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Will Critchlow, of SearchPilot, on SEO A/B testing and AI’s role in the future of organic optimization

It was a real pleasure to catch up with Will Critchlow, CEO at SearchPilot, a UK-based company that helps proprietors of very large websites prove the value of their SEO efforts through SEO A/B testing.  Will recently presented at the Brighton SEO Conference in San Diego, an event that I also attended; his presentation was entitled “When what’s good for Google isn’t good for users.”

Will and I discuss the origin story and current elevator pitch for SearchPilot, how the software works, and the value it provides in terms of being able to accurately quantify the ROI of SEO efforts generally. We touch on the role that site traffic volume plays in terms of being a prerequisite for obtaining statistically valid results that can be relied upon for SEO optimization efforts, and chat about how Google has become more real-time in terms of its indexing and ranking, allowing for changes in search results to be noticed more quickly.

I wanted to get Will’s take on the most common SEO issues found on legacy sites, for example, poorly managed 404 errors, multiple 301 redirects, broken structured data, and other issues, and ask him about how his team works collaboratively with internal organizational stakeholders, for example, IT departments, which may formally or informally exert control over the site. As Will notes, “IT folks are often skeptical, so we need to bring them along in conversation and show how our product can help with their technical concerns.”

We then get into a somewhat technical discussion of how SearchPilot works as a proxy layer interposed between a site’s CMS and its CDN, and how its configuration provides reliability, redundancy, and fail-over capability.

Our discussion shifts to the issue of AI’s current and future influence on SEO, the degree to which bad actors will use AI to overwhelm search engines with artificially generated spam, and the likelihood that search engines will ever abandon their traditional, multiple-choice SERPs with a single, AI-generated, hyper-personalized answer (Will is skeptical that this will happen anytime soon given the self-interest of search engines in monetizing as many outbound clicks as possible).

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