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The Life of an Ecommerce Tech SEO Freelancer with Kev Wiles

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Kev Wiles

Kev Wiles, Freelance SEO Consultant at KevinWiles.

Meet Kev Wiles, the mastermind behind the transformative digital journeys of leading eCommerce brands. With a rich tapestry of experience woven from over a decade in the fast-paced world of SEO, Kev stands at the forefront of technical SEO innovation, specialising in catapulting DTC brands on Shopify to new heights of online success.

Kev's odyssey in the digital realm began in an era when SEO was still a nascent frontier, ripe for exploration. From his early days of web development, through a serendipitous plunge into SEO, to his pivotal roles at industry titans like Halfords, Nestle, and McCann, his career is a testament to a relentless pursuit of excellence. It was in the vibrant landscapes of New Zealand, amidst a stint at iProspect, that Kev honed his craft, later bringing his expertise back to the UK to spearhead digital transformation at Halfords with a pioneering spirit.

Now, as the driving force behind KevinWiles., Kev offers a sanctuary of strategic SEO consultancy, where eCommerce brands find not just solutions but visionary growth strategies. His approach is meticulous, yet marvelously adaptive, ensuring that each strategy is a bespoke masterpiece, finely tuned to the distinct rhythms of the online retail world.

Strategically based in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, Kev's consultancy is a beacon for Heads of eCommerce and CMOs across the globe, offering a spectrum of services from technical SEO audits to comprehensive strategy development. His portfolio is a mosaic of prestigious partnerships with luminaries like Les Mills, Air New Zealand, and, each collaboration a stepping stone towards redefining SEO excellence.

What truly sets Kev apart is his innate ability to blend into your team, transcending the conventional client-consultant dynamic to forge strategic partnerships that ignite revenue growth, enhance traffic, and amplify keyword visibility. His deep-seated understanding of the eCommerce ecosystem, coupled with a versatile command over platforms like Shopify, WordPress, and Salesforce Cloud Commerce, empowers brands to navigate the digital tide with confidence and clarity.

Embark on a journey with Kev, where your eCommerce challenges transform into milestones of success. Discover the boundless potential of your online presence and connect with Kev for a partnership that redefines the horizon of SEO possibilities.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Kev Wiles

Watch the interview

(click on the 'cc' icon to view subtitles)

Listen to the podcast

(52 minutes long)

Unscripted Ecommerce Tech SEO Q&As with Mark A Preston and Kev Wiles

Could you share your experience in the SEO industry, Kev?

Interestingly, my entry into SEO was quite unintentional. After leaving school, I pursued game development at college but quickly realised it wasn't for me. I then dabbled in web development, working on projects for small businesses. It was during this time that I stumbled upon SEO in online forums and became intrigued by its potential. My early days in SEO were during a simpler time when tactics like white text on a white background could easily boost rankings. Recognising the need for a more serious approach, I secured a role in an agency, which was a novel concept at the time. My career progressed from there, leading me to work with major brands like Nestle and Heineken. However, after a stint at a large agency, I sought a change and impulsively booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand. My adventures led me to work at iProspect in New Zealand and later delve into digital transformation at Halfords. Eventually, I ventured into consultancy, hoping for freedom and travel, only to find myself grounded in an office. Despite this, I've had the privilege of working with a diverse range of brands and tackling various challenges in the SEO realm.

Are you aspiring to lead a nomadic life in SEO, Kev?

Indeed, the idea of living as an SEO nomad appeals to me, especially given my lack of major commitments outside of my two cats, whom I adore. The concept of exploring and immersing myself in different cultures is enticing. However, the nature of consultancy work, particularly the need for client relationship management, presents challenges in adopting a truly nomadic lifestyle. Time zone differences, for instance, complicate prolonged stays in destinations like Bali. Nonetheless, my ultimate goal is to establish lifestyle businesses where I have the liberty to experiment and take risks, learning from both successes and failures. This journey involves not only mastering SEO but also delving into development, distribution, and the intricacies of building a business, all of which demand significant time and dedication.

Do you primarily focus on technical SEO, or does your work encompass a broader scope?

My roots are in technical SEO, which I find particularly engaging, especially when it involves diving deep into coding. However, my role expanded to include a wider array of SEO components, such as content strategy and digital PR, during my time leading search initiatives. Despite this broader perspective, my preference remains in the technical realm, where I find the challenges more stimulating. The evolution of SEO platforms, like Shopify, has somewhat simplified technical issues, but the need for a comprehensive approach that includes content and link-building strategies remains vital.

What technical SEO issues are most commonly encountered?

The significance of technical SEO varies greatly depending on the size and nature of the website. For small businesses, minor technical issues are unlikely to severely impact rankings. However, for larger sites, like e-commerce platforms, technical challenges such as improper indexing of search filters, incorrect canonical tags, and hreflang issues can significantly affect visibility. Addressing these issues often requires custom solutions beyond the capabilities of standard e-commerce platforms.

How should canonical tags be correctly applied on e-commerce sites with numerous product variations?

Effective use of canonical tags on e-commerce sites starts with thorough keyword research to identify which product variations are most important. The goal is to create indexable pages for significant variations without causing confusion or diluting relevance. This approach must be carefully balanced with user experience, ensuring that site navigation remains intuitive and effective.

Is an understanding of the broader context important for e-commerce SEO specialists?

Absolutely. E-commerce SEO requires a comprehensive understanding of various factors beyond traditional SEO tactics, including technical platform limitations, international tax laws, and distribution challenges. Effective SEO in this context involves close collaboration with development teams and other departments to create cohesive strategies that address both SEO and business requirements.

What does the role of a technical SEO entail?

A technical SEO specialist bridges the gap between theoretical SEO strategies and practical implementation. This involves ensuring that websites are accessible to search engines, providing clear instructions for indexing, and working closely with developers to implement SEO-friendly features and structures. Creativity and problem-solving are key aspects of this role, as technical SEOs often need to find innovative solutions to overcome platform limitations.

How do you prioritise technical SEO tasks for large, well-known brands?

Prioritising technical SEO tasks involves a blend of experience, understanding of Google's preferences, and strategic thinking about the impact of various issues on site performance. It's crucial to identify and address the most pressing technical issues that hinder search engine crawling and indexing, while also considering the broader business goals and the potential return on investment for each task.

How can you be certain that addressing a specific technical SEO issue will advance business objectives?

Determining the impact of fixing specific technical SEO issues involves a combination of tool insights and practical experience. Tools can highlight potential issues, but understanding the real impact on business goals requires a deep knowledge of the site's specific context, competitive landscape, and user behaviour. It's about discerning which errors genuinely hinder performance and focusing on those that align with strategic business objectives, rather than getting side-tracked by every minor issue flagged by SEO tools.

Should SEO professionals spend time on meta descriptions?

While meta descriptions play a role in user engagement, Google's tendency to rewrite them based on perceived page relevance makes it less critical to meticulously craft each one. Focus on optimizing meta descriptions for key pages that drive significant traffic and revenue, but be aware that Google may still choose to modify them.

How can eCommerce sites differentiate their product pages on their own site and third-party marketplaces?

eCommerce sites should consider the intent behind the product listings on their own site versus those on third-party marketplaces. Differentiating content based on factors such as product condition (new vs. used) can help. However, the extensive use of manufacturer descriptions is common, highlighting the potential role of AI in generating unique product content that incorporates key variables and SEO insights.

Is it vital for product information to vary across different platforms?

Differentiating product information across platforms is essential, not just for SEO but also for brand consistency and user experience. This approach can help in distinguishing your listings in a crowded marketplace and improving the chances of ranking for desired terms. However, for transient marketplace listings, such as auction items, the effort in creating unique content may need to be balanced against the listing's lifespan.

Do SEOs need to better understand their target audience?

Absolutely. SEO strategies should be user-centric, aligning with the needs and behaviours of the target audience. This involves a collaborative approach with other channels like PPC, CRO, and UX to ensure a unified effort towards solving the user's query efficiently and effectively, potentially leveraging various content formats like video to enhance user experience.

Are SEOs focusing too much on the wrong audience?

The evolving nature of Google's algorithms, aiming to better understand user intent and query types, suggests that SEOs need to adapt strategies to meet actual user needs rather than solely focusing on traditional ranking factors. This may involve optimising for specific features like local map packs or enhancing product feeds for Google Shopping, depending on the user's search intent.

What are your thoughts on Google Shopping?

Google Shopping represents an opportunity for SEOs to bridge the gap between organic and paid strategies. However, the lack of clarity and potential conflicts between optimizing for SEO versus PPC budgets can complicate this effort. It's an area that, despite its challenges, is expected to grow in importance and influence within eCommerce SEO strategies.

Do SEOs often try to control the uncontrollable?

Yes, there's a tendency in SEO to overcomplicate strategies by focusing too much on factors beyond direct control or influence. It's essential to distinguish between actionable insights and uncontrollable algorithmic aspects, focusing efforts on what can genuinely improve site performance and user experience.

What prompted your transition from agency work to freelancing?

The desire for diversity in projects and the need to stay at the forefront of SEO innovations were key motivators. The limitations of a corporate environment, where SEO may not be a priority, prompted the shift towards freelancing, where I could explore a wider range of strategies and maintain a closer connection to the evolving SEO landscape.

What has been the greatest challenge in freelancing?

Maintaining a work-life balance is particularly challenging as a freelancer. The blurred lines between personal and professional life, compounded by the need to manage various aspects of a business beyond SEO, can make it difficult to switch off and truly relax.

How much of your time is billable as a freelancer?

The proportion of billable hours can vary widely, depending on the nature of the projects and the need to balance client work with business development, networking, and administrative tasks. Success in freelancing often requires effective time management and the ability to delegate or refuse non-core tasks.

Is the reality of freelancing often misunderstood by SEOs?

Yes, the multifaceted nature of freelancing, encompassing not just SEO but also client acquisition, retention, and business management, can be underestimated. Success requires a broad skill set and the ability to navigate the complexities of running a business, beyond just delivering SEO results.

How crucial is it for freelancers to acknowledge their weaknesses?

Recognising and admitting areas of weakness is vital for SEO freelancers. It allows for a more focused approach, concentrating on strengths and areas of expertise, and avoiding the dilution of quality by attempting to cover all aspects of SEO and digital marketing.

Should SEOs specialise to advance their careers?

Specialisation can be a powerful strategy for career advancement in SEO, allowing professionals to become experts in specific areas. This deepens expertise and can differentiate an SEO professional in a competitive market. However, a broad understanding of all SEO facets is also essential to integrate strategies effectively and address the diverse needs of various projects and clients. Balancing specialisation with a comprehensive SEO knowledge base can lead to more significant opportunities and career growth.

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