If you’ve been in the technical SEO world more than a hot minute, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled across technical SEO platform Deepcrawl in your online travels.
It’s the enterprise SEO platform of choice for big brands such as Adobe, Disney, IBM, and Twitch – and the agencies and SEO pros who serve them, as well.
Aside from its product, Deepcrawl is also a thought leader in the technical SEO space via its webinar series and blog, conference speakers, and contributing authors who generously share their expertise with the industry (including right here at Search Engine Journal).
I had the opportunity recently to interview Craig Dunham, CEO of Deepcrawl, about what’s going on inside his company – and in the search space as a whole.
He’s building on his background in martech and SaaS – and his history of helping to grow a software brand by $1.5 billion – to continue growing Deepcrawl as an industry-leading technical SEO platform.
In this exclusive interview, Dunham shares his plans for Deepcrawl, how his teams are faring in the remote work environment, what he’s learned truly matters in carving out a rewarding digital marketing career, and more.
1. What’s new at Deepcrawl – any exciting new hires, features, or other news to share?
Craig Dunham: We’ve got some pretty big announcements coming next year around our platform.
SEO, as you know, is an ever-changing field, so we’re always hard at work on new product features, upgrades, and building out events for our technical SEO community.
At the start of the pandemic, Deepcrawl took some time to really examine the directions we wanted to grow in. The whole world has experienced a lot of changes since the pandemic began and it was important to us that we spent the time to reflect and move forward with purpose.
We’ve revamped a lot of internal processes to better support our employees – not just during the pandemic but as part of our ongoing commitment to creating a fantastic company to work at. We’ve had new developments on the personnel front, as well.
We were thrilled to have Shachar Radin Shomrat join Deepcrawl not too long ago as CMO, building on her years of experience as a tech-focused marketing leader.
She is spearheading our marketing activities as we scale and helping to further cement Deepcrawl as the best technical SEO platform available today.
To support our ongoing growth, Panos Savopolous has also recently joined as our new VP of Global Sales, bringing with him a lot of SaaS experience acquired during his tenure with companies like Oracle and Beeswax.
I’ve also recently stepped into the CEO role here at Deepcrawl, after initially serving as COO. I come from a background in martech as well, having previously been part of the executive leadership team at Seismic, where I helped grow the brand’s valuation by approximately $1.5 billion in seven years.
I love the challenge to improve and to grow quickly in SaaS, and so coming to Deepcrawl at this stage in our development has been an ideal opportunity for me. I was inspired by the team’s innovative ideas and ambitions for what’s next and jumped at the opportunity to take on the leadership of the company at a time when technical SEO has never been more relevant.
As for the product itself, we’re making some big waves in the SEO space since launching the first-ever technical SEO automation tool in our Automation Hub. Taking a more expansive view toward our clients’ needs has helped inform new product ideas, evolve partnerships, and new events.
But we’re always working on new features and improvements; our goal is to have the world’s most intelligent and accessible SEO platform that can operate at an enterprise scale.
We’ve also been scaling up our customer success and professional services departments to ensure we partner with our clients in the ways they would expect and provide them with the expertise needed to better attain their objectives. We employ some of the world’s leading technical SEO professionals, and our clients leverage them as extensions of their own teams.
2. Did 2021 bring you any real surprises in the search space?
Craig Dunham: Organic search is always changing, so I can’t say we’ve been surprised by new developments. But it’s exciting to see how technical SEO is expanding and how search algorithms are improving.
We’ve been busy building out educational resources for our clients around Google’s Core Web Vitals, which were introduced earlier this year and heralded a new emphasis on page experience.
Of course, we’ve all also seen the increased demand from consumers and legislators around privacy relating to online advertising and paid channels.
Obviously, we’ve long been champions of organic search as a marketing channel, but with new developments around the paid digital channels, I think we’re likely to see an even higher degree of interest in the SEO side of things.
There are a lot of opportunities to be had for brands that prioritize organic search right now, particularly as the paid ad space is facing new challenges and fewer options for audience targeting.
It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot at Deepcrawl lately. I think we’re really in a search-first age, where there is a greater acknowledgment of its importance not just to marketing but also to a variety of broader business functions.
3. How has Deepcrawl evolved to accommodate the rapid acceleration of remote work?
Craig Dunham: We have offices across three countries and people working closely together in many different time zones, so the acceleration of remote work was, all things considered, a pretty smooth adjustment for our team.
Like many companies, we understand that business is a global opportunity. The importance of having a team in place that can work well together across geographic, cultural, and temporal differences was clear to us even before the pandemic started.
We were lucky in this sense because we already had the platforms and processes in place to enable the high level of collaboration needed within remote global teams.
Our company culture has always encouraged flexibility to ensure our people have the autonomy required to perform their best. The ‘hard part’ was already done—having smart, passionate people in place.
But the pandemic really accentuated how important it is for everyone to be well-equipped to work in flexible ways.
When COVID hit and it became clear that remote work was likely going to be a long-term reality, we provided funds to help our staff create better at-home workspaces and ramped up virtual opportunities to socialize.
We must thank our fantastic IT and HR departments for continuing to manage all the information, tools, and resources we needed, and of course our employees for taking the further transition in their stride and making it work!
4. Shifting gears to the upcoming holiday season – what can e-commerce retailers do to maximize visibility, engagement, and sales?
Craig Dunham: For the ecommerce industry, preparing for the holiday shopping season can be a year-round effort. There’s a lot that can be done through technical SEO to support visibility, conversions, and help drive revenue for online retailers.
Technical SEO is an incredibly powerful tool in the ecommerce space.
Utilizing a powerful SEO tool to audit your website and flag where your weakest points are is a great starting point to building out a robust SEO plan. I take a pretty holistic view of technical SEO and from that perspective, it’s important to understand how each part of your website works together to improve rankings and ultimately drive conversion.
For ecommerce at the enterprise level, you’re likely dealing with thousands of product pages across multiple categories. It can be a lot to manage but with the right tools, you can get the insights you need no matter how many pages are on your website.
When you’re working with a large number of pages on a site, you’ll want to do everything you can to help search engines identify your most important content and share those key pages to users so you’re not wasting crawl budget or driving people to outdated pages.
This can be tricky on an ecommerce website with thousands or millions of URLs. It’s definitely not the sort of thing you’d want to do manually, so investing in the right tools and platforms can be an important step toward efficiently executing your SEO plans.
Ensuring your site architecture is solid is important, of course, that’s the foundational element for all of your URLs to be able to rank well. But you also want to make sure you’ve got your indexing and crawling directives set up correctly.
Not to mention, you need to ensure your content is understandable by both humans and search engines alike. If search engines can’t find and index your pages, your would-be customers won’t see them in the search results.
With more people than ever doing their holiday shopping online, it’s clear why SEO needs to be a priority for ecommerce brands!
User experience is also more important than ever — both for SEO in the wake of Google’s algorithm updates, and because users are much more likely to convert into buying customers if their experience on a page is smooth.
So keep an eye out for things like page loading time, broken links, and issues related to rendering and animations.
Many consumers are low on time around the holiday season so if they can’t find what they want easily and quickly, chances are they’ll go elsewhere.
Improving your SEO can help you keep your existing customers engaged — and can help new customers find you!
5. How do you feel the SEO space is changing and what should marketers have on their radar for 2022 planning?
Craig Dunham: Best practices in the SEO space are constantly changing as Google and other search engines release new updates to their algorithms and tools.
With the release of Core Web Vitals earlier this year, we see that user experience is becoming an increasingly important aspect of SEO. That makes it an area that technical SEO pros and marketers alike should certainly be paying attention to.
With the changes we’ve seen around paid digital channels relating to privacy that I mentioned earlier, organic search is likely to be getting more priority among marketing teams in the years to come.
All in all, it’s an interesting and exciting time to be working in SEO.
The emergence of Search Operations as an organizational concept is also related to this increased emphasis on technical SEO, as leaders are beginning to recognize the importance of cross-discipline teams working together to improve search optimization.
Search Ops involves improving operational structures so that marketing, product, and development teams can better work together in the pursuit of SEO. I think in 2022, we will see a continued discussion around this.
Luckily, the tools and platforms that support technical SEO are also constantly improving to reflect the most recent developments, so marketers and SEO teams will have some great options to engage with around their organic search efforts.
We’ve developed a suite of automation tools that can help brands better monitor their website code releases for SEO issues before the code is live, for example. These sorts of automation tools are a new development in the space and can save a lot of time (and prevent a lot of lost traffic) by automatically testing, flagging, and preventing any potentially harmful code issues that might negatively impact a website’s SEO.
We’re expecting automation in SEO to garner more and more traction across the board heading into 2022.
It’s an exciting transition and one that will make SEO more effective and accessible. That’s always been a challenge for the discipline, but it’s come at the right time.
Of course, getting buy-in from senior leadership around SEO can be a challenge. There is an incredible amount of data that can be derived that can inform meaningful decisions on how customers find your brand and how they experience your brand through your website; and how that impacts conversion and drop-off rates.
Learning how to simply communicate the wider business impacts that search optimization can have across major KPIs is going to be more important than ever, as well.
6. What do you think will be the most challenging issue for SEO professionals in the year ahead?
Craig Dunham: SEO is always challenging because there’s a lot of competition on the web, so unless your site is very niche you’ll always be in a battle to stay ahead of the competition. But that’s also why it’s so exciting.
Utilizing the emerging technology at your disposal will enable brands to harness new efficiencies, better data, and get the insights they need to compete.
I think brands that disregard the benefits automation provides for SEO will find themselves increasingly struggling to fulfill best practices.
With such robust new tools available for SEO, failing to implement the right platforms and processes could put businesses on the back foot.
And if that’s the case, they’ll struggle to compete with websites that are finding more efficient and effective ways to improve their content and code for better search results.
7. Are you hiring SEO professionals and if so, for which positions?
Craig Dunham: Deepcrawl is currently at an exciting stage in our growth and we regularly have new opportunities coming up for those who are passionate about SEO.
Our LinkedIn page is a great resource to stay up-to-date with opportunities at Deepcrawl, and of course, we also post these to our careers page.
We look for innovative, data-driven individuals who have a passion for all things search and understand that, as focus on digital channels increases, so should the effectiveness of related tools.
Because we work on the front line of SEO tool evolution, we’re looking for people who know the space inside out and have a clear opinion on how it should evolve.
8. If you could go back and tell fresh-out-of-school Craig Dunham one piece of advice to help his digital marketing career, what would it be?
Craig Dunham: One thing a lot of marketers, especially early in their careers, don’t realize is the importance of being data-driven in their approach – particularly in their communication with senior leadership.
It’s important to understand the larger business impacts of your marketing efforts and to back up what you’re doing with actual data.
When you’re early in your career, it can be hard to get buy-in from senior leadership around new initiatives that can be seen as fairly ‘niche.’
Really understanding the down-funnel influence and return on investment related to the channels you’re passionate about – and being able to communicate that in broader business terms – is a helpful skill for young marketers.
It’s an obvious connection for me to make now, but we see it a lot in the technical SEO space: Often, individual contributors on a team recognize an area that’s ripe for improvement within their organizations.
But without gathering the data that shows exactly where the problems are and what larger business impacts your projects could have, it can be hard to persuade others to invest in the channels you’re championing.
In addition to leveraging data to promote initiatives internally, it’s important to note that we’re now in a marketing landscape that prioritizes technical automation and optimization.
It is therefore essential to understand not only how to obtain data for marketing purposes but also to gain knowledge of the underlying martech infrastructure; the different marketing tech platforms and how they integrate with one another.
The earlier a marketer can dive into learning about the varying aspects of martech such as data enrichment platforms, CRM and marketing automation platforms, crawlers and SEO automation – the better.
It will better prepare you to build highly effective demand generation machines for your business, prepare you for future innovations to come, and help you use data and tools more decisively to gain an edge.
There are plenty of courses that are useful in fulfilling this learning, but you can’t beat hands-on experience.
9. If you had a magic wand and could solve one persistent problem in the digital marketing space, what would it be and why?
Craig Dunham: The over-reliance on paid channels. There are many companies out there still piling loads of time, money, and effort into prioritizing paid channels and garnering short-term results with high customer acquisition cost (CAC) and increasingly diminishing returns as a result.
More organic channels like SEO are long-term plays and require some specialized knowledge, but the benefits of performing well in channels like organic search are exponential.
I think many companies would benefit from a more holistic marketing approach that allows for prioritization of both organic and paid channels, rather than relying primarily on paid efforts.
There’s a misconception that SEO begins and ends in the SERPs, when in fact it influences many aspects of your digital operation.
Operationally, it’s vital for senior leadership to also understand the benefits afforded by organic search and what opportunities exist for their teams to make improvements in this area.
10. What does Deepcrawl have in store for users in the months ahead?
Craig Dunham: We’re working on some pretty big things for 2022 and beyond. We all know that SEO is a rapidly evolving field, so it’s always been a necessity for us to stay at the very forefront of the latest developments and grow our product in ways that will anticipate and support users’ expanding requirements.
While we can’t disclose too much just yet, I can say that we’ve got several innovative software enhancements coming to Deepcrawl next year that are built around a more expansive view of our clients’ needs.
The team is building some of the best new tools out there for businesses that want to stay competitive in our digital world. So users should keep an eye out for some new features, improved experiences, and some pretty great community events in the near future!
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Featured image: Courtesy of Deepcrawl