A New Head of Innovation Role at Varn

8th February 2024

We are excited to share the news that Aimee Talbot will be taking on the newly created role at Varn, Head of Innovation.

As we start to see AI technologies transforming how we all live and work, it’s vital to acknowledge that the landscape of search and SEO will be impacted and will constantly be evolving. We wanted to ensure that Varn remains at the forefront of what’s ahead for our industry and for our clients. This new in-house role is designed to help us and our clients to stay ahead of the AI & innovation curve.

We asked Aimee a few questions, so that we can share what her new role will focus on, and to explore how this will help Varn to shape the future success of our clients. From understanding what’s next, as well as the need to adopt new tools, techniques & processes in order to have visibility online, Aimee shares her thoughts as Varn’s new Head of Innovation…

Question: Can you tell us a bit about your new role at Varn as Head of Innovation?

Absolutely! I’m so excited by my new role, which came about as a result of the many recent developments in search. I’ve been working at Varn heading up the Technical SEO team for over a decade now, during which time SEO has evolved considerably. Some of the more significant transformations in SEO have taken place over the past three or four years, necessitating extensive research and ongoing training in order to stay abreast of industry developments. With the emergence of Google SGE, and an increasing focus being placed on AI, a role dedicated to this innovation in search became imperative. With almost 15 years of experience in Technical SEO and a passion for all things Varn, I was thrilled to be offered this new responsibility.

The role of Head of Innovation at Varn aligns with a fundamental objective outlined in the Varn Vision Statement, emphasising our commitment to spearheading advancements in search technology and leading search innovation. Alongside the introduction of this pivotal role and ongoing efforts to build an internal team dedicated to innovation, we are strategically directing our resources towards four key pillars within this workspace, steadfastly maintaining our focus on these aspects throughout 2024. These main pillars of innovation include the following:

1. Search Innovation: The face of search is ever-developing and has been for many years – but with AI becoming a key driver behind search algorithms and generative search results starting to appear, we’re expecting to see many more changes throughout Search Engine Results Pages in the coming months. Our commitment lies in staying ahead of these forthcoming changes to SERPs. By gaining a profound understanding of these developments, we can strategically assess their potential impact on Google search results and, consequently, on our clients. This proactive approach enables us to align client websites with the latest search advancements and critical ranking factors, ensuring their compliance and optimising their performance in the evolving digital landscape.

2. Technical SEO Innovation: A vital part of our innovation initiative involves the enhancement of our Technical SEO service offerings, internal tools, and the ongoing development of our incredibly talented Tech SEO team. For instance, our commitment to excellence is exemplified through our tailored SEO audits. These audits are meticulously crafted to form a comprehensive search strategy for each of our clients. In alignment with the latest trends in SEO, we consistently refine and expand these audits, allowing us to remain abreast of the latest developments, and promptly adapt to any changes in the dynamic landscape of search engine optimisation – for instance, we have recently added sections to these audits for AI, web accessibility, and more.

3. Market Innovation: Another key focus for the innovation team lies within the wider digital marketing landscape. As an example, we are currently researching and developing new PPC scripts to help our Paid Search team surface additional data from PMAX campaigns. We are also researching and training in new market developments pertaining to automation, AI, machine learning(ML), natural language processing, LLMs and generative AI, to name just a few areas.

4. Ways of Working Innovation: We are continuing to develop our own Python scripts and GPTs here at Varn, in order to streamline and automate internal processes – and not just for small sites that are relatively easy to crawl, we also work with clients whose websites contain 100,000+ pages. This strategic automation empowers our team to allocate more time to SEO tasks demanding a nuanced, manual approach. Simultaneously, we are crafting a suite of internal tools that conduct automated reviews of key SEO elements. These tools are meticulously designed upon a bespoke knowledge base, granting us full control over their analytical processes and scoring mechanisms. Leveraging our extensive expertise, we can evaluate critical SEO factors, expediting data collection without compromising on the quality and depth of insights. This dual approach ensures efficiency without impacting the integrity and inherent value of our insights and experiences.

Question: Why is keeping ahead of innovation in SEO and search so vital?

Remaining at the forefront of industry trends and embracing state-of-the-art technologies is imperative in the world of SEO, particularly in light of recent advancements. With global internet access reaching unprecedented levels, it is prudent to capitalise on this expansive audience potential by leveraging the opportunities presented through search. According to DemandSage, there are currently over 5.3 billion internet users throughout the world (more than 65% of the world’s population) – this number is expected to reach 6.54 billion by 2025. Therefore, expanding your outreach to encompass online users presents a significant opportunity for substantial growth in your potential audience. Remaining at the forefront of search innovation is crucial in unlocking access to this audience, as it plays a pivotal role in sustaining and optimising online rankings and visibility, and is a key part of outperforming your competition.

At Varn, we are passionate about the work that we do, and about delivering results for our clients. By consistently staying ahead of the curve and staying abreast of evolving search trends and patterns, we can expertly craft customised SEO strategies for our clients, ensuring successful and measurable outcomes.

Question: What are some of the key developments you think clients need to be keeping an eye on and why?

One of the main updates our innovation team are currently focusing on is the development of Google SGE. We have been researching and testing SGE since mid-2023, in order to understand how it works, and how it might impact search results. SGE has been in beta testing since May 2023 and has been live in the U.S. since last August. It isn’t yet live in the UK, although it is expected to be launched here at some point in 2024. This is something we’re really going to be spending a lot of time looking into, and a development that we recommend all clients monitor, as this will undoubtedly change the face of search.

SGE is poised not only to significantly influence the visual landscape of SERPs but also to revolutionise the approach to content creation and optimisation for SEO. The emergence of AI-generated results seems to be pushing traditional organic rankings down these results pages, occupying more prominent space and thereby impacting organic impressions and click-through rates. Acknowledging the transformative impact of SGE, we are investing significant time and effort to fully understand its implications for both current and future clients. Our primary objective is to tailor and adjust our SEO strategies, ensuring clients can optimise their visibility within the dynamic and evolving SGE landscape.

There are a number of key SEO areas related to SGE that I would recommend placing focus on this year, in order to help you stay ahead of the curve. Here’s a sneak peak into the areas I would suggest prioritising over the coming months:

  • Long tail keyword targeting – SGE appears to respond well to conversational queries, typically captured by long tail search phrases. This potentially suggests a shift towards longer tail keywords, or that you should at least try to incorporate these alongside your standard target keywords.
  • Schema markup – It is arguably more important than ever to ensure that schema markup is being correctly utilised throughout your website, in order to provide clear, optimised structured data for SGE to pick up on when generating search results.
  • UX and accessibility – Seamless user experience is key to making your content engaging and valuable to potential website visitors. This is vital to ensure that the most relevant, valuable content is easily accessible to users and crawl bots alike, in order for it to be pulled through to SERPs with ease.
  • Imagery and other media – SGE typically pulls a variety of content through to SERPs when showing within Google results. For example, rather than just a text based result, it can combine copy, imagery, videos and more – all of which can potentially be pulled from different sources. Ensuring that all of the different forms of content within your site are properly optimised will enhance the chances of your site occupying at least one of these content areas.

Aside from SGE, AI in general is another key area we all need to monitor throughout 2024. I posted a blog back in November about AI and the future of search, which is worth a read. We are also expecting to see key developments this year in Sustainability, and even more demand on GPTs – Not only out of the box GPTs such as Bard and Chat GPT, but also custom GPTs built on a bespoke knowledge base.

As part of our innovation goals and research efforts, we plan to keep clients and followers in the loop in regards to our latest discoveries. You can keep up to date with our latest innovation developments and find out more about what we’re working on by checking out the Varn Insights and by signing up to our monthly newsletter.

If you have any questions or concerns about innovation developments, or have a topic you think we should dive into as part of our innovation efforts, we would love to hear from you.


About Varn

Varn is an expert & specialist SEO search marketing agency. Technical SEO * AI & Data Analytics * Offsite SEO * Paid Search

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