Itamar Blauer podcast interview – why people should practice sustainable SEO

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To mark hitting Episode 50 of the podcast (still can’t believe it!) myself and Itamar hopped onto a recording, with just a topic – Sustainable SEO – and no agenda. In this episode, you’ll learn lots of things – but mostly, why you should be considering SEO as a long term strategy, and not chase quick wins.

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(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Itamar describes himself as an SEO Consultant, Trainer & Manager, author, and a YouTuber since 2008.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What sustainable SEO is
  • Advice for industry practitioners when working with clients
  • Advice for clients, and business owners around developments in SEO
  • Why the industry shouldn’t chase after the latest shiny new development blindly

…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!


Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Sign up to “The Marginalised Marketer” newsletter: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/the-marginalised-marketer-newsletter/

Connect with Itamar:

Website: https://www.itamarblauer.com/ 

Work: https://www.curemedia.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/itamarblauer

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZjZzsFU-vtcj21xmvb2aRA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/itamarblauer/

Episode Transcript:

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks podcast. I’ve got a brilliant guest with me today, Itamar, who is going to introduce himself because I am not going to butcher this. But I need to tell you all something. This is the first time we’re going to do a recording where there’s literally just no agenda, just a topic. We are just going to shoot the heck, as my American friends call it, and we’re going to be talking all about sustainable SEO.

Azeem Ahmad:
Before we get into that, as always, please like, rate, share, and subscribe. Tell a friend to tell a friend, and then tell that friend to tell their next door neighbor about the podcast. And also, shameless plug, please sign up to my newsletter, The Marginalised Marketer. You can find all that information about the podcast, the newsletter and more at iamazeemdigital.com.

Azeem Ahmad:
Anyway, onto the topic, sustainable SEO. Itamar, welcome to the show, my friend.

Itamar Blauer:
Thank you very much, Azeem. It’s an absolute honor to be here.

Azeem Ahmad:
All being well, you are going to be episode number 50, the big five-O. So no pressure to deliver on the no agenda, but tell the audience who you are and why you’re going to smash this episode out of the park.

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah. So hello everyone who’s listening. My name’s Itamar Blauer. I’m an SEO consultant trainer and I’m currently the SEO manager at Cure Media, which is an award-winning influencer marketing agency for fashion brands. There’s a lot I can say, but I don’t really want to talk too much about me. I want to kind of get onto this topic because I think it’s very interesting. Obviously, being episode 50, there’s no pressure, right? No pressure. We’re just going to go with it.

Itamar Blauer:
Sustainable SEO, right, and I’m kind of asking my own question here, Azeem, unless you want to ask me one, but when I think of sustainable SEO, the reason why I want to talk about sustainable SEO, is because I feel like a lot of people in the industry, they’re always trying to think of what’s hot right now and then tackle that, and then wait for the next thing.

Itamar Blauer:
So the best example I can give you with that is something like Core Web Vitals. So we’re talking about, I think it was May 2020 when Google started announcing Core Web Vitals. Everyone was like, “Whoa, this is the big thing. This is something that we’re going to jump on.” So a lot of people did. When you look into the nitty gritty of the whole concept, websites were always meant to be user friendly, right? They were always meant to be performing well for the user.

Itamar Blauer:
The reason why I link this to sustainable SEO is that essentially the core of sustainable SEO is if you’re planning to be in business and have a website for the next five to 10 years, it’s about the activities that you do that really future-proof your website and your business to be able to succeed, no matter what happens. No matter what kind of new buzzword comes out, no matter what kind of algorithm update gets announced.

Itamar Blauer:
The reason why I say the Core Web Vitals example I think is great because nobody needed Google to tell people in May of 2020 that the content shouldn’t be shifting and causing a bad user experience. It’s not like a light bulb went into people’s heads, and they’re like, “Right, now is the time to sort this stuff.”

Itamar Blauer:
So when it comes to sustainable SEO, for me, it’s always about trying to plant the seeds that will grow your website into the kind of mid to longterm, so that you’ll always be able to benefit from strong, organic performance that you can get from having a very good website.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. I mean, we could just end the episode right there. Thanks a lot. Let’s dig into that a little bit more. I’m really interested to learn more from you. So you’re talking about being sustainable in the medium to long term. Why is it that you think that there’s such a short-term mindset in parts of the industry?

Itamar Blauer:
I think it’s because things change quite quickly. So in my eyes, I’ve seen this a lot over the years. If you think all the way back to the 2000s, when link-building was like, you buy a bunch a huge volume of links, you’ll be able to rank. That was the thing that worked then. And then, over time, that didn’t work, but something else worked. Do you know what I mean? And I feel like SEO in part has had this kind of hurdle approach where there is always a hurdle that you reach, and then there’s always this new way of doing things or a new term that comes up or a new algorithm update that causes people to change that perception on certain things. And then they just try and address it one by one.

Itamar Blauer:
So that’s why I think, and I’m not trying to generalize, I’m not saying everyone does this, but I just see it a lot when something new comes out and then people like, “Okay. Yeah, this is the big focus. This is exactly… This is what is going to increase your rankings.” Then it just becomes more of a checklist where that checklist keeps on getting bigger and bigger as time goes on. So once you’ve done something, there’s always going to be something else in the next month or few months, that is new to you, that you’re going to have to address.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, love that. I’m immediately drawing comparisons to a shiny new thing syndrome or likening it to spinning multiple plates at once. I guess one of the things that I wanted to ask you, I was going to ask you this later on, but I think you’ve led me mostly to it. Imagine for a second, Itamar, I am listening to this and I am work with an agency. So I’m paying an agency to do my SEO for me, but I’m listening to this podcast. I’m thinking, well, a lot of the things that this guy is saying resonates with how my website is being managed. Where can they start to address that? How can they start to address this issue and bring this up with people that they work with?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah. That’s a very good question of course, because it’s the reality for a lot of people or a lot of business owners that use agencies. I think this is a whole nother topic in general, in terms of work agencies. I know a lot of great agencies, I know a lot of very bad agencies. That’s just something we have to deal with. I think if someone’s, like you posed that, if someone’s listening to this, and the kind of stuff you could ask an agency that’s doing your work for you is, I think it’s important to understand methodology, because a lot of times an agency will go to you and they’ll kind of tell you the checklist, or they’re like, “Well, we’ve done an audit. These are the things that we need to fix.” But I think SEO is much deeper than looking into audits and looking at the X, Ys and Z, these are the things you need to do.

Itamar Blauer:
I think methodology is very important because if you have a good methodology, it should be able to portray that this agency is going to be doing things that are still going to be benefiting you in the longterm. I think that’s a very important thing to address. I’ll try and think of an example. It’s like when people try and flag… Let’s have a think… Even with Titlegeddon, like Google changing the metadata and all that kind of stuff.

Itamar Blauer:
If an SEO agency tells you, and not even titles, if they’re going into, let’s say, meta descriptions, and they’re telling you, “We’re going to do this thing for you where we’re going to create new meta descriptions.” This is absolutely critical. It’s quite hard as a business owner to really be able to be very critical about when you’re hearing these things, because it’s like, “Well, as SEOs, we know that. Google most of the time rewrites meta descriptions anyway.” The only new stuff they have is to impact click-through rate. So it’s not even a direct kind of ranking factor, right?

Itamar Blauer:
I think this is why it’s important to anyone listening that a good methodology for SEO, it’s pretty much anything but the kind of checkbox approach of, “We’re going to do this, this, this, and this to get you these results.” It has to be more something like, “We understand your business, and the things that we’re going to do are going to be able to sustainably and positively impact your business on your website so that you are able to get the returns that you’re looking for in the long-term.”

Itamar Blauer:
I think that also involves being able to speak with an SEO agency. And I’ve said this to SEO agency owners a lot. When you’re pitching out for sales and stuff, that jargon, firstly, it’s very unlikely to work or resonate with a business owner because they’re not going to know what the hell… You can tell. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah. So I’m going to address the whole Titlegeddon situation going on.” And they’ll just look at you and they’ll be like, “What the hell does that mean?” So I think language is very important when you’re communicating this. That’s from an agency’s perspective.

Itamar Blauer:
But from a business owner, you’ve got to probe. I think you just have to probe the agency. It’s like, “How can you confidently be able to tell me that you are going to show me the results in the long-term?” I think that this is where you can weed out an agency that’s great versus an agency that might be a bit mediocre, where it’s like, if somebody is just going to be like, “Well, we’re going to get you these results because we’re going to do this whole checklist approach.” That to me is kind of mediocre way of thinking about it, because of course these things can change over time, with any kind of new algorithm update. That’s when you’ll get these mediocre agencies who will be just chasing this whole check-mark scenario.

Itamar Blauer:
But if you get somebody who’s able to really talk to you about their methodology, about how they think about organic search, how they think about, first of all, understanding your business and understanding your website to be able to drive these results in the long-term. I think that’s a very important thing to discuss with them.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant. Absolutely gold. Thank you so much for sharing that. I wanted to flip the script a little bit then, and not talk about it from the customer’s point of view, but from the SEO point of view. I mentioned earlier on it, it’s probably a bad analogy, but that shiny new thing syndrome. What advice would you give to SEO as practitioners, people in the industry who are in the weeds, shall we say, to stay focused on sustainable SEO in the longterm and not get distracted by the shiny new thing? What advice would you give to those people?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah, that’s a brilliant question. I think the first thing I would say, and I say this a lot, is that you have to be critical. When you hear things online, especially if it’s something new that comes out, I think you have to be very, very critical. Don’t just take things at face value because that will just lead you to tunnel vision on whatever that thing is. If you end up finding out over time that you’ve wasted so much of your time and resources trying to go for this brand new thing that didn’t work out, then you would have wasted time for yourself. You would have wasted money from your client. They’re not going to be happy, and all in all, it’s just a lose-lose situation for everyone.

Itamar Blauer:
So the first thing I’d say is be critical because a lot of the times when you hear about these new shiny things, you’ve got to ask yourself, it’s like, what if I try and do the opposite? Or what if I try and take a different approach? I’ll come back to the Core Web Vitals example. I’ve heard people say in the industry that, Core Web Vitals are absolutely fundamental to ranking well on Google. I’m just thinking to myself, if I took that at face value, all I would do is try and improve a page speed score from 80 to 95.

Itamar Blauer:
And even that, like page speed insights or the metrics, they always change. Every time you rerun a test it changes slightly. Do you know how much time could be wasted on doing that and to something that might not really impact you at all in terms of the ROI or the KPIs that you’ve got? If I take a different approach and be critical about Core Web Vitals, and I’m saying actually, you know what? I think content and relevancy is far more important than how fast a page loads.

Itamar Blauer:
So number one, be very critical of anything that you hear online. If you really want to make sure, do tests, experiment, have your own site where you can run these tests and be able to see for yourself what differences or any kind of correlation you can see between things. So I would say for SEOs it’s very important, be critical, experiment with things. Don’t always take things at face value. I say that as well, not to be like, don’t simply discredit or disregard things that people say, but just always try and have a bit of an open mind in terms of, well, they’re saying this, what if I tried the opposite? What if I tried it slightly differently and see what happens?

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. Love that. That’s a brilliant way to think about things. I guess one thing that cropped up in my head, which I wanted to ask you, sort of put you on the spot really, because it’s something that’s just came to me. So let’s say, for example, that you were working on my website and I didn’t know a lot about SEO or anything. I am paying you to do this for me. You have explained to me your methodology, you’ve explained to me how you work, and it makes sense. I’ve gone away, done my own Googling. I’ve come across an article that somebody else has written and they are saying something that’s completely different, without using Core Web Vitals, for example, but some that along those lines. I’ve brought that back to you and I’ve said, “Right, why are we not doing this?” How do you explain that to the person that you’re working with or for?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah, and I think you’re most likely to find scenarios like that. And the reason why you’ll find scenarios like that is because SEO is a subjective field. There’s very little that’s completely objective about this industry. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love this industry, but then also it can cause some controversy in terms of what you’re saying. So if you, a client, was going to come back and show me something that said something different, I can be like… Well, you can do many things in this scenario. Either you could tell them, be like, “Look, I’ve tried this myself. I’ve tried different approaches. This is what I found to work.” I think something else that’s very important and business owners and clients care about is proven results or testimonials or any recommendations.

Itamar Blauer:
So you can show people, and some people have problems with the confidentiality of showing other clients. You can get the screenshots of a Google Search Console performance graph or something like that, where it doesn’t include any info about the other clients or websites, whatever. But to be able to at least try and convince them that A, you’re a critical thinker, which I think is important in an industry where there are so many differing opinions, but also to show them that you’ve got the goods to back it up. If you’re able to kind of showcase any previous work that you’ve done related to maybe something, even if it’s something very close to the kind of topic they’ve brought up to you and say, “Look, I’ve approached it my way. This way worked. If you want to try it this way…”

Itamar Blauer:
At the end of the day, and this is something as well that clients need to understand, at the end of the day, it’s their money that they’re spending. So if they’re very adamant on you doing or working in a particular way, sure, but at least try and educate them. I don’t want people to start taking people’s money and just messing around, not really doing… Education is very important in an industry that’s so subjective. So at least try and explain your methodology and try and explain whatever that scenario is in the sense that, “I’ve done it this way. It has worked. If you want to do it another way, I can do it, but I’m just telling you, I’m warning you in advance, I can never make any guarantees and this and that, but I still think that the way that I approach is better.” At the end of the day, if you phrase it like that, there’s a higher chance that they’ll trust you, because at the end of the day, they’re paying money for somebody who has the expertise to go and do this.

Itamar Blauer:
You should never belittle clients or laugh at them or call them out because they’re just curious as well. I feel it’s a good thing if clients are curious, because it means that they really care about their own business and their own website. So just trying to be nice and just explain to them that based on your testing or experience, this is how it works. Show some testimonials or charts of progress, stuff, just to make them feel a bit more at ease. That’s the way that I would approach it.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. I’ve said that a lot this episode, but yeah, generally I love that. Especially the part about encouraging curiosity. Couldn’t agree with you more. 100%. I could genuinely talk to you for hours, my friend, but I’m sure you’ve got a proper day job to do.

Azeem Ahmad:
Before we part ways and you share your contact details, I’m going to open the virtual floor for you. So if there’s anything that you want to share, talk about, or continue to talk about, I’m going to give you 30 seconds to do that right now.

Itamar Blauer:
I mean, to be honest, you said that this episode, you first said to me, 10 minutes, and then I look up and I’m like, “Wow, it’s almost 20 minutes.” How did that happen? To be honest, I just want to say thank you to you personally for giving me the chance. I really appreciate being on here, especially with the big five-O. I’m personally very happy about that, and yeah, I don’t really have too much more to say unless there was any last bits that you wanted to add.

Azeem Ahmad:
The only last bits, and probably the most important bits, because if there are people listening to this thinking, I’m really valuing the insights that this guy is sharing, I want to find him on social media, follow him and learn more from him. Where can people do that?

Itamar Blauer:
Aha. Yeah, so everywhere basically, because I think I’m the only person in the world that has my name. So if you search for me online, if you type in Itamar Blauer, and if you’ve spelled it right, of course, then you should be able to find me. I try and upload useful content so that people can help improve their skills and learn more about SEO and other digital marketing disciplines. So that’s on my website, itamarblauer.com. You can find me on YouTube as well if you search for Itamar Blauer, and find me as well on LinkedIn, Twitter, all that kind of stuff.

Azeem Ahmad:
Top stuff. Thank you very much, my friend, for being an absolutely brilliant guest. The only last thing I will say is don’t forget to like, rate, share, subscribe, and also pick up the newsletter. But more importantly for this episode, just as we hit bang on the 20-minute mark, Itamar, you’ve been a brilliant guest. Thank you so much for giving up some of your time and sharing your wisdom with not only me, but also the people who are going to listen to this show.

Itamar Blauer:
Thank you, Azeem. Been a pleasure. Cheers.