To kick off the year, BrightEdge hosted an instructional webinar, SEO Pro Tips for Success in 2022, with useful pointers on SEO execution and measurement. As part of that discussion, we explored four imperatives:
- Tell the Right Story
- Reduce Manual Work
- Simplify Communication
- Practice Flexible and Agile Execution
We've compiled the guidance from the webinar into two valuable resources you can download today:
- The SEO Pro Tips for Success eBook - this provides tips from our power users on executing SEO in the BrightEdge platform
- The complete "SEO Pro TIps for Success in 2022" webinar recording
Like the webinar, most guidance around SEO is focused on “what to do,” such as teaching SEO fundamentals, implementing best practices, how to respond to algorithm updates and the like. This what-to-do instructional approach is valuable. It can, however, be made more valuable by also explicitly calling out what not to do. In that vein, we wanted to explore a few examples of how efforts to follow these four imperatives can be blunted.
Tell the Right Story
While this imperative has both external- and internal-facing implications, here we’re referring mainly to how SEO is represented internally. Like any organizational function or initiative, SEO competes for resources. Faithfully telling the right story begins with an orientation toward the dynamics of competing for limited resources: first winning the needed buy-in from management, whether that be budget or support from other functions like IT or content development, then justifying those investments, and finally leveraging SEO success to win favor for subsequent initiatives.
To do this successfully, it is essential to tell the right story about the initiative for the audience. Too often, we see SEO teams land on the right strategy, but struggle to win or maintain organizational backing because they don’t communicate the benefits and realities in a way gatekeepers care about.
For example, over the last couple of years, SEOs have been closely monitoring Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals can be difficult to address, because in many cases, improving them can require significant work for technical teams. While Google has made it clear what they consider to be a positive page experience, and it’s easy to show thresholds, SEOs need to demonstrate the cost of underperforming content to translate this technical need into real business impact. One way to do that is to go beyond Google’s benchmarks and demonstrate how competitors are performing for keywords you need to win. Translate this volume as a direct opportunity cost. This takes the story from being a theoretical best practice to quantifying the cost of poor Core Web Vitals.
Reduce Manual Work
The biggest barrier for most SEO execution is the volume of manual work. Even in Fortune 500 companies, SEO teams tend to be lean – sometimes consisting of only one or two people. There are countless SEO tools that help with the work, but most tools handle only one very specific piece of workflow. That reality paired with the fact that SEOs spend an average of four hours each day on research, reporting and analysis means SEOs are often limited not by a lack of sound strategy, but by an inability to scale the execution to meet the opportunity.
Automation and uninterrupted workflows are key to scaling SEO.
Examples of ways you can reduce manual work include:
- Eliminating manually-produced PowerPoints where possible and moving teams to dashboards that can be rendered automatically at regular intervals in a CRM system or platform like BrightEdge
- Leveraging task systems like Jira to manage workflow and integrating them with platforms like BrightEdge to automate work assignment and documentation
- Automating drumbeat SEO tasks such as internal linking with platforms like BrightEdge Autopilot
When we talked about telling the right story, we talked about how competing for resources extends beyond getting initial buy-in. It includes ongoing communication about SEO results and effectiveness. For just about anyone outside of the practice, however, SEO reporting can seem overwhelming at best and inscrutable at worst. Especially damning for a lot of SEO reporting: it often does not make clear, easy-to grasp connections to the metrics each audience is interested in.
An easy way to simplify communication is to automate dashboards. You can design these for unique teams so each dashboard tells the necessary stories for each and then automatically distribute them before meetings with that team. This not only saves the SEO team the trouble of creating a unique report or readout for each meeting, but it centralizes the data sources teams are looking at creating a single source of truth for the organization. This ensures the dimensions, cuts of data and the nomenclature across teams are consistent, making it easy to move in the same direction. As teams engage more readily with the reporting, organizational consensus and support for SEO initiatives becomes more solidified.
Practice Flexible and Agile Execution
SEO does not happen in a vacuum. Its success depends on the changing tastes and behaviors of search users. Updates to the search engine’s algorithm can suddenly and dramatically tank high ranking pages. Changes to the website orchestrated outside of SEO can change SEO fortunes overnight. It’s important, then, to treat SEO strategy as a living, breathing thing. This begins with robust monitoring including anomaly detection and it requires a mindset that not only expects surprises but prepares for them and builds in procedures to handle whatever course changes arise.
A recent instance where this could have been critical is reacting to Google’s Vicinity Update in November. We know from the output of that update that locations that heavily featured keywords in the title tags, especially locations that weren’t actually as close to the person as others, lost visibility. This update helped Google eliminate spam from the results, which is beneficial to the user, but if a company lost visibility in results due to this, they need to be ready to pivot quickly to the changing landscape. This may include a change in the paid strategy to run air cover against these losses or a pivot in strategy to rebuild that visibility in regular web listings. Regardless, being flexible and agile enough to shift like that requires teams all looking at the same data and seeing the impacts in a similar fashion to develop a winning next play.
Certainly getting the strategy right is the first important step in SEO, but execution is central to seeing the strategy succeed. Coming up short with any of the imperatives threatens that success. Sometimes this means an initiative never moves forward, but just as commonly the initiative progresses but is hobbled in some way either with an inability to properly scale, a cut-rate budget or limited access to needed internal resources.