Neil is the owner of WebGrowth, co-partner in Foxy Tonic and co-founder in the GROW Academy. He is passionate about search and website usability. He discovered SEO by chance in a previous business of his, realising the need for SEO skills in South Africa he founded WebGrowth in 2006. He has a deep desire for helping businesses succeed through search marketing as well as education & social development. He came across WordPress in 2008 and has never personally built a website in anything else besides it since then.
Session: Are Social metrics really affecting SEO?
Time: 11:30 – 11:55
Tell us more about how you became interested in WordPress, what about it drives your continued interest?
When I first came across WordPress in 2008, I was blown away by it’s simplicity. Over the years I’ve seen the improvements of WordPress and I continue to look forward to seeing the evolution of the platform. As the platform has improved we are pushing the boundaries of it’s capabilities, developing increasingly complex websites. It’s developments in responsive design is the most exciting aspect for me at the moment.
Why did you decide to speak at WordCamp Cape Town?
I would like to educate the local industry in SEO in the hope that we can start nurturing global thought leaders from within Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.
What is your talk going to be about?
It’s going to be around the effect social platforms are having on organic search.
What is the one thing you want people to walk away with from your talk?
To have a clearer understanding of where SEO is at in 2012.
What is your favourite WordPress theme and/or plugin, and why?
The Woothemes Canvas theme, it’s robustness as well as it’s simplicity to customise makes it a really efficient way to build a new website.
Can you share one WP tip with us?
Use the Authorsure plugin to improve rich snippets for authors.
What are you most looking forward to at WordCamp Cape Town 2012?
I’m excited to learn from the other speakers.
Do you make money from wordpress?
We make money through development and design of wordpress themes but not from advertising on WordPress platforms. Advertising is not our revenue model.
Is WordPress an effective platform for getting your message across?
It definitely helps but it also needs the right strategy to get your content into other communities. You can’t rely solely on your blog to convey your message.
Can you tell us a bit more about GROW Academy – it’s mission and your personal involvement with the project?
The GROW Academy was founded by local Capetonians in the digital industry who recognised the need for upskilling our youth. Since inception in June 2011, we have run 3 successful boot camps, which basically give the students an overview of Social Media, WordPress, SEO and social crowd raising (these boot camps are run over a 1 week period). We are about to launch a 6 week course, with each week dedicated to a specific skill i.e. social media, SEO, wordpress etc. Our vision has and always will be to continue to help students to gain the required skills to enter the workplace who previously never had the opportunity or skills to do so. My involvement is to direct the research and teaching of SEO, ensuring the students are engaged and continuously learning on this topic.
With recent crackdowns by Google on inferior content, how do you see SEO developing in the future?
Now more than ever, websites need to find strategic ways to build community within their website. So we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
- What are we doing to encourage user generated content?
- What type of content can we create to improve social sharing?
- Case studies
- White papers
- Industry news
- What is our strategy to get brand mentions on the web?
- How do we get people talking about our brand?
- Are you seen as a thought leader in your industry?
Do you see a lot of growth in SEO as a career path?
There’s definitely room for growth, not just from a local perspective, but from an international perspective as well. We need to be positioning ourselves as a favourable place to outsource SEO work to. By that I mean, targeting the European market as the time differences has little or no difference and as an English speaking nation, communication is easy. But to do this, we need to be seen as experts in the international SEO industry.
How do you suggest learning SEO?
If Universities had to offer SEO as a subject, by the time the student has graduated, what they would have learnt will be obsolete because major search engine algorithms are changing on a monthly basis. There are shorter courses offered but unfortunately they don’t go into the “nuts and bolts” of SEO. The only way I’ve found SEO works is by doing practical examples and asking questions in online forums. I would suggest a 6 month internship at a reputable SEO company to fast track your learning, coupled with a hunger to learn and self teaching.
Perhaps if Univeristy/Technikons offering online marketing degrees/diplomas built in a 1 year internship into their curriculum, students would have the opportunity to learn practically?? This will further improve the skill sets of our graduates.