Gerry White talks the power of GTM and its role within SEO

In May 2017, Search Elite will be running their first event in London with a handful of leading figures speaking on topics near and dear to their hearts.  The first of these speakers to be interviewed is Gerry White who blogs at Usable Content and runs Take It Offline round table discussions.

Q) Please tell us a bit about yourself?

A) I have been around in digital in one form or another for nearly 18 years, which either means I am getting old or I have been doing it most of my life (or a bit of both) despite a background in developing ecommerce websites, I have found the areas I seem to find myself in most tend to be in the areas of technical marketing (such as SEO) or analytics including site search, CRO and configuration. Recently I have been involved in organising a round table event called TakeItOffline modelled on #EcomChat mixed with beer. I would describe myself as a perpetual student, which means that I take advantage of opportunities to learn as much as possible.

Q) Please tell us a bit about your role at JUST EAT?

A) I am a consultant at Just Eat working globally across the multiple brands working with the marketing, product and development teams to ensure that we are performing as best as we can – I am lucky that the team is amazing and with huge opportunities to do great stuff along with cutting edge app developers, Alexa and more that I can’t talk about. Globally we are North America, most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand with multilingual sites and every type of mobile and app implementation possible.

Q) Tell us a bit about your session “The power of GTM and utilising it to manage SEO”

A) Since 2011 there has been evidence that Google isn’t just crawling the text of the webpages but is rendering and executing code to understand what users see, including JavaScript – so if you can modify the pages content using JavaScript you can do far more than what may be possible through ecommerce platforms or popular CMS, from split testing through to developing internal linking – the only thing stopping you is your JavaScript knowledge and your imagination.JSON LD has more and more power to be able to manipulate how Google looks at your content so you can improve your presence with little development, it gives SEO folks in any environment more power, but as ever more and more responsibilities.

Q) What websites are using GTM the best for SEO?

A) Unfortunately its far more challenging to see than ever before, it is also very new – the only mistakes I have seen out there are incorrect encoding and cutting and pasting examples with, test data still live, as it is more challenging to audit, it does require access to Googles search console to really bulk examine an implementation, the guys who are pushing this and testing this are Phil Pearce and Simo Ahava who were proving this is successful.The best way to spot this is using the Google Testing tool, very few tools are good at scraping the contents from GTM, plus telling it what to look for is the challenge. As long as Google is definitely crawling the contents of GTM we can use it for SEO.

Q) What are some easy GTM tests people should consider implementing for SEO?

A) Easiest thing to start with is the org – it has a simple clear impact but unfortunately does seem to take Google a few weeks to update, critically it has such a positive impact for a few minutes work, once you have that mastered the next trick is to use data from the page to look at how you can mark it up.

Q) Can you use GTM for SEO split testing?

A) Absolutely, but this is where a bit of JavaScript testing comes in, and is something I will talk about at Search Elite, ultimately if you have dataLayers and good structured data you can do a lot more with it than you would expect, the key is to see what Google are using and making sure you are marking up appropriately. Using an ID on a page for instance, if you have enough products, or items you can split it however you want to using this ID, for example all product IDs ending in 1, or an odd number can impact how you test, critically time for tests will take a lot longer than for user testing.

Q) Do you advise rolling out SEO tests sitewide or just in one folder or section of your website?

A) This would depend completely on the test, typically I tend to do as much as possible to get the best results as quickly as possible, the more data you can get the more confident you can be in the results you get, you can test everything from internal linking to impact of markup, even if Google says you should, should you? Do all the rules on title tags apply the way you think they should ?

Q) Are there any other Search Elite sessions/speakers you are looking to see?

A) All of them, each of them has an awesome knowledge of their area and having heard all of them over the years at conferences from BrightonSEO (a couple of them have even made it to TakeItOffline Round tables).

Q) Where can people find you online if they want to engage, follow or connect?

A) Best place to find me is on Twitter, @dergal I am generally checking out what is happening there.

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