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The Executive’s Guide to Positive ROI from SEO – Doug Bell // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Developing strong content marketing and SEO strategies are key to long-term success of your marketing team and ROI. Join host Ben for the fourth episode of CMO Week as he interviews Searchmetrics’ Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bell on operational tips and the tactics needed to drive positive ROI with SEO.

Summary

  • Lighthouse data published by Google is one of the best ways to see if your site is performing up to par or underperforming.
  • It’s important to have in-house content and SEO strategists present before bringing in an outside agency to help your business scale effectively.
  • If your SEO specialist doesn’t have the appropriate power and control to influence your core product and content strategy, your company and brand is unlikely to successfully grow.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to SEO for CMOs Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering what the head of your marketing department needs to know about SEO. Joining us again for SEO for CMO Week is Doug Bell, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. Today Doug and I are going to continue our conversation to discuss operational tips for driving positive ROI through SEO. Okay. Here’s the fourth installment of SEO for CMOs Week with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. Doug, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Doug:               Happy Thursday, Ben.

Ben:                 Happy Thursday. We’re crushing SEO for CMOs Week. We’re almost to the finish line. It’s time for us to give some actual useful information. We’re going to talk about developing content marketing and SEO strategies that are actually going to drive positive ROI. Searchmetrics works with a lot of large companies, enterprise scale companies, some of them that have content marketing assets, some of them that don’t. Talk to me about how you and Searchmetrics advise companies on how to actually drive positive ROIs. What are the operational techniques and tactics you need to use to make sure that your SEO efforts are successful?

Doug:               I think, Ben, the best place to start is some diagnostics, right? How do we help CMOs and companies to understand whether they’re over or underperforming? Shall we start there?

Ben:                 Fire away.

Doug:               Okay. First thing we tend to look at is how is your site performing, right? Site speed is a super simple way to look at that. If you are underperforming your competition or whether you’re underperforming just basic standards and time to first paint is typically something we talk about. Don’t worry, CMOs, don’t flee for your off button for this. Understand this is something that’s easily gathered by an SEO or by a member of your digital marketing team. It’s published by Google, easy to grab. It’s called Lighthouse data. That’s one thing. What that should be able to do is to point you to whether or not you have a high or a low performing site. If you have a low performing site, it’s very unlikely your content is going to be rendered or judged well by Google. That’s one thing we look at.

Doug:               The second thing is, what’s your share of the market? This is versus, again, direct competition. We use the metric SEO visibility. There is a TAM. What percentage of the TAM are you acquiring, right? Then finally borrowing from performance marketing, what’s your cost per acquisition? Especially, what is your cost per acquisition relative to your competition? If it is higher than your competition, there’s opportunity there because frankly they’re taking advantage of some good SEO tactics and strategies.

Ben:                 There’s three different components here. One, a technical component, how is your site actually performing? Does Google actually consider your ability to render and serve content to be up to user’s expectations? The second is, what is the percentage of market share that you have? Then, are you able to actually use the channel to effectively drive revenue? Doug, missing from the audit portion of your way to help CMOs is any sort of evaluation of the content. Talk to me about how Searchmetrics is advising and viewing content and figuring out what needs to be produced. That seems to be a big part of the puzzle.

Doug:               It does. Ben, we talked earlier in the week about very much almost Bible and verse understanding your buyer’s journey, right? What I would say is that there are so many ways to slice the proverbial content pie, if you will, that I don’t think there is a good single measure to being able to evaluate your content performance. Really, what’s embedded in that SEO visibility, or share of TAM for SEO visibility, is this idea that if you are not performing as well as your competition, there’s probably something wrong with your underlying content strategy. If I were to take a step back and say, gosh, Doug, you have to give me a number, what I would typically do is to say there are tools out there that allow you to measure your content on a page level. One of the best tools I think is the Searchmetrics Content Experience application. It does a wonderful job of this, but there are applications out there that will help you, on a piece by piece basis, measure your content score.

Ben:                 I think that the good news for SEOs who have invested in a content marketing strategy and they’re just not seeing the optimal return is that often you can make technical changes, right? You can improve your site speed, the deliverability of your content, how much of it Google is actually going to soak up and interpret. Then the second thing is you don’t actually have to always be producing new content. There is optimization of your existing content, and at times actually deleting old content can have a significant impact on your performance getting reorganized, right? Your internal linking structure is a very important aspect of SEO as well. Another important aspect here is who’s doing the work. Talk to me about how you advise CMOs to staff up, invest in people and management of SEO and content marketing as a channel.

Doug:               Yeah. The metaphor I would use here is building a house or building a building, right? I think that the architecture is half the battle, except that in this case with this already tortured metaphor, you’re constantly rebuilding the house, right? The rules are changing, if you will. In that case, your architects, your content strategists and your SEO strategists need to be in house. Start there, right? I think frankly, overpay for that. I think the mistake that CMOs make, understandably, is they start by outsourcing this to agencies. I think that’s a great way to scale, but effectively, if you’re going to build this beautiful building or this beautiful house, you’re going to want to have the architect in house. You’re going to want to have that person, frankly, working alongside of your content strategist, this is the SEO strategist, and then go from there. Outsource content, outsource design, outsource it all, but make sure you’ve got those two key positions in house.

Ben:                 I think that this is one of those aspects where you can probably move quickly by hiring an agency. You can get up to speed as opposed to building the internal horsepower to be able to develop a content marketing engine, a SEO engine. The problem with that is you’re setting up a toll booth, right?

Doug:               Yeah.

Ben:                 You’re going to consistently need to rely on your agency. That kind of takes the point away from developing this type of channel. One of the things that’s beautiful about SEO and content marketing is that you can invest early in the channel and see incremental value from that content the longer that it is in existence. You don’t have to always pay for it. Now if you’re constantly relying on an agency, you’re paying for that content every single month. I think developing the in house talent and capability and using agencies to supplement, to grow, to augment your strategies is the right direction to head.

Doug:               Yeah, I think we could extend that a bit more, Ben. Again, it depends on the size of the organization, but I would say the same for your website development. I think right now we’re unintentionally speaking to CMOs from smaller organizations, but if you look at the bigger organizations as an example, very rarely will you see them outsourcing their product, in other words, the website. Incredibly rarely would they be outsourcing their architecture. Very rarely are they outsourcing their content strategy. They may look for help and advice, but those are kind of central core competencies for the SEO’s function.

Ben:                 Doug, there’s a philosophical approach to SEO and content marketing that’s very important as well. Every in house SEO that I’ve ever met feels like in part, their job is to be an evangelist in the organization to get the other people in the engineering team, in the content marketing department, and also the performance marketing department as well, to think about SEO with what they’re doing, to optimize their pages, to optimize their content, to figure out what content they can syndicate that’s going to help the entire machine function better. As you’re thinking about operational tactics, how do you build in the notion and idea of SEO and content marketing into the fabric of your marketing team?

Doug:               Well, first let’s talk about symptoms that would indicate that in fact you’ve taken the wrong tact when it comes to talking about, which is how much control does an SEO have? I think the trap that CMOs fall into is this idea that the website is a separate entity from the content strategy, which is separate from performance marketing tactics. If you look and you say that you have SEO evangelists, you’ve already failed, right? Ben is speaking to what typically happens, which is those SEOs are constantly trying to bridge this connection between the product, in other words, the website, the content strategy, and their own SEO tactics and their ability to promote that content. They’re constantly evangelizing for very good content practices, very good website performance, very good SEO tactics, right? If they’re evangelizing, you’ve got a problem.

Doug:               What you really want to know is that number one, you’ve got a SEO, let’s call it SEO architect you spoke about earlier, in house, who has some level of control or a great deal of influence over all of those aspects. If they are trailing, in other words, if they are somebody who’s trying to keep all these things together, in other words, herding cats, you’ve already lost. Does that SEO have the appropriate power and control to influence your core product and your core content strategy? If the answer is no, you’ve already lost. I’m speaking the truth here, Ben. It may scare some people, but yeah.

Ben:                 No, I think that’s great advice. Trying to keep all of your marketing channels discretely separate is a recipe for failure. The more that you’re able to integrate and actually have your team function as a team and have the performance marketers understand what content you have and what they can syndicate, have your product team understand what makes SEO perform better, have your SEO team understand who the customers are and what the brand is trying to accomplish, all of those things, the more you’re able to tighten the fabric of your marketing team, the more successful you’re going to be.

Ben:                 That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Doug, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet. His handle is MarketAdvocate, M-A-R-K-E-T-A-D-V-O-C-A-T-E, or you could visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com. Just one more link I’d like to tell you about in our show notes. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to VoicesofSearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:                 Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter, or you can reach out to me directly. My personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to the last episode of SEO for CMOs Week with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics, where we talk about the KPIs for measuring SEO success, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.