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Elena Terenteva

SEMrush Pro Talk with David Amerland

Elena Terenteva
SEMrush Pro Talk with David Amerland

Great SEO specialists are like Renaissance men and women – knowledgeable, with many talents. Today, we found one to generously share his story with you on the blog!

David Amerland, journalist, advisor and author, talks about the mistakes we face in life and in SEO, and the lessons we can learn from them.

Your book "Google Semantic Search" is a bestseller. What can you tell us about it? What do you like most about the book?

Google Semantic Search is a practical exploration of how search and marketing are converging, and how, in a semantic web, we can now begin to market in the same, methodical, authentic way that we use offline. The web is becoming less and less anonymous and less and less disconnected in its various verticals, like large retail platforms (think Amazon and eBay) or different social media platforms.

The ability to connect with each other as individuals is as empowering as it is transformative. It changes everything, how we share information and do business with each other to how we behave. This is a new world in the full sense of the word and the idea that a book of mine helps guide so many readers along this path is something I find amazing.

You write books, blog, advise multi-national companies and startups, and are a journalist for eminent websites, like Forbes.com. What is your source of inspiration?

In my career, I have seen change from both sides of the divide. As a journalist, I used to look at corporations and consider many of the things they did as wasteful and, at first look, a little evil. Having worked for corporations I also saw the challenges they faced and how they attempted to deal with everything.

Much of my inspiration is drawn from this direct knowledge. A lot of what I do is create bridges. Whether I am advising a company on what to do internally or how to fashion its external marketing, the issues are the same: How do we establish trust? How do we communicate better with each other? How do we manage to communicate at a fundamental, human level while avoiding misunderstandings?

These are challenges that have ever-evolving answers. Trying to pinpoint and then communicate them to my audience is truly exciting.

What has been your highest achievement?

I've managed to survive for almost half a century on the planet without letting my ego get in the way. That has not been an easy task, and I constantly have to work at it.

The road to success and professionalism is not an easy one. What is your biggest career mistake, and what lesson did you learn from it?

I've made every mistake in the book in my career and each one, at the time, felt like the biggest. So, it's hard to think of any of them as my biggest right now.

Each of them though became a valuable lesson. It taught me something about myself, something about business and something about others, so they all became invaluable. A lot of these direct, practical lessons find themselves in my writing and the advice I give to clients.

Speaking of mistakes, let’s talk SEO. Can you name five things everybody thinks works, but doesn’t, for SEO?

Yes. Time and again, from startups to large corporations, I see the following things happening at some level:

1. Blind, automated link-damping in social networks.

2. Reliance on agency or outsourced SEO services without an understanding of the basic principles of search and how the activities of a business can be better integrated in SEO activities.

3. A focus on easy metrics in both SEO and social media because there is a need to show fast results (it leads to traffic by whatever means and Facebook Likes becoming the end rather than the means).

4. A constant search for shortcuts. It used to be keywords, then links, then article spinning and content scraping, then guest blogging and infographics. Currently we're beginning to see an abuse of structured data and Google authorship. Really we should be focusing, always, on creating the best quality content possible and being as authentic as possible in the way we present ourselves and interactions.

5. Most businesses still think of SEO as a separate activity when it now has become an integral part of what they should be doing.

Why does SEO not always work out the way we plan?

As an activity, optimization takes into account a great many parameters and frequently, while we may be doing the right thing, other factors outside our control impact it. The web is a very fluid place and you can never really afford to take your eye off the ball or hope that autopilot SEO (or marketing for that matter) will work.

You are a man of many talents. Do you have a weird talent most people don’t know about?

Not sure about weird, but I have been doing martial arts all my life. I still put in an hour of two of training each day, and I like to push the envelope of my physical limits. I think if I do not feel like I am dying while training, I am not really changing.

Thanks, David! 

Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush.

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