EP#3 Amruta Khemnar - Keeping up to date with SEO trends

Amruta Khemnar is experienced both in SEO and Business Management. Amruta is an active member of the SEO community. She regularly shares her knowledge as a webinar guest. When we interviewed Amruta, she was working at Merkle Sokrati-Dentsu, a famous agency in India. 

Keeping up to date with trends and Google news can be confusing and overwhelming, especially at the beginning of a SEO career. Listen to a genuine story of what it is like to navigate trends in SEO. Amruta was so kind as to offer us one hour of her time to answer our questions.

Did you enjoy this episode? Please, follow, like, rate, share and subscribe to the podcast – everything helps! And if you feel like doing an extra step, send the podcast guest or the podcast host a thank you Tweet or message.

Useful links

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/workinseo

Isaline’s, podcast host, Twitter page: https://twitter.com/isaline_margot

WorkinSEO Twitter page: https://twitter.com/WorkInSEO

Sign up to “WorkinSEO” newsletter: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/workinseo

Getting in touch with Amruta Khemnar

Twitter: @Amruta547 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amruta-khemnar/ 

#WorkinSEOPodcast with Amruta Khemnar

Isaline: Hey, folks. It's Isaline. I'm thrilled to record this WorkInSEO podcast, a podcast where we explore the diversity of career path leading to working in SEO. We interview amazing people to learn from them and help you navigate your way in your own SEO career. I'm Isaline Muelhauser, SEO nerd and content strategist, founder of the SEO consultancy Pilea.ch.

Today, I am joined by the brilliant, Amruta Khemnar, manager of Business Strategy at Merkle Sokrati. Amruta is an active member of the SEO community. She regularly shares her knowledge as a webinar guest. Today, we are lucky to have her here with me on the podcast. Hey, Amruta.

Amruta: Hi, Isaline. Thank you so much. It's an honor to be here today. Thank you so much.

Isaline: Thanks for being here today. I have invited you to discuss -- actually, after seeing one of your webinars that I thought about inviting you, it was a webinar about SEO trends and how to understand them, how to keep up with them. This is the plan of the podcast today. I hope you will learn why it's so important to follow the trend in SEO and also how to follow them, how not to be overwhelmed because there are so many different things and so many different sources. Amruta is going to help us make sense of all of that.

Amruta: Absolutely. 

Isaline: This is WorkInSEO, Amruta Khemnar, manager of Business Strategy at Merkle Sokrati. Here we go. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, and about your current position here and what you like about it? 

Amruta: Absolutely. I started my career in SEO in 2017. I've been fortunate enough to start my career with Merkle, which is a well-known SEO agency here in India.

Before that, just a quick drape on my story on how I stumbled on SEO. Basically, I was working with a family friend of mine who was into a home composting unit. She was an entrepreneur. Her business was basically to help small homes or to decompose their wet waste at home.

To get this information out to people on knowing about composting and what the product is about, the meeting that we came across was obviously online marketing. Through that, we understood that a lot of people were looking out for information on home composting. The frequently asked questions that we otherwise catered to offline. This is how we understood that the requirement or the need of the art is SEO. Definitely, that's when my journey to SEO began, bringing up a website and getting content out there and getting some organic visibility. 

Today, as Isaline mentioned, I’ve been working with Merkle for about two and a half years. I think I've been very fortunate that being the agency side, we get to work with a lot of multiple sector clients. That's where you start leveling up in terms of experience in SEO. I think my role initially started as a business analyst. That business analyst, competencies and skills that were required combined with the technical aspect of SEO is what helped me develop project efficiently. We've done a lot of project management systems. You help facilitate the integration of different components of services which you require. It could be your content teams bringing together your technical team and then delivering an entire project into it. I think this sort of responsibilities and learnings have definitely helped me to make a mark in the SEO. 

Isaline: I can see that you have a really unique blend of competencies because I heard lots of people who come from, for instance, a technical side or a copyrighting side. Having this business analyst really strong background, that must be really helpful. Do you have a favorite type of project or a favorite type of challenges that you like tackling? 

Amruta: Yes. I think content is something that I'm more inclined towards getting the right information, getting the right content to your user. Search is content-driven. Any user who's looking out for mean, the keyword that we work on and the information that he's speaking. Google's part is basically to be able to deliver that.

My projects have always been that. You bridge the gap between the user and what your client is providing. Giving the best of the quality of content and information to the user. Definitely those kinds. I think my first project that I worked over here within my agency was [unintelligible]. That's very close to my heart. We were able to get some fabulous results and we were able to have a case study on that. That's a project that's close to my heart. 

Isaline: That sounds really exciting. 

Amruta: Yes, absolutely. Do check it out. I think it's on there on the website. Some phenomenal work that we did there. Yes. 

Isaline: Can you explain how you keep up to date? When I saw you first, it was about this webinar, about SEO trends. Obviously, in order to create that webinar, it means that you follow up the trends and that you have to be aware of them and also understand them. Can you tell us why keeping up to date with SEO trends is so important in your job? 

Amruta: Absolutely. I think SEO, as we know, is ever evolving. John Mueller has only stated that SEO is going to stay forever. The search requirements varies really by seasonality and need-based. It could also vary in terms of geography or demography. These are custom requirements that we need to cater to. When I say "we," this is also your search engine, your clients who provide some information, and yes, your consultants who are going to be the middleman.

We really need to understand what your user base is because user is the core of search. There's always a constant give and take of information between user and search engines. Let's say, for example, that a different trend, the pandemic happened all throughout the whole world, and the users are seeking information on what is about COVID and the statistics, what are the cases like in my area? Am I the red zone? Am I in the green zone? Definitely, that's where you need the trend in terms of the search demands. We have seen exponential growth in the search transport COVID-related queries. If you want somebody who's from the healthcare sector, you definitely want to have a targeted content. We will have some guidelines of it, the EAT guidelines. Make sure that you're compliant with it.

You need to be up to date with these trends. You need to know that your information is fact-checked because Google will constrain you under all these aspects. Pick up on those trends. Make sure what the time schedule is like because in lockdown situations, if your store is open, is it shut? You need to keep on updating these and providing these information would be the first one to make these changes. Definitely to keep up with these trends is something that I would suggest. That has to be to ensure that this information is updated. You need to be practiced and provide the best strategies as [unintelligible] to have action planning.

Isaline: Two things I find so, so interesting in what you said is how you straightaway placed the user at the center and you didn't say you need to be up to date for search engine. Straight from the start saying, "Oh, yeah, the user is what matters most." Also, I find it really interesting that in your approach of keeping up with the trends, it remains ahead of the markets. How would you integrate in your everyday life at your work being updated with trends? What kind of tools? How much time do you spend? 

Amruta: I think my usual day consists of eight hours of work that we have our dedicated work hour time. My mornings are usually the time that I get to quickly get these updates. I usually spend 40 minutes on a quick check or a quick read from the sources that I most connect with. Definitely, I think anybody wants to start with doing this as a practice. I would highly recommend being a part of certain groups, a few groups, discussion forums, or following some SEO industry experts.

A few names, if I have to mention, it would be definitely Aleyda Solis. Going forward, setting up these Google alerts for yourself. Search liaison is one where in any Google updates that's going to come up. You would want to get an alert to your mailbox or your LinkedIn to be a part of the discussions with these updates are being discussed about. These steps, these 40 minutes, I think, these especially helped me to come back and then understand. Okay, let's see, there's going to be a Google update. I need to look at what my score is for my clients. I need to understand how is my content aligned. Is there any duplicate content issue?

Accordingly, prioritize my task items for that particular client so that I knew that I comply with these updates with the speed of data going to be rolling out next month. What are that pre-requisites that I might require so it helps me to prepare with or aligning my teams with informing my tech team, getting their bandwidth, and aligning all the resources of the internal stakeholders? That would be more than this project. 

Isaline: There is a first phase where you read and listen and get to know, get in touch with the new trends. And then, there's the second phase. When you say, "Oh, you need to check what is important for which clients," and that is maybe something for one client is not so essential, but something is very essential for clients. There is this second phase, aligning what is happening with the needs of the clients. Then, there is this third phase that you knew that is creating an action plan basically and getting the team involved. That's right.

Amruta: Correct, correct. Definitely, like I said, prioritization of these action items would help you to plan better for what's upcoming, what updates are upcoming, and aligning, getting most of your performance.

Isaline: Do you have a practical example of a recent change and how you applied it in your work? 

Amruta: I think knowledge. You read a lot. If this knowledge that you're going to take in from different sources, if that's not used, it's going to become junk data at the end of it. Because just reading and not putting it into action is not going to help.

One of my experiences that I will put is we were working on one of our clients and they kept dropping the ranks in the review section. They were ranking for the review section and they kept coming back. Obviously, we had this as a highlighted point that review rankings are dropping. That was a concern. But when we fact check what was probably missing, there wasn't anything. But then, because you are continuously reading this, you're updated, you know that Google has come forward and has explicitly said that there's a Google bug in their system. Some of them might have taken a hit on their review rankings. This information basically as me as an SEO consultant, I can go back to my client and it helps to clear the panic mode. Because the client is, [unintelligible], "My performance is dropping. My visibility is dropping. What are you doing about it? It's impacting my business." Definitely, you can go back, and let's settle down. There's nothing that we are doing wrong, but definitely, something that's a glitch, technical glitch at Google, then it'll just take some time for it to sort of and we should be back on the performance route.

That is one recent example. I think we definitely can pick up from these SEO trends or SEO alerts, I would say. But it's something to take back on. Yeah.

Isaline: Do you have any advice for someone who is a beginner in this client relationship and who has to discuss for the clients while the sort of uncertainty of the ever-changing algorithm? Like you said, other clients go into panic mode. What kind of advice can you give us to communicate both the opportunities and the challenges because, yes, it might drop, right?

Amruta: Right, right. I think what is important here is we definitely need to have this. I mean, the timeline can be decided upon, but totally [unintelligible] the client needs to be educated about how an SEO organic channel works. The basic functionality of it and the understanding for both the client and its leadership is very essential. Because we've seen that, at many times, they might confuse it with how the paid channels work. That becomes a challenge that, okay, because performance challenge has its own working model, you cannot compare these two models.

The understanding of educating your client is, I think, very important that you keep telling them about these updates or you send out these or what we call it insights into the SEO industry. What is upcoming? What are the updates? You can share these materials with them because coming from Google is more -- That might ensure trust for the client and in the work that you're doing. Definitely, I think educating the client would be the highlight. Yeah.

Isaline: What is it in your job today that keeps you motivated and makes you wake up in the morning?

Amruta: I think the best part of it is no two days are same. It feels like an adventure because that's your joy of being part of something that you're creating, something that is continuously undergoing evolution and challenges its own limits. Because what was applicable yesterday may not be applicable today because we have leveled up. [unintelligible] comes back. They're continuously A/B testing something in the background. It's always, like I said, user centric. The A/B testing results, the search engine will come up and will provide you.

Now, we know that Google has enriched these search results. Earlier it was just a simple listing result. With evolving times, I think we were able to see people also ask for questions, the Rich Snippet results, the knowledge graph, and so on. Now, we are looking at voice search, we're looking at image search, and so many trends. There's always something to look forward to, something new that you will keep learning.

The two most important things for me to look forward to, if I have to sum up, is my favorite cup of tea and what's next in Google update, I guess.

Isaline: What kind of advice can you give us? You mentioned earlier this list of sources that you have, how should I create my own list of sources? Is there a list of people everybody should follow or maybe it's better to create for specific industry? How to find trustworthy sources?

Amruta: For beginners, I would suggest, there's a lot of blogs or content out there done by most or Ahrefs blogs, the basics. Don't directly jump onto something that is at an advanced level and then feel very confused or probably get very overwhelmed with the information that is out there. Start with the basics, the ABCs of SEO, understanding what elements comprise of SEO. Then, move your way upwards gradually. Give it some time, absorb all the information. Some of the key names that if I have to mention or the resources if I have to mention is definitely watch out for Aleyda Solis. She does some wonderful content in learningseo.io. She's somebody I really look up to. She gets all these resources together on this one platform for everybody. Probably from a beginner to an advanced level. Or, if you want to look at some particular, let's say, content or technical aspect, you can search those elements and get information particular to that sector. Definitely look after that.

You can sign up for different newsletters that give you updates regularly. There's a weekly newsletter by SEO formal newsletter, newsletter by her. Being part of these, like I said, discussion forums, Women in Tech SEO also, there's so much we learned from these forums from some experts who share so much of knowledge and their learnings. I think Areej AbuAli has done fantastic -- I think I would like to definitely give a shout-out with Women in Tech SEO, that work that she's been doing. 

Isaline: It's about reading the article that trusted people read and taking lists that are curated by professionals that we can trust or journals that we can trust and not jumping on the first article. I found it really interesting how you say you need to absorb knowledge. I often say I like sponging knowledge. 

Amruta: I like that word too. Right now, I am on to mentoring people. I've been fortunate enough to get this opportunity to be a mentor to a few folks in my current organization. I see them, we're just running like a race that, "I'm going to complete this, I'm going to complete this," but take a moment and reflect on what you've learned and try to apply it. Unless you don't practice what you've read in theory, it wouldn't stay with you as much. That's definitely one piece of advice that I give all my mentees. 

Isaline: That's really good. It's sort of journaling knowledge. When you learn something, you journal at the end of the day, "Oh, this is what I learned." 

Amruta: That's exactly right. 

Isaline: It's true that sometimes we read something and it goes really fast. It is also out of our brain really fast. I think one thing is keeping the sources close to hands. I do, for instance, Google Keep notes per subjects with list of URL to good articles or articles that I found particularly helpful because sometimes I don't need it straight away, but I know that in the near future, probably I will need that.

Amruta: Right. Right. Even I do that as a fact actually. Always have this bookmarked folder for SEO good reads. You keep bookmarking, then whenever you have some time, you go back to that folder and have easy access to the content that you like. 

Isaline: What do you see in the near future for your SEO path now? 

Amruta: I have always loved to be triggered to change. At my workplace, like I mentioned, I'm always striving to level up in terms of processes, in terms of automating things that we're doing or leveling up in terms of tools that we use or the technology that we use. For me, I really see that as something that we can always grow on in terms of finding new opportunities in the existing environment. Taking up additional roads. It could be management-related, something that I've never walked on to having my hands try on that. I've been fortunate that my workplace has been providing me that. That's something I really appreciate.

Having had a mentor myself, I know the importance of mentorship. Being a mentee, I think, definitely next. What I would look forward to in my part is mentoring my folks in terms of what I've learned, giving back to my folks who I worked with. Yeah.

Isaline: That's so nice of you. 

Amruta: Thank you. Thank you so much. 

Isaline: It's true that having someone to look up to, either through a mentorship program or just like we do today with the podcast, it does help a lot too to see what other people do and see that it is possible to do the same things and to do it in whatever way is convenient for us.

Amruta: Important today that you are open to getting the knowledge or reaching out and asking for the help that's required, and being fortunate enough to find these platforms and people who you look up to, and getting some understanding. Being able to pose these questions and getting more information is something that you must do as a continuous practice.

Isaline: That seems like an excellent moment for me to ask you where people can contact you or get in touch if they want to follow up the discussion.

Amruta: You can definitely reach me at my LinkedIn handle. I think I definitely would want to catch up with you if there's anything that I could help you with. Please feel free to drop me a message. I shall be happy to get back to you.

Isaline: I'll make sure to share the link also in the description of the podcast, so you can easily find it.

Now, it's time for the last feature. It's the moment where we can show the love to somebody else. And so, can you tell me who I should interview next or someone that you really admire and that we should check out and learn from?

Amruta: Well, a big, big shout out to my mentor who helped me. I mean, holding my fingers, has guided me on all my queries. He's been very patient and [unintelligible]. I'd say definitely Deepak Mankani, he was the Global SEO Delivery Head for Merkle. I think he would be an awesome guest for this podcast. A big shout-out for him. 

Isaline: Thanks so much for sharing. I'm sure he'd be really happy to hear about the shout-out. 

Amruta: I hope so. He's been my mentor and I think nothing [unintelligible]. That's all. I'm getting the word. It's a big thank you for him. This is my way of saying thank you for always being there and being my guide. 

Isaline: Yeah. It sounds like a great company environment when you have someone within that helps you along. 

Amruta: True, true. I mean, nothing like having a great mentor, a great guide. Yes. Thank you, Deepak. Thank you. 

Isaline: Thank you a lot for the interview. I see that time have run so, so fast with you. I'm really happy that I had the chance to interview you. After I saw your webinar with the students.

If you want to share feedback to the podcast, to me, or to Amruta, just please reach out. You can find me on Twitter @isaline_margot or directly @WorkInSEO. Thank you for listening to us. Thanks again, Amruta, for being here. It was a pleasure.

Amruta: Thank you so much, Isaline. Thanks a lot for this opportunity.