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Peak Ace on Air Episode #27: The Christmas special

It’s hard to believe it, but we’ve finally reached the last Peak Ace on Air episode of 2020! We ended the year with a bang by inviting not one, not two but three guests. We were very happy to be joined by renowned SEO expert and consultants Arnout Hellemans (NL), Nick Wilsdon (UK) as well as our own Head of PPC, Julia Riml. And of course, with company like that, it was hard to say goodbye – meaning our Christmas special was also supersized, at nearly 90 minutes long.

Bastian prepared a list of questions about relevant topics – here’s our recap. (As always, we recommend you watch the video first to get all the details!)

Question 1: What has changed most for our guests during this year?

As for all of us, this year brought a lot of change for our guests. Nick wanted to take a step back from the corporate world and become a consultant, which he did! Likewise, Arnout was naturally forced to abandon travelling to meet with international clients and instead work on projects from home. One observation Arnout made was that in general, people seemed to have more head space since shifting to remote work. With the number of meetings a day cut down, he said he was able to get a lot more done with his clients in less time.

For Julia, the pandemic meant distancing from her team. She said this was really difficult as she is used to colleagues just walking up to her desk to talk to her or ask a question. Julia admitted that the lack of interruptions had also made her more efficient, but at the expense of team dynamics. And in an agency, a team’s ability to cooperate is crucial – it’s all about being “together in the trenches”. So she can’t wait for the moment when we all are again allowed to be back together in the office!

Question 2: What are our guests’ thoughts about the event scene during the pandemic – and after?

Everyone agreed they missed seeing people at events and the chance to have a quick chat with people – hard, or even impossible, during virtual events. Of course, online events allow a bigger audience as the travel restrictions are lifted, but it’s still not the same without being able to talk with people face-to-face.

Nick also pointed out some weaknesses in the event industry, and specifically in the events organised by the SEO industry, which the pandemic has brought to light. And, as he said: who wants to watch eight hours of back-to-back Zoom talks?

Dominique even admitted experiencing a complete content overload this year, as there was all of a sudden a huge surge in conferences, white papers and webinars of all kinds. (We’ve all probably seen those ads for webinars teaching you how to run webinars.) What is the benefit of such an excess of online content? It’s hard to say.

Question 3: What was the biggest surprise from Google this year and what can we expect from them in 2021?

For Julia, the biggest not-so-nice surprise was the trend of Google allowing advertisers to control their campaigns less and less. This had started before this year, but measures such as removing certain search terms from the search term report was not encouraging news. This means that you need to be absolutely sure of what you’re doing when advertising with Google, because, as Arnout put it, implementing all of Google’s recommendations perfectly would certainly be detrimental to any business!

Julia also pointed out that advertising on Google is moving more and more towards the marketing tech side, as there is so much technology involved, from tags to counting offline conversions.

Nick added that it’s easier for SEOs to work with Google, as for SEO, Google is not trying to intervene that much in their work.

Question 4: Surprises from the content perspective

Dominique pointed out some of the biggest changes she saw this year: one of them was of course a lot of campaigns having to be put on ice. Plus, people would be creating content without knowing if their campaign would still be relevant when it finally came out. This meant that blog posts and other content pieces tended to be shorter. And as Dominique always prefers big, interactive content pieces, this meant a big shift in her mindset.

But one positive trend she noticed was the coming-together of PR, content and social media, so that big content pieces were also published more on social media, for example. And of course the topic of content ROI. As more people started to generate more content, it automatically led to people also expecting something tangible out of it.

Questions 5 and 6: Schema markups and audio search

According to our experts, most (other) SEO experts don’t really know how useful schema actually is. And when it comes to audio search, well, it’s still coming. Nick very nicely summarised it like this: Google is waiting for the brands to fully embrace schema, but the brands are waiting for the money to be there, so it’s a little bit of a “chicken and egg” situation: which one has to come first?

Question 7: Does the pandemic increase the importance and opportunities to advertise on Google?

Not surprisingly, Julia was quick to say that it’s always important to advertise, but continued that 2020 has definitely made online advertising a new “must” for a lot of companies, for obvious reasons. However in a similar fashion, this year forced certain industries, like the travel industry, to stop advertising altogether (at least, temporarily).

Question 8: What else is there to Google SEO performance metrics other than https and page speed?

We’ve previously talked about SEO and UX coming together in one of our episodes, and Bastian wanted to hear our guests’ opinions about it, or more notably about what Google thinks are the most important website metrics.

Arnout began by noting that the reason why Google is pushing page speed is not only for the benefit of the users, but also for their own. Rendering websites takes a lot of time and costs Google a lot of money, so it’s also in their interests to make sure that the websites are as fast as possible.

Nick agreed with Arnout and continued to point out that in many of the emerging markets, for example in many African countries, they start on mobile. These countries usually don’t have the latest phones nor the fastest connections, so in order to serve these mobile-first countries, websites need to be especially fast. And of course, the online trend will continue heavily next year. People who began online shopping this year will most likely continue doing so into 2021.

Last question: what is the most important thing our guests will concentrate on next year?

Peak Ace ladies Dominique and Julia both want to concentrate on more department synergies. This means more emphasis on cross-channel cooperations for campaigns from PPC to SEO and content, as this is also the message coming from clients.

For Arnout, his two major things are to increase testing with his clients and also to learn more about human psychology, in order to both negotiate better but to optimise the website as well. And he also wished that in the future, he’d talk about SEO more with the tech and product teams rather than focusing so heavily on the marketing teams.

Nick will dive deeper into technical SEO projects and is also very excited to learn about edge SEO or involve computing technologies in SEO.

And last but not least, what does our CEO have in mind for next year? Bastian would definitely like to get back into testing mode, and bring back our testing labs. And the other thing is, related to what Dominique and Julia said, the need to do more cross-channel and cross-department projects. That will need some organisational reshuffling, most likely. So interesting times ahead!

And that’s a wrap for Peak Ace on Air 2020! We’ve done 27 episodes since we launched in March – it’s been quite a ride, and a steep learning curve. We’ve had a lot of fun doing these episodes and we hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as we have!

The first PAoA in 2021 will air on January 12 with a welcome & recap episode – see you there!

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