Hamlet Batista of RankSense

You can find Hamlet at:


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Sebastian: Hamlet, welcome to the SEO show.

Hamlet: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it, Sebastian.

Sebastian: Hamlet, you are the CEO of a company called RankSense, which is an SEO monitoring company. Is that right so far?

Hamlet: We’re an agile SEO company. So we offer an agile platform to speed up SEO workflows. The monitoring is our lead generation strategy — most people don’t know they need agile and why they need implementation. But they know they need monitoring. So we start with that and that leads to them understanding about why they will need agile because when we start showing that SEO is not a once-and-done, a lot of people think “Oh, it’s just once-and-done”, but the monitoring shows them, “Oh yeah, you fixed that. But here’s another. Here’s another thing. Here’s another thing”. So it shows them that they need to be on top of their SEO.

Sebastian: I guess the most obvious question is, what is Agile? And how is this different to say an SEMrush where we can also do audits and monitors and set up alerts and all that?

Hamlet: Yeah, exactly. So, agile comes from development — it’s a concept that development teams use. So, it’s less about the auditing and recommendations and more about the implementation side of SEO. And we actually, we work in collaboration with SEMrush, DeepCrawl — a lot of different fantastic tools that provide the things you have to implement. Our monitoring capabilities are really limited because it’s only meant for lead capturing and it is about doing things incrementally. One of the biggest problems that you see in teams, in agencies is, “Oh, here’s this 100 point audit, now we have to go to the developers to put it in place”. And a lot of times, it will take months, right? It will take forever to get done. And if it gets done, and a lot of times they don’t even get, not even 50% of it done. So the problem space that we focus on is, how do you get your recommendations done? And it’s like, you’re gonna do it incrementally doing piece by piece, and showing progress. So if you’re able to, say, move from an agile terminology, from a waterfall approach — a waterfall means I’m going to do a full audit. It’s going to take me a month or two, and then I’m going to have the development team and spend a month or more, or six, whatever time it takes them. If and when they have the time to implement things, if you think about it from the business perspective, it pushes the results way far ahead. And a lot of times when the results happen, they don’t even know if it was because of what you did or something else that happened in the middle. So that’s the problem with the opportunity that we see — you have all these fantastic recommendations from SEMrush and Moz, DeepCrawl and all these recommendations, but are they being put in place?Are they effective? Which ones are effective? So that’s where agile comes in. You can use an agile approach. Break it down in pieces, do it in what is called ‘sprints’. Sprints can be one week, two weeks — depending on how you do them. So okay, let’s do this part first, you do them and then you learn whether those work. Okay, they worked. So you can have a long term plan. And with the agile process, if you don’t use agile, you go through the whole plan. And then at the end, you’ll see whether that was effective. But in an agile process, you might make changes to that plan because you’re getting a faster feedback loop. So, as you make progress, you say, “Oh, I was planning to do work on the schema, but I’m seeing a lot more opportunities on the meta tags, so I’m gonna I’m gonna double down on this part”, and then it makes you adjust the process. And then development team, they changed because they were facing the same problems that products will take forever. Websites will take forever to get done and, they learned a lot by doing things incrementally.

Sebastian: RankSense sounds pretty unique in the marketplace. Are there competitors? Or do people need to use a workaround solution like hiring an agency etc.?

Hamlet: I don’t know how they will be able to do it without our technology because that’s why I invented the technology, I was trying to do this and I couldn’t find a way to do it. And so, they might be able to do it with some of our competitors that use edge technology like Distilled ODN or RankScience, or you have a number of them that allow you to make changes without having to involve development teams. So they could if they learn about agile they could get this done with order, but you need a technology like we have that allows you to bypass to develop team because if you have to have the development team, they’re not going to be excited about doing things incrementally. They want to know everything they have to get done and get through it. If you have to involve IT then it’s not really agile, it’s when you have the marketer with the recommendations and the marketer also taking the steps onto himself or herself, and doing the changes, do the experimentation and getting the feedback and it’s like if you think about other marketing segments like paid search or email marketing, they are agile because they can do their own campaigns themselves, setting up a paid search doesn’t rely on IT, they can set up a tag manager, they manage the tagging themselves, so they move at a faster pace because they have that technology, but without that technology, having to rely on IT, “Hey IT, I need to make this change on this landing page, and I have to make changes on this one”, you lose the flexibility to move fast.

Sebastian: So who would you say RankSense is a perfect fit for?

Hamlet: So we’re a perfect fit for — you have to have a certain level of sophistication. So if you’re just starting out, and you’re trying to figure out — you don’t even have a brand. You don’t even have clear customer success–a clear customer profile, you’re still trying to figure out your business. It’s not going to make a lot of sense to get into a sophisticated approach, right? But if you already are an established brand or you already are have a clear sense of the value that you’re creating, why people will come to your website. Why people will buy your product and how you’re different from competitors, then, taking SEO incrementally so that you’re learning and you’re making progress, then this approach is fantastic, especially agencies or in-house teams that are having a hard time getting things done or getting buy-in to begin with, why this stuff needs to be implemented. Those are kind of like our sweet spot — people that are having a hard time convincing executives to allocate budgets or even the things that they need to be doing or even having IT to believe that what they’re proposing is going to work. That’s kind of like where we see the biggest adopters, because there is a need, there is a pain point that, “Hey, I’m not getting my recommendations implemented. But if I can show them incrementally that what I’m proposing works, then I gain that credibility and then I gain their buy-in on this.”

Sebastian: So, you do need to have some sort of technical knowledge if you want to use RankSense or at least understand what RankSense is trying to tell you. Is that right?

Hamlet: Yeah, you need to have technical knowledge. You know, we have two parts of the product and monitoring that is for end users that provide some limited capabilities to patch problems. And we still have some work to do on that. But we’re partnering primarily with agencies and teams that have the knowledge that understand what are the things that need to implement, because it is primarily a tool for implementation of things that you know, will be effective, so it’s better that you have the knowledge. And that’s what we will also partner and recommend working with software companies like SEMrush, DeepCrawl — they will provide with you the recommendations that you need to put in place. And even when you use those tools, there’s a level of knowledge that you need, most tools now in the space need a certain level of knowledge of SEO so that you can make them useful.

Sebastian: Is there a common benefit that you see amongst all your clients that once they begin implementing RankSense, that they begin to see immediately?

Hamlet: Yeah, I will say that. I mean, if you think about a lot of people when they they think that SEO is just keywords, ranking, writing content etc. They are surprised to realize that hey, look, it’s not just about ranking for 5 keywords or 10 or 100. You have a lot of pages that are not even in Google’s radar, that Google is missing. One feature that we have in our product is that we show you how many pages Google crawled, because we have a real-time log analysis of the site. We will show you what pages Google is crawling and we can also show you where pages people are clicking on from search results. So we show them, “Look, you have only 10% of the pages that are crawled, getting clicked in search results, or 10%”. So it’s an eye opener, that they don’t realize that just because they have you know, 50,000 or 100,000 pages doesn’t really matter if only 1,000 of them are ranking and getting clicked. So that’s what I think is where you started the discussion of it’s not just, the most critical thing on a website is the content and the quality and the uniqueness. So that’s the value that you’re creating. But, if you have technical obstacles that prevent that content from performing in the SERPs, then it’s not a good thing, in a sense, like you have a lot of wasted effort.

Sebastian: And a lot of SEOs, they love to use WordPress, if you had to pick another CMS, what would you recommend?

Hamlet: So I use WordPress ourselves on our website. So it depends on what type of business you have, for most, blogging and content and WordPress is great there, competitors to WordPress like Joomla and Drupal. So, it depends on the use case. Big enterprises I’ve seen moving into Drupal because of all the capabilities that they add in addition to WordPress. But you know, we spent a lot of time with eCommerce and you know, WordPress/WooCommerce are not typically a good fit for those type of sites. We see more Magento, we see Shopify, we see DemandWare. It depends on what type of site and the type of business that you have. But if you’re publishing your content, WordPress is typically a good fit.

Sebastian: And hosting wise, do you feel that hosting has a great impact on SEO? And if so, do you have any recommendations there as well?

Hamlet: Yeah, hosting has an indirect impact because of potential speed issues. If you’re in a shared hosting, there might be, resource constraints. I think we’ve been hosting with a premium WordPress host, I forget their name right now–we pay a bunch of money for that. It’s a premium host. We do it because of the stability that it provides — the speed and security that it gets. But even with that host, we had a couple of problems where there was somebody else in the shared host that did something and took our site down. So that’s a challenge in the sense that I wouldn’t use for my business, a cheap, free host or one of the smaller options because then you have performance problems. But one of the things that I’m seeing more interesting lately, I have to spend a little bit more time on, that is the static site generators. So there’s a plugin for WordPress, WordPress To Static that I have in my queue to test. Because it will enable me–we use CloudFlare, our software runs on CloudFlare – it helps make your site super fast and add security, our app works on top of it. And that is the SEO element that I explained about agile. And I saw an article from them about moving your site to static HTML with a plugin and running it completely off of their network where you have fully distributed WordPress presence running completely off of CloudFlare and that’s an exciting thing. I mean, the only reason I haven’t jumped into it immediately is because there might be some issues with plugins that we use and whatever so we may need a little bit of planning to put it in place, but I have it in my queue to test it out. So if you can use WordPress with a plugin like that and use a static generator and and have you know distribution of a static content to a static hosts like CloudFlare. Netify I think is another one that allows you to do that. Basically it’s the best of both worlds, so you are able to manage WordPress through the back end and when you make changes in the back end and you regenerate it, it gets published into this static host and the main reason why you want to do that is because of the speed difference. I mean, think about it — loading a website with this only static content is probably an order of magnitude faster than a dynamic website, database-driven website like WordPress, so it can make a dramatic difference from speed and also from security because there is no exposed database. There is no way for hackers to get in, no easy way for them or even if they get in, there’s not much they will be able to do. And we’ve known that WordPress have had a controversial security history if you’re aware of that is being hacked or a few times over the years. So yeah.

Sebastian: Do you think senior SEOs should learn some sort of technical language like Python or JavaScript or should they just focus on what they’re already good at?

Hamlet: So I think I’m one of the main proponents of getting SEOs into Python — into development and it’s a matter of personal taste. I don’t think that programming is for everybody. I don’t think writing code is for everyone because it requires a lot of attention-to-detail and patience, and you’re going to get frustrated a lot. So you have to be really resilient when it comes to that stuff. But, one percentage, I think, and we’ve seen that I’ve seen you know, a lot of way response and people adopting it and going through the pain to learn it because the outcome is amazing, I mean, when you’re able to do with and without coding is night and day. And you can do a lot of the stuff that you’re doing, faster. You can figure out things that you’re not doing that you can do, which didn’t make sense to do them manually. I love it. I enjoy doing it because I don’t particularly like to be doing the same things all the time. So I always like being able to find new things that I can do and can improve. And I teach others in my team to take over the things that I already learned how to do. And, on the other end, you have to think about–one thing is, why you want to do it, what are the things you can do with it, do you have the inclination to learn. That’s another thing. And the other one is, do you have the patience to learn it, do you have the patience to go through the painful steps of the growing pains of learning the language, and I compare it to, learning to drive or learning to ride a bike, it’s something that it’s not going to be easy or straightforward to begin with. But once you gain the basics, once you’ve gained the basic abilities, it becomes a lot easier. And I also like to compare it to playing video games. If you’re a video game player, and you enjoy video games, it’s very similar. And it feels a lot of times it feels for me like I’m playing a game. Because initially, when you’re playing a game it’s very frustrating. You don’t have any tools, you don’t have any abilities, you’re very limited in what you’re able to do, and you and you get killed a lot, right? But as you struggle, and you learn, and you acquire more tools and more knowledge and more ability, you become stronger, and things become more enjoyable. And then you build up and you feel really great because you have these superpowers. So it’s very similar. And I think, one of my strategies has been showing people here’s what you can do when you program — here’s what you can do. Here’s one example. Here’s one use case and then getting people excited about the tedious part to be able to get to those points that are presented.

Sebastian: So Is there any software out there that you wish existed, but right now it does not?

Hamlet: Well, I like to invent things. So I either like hundreds of things that I wish existed in and I try to pursue some of them. But I don’t necessarily think about software, even though we are a software company and we’re product based, we’re a mission-driven company. And for me, it’s less about, because the product that I have right now might change — we’re focusing on a problem. So the problem that we see is: SEO takes a lot of time. And some people — bad players — take advantage of it and take advantage of people that know better, and then it creates a bad reputation for everybody else. And that’s kind of like the trigger that I had last year when we applied for a merchant account. We got rejected because they classified us as a high-risk company because we’re SEOs. A lot of people, and you probably know about some of them want to rebrand their title. They don’t want to mention that they’re SEOs, because when you say your SEO people say, “Oh, you’re one of those sleazy guys”. So for me, it’s not about a software that I’m excited to see in this space. I want to see us with a really strong reputation. I want to see us regain a reputation. I want to see us being seen as somebody with respect, that you don’t have to be ashamed of saying that you’re an SEO. You should be proud. You should be excited about “Oh, wow, you’re one of the SEO guys that are writing code”. And coming up with these creative solutions. That would be the driver for me to be sharing what I know and also to pass down what I know to the next generation of SEOs. So what I want to see is more of the next generation of SEOs, I’m already seeing it, coming up with ideas that I didn’t even think about, I saw, I wrote an article about intent classification and was blown away by Kristen. She wrote an article for VentureBeat, which she showed, even a better way to do that with clear, better classification labels that I came up with. So what I want to see is more SEOs contributing to what I call ‘the long tail of innovation’. There is a lot of use cases that you as an SEO inside team wouldn’t make sense for a software vendor to build a capability for that, because if you’re going to spend time in development time and effort on building a capability for a product, you’d rather have a broader user base that are affected by that problem. But that reduces the number of possible features to a very small number that you can actually address. There is a lot more, that wouldn’t make sense. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for SEMrush to build a capability that involves an integration with Moz, or with Ahrefs because they are direct competitors. But you may find one piece that makes sense for you. So you put in the time to connect those different tools to find and solve a problem that is its own problem that might only affect you or affect a handful of people. Right? It wouldn’t make sense for any of them to do the work when it only makes sense for you. Especially if it’s really easy, something that you can just do with a few lines of Python code. So that’s kind of like what I want to see. I want to see more SEOs finding use cases that don’t make any sense for the bigger software vendors or any software vendor to do. But it’s a problem that you have — a problem that you want to address. You write a few lines of code, it’s not a lot of time, and then you share it back to the community. So that other SEOs are like “Oh, yeah, I have the same problem. I can use this, I can plug in all these tools and solve my problem”. And, or I figured out a better way to do it. “Oh, your stuff only works for hotels, or travel. I made it work for this other industry”. That’s what I feel like is, the long tail of innovation that the practitioners, the people were using the tools, figure out other use cases that don’t make sense for vendors to do but they are able because they’re able to hack the tools, able to create them and come up with better ones.

Sebastian: Hamlet, do you follow any digital marketing blogs or podcasts?

Hamlet: Yeah. I spend a lot of time reading and because I’m so involved into the marketing space, I do more of my reading on other areas, which is counterintuitive but I like to find, gaps and ideas that I might miss and if I just listen to the same people that I talk to every day, I don’t think I’m going to learn more. So I listen to How I Built This, these are podcasts, and Masters Of Scale, I also listen to one called Meditative Story. I don’t spend a lot of time on marketing podcasts. Twitter, I pay attention to a lot of the what the AI community is releasing. So I follow some AI researchers from Google, Facebook that I am always looking at what is the latest stuff. What is the cool stuff that I could apply. And then I have a lot of connections from the community to just keep on top of what’s happening. Search Engine Roundtable is fantastic. Barry’s always done a good job, pushing out what is the latest thing and that’s kind of like, and in LinkedIn, Twitter, seeing what’s going on. That’s typically what I do. Yeah, based on that.

Sebastian: And finally, Hamlet, if digital marketing went away tomorrow, what would you find yourself doing instead?

Hamlet: That’s an awesome question. I’d say I think I’ll probably spend–I love the NLP, so probably find an area on NLP that I’ll be interested in doing so, it has to be something related to automation and finding efficiencies. So I think I’m getting really excited about text generation — article generation — so it may be more looking at the quality at scale of content being produced and finding an area where content inside organizations, whether it’s having an impact or not, there has to be a combination and I don’t have a clear answer off the top of my head because I haven’t thought about this, but it will have to be something that I could use the latest advances in technology and NLP to solve practical problems. Digital marketing is what I’ve been focusing on, but there’s similar areas in businesses that are as viable which also touch content. So content is not just for marketing purposes, it can be for information, education, training, maybe educational training or educating organizations about the value of creating that bridge into how they can leverage NLP for empowering their teams internally, improving the internal education or how they educate people on a scale more effectively with this latest advances.

Sebastian: Interesting – alright well, Hamlet, thanks so much for your time, man. Appreciate it.

Hamlet: Thanks to you for having me.

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