What struck me when meeting the Head of SEO Branding at Wix, Mordy Oberstein, was his electric energy, his enthusiasm for SEO, and his joy in helping people of all types start building their sites. The Wix SEO specialist Mordy, is expertly opinionated on search engine optimization, and sat with us to humbly share his thoughts on the future of search, content, and AI — even giving us some teasers as to what’s on the cards for Wix in the future.
It’s very easy for SEOs to get lost in search volume and keyword difficulty, those kinds of metrics, without thinking about the business goals behind the keywords. But I think for the average site owner, getting too focused on the tools is a bad thing — Mordy Oberstein
I’m Mordy Oberstein, the Head of SEO Branding at Wix. I used to be the liaison to the SEO community, which I stole from Google Search Liaison. I also used to work for an SEO platform called Rank Ranger as the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) for five or six years. I come from the SEO world and Wix didn’t have the best reputation for SEO at the time and they brought me in to help bridge that gap. Which was relatively easy because the product itself was far more advanced than the SEO community realized at the time.
What I do is establish links with the SEO community, answer questions, and concerns, and showcase what we do. Fast forward to now, I spend my time between Wix, and consulting for Semrush on the side. I was the Head of Communication at Semrush, which is an SEO tool. I came back to be able to position Wix as a brand around SEO for multiple SEO communities.
So fully integrating with the SEO community like, for example, launching an SEO learning hub, which involves articles, a podcast, webinars, and a newsletter. I find ways to really add that voice to the SEO world.
What SEO fundamentally is in my mind – and I’m sure if you asked 10 different SEOs you’ll get 20 different opinions – but to me, it’s about showing Google or other search engines that your website is relevant and trustworthy around whatever it is that you do. And then once you have that definition of what you provide and a working understanding of what SEO is, I think it’s how you can find your own pathway.
If you’re technical SEO, for example, it’s going to be making sure the sites are indexable. Making it crawlable on the technical side of things, efficiently showing Google that your website is trustworthy.
For learning about it there’s reading about it and then there’s doing it. It could be as simple as spinning up a website and trying to have a newsletter or blog and just getting your hands even just mildly dirty. Getting involved in what it means to actually set up site structure, optimize your title tag, etc. You can read about it until you’re blue in the face or go to as many webinars as you want. But just basic hands-on, first-person experience is more important than anything else.
How’s my day-to-day? A lot of emails, a lot of tweets – I’m internally speaking to other teams about SEO, educating them. Then there are the creative products that we’re doing like YouTube ads that we’re putting out around SEO for the average site owner, and for business owners.
Wix is interesting because you’re talking to so many people that you’re trying to help.
You know, a mom, a pop, a large business, helping to do SEO. We’re trying to help our partner agencies with SEO. You’re speaking to the SEO community about SEO at the CMS level, just super interesting!
There are still times when I’m very much intricately involved in the SEO world day-to-day tweeting and connecting to people. There’s the SEO education aspect of it as we run the SEO podcast. So there are all the ins and outs of running a podcast.
There’s literally the SEO work that we do on the Wix SEO hub as well as the SEO advice we have on the Wix blog. Those two assets are very similar and at the enterprise level there is always overlap between similar assets. We work hard to ensure each offers something unique so we don’t step on each other’s toes on the SERP.
Then there’s, you know, the wider strategy. How do we position ourselves? What audiences are we speaking to next? What’s our future, five years down the line? What are we trying to achieve with a new product?
It’s kind of everything SEO – all over the place.
I think it’s very easy for SEOs to get lost in search volume and keyword difficulty, those kinds of metrics – without thinking about the business goals behind the keywords. But I think for the average site owner, getting too focused on the tools is a bad thing. I think the average site owner understands their business goals inherently. So I’m not worried about that with them.
I’m more worried that they don’t realize what the landscape looks like on the SERP. And giving them data and information to show them, wait, if I sell shoes and I’m trying to rank for shoes, it’s impossible. I’m not Nike, I’m not Adidas. I’m not going to rank for that. But giving them the best understanding to rank better. I used to work for a property management company in New York City, they owned 50 apartment buildings there, you know, 500 million dollars worth of capital. They were very immature in the digital space. They were very business savvy, we’re talking about major professionals. But digital is just not their space. And you need to give them some kind of context to better understand it.
Look, obviously, the basic information inside of the Semrush integration is not going to get you your super detailed insights. It’s not really what it’s meant for. What I think that it does do though, is it opens up your mind to think, wait a second I didn’t realize this was so complicated. Now, maybe I should do some more research. And I think for site owners, they need to have that incentive, and that inner drive to say, I’m gonna learn this. I’m gonna follow this. I didn’t learn SEO from a course, I literally learned SEO because I was working as a content writer for an educational software company.
If people really wanted to get into SEO, this is the only way to really do it and I think having things inside of the Wix platform, like the Semrush integration or showing access points to the SEO learning hub does two things;
It gives them the basic information they need to get started and it also gives them the opportunity to spark that SEO journey.
Yes, but I’ll say it depends. The short answer is if your technical foundation is sound then yes and I’ll quote John Mueller who tweeted that when you build websites to test them, you don’t really dedicate the actual amount of energy and focus that you were to do a real website. So these tests are kind of funny.
And then from there, there was a whole conversation that John was talking about CMSs, whether it’s Wix or Squarespace. Said that they do fundamentally handle the technical foundation well enough. Now I think that if you look at what Wix is doing versus other CMSs, like we’re the only CMS that pulls in Google Search Console URL Inspection API. So you can see the indexation and status of all of your pages literally, in one click. But fundamentally, the web has gotten to a place where a lot of the technical barriers around ranking have been removed because there’s been a call on the CMSs.
There’s literally a website called whatsugar.com and she ranks for everything sugar related. I think she was some kind of chemical engineer or something like that. Just put up a whole website about artificial sugars answering questions about sweeteners. She somehow has some kind of background in it and the content is phenomenal. It is really good, strong content about is this sugar or better than that sugar. Whatever it is and she’s competing for really competitive keywords.
I’m not saying that she wouldn’t be benefited from having an SEO come in and optimize things. Taking what she’s doing now and increasing it. But she’s gotten to the point where she’s killing it completely on her own. So it’s most definitely possible.
Look AI, I get it okay, content is hard. People don’t like writing, I love writing content, but many people don’t like writing it and you need it for the web. The commodity of the web is content. Whether it’s a product page, a blog post, or a landing page — it’s content. And if your business can’t handle this, it can’t have a digital presence.
We’re opening Pandora’s box. You can look forward to the web being temporarily ruined — and then it fixing itself.
Whether it’s SEO or even PPC. You need it. There has to be something to put on social media. It’s very fleeting. The idea is to send people somewhere, which is why all the algorithms don’t want to send the enemy anywhere — they want to keep them on Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever it is. I get that content’s hard and AI seemingly, solves that problem. It’s like you’re putting a drug in front of somebody and saying don’t use it. And not to make light of drug use, but it’s like asking a drug addict five years down the line, how did it go? Not well.
I had Bing write me a birthday poem for Barry Schwartz in the style of a romance novel because I know Barry would hate it. And it was amazing! But if I was a poet and I looked at the poem I’d be like, this is crap!
This technology is amazing but that’s different from if the content is good. Just because wow, it’s an amazing technology, and I can’t believe it wrote it. That doesn’t mean the content is actually good. It doesn’t mean that it’s accurate.
For example, I’m a big baseball nut, one of the cases I looked at was there’s a player on the New York Yankees. When they first brought him over they thought he was gonna be a great defensive player. And if you ask Bing chat if this player is good at defense it’ll come back with he’s amazing, but by the end of the season, turns out that he was not. That content was accurate at the beginning of the season until he had some kind of brain fart and just completely melted down.
You just don’t realize how much inaccuracy is in AI content. The average site owner who is very much incentivized to use AI is not going to realize that this is not great content. They’re not experts on what is quality content. So, Bing spits out a couple of paragraphs like, all right, that’s a blog post — that’s not a blog post.
The search engines are going to have to figure that out. Otherwise the web will, and it’s already flooded with crap content. It’s only going to get worse and Google’s going to have to figure it out and it’s really not that hard to do.
In my honest opinion, there are a million tools out there that are able to identify whether or not the content input is written by an AI writer. Google can do that. It’s gonna figure out what’s crap content and what’s actually expert-written content.
I do have concerns about smaller size websites ranking in an AI world. Because if Google’s looking at things semantically at the whole website, large websites have entire content teams and they can create that semantic awareness for the search engine. It’s going to have a larger impact on what Google decides to rank for snippet-level content. That is fine for an AI writer to write. But there’s no way to get around having a human being either write or extensively edit content.
I think over the last few years informational content vs sales content has been a large part of loss in ranking. Accenting that commercial intent with a little bit more information. I’ve seen that a lot of times that Google prefers that you’ve given the user more. I think it’s better for the users, to give them more context to understand what the heck they’re actually buying. You see that with the product review updates. So back in the day, you could stuff in a bunch of affiliate links on a very, very thin review of something and you’d be done with it.
Masking a commercial intent to get you to the affiliate link and the information was just a way to get you there. And I’ve seen that a lot of times where you have a commercial intent lurking, underneath the informational content, Google is able to figure that out and doesn’t like it.
I call it the brand sniff test, think about it like a brand marketer. If you look at a web page and in three seconds flat, you’re like, I do not trust this thing. Whether it’s the tone or the way they’re structuring it. Look at your website as if you are a user with an unbiased opinion or actually get real users to look at it and do the sniff test.
Also knowing that if I’m looking for five easy ways to fix my washing machine, I don’t want the astrophysics of washing machines. I don’t want like, the physics of a wash, and don’t care. Understanding from a user’s point of view what they want and what quality means to that target audience is what Google is trying to do. Like they ask Google, do you have EEAT as part of your algorithm? The answer is no, there’s no EEAT score. But what they did say was, we tried to mimic what quality content would look like algorithmically.
For the future of Wix, teaser spoiler alert! Some exciting things are happening on the SEO front, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. We’re continuing to put out content that really helps SEO, it’s one of the great things about our SEO learning hub.
If you’re an SEO listening or reading this, you can edit that customizable markup and add additional markups to those pages. But what it also does is Google changed its guidelines around Google Shopping. If you have valid product structured data markup you’re automatically eligible to be shown in shopping results, you don’t have to go through Google Merchant Center.
Also, if you’re on the ecommerce SEO side of Wix and you have a store, you’re already eligible for rich results automatically and you’re already eligible for Google shopping automatically. There are going to be new tools added and integrated into multiple places inside the platform. That will help whether you’re an SEO, a pro, or a business owner. To help you catch things you might have missed around SEO — which is all I can say for now.
I think the most meaningful part of what I do is always when you hear stories like, my friends 13-year-old nephew likes photography and he’s spun out a Wix website and he was able to do it all himself — when you’re actually helping people.