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What is Your Company’s SEO Strategy?

What is Your Company’s SEO Strategy?

Do you have an SEO strategy outlined somewhere that doesn’t start with some list of tactics? 

It’s high time we talk about what SEO strategy is, and why so many very large well-known brands are without one. First, let’s define the term strategy, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary: 

Strategy: a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result

The very first words in the definition “a plan..” that’s right! What is your company’s plan to increase the success of your SEO program this year? The answer should never be: 

Our SEO strategy is to build a new tool to integrate schema across our thousands of our site’s pages. That is a tactic, NOT a plan. 

It still frankly amazes me, that in this year 2019, I still encounter countless SEO teams, clients and others who simply have no earthly idea as to how to establish and manage an SEO Strategy. 

Here’s a direct quote from a well-known US based telecom company, when asked about their biggest SEO challenges  “Well we have a few (marketers),  where some are seen as the subject matter expert in SEO, whether they are or not – we are paying more for (paid) search because there’s no seo strategy. We have no repeatable method to get it done.”

Let’s Start with Why. Why is there no SEO strategy in place? 

The number one reason there is no SEO strategy is because the senior leader of the SEO program simply has not constructed one. He/she may be really great at mastering technical SEO tactics, like no one’s business, but when it comes to establishing, and delivering an actual SEO strategy, they are lost. 

This is not something that’s taught to SEO practitioners. This is why SEO mentorship is so critically important to the growth of the SEO in their career. You either gain the business experience through years of managing SEO programs in-house or through great account management within a digital search agency, or you go it alone, and no one questions you. 

Chief Marketing Officers for some odd reason don’t feel it necessary to develop a cohesive and all encompassing digital marketing strategy. At least from the experiences I’ve had over the last 15 years. I have yet to see anyone within a very senior level position mandate an effective digital marketing strategy that incorporates all digital marketing activities including SEO, Paid Search, Social Media, etc. 

Many SEOs barely know how to lead and manage an effective SEO program in-house. You might ask yourself, how would they? There’s so much they may not be able to fully grasp from being entirely responsible for the organization’s SEO traffic and results to educating the organization on best practice, and the IT/developers on what they should or should not do from an SEO standpoint, to developing a business plan to acquire more resources to support their effort.

What you, the SEO specialist/manager/director should do to develop an SEO strategy

First, you have to know what your company’s primary annual objectives and key results are. Every business no matter how small or large, has outlined their primary goals and objectives for the year. 

How can you take what that CEO says and translate that into your SEO strategy? 

Here’s a framework to help you build your SEO strategy.

  1. Gather the facts: What does the business need this year in order to achieve its goals/sales targets, etc? 
  2. Vision: Establish a vision statement. Integrate that vision as you build your plan and be the one to communicate that vision out to the rest of the marketing team, and the organization at large. 
  3. Market: Determine the market segmentation and targeting
  4. Competition: Find out what the competitive landscape looks like
  5. Define the strategy: Increase brand awareness to a new product offering, or improve discoverability of the least visible product category that leads to an increase in sales. 
  6. Outline the SEO tactics involved: Develop new content within that product category for a specific part of the customer journey. Conduct UX testing, reconstruct the navigation menu, and increase internal linking to that product category. These are all great examples of a tactical list of things that will ultimately support your SEO strategy. 
  7. Measure: Always measure your results. Communicate what you’re measuring, and always include your original KPIs set within your stated strategy, so that when you share your performance, it aligns with what you originally set your strategy on.

Avoid This Situation After Q1

It’s January 3rd. Welcome to the brand new year, and its the first quarter – now you’re ready to get started on the newly developed SEO strategy you worked so hard developing last month before the holiday break. 

Then…. this happens…

You’re told something goes horribly wrong. The development team decided to rearrange a few sub folders and didn’t redirect them properly. Now the traffic that was not an issue a week ago, suddenly is a major concern. Two days later, your walking down the hall back to your desk, when someone from product strategy walks by and says, “hey did you hear, we’re launching our new product next week – the pages are all done, and our sales people are getting the word out ahead of the launch. Did you need to do some SEO or something sometime soon?” 

Now the original strategy you developed, worked so hard on last month is completely derailed and it’s only week one of the first quarter.  

Guess what that might do to your SEO strategy for this year? 

Better question to ask is this, how do you handle those urgent requests when you’re trying to get the plan you’ve been communicating to the organization off the ground? 

How many professional SEOs who’ve ever worked in a large enterprise organization has ever had to deal with these kinds of situations? If you are an SEO and you’re reading this, I can bet anything you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

If you’re an executive overseeing the SEO team – here’s reality as to why your SEO program goes off the rails. 

Focus your time on prioritization and sticking to your plan

Of course you’re going to have to make sure you work with the development team to right those URLs into the right redirection and yes, product team SEO must be included in your discussion around product launching and what those new sales pages should include, and where they should live, optimization from start to launch. 

The best way to approach your job as an SEO overseeing a very large (hundreds of thousands of pages, products, services) is to prioritize your life. Every quarter, month, week, and day should be scheduled. Treat your work as if you oversee this entire SEO operation for this company….because YOU do. 

Thinking back to your original SEO strategy you developed back in December again. Once you developed that strategy you more than likely went back in and established a roadmap of milestones you needed to hit. Those milestones include some level of SEO activity, and work that has to be completed in order to accomplish your goals for the year. 

Rather than getting overwhelmed by it all just focus on the big picture stuff first. “Begin with the end in mind.” Franklin Covey quote always helps here. By the end of the year you need to see growth in something. Back it up, what needs to be done in order to successfully accomplish that goal? 

Let’s use a very simplistic example: You want to increase organic visitation to one of your company’s products that lives in a very specific category on your site. 

What do you need to do in order to accomplish that one goal? 

Look at the existing content in that category. Conduct a content audit, and gap analysis to determine what in the buyer journey currently exists? What is missing? Is there way too much bottom funnel, or ready to buy content, but nothing for those visitors who might not even be aware that their problem you solve exists? 

Has there been a persona development analysis established for that particular product group? If not, is that something you or your sales team can do? How much time would that take? 

Developing the new content, reviewing with the product team and then publishing the content. How that new content be shared with other digital marketing channels? What is the social media team’s editorial calendar and when can you make sure you coordinate with them to get that content built and ready for them in time? 

Have you run a baseline in your analytics to see what that product category is doing right now from a traffic standpoint? Have you built out a dashboard that will show your performance over time? 

All these tasks should be carefully project managed because you will always have SEO fire drills that go off at some point in the year, and as easy as it is to tell your CMO at the end of the year that you failed to execute your SEO strategy because all these other headwinds got in your way – is really not a good excuse.

Start Now – Show Success by Q4! 

The best time to get ahead of all your work is by setting aside some time each month dedicated to just planning. I like Fridays for this kind of activity – especially summer Fridays when most people take off early.

As I write this it’s near the end of July – more than the year is half over and maybe you’re thinking – this is a great idea for December, but it’s July how can I get my SEO strategy established now and show some success by end of the year? 

Take the next available Friday and map out one thing you absolutely must do to prove your SEO program is a success by the end of the year. 

Then build a plan – what will you do for the remainder of Q3, and what will you do in each month of Q4 to achieve that one thing? 

Make sure you buffer in time to deal with those urgent issues that do crop up, and for the love of God please don’t stop what you’re doing because Google has decided to make an algorithmic adjustment. Those happen far more frequently now than at any time in the history of search so just focus on executing your plan, follow best practices, and find time to educate other internal teams to do the same. 

The day to day of any SEO professional in-house is no easy task. No one ever said this work is simple. It’s complex, it’s about being a good project manager, a diplomat in your organization and a teacher to many who might have little to no patience for your enthusiasm for SEO. 

Focus on what you need to help your organization achieve whatever its key performance goals are – avoid getting side tracked or being persuaded to change or alter your strategy. This is where your leadership and expertise is most important and where you will ultimately become successful at what you do. 

What do you do to maintain your SEO strategy? Let me know in the comments below. 

What do you need help with in architecting your SEO strategy? 

7 Best B2B Lead Generation Strategies

7 Best B2B Lead Generation Strategies

In an attempt to help you, the marketing executive, too busy to find good resources, I’ve compiled a best list to help you get what you need without reading through hundreds of search results or filtering through tens of emails.

This list is very specific to lead generation strategies, trends, tactics and hacks. I’ve compiled a round up over the last six months to share with you.

Pick and choose those strategies that resonate best with your organization and share with us your results.

1. Have Good Conversations as Often as Possible

Never rely only on one-directional communication such as website, blog posts, and videos. Try and have a real conversation with your prospects as often as possible.

If your user asks about a feature in chat don’t only offer a link to a knowledge base, offer a 10-minute call to walk them through. This will offer you yet another possibility to sell.

If you are emailing with your lead, offer a video call. If you are in a video call, offer to meet. Try and get closer to your leads every time you interact with them.

2. Use Marketing Automation

Are you already collecting email addresses? If not, you need to fix that as soon as possible.

When you have a source of new email addresses you can use marketing automation to nurture them and earn more data on your lead. Once they have progressed in their purchase cycle with your marketing automation, sales can pick them up.

Use data to segment your customers to send as relevant messages as possible. Never send the same materials to a new lead that you would send to your old customers.

3. How To Optimize Your Content for B2B Lead Generation

There’s some great information here. I particularly like that she talks about top, middle and bottom of funnel strategies. Here’s one that should not go unnoticed. “Another way to make your content more visible in search is optimizing each post, and page with on-site SEO best practices.” 

I like to point this one out is because many of the B2B sites I come across seem to have this piece missing from every page of their site. Maybe you rely on word of mouth, but that really can only go so far and there will be a point of diminishing returns. You need to optimize the content your prospective customers are looking for. Here’s a link to the original article from Alexa. 

4. Three Trends in B2B Buyer Behavior and How to Generate Quality Leads by Addressing Them

One of the best lines in this article “75% of B2B buyers said it is very important that the vendor’s website present relevant content that speaks directly to their company.” Doesn’t surprise me, and you should be seeing a theme by now, that is content relevant to your target, and well optimized should be part of your overall marketing strategy. Link to the article here

5. Chat With Your Users via Live Chat 

Yes, this really is a great method for connecting not only to B2C audiences, but it’s also very effective for B2B. Even though you’ve used precious time to try to ensure that all content on your website is relevant and all possible questions have been answered, some visitors just can’t find what they are looking for.

According to studies, 42% of customers prefer live chat for their customer support questions, while 73% of those who take part in a chat are happy with the results.

Most live chat tools collect email addresses, so again you can combine this tactic with tip #5 in this list.

6. With video blogging you can find new audiences quickly.

Have you ever tried using video, specifically YouTube as a piece of blog content? Just know that you are losing leads. Some of your prospects like to read, some like to watch videos. You should be providing for all needs.

Use all possible channels to multiply your reach to generate leads from new channels. You can even consider translating your content to widen your reach. This is something I’m absolutely going to be implementing very soon – hope you’ll be ready for some serious YouTube stuff in a few weeks.

7. Content Marketing 

Yep, you heard that right. Content marketing gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise while building relationships with potential customers at the same time. Being able to answer user questions or share new insights with them will build trust, and they’ll see you as more credible as a result. 

8. Create Resources For Your Potential Customers

Whether its a whitepaper, checklist, or some really valuable resource very specific to your potential customers, sharing something they could find useful is a great way to build a relationship and trust early on.

If you attempt to apply just a few of these ideas, your bound to see an increase in your targeted visitation and sales requests. That’s not a guarantee, but applies once you remain consistent in deploying sound best practices in your online marketing program.

What are your most popular lead generation methods?

Let me know which you’ve tried and which worked for you.  

The CMO’s Guide to an Effective Governance Framework

The CMO’s Guide to an Effective Governance Framework

In recent years I’ve met many CMOs and other senior leaders of marketing teams within some of the biggest known brands regardless of industry or location. Each seem to inquire about this one area. Governance.

Why is A Governance Model Critical to Your Marketing Operation?

Because what occurs without it is chaotic and confusing. What’s worse is that without an effective governance and well-defined direction, you may lag behind your competition precipitously. 

There are many moving parts that must occur in each of your digital marketing channels. Take content production, which may be a separate delivery center from your SEO or web development areas, should always be in sync with what those best practices are. Content marketing team lead decides they need to develop a new page of content for the new product launch. They decide to get started and begin building out the new content. 

The problem arises when the following questions might need to be asked:

Does legal need to be consulted? Does the team need additional training to properly optimize in their new CMS? Has the SEO team been consulted on URL structure, information architecture placement? You can imagine the long list of other details and as your team and those surrounding it grows, so do the list of stakeholders, tools, and so on. 

In just the last year, I’ve met with two very different types of business. One, a fairly large Canadian bank, and the other a top three telecom company. The challenge was to figure out how to get their teams aligned, adhere to current industry standards, IT, analytics, and sales all in line and find a solid way to get things implemented. Their internal SEO teams were also being left out of the entire process as well, leaving any recommendations out of the integration process.

Where Do You Begin? 

It starts by assessing your current digital maturity. Most organizations do not have a defined set of standards, little or no documentation or defined processes and ill conceived strategy with mismatched KPIs across teams. 

Depending on your organization, your digital marketing team may not be widely recognized as a formal discipline within your company. If that is the case, your role in establishing governance and a DCOE is going to be very important to the progress of the organization.

There must be a consistent experience globally. If you’re an international brand, you’ll likely encounter many complexities including shared processes, best practices and standards from APAC, EMEA, LATAM, and NA, all requiring you to have this in place so that everyone works from a consistent script. 

  1. As you evaluate your digital maturity, look to see if you’re finding lots of inconsistencies across your website pages or other sites associated with your brand. 
  2. Is your social media handled from the bottom up; making for a fragmented or confusing user experience?
  3. Are you using leading edge technologies to support your digital marketing efforts?
  4. Is there an effective method to evaluate these tools?
  5. How do you evaluate each of your marketing activities to ensure the cost, impact, and overall success of each campaign? 
  6. How often do you find your cross functional teams not sharing or leveraging one another to work in a coordinated and efficient manner? 

Some of these questions will help you determine your need for governance. If you find you’re headed in that direction, I invite you to read on. 

What does a digital governance framework look like? 

Here’s an illustrative view of what one of our client’s governance model might look like

bartoli consulting group digital governance

Starting from the top – in the Headquarters area, you might have in place Brand Strategy, Media Strategy and a Global Marketing Strategy in place, but I’ve found many missing program sponsorship. 

Program sponsorship, generally the executive stakeholder, who sponsors or backs the process, the digital marketing programs, and oversees their efforts in getting the necessary attention and visibility each requires. 

This person(s) is key in making sure nothing is missed or overlooked, or ignored. The SEO has a swim lane, and all recommendations are implemented according to priority level and effort. Content is integrated within all digital teams, connecting calls to action, social media editorial calendar, and IT’s publishing timeline. 

Under the HQ level is the Digital Center of Excellence. A layer just as important as the one that precedes it. If you have no area where innovation, goal setting, performance monitoring, and best practice including industry standards lives, you’ll be met with chaos.

The Subject Matter Experts

Having a subject matter expert (SME) that can speak to each of your marketing activities and  who can oversee all process, standards, tools & technology are set for the company globally, will also make things run more efficiently. 

Related Supportive Resources:

Getting Granular – The Future State of Your Governance Framework

In order to greatly impact the direction and future state of your programs, you may want to shore up your program by including the following components, which you’ll see in many governance planning

  1. Process & Collaboration – This seeks to instill a culture of building and sustaining a world-class (SEO, SEM, Analytics, etc) program with programmatic learning, skills development across the organization
  2. Skills & Training – Bridging the skills gap. This is what enables your team to remain current, and ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition. Define ownership, governance, and management of all digital marketing activities for that particular discipline, i.e. SEM, SEO, etc
  3. Measurement – In order to maintain and support your strategy, you must define and maintain KPIs to measure the effectiveness of that marketing program, and its contribution to business imperatives. 
  4. Technology – Allow for use of the most efficient, leading edge technologies to support your program will ensure your program becomes the most successful it can be. Avoid shortcutting or underspending in this area, as it will under-resource your team and provide for lackluster results.

seo governance

Recently, our team has been working directly with a well-known ecommerce client, and we’ve devised a version on this theme. There is a need to focus on all four areas, however, as we work with our clients, we develop a very customized framework. 

Not all teams are built the same. This particular client has an off shore engineering team that has been operating within its own silo. They are in need of training ongoing, as well as restructuring to understand that the SEO team, based in the U.S., should be the ones governing the SEO program. 

There’s quite a bit of work on their end, as I’ve helped roll this out with them, but they will be far more efficient and successful once they pull it all together operating as a unit. 

If you need any help in developing a governance framework for your organization – fill out the form below, and someone from our strategic account team will connect with you to discuss how we can help build an efficiently run governance model for your business.