Deepak Shukla is the founder and CEO at Pearl Lemon, a leading SEO agency in London. He is a trusted search engine optimization consultant, having featured in the Huffington Post, TedX talks, UpWork, Digital Olympus, BrightTalk, Markedu and more. Deepak has almost 15 years of experience in SEO and digital marketing and work with hundreds of clients from start-ups to large corporations. For more, check out his Twitter page.
1. How many years of experience in digital marketing do you have?
Pearl Lemon has been since October 2016, but I have been in marketing, in one form or another, for most of my adult life, going all the way back to rapping days (yes I rapped lol) back in 2005 – so 15 years!
2. What type of digital marketing do you have the strongest skills?
Personally, the more technical aspects of SEO, alongside content marketing, but as a team Pearl Lemon tackles almost anything.
3. You grow many of your own projects. Why did you decide to use different brand names for each of them?
As they are all valid disciplines in themselves we felt they deserve their own platforms, but it all comes under the larger Pearl Lemon Group umbrella!
4. What projects have you launched recently you are proud of?
Without singling client projects out, e-commerce SEO has been something we’ve done exceptionally well with recently, even during a pandemic. But specifically, outside of this, we’re launching our own range vegan food prep company which I’m quite excited about – Plant Sumo.
5. What do you do to further your own SEO knowledge and skills?
Listen and learn from others. I’ve been doing some appearances on podcasts and video forums and the most valuable aspect of doing so was hearing from others in the field and getting their opinions, as well as sharing mine. SEO is always changing, so learning has to be a daily effort or you’ll fall behind.
6. Is there any marketing or SEO blog you like most of all and why?
I make a habit of reading at least two or three different one a day and am always discovering new ones. I like to go through the blogs on Sitechecker, Search Engine Journal than have regular calls with other SEOs to discuss tactics and strategies!
7. What are the TOP-3 errors you made at the beginning of your SEO specialist career?
Not having enough of a plan, inconsistent branding, relying on the wrong advice. Fortunately, I quickly met people who helped me get on the right track.
8. What SEO tactics do you think are underrated?
Onsite technical SEO. So many agencies that claim to ‘know SEO’ understand nothing about it. Onsite technical SEO is HUGE in the eyes of search engines, especially when it comes to issues like speed, broken code, render-blocking resources, etc. Ignoring it, or getting it wrong can negate many of your other SEO efforts.
9. What website performance items should always be tackled when it comes to Google’s recommendations?
The general rule of thumb, if Google suggests it, they are doing so for a reason. Often people ignore Google recommendations because they don’t really understand how to execute the solutions. But that’s a terrible idea. If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does.
10. Do you believe that backlinks are Google’s past? Is link building important for increasing the website’s positions nowadays?
Backlinks will never not be a ranking factor. What changes are the types of backlinks that will do your SEO efforts the best. And bad backlinks and those no to low value backlinks people pay for – even when they know that’s breaking Google’s rules, will always be bad.
11. In your opinion, does the technical health of the website affect the ranking positions in search engines?
As mentioned, technical SEO, which encompasses website health, is as important as any other aspect of SEO!
12. We all know about the June update from Google. Some websites rose, some of them fell. What do you think about the new algorithm? What are the main new rankings factors SEO and Marketing specialists should pay attention to?
The June 2020 update was an unusual one. It wasn’t a core update, and it was not one that Google planned. It’s primary purpose was to try to combat the accidental promotion in the SERPs of misinformation. Not just about COVID-19 but any misinformation that Google considers would be harmful to a wider audience. So, if you are publishing that kind of content, it will almost certainly be dropped down in the SERPs and/or penalized. The answer is to make sure what you publish, especially in money or your life niches like health, finance and increasingly politics, is correct.
13. How do you stay up-to-date on the near-constant search algorithm changes?
Reading, listening to podcasts, paying careful attention to Google blogs and social accounts, and doing so on a near-daily basis.
14. Are you going to surprise the SEO and Digital Marketing world with something new (tool/app, course, product)?
We might have something cooking, a top-secret lockdown project. 😉😉
15. How do you make competitor analysis? Please provide a short 1-2-3 steps guide.
To be quite frank one of the things that has always set Pearl Lemon apart – and that our clients love – is that we just don’t follow ‘one size fits all’ processes. Every client is different and has very different needs. So what makes up a great competitor analysis for one won’t work for another. Everything we do is totally bespoke.
16. What key factors to measure when planning to launch a website absolutely unknown to your niche?
If someone were launching a website in a niche they don’t understand to be successful they would need to do an awful lot of research. It’s a tough thing to do, which is why most people, sensibly perhaps, stick to what they know.
17. If somebody asked you to help/make SEO for a website, what themes would you decline? And why?
We honestly take every request on a case by case basis. But are we one of those firms that refuse to work with people because they are in the gambling/adult/CBD niches? Absolutely not. These are all valid niches and business owners often need more expert SEO help because they are sensitive, and we have been happy to provide that help with some excellent results.
18. Google webmasters every year say that backlinks do not work. What do you prefer for your website according to them: good backlink profile or high-quality content?
Google has not ever, to my knowledge, said backlinks don’t work. They have encouraged people to not focus on them so heavily, especially at the expense of good content.
You really do need both, great content and great backlinks.
Deepak Shukla, CEO at Pearl Lemon
19. What is your checklist when doing website audits?
Again, every client is different so there’s no standard checklist. However, we check a wide range of technical SEO factors on every client site, take a very close look at any keywords they have already been targeting and how that’s working out, check the sites link health, discover who their competition is and how they are doing things and more.
20. In your opinion, does a user’s behavior impact on website ranking in SERP?
It always has, Google built its search engine based on how people search. It’s even more important now that Google search – and search in general – is semantic, and far more in tune with the way people really search.
21. What is your approach to developing an SEO strategy?
Learn as much as we can about a client and their needs, listen to what they hope to achieve and then create a plan that addresses their specific needs. We then explain everything in detail so that the client is never in the dark about what we are doing and why.
22. What services/companies/apps have inspired you the most this year?
We use Youcanbookme for our calendar daily. Such a great app. Furthermore, the service from Clutch is excellent. I see a lot of great people offering up ideas on podcasts, on LinkedIn, all kinds of things. I try to consume something useful and new every day, so I’ve always got a brand-new inspiration to talk about!
23. What are the most critical SEO mistakes you have ever seen in other companies?
Ignoring page speed as a ranking factor.
24. How do you evaluate web analytics to measure SEO performance?
We literally try out dozens and will cherry-pick for what we need. Meaning that we make use of a lot of different tools, and don’t just rely on the same old one or two.
25. How do you see the future of SEO (in 5 years)
SEO moves so fast that predictions are usually risky things to make. However, I do think voice search will become bigger and bigger and so SEOs will have to pivot their thinking to account for that.
26. Which advice can you give for those who are just starting their career in digital marketing?
Be prepared to work very hard. This business is not the easy ‘work from home ‘ stuff some people make it out to be.
27. How to make a website search engine friendly? Could you please name the main steps?
We’d need to be here for a month! However, good technical SEO, great content, a precisely researched keyword analysis and implementation, constant monitoring and never assuming you are ‘done’ with SEO are all key.
28. SEO is such a controversial thing. Every SEO specialist rates its success differently. What is your way to rate SEO success? What metrics do you look at?
Easy. If the client’s happy, and willing to tell others they are, then we’ve done our job.
29. In your opinion, a good SEO specialist should be a good analyst? What extra knowledge should SEO specialists have to succeed?
SEO is analytics heavy, so yes. But mastering that analysis can be learned, not necessarily from books, as it all changes so often, but staying informed, aware and willing to listen to others all helps.
30. What SEO analysis metrics do you pay attention to the most?
It really does depend on the client/project. As I said, this stuff isn’t easy and there’s a LOT you need to keep a close eye on.
31. You are noticed at many digital conferences. How important live communication is for business? How does it work for you?
It’s been very important for Pearl Lemon and me personally. Especially when people can’t be in a room together for an event, video is key.
32. Should a business have a corporate blog?
I personally believe that anyone who has something to promote – even just their own personal brand – should blog, but make it good. A bad blog is worse than no blog at all.
Deepak Shukla, CEO at Pearl Lemon
33. How can start-ups and early-stage businesses use SEO effectively to drive traffic to their sites?
What some don’t understand is that good organic SEO can take a few months to produce significant results. Starting as soon as possible is a great move – preferably before you launch a site – and if you need a big traffic jump very fast consider PPC as well as organic SEO.
34. What do you prefer the most: client SEO, own projects, consulting, something else?
I love having a bit of everything on the go!
35. Have you ever used black hat and grey hat SEO tactics? What do you think about them?
Intentionally, no. However, some SEO tactics that were considered OK a few years ago are now frowned on, so in that respect, we may have done a few things in the past that might be considered ‘grey hat’ now.
36. Have you ever run Google Ads campaigns?
How do you combine Google Ads campaigns and SEO? Pearl Lemon does have a robust PPC division that helps clients run Google Ad campaigns. They are usually best utilized to get a new site/project launched fast while organic SEO works to build long term traffic and traction.
37. Does your university degree help to succeed in SEO and digital marketing?
To a certain extent. But what I learn every day is probably more important now.
38. Can you share your professional and business plans for the next 2-3 years?
I want to keep growing Pearl Lemon, but that in itself is a constantly changing endeavor, as I love to experiment. So, to be happy and productive is perhaps as specific as I can get! 2020 is proving that even the careless plans can be exploded in an instant!
39. Can you describe in a few words your strategy on how do you work with any project from start to finish?
Listen. Execute. Over-deliver.
40. What can you tell about mobile SEO? Is it true for you that mobile SEO will absolutely force out desktop soon?
Mobile already dominates in search, and recent figures show it is beginning to dominate in e-commerce too. Desktop won’t fade away completely, but if you are not taking account of the fact that Google’s is a mobile-first index, and that more and more people don’t even use a desktop device at all then your SEO is going to fall flat.
41. Is it important for SEO success to have high-quality content or optimized meta tags?
Content is king. Cliché but true. However, optimizing meta tags is still an effective, SEO friendly thing to make sure you do. But optimized meta tags can’t save bad content!
42. Structured data is becoming more and more important these days. How do you think why? Why did Google start to pay so much attention to structured data sites?
Structured data helps Google understand your content better. Even as smart as Google Bots are getting – and BERT made them smarter than ever – adding structured data helps. You do need to implement it correctly though, otherwise, it just becomes bad code that could damage your website. If you are going to use it, and you should learn to do it right and/or work with someone with experience in the field.