Dmitrii Kustov, Marketing Director, Founder at Regex SEO [Podcast]

Dmitrii is a hard-core SEO, much like our founder, Karl Hindle. I love talking to SEOs because, well, I’m not one. Every conversation I get to have with a hard-core SEO is a privilege for me because I know I will learn a thing or two. And I know you will as well.

Dmitrii does not disappoint in this interview. There is a ton of great digital marketing tips, insights, and even some predictions.

Specifically, we get into…

  1. Thoughts on the new E in Google E-E-A-T
  2. The future of AI in SEO
  3. Content management systems and SEO
  4. Will website speed always matter for SEO?
  5. What is the short-term and long-term future of SEO?

Let’s do this…

Digital Description (Edited for Readability)


Jon-Mikel Bailey: Hello and Happy New Year everyone. It is the year 5352b, no, I don’t know. 2023 I think? Yeah, anyway. Hi! I’m Jon-Mikel Bailey and welcome to the Wellspring Digital Chat series where, you know, basically we go out and find amazing marketers, and we trick them into thinking that they need to talk to us and give us all the information that they have in their brains. It seems to be working well, so far. Nobody has caught on. So don’t tell them.

No, they just keep getting weirder and weirder those intros… But anyway, I have not met Dmitrii before today, but he comes highly recommended as a guest for the chat. Dmitrii is a hardcore SEO much like our founder, Karl Hindle. Although I think he’s probably a little more sane, I don’t know, we’ll find out.

I love talking to SEOs because well, I’m not an SEO and every conversation I get to have with a hardcore SEO is a privilege for me because I know that I’m gonna walk away learning a thing or two and I have a feeling that you, the audience, will as well but first please Dmitrii. Take a moment and introduce yourself to these fine folks.

Dmitrii Kustov: Well, hello, everybody! I am Dmitrii Kustov, the founder of RegexSEO. We do digital marketing and pretty much anything related to digital marketing such as website development, and strategy, and so on and so on. We are technically – our corporate office is in Houston, but nowadays after COVID we are spread out throughout the world. Currently, I am in New Hampshire. And yeah, we work with every business that puts data before feelings.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Love it. I love that! I may or may not steal it. And the audience is probably sitting here wondering, “Wait a second doesn’t Wellspring do all those things?” And in fact, yes, we do! But here’s the thing: In the digital marketing world, we all get along!

Dmitrii Kustov: Indeed!

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, what an idea.

Dmitrii Kustov: It’s always so nice to talk to fellows.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yes. Amen to that. So… you ready?

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, of course.

The New E in Google E-E-A-T

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Alright. Let’s do this. Let’s do this. So first, I have a, I don’t know if it’s a good or bad habit, but I have a habit of obsessing over Google E-E-A-T, which used to be E-A-T and now it’s E-E-A-T. Anybody who’s watched this knows that I love to talk about E-E-A-T. But anyway, I read everything that Lily Ray writes about E-E-A-T because she always seems to be the first one out.

To me, it validates what I have always thought that the marketing content you create must serve a purpose beyond just ranking beyond just SEO needs. And of course, it goes much deeper than that. But the question I want to ask you, Dmitrii, is what do you think about the most recent addition of that extra E for experience to the Google E-E-A-T acronym, which originally stood for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness? What do you think about that extra E now?

Dmitrii Kustov: Right. I believe that it has always been there. They, Google, they just never explicitly put it in there, the values or whatever you wanna call that. Because if you look at the, what’s it called, not the motto, but the purpose that Google says is their purpose in life and in the world is to provide the best results, the best search results, for users. And kind of that saying, right, or I think it’s to provide the best results in the quickest way or something like that.

And when you think about it, what does it mean, the best results? It’s not just the best matching, it’s not just- in the beginning, it was the results that had the most links and citations. It’s really the best result in terms of everything. And especially nowadays when everybody’s on their mobile phones. When the instant gratification syndrome is very, very popular nowadays. Of course, they’re going to be looking at experience, user experience, on their website. They’re going to look at how their website is performing on mobile, how easy it is to use, how easy it is to find information, and how easy it is to make an action for a version.

And it just makes sense because as a user, obviously, we’re all users ourselves. Myself, I find when I go to a website and it takes more than two or three seconds to load at least for the first paint, what we call it, then I don’t like it, even maybe, subconsciously, a little bit, but I already don’t like it. And if there are any other additional signals to leave, then I’m gonna leave and find another competitor of theirs.

And recently, I think actually yesterday or the day before, I was doing some research, watching some videos, and I found- I came across this saying or quote, if you will, from one of the… I forgot the name of the guy, but he is one of the most famous YouTube editors. And he said this, which stuck with me. He said that nowadays people, or active users, are actively searching for reasons to leave your website or a video. So they are searching for not just answers, they’re searching not just for changing the motion, but they’re actively searching for a reason to leave.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s a great point.

Dmitrii Kustov: He said as a creator, y’know as a marketer, you have to figure out a way to not provide that reason. And you know, in the YouTube world, that’s almost like every second you have to do that. In the digital marketing world, it’s kind of overall. So whatever that checklist is for user experience, you know, speed, ease of navigation, mobile friendliness, and so on and so on and so on. In addition, of course, to trustworthiness and proper information, and factual information, but all that stuff still applies. So from that perspective, it makes total sense.

And otherwise, if Google serves up in the first three spots some kinds of websites that have great content, you know, great text content for example, but there’s no video, there are no pictures, you know, the days of newspapers are over, both in the real physical world and online world. So yeah, that’s a somewhat long answer for a somewhat shorter question.

AI’s Future in SEO

Jon-Mikel Bailey: No, that’s great. You know, it’s funny because our previous guest, Scott Baradell, who’s a PR guy, you know, his take on it is similar to yours. But he boils it down to basically that the whole thing is really, ultimately, about trust and the trust signals that come through from a website. And I think that kind of goes in line with what you’re saying about people looking for reasons to leave. They’re looking also for reasons not to trust you and not to feel comfortable and so yeah. That is a phenomenal point. I’m gonna definitely keep that one.

Now, in the digital marketing world, and really in the world in general, everyone is now talking about ChatGPT, the AI tool that can seemingly do just about everything. So, what are your thoughts on this tool and the future of AI as it relates to SEO, but also digital marketing in general?

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, I am a little bit terrified and excited at the same time. Draw any parallels in your dirty mind, dear listeners or viewers. So yeah, I’m terrified and excited at the same time. because it’s definitely something that has not been introduced to the public, to the users, to professionals before and it’s very interesting to see how people use it. And more interestingly for me, to see how Google is trying to prevent it. Because the last, what, three, four or five updates, ever since I think June, Google was trying to or is trying to prevent or de-emphasize and put less value on automatically generated content, on AI-generated content, and so on, so on, and so on.

It does seem that it’s a great tool, especially for text content production. I don’t think at this point yet that it is a tool that will 100% replace content writers or content editors, but it’s a great tool that can speed up the entire process for sure. However, because it is by definition artificial intelligence, and it’s a self-learning tool, the more data you throw at it the better it becomes. It’s not out of the question that in, I don’t know, six months, a year, it will be able to produce great SEO content. Especially nowadays, even already, for simple landing pages for not that long of- let’s say blog posts anything factual, that doesn’t require original thought. It already does it pretty much 100%.

We are currently exploring how we can utilize that tool to the best of our ability, and how we can help ourselves to produce content better, and therefore, hopefully, pass those savings along to our clients. But yeah, I don’t think it’s the Terminator world yet. However, it seems that people who you know, just everybody in the digital marketing world has to adjust to this new way of how things are going to be done. Yeah, it’s very, it’s very interesting, for sure. That’s probably- I’m curious about it more than anything. And we’re exploring that tool.

Currently, we are in the process of hiring a specific standalone person who is going to be pretty much just doing that. They’re going to be testing, playing with that ChatGPT, and seeing how it can help us with content. And that’s my advice for every digital marketing agency out there or marketer. Separate and allocate some resources for exploring. Not just necessarily ChatGPT, but any AI tool, because it seems that it’s going to be a widely used tool in the very close future. And yeah, it’s very, very interesting to me.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s funny, because, you know, if you think back to when the Terminator movie came out, if somebody from the future came, you know, and told me, “Oh no, there is AI in 2023, there’s AI,” and you’d be like, “Oh, my God, is it our overlords, what is it?” “What is no, it writes content for us.” Like, “Well, that’s boring!” Where are all the robots? And you know, doom and gloom! 

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, I didn’t know how much you are into AI is fear and all of that stuff. But yeah, in my college years, my degree was in applied mathematics. So part of AI and coding was quite a few of our projects. So I’ve been in that world for quite a few years now. And the thing that bothers me most and kind of getting a little bit off-topic, but really quick, side note, the thing that not bothers me, but scares me the most at the point right now, where you go to ChatGPT and ask it to write, I don’t know some kind of song by a source famous singer or whatever.

It can do it or you know, you can ask it to write some kind of thesis on some kind of astrophysics, whatever, and could do that. But the tool itself is not conscious so it doesn’t really doesn’t understand what it does. And in the close future, if there is a way to kind of make it conscious so that it actually understands what the text, what it’s doing, that’s when it becomes scary. And that’s when the Terminator comes in.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Well, it’s also when the music starts to really suck so.

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, but actually, to that point, we had quite a few talks with our team about that. And by definition, AI, artificial intelligence, and all of those tools that are using neural networks or self-learning are always trained on a base, on a data set that’s existing in the world. So a very good example is, you can nowadays dilly-dally, and other tools, you can say, “Hey, draw me a picture of Jon Bailey in the style of Van Gogh,” and it can do it no problem, right?

However, you can’t tell it to invent a style that would be like Van Gogh. So you know, before Van Gogh, there was no Van Gogh. So yeah, there was Impressionism, there’s all that stuff, but there, it’s a very specific style. And by definition of the AI tools, take data that already exists, and they kind of use it, modify it, combine it, and so on and so on. So by definition, it’s not an original thought.

So from that perspective, especially for creative, like true creatives, and I’m not talking about coming up with a website, like, “Hey, design me a website,” but now like truly creative things, in marketing and advertising, in development, new things that have not been explored before, new ideas, fresh ideas. That will, but technically, that will never be done by AIs. However, everything else that’s not original thought is just going to become much easier for all of us to implement, which you know, good thing, technically, because instead of spending time on coding a website, that’s kind of not copy of another website, but very similar to it. Kind of, in a sense, templatized or anything else?

To be honest, I think WordPress will be, it already should be, taken behind the barn and shot, but it seems like all of that templated templatized approach to website building will be out of the window very soon, because you just tell a ChatGPT, “Hey, I like these three websites. build me a website,” right? That’s a homepage from that one, a contact page from that one, and it has this e-commerce functionality from the third one. And it’ll do it for you because all the data is available on the internet, it can already build out and write out the code. So from that perspective, from the perspective of the kind of copying it, it’s very easy for those tools to do. So, yeah.

Content Management Systems and SEO

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Well, that’s it. That’s interesting because my next question is really about content management systems. And you know, I love asking SEOs about content management systems, because A: they can tell me, what they think about how it relates to SEO, but B: they’re always brutally honest, which I love. So you’ve already sort of given us your opinion about WordPress, which I think is great.

I’m gonna have to maybe work up a graphic of the WordPress logo being shot behind the barn. But you know, how much, you know, if, for the average company, they’re probably not gonna use AI to build their website. So what do you think yet? What do you think is the content management system still going to matter in the future? I mean, how much does it matter now in terms of SEO? And how much do you think it’ll matter in the future?

Dmitrii Kustov: Well, it- right now, obviously, it matters a lot. How do we upload content? How do we publish content? And for WordPress, really, there is a place for every tool. So, is there a place for WordPress? Absolutely. Is there a place for Wix and Squarespace’s of the world? Yes. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that every single website should be built on WordPress or SquareSpace or any other platforms that you can think of, because it’s, you know, trying to what’s the saying, put a square peg in a round hole. That’s the idea, right? So use it as it’s intended.

So currently, of course, pretty much everybody that does content uploading often and does not have any technical skills to do it like in a custom website, you absolutely go ahead and use WordPress. But at a certain point where a where the company is big enough when the staff of editors or content people is large enough, then in my opinion, WordPress becomes a nuisance, because in order to make sure that the website loads quickly enough, there is no extra code that’s technically not needed, because WordPress is built for everybody and yet no one in particular.

There’s so much junk code in the core. To make it work quickly for your application, you have to kind of rebuild the core itself. And if you rebuilding the core, it’s not WordPress anymore. So a lot of people a lot of companies that do website development, custom website development for on the basis of WordPress, I wouldn’t even call it WordPress anymore. It’s some kind of mutant thing.

And yet, they still say, “Oh yeah, it’s built on WordPress,” and then people, business owners, don’t think about all of the underlying in-depth changes that have to be made. So they think, “Oh yeah, they just went to, you know,, download a couple of themes, and there you go.” Like, that’s not how it works. And then if the same owner, website owner, business owner comes to a different agency, three years down the road, they’re like, “Oh yeah, build it to me on WordPress,” without understanding fully how it’s done, then that’s a problem because, you know, the expectations are way off, and so on, so on, and so on.

Now, in the future, our contact management system is going to be as needed, let’s say, that’s a very good question. Could you hypothetically at least use some kind of ChatGPT AI, whatever, or other AIs that are going to be popping out left and right? And instead, I would not be surprised at all that in a couple of years, there’s going to be a content management system that basically is kind of like ChatGPT AI.

But instead of telling it to write a limerick about Dmitrii Kustov, you tell it, “Write or post a page about this.” And it will not just write content, but it actually posted for you because it can already do the code. So, why would it not be able to take that code, copy it into the existing structure of the website, and there you go? Alright, so technically, yeah. Would it be called Content Management System? Sure, I guess. It still manages content for you. So yeah, again, as a tool, it’s a good tool. And it just matters on how to use it and where to use it and when to use it.

Will there be a place for custom-built stuff? Absolutely. Again, it comes back to that original thought. Like, you can’t ask AI to come up with something new, or even to have your own like- I can’t go to ChatGPT and say, “Tell me the thoughts on this subject by Dmitrii Kustov,” because it doesn’t know how exactly I think. Right, and that’s a good point! Now, let’s say I have a personal blog or like a diary, a daily diary, or whatever, online and I posted there every day, every single of my thoughts; now it knows how exactly I think. But think about the general population, who has that? Very few people, you know, at least percentage-wise. So from that perspective, unless you kind of purposefully putting everything online and through social media or whatever it is, which that’s a completely different story.

Again, considering that Twitter now after Elon Musk took it over, he actively blocked access to any bots and specifically the ChatGPT bot Twitter, which that’s again, a whole different story, a whole different conversation. But I think that there is that also going to come into play where, where I don’t know if it’s going to be either through privacy policies or whatever settings or whatever else. But yeah, it’s going to be very interesting for sure.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: You know, at some point, we will have the neural link, and then it will truly know our thoughts, and then we’re completely screwed.

Is Speed Always Going to Matter for SEO and UX?

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So no, you mentioned speed. And I’ve often kind of wondered, you know, core web vitals is certainly a concern. You know you want your website to be fast, the user experience matters. We spend a lot of time pulling out, you know, bloat code- bloated code and other things to make the site load fast. But, you know, as access to broadband increases, do you think that people are just gonna keep loading things up or do you think speed is just not going to matter in the future?

Dmitrii Kustov: It will always matter because the perception and expectations change. Think about, like, let’s see, I started in the SEO world in 2012. Oh, man. Oh, goodness gracious. Okay. Yeah. So back then, what was the metric for Google, and what was kind of preached online about what is the good speed for a mobile phone, mobile-friendly website? I think it was something under 10 seconds, which is crazy. Nowadays, it should be definitely under three seconds and as close as under two as possible to get the green, what you call it, like the green score, right? And so that has changed in the last, let’s say, 10 years.

And if you think about even before then, I don’t know, like, let’s say 1999, or something like that, or early 2000s. The speed was, it wasn’t about them really the speed. So it was if you have a mobile website, you’re the king of the world. Yeah. And from that perspective, it meant that the speed didn’t really matter. So as long as it loads, like under a minute or something, you’re good.

So in the world of nowadays, where instant gratification is a must. And you know, the whole Amazon disruption, like “I want it now! I want it before I even think it.” I think it’s just going to increase and increase and increase. That’s why there is such thing as A and P that’s been introduced a couple of years ago, whatever many years ago. That’s, oh yeah, man. The whole COVID thing, right, like, two years out of my mind. Yeah. I still think it’s like 2020. But yeah, that is for the reason.

So, nowadays when I browse on a website, especially on a mobile phone, if it takes- if it’s not instant, in the sense of like, you click the link, click the button, and at least you see something on the website, there is that internal disappointment like, “Oh man, what’s going on? I want it now!” Yeah, so, oh what’s that comedian? Johnny Chan? Is that his name? I forgot his name. But anyway, he has a great bit about I want it now! Before I even think about it.

So I think it’s going to be like a reverse exponential demand, basically, you know, it used to be, let’s say a minute, then it’s 10 seconds. Now, it’s three seconds, later it’s going to be one second, and then maybe half a second, and then it just going to become infinitely small. But there is going to be I would say requirements still will be there, might have to be just you know, it has to be less than a second or it has to be less than half a second whatever it is.

And then after that, from the user perspective, I think is going to come back to the human brain and how it can perceive things. Because then there is a cut out like we can tell as humans, we can, probably, I don’t know the numbers exactly, but let’s say we can’t make a difference between one millisecond and two milliseconds or something like that. So as long as that threshold is achieved at that point, it’s not going to matter. But after that point, I think it will. Yeah, and yeah.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Always be searching for speed optimization. So you heard it here first, people. Speed still matters and it’s gonna continue to matter! So make them fast, make them clean, make them load fast, and make them easy to use.

The Future of SEO

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, you’ve talked a little bit- we’ve talked a lot about AI, we’ve talked about content management systems, but I want to get into your crystal ball and see if you have any predictions for SEO. You know, what do you think we’ll be talking about in the next six to twelve months? And also, you know, is there anything we aren’t talking about enough right now that we will be in the future in your opinion?

Dmitrii Kustov: Well, that’s a very deep question. Yeah, I think nowadays, for a close observable future, the whole AI thing will be definitely one of the main topics of conversation. And it’s going to be, it’s one of those new shiny tools that everybody gets to play with. And I’m sure there are going to be case studies and uses and new strategies on how to use it more and more efficiently. That’s going to help everybody, really. I’m looking forward to that.

Kind of, you know, in the beginning of the SEO industry, there were people, pioneers, who were experimenting with BlackHat, and whatever else, and how to what signals make difference, and how to experiment with that, and what to do, what not to do. So the same thing is going to happen with AI, I think that’s going to take, I would say it’s good, at least six months, possibly even more, the deeper we get into all of that.

Other than that, I think the standard metrics, the standard things in the SEO world still stand, you know, like the not necessarily authority on like the E-A-T or the E-E-A-T, or whatever else. But you know, every metric that’s there, which if you break down SEO really into four main ingredients, or parts or sections, whatever you wanna call it, is basically content, technical optimization, you know, speed, all that stuff, user- So okay, contents, technical optimization, user experience, and backlinks. So those are the four main ingredients. They’re not going away yet.

One of the things that’s interesting, and I don’t know if you, anybody, follows Sage Media.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah.

Dmitrii Kustov: They’ve been doing some interesting experiments about backlink building. And it seems that Google is also starting to put a bit less emphasis on backlinks in general. It’s still fairly a large signal, but it’s not as important. The importance of backlinks over time, and actually, since the beginning of Google, it has been declining. You know, in the beginning, it was like 99% of it. As long as you have- the more links you have, the better you are.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Those were the good old days, man, you just load it up!

Dmitrii Kustov: I wouldn’t call it the good old days because-

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Not for the users!

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there you go. And that’s one thing that I encourage every SEO to think about. Do not think about yourself, think about the user. Do not think about how you can make more money. But instead, think about how you can provide the best experience, and the best results, for your users, for your followers. And if you do it right, if you do it well, that, in turn, will bring you money, let’s say, or whatever your goals are. It’s like when people or kids or whoever is like, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be a famous actor!” What does that do? Like? The goal should be, “I want to be the greatest actor.” And fame and whatever else, unfortunately, will come with it. So same thing here. Don’t be one of those people who are like “I want to be the richest SEO,” no, be the best SEO, the greatest, the most inventive SEO. Find a better adjective to put there.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I want to be a marginal actor, like mid-level, you know, TV spots, guest stars.

Dmitrii Kustov: So yeah, I think that all of the standards, let’s call them standard metrics, are not going away yet. As for what we are not talking about, kind of often enough. I don’t think I have kind of a good answer there. My answer might be one of those stereotypical ones, which is to care about the users, the kind of all I just said, right, the put users before yourself. 

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s important to say, it’s important to mention, it’s important to keep mentioning, I think, so yeah, that’s a completely fair answer.

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, so anything that comes out from there. And you know, our company? What’s it called? Oh, boy, not vision. Oh, I’m blanking. The brand essence, brand essence is, we care. And that’s, you know, if you care if you truly care about the right stuff, everything else comes from it. And when we’ve kind of finalized that brand essence very recently. And right in the beginning of 2022. Before that, we were just crazy people running around, like, “Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s do that,” and no direction; no singular path where we all can go towards. That all got finalized, the vision- mission essence, values. We had the greatest year so far in our company.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It makes such a difference have our core values are “Transparency, Integrity, and Results,” and we’re dead serious about all three. And everything sort of runs through that filter. So I hear you, and I think that’s hugely important. And I agree, I think you know, as much as we as digital marketers talk about user experience, I think it can be talked about more. And I think it is really always going to be, you know, the number one target for any campaign is to make sure that you’re giving something to the user that they want, in a way that they want it. Because the returns from that are almost automatic. So it’s like when you say, “I want to be a great actor,” okay, you’re a great actor. You get fame, you get money, that sort of thing. So, yeah, completely, completely, perfectly fair, and good answer. So I appreciate that.

Well, Dmitrii, thank you so much for doing this. There is a ton of good stuff in here. And I know that people get a lot out of this. So I know I did, and I really appreciate it.

Dmitrii Kustov: Yeah, thank you for having me. And hopefully, we can regroup in six months or a year or I don’t know when. And look back at our conversation today. And see how things changed. You know, see how that ChatGPT is doing.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: We’ll do a check-in!

Dmitrii Kustov: There you go. Yeah, exactly, and talk about the past, present, and future. Yeah, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for having me and hopefully, we’ll talk again.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yes, absolutely. Thanks, everybody. Bye!

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