The State of SEO roundtable: Key takeaways
We recently hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic of the State of SEO. SEO experts from Arcadia, Dixons Retail, Vouchercodes.co.uk, Premier Inn, Thomas Cook Airline Group and Disney joined us to discuss the challenges they face with getting SEO done and the approaches they have taken to overcome them.
During the evening we chewed a lot of fat, but here are the key takeaways for me:
An SEO’s remit is much wider than it used to be
The role of an SEO has changed significantly and now requires them to collaborate across many departments, working with Paid, PR, UX, product and the website user-journey to name a few. The importance of SEO is increasingly being recognised within the business, therefore the influence they hold is also growing.
It was also clear that an important part of an SEO’s role is to educate the business on SEO and build solid relationships internally, which I’ll delve more into shortly as I feel these areas are deserving of their own section.
Whilst these additional responsibility bring with them more challenges, it also makes the role more interesting according to Diego Puglisi, Group Search Marketing Manager, Thomas Cook Airlines Group, “I feel quite lucky by working in SEO, because I think it’s one of the most complete channels and now with usability it makes it much more interesting.”
Education is key to growing large scale SEO
Educating the business was an underlying theme throughout the conversation. “A lot of it is to do with education and partly showing the business the value that online brings, which there are obviously challenges with”, said Amish Mehta, SEO Manager for Dixons Retail.
Our experts shared tried and tested methods to the way they approach education. SEO is on the programme for every new employee at Premier Inn, “everyone had a crib sheet on how you write for SEO and we follow up with regular training” revealed Naz Mehrzad, their Head of Search. The group agreed that while it’s still hard to get SEO done, getting the C-suite involved was the quickest way to succeed. “As soon as you get the people on top on-board then budget and responsibility follow”, Naz added.
It’s not just a case of educating your business though. Educating your SEO agency, so they understand where they can add value and understand the business pressures and restrictions, was seen as just as important.
Building strong internal relationships is vital for success
The majority of SEO’s still have to rely on other people to make changes for them, so building strong relationships with other internal teams is crucial to getting SEO delivered.
The openness of other teams and willingness to collaborate makes a huge difference, but it’s fair to say that SEO is often an after-thought when it comes to new or big projects. The norm amongst the group is that it’s not until 6 months down the line someone asks what SEO thinks. On a recent project within his company, Naz discovered his CX team were including SEO requirements into their first sprint, “I almost had a heart-attack when they asked me!”
Taking his developers for a beer goes a long way in Diego’s experience. A great piece of advice in my opinion!
It’s all about page-level reporting
It’s no longer about keywords. SEO has moved away from that and now it’s about page-level reporting. “You look at how your website performs and it’s down to pages and how well a certain page ranks, so being able to identify traffic to those pages is fairly important. I’m very much in the mind-set that page-level reporting is the way forward and the correlation between keywords and pages is even more important” was Amish’s view.
The importance of having the right data & tools
It’s difficult to show incremental value to the wider business and that is part of the challenge with SEO. “If you work in retail it’s very much a numbers game, so you need to know exactly what you’re driving and how well certain campaigns are performing over others,” Amish has found.
Having the data from analytics to be able to present that education piece is invaluable for building credibility within the business. “We use analytics on a wider business sense, very much as a form of transparency. We have a lot of KPI’s that we set up dashboards for and automate to senior management, which fuels a lot of questions and scrutiny. Through questions and scrutiny you can address concerns and build relationships, trust and buy-in”, shared Jack Adams, Senior Manager, SEO at Vouchercodes.co.uk.
Given the reliance on other departments to do work for you, if you have the tools to make changes yourself it gives you back control of your SEO strategy. “Wherever possible try to give yourself the ability to make the change” advised Ryan Hawkes, SEO Executive at Disney.
To sum up, I’m buoyed to see that SEO is far from dead. In fact the roundtable discussion proved to me that it’s very much alive and will continue to evolve and change over the coming years. New challenges will be presented, while many of the old-school ones that continue to throttle the full potential of SEO, will begin to have less impact as SEO technology and processes catch up with Paid, Social and Affiliate channels and put control of SEO back in the hands of marketers.
Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to what was a lively and fascinating discussion.
You can watch the State of SEO roundtable discussion below or view video highlights from each topic.