Episode 10: How to Create and Maintain Websites for SEO Growth with Ashley Berman Hale, Director of Technical SEO at DeepCrawl

Transcript:

Monica Evans:

This is The Marketing Hero podcast by ClearPivot, turning marketers into heroes.

Welcome to The Marketing Hero Podcast. I'm your host, Monica Evans. Today, I've got Ashley Berman Hale on with me. She is the director of technical SEO at DeepCrawl. Welcome, Ashley.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Hi. Thank you for having me.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. Well, let's start off with you telling the audience a little bit about yourself.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Sure. My name is Ashley. I live in Colorado currently, but I've hopped all over the U.S. and I have been tinkering with websites and search, mostly technical SEO since the early 2000s. I hate to give away my age too quickly there, but it's just something I've loved to do. I actually joke a lot, I have a degree in art history, which I've made fun of on my own but truly I have learned to approach technical SEO with the same kind of critical thinking and appreciation as my degree. That has been what's carried me through, especially these last few years as I reflected on it. I've been in-house, I've been agency, I've hopped around doing my own consulting, but right now, I am really loving leading a team of technical SEO's for a SaaS company.

Monica Evans:

Can you tell the audience a little bit about DeepCrawl?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Sure. DeepCrawl is a crawler. We're an enterprise level crawler. If you are looking for a lot of data, that's what DeepCrawl offers. There's probably oversimplification there but when I used to do a lot more SEO for smaller or medium sites, I used Screaming Frog, which is a pretty comparable tool, which has an amazing set of features, as well.

We're essentially that but at an enterprise level. There'll be a lot more data trending, a lot more reports and analysis, diffing, $et cetera, you can do. But it's an enterprise crawler with a fantastic team headquartered in London, and New York... Cool and wonderful people and lots of data. Who can ask for more?

Monica Evans:

Yeah. So, you've been in the SEO game for quite some time. What kind of changes have you seen with SEO in the last 10 years?

Ashley Berman Hale:

I would love to answer this in two ways. The first is really, going to be just that at the same time that things are getting more sophisticated, and more technical, I think there are some really great tools and processes out there meant to still make it fairly democratic, and to make a lot of the technical SEO accessible for everyone.

That to me has been a really interesting co-evolution between new technology, newer features, heavier features, lots more reliant on scripts, but then also our tool's getting smarter, our web platform's getting smarter. Even though it could all be more difficult, essentially, we're able to keep pace with the technology.

The other big thing I've seen in SEO as an industry, and the part which I actually, like quite a bit more, it's just that people are being a lot more authentic and human.

I think we're seeing that in SEO, in that really genuine content that speaks with people, sites that are truly built with the user in mind, instead of just clicks, or impressions, or ads, or anything like that, those are the sites that perform well and resonate over time.

Similarly, people in our industry are... I think they're warming up to each other a bit more. I think, there's a lot more sharing, a lot more transparency. I'm not naive, but I'm absolutely an optimist, but I have seen so many bright spots in the industry. And that's just the trends of what people are recommending to do over the last few years.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. I feel like with the web you can basically, search anything and get any answer you want, different opinions, and all this stuff, and you have competing companies. So, if somebody is wanting to build a website, or do a redesign within a space, that's pretty packed already, what are things that they should keep in mind in terms of building that website or that redesign?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Good question. Okay, let me see. I'm going to ramble some, I like this questions a lot. When they're looking for anything, the absolute most important thing that I would start with is, do you trust the company that you're partnering with to build it? You have to do a gut check. There are a lot of people out there, and ask for references, or I'd see if there's open source, and you have a pool of developers to help you, et cetera. But whoever you're building your site with, it could be someone in-house, but it could also be maybe you're partnering with an agency, trust your gut. You have to work with people you like. There are going to be hiccups. Then other things to keep in mind, a lot of sites are reliant on your tech and scripts to do fantastic things.

Most of those can be crawled just fine, but there needs to be some thoughtfulness behind it. So, if you see someone pitching you a sharp site, something that looks really modern and forward-thinking, I'd run it through a few tests, like the mobile-friendly test, or a Lighthouse, or something that shows how Google's rendering the content so, that you can really easily get a glimpse of how that site's behaving for, not just you, as a user.

I also be testing the heck out of any of their sites within their portfolio on mobile and desktop, as well. Just pick up your device, turn off WiFi so, you're on a slower connection, and see if you can browse through their portfolio of sites pretty quick. That's usually a really quick gut check, as well as for... Do they care about performance? Do they care about my experience on mobile?

Let's see, let's see. You want a site that allows you to control the content, allows you to have a lot of flexibility. I've worked for some development agencies, and I always hated that feeling when you would essentially, just hamstring a client to where it wasn't as easy for them to get what they wanted to do done on their sites so, they had to keep paying you. I'm not saying I've been proud of every single job that I've had, or every company I've worked with. But that was one where I feel like, if you're paying for the platform, you need to have reasonable expectations of what it has upfront, and if it fits your needs, because it's really not up to the developer to customize everything either. Now, as far as a tech side... Yeah so, making sure the crawling rendering performance, those are really important, but I would pivot even further to say that, you need to be asking your developers, or your platform about accessibility.

This means, does it have ADA compliance built into the website so, that you have fully functional features for those who have, say, have visual issues? Maybe they have some sight disabilities, or hearing, or motor skills that could allow them to work with phones or different ad-ons on their phones to browse your site without problems. It's one of those things where we used to say, hey, it's a nice thing to do as a human. And it is so, you should do it, but beyond this, a lot of bots will render the same way... Some of those usability features have, and you don't want to get sued. I mean, if you really don't want to do it for the people, just make sure that you do it for your best interests. Every single website should be visible, and accessible to your users.

Monica Evans:

Perfect. And then, say, once we have the structure of the website and stuff, how does content and site features need to be structured now when you build that site and redesign?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah. Plan for growth. That's probably the most important thing to say, but inevitably your site will get bigger. Same as... Usually, when you buy a house, you're going to eventually outgrow that house, right? So, you want to get a house that has enough space to it, whether it's just storage space, or a bigger yard, or whatever is most important to you, but you need to plan for growth.

I would spend time up front really thinking about the information architecture on your site. If I had to draw a map or hierarchy of where the site was, where would I walk? How could I get from one section to another? How could it accommodate three to five different growth sectors under each pillar on your site? Don't build them out yet, you don't need to have pages live that don't have good information on it.

You build a five page website that's banging, I'm going to love that more than a 50 page website, but that's obviously starting very small, but the point is you have to fill it with the good stuff. I wouldn't worry about growth immediately, just plan for growth, and then let that pace really, happen organically.

Now, the other thing that I want to put out is, not just structurally, but when you start building your content, just being a good human. We talk a lot about this internally, but you can read content, and you can immediately just as a person start to gauge whether this is written by another human being that has an interest in the subject matter, or is this outsourced to someone who may be not as familiar with it? Is this written by someone who cares about the company, or knows a lot about the product, or is it just marketing spiel that you can see where you written it three or four different ways across the website?

I think, that there's a lot to get, a lot to earn, a lot to essentially, benefit from online right now, by being a really authentic human being. I think, that users are resonating, or that's resonating with them a lot more than just sharp marketing content. When you're building out that content, think about what makes you unique, think about how you can showcase the team or the individuals, and then focus on the users.

My biggest piece of advice, is stop using content and images that focus on your customers only being white people in their 30s.

Monica Evans:

Yeah.

Ashley Berman Hale:

That's not what the real world looks like. You need to write for the customer in a way that they're accustomed to reading it, in a way that's appealing to them. Stop using cheap stock photos of smiling, white people with maybe one diverse figure. I would so much rather see real bodies, and real humans, and even real customers than photos like that. You will get lost in a sea of really shallow anonymity. If you choose to go the stock route. People are done with that, they're bored with that.

Monica Evans:

I know, they can spot it from a mile away. Would you recommend investing in a graphic designer, as well, when doing these websites and redesigns?

Ashley Berman Hale:

I think, it depends on the maturity of your brand. I definitely have done some just really simple black and white basic stuff. I do think having a recognizable logo is helpful, but man, there are so many good platforms out there, that out of the box can look really impressive.

Depending on what you're offering, you may not need to invest in that. I would much rather... If you say, I had to have $500, and five hours to spend on the graphic designer, or I could spend, say, 20 hours and $0 with myself, really understanding the customer and writing the content, go for plan B.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. And how do you feel about different ways to communicate on content? Where does video play a role and imagery, and all that stuff in terms of, your SEO growth, as well? Is that just speaking to the customer once they land to you, or does it actually help with organic search?

Ashley Berman Hale:

B, I would say. I think about Bing, in particular. The stepchild of search, but Bing does a really good job of trying to understand the mixed media on a page, and how robust a page is based off of different features. They like seeing video and images alongside texts, and less. Google, I don't think, is nearly quite as biased, in terms of what they consider to be a robust page, but we know that especially, if you can use some structure data or mark up different types of content so, that it's all easily understood, and having really rich pages are good for search. So video is good for search, AMP pages and stories are good. Images are fantastic, and Google rolled out, a year or two ago, some new ways to develop high quality images, that'll get you more in Google Discover, or show up more in Carousels.

 Because search is no longer just a return of 10 blue links... There's a lot to be gained by all different types of media, but you can really screw it up too. I think image search is pretty underrated. I think that honestly, Google really... It just sucked for a long time. I think, Google maybe, left that one alone for a little too long so, for quite a while it was mostly being spammed, or just really wasn't that accurate, but I find myself using it more, and more frequently. And it seems like some of the updates they've had both in format and in algorithms have actually started to return better results for me.

I would love to see more brands taking advantage of that. It's great, once you get someone there, you have to get a 22 second attention span. If people aren't throwing pictures, or breaking that list up in bullet points for me, then I'm off the page.

Of course, it's going to be great for users to scroll through and see some rich images, minding performance, but I really do think, trying to consider all the different ways that you can tell your story on a page, or you can show something off that you're proud of, those are all worthwhile efforts.

Monica Evans:

And I feel like for a while, there was this quick and easy way to get your website at the front of the page, and that was using backlinks. What is your thoughts behind backlinks?

Ashley Berman Hale:

I am a disapproving mother. Here's the industry that I saw for a long time, or... Initially, when I first started to get involved with search, it was literally, the one thing we all focused on were XML sitemaps. That was the best way we had to get Google through our content. And as that grew, one of the first things that really took off when Google started talking about PageRank or Links, which immediately, was exploited into link building.

Not all people meant bad, but virtually, to me, just about all bad links look bad. They just, I don't know, they just really seem to me to cheapen the web experience. It seems unnecessary. Google has gotten so much better at spotting link schemes, and ignoring them, first there were penalties, and then they decided, all right, we're punishing a lot of small business owners who are paying agencies who said it was good work, when it was really shit work.

Then [inaudible 00:14:20] they said, okay, we're just going to ignore these... I'm really... I question a lot about how much backlinks still matter to this day. But if I gave you a bucket of money, and told you, you can spend it on anything, if you spent it on backlinks, I'm going to be very disappointed. It's just not worth your time... Anyone who's had to build them. I built backlinks for about two weeks and I wanted to die. I just would slide off my chair, and despair at the end of the day. It's not fun work. And some of the people that are doing it are so intelligent, and so creative. I would love to be able to see them put that mileage elsewhere.

Now that said, shout out to the people that are doing really great work. I know, and love some people who are on Twitter regularly talking about link building. They do some pretty brilliant stuff, but in 99.9% of the cases, I would say, just focus on engaging and interacting with the right people in your industry, building relationship with your customers, and focusing on that authenticity. I mean, if you strike that right, you can get so much more attention by being good humans, doing good business. And you can, if you pay someone to build links for you.

Monica Evans:

And I would agree with that too, because even after the person gets to the website, you got to have a website that speaks to your prospect, right? You can do all the backlinking, and spend all the money on that link building. But what happens when they actually land on your site? You spent no money on trying to get your structure on your website in a readable way.

Ashley Berman Hale:

The same with ads, right? It's really disappointing and a waste of money. I mean, maybe there are some really great links, but it can go wrong. I always think of a website... It's a cheesy way to explain it, but as a house, right? The technical SEO is the foundation. You need to do it right, it's my favorite part, pour in the concrete, do the rebar... I love building the foundation of a house.

Everything onsite is really the content, that's your paint, your furniture everything like that. You don't go out there, and announce that you're having a champagne soiree by building links and getting everyone to come over, if you've forgotten to add sufficient furniture, instead of a meal. It's just making sure that, although each of those have their own place, marketing, as well... I think, your more marketing and paid is a little bit more instrumental there. You just can't jump the gun on that stuff.

Monica Evans:

And Google changes their algorithm all the time. What are some best resources for companies to keep up to date with those things? On, how often should they change? How quickly should they change? Are they're going to drop 20 pages down because they're not keeping up with it. I mean, how often should companies be crawling their website and making changes?

Ashley Berman Hale:

That's a good question. I crawl all the time personally, but I work for an enterprise crawler so, this is probably an easier one for me to take that answer. But I think it's really important to always know what's going on, on your site. You have to get a pulse so, that when something happens, that could be an anomaly, you're able to say, all right, I spotted something small that could be something big, or you're able to say, I've spotted something big, but actually, it's not minor, I don't need to spend my time there. To me, crawling is like that, getting to know you. Even though you've been married for 15 years, you spend 10 minutes in the morning asking how someone slept. You have to really keep that pulse on the site to keep it healthy.

Now, as far as algorithm updates, and how often do we need to update your site, I really just depend on the users to tell me a lot about that, and the visitors. I don't think you need to go back and rewrite content if the content was great. I don't think you need to publish new content if the content isn't great. I don't think a lot of it has to be that timely, but I do think that you need to be kind of hard on yourself, and critical.

One of my favorite things to do to torture myself, because I'm an absolute masochist is, to go to my in-laws or my neighbors hand them my phone, put them on the site and ask them to do a task and stand behind them, and don't say a word that will give you ideas of where the deficiencies are, and things to challenge and change, versus just saying, I better keep something updated, because Google's going to do something. You've seen a lot of older sites working just fine and stay stable. Updating constantly is, in my mind most of the time, the key to staying on top. Once you're a publisher and you publish lots of articles a day, understandable.

Monica Evans:

What about the CMS people choose? Is that something people need to think about? Should they go to, you know, a Squarespace versus a WordPress versus obviously, there are so many different platforms out there. Does that make a change too? Does that help?

Ashley Berman Hale:

I used to say absolutely, as far as the tech, and I have shit talked, Wix so many times in my life because I've done a little volunteering and web forums, and people would come to me... I can't get my site to rank... There were quite a few Wix people in there, right? Who had built a site with Wix so, that none of it can be rendered or could be crawled.

WordPress to me was always an easy gold standard. It's just easy to set up, but things have changed. Wix has actually, done a lot of improvements and worked with Google, and I see a huge spot in their sites. I recently played with Squarespace for the first time, I really like it. I still think that WordPress is a bit of a comfort zone. For me, Drupal is a bit more tech, but also just not as easy to update.

I would be a little less discriminating, essentially. Plus they all have different templates, different ways to check it out. So, I would... Instead of worrying too much about Google, I'd worry more about your own comfort level, get yourself a CMS that you are okay logging into every day, whether it's integration with tools like GSC, whatever path that you need to take so that you can have a pulse on your site, and be paying attention and making improvements, get that one. That's going to be better than one that might be a pinch, more technically sound, but that you don't like to log into.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. And then what kind of challenges have you seen companies face starting their SEO game?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Oh boy, I think that in general, SEO suffers a reputation issue. Whether it's got that snake oil feel, or whether there's just a lack of information. And so, a lot of the times, I'll hear people saying that they need SEO, but what they talk about SEO doesn't actually, fall under that category. I don't believe that is the fault of the CEO or CMO. I really believe that it's SEO's job to educate and to be inclusive of different groups. And to talk about what I see or truly is... The biggest chasm to me is that SEO is not marketing. I don't think that it is, in fact, I think that SEO as a field should be co-owned between the CTO and CML. Quite frankly, I don't think it needs to just sit under marketing necessarily, because it's part of just maintaining the house.

It's not putting a banner out front, and getting people in, it's part of your business. If you have a brick and mortar, paying the bills and keeping your electricity and the plumbing sound, that's SEO for the website. We want to keep your site functional. It's usually folks that are going out there with different definitions so, they just might be not understanding SEO.

The thing that catches their eye, or maybe they've seen are these articles that talk about quick SEO or talking about link building, or things that they need to do or say, those are everywhere. You will find yourself educating and combating false information with companies that start SEO probably, 65% of the time you spend with them. And that's okay, I do think that for anyone that is starting that SEO game, find people you trust, always look at multiple sources, just like with performance and analytics, and do a gut check. I just think it's our job to really, try to bridge the gap there. And I think, it's the job of the company's... Anyone who's looking to invest... Is to be very thoughtful about where you put your money, and understand that it's more of a long game than it is a short-term ROI game, like pay-per-click, for example.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. That's interesting you say that because I do think a lot of the time it does fall under marketing. And marketing is dealing with campaigns and all this stuff, and they need the website to work as is, but some of them aren't as technical or know the backend that well. And I feel like they're struggling to try to maintain that, as well and not really knowing how to do it.

Ashley Berman Hale:

It's unfair as a marketing team to put that on their plate too, it truly is, because SEO is not just marketable content, and landing pages, and the ways to convert, and a way to really dazzle users, I think, part of it is just under the hood, how stuff is built. And historically, I can tell you that the sites that I've consulted with, they get more done when SEO is owned by the product team or co-owned, versus marketing having to own all parts of it, including tech SEO, because marketing often has to go make the arguments to other parts of the business to get that money or to get that priority.

And I don't think that, that's always fair. It's not saying the marketing can't handle it as much, it's that it's an awkward fit. It's evolved that way, but I would challenge it. I think, we need to tease at least, some of that out, and have that be a real place of reckoning of the relationship building between technology, and marketing in a company.

Monica Evans:

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. And companies, when they start SEO too, for instance, the link building, they think it's a quick fix... It gets them up. But how long does it... If you set up your website, right? You get your content structure, all this stuff. How long does it normally take until you see organic growth?

Ashley Berman Hale:

That's a really good question. It's a tough one to answer. Obviously, I'm going to say the SEO thing, it says, it depends. But I think if you have structured your site well, and have gone live with a handful of pages that are descriptive and accurate and you're mindful of that, you'll start seeing traffic really shortly. Then for you, what's going to be most important is to start paying attention to the data and fine tuning the content, figuring out where you can grow, having that plan. But as far as long tail search, or the more specific keywords as soon as Google crawls your site, and understands it... Whether it's a day, a couple of days, you can start showing up in the search results, and if you've done it well, you will. However, once you start getting a little more broad, a little more competitive, it can take far more time to do that.

And then there's even these big companies, let's say, department stores that have been battling it out for 50 years on the ground, 15 years on the SERPs, they will sometimes get knocked out on really important terms for them from technology, or a site that's launched that year. The timeframes are massively variable, but you don't necessarily have to wait a long time after Google's crawled for them to understand and show your site. Google is doing its job really quickly actually, it does want to see you around for a bit and know that it can trust the site, and the content staying relatively the same, because people will [inaudible 00:25:45] a lot. But other than that, you just keep trucking, start figuring out where people are coming from, and to what pages, and grow on that.

That's a terrible answer. But how about this? You see a little bit of stuff up front, but then depending on how aggressive you want to be, you can see massive growth in that first year. I would say always plan three years out for SEO, though. It's not like a once and done thing.

Monica Evans:

And what are different tools that companies can use to manage, and track their SEO?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah so, I'm cheap, and I always joke that at DeepCrawl, I never used their technology before I worked there because I would never pay for tools so, if you are a cheap, I am your friend. But the tools that I like to use, the very first ones, come from the [inaudible 00:26:34] free so, Bing Webmaster Tools, they're great. I think they're underrated. A lot of people aren't getting a ton of traffic for Bing, but at the very least, it's another look at how bots can process your site. Google has a suite of data that I think is truly fantastic. The first one I would like people to get really... I don't know, really close to, and really comfortable with this Google search console. If you know how to get in, and you'll spend time in it at least twice a week, that's going to be the best place for you to start.

It's really easy to digest. There's tool tips everywhere, and all the traffic information is there and focuses on organic only. Now for someone who's doing a little bit, something more robust, obviously, Google analytics will get you there, as well. But these are what I use primarily to track rankings and growth. Now, if you have really specific areas of passion, or something you want to dive into, there are some other third party tools.

 And I tend to use those with caution a little bit. I do like... I'm trying to think of some of my favorite ones here... I do like... Semrush, what I do like about them is you can get an idea of anyone's traffic over time. It's not always accurate, but I think they do a pretty awesome job of showing you, say, if you go to your competitor, what it's looked like the last five years for them and what kind of keywords they're ranking on, and what's their mobile versus desktop so, you can get a competitive feel at a glance. I think [AATrust 00:28:04] does a pretty good job with that as well, as far as links, [inaudible 00:28:08] rebuilding them, but as far as my favorite data set about links, I like AATrust, for sure.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. You can also... Because I've used AATrust a little bit too... You can see the ranking of the keywords, as well. How much you moved up, how much you moved back down, and that kind of stuff. But I would assume it's best not to get obsessed, just because that you couldn't find yourself there every single day being like... Oh my God, I went down a percent, what's going on, but more of looking at it over the course of a year, or something to see the fluctuation.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah, yeah. AATrust has that hot page feature that I really like too so, you can see what pages are getting attention on any site. But I mean, a good rule of thumb is like looking up your exes, right? Maybe once a year on Facebook is not so bad, but if you are regularly checking on their pages on social, it's a problem of really, not focusing on your own life. Don't be obsessive, be smart, and with them. Be very mindful, that the competitors you have in your brain as a business, may not be who you're competing against in the SERPs, as well.

You may think that someone doesn't have a comparable business model to yours, but if they're beating you on the same keywords, then they are your SERP competitors. A good example of that might be, say, I want to look something up, like what are the best fertilizers for my raised garden beds this year, right? Based off of where I live.

Normally, I'm going to see some sites like Home Depot, that have a great home and garden section. I may see a local landscaping place, because they're right here. Google's really good at giving me results where I can shop. But then there are going to be other sites, like Spruce that has come up in the past year or two by just dominating SERPs based on the content.

Home Depot never thought it was going to compete with essentially, what is kind of like an article, or a blog site. But more and more, those types of sites are eating into their ranking of some of those big stores where you can truly convert so, I would start doing queries based off what you know in GSC, but also, how you think people might be searching for your product, and just be mindful of who your competitors are because you can always get a few surprises in there.

Monica Evans:

And what tips or recommendations would you give companies who are just now investing in SEO? What things should they focus on first?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Make a few friends... Let's see so, if I had someone that was just starting, what I usually tell people, is to read the Google guidelines, the content quality and technical guidelines. They also used to have this SEO starter PDF that I think went away, and was kind of replaced by the guidelines, but I think, it's really important to have a foundational... Just... Base of what do search engines expect, and want? Because that's one of those areas that can be very mixed up in the beginning as what truly is SEO? Start with that, and know where your resources are. So for me, there is a Google search central, like community hangout, where people can go and ask questions, and you can get Googlers or volunteers to answer questions. I have spent hundreds of hours in those places because I have a lot of questions. Don't ever be ashamed to ask them because other people have had them too.

And then I... I mean, everyone has their own areas where they like to learn about it. I'm on Twitter, most of my Twitter is nonsense. However, I have found a couple dozen people on Twitter that I think, are just smart as hell, and doing amazing things with SEO, and experiments, and questioning the status quo. And I like to get information from them, but I also like the way that they challenge my thinking to keep me fresh. I think that it's important from the start to do that, because you are probably going to get bored or frustrated at some point, like you can really... It's like any job, you're not going to be inspired all the time, but there is a really amazing community around SEO that can help keep you... Help keep that interest lit.

Otherwise, like I said, the first thing I want you to do is to map out your site, the content, what's going to live where? Don't be afraid to spend a few days with a whiteboard, or with... I do just a mass load of cut up note cards around my floor with every different thing that I rearrange.

Those are really good exercises before building that site and then just stay on your phone. I sound like a bad mom now, but stay on your device, go look at what others are doing, especially on mobile. I don't care if you ever look at your site or another site on desktop again, but you absolutely must go look at your site and other people's sites on your phone. We do that a lot an SEO, we forget. We're working on our laptops or desktops all the time, and we forget that how people are experiencing our content is on the phone.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. I mean, we spend all of our time on the phone. I mean, I was just browsing today, I like shopping and I get so frustrated if it's not loading properly or the images aren't showing up or whatever. I end up leaving the site. Going somewhere else out of frustration.

Ashley Berman Hale:

People aren't as loyal as they used to be. [crosstalk 00:33:13]

Monica Evans:

They have so many options now, they don't have to be loyal anymore.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah, yeah. And in a way, that's... I think for some people, kind of sad, right? But in another way, it's kind of amazing. I think it puts the impetus back on the companies to actually, reinvest in what delights the users. I do want people to want to win my business, right? I do want to feel listened to when I email in or when I'm part of groups that are demanding, say, more diverse representation that we start to see that.

And I think it's really heartening for newer businesses to say, there's definitely a place for you. There are definitely ways for businesses to break through and get involved. Brand loyalty is just not at an all time high, you can't mess up as much, and just having users keep coming back. And maybe, that is a good thing, maybe that keeps us honest, but it's hard. It can be a little scary for brands.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. Especially new brands coming in, but I mean, that's just... See what people are doing bad. Do it better. Get in there.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah. That's a good way to build your social graces too, right? Go to a party, find the most uncomfortable person in the room, and just like one notch above that then you're good.

Monica Evans:

Yeah, and then you're good.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah. And it really... And it's so funny, because I work on so many sites, and I'm on my phone for personal reasons all the time. But sometimes I go through weeks until I realize, I have been looking at the source code of the site and how it's built and running tests on it, but I have not been on my client's site on my phone trying to convert in a month. Just try it, you'd be surprised.

I buy stuff, sometimes, on my client's sites specifically, just to test it out, but you always end up finding new, fresh things that you can fix or get inspired when you actually, go try to accomplish the thing that you're asking users to do on your site. When was the last time you truly bought something from your site? When is the last time you went top of funnel all the way to converting on your site, on your own, on your phone? Sometimes we forget to do that when we're working for a site.

Monica Evans:

Yeah. Especially starting new, actually going through the full process of it. If you're just building out your website that you think, it's there, it looks nice, but you didn't actually take the customer journey on what it actually is, for the prospect landing on your website.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah. And I mean, that's what they come to you for. I was looking on ClearPivot, and there was some really amazing stuff on that site. That customer journey part of it to me, is just like this magic when it happens well. It can all really come together in a really, almost pleasing and comforting way.

I'm one of those people where if people try to hard sell me, like when Target asked you three times for a RedCard, I just about lose my temper.

Monica Evans:

Yeah.

Ashley Berman Hale:

No, [crosstalk 00:35:56] stop talking. But when I have a website that creates that calm confidence, and can flow through the site, that's really incredible. And I think, the only way that we really find that, is if we're starting from the top, and going through it, that's when we can find the weak points. I do tech SEO, and that's fine. It's freaking fantastic, and I love it. It's not nearly as complex as understanding the user journey and really tailoring that experience to people.

Monica Evans:

Well, I really appreciate you hopping on the call. I know you mentioned that you do some non-profit work. You want to tell the audience a little bit about that before we wrap up?

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah, I do. I have been part of a group that has launched a nonprofit. I think, maybe two weeks ago, we're pretty new here. It launched... It was Zenia Johnson, Amanda Jordan, Jackie Chu, and Jamar Ramos, that's our board. And we have launched a nonprofit called United Search. You can find it at unitedsearch.org.

This is a very simple nonprofit, it's a speaker incubator. All we're trying to do, is to get more diverse speakers on stage. More first time speakers, more women, more people of color, more... I guess, levels of disability, of ages, and everyone we can think of that's not just... Don't mind me saying so, but SEO events are the 40 same white guys, and the same five women. We wanted to shake things up a little bit.

Monica Evans:

That's amazing.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah. It's just a speaker accelerator, it's really exciting to us, though, it really means a lot to me, and we've got some amazing mentors. All we're doing is pairing people who are interested, with some mentors so, they can get like their first speaking route, and we can help pitch them to conferences. So take a look, it's unitedsearch.org. The mentors we find are ridiculous, we're so lucky. But if you are an early speaker in your career, or if you're someone who is less represented, or marginalized, please allow us to help partner you with people, and it gives you more visibility.

Monica Evans:

Great. Well, thank you so much, Ashley. I really appreciate it.

Ashley Berman Hale:

Yeah, thank you too, Monica.

Monica Evans:

You've been listening to the Marketing Hero podcast by ClearPivot. Be sure to join us next time. For more information, visit www.clearpivot.com.

 

Click me