Modern Digital Marketing Strategies Video: ’90s SEOs Ammon Johns, Bill Slawski, Bruce Clay, Christine Churchill & Kim Krause Berg

Some fads are retired with great celebration. Crimped hair, No Fear T-shirts, and neon windbreakers buried in the back of the closet since 1999 – probably best if they’re never heard from again.

But some of the search marketing industry’s biggest stars were made in the ’90s and are still trending. On January 1, 2016, Bruce Clay, Inc. marked its  20th anniversary – 20 years that Bruce Clay has been steering the digital marketing industry with thought leadership, and proof that some 90s inventions are classics.

Bruce Clay, president of Bruce Clay, Inc., is one of a rare breed of digital marketers that got started in SEO in the 90s. Others include Stoney deGeyter of Pole Position Marketing, Christine Churchill of Key Relevance, Terry Van Horne of International Website Builders, and Kim Krause Berg of Creative Vision Web Consulting. Beyond their industry veteran status, there’s something else they have in common – and that’s valuable digital marketing wisdom gained from decades of perspective and experience.

This group came together as guests of Ammon Johns (of Ammon Johns and Company) and Bill Slawski (of SEO by the Sea) in Bill and Ammon’s Jumbo January Bogus Hangout. John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, and Kristin Drysdale were there too, rounding out the reasons that this conversation was one to watch.

Topics explored in this hangout included:

Jump to topics by clicking the links above or read on for all the highlights.

Knowledge Graph and Direct Answers SEO

Bill Slawski shared that a Knowledge Graph Search API was released a few weeks ago. Since then, Slawski has been working on a new Google+ group for those who want to stay in the know about Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Can and should SEOs optimize for the Knowledge Graph?

It’s a topic that’s been discussed, and Bill thinks SEOs should optimize for Knowledge Graph and direct answer results. Since the new API lets marketers see searches that are connected to each other, Slawski says it’s a “good time to get involved” in direct answer optimization. Slawski suspects that Knowledge Graph optimization is overlooked by a lot of SEO professionals and adds that the Knowledge Graph shows information that perhaps isn’t thought of as SEO but should be.

Usability and User Testing

While most SEOs understand the importance of user testing and site audits, experience goes a long way to teach an SEO exactly when these two practices are needed the most. In Christine Churchill’s experience, sites that undergo redesigns often have the most SEO-related problems to fix.

About to undergo a redesign? You will need more than a webmaster to pull it off. The transition period after a redesign launch will be as smooth as possible with proper audits and testing beforehand. After a launch, Churchill advises testing to ensure the new design “answers the mail” and is easy to use.

Great webmasters, digital marketers, and SEOs consider usability, but it’s still not given proper credit or understood well by clients and business owners. In fact, the hangout participants revealed that for budget reasons, some SEOs even bury usability services in the scope of a different marketing field –  conversion analysis. Churchill believes usability doesn’t get anywhere near the budget segment that it should, which is a problem because it can make a big difference.

How does usability optimization and user testing help with digital marketing? DeGeyter suggests usability optimization does wonders for pure web marketing and helping a business grow. After noticing site issues, he usually runs user tests and provides his client with actionable recommendations that when implemented end up helping with conversions.

Also important to note about usability improvements: DeGeyter said that even if clients don’t get  number one rankings, usability improvements result in conversion increases and revenue – which makes them happy. He says clients don’t always know what they want. “We give them what they want, but you give them what they really need, and that’s going to satisfy them.”

Accessibility, User Intent, and Data Driven Decisions

It’s no surprise that Kim Krause Berg’s SEO focus for 2016 involves improving accessibility and better understanding user intent. She’s a user-experience guru with a company that specializes in both accessibility and user intent along with SEO.

This year Berg is also paying more attention to data-driven decisions for design and marketing work. Worth noting, Berg believes that marketers aren’t preparing for the aging Internet using populations in countries like Europe and America. She believes marketers have to be thinking about how older generations search.

About Mobile

These days it’s hard to have an SEO hangout without talking about mobile. Kim Krause Berg expressed that mobile is “throwing a wrench into everything.”

Ammon Johns suggests that advertising is adapting to users’ multi-screen browsing behavior, but recognizes that cross-channel attribution is still a big SEO challenge.

Bruce Clay had a lot to share on the topic of mobile SEO and mobile advertising. Google doesn’t make money from organic results, he noted. Google makes money on ads. According to Bruce, Google’s focused on making its ad serving systems faster and improving technologies that makes Google money. He said Google can control the format of results on the mobile browser better:

“The reason Google is so supportive of mobile right now is that this is a new environment where they can set the standard saying one organic, three pay per click … If you’re not at the very top you’re not going to show up.”

Bruce Clay believes mobile and local will be the focus of Google, and therefore SEOs, for the next few years.

“Just as a data point, I was around where there were mainframes and in walks the first PC. It’s taken almost 40 years for technology to get to the point where PC is being replaced by mobile.” Bruce views this progression as a natural evolution, not a revolution. He believes that SEOs need to adjust and be where the people are going to be.

(Bruce’s most recent 2016 Digital Marketing Predictions also reveal some other thoughts he has about where mobile is headed.) 

“Everybody has a mobile device. Many people have two mobile devices or more. I think that in a year, that is where everybody lives, and if we as an industry don’t adapt to that, then we’re going to … be left behind.”

Voice Search

Bruce Clay suggests that one of the biggest current challenges for SEOs is adapting to voice search. “Voice search is going to change what people do with a mobile device to the point where perhaps there won’t even be organic results on ‘those devices,’ and that could really change our entire platform going forward.”

Clay said that organic results will always be there. “If the info you’re after won’t conveniently fit on half a page, Google won’t answer.”

“We’re going to see Google go not just mobile, but mobile and local simultaneously, and those are going to change the dynamics of national companies. They’re going to change the dynamics of mobile, all sorts of things are going to be upset, if Google believes for that query you wanted a local presence. They’re going to give local presence precedence and the rest of organic will just have to catch up.”

On Content for Mobile Users

Terry Van Horne added another perspective to the mobile discussion by sharing his suspicions that mobile will not change things as much as people say it will. He said content will always move with the devices, and that marketers should only make one set of content that works across devices. He believes it will be too expensive to run double platforms. For example, responsive design works for mobile, and he thinks SEOs will come up with a similar solution for new devices.

Future Technology and Marketing

“You can’t invent new technology without worrying about where it goes,” said Ammon Johns during the hangout.

Artificial Intelligence

Beyond mobile and local SEO, Clay believes that SEOs will have no other choice but to figure out how to integrate AI. He thinks it will take a couple of years, but sees a future with holograms and 3D printers everywhere.

“If what we want to do as an industry is be where the industry is going, I think we have to understand the technology leaps, I think we have to understand the usability leaps, those are going to be evolutionary.”

Ammon Johns suggested that technology is a good number years off from a proper AI.

(This topic is echoed by Duane Forrester in his 2016 Digital Marketing Predictions, a must read.)

How far off is next-level artificial intelligence? Kim Krause Berg said that her Android phone’s AI is good at bad jokes. So, maybe quite a ways off.

Self-Driving Cars

According to Clay, “The primary reason I think Google wants to have cars that drive themselves is because while the car is driving itself you’re going to be seeing Google ads all over the dashboard. You’re a captive market and you can’t get away from the Google ads and the Google car. I see that as being the way the world works.”

Learning from the ’90s

It’s been solid decades since the SEOs featured in Bill and Ammon’s Jumbo January Bogus Hangout started their careers, and time has proven they have what it takes to stay in the game. Paying attention to the strategies they implemented in the past, what they’re working on today, and what they plan to do in the near future might just keep you in the race!

Melanie Saxe was a senior content writer for Bruce Clay Inc. She holds a B.A. degree in journalism and has many years of experience crafting content for the web. When she's not writing at work, she’s usually playing Legos with her son, tinkering with her poems, or singing jazzy songs.

See Melanie's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (9)
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9 Replies to “Modern Digital Marketing Strategies Video: ’90s SEOs Ammon Johns, Bill Slawski, Bruce Clay, Christine Churchill & Kim Krause Berg”

Very informative and helpful!

Love the concept of this post, find it really endearing to the community to be so open and openly recommend other internet marketing experts.

Also a great post and insight into some of the most brilliant minds in the industry. Great video watch

This is exactly what i have been looking for..
Thanks Melanie for sharing the such useful tips.

Very Simple to read and valuable tips!! Thanks for sharing this article!!!!

Nice guide for beginners! Thanks for sharing this useful stuff.


Great post and video – thanks!

This is such a brilliant post and video is really really insightful. Being an internet marketing and SEO professional and trainer, I must say that these type of videos and posts help search engine industry a lot. Thanks for sharing this with us.

on them mobile front – the AMP project looks interesting. Seem a bit early to jump on for client sites but if you have a blog or personal site good for try some testing

This post will help much for me as a beginner.


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