Have you ever struggled to bring senior business stakeholders with you on your SEO journey?
That’s what we're going to be discussing today with a man who after seven years in general SEO now specializes in app-store optimization. In his last role, he built an SEO team from scratch. Plus, got all the senior stakeholders on board with him. He's the founder of SEO Londoners and an SEO community for Spanish speakers living in the UK, and he offers his expertise as a consultant over at luisbuenoseo.com. A warm welcome to the In Search SEO podcast, Luis Bueno Tabernero.
In this week's episode, Luis shares five key steps to building an SEO team from scratch, including:
Build your strategy
L: Hello, David.
D: Thanks so much for joining us. As I said in part of the intro, you moved from more general SEO into app-store optimization. So why did you do that?
L: It’s not such a weird move, as there are not so many people there as in SEO, but basically one of my previous roles at a company called Photobox, I started to jump into ASO and to me, ASO is a bit like how SEO was like five, six years ago. Everyone is moving to mobile, we know that in SEO, but there are more people interested in both Google Play and iOS that are starting to build new functionalities and new features. And I think it's an interesting field to jump into now and to be one of the early adopters, to try to be one of the first to specialize in it. But this is interesting too because it's constantly changing the same as SEO. It has the same things as what I was interested in SEO. It’s not like I abandoned SEO, I still do my projects and other things. But it’s definitely part of the future. Everyone now has a mobile, especially where I am now in a gaming company. It is quite interesting how they do things in ASO.
D: I've dabbled in ASO a little bit in the past. I've been involved in podcasting optimization as Apple podcasts and to a certain degree that's ASO as well. And I know that from a podcasting perspective, a lot of it is optimizing your show title, and your episode title and trying to encourage people to download the episode within the first 24 hours. So a lot of initial download metrics. Is that kind of the same with ASO?
L: Yeah, it is kind of similar. You have different fields you can target or optimize from the basic metadata. Similar to things you do in SEO, just finding the right keywords. The thing I see in SEO right now is that Google is so clever. They look for semantic keywords, they look for relations, and they had a new update about quality content. ASO is not so well developed so I'd say it's a bit easier in that sense. But it has a lot more focus on conversion optimization with all the creative, something that probably in SEO, you touch a bit with UX, and maybe you can do some conversion optimization too, but it's probably more for other specialists in the company. In ASO, it is for the ASO specialist to figure out strategies, and see where you put the message in the different screenshots. It’s interesting. It’s a new field that keeps expanding and keeps evolving.
D: Yeah, that makes sense. Because if you're ranking high in the App Store and you're not converting, i.e., you're not getting people to download the app, then you can understand the various app platforms de-ranking a particular app if it's not converting into downloads. Maybe we should park that particular conversation because that's a conversation in and of itself. Perhaps we can have a future discussion just solely about ASO. But today, you're going to be covering the five steps to build an SEO team from scratch and convince your stakeholders that SEO isn't black magic. Starting off with number one, build confidence.
1. Build Confidence
L: So all of these come from when I worked as an SEO manager at The Capital. I guess that happens to many people who arrive in a new role in SEO. That's usually because the stakeholders realize that organic was a huge part of the business and they were super interested but probably the SEO wasn't taken care of in the past. So you start from not a great point. In terms of building confidence, what happened to me is that you start the job, and even if you've done the interview, and obviously, your manager or the people who interviewed you, the marketing director in that case, know that you have the knowledge. There is going to be a lot of other people and a lot of other stakeholders, you need to convince them that you are you're a good fit for the role and you know what you're doing. And there will be people who maybe have some knowledge or worked a bit before the other SEO people. And there were others that maybe read some articles about basic SEO. So you really need to show them what you're going to do, and what they are going to get.
One of the first things I try to do is to explain to everybody that I talk to a basic SEO presentation about what is SEO, and what are the three main pillars that I consider, a contact, technical, and link building. And maybe if you can give a few examples about your company, and how you are doing in those three pillars, but at least for them have a bit of basic training on what really SEO is. Because some people heard about it, but not everyone really knows how it can affect the company.
The other thing I think is interesting is to go to different team meetings and get to know them, but also show them how SEO can help them out. If you go to the brand department, show them some branded traffic, and how that is affecting them. Go to different departments and then try to see okay, I can help you with that. Or maybe show what insights you can get from SEO analysis. This always takes time but understand the situation of where you are as soon as possible to be able to explain to stakeholders as they will have high expectations. But if you show them that we are here, we didn't take care of SEO for a while or we haven't worked much on certain areas, this is what we need to improve on, and this is how long it is probably going to take to improve it. Then as every SEO manager does, he starts creating an audit and a backlog of things that you can share with other teams to give them a better idea of where you are. And finally, have a report as soon as possible. Because if you jump into a new role or a new company, they already have their weekly or monthly meetings, you are going to be there and you need to start commenting about the SEO results as soon as possible. Even if it's a bit of a basic report about maybe just their organic visits or simple data from Google Search Console. I try to build a report as soon as possible to start participating in those meetings and adding value to that.
D: Number one is to build confidence that you can assist other departments in your organization. Taking us up to number two, manage expectations.
2. Manage Expectations
L: Yeah, that's the big problem. From my experience and talking to other SEOs, that's probably where we lack a bit of background. Generally in SEO, we are usually very analytical people, very good people with data or a spreadsheet. But compared to other professionals or other departments, we don't usually have such good skills in terms of managing people or convincing people and that's key when you are the head of SEO or an SEO manager.
The main message that I took is to lower the expectations of how quickly SEO is going to give results because there is a classic comparison with the performance marketing channels that you put money in and you will have visitors straightaway just by increasing the money you add in there. But SEO is not about that, it really takes time. I found a good video that is actually coming from Google that says SEO takes between six months to one year. So I put that message in all my presentations, especially at the beginning. It was great that it was said by Google because when I say it doesn't sound as good. That was the first matching message.
Then the second one depends on your industry. But a company as big as The Capital was playing against big competitors. That's the other thing you need to compare in terms of the message. The more competitors you have and the bigger they are, the higher the difficulty. If you haven't worked in SEO for a while you can’t expect quick results. You can expect some quick wins, but you need to be aware that there are other people that have been working SEO for a while and your competitors are doing a good job.
Related to that is to say that SEO is a zero-sum game. It’s saying that I'm probably good or I'm expecting to be good at my job but there are SEO managers that are very good. And if they rank well, that means that I need to jump into the first position and move them so they will be second. So it's kind of a constant fight against the knowledge and the strategies of other people and also the resources of other people.
And the last kind of trick is not a trick but a strategy to make sure when you do a comparison, you do the right comparison. Because if you're a small business and you compare it with a big one, you need to also show them the number of resources they have, the amount of employees they have, how big its SEO department is, how many new URLs it created in the last month or year compared to how many you can create. When you do a comparison, make sure that you do the right comparison or at least give context to that comparison, because they will always have a list of competitors that they will show you and they will tell you how much traffic is. But you need to make them understand that there is a context behind that.
D: I love that idea of yours of getting third-party validation for how long the SEO is going to take. Actually getting Google to say SEO could take a year here. And obviously, everyone's heard of Google. So whatever Google says must be right. But it's good to have a big brand like that backing up what you're doing, it manages expectations. And it actually reminded me of handling objections, like good sales departments know how to handle customer objections, they know what kind of objections customers are likely to share along the path to perhaps becoming a customer and to a certain degree, training other departments internally. It is about understanding potential objections that they've got, which could be about misunderstanding what SEO is about but could also be about the fact that it might take the excess time up from them. And they might not want to be involved in SEO at all, because they've got so much to do themselves.
Again, a topic in itself. But number three is to build the strategy.
3. Build the Strategy
L: Not, unfortunately, this is basically what they hire you for. But this usually comes too early because it takes time in every company, especially a mid-medium size big company to understand exactly how the company works, what are your opportunities, understand the other teams and stakeholders, and who is going to help you. And that's important when you build a strategy because as an SEO, you don't work by yourself, you need to trust in other people and other resources.
But still, the first thing that stakeholders will want to see is the strategy and the roadmap. So to build a strategy. I split my presentation or my document in different parts. The first one is to have a North Star goal which is the main goal you want to achieve. Obviously, you will have different projects and different goals inside, but I just use one and it's usually about the traffic. For example, we want to use the SMART methodology. Be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, we want to achieve an increase of 10-20% of non-branded clicks in the next 12 months. We know it’s useful because you can always refer to that during the year to understand how you are progressing. And that's also a good measure, even if you don't get it. The North Star goal should be ambitious, so you don't get it, but it's something to move towards.
The next thing to include in your strategy is the message that it's going to take a bit to get the results, about six months to one year. And the next one will be a roadmap to see the different stages you're going to go to. The first one will be an analysis, then see if there are any quick wins that you've identified and you can get as soon as possible to start giving results. And then you will jump into different projects like technical things or projects in the content you need to work on, the type of link-building campaigns, etc. That will be the more medium-term to long-term projects.
And the next stage in the strategy will be to set the goals for each of the big projects. I usually set between four or five main goals that you will review during the year and inside of each of the goals, you will set some KPI or some metrics to measure that goal. For example, one can be that we need to increase the non-branded traffic in a specific category because we know that is an important category for the business. How we are going to do that? We will increase the number of blog-related articles, we will earn X amount of backlinks, and we will review the metadata. We will do that for all four or five big projects of the company.
And the last one, which I think is important, which again goes back to the idea that you don't work by yourself, is to reflect the dependencies and the blockers you have. It's important for a stakeholder to understand that we need to change something technically, and we need to have a developer do that, or at least to collaborate with them. And that means that they will have their own backlog roadmap. So we need to be aware in terms of timing. And the same with content, PR, and backlinks.
D: Regarding the North Star goal, not only does it help stakeholders and help them understand and make SEO a little bit more simple by having one common objective, but it also helps SEO stay focused because many SEOs like getting distracted by too much technology and there are certain stakeholders that you don't want to get too technical with because you're going to turn them off so that's a wonderful way of doing that. This brings us up to number four, your resources.
4. Your Resources
L: So once you have an understanding of the projects you need to work on, the next thing is, what do I have to work with? If you are alone, you need to start thinking about what are your resources and tools. Apart from understanding what type of SEO tools you have, you need to ask yourself things like, "Do I have an SEO agency that can do for me maybe more boring or repetitive jobs?” Or what is the time I can use from the developers especially if they have some SEO in their goals because that means they will be more open to help you. Another good point is how much content I can produce, especially now with all the quality of the content on big e-commerce websites where you need to repeat the content of your pages.
5. Your Team
And finally, what is your team? What do you need exactly? Because it may be that you have a brand team or some copywriters that can help you. Then you will need a specific copywriter for SEO. It may be that you need more a link builder for that or something more specific and technical. Or for example, at The Capital, they also work with local SEO, so you will need a specialist on that.
The Pareto Pickle - Optimizing Your Category Pages
D: Absolutely. Let's move on to the Pareto Pickle. So Pareto says that you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What's one SEO activity that you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?
L: That's a tricky question in SEO because there is nothing with a little effort in SEO that you get a lot. But I will say just review the content you have in your category pages for e-commerce. That usually gives you results. Making sure that content is optimized, and make sure you answer user questions. I find that relatively easy to do if you have some resources internally to write new content and it will give you results.
D: I've been your host, David Bain. Luis, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO podcast.
L: Thank you, David.
D: And thank you for listening. Check out all the previous episodes and sign up for a free trial of the Rank Ranger platform over at rankranger.com.