Nate Shivar is a marketing consultant and owner of ShivarWeb LLC. He’s a former Senior SEO Specialist and who has run award-winning search marketing campaigns for clients ranging from telecom corporations, local automotive brands, and seasonal toy companies. For more, check out his Twitter page.
1. How many years of experience in digital marketing do you have?
11 years. I kind of stumbled into the industry when a close friend asked me if I could figure out why his site wasn’t showing up in Google at all.
2. What type of digital marketing you have the strongest skills?
I would say that I have the strongest skills in SEO & keyword research. But due to my client & business model, I’ve been able to try & succeed in several different disciplines like paid search, social media marketing, some PR, etc.
3. What do you do to further your own SEO knowledge and skills?
I run several of my own websites, so I’m able to do lots of tests and hands-on implementation. I read all the industry news on SEJ, etc.
4. Is there any marketing or SEO blog you like most of all and why?
Search Engine Land, Ahrefs, Moz, Search Engine Journal, and Siege Media have all been consistent over the course of years.
5. What are the TOP-3 errors you made at the beginning of your SEO specialist career?
Firstly, I did not take the time to understand my clients’ business needs and how SEO fits into their overall business. I felt like I knew exactly what metrics mattered without really getting to know the client.
Secondly, I thought it was obvious to everyone (clients, co-workers, developers, other agencies) just how much upside there could be with SEO. I did not take the time to educate and collaborate with other digital marketing disciplines, web designers, web developers, etc.
Thirdly, I did not scope projects well at all. There are so many variables and bottlenecks and dependencies in SEO that it’s hard to really define the scope in a way that will bring outcomes without cascading into a mess of obligations.
6. What SEO tactics do you think are underrated?
Comprehensively updating old content. Paying for social distribution.
7. Do you believe that backlinks are Google’s past? Is link building important for increasing the website’s positions nowadays?
Links are still incredibly important, but I think that the returns on link building are so variable and out of your control that the economic case for link building makes less sense.
8. In your opinion, does the technical health of the website affect the ranking positions in search engines?
9. How do you stay up-to-date on the near-constant search algorithm changes?
I read Google’s webmaster blog, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal.
10 Are you going to surprise the SEO and Digital Marketing world with something new (tool/app, course, product)?
No — not right now.
11. How do you make competitor analysis? Please provide a short 1-2-3 steps guide.
First, I make a list of search topics that drive business revenue. Second, I analyze the SERPs for competitors around those topics. Third, use a tool to analyze the link profiles, topic coverage, content gaps, and marketing tactics of those competitors.
12. In your opinion, does a user’s behavior impact website ranking in SERP?
Yes, I’m sure it does to a degree. But I also don’t think any speculation is useful or actionable for SEO. I think that’s like asking “does rain affect my physical store’s sales?” Sure, it does, but I don’t think that figuring it out is really useful.
13. What is your approach to developing an SEO strategy?
It varies from client to client and project to project. The most important part is to define where you currently are, where you want to go, and what resources you have.
14. How do you see the future of SEO (in 5 years)?
I think the SERPs will be personalized to such a degree that current KPIs (which are already outdated) will be completely replaced.
15. What advice can you give for those who are just starting their career in digital marketing?
Do whatever you need to do to work for a fast-growing agency with prestigious clients and a team with a good reputation. Then do everything possible to get involved with cutting-edge work.
16. 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?
I look at an increase in organic traffic in Google Analytics. I also look at how many sales organic traffic either directly drove or assisted in via Google Analytics Multi-channel attribution. But some clients have different KPIs and success metrics. If I’m working for them, we have to measure those as well.
17. In your opinion, a good SEO specialist should be a good analyst? What extra knowledge should SEO specialists have to succeed?
Yes, an SEO specialist needs to understand statistics, Excel, etc. Anyone getting started should be Google Analytics Certified.
18. You are noticed at many digital conferences. How important live communication is for business? How does it work for you?
Live communication is more fun and challenging than anything else. Live communication sharpens your thinking and builds longer-term relationships.
19. Should a business have a corporate blog?
Yes, but they almost certainly should not pitch it or think of it as a “blog”. Every business should have a section of their website dedicated to content that explains products, services, and common customer questions and issues.
20. How can start-ups and early-stage businesses use SEO effectively to drive traffic to their sites?
Use their data, tools, and industry knowledge to create content that answers questions that prospective customers are asking. They can also use the same type of content to get attention from news websites.
21. What do you prefer the most: client SEO, own projects, consulting, something else?
I prefer a balance of my own projects, some client SEO, and some consulting. I think the mix ensures that I don’t get stuck in a rut. I’m always able to grow.
22. What strategy do you prefer: launch and grow many small projects or work on a few solid projects?
Work on a few solid projects. SEO has such a long “pipeline” for traction that having a solid project where you can get fast feedback is ideal for me.
23. Have you ever used black hat and grey hat SEO tactics? What do you think about them?
Yes, on test sites. They are either too small-minded to drive big returns or are too big and complex to be economically viable for me. That said, I still see plenty of black and grey hat tactics that work — at least for a short while.
24. Have you ever run Google Ads campaigns? How do you combine Google Ads campaigns and SEO?
Oh yes, I’ve run lots of Google Ads campaigns. Google Ads are great for getting detailed keyword research, finding link opportunities, understanding ROI, and link building.
25. Does your university degree help to succeed in SEO and digital marketing?
Yes, absolutely. Even though my liberal arts degree is not directly related to SEO, I learned how to think critically, think across disciplines, think in terms of systems, manage lots of information, learn new concepts quickly, write well, and collaborate with different people. You can obviously learn all those skills outside of a university. However, just like working at a fast-growing agency, a university is set up to learn all those skills in a systematic, compressed timeline.
26. Can you share your professional and business plans for the next 2-3 years?
Right now, it’s more of my same mix of own projects, client SEO, and consulting.
27. What can you tell about mobile SEO? Is it true for you that mobile SEO will absolutely force out desktop soon?
I think they’ll both be around for a while, but I also don’t think it’s useful to really think about it too hard. Everyone wants a fast, relevant, well-designed website regardless of device.
28. Structured data is becoming more and more important these days. What do you think about it? Why did Google start to pay so much attention to structured data sites?
I think structured data is fine to use in moderation. I plan to stick to a strategy of only implementing structured data that is low-cost to implement at scale. I think Google uses structured data because it’s easy to use right now. It’s true optimizing for search engines. But I also think that Google will need it less and less as their systems get smarter.