SEO checklists are dead.
Real SEO progress is only found through testable, repeatable SEO processes.
At least that was MY takeaway from Search Love Boston 2016. It was two full days of great sessions that left both me and many of my attendees feeling like our brains were near bursting.
The sessions were full of new data illustrating that (depending on your industry) following an SEO checklist might actually HURT your rankings.
For instance, check out this data from SearchMetrics:
Or this related to having a keyword in your meta title:
So what do you do if standard best practices checklists won’t increase your rankings and organic traffic in our highly personalized, machine learning powered algorithms reality of today?
Having a repeatable, testing driven, digital marketing process.
It’s critical for modern SEOs to have a process of matching customer insights and personas to our online copy, influencer outreach plans. And then having a repeatable, test driven workflow that evaluates our efforts and strives toward increasing customer conversions.
Luckily many of the speakers shared some of the processes that their teams are using.
Here is my list of the top 7 Stellar SEO Processes that the speakers shared:
1. A process/framework for content marketing and influencer identification
Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive kicked off the show by speaking the gospel about the power of having structured SEO process. He demonstrated some of SEER’s internal processes which allowed them to more effectively scale their content marketing and outreach efforts.
2. Changing internal processes for direct tech SEO impact
Sometimes our SEO deliverables are slowed down by the fact that we rely on development teams to implement our technical suggestions. Simo Ahava provided great tips for how we can directly deploy enhanced markup changes by using GTM.
Grab his tips here.
3. An Integrated Process for PR Success
Here’s the pitching process she outlined:
- Determine the hook, timeliness, and whether it’s newsworthy PRIOR to finalizing your content idea.
- Find and pre-pitch your influencers. Offer their engagement in draft versions prior to launch.
- Make it easy to influencers to share with stock imagery, widgets, draft headlines for them to use, etc.
- Research each influencer and customize the pitch to them based on their style, their “beat”, what they like to cover.
- Try to find the publications that syndicate to others as that causes a nice ripple effect.
- Be helpful for bloggers and reporters and make their job easier.
- Time your launch with the influencer’s coverage of your content.
In my experience when working with exclusives (we offered multiple industry exclusives for EWG’s cell phone report) it’s best if you also time your other marketing initiatives to trigger at the same time as the publication/coverage of your content.
As Rand Fishkin mentioned related to how a burst of links can overtake your competition, I have seen that happen a few times for clients. (Though I might urge you to test your server capacity if you think you might get really popular).
4. A process for finding more local customers
Gregg Gifford outlined a variety of local SEO tactics, but also outlined a great process for using Facebook ads to mirror your client’s local target audience and find additional customers using Facebook’s look a like feature.
Here’s the process he outlined:
- Upload your current email list into Facebook
- Create a look alike audience or set up your demographic and set a map pin on your competitor’s business.
- Make sure to do a call now button.
- Then test your ads to track your conversions.
5. Process for automating keyword research
Paul Shapiro walked through how he’s developed an automated process to do keyword research for his clients.
The setup seems like it might take a bit of time, but Paul assures us that the end result is that you can generate updated keyword research for your clients in 5 minutes.
6. Creating a 90 Day workflow to get closer to your customer
Mackenzie Fogelson shared with us her firm’s focus on finding a brand’s ultimate mission and purpose (beyond sales) as a formula for generating transparent, engaging content that will resonate with their customers.
She also advocated a workflow – specifically a 90 day driven one that looks like this:
You’ll notice that baked into the process is evaluating the progress around reaching their client’s target audience by evaluating in their KPIs regularly and re-adjusting their overall marketing strategy.
7. A process for tackling RankBrain
Larry Kim’s presentation was one of my favorites since I’m a HUGE advocate of using as much machine learning software as possible to sharpen your digital marketing campaigns and cut through the algorithmic filters or ensure that your content passes the machine learning tests.
The part of his presentation that stuck with me the most was when he walked through how he believes Google is using RankBrain to test complex and confusing long tail queries. He proposes that RankBrain translates those queries into something that can be used to query Google’s database and then watches to see if the results perform in the “wild” and translations/SERP results that work are noted as “pass” and those that don’t are noted as “fail”. Ultimately he thinks (and I and many other SEOs agree) that Google is looking at CTR as a ranking factor.
Here’s the data that he shared:
He was encouraging all of us to monitor our click through rate from search and work to improve our meta titles and descriptions for search click through rate.
Here’s his organic CTR improvement process:
- Determine which are the 10% of your lowest CTR landing pages from Google organic search.
- Create 10 new “headlines” (title and meta descriptions) using all we know about great headlines which includes:
- Pick an emotional trigger
- Write headline copy from the perspective of one of these personas
- Use this title template commonly used by viral articles:
- Test those headlines by using the same machine learning that will be “grading” your organic results by running them as ads via Google Adwords. OR if those CTRs are too expensive, you can run them as Facebook ads (and can select your target demo to boot, or use a custom audience off your own email list).
- Take the one winning headline and add it to your landing page title and meta (replacing what was originally there).
- Wait for Google to crawl and re-index and note the results.
Tools for testing & streamlining your SEO processes
And a round up of Search Love Boston which highlights SEO processes can not be complete without mentioning that Search Metrics also highlighted their A/B testing SEO tool, which obviously gives you a repeatable process to follow to improve your organic results.
Additionally, Moz released their new Keyword Explorer tool which takes what used to be a multi-step, multi-tool process to find and select keywords based on SERP competition and fit and slimmed it down into a process that you can execute with one tool.
Why I’m a geek about process
There were other really great sessions, but now that I’m using my experience recruiting and training search teams to evaluate my client’s internal search processes (and then implementing new workflows and training those teams), it’s the workflows and frameworks that really get me excited.
As search marketing gets more complicated I think repeatable workflows that allow you to integrate and train cross functionally will be the only way to tackle the challenge.
Interested in having me evaluate your internal search marketing process? Contact me for a free consultation and I’ll walk you through my process.