Episode 99 | Posted on

Making Data-Driven SEO Decisions: Bill Hunt

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This Week’s Guest:

These days, it’s easy to find someone who thinks they are an expert on the best practices of SEO. It’s much rarer to find someone who is well-versed in the details like how to use data mining effectively, using 410s instead of 404s, the issues with hamburger menus, and what to do about redirect chains.


If this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy this episode as much as I did. I’m joined by the remarkable Bill Hunt, the President of Back Azimuth Consulting and a true expert in SEO. Before his current role, Bill was the Director of Global Search Strategy of Ogilvy. He has also coauthored a book about SEO: Search Engine Marketing, Inc.


Find Out More About Bill Here:

@billhunt on Twitter
Bill Hunt on LinkedIn


In This Episode:

  • [01:07] – Stephan starts off by geeking out a bit on SEO, pointing out that there’s too much emphasis on the fundamentals.
  • [01:46] – In terms of data mining, how do you make data-driven decisions that are based on more than a hunch? In his answer, Bill talks about some of the things he does to offer value to people.
  • [07:28] – Stephan goes back to recap a few of the things Bill has been saying to ensure they’re clear for listeners. Bill then clarifies and elaborates on some of his earlier information.
  • [10:04] – One of the amazing things that Google is willing to give users is impressions. Bill then describes how to do what he calls the “poor man’s yield analysis.”
  • [12:45] – Bill discusses the importance of a statement answering the question “why us?” This should be shorter than an elevator speech.
  • [15:39] – What are some of Bill’s other favorite search tips and tricks to find out what’s going on with your SEO?
  • [17:47] – Stephan asks Bill a little bit of a trick question about how you tease out the HTTPS URLs. In his answer, Bill talks about canonicals.
  • [21:48] – What do you do when your canonical is not getting obeyed?
  • [23:32] – Stephan talks about what he finds when he audits clients’ websites. He then uses the example of a specific client, and Bill offers his advice for the situation Stephan described.
  • [26:14] – Stephan points out that XML sitemaps are supposed to only have canonical URLs in them.
  • [30:56] – What should listeners pay attention to with regards to HTTP migrations?
  • [34:12] – Bill discusses chains of redirects and what he would recommend that listeners do about them.
  • [37:17] – We learn about the benefits of using a 410 instead of a 404, with Bill describing the intended uses of each.
  • [41:36] – If you want to reduce the amount of wasted crawl equity or crawl budget, would Bill recommend disallows, noindexes, or 410s to carve pages out of the search results? He likes to do a plain noindex nofollow, he explains.
  • [44:35] – Stephan describes a common approach that he thinks is a huge mistake, which is to disallow these pages. He and Bill then discuss this.
  • [48:39] – Bill discusses whether link sculpting is still possible.
  • [51:30] – We learn about the benefits of being able to have a cascading drop-down and the impact of hamburger menus.
  • [55:04] – We move into the lightning round. What’s Bill’s take on iframes from an SEO standpoint?
  • [55:27] – What’s Bill’s take on 302s versus 301s?
  • [56:58] – Is there a tool to track how many clicks away your pages are from an outside link source?
  • [57:53] – Are there any URL best practices that Bill thinks are no longer relevant or no longer true?
  • [59:24] – Bill elaborates on what he meant by saying that there’s no need to localize URLs.
  • [60:58] – Does Bill have any favorite tools for log analysis and looking at what spiders (like Googlebot) are doing?
  • [62:38] – Bill talks about where listeners can find him.


Links and Resources:

@billhunt on Twitter
Bill Hunt on LinkedIn
Search Engine Marketing, Inc
Data mining
Marcus Tober
“(not provided)” on Google Analytics
Google Search Console
UTM codes
XML sitemaps
Redirect chains
Tag pages
Link sculpting
Hamburger menus
<iframe> HTML element
Christoph Cemper on Marketing Speak
302s versus 301s




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