I had the opportunity to interview Aman Talwar on SEO and social media. He is the SEO and Social Media Manager at Fairfax Media Ltd. The interview is for my upcoming book “Start Digital Marketing“. We chat about a range of topics from evaluating social media platforms, how he started his career in digital marketing and how you can get into digital marketing too!
Aman looks after a portfolio of websites including BRW (Business Review Weekly), AFR and Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media Limited is one of Australia’s largest diversified media companies. The group’s operations include newspapers, magazines, radio and digital media operating in Australia and New Zealand. The company is listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Aman and I previously worked for Asia Pacific Digital, a group of digital marketing companies. I was at Next Digital and Aman was at dgm, a sister company. I’ve known him for several years. I regularly chat to Aman Talwar on SEO and social media. We’re both passionate about these topics. So I really enjoyed doing this interview. I’m sure you’ll like it too!
1. What were you doing before working in SEO?
I studied software engineering at RMIT. I started my career in IT support for Flexigroup in 2006. Later on I became a junior server/systems engineer for the same company. I didn’t do any coding in my job at Flexigroup.
2. How did you get your first role in SEO?
I had a friend that used to develop local business websites and he showed me how to optimise them for search. It looked very interesting and I wanted to learn more. So I started by implementing what I had learned in some side projects. I built some websites in my spare time and optimised them.
I also did some consulting, starting with a client in the legal industry. I built their website and optimised it for them. It did quite well in the first 6 months with 400% increase in traffic and 200% increase in conversions.
I joined dgm as a SEO executive in 2011. dgm liked the fact that I had a technical background. When I joined the team, it consisted of one other SEO consultant. My technical experience definitely helped me get the job. They also liked that I had experience building websites & optimising them while freelancing on the side.
3. Where can you go to learn about SEO?
Initially I learnt by Googling it! I searched for “how do you do x”. I also regularly went to these websites to learn more:
- SEOMoz (now Moz)
- Search Engine Watch
- Search Engine Land
- Google Webmaster Forums
It’s always best to learn by doing and therefore you should build your own website and test different strategies to see how they affect organic traffic to your website.
I also suggest creating a twitter account and start following some of the brands mentioned above and some of the SEO industry experts. You should also check out the SEO meetups in your local area and start networking with other SEOs.
4. Are the things that you learnt last year about SEO still relevant?
Yes. There are trends that are going to continue to be important such as:
- Producing great content for your audience
- Ensuring that your websites are technically structured well
- Mobile optimized to provide the best user experience for your audience on mobile
- Engage with your audience on various social networks.
5. SEO seems like it is changing so much. Do you see any future SEO trends that you can prepare for?
User experience is becoming more important. There’s an update coming for mobile friendly websites that will affect mobile SERP (search engine result pages). This will happen on 21 April 2015*.
The way I think about trends in SEO is usually by asking one question and that is “How will search engines be relevant in the next 20 years?”. Once you start thinking this way, you can understand that search engines such as Google want it users to use its search engine instead of it’s competitors. This is by providing the best and most relevant answers to user queries. Therefore, websites with awesome user experience and great content will continue to do really well.
(Matt: This interview was conducted on 3 April 2015, just before the latest Google update for Mobile SERP. The update is that non-mobile friendly websites will be flagged in mobile search results and potentially negatively affected in their search rankings.)
6. What do you think about Facebook?
Facebook can be a great place to test new product ideas. Also, if you are a brand and your audience is on Facebook then you should definitely be there and creating content specifically for it and engaging with your audience on it. I have recently heard that it’s trying to become the next YouTube. The videos autoplay without sound.
(Matt: Facebook videos autoplay and other videos e.g. Youtube videos do not.)
Facebook has a business blog and that has some great content on how to start on Facebook, check it out here. I initially started on Facebook by creating my own public profile page. I had family and friends like it. I was publishing content and then constantly checking trends and I noticed that the reach had dropped over time. Therefore the posts that I was posting was shown to reduced amount of users.
Why is that? Facebook is always testing things and it’s also making changes to its news feed algorithm and it’s getting harder to reach your full audience without paying to boost the organic posts on Facebook.
7. What do you think about new social platforms e.g. Periscope? Are you using those?
Whenever I hear about a new platform, I always sign up to it and try and figure out why the Audience will use this platform. I’ve recently signed up to Periscope and Meerkat to figure out what is happening on these platforms. If you are a video content creator, I think it’s a great way to engage with your audience LIVE on either periscope or meerkat.
(Matt: When this interview was conducted, Meerkat and Periscope was all the rage with the cool kids. Twitter has since blocked Meerkat because it owns Periscope, a competing app. Only time will tell if Periscope emerges as a popular live video platform).
8. What do you think about building on your own platform (website) versus on a social platform? The concept of building on a social platform is like building on rented land.
If you are building on a social platform, you need to understand why the audience is there in the first place. You want to get the audience to go back to your website and build your own community. You do need to go to where your audience is so it makes sense to create a community where your audience already exists like on a social network.
9. I see that your role is search and social combined together. Why is that the case?
We asked for the role to be combined together. Our KPIs are based around increasing traffic to our sites and we wanted SEO and Social Media to be part of our remit.
The main reasons around that was as follows –
- Social media allows us an avenue to reach out to influencers to build relationships with them and when they share our content, it helps drive relevant traffic to our sites.
- Social media is also great to find influencers within your niche and sharing your content with them and hopefully they will link it out now or in the future which helps with the overall authority of your website
- I see social signals will eventually be part of the algorithm, not sure to what extent but I think it will be exciting to see when that does happen
- We use social trends to get ideas for creating content
- We spend a lot of time in data and looking at GA and Sitecatalyst to see how Social referral traffic is having impact on bounce rates, conversions and click through rates. We use those insights to create content to help optimize our stories from an organic point of view.
10. Do people follow brands or journalist?
Creating unique, relevant, highly researched content is what we are renowned for. Therefore we see that a range of our audience follow their favourite journalists. But there is also another range of audience that follow the brand and the content that is written on that brand’s website.
11. What’s the difference between working agency side and client side?
The difference is that working at Fairfax, we get to come up with strategy and figure out the objectives. We get access to budget and can spend money on tools. On the client side, we can push product managers to do work. We can say that if we don’t do X, we will miss out on this traffic.
In agency land, we come up with the SEO strategy for the brand and make the recommendations but unfortunately our hands are tied when it comes to implementation as the clients have to perform that. Most clients do the right thing but some clients don’t have enough resources so therefore they can’t get our recommendations implemented which has a negative impact on rankings and overall SEO traffic to their site.
12. Should you start out at an agency or client side?
If you are starting out, go to an agency. In an agency you are exposed to more clients and verticals. Depending on the agency,you will get a chance to work on small, medium or large size clients. Agency is a good place to start when you are starting out your digital marketing journey.
13. Tips on getting your first digital marketing job?
If you are passionate about working in the digital space then only look for a job in this industry.
Learn as much as you can by visiting the websites mentioned in this interview. You should also try and build your own site in a niche and also test and iterate on your own SEO strategies. The best way to learn is by doing, so go out and do it.
Another suggestion is to go to meetups and network with people from the SEO industry. Ask for their business cards and reach out to them about career opportunities within their organization.
If you have a corporate job, then reach out to the people in the digital marketing team and ask them questions about the industry and the work they perform. Make a request to see if there is anything you can help them with even if it is without pay. You can volunteer and you will make new friends and also learn a lot at the same time. Good luck!
To get in touch with Aman Talwar
If you would like to hear more from Aman Talwar on SEO and social media, you can find him here on twitter @amantalwar.
I’m out out like Meerkat,