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Leading In SEO Through The Data Science Revolution: A CTO Q&A

What do marketing decision-makers need to know about the fusion of SEO and data science? Lemuel Park, BrightEdge co-founder & CTO, explains.

Leading In SEO Through The Data Science Revolution: A CTO Q&A

Marketers have more data available to us than ever before – and it’s never been more challenging to get to the heart of it.

There was a time not that long ago when the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of a company would have focused almost exclusively on technology infrastructure and engineering.

As the role – and the world in which it exists – has evolved, the answer to the CTO’s mantra of “How can we use technology to meet our organizational goals?” has become increasingly dependent on creating exceptional customer experiences.

And today, more often than not, that customer experience begins with a search query.

We’ve been talking with industry executives in this series about how emerging technologies, evolving consumer behaviors, and ever-changing search algorithms are shaping the future of SEO.

In this interview, we sit down with Lemuel Park, co-founder and CTO of BrightEdge and one of our expert contributors at Search Engine Journal, to talk data science and SEO.

What does it take to succeed and lead a data-driven organization in the current environment?

The Fusion Of SEO & Data Science

You told our audience recently that “2021 was a year of accelerated search.”

How about this year – what trends do you expect to be big for enterprise SEO in 2022?

Lemuel Park: “First, I think that this acceleration will continue.

Large roll-outs such as the Page Experience update and Core Web Vitals will continue to fuel the need for technical SEO.

This year, I see the most significant trend and opportunity happening around the fusion of data science into SEO.

Using our platform as an example, we know that in the last 18 months alone, we have generated 11x more in the volume of site processing data alone.

Furthermore, according to the IDC, worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes by 2025.

With this exponential growth of data, humans cannot process it without being proficient in machine learning and data sciences.

I think data science will be pivotal in further helping provide SEOs with more innovative, faster, and actionable data-led insights.

This, I believe, represents the future of SEO.

If you look at SEO tasks such as research, on-site analysis, and user intent modeling, they all generate massive amounts of data.

At the same time, if you look at how many SEO tasks now overlap with that as a data scientist, you see even more commonalities such as:

  • Forecasting and the prediction of future trends combing with Business Insights.
  • Research to identify new market opportunities and detect patterns and shifts.
  • Understanding, extracting, and automating insights from complex datasets.
  • Building visuals and dashboards based on different data streams.

As website functionality demands increase, SEO needs are becoming more advanced.

At the same time, search engines are getting more sophisticated in how they interact with websites.

The result is a need to be able to obtain, analyze, and extract insights from large datasets.

This is true, particularly in an enterprise environment, where SEOs draw heavily on data science methods and tools to process search data in a way to drive insights.

This can be through statistical analysis, full API access to datasets, data processing algorithms designed for Big Data, or the freedom to experiment through how search data is collected.

The SEO platforms of tomorrow require the capabilities of data science infrastructure at the core of their tech stack.

As a CTO, I believe it is my responsibility to make SEOs even more effective at driving performance using data science without becoming actual data scientists.”

What’s A Typical Day As CTO Like For You?

Lemuel Park: “Instead of a single day, I consider the week. And, the principles that organize my week are based on what the business needs from me.

Right now, at our stage, the company needs me to spend 1/3 on innovation and experimentation, 1/3 on customers and products, and 1/3 on management.

As a result, Tuesdays and Saturdays are innovation and experimentation days. I focus on understanding where we need to go for the year, two years, and three years.

It’s a mixture of industry innovation, market research, and getting my hands dirty on actual technology. My current jam is Google Colab and GPT-3.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are product and customer days. I focus on product reviews across 12 categories, meet with a handful of customers each week, and really focus on product roadmap execution for the next three to six months.

Mondays and Fridays are management days. The objective is to execute on daily and weekly rhythms. Are we on track for our zero-to-three-month roadmap?”

Mapping Out Your Career In SEO

What led you to a career in SEO and what would you tell your younger self to smooth out any speedbumps you experienced?

Lemuel Park: “That’s a good question. My father was a computer scientist and from an early age, I knew I wanted to do something similar and something that made a difference.

However, while I decided on how I could do that, I put ‘engineering’ instead of ‘undecided’ in my haste on my admittance paperwork to University of California, Berkeley.

A decade later, I had spent an internship at Siemens and seven years at Ernst & Young in their Attack and Penetration division, ensuring that Fortune 500 companies had the right security policies and software in place.

In 2007, I met my co-founder, Jim Yu, through a mutual friend.

We already had a shared interest in engineering, and together we saw that businesses were going through the biggest change in decades.

While traditional media outlets were letting go of writers, search was exploding, and brands needed a way to produce and optimize content.

Together, we set up BrightEdge.

Those first few years were challenging but also one of the most memorable times in my life.

Lemuel Park with co-founder Jim YuLemuel Park with Co-founder & CEO Jim Yu

Jim had a newborn baby, and I lived with him and slept on the sofa.

Then, operating from a kitchen table with 10 servers underneath, we set out to build the BrightEdge Data Cube.

We built everything – our technology and early customer base – from the ground up. We are delighted that success followed!

As for what would I tell my younger self, I would say, “Always stay humble” and “It’s okay to take risks.”

Humility means that we are always learning; never say that we have all the answers.

In SEO, you have to keep adapting to the changes and that fundamentally keeps us on our toes.

The same goes for building a company – always know that you have to adapt to changes and humility will give you the openness to hear new input and challenge yourself to get better.”

Exploring The Worlds Of Blockchain And Decentralized Technology

What do you think marketers need to know right now about crypto, Web 3.0, and NFTs?

Lemuel Park: “The trends that support Web 3.0 are decentralization, blockchain, and digital tokens.

Instead of walled gardens and power centralized by a few players, the users are given the ability to own their own data.

This will cause the rise to personalization not only to a single site but across the internet for the consumer.

Marketers will need to plug into personalization in a greater way.

Since we are talking about a decentralized web, it’s no longer the highest ad bidder who takes the consumer.

Instead, the power is back to the user, and websites will need to earn the customer with better, structured data about their business and offer the best content.

Whether that’s Schema or your local feeds, how you optimize these data sets will be really important for Web 3.0. You have to reduce your brand to data.

The future has many possibilities, but we’re seeing a beta version of blockchain, crypto, and NFTs right now.

It will mature over the next five to 10 years, and we’ll see major disruptions that will arrive.

It’s like the early mobile web with WAP or online groceries with Webvan back in the late 90s. The ideas were visionary but a little early. These trends are here to stay, but they will need to mature.

The core principles and spirit of SEO will continue.

Every business must optimize its digital presence to win the customer.

The competition will get fiercer since the playing field will become flatter.

But principles like E-A-T and authority will become magnified since the web will continue to optimize.”

Closing Thoughts?

Lemuel Park: “There are so many aspects of SEO that in the past have been underrated.

If you asked a CMO about SEO and its importance a few years ago, they might have looked back a little perplexed. But, ask them today, and they will know what SEO is and how important it is.

Specifically, SERP analysis and technical SEO (especially its importance to digital marketers) have been underrated.

Now, especially as the pandemic highlighted the importance and demand for SEO, we are seeing a shift to mainstream.”

More Resources:


Featured Image & In-post Image: Courtesy of BrightEdge

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Miranda Miller

Managing Editor at Search Engine Journal

Writer, editor & marketing professional; digital nomad, feminist and mother bear. 15 years of experience planning & executing engaging digital ... [Read full bio]

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