David Sottimano of Open Source SEO

You can find David at:

Open Source SEO

Resources mentioned:

Free Code Camp


Sebastian: David, welcome to the SEO Show.

David: Hey, thanks for having me.

Sebastian: David, you are the creator of Open Source SEO, which is a free online resource for SEOs as well as the VP of an agency called Keyphraseology. Is that right so far?

David: That’s correct.

Sebastian: Awesome. So could you tell us more about Open Source SEO — is the purpose of that website to teach SEOs how to code, or did you have another goal in mind there?

David: So it started off as basically I didn’t see enough information on the web for SEOs to follow so I think it was about two years ago or three years ago, when I started looking around the Moz blogs and Search Engine Land. You have a lot of processes built by SEOs, which is great — thing is that it wasn’t in a really cohesive manner. And so the idea of Open Source SEO was to a) introduce programming or get programming known to the SEO community, b) start constructing and giving out datasets, and c) making sure that everybody’s processes that were already documented on the web had a place to execute them. So, let me explain that last part. You can do right now, for example, Hamlet Batista, which is doing a lot of things around Python, and he’s giving up a lot of code. It’s great. And he’s doing things on Search Engine Land. And I think we just take it a step further, and actually have his code run in a Repl.it. Basically, an engine that would be able to be embedded directly into a blog post. And so when people are looking at the code, they can actually execute it directly in the browser, which is going to help people a) understand the code, b) you can be able to modify essentially the codebase to see how things work and c) you get the output right way. For most people, I think the challenge is making sure that they have the right things set up, right? And so some people don’t really know what command line is, or how to run a Node.JS program or having running Python scripts or Jupiter notebooks. And so that’s where I’m going to take Open Source SEO just obviously need to find time.

Sebastian: You mentioned Python. Python is big in the SEO community, but is there another language that you would recommend first or before Python? Or do you think Python is the perfect start to getting your hands wet in SEO and programming and all that?

David: So look, I’m more of a JavaScript man. And I’m not gonna say which one’s better because I think you can do — you can achieve both in both languages. I think about 6 years ago, when I first was looking into programming, trying to automate things, it was just kind of like I was all over the place. I was using C, I was using PHP, and then after I was like everybody else, it’s like, where do you start? What what should you be learning first and foremost, and that kind of thing? And the answer is learn whatever language you’d like best, first of all, and people will give you general direction and sort of like there’s a lot of libraries for JavaScript or Python, that kind of thing. And you can kind of take a general direction right away. I think the best answer this question is, learn one language, and most of the things that you learned in that language is going to be transferrable to the next. For example, going from JavaScript to Python, a lot of things are really, really similar. And so, basic concepts of programming once you understand for loops, right? It’s not hard to be able to say “how do you do a for loop in Python?” Because you already understand the concept in whatever language you’ve chosen. It’s pretty easy to go ahead and transfer that skill to the language. For SEO right now, I mean, I would say that Python looks a little bit better just because there’s a lot of libraries already handling a lot of the hard stuff for you. For example, you can do Google Colab. And I mean, there’s automatic OAuth authentication with Google services. It’s really nicely laid out — doesn’t mean you can’t do with a Node.JS kernel. But I mean, Python has make things incredibly easy. So, if I were to start again, I would probably start with Python, but I do love JavaScript.

Sebastian: But what about these other scripts? Not exactly programming languages, but things like Excel formulas and XPath and command line — are those things that we should learn along the way, or do you think that’s just a distraction right now?

David: No, I think they’re good to learn and so especially if — a lot of us do a lot of scraping in and data and data collection. And so there’s two ways of doing this. You now have the option that paying somebody else to go ahead and do something and use potentially a visual selector, that kind of thing, to be able to grab what you want. These types of “no code” solutions are good, generally, but when you really need to get down to, I think, I’m going to call it the nitty gritty of being able to get exactly what you want, every single time, I think learning CSS selectors and XPath and these ways of essentially extracting things to the DOM are very good. On top of that, once you learn these things, you’ll realize really quickly that you don’t have to use a paid service to send HTTP requests and parse that data, everything becomes free. That’s the other reason. For Excel formulas, I think for an SEO, I don’t think that’s negotiable. I think that’s the first port of call in terms of data manipulation and Excel formulas are absolutely required for any SEO these days. Anybody who’s doing more the content side, these kind of things, at least basic knowledge of basic formulas.

Sebastian: There’s a lot of free coding websites out there like Free Code Camp and Codecademy. But are there any specific resources that you recommend that you think are better a bit more user friendly?

David: Free Code Camp is my absolute favorite, hands down. And I think they just added a whole Python course as well, which is really, really cool. I think the entire track and how they’ve developed it is the best and it’s also frequent. So I’m going to sound like a super nerd here. I’m going to tell you how I learned sometimes, and you might think at like 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night, throw on some Netflix and you go to bed. What I actually do is I use my Pluralsight membership, and I and I watch videos. So I mean, last night, I really wanted to develop an application with Firebase, and it’s very untraditional, I would say because you using cloud functions to go ahead and do things. And yeah, I know node then express and that kind of thing, but it’s really nice to be able to, to see how other people do things and how they structure their projects and that kind of thing. So I like Pluralsight. It doesn’t mean the only one out there for in terms of video courses. I think they have a really good library. I think that the the quality of the instructions and the materials on there are my favorite, at least.

Sebastian: Are there any SEO software that we already use like SEMrush and Ahrefs that is really coder-friendly with their API’s and their documentation and things like that?

David: So I think SEMrush has a pretty decent API and ensures the documentation is pretty comprehensive. The other API’s, so Ahrefs — I haven’t had the ability to use it as much as I would have. The MOZ API as well is straightforward in terms of what you need to get from it. So let me ask you a question in terms of when you say coder-friendly, are you saying — I mean, developers should be able to go ahead and use any API docs, right? I don’t know if that’s necessarily a barrier for using any of these APIs. In terms of what’s available through their APIs, I think they are pretty comprehensive. SEMrush also has this traffic API. I’ve never got the chance to use it, but they’re using whatever, click data, that they’re using to estimate traffic. And that’s a separate API, and I wish I had the chance to use it, but in terms of breadth of what you can do with SEO data. So far, SEMrush has been the most useful for me.

Sebastian: So switching gears a little bit. We’re talking more about building websites now. We all love WordPress. It’s pretty SEO friendly. But if WordPress didn’t exist, is there another CMS that you’d recommend people use?

David: So I like Ghost, right? That’s pretty cool. And I’m starting to really enjoy, there’s something called Webflow. I’m not sure if you ever heard about it. It’s a no code solution. And it’s brilliant. It looks like it’s an online version of this souped up Adobe Photoshop. And it’s making things incredibly easy. And I wish I had more time to experiment. I just saw it the other day. But essentially, you’re able to create it looks like a flat CMS basically on the architecture. In terms of CMS’ it’s depending on what you need. Like if it’s just like a personal site kind of thing. I’m much more in favor of a flat site. You’ve got a lot of up-and-comers as well, sort of like the the Gatsby JS kind of ecosystem for Netlify. And you know Netlify on its own. Netlify on its own is actually a really good solution as well. So those are the ones that I would probably look at. Okay,

Sebastian: Going off that, do you think hosting has a greater impact on SEO? And if it does, is there a certain host you’d recommend over others?

David: I do you think that your hosting has an impact on SEO. If you are experiencing longer time to first byte and your server doesn’t respond very quickly, that throttle people’s ability to crawl through site. First and foremost. We can we can talk about user metrics and how speed affects how people view your site, and if that translates into rankings or not, but I’m not going to get into that. We all are generally in agreement that a faster website is a better experience. In terms of hosting right now, we moved over to Kinsta hosting, as of recently, probably about a couple couple months ago, and they’ve been absolutely fantastic. Just everything is super fast. The interface is super slick. I have everything I need changing SFTP or SSH passwords super fast from the interface. Creating redirect rules, everything is kind of done for you. It’s kind of like a no brainer. And I’m pretty sure that they run on Google Cloud infrastructure. They just make everything really, really easy for you. So I’m going to go ahead and say that I recommend Kinsta.

Sebastian: Is there any software out there that does not exist right now and you wish existed?

David: Yes, but I don’t want to say it, because I want to build it.

Sebastian: You don’t have any other ideas?

David: I have a lot. One of the things I’m currently doing right now, I think SEO Tools for Excel was fantastic. It still is fantastic. And so one of the things I’m building right now is SEO Tools for Google Sheets. I’m taking a slightly different direction, there’s a lot of things that are a little bit harder to do in Google Sheets. So this add-on in terms of what you need to do, has to be a bit clever and creative. And so I think the SEO tool right now that I really, really want is essentially being able to pull in a data through formula and be able to manipulate data really, really quickly. Something so trivial, that a lot of us do all the time, either when we’re doing consulting and that kind of thing is looking at how to structure a canonical tag, or the no-index directive. It seems so silly. And then after, you have to Google for this, you’re going to copy, paste, and then you need to print in your spreadsheet so client can see it, or you’re going to put into Google doc or Word doc, whatever you do. And it should be as easy as having a formula opens up and says, “no index” or “canonical”, and then you point to a cell reference. And then it spits out the HTML. Those are the kind of things that saves you a whole bunch of time. And it will take even the 10 minutes it does save, it’s just so much better. And so that’s what I’m currently developing. That’s what I think is necessary in the market.

Sebastian: Do you follow any digital marketing blogs or podcasts or books?

David: So my source of information like many other people is Twitter and so I’m not essentially, I wouldn’t say I have this specific loyalty to anyone. It doesn’t come from one particular place in general. And if you start considering outside the English community, so fortunately, so I can read in Spanish, Italian and French. And so I have the opportunity to read obscure SEO blogs in different countries and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. And so, things that come my way I generally absorb on Twitter.

Sebastian: Lucky you, man. I wish I’d learned all those languages too.

David: It’s handy. It’s handy.

Sebastian: Well, you mentioned Twitter and obviously there’s a great SEO community on there. Are there any other social channels that you found are just as helpful?

David: So there’s a pretty good technical SEO slack community that I go for when I need some pretty advanced help. I’m not sure if it’s open, but I’m pretty sure that it’s run by Paul Shapiro and Patrick Stox. And so that’s a good one. If you can get in there — if you get invited. And then of course, like many other SEOs, we have kind of like, little small private communities, that we engage with on Facebook.

Sebastian: And finally, David, if digital marketing went away tomorrow, along with coding, what would you find yourself doing instead?

David: Growing tomatoes, everyone loves tomatoes.

Sebastian: Any reason why tomato?

David: I’m Italian. You know, tomatoes are part of my DNA. This is how we make the tomato sauce that brings the world happiness.

Sebastian: Aha. All right, interesting. Well, David, thanks so much for your time, man. Appreciate it!

David: No problem. Have yourself a good day. Take care.

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