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Ola King on future-proofing SEO, storytelling, influencer marketing, and why SEO is a UX discipline

I was delighted to catch up with Ola King, formerly of Moz and now on his own as an interdisciplinary problem solver.

We discuss his upcoming talk at the Brighton SEO conference in San Diego this week (an event I’ll also be attending); its title is “Why SEO is a UX Discipline,” and move on to the topic of future-proofing SEO, especially in the context of AI-generated responses replacing traditional search engine results. Ola suggests that even though search engines may be moving to “SERP-less” results, they will likely continue to prioritize delivering accurate, fast, and comprehensive information allowing for some measure of user choice. He notes that, at least right now, AI-generated responses provide surface-level information, acting as “knowledgeable friends” who can direct users to more detailed, more authoritative content residing on websites.

The conversation touches on the importance of user experience (UX) on websites, emphasizing that websites need to deliver on the promises made in search results to provide a positive user experience. Both of us agree that content should always align with a brand’s promise, ensuring users know what to expect when they encounter a brand’s content after interacting with a search engine.

We discuss the challenges of incorporating storytelling into content marketing, particularly for businesses in less exciting industries. I note the major differences between traditional journalistic writing and storytelling, where storytelling tends to have a more flexible narrative structure. Ola suggests that it’s essential to redefine what a story is and focus on the narrative aspect. He advises businesses to understand their audience’s needs and frame their content as a solution to those needs, noting that every business can find a compelling story within its operations or by addressing the concerns of its target audience.

Ola emphasizes that everything can be turned into an interesting story. Even in less exciting industries, businesses should consider what keeps their customers up at night and use that as the basis for creating engaging content. He suggests that businesses should think about the hero’s journey within their industry or customer experiences to make their content more relatable and engaging and advises marketers to start with the end goal of pleasing their audience and optimizing for the right channels, rather than focusing solely on search engines like Google or social media platforms such as TikTok.

I enjoyed my talk with Ola and hope to attend his presentation in San Diego later in the week.

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