First, what an incredible panel. Each panelist brought their unique experience in search engine marketing and optimization. From the agency side to in-house, they were able to hit on many critical aspects of search engine optimization and other major things that impact your website today. Here are just a few of the key takeaways that every organization should review.

Note: The online world is full of acronyms. We’ve provided a quick glossary at the end of this blog post to help you sift through the alphabet soup.

Meet the SEO Smackdown 3.0 Panelists


Jason Dodge

Jason Dodge is the founder and chief strategist at search marketing firm, BlackTruck Media + Marketing, where he works to ensure clients’ business objectives are translated into online marketing strategies that work

Cayley Mosca

Cayley brings 14 years of SEO experience in B2B and B2C markets. In her current role at CDK Global, Cayley focuses creating and integrating best-in-class SEO tools and solutions for automotive OEMs and car dealerships’ websites, along with developing Managed SEO services at scale. 

Caley Atkinson

Caley Atkinson is a Digital Marketing Specalist at The Stow Company located in Holland, MI. Caley focuses on building and delivering on the company’s digital success for eCommerce, Direct to Consumer and Retail brands.

David VandeWaa

David has significant agency experience, occasionally freelances as a digital marketing consultant, and has a publishing contract for a book on digital marketing in the legal industry. He is an in-house content marketing lead at OST in Grand Rapids.


The Top Ranking Factors For Your Website

1. Content and structure of the website. Proper SEO structure and foundational elements. We have a blog about the foundational elements of SEO you can reference here. Continuing to add relevant, informative content for your users is still important for SEO, and can be repurposed through other channels (social, email, direct mail, video, etc)

2. Mobile-first.  Whether your analytics show a lot of mobile traffic to your website or not, and even if mobile isn’t your core audience, making sure your website is optimized for mobile is a major factor in improving Google search ranking.

3. Site speed. How fast your website loads, or doesn’t, can also impact your ranking, not to mention the user experience. If it’s too slow – they will leave. You can try Google’s page Speed Insights to check yours.

4. Backlinks. Yes, having links from other relevant and authoritative websites to your own does help.

Add Structured Data to Your Website

In the search results you see the page titles and meta descriptions, but also see more content from a website. You can see more links and details about the company, contact information, product categories and more. This comes from your structured data and is called rich snippets or featured snippets. You can reference, Google Tag Manager and even see how your site does by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

If you’re not sure what structured data means, check out our little glossary at the end of this article. 

Helpful SEO Related Tools You Can use

We can’t say no to a digital helping hand. A lot of tools were mentioned at the smackdown to help you better manage your SEO presence. Many have free versions that give you some information, while the paid versions are considerably more robust. The panelists talked about several, including:

  • &
  • Raven Tools
  • SEM Rush
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Screaming Frog
  • Yext
  • Yoast SEO – If you’re a WordPress user this is a plugin to help you visualize your on-page SEO elements.

Don’t Overlook Local Search & Google My Business Pages

If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business page yet, do it now! This isn’t just for those looking for you locally, but it can also be a ranking factor.  Your GMB (Google My Business) page can also be optimized as part of your digital footprint.

Make sure all of your Google Profile information is correct.

  • Address – making sure that the way you use street names, abbreviations, etc. is all the same across your website, GMB page, and all other directory listings. (Don’t worry if this sounds like a lot of work, there are online tools like and Yext that can do this for you)
  • Add business hours, photos, links to your website and more to complete your profile.

Did you know you can post from your GMB page?

Yes, it’s kind of like another social media channel in so far as you can create posts on your Google Local page. This enhances visibility when your prospects or customers are looking for you.

Link Tagging & Tracking Through Google’s Campaign URL Builder

Marketers love our data. To get better tracking of your campaigns, be sure you tag the website link. This is for your Google My Business page and anywhere else you share links to bring people back to your website. You can create a custom URL in Google’s Campaign Builder so you can track website visitors that come from that link.  This an important step anytime you have a campaign (email, paid search, etc.) where links will be shared and you want to track results. (which is every time, right?!)

Creating Campaign URLs in Google Campaign Builder – Use this tool to create your custom links. This includes the website, campaign source, medium (email, paid search, social, etc.) and the campaign name. Having the UTM tracking code gives you a comprehensive look at your campaign results, more than just traffic sources from Analytics alone.

What SEO Questions Do You Have?

This was a great discussion on many things related to SEO. The different perspectives and experiences provided a great deal of insight to the audience. We hope you find this article helpful and as a resource for your SEO/SEM work at your business. Share your questions with us, and we’ll be sure to answer it here!

SEO Acronyms & Glossary

  • SEO — search engine optimization. A process of continued optimization to show up in the organic search results.
  • SERPs — Search engine result pages. Basically, when you search for something and the results you see, that’s the SERP
  • SEM —Search engine marketing. This can include SEO, but also paid search marketing tactics like Google Ads (text, Display, retargeting, etc.)
  • UTM— Urchin Tracking Module; the format used by Google to track your unique URLs.
  • YMYL — Your Money Your Life. These are websites that impact your life – so healthcare, financial diet related websites. Typically these are websites or businesses that can impact your life for money.
  • Structured Data is also called schema markup. This is the type of code that makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organize, and display your content. Structured data communicates to search engines what your data

Resources – a few items referenced in this article, and discussed at the event include:

Featured event photo courtesy of Bird + Bird Studios, AMA West Michigan Sponsor