Check our new video blog series as we break down everything you need to know about SEO.
Catalyst’s team of Organic Search Directors, William Álvarez and, Eric Mandell, bring you tips, tricks and insights for all things SEO. On their second episode, William and Eric discuss how to look at SEO as a digital marketer, where to start with setting realistic and achievable campaign goals, and how to measure them.
00:10 William: Hello, digital marketers. This is another session of Breaking Down SEO with Eric and William. We want to continue some of the topics that we anticipated in our first conversation in areas where we think you’re gonna find value of the organic search channel. And we always have some interesting questions from our clients, based on our experience, that we think are unsolved, and we think that we can provide some guidance on them on your daily practice so you can leverage SEO in a better way. So without further ado, I’m gonna give Eric the lead. He’s gonna have a series of point of views that I will attempt to complete after each one of the statements. And as usual, you can leave your comments in our video on the YouTube channel. You can approach us offline or via our marketing channels, and we will collect that information to provide you with further information in future discussions. So without so much more to say, Eric, please take it away.
01:33 Eric: Sure. So today what we wanted to discuss was SEO for senior digital marketers. We wanna talk about the different things that we think are important to them. And we may even cover a few things that we think maybe they should avoid. So the first thing that I think… To kick it off, I think the most important thing to a digital marketer, to someone at the senior level, should be the goals of the website. One of the things about a website is that you really need to know what the goals are, what the business goals are and what the website goals are. And this is something that you really have to…
02:18 Eric: I think that this is something that you have to speak in tandem with your SEO. If you’re working with an SEO agency, you need to speak to them about it. Make sure they align. Make sure that those goals that you have are actually being recorded, they’re actually performance metrics that you can find on the website itself. So for instance, some of the goals… If you’re an e-commerce company, a goal might be conversions, how many sales you have. It might be revenue. Even if you’re not an e-commerce website, you might be… The conversions or calls to actions might lead to revenue. So you have revenue. There’s traffic is really important, or it could even just be actions that people take. For instance, if you’re a blog website, maybe you want more people to sign up, sign up for the newsletter or sign up for the blog itself, that type of thing.
03:18 William: And Eric, excuse me, I interrupt you now, but this has to do with the fact that digital marketers are bombarded all the time with a lot of information, and we realize that there is only certain amount of information that you should be receiving and thinking about, versus other things that are a distraction in your daily practice. You have to look at the fact that sometimes you’re being asked about how much SEO you should know, how much details about the practice you should know, like changing titles or evaluating performance, etcetera, versus core business objectives and the role of the channel. Is that correct? That’s what we’re…
04:08 Eric: Yeah, that’s exactly it. I believe that when you’re at the senior digital marketing level, I think that your focus really should be on the goals and the performance of the website. There are certain things like maybe, like you said, metadata. Of course you wanna get… If there’s a tech audit, maybe you wanna see an overview, an executive overview of that type of thing, but I don’t think that you should be getting involved in the details. If there’s 533 missing meta descriptions, I’m not sure that you need to get in the weeds of that and figure out which ones they are and that type of thing. You should leave that to the people that specifically are making the SEO recommendations on your team and the people that are implementing them. That should really be with them, but what you should know about it is… Well, on the last tech audit, there were 535 meta-description issues. Now, we’ve just had a… That was three months ago, we have a new tech audit. How many are there now? You should be keeping track… Making sure things are on track and performance is going up. And based on that, you’re gonna wanna know the performance. So I think the goals and the performance are very closely related, and you need to make sure they’re both going in the right direction of the business itself and of the website.
05:34 Eric: So for instance, you would wanna set up objectives or targets as well. I think this is something you should be heavily involved in. Depending on where you are, where your website is trending now, whether the traffic or the conversion or whatever goals that you’re looking at, is it trending down, is it trending up, is it just even? You wanna make sure… You wanna be able to keep track of that performance and figure out where you should be. So say, either monthly, quarterly… I think quarterly is probably a good idea, looking at quarterly performance. You should look at performance every month or as often as you can, but actually comparing it. We all know that SEO takes some time, so when we make implementations, search engines still have to crawl it, have to index it, do all that. And then there’s some time to actually measure the performance itself. So having… Just as soon as something is implemented, that doesn’t mean it changes traffic, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change anything until search engines actually index that and put it in the search results.
06:52 William: So one key takeaway I’m seeing here is you have to have goals and objectives, ’cause a lot of the times we face problems where the business owner or the website owner doesn’t have an idea of what that looks like. And even though they have web analytics tools in place, they are not looking into that correctly. They don’t know why they are doing SEO. It’s sad to see that there are businesses that are doing SEO just by sitting a team in their office, but they’re actually not acting upon that. So beyond asking how we’re doing in terms of visibility, traffic conversions, you also have to, as a senior leader, take action towards the things that are needed. Even though you don’t have to know all the technicalities, you need to be an ambassador for that team in order to make changes on the website, to procure the upward trends that you wanna see in your stats. And you have to…
08:06 Eric: I think what you’re saying is they have to be involved in the strategy itself. What is the strategy? First of all, your first point is coming up with the goals isn’t always easy, especially for a website that’s not e-commerce. If it’s e-commerce it’s easy. It’s sell more products, right? But if it’s not e-commerce, if it’s brand recognition or really anything else, you always have to go back to why does this website exist? If you truly don’t have an answer to that, maybe it shouldn’t exist. But you know your business relies on it, and why does it rely on it? That’s what you have to get to the bottom. That’s how you know what your goals are. Why does the site exist? Why does it need to be there? Now you have got… If you can put that into one or two sentences, you’ve really got your goals.
09:00 Eric: Then you have to come up with… I think this is what you were getting to, you have to get to the strategy phase. Now we know what the goals are, what do we do on this website to meet those goals? And one of the things is to create objectives for those goals, and now put together a strategy, whether it’s a content strategy, whether it is a conversion rate optimization strategy. There are some websites… And this is the part that I think senior marketers should be involved in is, do we get enough traffic already and is it just not converting? If that’s the truth, then you need to look at the website and find out why it isn’t converting the way it should.
09:47 William: Now you mention that, I think defining the goals or a specific timeframe, should be like an omnichannel approach kind of thing where you see what is my contribution from email marketing? What is my contribution from digital advertising? What is my contribution from affiliates? What is my contribution from SEO? And base your goals on that. And define certain expectations for each one of the channels, which is quite usually also happens or maybe… On the same lines, I see that some website owners and brands see that the majority of the traffic comes from search and then they set all their expectations there. But there’s something that we call in our industry, the share of… Are you getting your first share of search?
10:50 Eric: Right.
10:51 William: That is the thing.
10:52 Eric: Share of voice. Yeah, agreed.
10:56 William: It is a share of voice. But are you at the right levels of conversions for the audiences that you manage, the amount of product that you offer, the industry that you work on. Are we one on the right track? How are we in terms of pacing to be a leader in the market?
11:22 Eric: Competitors. That’s a really good point. You have to be aware of your competitors, too. Which also makes me think of… You have to be aware of search results. What type of search results? It’s almost as important to know where you are. It’s more important to know where you aren’t compared to your competitors versus where you are. One of the things, you brought up multi-channels and we know that senior digital marketers don’t just do SEO. They don’t just do social. They don’t just do email. They do all of it. And that’s why I was trying to… That’s what we’re trying to work in and give these marketers an idea of what they should be looking at, specifically to SEO. So they don’t care about all of the minutiae that they might be concentrating on, and maybe they shouldn’t because it’s probably someone else’s job.
12:17 William: And that has to do with the transformation that the world have come to, more recently, and how certain changes have adapted to that. When I think about… In my old days of traditional marketing, we would work on CPG with the people who work on trade marketing, who are dealing with merchants to see how much shelf space we could get at the tip of the shelves, at the top, at the registers, to touch consumers in every aspect. I’ve been seeing that Google is trying to play the role of the shelves on their search results pages by allocating more video, more high resolution images. It’s more intuitive. It’s a magazine, like an interactive magazine. It’s no longer, like we say, the ten blue links, but in the head of a digital marketer, a senior decision maker, they still don’t see that. And they don’t see why there are some budget allocations that need to happen, like extra resource allocation, to bring that to life for their brands.
13:44 William: So like you see that Google is investing more and is bringing more video content upfront in the search results pages, then on the brand side, we need to make everything happen so we can have our representation of our brands and our products on the search engine results pages. And in addition to understanding the goals, to be an advocate of those initiatives on the brand side for that to happen for your brand. Because yes, it’s not any more the ten blue links that you used to see in your report from… I don’t know, so many years ago. So there’s a lot of things happening there, that we think senior marketers are not seeing when they ask for their reports, when they sit on a table. And I’ve had some pushback in some situations where they say, “This is really cool, but we have other goals.” Well, all those goals go together with the cool things that are happening right now in search.
14:47 Eric: Right. They are. And you have to be… One main piece of advice I would give digital marketers, is do some search, put your keywords into a search engine and see what comes up. To what you were saying, there’s lots of cool things happening in the search results and we have to work with that. That’s what we’re trying to do with organic search, with search engine optimization and website optimization, we want to get at the top of the results. Those standard URLs that you were talking about, those standard results are at the bottom of the list now. Now you have all of these featured results.
15:29 William: I’m seeing search… Where there’s like ten results with ten videos. So, what are you gonna do about it?
15:36 Eric: Right. You’ve got to create a video, you gotta compete.
15:39 William: But also the more we find, the more specific search queries become behind some kind of intention from users, I don’t know if your pages, your category pages are ready for that. You know? And Google recently presented their innovations, in terms of how are they gonna show result, how are they gonna rank pages, how artificial intelligence is taking over more and more in their different algorithms, to score and show information that is really relevant. Like a few months or for the past few years, we’ve been talking about, improving the quality of the pages. It turns out that now they can figure, what are the high quality pieces of a long form piece of content. And they can extract that and simply show that passage, as they call it, from a page.
16:46 Eric: Right.
16:46 William: So, yeah. It’s more than that. And you have to allocate resources and people and training in order to get there. Because otherwise, you’re not gonna meet your goals.
16:58 Eric: Got it. I think that the next thing really that we should talk about is the way people are actually using the website and I know we talked about this in our last episode, which was user experience, customer experience. These are also things that, if they’re optimized, if the user experience is good, if the customer experience is good, you’re going to increase your conversions or your goals and performance on all channels. So you mentioned multi-channels. Any channel that ends up on your website, which could be social. A lot of times what you’re doing on social is putting a link to your… A blog post or a product that you have, it’s all gonna end up back on your website. Any conversion optimization or user experience optimization, customer experience optimization, this is all going to affect the bottomline of what you’re trying to do. A rising tide lifts all boats, is the way we say it. If you optimize a website for users and it works better for them, if organic search conversions start going up, all of the other channels, you’re gonna see a lift in as well.
18:35 William: There’s something about that, that intrigues me, which is the frequent discovery by people who are heavily involved in search, without the marketing background. Because that’s something that you would assume, something that we learn in our school programs. Like, how to think about marketing, how to provide experiences, customer service, how the different channels work, how advertising work. And there seems to be like a process where a website on the campaign is stalled, because the people who are behind them, are not thinking like marketers. Because they started on the technical path of things and then they ignore that. And then they have to learn through the process and then they get in late for what they have to do. It’s just like experience is something that you should do, regardless of search. It’s an experience that you are offering on the site. And it has to do with how we can disrupt industries or experiences with search.
19:58 William: A few years ago, we were talking about how Netflix displays plug buster experience, how… I don’t know, Amazon disrupted the way that we buy books and stuff like that. And at some point, while working with a car maker, they were trying to figure how is it the automotive industry is gonna disrupt that experience? Based on what we saw from Google in the past couple of days, they’re already working on bringing those augmented reality experiences to search and to the websites so they can cut the cord with… I don’t know, maybe the dealers. Maybe they understand now that people won’t be able to work inside the dealers all the time and get that experience first hand. So now, you can play around with the model of the car on their desk, put it in your garage, see how it looks, change the colors, all those things. And that is a marketing experience that doesn’t needs search to get there, but then search is a component at the end. So think as a marketer first.
21:21 Eric: Good. I think another thing that we really have to hit on when we’re talking to senior marketers is implementation. And the reason I’m bringing that up… Really, what I’m talking about is resources. Resources, I know in your experience and my experience, you can make the greatest recommendations but if they don’t get implemented on the website, it’s not going to affect anything. I think that is one of the main… That should be one of the main criteria for senior digital marketers is making sure there’s a process of getting the recommendations and getting those recommendations into the right hands of people and having those people… Having the right people to do it, to get it implemented on the website. So I know that there’s challenges with that sometimes. Sometimes you just don’t have enough people and maybe it’s only… Maybe there’s only two or three people that are trying to do 100 different things, not just from SEO, but the web developers or the administrators are taking orders from all these different avenues or channels to do that.
22:43 Eric: So you have to create a process, and that process has to work with whoever is doing the SEO recommendations, whether it’s an agency or not. You have to make sure that they’re giving you the right type of recommendations that can actually be implemented on the website, and you only know that by being involved in that process. So I would say it’s important for you to be involved in that process and make sure it’s streamlined and make sure it works. Find the problems, the bottlenecks. Find resource limitations, there might be technology limitations. Sometimes… I’ve worked with a company that they are global. So they have… Their website isn’t… They’re marketing in several different countries, 200 different countries or more, and their CMS didn’t allow them to put href link tags on the pages. We had to work around that. We did work around that by putting in the XML site map, but that was a major limitation and that was a major failure. That was a cause of… There was a lot of friction. Results were coming up in the wrong countries, so we corrected that.
24:09 William: Do you think that there are marketers and brands who are not aware enough of the implications of executing on a SEO program? Let’s say they know they want to do SEO, they know they need it, but once they started it, they don’t know how much more they have to invest in terms of resources to make that happen. Like as consultants, we provide a lot of research and we provide reports and we provide POVs, and we make recommendations, but after that, there is more that needs to be done on the brand site and that takes extra money. If it’s content, you probably want to have an inhouse studio, or you have to hire a certain number of freelancers, or you have to hire editors and writers. There is so much more that happens that needs to be part of your plan since the beginning, not wait until you’re gonna work with an SEO program and then figure out that you don’t have enough resources to make your implementations. That’s not how it works.
25:28 Eric: I think that has to be… That’s why I think the digital marketer has to work that out upfront and work that in. If they are working with an external agency, work it out in the scope. What are we going to need to implement this? And then work with that. I think your question is, originally you were asking… Your question is, is it possible that some companies aren’t really ready for an agency, or big SEO, or optimization type changes? I think I’ve seen that. I think I’ve come across that, they had bigger plans than they could actually execute on. There’s going to be a level that every company can execute on. So maybe, it’s initially just hiring a freelance consultant where you’re doing just a few things a week or a few things a month. Once you build it up and you have the resources, that’s the right time to actually hire a team or start hiring in-person people. But that’s what they… I’d say, that is the role of the senior digital marketer, to figure out what resources they can afford to give to the optimization piece. I agree with that, yeah. You get sometimes a bottleneck or just an issue.
27:06 William: So, a big mistake that I also see, is when you’re in an industry that’s been enjoying top visibility for very soft keywords, and you think like the power and the threats of the brand is so good enough that you’re gonna remain in that place for a long time, and then you sit on your lap and then you re-prioritize everything in SEO and you allocating resources correctly to maintain that position. And then once of a sudden, search engines realize these people are enjoying that position, but they don’t deserve it because they’re not doing anything. They are adapting with all the things that we’re doing, and then overnight you’re gonna lose it all.
28:01 Eric: Yeah, you can have top positions in a certain market for a really long time, but Google change their algorithms all the time, and they’re looking for different things. They’re looking… Search engine’s job is to find what they think their users will suit them best. So what they think their users… And by when I say their users, when someone types in a query that is a search engine’s user, that’s their customer right now, and they wanna give them the best results. So if they see that there’s this up and coming competitor, that people are clicking on more than you, even though you’re in first position, they’re clicking on their stuff more, they’re gonna get that top position. And to your point, you can’t get comfortable. You have to keep working at it. You have to make sure that you stay on top. And that’s generally the experience, like you were saying, it’s the content. It’s making sure that you’re satisfying that customer. I would say that, just like I said in the last video, is… You really need to focus on the user and your user’s intent. Don’t get too comfortable because you’re gonna have competition, everybody has competition.
29:21 Eric: And at some point, it’s gonna catch up with you. And that’s why you need SEO, that’s why you need research, that’s why you need analysis, and that’s why you need to stay on top of your performance. You need to look at your monthly and quarterly performance reports and make sure that, if you do see some failures, if you see something where you’re falling short, you gotta address it, at the top level moving down, at the higher picture… Look at it. Start drilling down, why is this happening? On the other hand…
29:56 William: There is a session that I would like us to have in the next episode which is, do you need a SEO? Because I see a lot of marketers saying we don’t need SEO. Why do we have to do any SEO if there are other channels that perform perfectly? And then we SEOs come and say, because you’re not making this much money, you’re leaving a lot on the table if you leverage this channel. But I think that is a topic of another conversation that we can have in the future.
30:29 Eric: Yeah, yeah. I think… Yeah, we’ll definitely have that conversation. It reminds me that commercial, there’s like an internet speed… An internet commercial where he says, in terms of being faster, what’s better? Being faster or being slower? And it’s like in terms of being successful, what’s better? More success or just staying where you are or less success? Of course, it’s more success. So, yeah, we should definitely hit that topic. I think if I can close out, the one thing that we also have to look at, even though we have to keep an eye on our failures, we have to keep an eye on our successes, too. Success, if we find success in a strategy, we have to work at that. We have to expand that out to the rest of the website or other pieces of the website and keep looking for that success. So we wanna find out what’s moving the needle and do more of that. So just like we wanna find out what’s falling short, we wanna find the things that are doing well and continue doing that.
31:39 William: Yeah, my closing statement will be proactive. I immediately don’t think about SEO as a long-term process, even though it is. You need to be agile and make decisions soon that are gonna impact that long-term process. So don’t wait till the end of the fiscal year to think about whatever that we recommended, just make changes accordingly, as soon as you can. As soon as you can, you’re gonna see results sooner as well and are ready for that.
32:21 Eric: Yep, trust your SEO, implement quick. Well said.
32:26 William: Thank you, Eric. Until next edition. 32:31 Eric: Thanks, William. Bye bye.
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