Interview with Marta Szmidt
Anastasija from Revpanda talked with Marta Szmidt about the beginning of her journey, mistakes and trends in SEO, and how Artificial intelligence will impact SEO in the future.
Marta Szmidts pecializes in ranking websites in top positions for highly competitive keywords within various niches, including iGaming. She has a strong background in online marketing, especially in boosting page performance, implementing data-driven strategic SEO plans, and driving organic traffic to websites. As a former Head of SEO at NetEnt / Evolution, Marta has proven SEO results in European and North-American markets.
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Hello, Marta. It's really nice to meet you. You have more than 7 years of experience in SEO. Can you tell us more about how it all started and what brought you into SEO?
Hello, Anastasia, It is a big pleasure meeting you and thank you so much for inviting me to this interview. I feel very honoured.
My journey with SEO started when I turned 30. I decided to move countries and change my career. After 12 years of living in Germany, I moved to sunny Malta. I got an internship in online marketing at an English language school in Malta and this is how I first learned some SEO basics. After the internship was over, the school offered me a position as a Marketing Manager.
I was mostly focused on off-page SEO and there was a lot of freedom in my first SEO job. I had for example the idea to fly to Poland to get more students and source backlinks from universities in person and my manager agreed. It was crazy since we got some amazing backlinks and the rankings went up a lot. Two years later I got my first SEO position in iGaming at Catena Media.
The most important about a successful SEO project is to see how much you invest in SEO and if that investment contributes to the underlying business. There are a lot of metrics that we can track, but for me, SEO success is mostly measured in keyword rankings for transactional keywords (keywords that bring money to the business), traffic keywords (keywords that have big search volume and drive traffic to a website but are not always transactional) and branded keywords (any set of keywords with the brand name).
If you have top positions for those 3 categories of keywords, your organic traffic, SERP visibility, CTR and conversions should be also very good. I also believe that site usability and performance like page speed and the bounce rate are important factors that contribute to the success of your SEO efforts.
What qualities are required in order to be effective in an SEO role, in your opinion?
I believe the most important is to have a lot of drive and self-motivation. SEO can be a lonely game especially if you work on a smaller project or if you are responsible yourself for one market or website. SEO results can take months and it is not for people that lack patience (although, admittedly, I am not the most patient so I definitely need to keep working on this one)!
All the good SEOs I know are learning something new almost every day. I believe that big egos should stay at the door when it comes to SEO. As much as it is important to be confident and to believe in yourself, it is absolutely necessary to admit that you are wrong.
In my opinion, lack of testing and lack of individual approach in SEO are very common mistakes. Not every website works in the same way, even for those in the same industry. The lack of testing is something I can observe in a lot of situations in my career. If something worked on x website, this does not intrinsically mean it will work on every website, even if the industry is common to both. It is very important to take your time to get to know the product first, test extensively and use your findings to determine what actually works.
I also witness very often the quantity over quality approach, which can be very dangerous for a website. I observe this in link building profiles, but also in content. Everyone with a good budget can buy a lot of links. I’ve seen that very often SEOs just buy a specific number of links without thinking of their quality. The same applies to content. Adding many pages every month without quality and proper intent for users will not bring the product more traffic or rankings.
Right now I’m also seeing a lot of overuse of AI on many SEO projects. Using too many AI-based content tools and not investing in content writers is also a common mistake. AI tools can be used in SEO content creation or optimisation, but they must be used in a sensibly way. Sometimes the AI of the tool is not trained enough on a specific topic and the content quality can be very low. I believe that AI tools could be used to support the creation of content, but cannot and will not replace a good content writer. The AI tools should be seen as a source of inspiration on a topic since they work well for answering simple questions or for creating individual paragraphs.
I think for a new website, very often it is out of our control how long it takes to rank in search results. Yes, we can push it with backlinks, but if you don’t have a big network or budget, this can be difficult and sometimes even this doesn’t work. We also can’t control spam backlink attacks or competitor activities. If you are a smaller project and you have a very small budget in comparison to your competitors, things can get tricky. We also cannot influence the Google Algorithm Updates and Google errors. The most important thing here is to never forget that SEO is an ongoing, long-term process and it has to be carried out in a holistic manner.
Working with Revpanda was a big pleasure. I can be a very demanding customer and I test each new agency that I start working with. Revpanda definitely passed my tests. I was very impressed by the great communication and by the level of SEO knowledge within the Revpanda team. I could see that our new projects benefited the most since we started working with Revpanda. The speed and the quality of those projects were improved massively.
You participated in a panel "SEO 2.0: SEO in 2022” in Sigma Dubai 2022. Can you tell us more about it and what you can highlight from that discussion?
My highlight was actually that we didn’t have enough time to go deeper into the topics. It felt like we could spend hours in the panel and it still won’t be enough. I think that the topics we touched on like Google MUM or content quality will be very vital factors in 2022 not only in the iGaming niche.
Yes, I will be open to that in a few months. I moved to a new country and I have decided to take a small career break, but I will definitely be attending panels starting from autumn/winter 2022.
Does SEO for the iGaming niche differ from any other not related to that?
I think the iGaming niche is very much driven by domain authority. There are a lot of big brands in the industry (especially operators) with high authority and thousands of amazing backlinks. For Google to decide which one to rank higher is sometimes a matter of changing or improving the content and the page performance. It is very clear that this industry is competitive. Big brands already have an insane search volume for their own brand name and huge direct traffic. If they get rankings for some of the money keywords like online casino or casino bonus, the success is there.
That said, it’s really hard to achieve that. A casino site is very rarely optimised for SEO from the beginning. There are a lot of limitations for SEO professionals on the operator websites. Sometimes you are not even able to add meta titles or meta descriptions or even content on a casino site. I saw this a few times in my career. You have a product with this huge authority but you can not optimise the copy or work on the page speed. The essential thing here is the communication between SEOs and developers. I think in this industry, this can help decide the success of SEO. For smaller sites like casino affiliates that are built on WordPress and are already SEO flexible, this can be a big advantage.
SEO is never boring! I feel like I can never know enough about SEO, there are so many changes in this discipline and there’s always something new to learn. I love that. Sometimes, I think I am almost a bit addicted to SEO. It feels like a game for me. I love seeing pages moving for rankings from 100+ to the top 3 positions within a few months. It feels very rewarding when this happens. It is exciting.
In your blog you were talking about Google MUM. What role will AI play in the future of SEO?
I believe that in the future AI-based technology will be still used by Google to understand and answer complex users’ search queries and to improve online search capabilities. AI can help the search engine to go beyond the user’s questions or statements and explore multiple dimensions of the SERP. For SEOs it is essential to understand that in the future Google will be able to focus even more strongly on media that we do not always keep in mind – videos, images or podcasts. Another change will as well be that a website can also appear for search results in languages other than the website language. On the other hand, I believe that a lot more webmasters will use AI-generated content on their websites in the future.
What are your plans for your career in future? (If you want to disclose it)
As I mentioned, at the moment I am having a small career break, but in a few months, I am planning to come back to the SEO game. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I am very excited already. I hope I will stay in a very competitive niche like iGaming. I love the challenge.
You get to have dinner with three people (famous or not, living or not). Who are they?
Definitely, my number one would be Steven Bartlett for the podcast ‘The Diary of a CEO’. I am obsessed with this podcast, I listen to each episode twice. It would be also great to meet Matt Diggity from Diggity Marketing. I like his strategies a lot for SEO within affiliation, maybe he could share some SEO secrets with me? For dessert, I would invite my childhood Fox Terrier called Beta. Sorry, I know she is not a human being, but she passed away 15 years ago and I miss her so much.
Sometimes I talk too much and I am excited about things that no one else is excited about it, so probably something like:
“Run away if you want to have your pace”
Hahahaha no, just kidding. I really don’t know!
What are your passions and hobbies? How do you spend your free time?
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