FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: Defining SEO Success to Make it a Priority in Every Organization

For most SEO departments, the challenge isn’t knowing what SEO recommendations to make, it’s getting those recommendations implemented. Prove SEO can benefit the entire organization and get the resources you need to make SEO a priority.

Erin O’Brien, President & COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing & PR at GinzaMetrics


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Karen: Hello! Welcome to this week’s edition of FOUND Friday, our weekly video and podcast where we talk about trends and topics for SEO, content, and digital marketing. I’m Karen.


Erin: And I’m Erin.


Karen: Today we’re going to be talking about how to convince your brand to make SEO a priority and how to get decision makers to invest in the resources required to implement the recommendations you work so hard to create.


First, let’s talk about this problem and the frustration for SEOs who spend a lot of time compiling and presenting recommendations only to have them largely ignored. What’s the disconnect?


Erin: I think when we’re talking about SEO and disconnects with maybe the perception of recommendations being ignored, I want to say there’s probably a couple of things really happening here.


One, I do think that this is changing. I think that folks who are in this SEO roles and have departments built around this and are compiling this stuff, I do think that it is being more and more heard especially because people understand that the digital space is increasingly competitive and that this is a really good way to combat some of that competition and a great way to make sure that findability is really top of mind especially with changes in local and mobile search going on.


There are probably a couple of things that are happening. One is I want to say sometimes it’s less about being ignored and more about probably being de-prioritized on the really long list of things that organizations are combating. That’s not to say that I’m defending de-prioritization of SEO. I actually think it’s the opposite. I think it needs to be prioritized but it’s I think in a lot of people’s minds maybe a less flashy thing or less sexy and fun thing to spend marketing time and budget on.


The second thing that I will say is I think sometimes it really depends on who you’re presenting SEO recommendations to and where that falls in the organization. SEO and the information gathered from search in general, beyond just search optimization and just an understanding of search data has implications so far beyond just the marketing stack of improving rank, there’s really great product implications in there, understanding how people are talking about your space, how people are naturally searching for features, what things they’re really talking about organically, and how they’re describing their problems because that can really go into better product and service creation. It can go into a deeper understanding of core issues that can go into understanding how those issues are really changing and evolving over time and how people’s way of discussing them and talking about and addressing them are really changing over time. It’s also a good place to understand new key players in the market.


When there’s a disconnect with the overall importance of search and SEO inside of an organization, I feel like those are probably the two most common factors. De-prioritization on the scale of things like where people spend time and budget, and also where it’s actually going is maybe not the right place or that it’s not as integrated throughout the organization as it should be.


Karen: We’ve talked before about creating a pilot program for other purposes. How can an SEO department use the model of a pilot program to demonstrate the importance of SEO?


Erin: Pilot programs are really interesting. I go back and forth on the pilot program thing. But I think that one of the good things about it is you can create a small test case. That’s what we’re talking about here. Maybe a group of content or a group of keywords or work on a specific campaign where you are really going to focus your attention on improving findability and rank for that specific thing.


The great thing about a pilot program is it narrows down the scope of work because a lot of times I think what happens with SEO especially if you start with a site or content audit, first is you may get a list especially if you have a big site. You may get a list of 10,000 recommendations or things you need to change. That is an incredibly daunting thing. It also takes a while. So it feels like you’re trying to boil the ocean to use a jargony term. Nobody wants to feel like they have to do that. When you try to make a lot of these changes, you will see some improvement within a shorter amount of time but sometimes it takes a really long time to really come to fruition.


Pilot programs can be done adjacent to other marketing programs, so even if you don’t have a fully dedicated SEO team, you as a marketer can do a small pilot program with a small subset of content and show improvement there incrementally over time while doing your other marketing tactics so you really have an opportunity to say, “Hey, look, what if we did this for everything? We’re only doing it for this small amount right now but look at the great improvement we’ve shown compared to other content,” or “Look at the rank that we started with and look at our rank now.”


If you really want to do a more in-depth pilot program, you can garner data and gather more information rather than just improving in rankings but you can actually gather data and use that and say, “This data can inform our future product and marketing decisions. Let’s try that too for our next campaign or our next launch,” or whatever is coming up.


Karen: What are some examples of some easy SEO fixes that will show immediate results and that can be quick wins to demonstrate the power of SEO?


Erin: I feel like a lot of the things that are the quicker stuff and this requires obviously access to your CMS and an eye for… It’s broken down into two things. It’s like fixing current content that’s already up and creating new things correctly with the best possible structure. I feel like structural changes are some of the things that are quickest because it’s when the search engines are going out and looking at your content, if it’s not built correctly, some of the rest of it doesn’t even matter. If you’ve got insanely long URLs, tons of redirects, 404 errors, duplicate page titles, keywords not assigned to pages or missing in tags, no meta descriptions or meta tags – some of this stuff waxes and wanes in importance.


But in general, making sure that your content throughout your site has a structure that is easily crawlable by search engines will do a lot of things for content that may be right now is getting passed over because it’s not exactly structured well and then creating a template and a way for folks across your organization. This is especially important for large organizations where a lot of people may be contributing content all at once. There need to be some ground rules and some basics that everybody has to follow. A lot of times it goes through a department where somebody actually manages that, so maybe not a problem for you.


But then in smaller organizations where a couple of people are doing it where there’s not a lot of structure in place, this is also a huge problem because you probably got one, two, or three people who are in a hurry, rushing to get stuff up, maybe not really thinking through search best practices. Then the problem is you’re so excited you’re getting this content up and you’re like, “Well, I can go back and do that later.” One, you probably won’t. Two, what you’ve done is you spent a lot of time creating something that is now not getting nearly the leverage it could have if you would’ve just structured it correctly.


Creating really deep thoughtful content is a whole other discussion so when we’re talking about SEO quick wins, I feel like overall page structure and crawlability factors are going to be your biggest staring point and there are tons of guides to that both on our site and on the Internet in general.


Karen: I heard once someone say that what they did is they actually created an SEO pyramid and they just put it on everybody’s desk but it was just a one page and at the bottom of the pyramid was things you absolutely have to pay attention to. Then it goes up from there. That page structure sort of thing – the URL, the meta tags – all that stuff is there at the bottom of the pyramid and it just keeps it top of mind for everybody.


Some of those things just have a cascading effect. You do some of those things and all of a sudden, other things are improving too. Something to think about.


Erin: Yeah. You can definitely. One of the people who actually created a really good SEO pyramid – and there’s more than one out there and available – is Marc Eberhart who’s a really awesome guy. We worked with him when he was with Chegg. He’s a really smart guy when it comes to search and digital marketing strategy. His pyramid – if you Google that and we’ll probably post a link to it on the blog for this – I think his is probably a really useful one both for bigger organizations but also just for anyone looking for a quick guide to, “Hey, think about this stuff first.”


Karen: When it’s done well, SEO allow you to capture organic traffic. How can the SEOs use that to sell SEOs a priority? What data should they be sharing?


Erin: When we’re talking about selling, SEOs are priority. I feel like it’s so frustrating to think that you have to sell this because it just seems to make so much sense. A lot of people out there say, “We know that there’s value in SEO.” When we’re talking about “here” is how do we sell the idea of usually getting more resources toward it or prioritizing it further up the scale. Because I think anybody who is working on a business that has any sort of web presence has at some point heard of, looked into, know something about SEO and its general function in the marketplace.


We’re talking about organic traffic. I want to go back to this concept of search’s importance across the entire life cycle of your product and that goes from idea inception all the way through to marketing, all the way through to actual sales conversion and customer happiness. What we want to know is you need to be able to show not just what people are looking for and how to get your content up there to just get more eyeballs but you want to talk about creating better conversions, more relevant people coming in. You want to talk about how to create better customer satisfaction for your existing users so that when they’re looking for something, they’re still going to find you and not maybe a competitor’s products. If they have ongoing issues or concerns, the don’t always necessarily come to your website. Sometimes they just go straight to Google and take a look. Because your content has so many different reaching things, this is the importance of – I will say it because it happens every FOUND Friday – keyword groups and content groups.


Karen: Yay.


Erin: Come on people, I know. We had to wait until halfway through the episode for me to get there.


You can create keyword groups and content groups for everything. This can be not just your lead funnel type stuff like your initial marketing funnel things. It can actually be customer types. It can be geographies, it can be segments of your product and your market. So what you can understand is how does this content perform in groups and how do they perform for particular keywords and those keywords can be tied to different places in your customer’s journey. You can also use it for really great research to help your customer’s success team, to help your sales team. Then your sales team will know how to craft better e-mails because you’re going to understand what keywords and topics are resonating at certain parts of this journey and life cycle of your users. Why wouldn’t you use this data? I feel like that alone is gold when you’re trying to sell the concept of SEO.


I feel like SEO is a rough term because when you’re talking about search engine optimization, most people say, “It’s just I want to be number one on Google.” I’m like, “It’s so much more than that.” The data alone from what you get for search and the knowledge that you get from creating better content, structuring it correctly, understanding topics and keywords is so much relevant and further reaching than just “number one on Google” that I feel like number one on a search engine or above the fold of a search engine situation is really byproduct of all the other awesome stuff you could do.


Karen: I think we’ll be talking about this in a future episode but also knowing how to talk to different people in the organization because even though it’s a shame that it has to be sold sometimes you have to sell your program and knowing exactly what kind of language to use, what sort of data to present to different people in different places in the organization. We’re going to do a whole episode on that and talk about that in some detail.


Oftentimes someone in the organization will look at what a competitor is able to achieve and ask, “Why aren’t we doing that?” Do you think using that kind of social proof is a good way for SEOs to help convince their organization to implement the recommendations?


Erin: Oh man. Who hasn’t worked with the “why aren’t we doing that” person?


Karen: “Let’s do some videos. Someone is doing some video. Let’s do some video.” “Hey, someone is jumping on the plane. We should jump out of a plane, too.”


Erin: The “why aren’t we doing that” thing is interesting because I always want to know – if you’ve asked a couple of questions, the “why aren’t we doing that” is – do we know if that is even working? What is that doing for them? Do we know if doing that too will actually work for us?


Karen: It’s really cool, right?


Erin: Right. Does that fit in with our brand story? Does that fit in with our kind of company mantra or the types of products and services that we create? Would that actually bring us relevant leads? Would that add to or detract from current customer situations? How does that really fit in?


I think a lot of it is general Frankenstein-ing of marketing things goes back to what we’ve seen probably in most recent years happen with social, which is new social thing will come out and everybody says, “We need a Snapchat. We need Pinterest.” I’m sorry. You probably don’t need Snapchat immediately.


Rushing into a lot of this stuff is always bizarre to me. Without thoughtfully thinking through – what I will get to say this time that I haven’t said in a little while – the medium, method, and message of stuff is like if you’re going to add in channels, you need to be able to measure the channels and you need to be able to figure out how it’s really going to contribute. Is this a sustainable channel? Are you doing a pilot program? Sometimes that’s a really good way to start out with something new.


When we’re talking about SEO and just general search ideas, I think that if somebody is – the way that you would do this is like the “me too” thing – so-and-so is ranking really freaking well and we’re not. Should we be doing that? Yes. Obviously you should if you’re trying to rank well but not because someone else is. But it’s because it means your content and the things that you’re doing are the best match for what your audience is looking for.


Yes, you obviously want to beat the competition. Yes, you want to do things that are going to garner traffic from your audience. But what you really want, the reason that you want that or should want that is because you want to be the best fir for your audience. You want to be the thing that they find that they look to that is the most important to them, so all this other stuff is the natural byproduct of that being the case.


One last competitor thing. We’ve been doing a lot of talk about competition recently and we do Competitor Discovery, so I don’t want to say that keeping an eye on your competitors is not important. It really is for a lot of reasons. But one of the biggest reasons that I always say this is because you want to know what they’re doing that is resonating with your audience so that you can create a better relationship with your audience based on that. Because creating that relationship, knowing what’s resonating, knowing why and how it’s resonating using medium, method, and message is going to be your best overall company strategy, your best way to build market value.


Karen: If some content competitor or product competitor is always outranking you, I think that’s a really good time to say, “We’re using the same keywords, we’re talking about the same topics – they’re outranking us. Why?” Maybe it’s because you’re not optimized for SEO. That’s a good time for the SEO department to step in and say, “Look, our changes aren’t getting implemented, we’re getting outranked, we need to be ranking for this stuff because what we’re saying is relevant and our audiences are interested in it.” They already know that because they’ve done keyword research and everything that goes behind that. In that case, using “why aren’t we doing that” might be helpful.


What are some ways that SEO can tie their efforts to company-wide KPIs?


Erin: When we’re talking about overall KPIs… If you don’t understand in general what your corporate KPIs are, you really need to probably take a couple of steps back. Everybody in an organization should understand what the overall goals of your organization are.


I did a big segment on this last year at some point. I can’t even remember when. But we talked a lot about tying things to goals, so I don’t want to go too crazy with this. With organizational goals, the goals of most organizations, if you look at the very, very top of the pyramid, is make money – revenue. Everything else typically filters down from there and there are ancillary goals, but for the most part, if you don’t make any money, it’s really hard to stay in business and that even goes for non-profits. Their goal is to raise money because they have to actually donate money or goods to something to stay a non-profit. Revenue is your end game or your highest goal. It’s everybody in the organization is doing something that should be actually contributing back to that.


So when you’re talking about how to tie what you do specifically back to that, there’s probably a lot of different avenues and people don’t normally think of this. It’s very easy to maybe get into a super linear mindset. But when you’re talking about depending on where SEO falls in your organization, you need to be able to show how improved rank actually works better or creates better conversions.


In addition to overall rank improvement, I think that there are other ways that you can show value to your organization including things like better marketing feedback, better information to sales about topics and keywords that are changing and are maybe more relevant with folks, better input to product development teams and a little bit about where things may be shifting. There are probably a lot of places where you can provide feedback.


We want to talk about how to be able to actually quantify that because at the end of the day, it’s lovely to say, “It seems like we’re doing better,” or “Hey, I gave somebody this piece of advice and now their group is converting better leads.” But you actually need to be able to quantify your efforts.


We did a SlideShare on this a long time ago and it’s called a Search and Content Marketing Workflow. It’s up on SlideShare but I think we’ll add it to this blog post as well. One of the things that it really walks through is when you define your KPIs such as increased organic traffic by X percent or conversion from a certain piece of content is equal to such and such, you have to be able to try to put in an amount on that. This is where the medium, the method, and the message really come in to place because you can measure each thing. But if you take your campaign KPIs such as increase organic traffic, campaign content is equal to a certain amount of conversions, findability does this – then what you can actually start to do is for those KPIs, select the content and the keywords that are actually going to tie into or be relevant for that specific goal.


So what you’re going to want to start with is not necessarily a pilot campaign but what you’re going to want to start with is one specific goal, one specific thing because when you’re talking about showing KPIs, if you’re not already doing this measurement system, it’s really hard to set up measurement for everything all at once especially if you’re doing it by yourself.


Once you set up that and pick up some keywords and things – again, this all explained in the SlideShare in a much better way than I am doing it without visuals – you can go in and assign some competitors to it, look at that, and then what you’ll be able to do is measure results so you’ll be able to look at things like changes in organic traffic for that particular content. You’ll be able to look at change in rank versus competitors. You’ll be able to look at social trends and overall share of voice. You’ll be able to actually go in and see that so set up your KPIs and say, “I want to increase conversions for this specific campaign about whatever – saving giraffes.”


If you’re just going to focus on saving giraffes, then you’re going to say, “I’m going to set up a couple of KPIs or goals that go back to my overall organizational goals and then I’m going to do these steps. These are the things I’m going to do to fix that or to improve that.” Then show exactly what happened after you took these steps. This goes back to a tool that’s in our product that I love and I think it’s funny because I’ll say people aren’t using it enough but people use it a lot. I’m like, “Use it all the time.” It’s annotations.


Annotations are awesome because you can go in and make your own notes in there and say, “Today I added X number of keywords or today I updated something in Google AdWords.” We actually put the algorithm changes in there for you. But you can say, “We released X content,” or “I went through and added new title tags, everything.” But you can put these notes in there and at the end of your test phase or campaign, when you do your reporting you can actually show where you did all these things and the improvements that happen because you did them, which is an awesome tool for you because as you make these changes, you’re keeping notes so that you know what you did and then you can show other people what you did and how that totally rocked.


I don’t know. Use annotations even if you’re not using Ginza. Figure out a way to make some notes in places and do it as it’s happening. Having to go back and make the notes is such a pain.


Karen: We’re talking a lot about doing improvements once content is up, once things have already been published. In a future episode, we’re actually going to be talking about getting SEO input early on so that you’re not always just in the backend fixing things so it’s more proactive. We’ll talk about where SEO can fit in every stage or product development or content development. That will be something to tune in for in a future episode.


Erin: I also want to mention – the interview itself is from a year or two ago but still insanely relevant. It’s our actual interview between Ray, GinzaMetrics founder, and Marc Eberhart who at the time was working at Chegg. That interview goes through so many really awesome things and a couple of things that are touched on there that we don’t have time to touch on today is talking about international SEO documentation and things, and how do you decide on SEO internally or with an agency. It really addresses a lot of interesting things. The webinar is a little longer than our normal FOUND Friday episode but it gets pretty in-depth and it goes through a lot of Marc’s thoughts on some things. I think he also had some slides in there where he showed adding SEO into the product workflow and his SEO pyramid. A lot of different things.


I would say that that’s a really good resource from somebody in the industry who’s really smart and talented and then Ray who built GinzaMetrics platform, and so you get a really good cross-section of information there. Our SlideShare stuff obviously tries to address a lot of these issues regularly and some of our episodes about weaving in and talking to the executive team and how to make sure that your efforts are not going to waste or that you can actually explain to them in terms that they’ll listen to and want to hear I think are also probably really good resources for this episode as well.


Karen: Yeah. All those resources are on the GinzaMetrics Academy page as well, so they can always check us out there.


I think that’s all the time we have for today. Be sure to join us next week. But in the meantime, send your questions and suggestions to me, or join the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday.


Thanks a lot, Erin.


Erin: Bye. Talk to you next week.


Karen: Bye. Okay, you too.

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