We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with renowned SEO thought leader Nitin Manchanda. He is acclaimed for his technical SEO knowledge and host of the popular web series SEO Surgery. Manchanda is also the Global Head of SEO at Trivago.
Q: You started your career as a software engineer and now you’re the head of SEO at a multinational company. What motivated you to shift your career towards SEO?
A: My motivation was those tiny SEO experiments which used to work back in 2012.
I started my professional career as a software developer at Flipkart in 2012 and at the time, I didn’t know anything about SEO. Lucky for me we didn’t have anyone to take care of SEO in marketing and my manager Tarun Mangal put his trust in a newbie like me to find things and draw a conclusion through experimentation. Of course, I had to present my ideas and potential results to get the green flag most of the time. Some of these experiments worked and some didn’t, but a few worked like magic which was very motivating for me. I don’t remember exactly when I fell in love with SEO, but it was surely during the first couple of years at Flipkart. Since then, I’ve been learning different aspects of SEO through reading, experimenting, talking to people, and listening to the advice of experts from all over the world.
Q: How is Trivago keeping up with the voice search trend? What is your advice to fellow SEO specialists on making their sites relevant?
A: Voice search is definitely one of the big things in the coming years. While it can be super important for informational queries, it can also play a vital role in the user journey for things like hotel booking and vacation planning. Users will use voice search for suggestions about places to stay according to their preferences, things to do, and their budget. This can be done when driving or when they’re busy with other stuff, and still be able to complete the funnel. All these suggestions would help in their decision making and as a result — influence their bookings.
I would recommend my fellow SEOs to focus on optimizing user experience in general and focusing on the points Brian Dean has mentioned in his case study about voice search. I would also recommend you check out this article from Brain about voice search.
Q: What’s your opinion on Google using its own platform and tools to determine rankings? Do you think they are using traffic data such as bounce rate and dwell time from analytics or similar tools are effective?
A: I definitely think so. I think these metrics are very good signals to understand how good or bad a landing page is, which can be an essential part of Google’s decision making on how to sort a SERP. Also, there are a lot of case studies proving how these metrics affect SEO rankings, so there’s definitely a correlation.
Q: How do you think SEO should adapt to the changing landscape powered by AI? Is Trivago using any kind of AI to give the best search results for users?
A: RankBrain is constantly being updated and working hard on improving the search experience for users. It’s about providing a better user experience and this whole game is about understanding user intent so create content accordingly.
Trivago is working on a new search process. This is to make the user’s journey much smoother in finding the ideal hotel using different clickthroughs and filters available on the Trivago site. The plan is also to create SEO landing pages using these concepts in the near future to display relevant content in a clear structure for users with different intent.
Q: Do you think “pogo-sticking” is real, despite John Muller saying it isn’t? Do you believe it affects ranking?
A: There’s a lot of confusion around this topic after John’s tweet the other day. Looking at all the case studies that experts like Rand Fishkin have done on this topic in the past and the positive results seen, I see it as still important.
However, I don’t think a page deserves to rank if a lot of users are clicking on it and bouncing back to the SERP to check other results. If you can’t provide satisfactory answers to users, you definitely don’t deserve to rank. I see this as a strong user experience signal and believe Google uses it to understand the value of a given page.
Q: What would be the impact on your business if Google were to stop AdWords?
A: Myself as an SEO would be really happy the day Google stops this as a priority in reaching users. Work is becoming harder and harder for SEO specialists every single day because of Google’s own products for almost everything and paid results especially.
Q: As an expert in CRO, do you have any secrets to creating a high converting landing page?
A: I’m always learning when it comes to CRO but these concepts are very much connected with SEO and UX. Here are some tips I can share anyway from my past experience:
- Smart headlines and subheadings to attract users by easily finding answers to their queries.
- Visual content converts much better than text only.
- Content should clearly target each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Explaining what, why and how you’re selling. This is essential to creating high performing landing pages.
- User-generated content also helps users with decision making. If possible, add reviews, ratings, and testimonials.
- Make users believe in your brand by guaranteeing the product or service’s quality and your availability in case they have any questions or concerns
- And of course, include a powerful call to action
Q: You have hosted SEO Surgery India for some time now and you’ve been fortunate to have discussions with industry pioneers. Can you share the experience you had in working with companies like SEMRush?
A: To be honest, I never dreamed of hosting a web series with experts from around the world — never ever. I’m really thankful to SEMRush, and Anton Shulke in particular, for considering me for this role.
The experience has been wonderful so far. I really enjoy speaking with smart people in general, and SEMRush has given me a platform to do so regularly. I got the opportunity to share the e-stage with some of my favourite SEOs like Dawn Anderson, Craig Campbell, Peter Mead, Tony McCreath, Andy Drinkwater and others. Also, through these webinars I’m able to contribute my two cents towards the betterment of the Indian SEO community and I’m really proud of that.
Q: Trivago has more than 200K app users, so we can conclude that about 30 percent of the total users are using apps to search for hotels on Trivago. What are some of the app optimization techniques used by Trivago?
A: Trivago mobile apps are doing quite well and we’re continuously working to make them even better. We always ensure we have a great title and description along with some nice screenshots and a quick video that describes what a user can do on the app. It’s about providing a good user experience, which leads to better ratings and reviews.
Q: What are the marketing strategies used by Trivago to retain existing users? How do you acquire new users?
A: We have a team of experts working on it that understand the benefit of retention such as having no customer acquisition cost and a higher conversion rate.
Some of the things we’re working on for better retention along with providing a superior user experience are special deals for users that are already logged in and the ability to save your favourite hotels.
Q: What advice can you give to new digital marketers?
A: My only advice would be to focus on quality and making an impact. Master your discipline in digital marketing so you can really contribute to this awesome industry and people will recognize you for it.
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