Faith: Hi! My name is Faith. I’m the head of the Content Team of SEMBlitz. And I’m sitting here with Fervil Von, our founder. We’re here to talk about the development of SEO here in the Philippines.
I want to learn a lot about the SEO in the Philippines since SEO (search engine optimization) has been known around the globe for so many years but it has just been starting to grow in the Philippines. So may I know how did you start your SEO career here in the Philippines?
Fervil: Thank you, Faith, for joining me here in this mini-discussion regarding SEO and the SEO trends in the Philippines. Let me tell the story of how I started in SEO and digital marketing.
Way back in 2009, I had a couple of friends who started doing freelancing in the province. And then, someone decided to make me his protégé doing SEO in 2010.
Back then everything was just bits and pieces for me. All of my ideas about SEO was shady since it was not known back then.
After some few years of doing SEO, I learned SEO's entity as a whole. I got to understand SEO's overview, its benefits, how powerful it is and its effects on a typical business whether it is a local or big company.
From 2010, SEO has changed a lot generally, not just in the Philippines. Even international SEO providers tried to adapt to its changes. Because truth be told, SEO is heavily dependent on search engines like Google. Every time Google makes changes, SEO has to adapt to it.
All throughout my SEO journey, I realized that the smarter Google’s algorithms get, the more SEO experts should read, test and discover new form of strategies. SEO is highly dynamic. It’s not enough that you can make good content and create a decent website because of the ongoing changes in SEO.
Way back then, it was enough to throw around keywords in the content to rank in Google (like spamming the entire page). Now, your website has to be versatile when it comes to content, links and speed. Add to that, it has to be mobile-optimized since Google is now focusing on its mobile users.
Most searchers are now using mobile to find something they need. I think that’s where we are heading and that's where we are looking at in the next few years. And then we also have one of the newest trend which is the voice search. Suppose I want to make a search, then I can just use my voice to Google it. So these are the trends that we should be focusing on in the upcoming years.
Faith: A while ago, you have mentioned about the local businesses. When you say SEO, people usually think that it is only for the big companies and global businesses. How can SEO help the local businesses here in the Philippines?
Fervil: Although SEO here in the Philippines for local businesses is not yet rampant, the majority of businesses utilizing local SEO are those ones in the US and those in the tier 1 countries.
Even simple flower shops somewhere in a local district (US) capitalize on SEO in order to increase their sales. They need to be seen by their customers in their local areas. So in the local search results, there’s what we call the Google Snack Packs. When you do a search for a local business or service, you will see a box with a small Google map among the search results.
This is what most local businesses would want to capitalize on. For example, a user searched in their local area such as “plumber in Manila” or “plumber in Houston”. A local business will typically appear in the snack pack.
Faith: Usually, people click on local businesses inside the Google Snack Packs.
Fervil: That's right. Google's results have become lively. Usually, snack packs are located above (Google's) top 10 of the organic results. It means less scrolling for the searcher since the first thing they will see are the local snack packs. Most local businesses will want to be in the local snack packs.
This is an extreme advantage for local businesses. Not only will they gain the presence in the snack packs and organic ranking, they can also be easily found in the Google map.
Faith: This way they gain more online visibility.
Fervil: Right. And it accumulates all throughout. There is an advantage once you have boosted your ranking in the local search. For example, if you are selling furniture locally and you dominated in SEO in your niche/market ahead of your competitors, they will have a hard time outranking you.
This is how giving and powerful SEO is. Whoever gets first to rank and continues to optimize their website (whether locally or internationally), it will have a tremendous impact in the business’ market share in its industry.
Faith: Since you have been in digital marketing since 2010 you have handled various types of clients. Can you tell us what types of clients have you met in terms of their perception of SEO?
Fervil: I think I could categorize them into three. In my experience as a service provider, some clients have just discovered how SEO can boost lead generation. It was like an aha moment for them. They want to learn more about it and apply it on their businesses.
They are the starter type. Certain clients have some experience with SEO but they drew a blank for their next step. They have created a website and was able to optimize it. However, the website’ traffic remained stagnant or in limbo. Then, there is a type of client who typically does SEO outsourcing.
They have a significant conscious level when it comes to SEO. Sometimes they just want to offload their marketing tasks. They present their strategies and ask “are you capable of doing the grunt work?” They are looking for a service provider who can do the bits and pieces of their laid out strategies.
Out of these three types of clients, the most would be the third type – the businesses who prefer to outsource parts of their already planned marketing strategies. Due to the higher cost of living in the US, these businesses typically would want professionals at a cheaper price.
The professionals, of course, have a reasonable price range for their clients based on their workloads.
Faith: Among these clients you have handled, have you experienced meeting a client who had already a laid out its own SEO strategies but you also have another strategy that can bring better results? How do you present it to them?
Fervil: Actually there are a lot of clients similar to this. Mostly, they are the companies who have used fruitful SEO strategies in the past. However, the setback is that Google changes. This means that the strategies which worked for them back then may not effectively work now.
I give them a professional advice that even though their strategy worked well before, it may not give a strong push when it comes to results they need and that there is a better way to do SEO in their website. Then, they can decide whether they will take my advice or insist on their own strategies.
Usually, if the client sticks with their own strategies, I feel that there’s no sense for them on hiring me so I just shove them off. I'm an SEO provider that delivers the results that you want, but if you insist that I follow your marketing strategies but requires results from me then it will be too ironic on my part. I would sometimes refer them to other SEO service providers who are willing to take the project.
Faith: We have been at some conferences. I have noticed that you are into building networks. How can network building help SEO experts in Philippines?
Fervil: There are only few people who are really active in the SEO industry here in the Philippines. Every time we do conferences, we get some time to mingle and share strategies. What (strategy) works for you now? What campaigns are you able to hold? What strategies could work in this certain niche?
All of these brainstorming happens through typical chit-chats after the conferences. When you build relationships with people, it is actually a win-win situation. You will never know if in the future this person you have met through your networking has a website in a certain industry and you can collaborate in a sense that you have a client in the same industry.
Though they are in different markets, yet the niche is the same, you can still do some collaboration. This is one advantage that I have seen in networking with people. At times, we share referrals. Suppose I have a client that has other needs which you can do best. Then, I’ll be happy to introduce the client to you.
These are the wins that I could see when it comes to networking with people in the digital marketing industry. At the end of the day, it’s just about helping the business to succeed through SEO. Even outside SEO, you‘ll get to know more concepts. And it's not just a generic type of doing SEO.
We have people who specialize in conversion rate optimization (CRO), in online reputation management (ORM), those ones who handle websites that need cleansing, in local SEO, in e-commerce SEO, and other specializations. You can't be the jack-of-all-trades. You can’t do all the link building, content, coding, analytics and design. Typically, you will have that one thing which you are really good at. Then, you can share that knowledge.
For me, networking is also about giving back and helping those who are new in the SEO industry – those who have been doing SEO in about a year or even just six months. I try to extend the knowledge I have accumulated all throughout my career.
Faith: More and more Filipinos are becoming SEO practitioners or SEO experts in Philippines. What tips can you share with them as they start their career?
Fervil: Starting in the SEO industry doesn’t need to be grand. I also started in humble beginnings. I found someone who really taught me the basic of what I do now. I couldn't understand it back then but it started my drive to learn and read more SEO tutorial. Continuous reading is a must. You have to submit to changes and conform to how Google behaves.
Let’s say Google wants you to publish high-quality content. You need to chunk down the details of what Google meant about this “high-quality content”. In a sense, it is important for beginners to get to know more things by mingling with people who are doing the same thing. You trade secrets, share experiences and that’s how you also scale.
When it comes to acquiring clients, sometimes it takes time especially if you have just started as nobody. First off, if you prefer freelancing you can search at some online job sites where you can apply for freelance work or you can get a job as an in-house personnel in a local digital marketing agency with an SEO position. Get the fundamentals first.
That's how you can learn and earn faster. It is important that you have a website (portfolio) to showcase that you’ve deliver results from zero to something in terms of organic traffic and rankings. These are my typical advice to the beginners.
Faith: Let’s go back to local SEO here in the Philippines. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses here in the Philippines are not as open about digital marketing since most of their customers visit their stores personally.
How can you tell them if they can benefit from SEO or if they can really all benefit from digital marketing?
Fervil: First, I assess whether SEO is a good fit in that business. There are some typical businesses which have a business-to-business (B2B) approach and requires a meetup to close business. At times, they may have very minimal search volume. So this is where SEO is less effective and wouldn’t be the best approach for their business.
I suggest them to look for different channels. If their clients are not based in Google, they can look into LinkedIn or Facebook and advertise on these platforms. But for those businesses whose target market are consumers or B2C, it’s a numbers game.
The more volume you accumulate, the better for the business. These are the ones who must excel in their website’s optimization. Whenever people approach and ask how my SEO can help in their businesses, I give them my case studies and figures of their competitors and their own companies’ data.
This way they may realize that it’s possible to dominate. It is possible through a scientific method and that is SEO. SEO is not just an icing on the cake. SEO is an integral part of the marketing campaign that you should be doing if you want to succeed online.
Faith: So we have learned a lot from Fervil today. This is our last question.
Since you have mentioned voice search a while ago, how do you see SEO in the Philippines 5 years from now?
Fervil: Voice search is just one figment of possible changes. Even in one or two years (actually existing now) the mobile search will be an uptrend. This will require websites to be mobile responsive.
What this tells us is that websites need to adapt to various devices such as tablets and cell phones. Websites must suit to any device the searchers use. There still are a lot of ongoing changes. We’re seeing how Google changes its format on the results search pages.
Before, its results used to be presented with two ads at top, the top 10 organic results, and then two more ads below. Now, it is even more versatile. There are featured snippets or the list of questions included somewhere in the middle of the first results page.
There is also a sidebar that contains some featured snippets. You should not just focus on landing at the top 10 search results. You should also capitalize on using SEO to be included in the featured snippets or the list of questions. For local businesses, websites have to be optimized with schema to boost its traffic in the local search in order for it to show in the snack packs.
These are the boxes you see when you do a local search. There are still a lot of detailed things that you can learn about SEO. If you would want to learn more about SEO, Google algorithms, and other fundamentals when it comes to optimizing your website for local search, you can follow me on social media or visit my website at fervilvon.com.
I share how to obtain keywords, the latest algorithm changes to be taken into consideration and more.
Faith: SEO industry is vast. If you are a type of person who loves learning then SEO is for you. SEO has no limit when it comes to learning.
Fervil: Thank you for our short chit-chat about SEO Philippines.
Faith: Thank you for joining us. You can follow Fervil through his Facebook account and visit his blogs. Even me, I learn a lot from him. You will learn a lot and you will be surprised by the new trends in SEO and digital marketing especially here in the Philippines.
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