The team at BrightEdge is gearing up for another epic Share conference. Share 14 is all set to, once again, be the must attend digital marketing conference. It all starts on August 20 in San Francisco.
In the run up to the event we’re connecting with many of the worlds leading brands, and the speakers we've invited to Share in order to get a sneak peek into the topics that will be discussed at this year’s event. I caught up with Lauren MacPhail, the director of SEO and organic content at Macys.com.
Lauren and her team are responsible for increasing the organic reach of Macy’s within the online space through content creation and technical SEO consultation. I chatted with Lauren about the change SEO has seen in the past year, where it’s headed and how content fits into it all. Enjoy.
The SEO Landscape
Andy Betts (AB): How much has the SEO landscape changed over the last year?
Lauren MacPhail (LM): Over the last year, there have obviously been significant algorithmic changes that altered the course for many SEOs. Between Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin, many companies have had to completely change the way they approach optimization.
The largest impact has come from a few key areas:
- Analytics data. The ability to track keyword performance within website analytics used to be the cornerstone of both proving SEO success and identifying new opportunities for optimization. Many SEOs had moved away from relying on SERP rankings for success in favor of a more conversion-driven approach. Secure search changed all of that by forcing SEOs to put more focus on ranking and start examining page performance with a greater level of detail. While many see this as a positive change, it has had the largest impact on SEO analysis and reporting in years.
- Linking to content. We’ve all seen the shift over the last year away from guest posting and “link building” strategies toward “content marketing” strategies. The reality here is that both can be good or bad, depending on the intent.
- SEM marketplace additions. The rise of PLAs, both on desktop and mobile, and the redesign of paid ads on Google have shifted both the real estate breakdown of the SERP and the average customers’ perception of paid vs. organic. This has affected click through rates, and possibly the rank needed to get high visibility in the SERPs.
- Mobile shifts. While mobile rankings used to mirror desktop, that has obviously changed. As more and more search traffic (and traffic in general) comes from mobile instead of desktop, there is increasing pressure on SEOs to optimize the mobile experience. This means everything from intent analysis to performance to content serving, which tends to be outside the wheelhouse of the typical SEO.
AB: How do you see the space evolving over the next year?
LM: The one commonality between the algorithm changes Google had made is the user experience. As the search engines get smarter, they are trying to mimic what a user might analyze as quality, both in terms of linking and content. If they haven’t already, SEOs need to start thinking like good marketers – “What does my customer want? What would best answer their questions? What does my customers’ journey look like?” On the other end, I feel like SEO has gotten more technical than ever, and the landscape is changing quickly, so the need to keep up is imperative.
AB: Any tips to share on adapting to rapid change in the market?
LM: Keep an eye on mobile, and the technology that’s evolving those experiences. We’re at a fork in the road regarding mobile, and both users and the marketplace needs to choose – app or website. The answer to this will impact everything you do going forward. Also, and this seems like a no-brainer to me, stop trying to fool the search engines. Adapting is far easier when you’re not backpedaling and apologizing for bad choices.
The Content Marketing Shift: Optimization, Measurement, Performance
AB: How are you aligning your content and search optimization efforts?
LM: We’re creating a system that ties together keyword ranking performance, conversion information, customer demand, and market interest in order to both inform new content decisions and measure the efficacy of existing content. This has been a work in progress as new technologies and tracking tools have allowed us to connect the dots.
AB: How critical is measurement of content in your organization?
LM: It’s extremely critical. Yes, we’re big, but like any organization we have a finite number of resources available to create and maintain content. Ensuring the content we’re supporting is effective is key to both internal buy-in and external successes. We’re constantly working to fine-tune how we measure content success and adjust our priorities accordingly.
AB: Tell me more about your view on the convergence of content and SEO – what are the challenges, and what advice can you give?
LM: I’m obviously a huge believer in truly “organic” SEO, meaning we are simply helping the search engines to surface the best, most relevant content that our customers are searching. The challenges of this content-focused approach fall mainly within scale and measurement.
Creating great content at scale has been the topic of many blog industry blog posts recently, which have all failed to find the silver bullet. But nothing worth doing is easy.
Measurement is the other major challenge with the content/SEO integration. Content marketing tends to hit the top of the funnel, which means you get less direct conversion metrics in the traditional sense. You end up having to create new “conversions” around engagement, sharing, and increased latent relevance and educate your organization about the value of capturing top-of-the-funnel customers.
About Lauren's Session at Share 14
AB: Tell me more about your session.
LM: In this session, I want to explore how the SERP has changed over time and the struggle that has created for the industry. Many of the outcomes that were seen as “successes” in the past don’t have the same efficacy, and as marketers, we’re having to adjust to the new landscape.
I’d like to examine the factors involved in the change: algorithmic changes, device mix, searcher intent/sophistication, and how the search engines’ marketplace agenda plays into the mix.
AB: Why Share? Why do you attend?
LM: Share has such concentrated focus on only the most innovative and holistic SEO strategies, and it draws a crowd that is nothing short of obsessed with this type of organic integration. The passion of the speakers plus the great networking conversations mean a value you’re hard pressed to find at some of the broader industry conferences.
Macy's Partnership with BrightEdge
AB: Tell us more about how you leverage BrightEdge.
LM: BrightEdge is the cornerstone of our SEO measurement and optimization strategies. Particularly since the release of Page Reporting and the Data Cube, my team uses the tool to track optimization efficacy, content targeting, and competitive movement. In the past, the issue was always, “We don’t know what we don’t know,” but the Data Cube has started to solve for this, giving us greater insight into our blind spots.
AB: What do you love about BrightEdge?
LM: I love how quickly BrightEdge has adapted to keep up with the changing industry. Algorithmic changes and new technology keep the SEO industry in a constant state of flux, and the speed at which BrightEdge has been able to adapt to meet our changing needs has been nothing short of extraordinary.
I also have to say, the partnership from our BrightEdge team has been key. My team is known to be demanding in their innovation, and our account and development teams at BrightEdge have answered their needs perfectly.
About Share14 The Worlds leading brands converge at Share14 to share insights, case studies and best practice on the content, search and social media landscape. Hear from over 50 marketing leaders - from companies such as Google, Bing, Microsoft, Adobe, YouTube, 3M, Hilton, Marriott, Home Depot, Best Western, Salesforce and SAP - and network with over 1000 digital marketers set to attend Share14. Tickets for Share14 are selling very fast so don't miss out, capacity is limited.
Stay tuned on the BrightEdge blog for more speaker updates and interviews with Google, Bing, YouTube, Marriott, Hilton, Experian and many more over the next few weeks!