Quick Questions with Emory Rowland

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Emory Rowland is an Atlanta-based SEO consultant and founder of Leverable. As he puts it, he's been around "a long time in search engine years." I first came across him when writing for Clickfire.com, where he put together a fun approach to generating content that was (and still is) refreshing. Recently, he was nice enough to take some time out and answer my questions about SEO and content generation:

Q: You started in SEO in the 1990s and have been through some massive changes. What do you think has changed most since then?

EMORY: Wow, that’s a long time in search engine years.  One of changes that come to mind over the past 20 years would be the move from ranking pages by keywords on the page vs. by inbound links. The PageRank era lasted a long time and links are still with us today. But, in the early days, links could be everything.

The other thing that comes to mind is just the ability of Google to try and “understand” the content that it is sending visitors to instead of the more easily gamed guessing of the past. Semantic search, that is.

Q: If you were advising a new blog how to go about generating organic search traffic through its content, where would you tell them to start?

EMORY: What has worked for me is focusing on the content first, basically overdoing it, going crazy and getting all the details perfect – written 10 times better than competitors, expert point of view, formatting, images, etc. Then promote it and try and get links as much as time and budget allows. That’s my bare bones SEO strategy: great links to great content.

Q: Is there a single content strategy you think is most effective for generating SEO results? If you had to limit yourself to this one thing, what would it be?

EMORY: I like taking a big problem within a niche and writing a detailed long-form post describing the solution. Not many people seem to do that these days, not sure why, especially if you’re writing for a small business. You’ll often be the only one with knock down drag out content.

Q: Do you think there’s an area of SEO where companies today waste too much of their time? If so, why?

EMORY: Very much so on disavowing links after Penguin 4. SEO software companies continue to try and scare people who don’t know better into thinking that their site is about to be vaporized by a link in the corner of the Internet that Google doesn’t care about and has long filtered out.

Q: What do you think most people don’t get about SEO today?

EMORY: It’s really simple. Great links to great content. Just don’t mess up anything with technical SEO. Put the noise and expert pontifications aside and start thinking of great ideas for content – that will get you much more than anything.

Q: How do you find yourself managing client expectations when you start a new project?

EMORY: I have to make a list and start cranking. It’s for my sake and the clients. We at least start out by tracking everything in Google sheets so the client can check in and view what’s happening.

Q: What online tools do you find yourself using every day?

EMORY: I’ve been using SerpStat a lot lately for keyword research and loving it.

Q: What offline tools do you consider “must-have” for staying productive?

EMORY: I would probably check myself into a facility somewhere if Screaming Frog ever went away.

Q: If you could go back and talk to Emory from the 1990s about the future of the Internet, what would you most want to tell him?

EMORY: Reserve business.com instead of clickfire.com!

Seriously, I’d say build fewer sites, but higher quality.