29 minutes | Sep 25th 2020

Experimenting with SEO On the B Sides with Luke Davis

Luke Davis is an SEO Executive at Adzooma, but he's perhaps better known for his variety of blogs covering music, culture, tech, and more. He's been doing SEO for a very long time and has a lot of perspectives to offer just based on having his own sites to play with and optimize.
Today he joins us on Agency Ahead to share some of those insights.
The highlights:
  • [1:08] Where Luke got his start.
  • [5:34] A common mistake made by musicians and other creatives.
  • [7:41] Using sites for experimentation.
  • [10:44] Transitioning to in-house SEO.
  • [12:55] Pitfalls to avoid.
  • [15:34] Recent changes to Google PPC data.
  • [20:39] The most important skill for SEOs.
  • [27:22] Luke's causes.

The insights:
Where Luke got his start
Luke started diving into the mysteries of the web as a kid. He'd sit in the computer lab at the age of ten while his parents were at work, surfing the Internet and exploring everything he could find. He launched websites on Geocities and Angelfire. Remember those?
"From there, I started getting into HTML and CSS. I used to make Mum little websites on my Dad's laptop with Frontpage Express.

Then I started using different hosting services like Tripod and Homestead. It just carried on from there."
He went to university, where he started getting into graphic design and computer science, though he said the computer science program wasn't for him.
"I got into music, and that was the way I got into digital marketing. I was looking for a commercial experience while I was studying. 

There was a music label that was looking for a digital marketing assistant. It kind of married things together that I was into: the web, and music. And then it just grew from there. 

I worked for the music label for about a year. Worked for their blog and different websites, and then once I got let go I started my own blog, a music one, and it just kind of blossomed there in terms of SEO and search." 
A common mistake for musicians.
Luke says he sees a lot of musicians overfocusing on social media.
"They're giving their music and their brand, in effect, to these websites. Twitter owns their online presence, or Facebook, or Soundcloud, or Bandcamp. While I use Bandcamp for all my music, I have my own website."
Luke has a presence on sites like Bandcamp, but stresses that creatives should have their own site to serve as the hub of what they do.
Luke recommends that musicians and other creatives use their own website as the hub of their web presence. 
"If you want to use social media more often that's fine, but everything should come back to something they own rather than giving it out to these websites."
He reminds creatives that these social sites can decide to delete an account or ban it for any reason at any time. 
"When you have your own website, it's yours. If there's any issue you have control over that. Start with a website and branch out."
Using sites for experimentation
Luke now has multiple sites and has used them to figure out what works and what doesn't in terms of SEO. 
"More recently, I've done away with the majority of SEO practices. Obviously, I'll still do the basic ones, the fundamental ones, but I don't really concern myself with things like word counts or keyword research or content strategy. 

I decided they were almost taking away from my writing. I was concentrating more on that than actually putting the words onto the screen so I kind of did away with that and just put out the content I wanted to. 

I think it's actually worked better of for me."
He says his culture site has a steady stream of traffic from content he's put up once a day.
"The social referral traffic has made traffic go up. I'm happy with where I'm going with that."
He brings some of these insights forward into his work as an in-house SEO.
SEO tool pitfalls to avoid
"Don't take the data that comes from tools as gospel. It's all about taking what you need and then making your own conclusions and your own judgments based on that. 

I feel like once you get into something and you do it often enough you kind of understand what will work or what doesn't for the most part, [things] tools can't really tell you."
He says experimentation and experience will always take you farther than tools will. 
"They may use SEMrush and just swear by that and not use anything else in terms of keyword research or strategy, but it's really important to use multiple tools together. 

I'll use SEMrush with Google Search Console for example, for content ideas. One of them is a crawler and gives you wider information, but Search Console can really tell you the smaller keywords that would never come up in SEMrush that people are finding your site with that are getting large impressions for. 

That may give you ideas on what to optimize or what to create pages for."
Bottom line? "Using multiple tools together is the way forward." 
Recent changes to Google Ads keyword search volume data
Google has recently announced they're going to start reducing search volume metrics in their Keyword Planner. 
Luke, like many in the PPC sphere, isn't very happy with the change. 
"I don't understand the main need for removing those keywords that are vitally important." 
He mentioned that we were able to see 93% ad spend for August but in September we can only see 37%, per a comment by Glen Gabe on Twitter.


"That's a significant drop. That's from one end of the spectrum to the other. That's going to waste a lot of money for marketers that they don't necessarily need to waste and it's through no fault of their own.

It's literally: Google is not giving me the data."
He points out that businesses also don't need this, especially when they're struggling during the pandemic. 
"I think it's a bad move. I won't be surprised if they did some kind of U-turn or made some kind of compromise to change it around." 
The most important skill for SEOs
While Garrett mentioned Luke's skill at Python and asked what technical skills were most useful to SEOs, Luke had a surprising answer.
"Logic."
He went on to explain:
"A lot of the answers to SEO questions are: it depends. I think that adding that sense of logic based on data that you have and your past experiences can really make sure that you're doing the right thing, not following old patterns just because they worked one time and people keep repeating them without testing them."
He says this is true even of fundamental things like meta titles and meta descriptions.
"We've always been told to write these really good, descriptive meta descriptions or to make sure the keywords in there, make sure they're near the front, all these sorts of things based on tests or ideologies that have been there for over a decade. 

As we all know, Google changes things monthly let alone yearly. We all know those sorts of things may not work for every website on the Internet."
He points out how Google may even rewrite a meta description you put a lot of time and effort into.
"So I think it's a matter of making judgment calls, doing the testing."
He also said technical experimentation is a vital skill, and being okay with data handling. 
"Being okay with handling the data and putting it in, in a way that's presentable in a report or using Google Data Studio to automate things to save you the trouble of doing it manually." 
He points out how he's seen smaller sites try to emulate bigger sites thinking the size of the company or site means success, but in reality, those bigger sites can have a lot of trouble. 
He again encouraged people to run their own tests no matter what they're working on. "What works for one site won't necessarily work for another."
What’s your right now cause?
"For one of my last albums, I pledged any sales to three charities.

The first one is called the Free Black University. It gives free resources for learning. There's Humblebee Creative and the Black Trans Travel Fund." 



Connect with Luke Davis You can also follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeDavisSEO