken 20 pieces of AI content and tested it against 20 pieces of human written content. I mean, the way we've always worked or the way I've always worked, especially since it's kind of hit the mainstream is, I'll use AI a bit of not even research, because it tends to make up facts but if I've got a bit of writer's block, for instance, then I might use it to give me an idea as to, how to I'm going to be writing about this how might I start this sentence? No, I've not done any tests on AI versus non AI content, but I have a few test websites that get a bit of traffic, so I might have to run some tests on that and tag you in it on Twitter when I've got the results.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Do you feel that the better the quality that the content is, the less sort of off page link building you have to do?
Ryan Jones: Yes, is a simple answer to that; and we've had examples quite recently of we actually wrote a piece of content with AI tools that can help with SEO, all human done research and everything like that. They're all tools that we've used our self, like myself and Tiago, who works with us at SEO testing. We've all used these tools in the past and we wrote that guide, we distributed it, we shared it on Twitter and LinkedIn and a couple of like, slack communities, but we didn't do any active link building on it at all. And I think off the top of my head, it's like I think maybe it's like a three-week old piece of content and its ranking top of or middle of page two already and all we've done is kind of written it and distributed it between a few places on social media. And yeah, we've done no active link building to that at all and it generated, like good results for us. It got hit with like, Google Discover and everything like that, we got clicks to it that way and we actually got leads for SEO testing for it. We got people signing up to demos from reading that piece of content as well, which is that's our end goal. Like, we want people signing up for trials and event, actually becoming paid users, that's what we want. So that was like an ultra-successful piece of content that we wrote and no, we've not done any outreach for it at all by just giving it a share on Twitter and LinkedIn and maybe three marketing communities.
Mark A Preston: Right. What sort of?... I know there's no accurate figure, but what sort of competitive test level would you say that you can get a piece of content ranking and driving organic traffic up to before you need to start focusing on links?
Ryan Jones: I think there's and there's certainly examples from, from what I've seen in the past. I think it's obviously it depends on the niche and everything but like, examples from my background at Land of Rugs, is we published pieces of content that got to the middle of page one without doing any link building at all and that gets to the point where you're then competing with those big sites, like, In Land of Rug's case, it was like done next and Ikea and everything like that. And that is then the point where you're going, yeah, right; we can't realistically compete with this little site that we have compared to these behemoths. So this is the point where we now need to go actively out and try and build some links to that piece of content and it's the same that we've seen with SEO testing is we've put a bit of content out and it’s kind of because of the authority that we've previously built over years and years of publishing SEO based content and obviously doing link building in the past and stuff like that. The site has the authority there, but we've had like pieces of content that we've put out and have hit maybe bottom of middle of page one or something like that and they're getting impressions and they're getting clicks. But then you come across the SEMrush’s and the Ahrefs and the Wix like those kind of websites and I think that's then the turning point that you need to turn around and say, okay, now we need to maybe look at doing some link building to just move that needle just that little bit further and hopefully try and take on those massive sites in the industry.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Do you think if a brand is strong enough that it can publish anything and get ranked?
Ryan Jones: Yes, to a point. Yeah, I think there is and Lidia Infante, who I know you've had on your podcast before, she shared a piece of content which I actually I've used in my slide deck for my talk tomorrow about SERP diversity and how Google will still continually prefer to choose older sites that have been there for ages, obviously, because that means that they've got a history of writing content and even doing link building and stuff in the past. I can't remember the exact figure off the very top of my head, but I think for 2022, it was around a quarter of URLs that were ranking were like new URLs and the rest of it were like old established domains that have been there for ages. So I do think up to a point, if you're a big website that's been around for years, like if you're a SEMrush or an Ahrefs or a Wix; for example, you've been there and done it enough, you've published enough high quality content that's ranked before that you can as long as the content is good, right you can publish; if it's shitty content, it's not really going to rank anyway but yeah, to a point if you're a big enough site and you've got enough authority, you can absolutely write a well-researched piece of content, publish it and realistically expect to be kind of top of page one in a couple of weeks, like I've definitely seen it happen as well.
Mark A Preston: Right. So on the other scale, so if you are or working for an unknown brand who doesn't really have any brand authority or trust or anything, how does one compete against all the big players?
Ryan Jones: It's interesting you ask, because there is part of my talk tomorrow does sort of drill down on this exact topic; I mean, my talk is about how those small companies can compete with those sort of tiny companies who have how you can compete with those massive multinational companies, et cetera, et cetera. But the hard answer to say is, it is kind of a long game, you do have to be regularly publishing well researched pieces of content; it doesn’t have to be putting out a bit of new content every day, not to that stretch at all but you have to have a regular publishing cadence of good content, that's going out and you need to be actively link building to those blog posts as well. If you're a smaller site and you've not been around for very long, you can't realistically expect, just because you've written 10,000 words on that particular topic, you can't then realistically expect that it's going to rank purely, because it's better and longer than the other pieces of content out there, because if it was a case of all you had to do was write better content, then everyone would just do that and everyone would suddenly rank page one and it became this just war of new content being published and no one wants to get to that stage either. So it is a long process, it is a hard process and it does take time and money and effort to do it, because you need to be there publishing regular content and then obviously actively distributing it and link building to it as well and that's where you kind of need to then look at other avenues as well which is why it's interesting me moving to a marketing based role rather than a purely SEO role, because you then need to look at trying to get in front of customers on social media and obviously TikTok is a big one now, or Reddit and Quora and these communities where there are absolutely customers who will be searching there, but not Google, for instance. So you need to find those new avenues that you can get to, that maybe companies like IKEA and Dunelm don't target, for instance.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So now you've moved into a more marketing role, has your perception of SEO changed at all?
Ryan Jones: I don't think it's changed more than anyone else's in the sense that SEO has changed over, we've all seen how SEO has changed over the past few years. Like ten years ago, obviously, I was saying you could just get links on loads of free web directories and that would move the needle for you, and it's no longer the case. So I think SEO has changed to the point, where obviously everyone's seen SEO change. I think the interesting thing from my perspective is seeing how it fits into marketing as a broader scale. So rather than me spending the last seven years of my life thinking of SEO as just this one thing, and it's incredibly sided, and as long as clicks and impressions are going up, then I'm doing my job and I don't really care about anything else, right? But now being responsible for marketing as a whole; you've got to understand how, like if we do a bit of research and publish a bit of content on this and then we do some link building, but then maybe we also do a podcast about that same topic and we link it there and we share it or I do a talk about it, like the next week and everything like that. You've got to understand how SEO fits into it as a spectrum rather than a silo. You can't just, I can't now just log onto my computer every day and see that clicks are going up and think that's a success, because if clicks are going up, that's great but if revenue is not going up as well, then I'm essentially failing at my job.
Mark A Preston: But shouldn't SEOs be looking at this stuff anyway and looking at the impact of what's happening?
Ryan Jones: Yes, absolutely they should and I've absolutely made that case before, maybe I'm going off a bit of a tangent I kind of messed my point up a little bit. Yes, SEO should be looking at revenue; absolutely, but I think the big difference is, especially when you're part of an SEO team, maybe you've just got an incredibly silent, like maybe you're a content writer and your job is to write the content, publish it, and then it gets handed off to another department to do some link building or digital PR or something like that and you don't then necessarily have to think about how that turns into revenue in the end, or if you're like a massive company like Hub Spot, for instance, if you've got a CRO department who are taking these blog posts and doing some tests and call to actions in different blog posts and seeing how that impacts it. I think, when you're coming down to it on that sort of scale, so you do need to think about it but I think if you're just sided in SEO, especially if you're part of a big team, you don't need to necessarily think about it as much as someone like, if you're using me as an example, who runs marketing for a smaller SaaS brand now a massive part of my role to kind of think about. But if you're a link builder for a massive company, you might not need to think about the impacts of the work you're doing on a revenue front as much as someone else might. So it's all a bit of a spectrum and it's going to depend on what your role is, what the niche is, and how big the company is.
Mark A Preston: So how creative do you have to be when you are like, SEO testing is relatively small brand compared to the likes of SEMrush and Ahrefs and all these other big tools that's out there. So how creative do you really have to be to stand out in the crowd?
Ryan Jones: I think there's an argument to say that you need to be more creative than a bigger company, like Ahref, for instance but especially if you're using as an example, I think we all kind of do marketing in the same way; a lot of it is kind of product led, or some of it is product led at the very least then there's like our core values at SEO testing one of them is to just teach everything we know, so there is content that we put out just to make people better at SEO and there's no end goal, it's just to read this guide and hopefully you'll understand a little bit more about internal linking or something like that. And then we've got content that we publish that's like, here's a problem that some SEOs have and here's how SEO testing can help solve it and that kind of thing. But I don't think you need to be massively creative. I think we do marketing in the same ways that Ahrefs do marketing and SEMrush do marketing, like, we're still out there, like, I'll still go to industry events and talk to people about SEO testing, or we'll sponsor different events or something like that, or we sponsor newsletters, all the same stuff that you see Ahrefs doing and SEMrush doing and everything like that. I think you just have to, I think especially when you're a smaller brand and this is like the new thing that I'm learning, right, is you need to be more community based than maybe a larger tool does. Because if you're a massive tool like Ahrefs, you're going to have brand recognition already, kind of, because if you're a new SEO who is just entering the industry, you could ask almost anyone on Twitter, what's the best top five SEO tools? And generally, the answers are going to be like, obviously analytics but then you're going to drill down into Ahrefs and SEMrush will be in there or Wix might be in there, in a few of them and WordPress and everything like that. Whereas if you're a smaller brand like we are, you need to have those people as Lidia is, I know she's a big kind of bit of an ambassador for us; she uses our tool, she looks at all and everything like that. You need to have people like that in your corner, who are going to recommend your tool to people because otherwise beyond publishing blog posts and eventually getting that brand recognition, which is a longer process. You need to have people like, fight in your corner straight away, so if someone was to message later and say, how do I solve this particular problem? And she can respond with, well, as it happens, SEO testing does this, this and this. And it's the same for other tools, right? Like, people also ask or like when they were first starting, I'm sure they needed to go to people and say, here's our tool and here's what it does, and here's a free subscription and go and do this for us.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Personally, I've always liked working with the unknown and turning them into the known; for me, that's a journey that excites me. Working with a big established brand and basically doing a couple of little tweaks to turn the needle, it really excites me more, and that's why I've never gone into well-known brand SEO. I mean, what is it for yourself that really, really excites you about the journey you're personally on?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, I mean, on that aspect, I think we're incredibly similar in the sense that I've worked for an agency and we've had like an account with or we've done the SEO for a bigger company, but I've never myself worked for one of those big companies, like, I've never been part of the in house SEO team at a massive multinational brand. And I think part of that came down to where I started; I started at a small Derbyshire based SEO agency who had small manufacturing clients, or they were small car garages or something like that, and that's what made me fall in love with marketing, was seeing how the work I was doing was then impacting their business. The business owner could have, like, maybe he was a car mechanic for 40 years and he knows nothing about SEO, but the fact that he can pay an agency, however much a month and then we can actually turn the money that he pays us into leads and into new customers and then brand loyalty, for instance as well. That's the reason that I've never really had an interest in joining a massive company, because a part of me thinks that the work is already done, because the brand awareness is already there, and there'll always be people who are recommending certain tools and everything like that and certain companies for different things. And I've always found my interest and my love for marketing is being in the sort of trenches, so to speak and dogging away and trying to build that brand awareness for smaller companies and that's what I love, and that's why I come to work every single day and do what I do.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, there's a lot of people that say that working on well-established norm brands, you still have to put the hard work in. But personally, from what I've seen, and doing white label stuff for big brands, you can literally sneeze and things will happen. But people, some people are shouting on, look how good I am, well, all you've done is literally sent a few emails and because you are who you are, they'll obviously say yes.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, because you have that logo in your email signature, there's a higher chance of them saying yes to whatever the request is, right? I mean, a good example, going back to what you said about all you have to do is send a few emails or write a particular blog post or whatever, and then all of a sudden it pops up on page one of Google; an example is we obviously being SEO testing. We wrote this well, Nick, and the rest of the time before I joined, but wrote this big marquee guide on SEO testing. And it had all different tools you can use, and different ideas that you can go away and test. And that then ranked like top of page one; if you searched SEO testing, that was the guide you saw, and then underneath that was then SEO testing as the brand. And then all of a sudden, Ahrefs comes along and writer guide on SEO testing. Even like, Ahrefs will help you do bits with SEO testing, like you could research new keywords that you might have missed in previous content, but it's not necessarily an SEO testing tool. But they've written a guide on SEO testing, and now all of a sudden, we're having to compete with this search real estate for this massive SEO tool, and that's the thing. All they've kind of done is written this guide and then they've had a team who have, like, had the Ahrefs logo and in their email, and then they've sent it out to people and said, hey, would you want to link to this? And because it's Ahrefs, they're gonna say yes. And because it's Ahrefs, people are gonna see the guide and link to it organically anyway because that's, like, who they are. And please, before anyone, like, like, hates me on Twitter for it, that's not me making a jab at Ahrefs at all; that's part of the game, right? And that's what we love. I love competing with these big brands and getting back at them. So, there's no shade on Ahrefs for doing that, absolutely. I absolutely love it. But, yeah, it was funny just, like, linking back to that and kind of all they've done is written a blog post and distributed it a few places, and then all of a sudden, it's suddenly there, and now it's more work for me to do to now try and beat them again.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, there must be a lot more self-satisfaction when you rank a really decent piece of content for an unknown brand; I feel personally, it's like, yes, what gets me is, yeah, basically I've got no budget, but you have to work miracles and I've done it.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, it's just me and my salary is the marketing budget. And I've got to now sit there and all I've got access to is Google search console or I might have the light subscription to Ahrefs or something like that or I might be as part of a team of one who have only got a trial to SEMrush or something like that, and I'm having to sit there and do this work. And then I'll publish this piece of content and two weeks later I can see it's jumped to, now competing with these big sites. But, yeah, 100%, that's like, the reason I get up every day and do what I do and that's the reason I love going to conferences and hearing about people who have done the same thing and everything. Like, I'm talking to you, who has done the same thing as well.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. So, I can't remember what year it was it was, but I remember watching you speak on stage at Brighton SEO. I think it were a case study about what you were doing; has your love of speaking evolved?
Ryan Jones: Yes, it has. Yeah, I think it was 20 back ended. I think it's I think it might have been the first Brighton SEO back after COVID, so like the first in person.
Mark A Preston: Probably, yeah.
Ryan Jones: So maybe like September, October 2020, something like that. But yeah, that was actually my first talk in any situation other than having, I think, maybe like a ten-minute appearance on a podcast that was like my first foray into public speaking, and then since then, I've gone on to do different bits. Like, I did a talk at the London SEO meetup for Blue Array. Yes, my love for public speaking has definitely increased and it seems weird to say because, I actually haven't done any public speaking for just over two years now. I've done podcasts and stuff like that, but this talk tomorrow will be my first in public appearance for just over two years. But the way I look at it is, I've taken that two years and I've been able to go to conferences in the meantime and see how these incredible speakers like Chima, who does obviously a lot conference speaking and is an incredible public speaker, and people like Azeem and Crystal Carter, at Wix like she's a phenomenal public speaker as well. I've been able to watch these people and I kind of keep mental notes Andy Jarvis, as well is another amazing public speaker that I've seen a couple of times now. So I've been able to kind of sit there in the background and learn a bit more from watching and now I'm excited to bring this new talk out tomorrow, which is hopefully going to take the learnings that I've had over the last two years and really be a good show stopping piece, hopefully.
Mark A Preston: Do you get nervous before you get on?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, massively. I think when you saw me speak, I was like just coming off the back of a chest infection as well, so I was still, like, having that little bit of that feeling in my throat as well, so I think having that nervous aspect of, what if I have a coughing fit, like ten minutes in? Or I think there was actually, like, maybe a ten second little bit, where I completely forgot what I was about to say next and I just froze for 10 seconds. So 100% I get nervous before any kind of speaking event, but I kind of enjoy the nerves, in a sense and I think there was a good piece that I saw, like a survey done, that there's more people, like, people rank public speaking as a bigger fear than death.
Mark A Preston: Like, you do it in America?
Ryan Jones: Yeah, exactly. And I'm not sure whether I go to that level or not, but, yeah, I definitely get anxious before I do any sort of talk, but I relish that and I can use those nerves to maybe put on a better performance, in a sense. And I think that's part of the reason is because at the end of the day, I do care deeply about what I do and I want to put a good talk out there for everybody and I know there's people in the audience who have done it for longer than me and stuff like that, but at the same time and I've always been excited to see new speakers speak, because I'm always of the opinion that you can learn something from anybody, whether they've been in the industry for ten years or ten months, there's always something you can learn from somebody. So, yeah, I sit with the nerves for a little bit and hopefully two minutes into the talk, once I've gone through my introduction slide and everything and I start getting into the actual marketing piece, then I'll just breeze through it.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, I mean, I've done a lot, a lot of speaking and I remember, I think it were London University; it was actually a corporate gig, being live streamed and everything and I get to my third slide in and realized they only gone and changed my slides. They tweaked some, they literally added some and they removed some, my third slide in without telling me, but because I just go with the floor and since then, all my slab since then has just been pictures.
Ryan Jones: Yeah.
Mark A Preston: So it's literally I can just say what I want. I mean, regarding the new speakers, I talked to a lot of people in the industry and a lot of what I call the unknown people are doing absolutely amazing things and achieving amazing results because they're just there with red down, understanding things, and I think that if you don't give these people a chance, well you're missing out.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, absolutely 100%. And I think there's something to be said, like, maybe I won't go too much into it now because we've got a time limit and everything like that, but there's definitely that core circuit of speakers who are all in they're at the same kind of events, and obviously the vast majority of them are there because they're incredibly good speakers, right? But at the same time, and this is why I like events like Brighton SEO is because they place an importance on getting new speakers out there. Even if it's only like on a small stage, you're still going to have a lot of people generally in the audience hearing you speak and then that can then lead you on to maybe the main stage at Brighton SEO or the International Search Summit or something like that, like later on in the future. And it's that good platform for new speakers to get out there and really see whether they enjoy public speaking or not, because it's definitely not for everyone. There was a time where I thought it wasn't going to be for me, and then I just thought, I'll try it, and ended up really enjoying it. But yeah, there's also that stigma that to be successful, you have to be a public speaker and that's absolutely not the case. If you don't want to do any public speaking, nobody's going to force you, and you don't actually have to do any public speaking. You can just sit down and do your job quietly and if that is what makes you happy, then absolutely go for that. I just happen to like putting work in and pitching for events, whether I get accepted or not, I'm going to continue pitching for conference that I think I can speak at and speak at well, and hopefully just continue growing as a bit of a speaker.
Mark A Preston: Right. Oh, my goodness the time is flying on nearly an hour. Now is there anything at all that we haven't talked about that you feel really passionate about, the audience needs to know?
Ryan Jones: I think we've kind of brushed over a lot of the topics. I think this is the beauty of an unscripted interview is the sense that we've been able to kind of organically touch on these topics already, like public speaking and working for smaller sites compared to bigger sites and everything like that. I think the only thing that I would maybe add to kind of finish off is, there's 100% SEO is changing, and we need to roll with the changes, like, I see people on Twitter every day who are maybe kind of stuck in their ways, and like, I've done this for five years; it's never going to change, and I'm going to continue doing this, but 100% SEO is changing. I know we tried to steer clear of it earlier, but AI is coming to search whether we like it or not. And we all need to let go of our egos a little bit, learn a little bit more, and just sit down and speak to people who learn from people, like I said, whether they've been in the industry for two months or two years or 20 years, it doesn't matter. We should all just, I suppose this is like an overreaching point as to let's just not hate on anybody on Twitter for what they've got to say. SEO is changing; we all need to be aware of this, and we all just need to enjoy the ride together and just see where it ends up, because there's everything to say that search will change massively, forever. All is everything to say that Google might just get rid of this experiment two years, no one knows. But yeah, let's just enjoy ranking the sites that we do and enjoy marketing companies, because that's what we're all here to do.
Mark A Preston: Well, that's the SEO industry. It's testing things, it's making ridiculous assumptions about something because you believe in it and go ahead and try it, and look, this is what's not worked. It's much about the failures, as it is about the wins.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. I know we've touched on previously about that tweet, that I sent out that have the graph going down, and obviously I hope that there's never a situation again that I have to tweet about. Obviously I'm a marketer at heart, obviously I hope all my graphs go up like that, but, yeah, I'm going to continue being open, I'm going to continue being honest, and I'm going to continue sharing the remarkable, wonderful fuck ups along the way.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, if it was an everyday occurrence where you were tweeting about all your mess ups, then maybe somewhat needs to change, but the odd time, it's all right.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, if I can just stick one in there like, here's a win, here's a win, here's a win, here's a failure, and here's how I've learned from it, that's the important thing is like, this has happened. Here's how I drilled down, and here's how I learned, and here's how I'm not going to do it again.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. Well, like I say, the end is near and all that remain to say is, where can people find you, and what sort of conversations would you like to have with the audience and people in the industry, or maybe broader outside the SEO industry? Because I know that my podcasts, listen to people in the business community as well.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, absolutely. You can find me at @Ryan Jones SEO on Twitter, I'm always active on Twitter, it's one of the best things that I get to do in my time. But yeah, absolutely, if anyone wants to follow me, talk to me about marketing, or talk to me about SaaS Software as a service, talk to me about small business marketing; I will talk about anything and the people who know me well will know that they can never get me to shut up. So absolutely, give me a follow message me, tweet me, whatever, and I will happily have a conversation.
Mark A Preston: Fine. Well, on that basis, thank you very much for joining us today.
Ryan Jones: Yeah, thanks for having me on.
Mark A Preston: Cheers.