Episode 5 of our “SEO in 2020” podcast interviews Lukasz Zelezny from uSwitch; getting his views on how he thinks SEO is likely to evolve over the coming few years.

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DAVID BAIN: My guest today is a wonderful event speaker, a self-confessed SEO, PPC, and social media geek. He’s also head of organic acquisition at uSwitch. Welcome, Lukasz Zelezny.

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Hello, welcome. Thank you for the invitation.

DAVID BAIN: Well yeah, thanks for coming along, Lukasz. So Lukasz, I was looking up your LinkedIn profile earlier on today, and you seem to use about ten different job titles. So what I was wondering first of all is what do you think your job title is going to be in the year 2020?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well that’s a good question. Everything is so dynamic. Ten years ago you wouldn’t recognize something like head of organic acquisition. Still some people are asking me is this something relevant to organic milk? Actually no, but you know this term organic is a big thing right now. 2020 I feel the SEO and the online marketing will not change that much. Some people are saying that content marketing is the only marketing that’s left. I think that was Seth Godin that said this. Obviously I kind of follow this opinion, and I’m saying yeah, online organic marketing will be kind of similar. It’s all about making something even better, and better, and even more engaging. And you know me probably – you know, me and you, we know for so long that I’m a big ambassador of social media in the service of SEO. So social media and SEO will be kind of closer together, working for the same thing.

So let me give you an example: if your content is performing well in social media, then probably your SEO will also go up. My title, you know, I’ve never been that much focused on the title. In the US you have this vice president; it sounds very nice, very sophisticated, but I personally can stay in 2020 for head of organic acquisition of uSwitch, and I actually will be very happy.

DAVID BAIN: So social is very important to you. Do you think social will be an essential part of SEO in the future?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, I think there will be more integration because social is very, very organic. We’re not talking right now about advertising, but every time I’m speaking at a conference, no matter if it’s England, Poland, Indonesia, or Hong Kong, or whatever, I’m always trying to present this organic side of social media – how to engage people with your content, with your message, and so on, and so on, rather than saying here you can put money, and here is an outcome. Lots of people understand that there is this side of paid social media. My side is very much focused on organic, and you can see even organic social media, organic search, they are kind of playing in the same team. So I think there will be more integration in terms of people will be thinking if something is performing in social media, it must also perform very well in a search.

What makes me worry a little is that Facebook is getting so strong that we can see internet in internet; it’s internet inside internet. There were some countries that were trying to give internet for free to very poor people, and I was reading – I don’t know if this is gossip or not – that Facebook was like so maybe Facebook will be there as this super basic level of internet access. But the governments were like no, no, no, now we will people keeping these people in a bubble. So some people can spend the whole day on Facebook, and they can find news, they can find video, they can find fun, friends, and so on, and so on. It’s a little scary, but again, there is lots of proof that online marketing through Facebook either paid or organic is working.

What I also want to mention is that internet of things. Internet of things is a big, big thing. You have already these tools like If This Then That, right now called If, or Zapier. I have this band on my hand which is measuring the number of steps I’m doing every day. And you know, you can see that every day there is a message on Twitter and on Facebook how many steps I did. I’m trying to motivate other people. I’m also mentioning the producer, which is actually Withings, and this is just a basic example of how a really physical thing is integrated with your social media channel. So I think it will go even deeper. And you know, I’m not that much of a visionary, but even maybe your fridge, or your washing machine, or your kitchen mixer will be kind of connected to social media. I hope, because I really like it because I’m an ambassador of this.

DAVID BAIN: So do you think that the internet of things may make searching online less important in the future?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I think I lost you.

DAVID BAIN: Do you think that the internet of things may make searching online less important in the future?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Well, it doesn’t look like it because searching is something which we’ve been doing even pre-internet era. I’m right now reading a biography of Steve Jobs. There is this chapter which is telling like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were looking for this description to build the blue box, which was the first device before Apple one. And this is written so well, like they went to the library, and there were so many books, and Steve Wozniak was like that must be somewhere here. They spent their whole weekend, and finally they found this, and you can read this, and you can feel this excitement, like yes, I told you it was there. This is the kind of thing we were looking for. So you know, somewhere deep down in our DNA, and I think that’s why search engines, and the beginning of internet have been so successful.

I’m right now struggling with Facebook, and with the timescale that there is no typical search. Like you can use YouTube or you can use Google. I’m really missing this because this is how I used to work with the online environment and the online ecosystem, and I think it won’t be under threat, and it will stay kind of the same. Lots of people were saying oh, SEO is dead because people will start using voice recognition to search for things. It didn’t really click; I don’t see people in the bus talking to their smartphones, and asking, ‘Hey, what will be the weather tomorrow in London?’ Everybody knows that it will be rainy, but obviously people are not doing this because they like this privacy of typing on the smartphone, typing on the iPod, and so on.

So I don’t think the major principle of search will change. It may change the way of how we are communicating with computers, it may change dramatically the algorithm, or what is considered to be the ranking factors, and so on, and so on. But this is a little like we’re touching very much the ground of the internet. It’s like if you would ask me if the concept of links will change – like clicking on some text, and moving yourself to another document. It was for 30 years like that, and I think another 30 years it will be kind of like that.

DAVID BAIN: It’s interesting that you’re talking about the – I’m hearing myself a little bit. That’s an echo. Okay, we’ll try again. Okay, I think I’m okay now. I’ll try to do a bit of editing; if not, it’s a bonus edition to the video.

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: It’s not staged; it’s absolutely live.

DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, when you were saying about the closing of the internet potentially with people using Facebook, or another example is maybe even the app system on iPhones, or other phones out there, it reminds me of AOL back sixteen, seventeen years ago, and maybe they tried it back then and it didn’t seem to work really because people wanted more of an open internet. Do you think the result might be different this time, and it will work, and it might actually happen for real this time?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: You know, seventeen years ago it was internet of geeks. Everyone wanted at least to know HTML. Everyone wanted at least to see how IRC bots are working. You know, it was still this kind of time where you were buying some newspaper or magazine, and there was a listing of the codes, and learning about how to write the code in PHP. Right now when you go into any news agent shop, and you will find some newspapers or some magazines, it’s more about oh, these are 100 applications you should use on your iPhone. It’s very much user consumption focused.

I think there is a risk it will click this day because lots of people, instead of opening a website, are building this from scratch on WordPress, Drupal or whatever. They prefer to open a fan page, and they become kind of closed in the bubble called Facebook. I have nothing against Facebook; I really like Facebook. I have all my friends there, photos of cats, and food, and I love it. But it kind of makes me feel scared that people are not curious to, okay, let’s start a forum, and so on, and so on. And you can see that forums and all these concepts are going down, like IRC died probably ten years ago because there was no way to monetise this. Right now the same concept is going with forums. People are less likely – artists, musicians, okay, they have some websites there, updated once a month, and the newsletter. But Facebook, Twitter, those are our main platforms.

So maybe there will be some moment that it will be a pivot. Maybe the generation of the people who are right now ten years or five years old, when they become twenty, they will be like Facebook, Twitter, how did people find this exciting back in the day? Maybe it will disappear like the cinema that you had without the sound. But this generation that you have right now, people of my age, your age, twenty years old, they are kind of closing themselves in this bubble called social media. And that’s kind of, I, as an ambassador of social media, find this a little scary because I’m always thinking about social media is about a lemon of a strategy. SEO is here, you exist here, social media is here, and so on, and so on, and we’re playing all the football match as different players. When some people are out there, and thinking yeah, yeah, I just need Facebook to do all the marketing, and to do marketing of my company. Difficult to say what will be in 2020, but I’m definitely very close to look on this, and how it works.

DAVID BAIN: So you mentioned Twitter there briefly as well, and in the last year or so Google started integrating Twitter more closely into its search results obviously because of the relationship that they’ve now got with them. What do you think might be the future of networks like Twitter, and perhaps Google+ over the next few years?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: So you see that integration is fantastic because back in the day, a hundred years ago, information was going to you through days. Then when the internet came, it was taking a couple of days before indexing happened, before we could find this. After this, when Google started to do Google News, it was kind of a couple of hours before something happened and the news was there. Right now we have Twitter; you have almost instant access to information. Whenever you will hear something, an earthquake happened somewhere, the first place you’re going to see what’s going on there is Twitter, and you’re looking for photos of normal, random people, not a journalist, just people who have been there, and they’ve been posting this online, and other people can read, and can ask if everyone is fine, and so on, and so on, and so on.

So I think first of all, this integration was fantastic. Right now the time delay, the time gap between something happening, and hearing it on the news is shorter. I feel it will go even deeper, so there will be probably a media that we are not aware yet of that will be possibly even quicker. Maybe that will be a kind of worldwide CCTV system, no matter how scary it looks like, but I kind of like going on my iPhone and opening an application, World Cameras, and see how Oslo looks at night. And you know, you have like three, four cameras in Oslo. And it’s like oh, nice, people are living there, how nice it is. But you can have this kind of system across the whole planet, and you can switch between cameras, and just observe how people. I know it may for some people sound like a big brother concept. I don’t feel like this is a big brother concept. That’s a kind of a sign of a time that people want to be up to date with everything, they want to know what’s going on, and so on, and so on.

So this integration is just the beginning – Twitter and Google is just the beginning. Possibly there will be more things like that, giving access to information straight away to everybody who wants this access.

DAVID BAIN: I haven’t heard you mention Snapchat there. Are you on Snapchat at the moment?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: When you mention Snapchat I feel so old, you know. On a Polish website I found an article, like this is the article to explain Snapchat to people who are thirty years plus, you understand? I have this kind of strict rule: I’m trying to be active on three platforms, which are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Everything else is kind of like okay, I have it there, sometimes I will upload. So Snapchat would kind of clutter this activity I have right now. And again, normally I’m an early adopter, but sometimes I’m a late adopter. I know that if that will click in my head, I will get there, and I will start to be very active. But at the moment Snapchat is kind of where is Google+, and you’ve probably heard this before from me. I am not on the Google+ that much, and I’m not on Snapchat at all. But I heard that right now Snapchat is valued for $14 billion despite the fact that they are not generating any profit. It’s a very interesting time we’re living in, David, because this is how it can go. I know that it’s very popular, I know that people love it. I need a little more time, you know.

DAVID BAIN: So what about SEO tactics? What tactics work effectively now in 2016, but are unlikely to work effectively in four years’ time?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I feel like backlinks, that will be kind of old school. There were too many games, and people seem to be less focused on backlinks. I wouldn’t say they gave up, but they found other ways to leverage the visibility. That’s one thing. The second thing is you have two types of major, two types of content. This content which is, like I mentioned, up to date, which will be appearing in Google News, Twitter, and so on, and you will be trying to make this available on Twitter, available on Google News, and so on, for the next 24-48 hours, and that’s one strategy. That’s one concept. The other concept is what we call evergreen content. It is like how can I save money on my bills, and the content is there talking, and trying to teach you how to save money on your bills. And that will be accurate today, tomorrow, next year, and probably three years later. And there is a different strategy probably trying to make sure that this content in the long term is circulating properly, and possibly that other people are maybe not linking, but mentioning your content. Maybe the duplication will be not as important. Maybe the fact that someone copied a couple of lines of your text, and put this on your website, Google or other search engines will be recognising this, like okay, they are quoting him. And that would be much, much more valuable than just linking because we all know that linking is very much a game; it’s very easy to gain this, or it was easy to game the system before.

But again, the concept of the positions in the SERPs, you know the clicking on links, and so on, and so on, will be similar. One more thing to say, you can see that Google is trying to keep users more time or longer on their ecosystem. All these AMPs, pages that they integrated with the biggest publisher like Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, and so on, it is kind of to keep people on their ecosystem because when you click on the link, you’re technically not leaving Google. When you go into Google Map, and there is some term, and it’s linked to Wikipedia, you click, there is this model popup, which is showing you a page from Wikipedia, but you’re technically not moving to Wikipedia.

So answer boxes, aka featured results, this little kind of frame you can see above the normal organic results, but below the paid results. Especially when you’re asking about some queries which are questions, let’s say who was the first person in space? You will probably get this in this frame that was Yuri Gagarin, that year, and so on. Again, you have an answer, you don’t necessarily need to click, and move from Google outside. So Google will be fighting for more time, and more page views around their own ecosystem, rather than delivering traffic to websites outside. And I’m talking right now about organic because paid obviously is all about delivering traffic there, but you’re paying for this.

DAVID BAIN: And when you talk about search engines there, you don’t mention any other one apart from Google. Is there a chance that in a few years’ time you might be mentioning another search engine?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, there is because I would be very naïve telling you now there will be no other search engine because that was like someone in the nineteenth century said there would be no more inventions because everything that we could invent was invented already. I had an argument with one person a long time ago, and she was saying there would be no more music genres except of what was invented, but she didn’t know about rap, about dubstep, and so on. So yes, there is a potential chance that there will be something new, something different, something that will beat the concept of search engine. But I am kind of so much of a classic person that it’s very difficult for me to imagine the new concept of searching. We are so much in, like I said, search engines won’t change because my classic nature of a person who is online since 1996 doesn’t give me much space to think that there will be something better than that. But again, the 5% of my brain is saying Lukasz, don’t be naïve. Leave the gap because someone may come, and say I didn’t know that it was impossible, and he will just do this, and he will open a new door, a new concept of searching, and a new concept of asking for queries. Maybe there will not even be keywords. Maybe there will be something totally different.

You know, I will tell you something. This is a little off topic. We were talking recently, and there was this concept like creating a dating website that is matching people based on what they’re typing in Google. How do you like this? So people who are asking about similar topics, they’re probably think in a similar way. So if you are very geeky, or if you’re focused on history, or if you’re focused on geography, based on your queries you’re typing in Google in the last year, they will show you let’s say five potential candidates. I like this idea.

DAVID BAIN: And was it quite effective? Do you know if it’s delivered good results?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: I don’t know. It never became a real thing. It was just we had a conversation on a Friday in a pub, so a concept for a start-up.

DAVID BAIN: Why not? I can imagine something like that being very interesting. You can maybe tie it to an app as well.

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, exactly.

DAVID BAIN: I’m sure we can keep on talking forever as usual. You’ve offered some lovely thoughts, but as you say yourself you’re a classic person, and you’ve offered a lot of classic information, so I appreciate that. Let’s conclude with just one more question, and that is what do businesses need to be doing now that will still likely be a valid strategy in the year 2020?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Yeah, so I don’t want to call these people especially SEO because SEO sometimes doesn’t sound so good. But if you have a VC backup for a couple of million pounds, and you’re starting a new business, just please hire someone who understands how search engines are crawling your website, and why you need to implement, and again I’m doing this intentionally, open graph, and T cards, so Twitter and Facebook properly picking up information from your website, rather than you’re doing your basic level of product which is not optimised, and then you will get back to this after a year, instead of saving so much money and so much time on this relatively simple thing because one person can give a little information to developers, and say, ‘Guys, you know what? This, this, this is great, but actually this redirection should be 301 not 302.’ These basic things that developers don’t necessarily need to know. Developers are for something else. I will be always trying to convince people who are starting a business like look, you may not understand this, you may not think that this is important, you may not think that SEO is something that in the future will give you a massive profit, but give yourself a chance, and hire someone like you, me, or other guests you’ve invited, for many years in this industry, and let us do the job because you will see that on some day, that will pay off.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely, make sure the SEO is involved before the site designer, but probably even at an earlier stage than that; make sure they’re involved at the business strategy level to actually help them tie the concept together.

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Exactly, absolutely. I totally agree with what you said. There are lots of companies that absolutely, extremely think this is extremely important. But there are also lots of companies that are not thinking that this is important, and they finally, when they went from here to here, they’re like okay, I should hire someone who knows SEO. And you need to take three steps back to push them even higher. That’s why I’m saying, because I know that there will be lots of people listening to us, and trust me. You will love to see so much organic traffic, and an extremely high return of investment. I hope that will convince everybody.

DAVID BAIN: It was wonderful having you on, Lukasz. Where can people get a hold of you?

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Thank you for asking. As always, LinkedIn, holy grail of social media. Like my friend is saying, you would copy yourself on LinkedIn. Twitter, I have LukaszZelezny and LukaszZeleznyPL. One is for English, one is for Polish. And Facebook, if you really want to see me going to some restaurant or something like this every day photo stuff. So mainly LinkedIn and Twitter, and my Facebook, just type Lukasz Zelezny, and you’ll probably find me. And I’m more than happy to always have a chat.

DAVID BAIN: Super superb stuff. Thanks again.

LUKASZ ZELEZNY: Thank you very much for the invitation, David. It was a pleasure, and I wish you first of all, all the best, and warm greetings for everybody who listens to us, and to the other guests.