Last June 21, Search Engine Journal’s Philippine team was privileged to attend SEO Summit 2014. In relation to this, we had the opportunity to interview one of the speakers, Internet Marketing Inc.’s VP for SEO, Mr. Benj Arriola.
You started your career as a chemist before becoming a member of the SEO industry. Will you share with our readers what made you decide to make this career move?
The path is a long one, and it was not straight from being a chemist to an SEO guy. As a chemist I did work in the industry as a quality analyst and chemist at SGS and also in the academe as a college instructor at De La Salle University while finishing my master’s degree.
During that time, anything computer related was more of a hobby. I was building computers for friends and started selling them, and that eventually turned into a computer shop business in 1997. I ran that as my first business, and it matured into a web design, web development, hosting and domain name registration company by 1999.
Since the competition was getting tough in Metro Manila year after year, and new web designers and developers keep coming out with extremely good talent, price points and delivery time were constantly decreasing to be competitive to a point it no longer seemed practical. As a solution, many companies focused on gaining outsource jobs from the US that gives the Philippine companies a higher price tag that is still lower compared to US standards.
That direction brought me to the US in 2004 and as I started to work for web design and development companies in the US, all of them were doing SEO and this is where I learned SEO myself beyond the teaching of the companies I worked for. I tested my SEO skills on my own sites, joined competitions, and accepted some freelance clients. When I saw I could be successful in this industry and was enjoying it at the same time, the transition came naturally.
I started learning SEO in 2004 as part of my web design and development responsibilities at work, but it was in 2006 when I decided to make the full transition and do SEO full-time. And even if I went into SEO full-time in 2006, the career still continued to grow where you start as a specialist, you gain more responsibilities, train people, become a manager, a director, etc.
Currently I am the VP for SEO at Internet Marketing Inc. and it all started as a chemist back in 1994.
During the SEO Summit, you shared that one way for startups to succeed in SEO is to become a thought leader of their products or services. Can you elaborate on this and share some tips on how companies can do it?
We all know in SEO, links help in ranking since links are like votes of trust, authority, and credibility. This becomes a reflection of site quality, and it just make sense that it should rank well in search engines if Google intends to show the best results online.
Over time Google learned all the manipulative ways some abusive SEOs have used in the past, which are essentially those building their own links going to their own websites in various ways. They are not like votes of trust, authority, and credibility from others and are more like voting for yourself. Since Google wants real natural links and not artificial links, links that are true testaments that the link is from a fan, follower, an advocate, someone who likes, loves, adores your page, then that is exactly what you have to gain for it to be effective in SEO.
Being a thought leader builds the audience of people who will view you as the main authority in your industry. Talking about your industry with useful or entertaining information for your target audience gives reasons for other websites within your industry to link to you. To increase the effectiveness of your thought leadership efforts, do not concentrate on gaining links at all.
Instead just be a thought leader, try your best to be an authority and if people start talking about you, mentioning you, quoting you, then you know what you are doing is effective and links will just come in naturally.
Sean Si dubbed you as “The Godfather of Philippine SEO Scene” at the SEO Summit. That said, what would you consider as your biggest accomplishment?
Thanks to Sean Si, that does sound flattering and I understand why he would say that—which I believe is driven by the long history of me interacting with the Filipino SEO community, and always willing to teach others who want to learn and by answering numerous questions from Filipino SEOs asking questions online since 2005. When we talk about biggest accomplishment though, I feel it may not be related to the title, but the question is about the biggest accomplishment. So that is what I will answer.
There are many contests I have won, there are several big brand names I have worked with, and there are also many conferences I have spoken at, but I don’t consider any of those as the biggest accomplishments.
In SEO, normally you have to be strong in one of these skill sets or knowledge bases: (1) Web development, server administration and all related technical knowledge, (2) content writing, (3) marketing knowledge, (4) web design and usability and (5) web analytics. Whatever you are unfamiliar with, you will have to learn to do better SEO.