As the overlap between search and content marketing continues to grow, company executives increasingly are seeking solutions that bridge the two disciplines. That means we as online marketers face the task of establishing company goals and KPIs, and then communicating them to different stakeholders within the company. In terms of iterative feedback, mutual support and shared projects, search and content marketing must work together to succeed. Respective workflows make all of our lives easier and our campaigns more successful. We also have to ask ourselves if we really want to discuss rankings and visibility, or simply point out to management our contribution to brand voice and brand awareness.
At Searchmetrics, we firmly believe that feedback from our customers is essential to our shared success. It requires having honest conversations with those who work with our platforms, which we believe explore the frontiers of search and content marketing around the globe.
Following up on a panel at a recent internal event in which some of our customers discussed current trends, topics and challenges in the world of SEO and content marketing, we would like to share some insights into a state-of-the-art digital strategy.
How does SEO interact with other departments and especially with Marketing?
Colin Guidi: “SEO interacts with other departments in various ways – however I’ve found that it’s best when you’re able to”bake in” the SEO process within the overall process. Let’s say you’re an eCommerce-based business and you have certain workflows internally. At a certain level, those flows might internally begin with product research, then inventory/warehouse management, website/copy updates – probably in a development environment. And finally, you stand up your product live on your website.
Within that entire flow, there are several teams involved as touch points to finally stand up a web page and serve that product to end-users.”
5 steps to integrate (SEO) data into your content marketing workflow
“Specifically within the marketing department, SEO needs to be integrated in the entire content marketing workflow, from discovery and creation to monitoring.
- Content Discovery: To find out which topics matter to your customers, perform keyword research with your SEO team on a regular basis.
- Content Scheduling: Leverage SEO expertise to control the release of content and create an editorial calendar. Especially for eCommerce companies, covering topics based on seasonal search volume can account for quick wins regarding traffic and conversions.
- Content Execution: Tackle the creation of the content with SEO best practices in mind.
- Content Promotion: Fuel the promotion of your content, leveraging SEO and multi-channel awareness campaigns
- Result Monitoring: This involves measuring results and the effectiveness of your optimization efforts with SEO tools and incorporating your findings into your content strategy, beginning with topic (or keyword) research.”
Björn Beth: Overall, SEO is an interdisciplinary field within a company, and it should interact with every single department. Therefore I would focus my answer to this question on just the most important point: IT & Product and/or the editorial Team (if you work for a content heavy website only).
Especially with the marketing department, SEO interacts in many ways. One typical example: If marketing wants to generate organic traffic on campaign landing pages, these should be optimized for organic traffic acquisition. Structurally, content-wise, and technically. If not, landing pages should be excluded from being indexed and sometimes crawled, because those campaigns can generate a lot of URLs and sometimes duplication. You don’t want to deal with this. SEO and Marketing should therefore sit together prior to every campaign to discuss goals and strategy, and to decide how to set a campaign up.
IT Department: Development should be aligned with SEO to make sure that every new release is compatible with SEO efforts and goals.
Product: The product department is one of the most important departments that SEO should be aligned with. New features or innovations should be discussed with SEO beforehand, to make sure they are compatible with the goals of SEO. This avoids having to fix stuff after release.
Editorial Team: Take a news website, which is heavily dependent on content. Here, the editorial team should be taught how to write and structure articles in order to be found by search engines. SEOs can give regular workshops on that topic.
“SEO can often be part of the marketing organization. However, the core importance of SEO and Marketing is to focus on performance. SEO must work with many departments including product, analytics and marketing. These departments ensure that SEO standards are implemented and measured.”
Which issues are frequently addressed by stakeholders along different levels of hierarchy?
Colin Guidi: “Brand voice is commonly addressed by various stakeholder groups within larger organizations. Brands with various LOBs (lines of business) can have stakeholders who want content to sound a certain way. This is more true of B2B SaaS companies, who typically want to brand products with a certain name and only speak with on-page copy that reaffirms the branded naming convention of the product.
The issue is that online users who are in their discovery phase don’t yet know that this [non branded] product has a brand name associated with it. The search volume, which translates to the interest of the user for the brand product. just isn’t yet there.”
Björn Beth: What I learnt during my career is that issues mostly will be addressed when it is already too late. Releases just happen without informing all important stakeholders (SEO is just one of them) and this causes stuff to break. Be it that analytics tracking isn’t working anymore or important site elements are missing afterwards. I have experienced entire domains being completely “noindexed”, Robots.txt files were replaced with old (archived) versions or site maps weren’t stored correctly anymore. SEO in most companies is just fixing, no pro-active solution-oriented thinking is possible. Every SEO should try to change this within their organization, immediately! (Spoiler: The next section might give some ideas on how.) In general you can say:
- Managers: Addressing issues when they got pressure from their direct report, or KPIs they are looking at are heavily impacted.
- C-Level: Addressing Issues when KPIs are heavily impacted, or an issue got escalated to them.
- Directors: Addressing issues when roadmaps are blocked, or KPIs are heavily impacted.
- Product Owner: Addressing issues when roadmaps are blocked or something is broken.
Jordan Koene: “Different levels will address or own different responsibilities around the topic of SEO. Starting with entry level SEO stakeholders, you will see many tactical efforts like keyword analysis or ranking reports. As you move higher in the organization, you will see a focus on business performance metrics. Executives in a company want to understand how SEO creates value or revenue.”
What is your advice for other online marketers in terms of addressing SEO topics?
- During my time as a Head of SEO for Switzerland’s biggest Marketplace, “Ricardo Group“, I had weekly meetings with our product owners. During these one-on-ones, we discussed the product roadmap and I was able to give my advice (from an SEO point of view) on upcoming releases regarding the compatibility with SEO. At the same time, we also discussed SEO topics and what we were planning. These meetings were highly valuable for both parties, because SEO was in the loop regarding product updates and innovations, and the Product Team was not only receiving SEO consultancy, but were also well informed about our plans. The nice outcome is that even the Product Team can help you to reach your goals. A homepage, category or product listing page is always owned by a Product Owner. Your requests usually focus on exactly these pages. You’d better be friends with those guys.
- If your Marketing Department has an annual marketing plan, get into it and plan your SEO efforts alongside this plan. At Ricardo, our Marketing Team were building a campaign around the yearly open-air festival season, with the aim of driving traffic and sales to suitable categories, such as tickets, camping and fashion. We as as the SEO Team were supporting Marketing and building a festival planner, (a microsite with a database in the background where the user could filter by different music genres, prices or destinations to find open-air festivals fitting to their filtering in the German-speaking part of Europe). With this, we were boosting ticket sales for those festivals. We also used it to promote (internally linked with nice graphics and content around it) different categories on our platform, like wellington boots, tents, sunglasses, everything you need for a nice festival weekend. Guess what. Marketing was even happy to give us budget for it.
- Take part in your IT-grooming sessions. An IT Team which is working with Scrum methodology is sitting together regularly and estimating the effort for tickets for the upcoming sprint. Take part in these meetings to understand what is planned. If anything is planned which is controversial to your SEO Strategy, you have the chance to address it here. If anything is planned which is supporting your efforts, you can give advice and therefore add stuff or improve tickets etc.
- Regularly go to lunch with your most important stakeholders in the company and always be nice and respectful to everybody. This helps a lot too 🙂