At this point in my career, I think I’m *starting* to get old enough to where I frequently begin see the same questions crop up, as in “is SEO dead?” and it’s many variations, every so often.
Lately, according to the data, SEO, at its core is rising in popularity:
Why? Well, one theory is that earned media (as SEO is also known) is more of a cost effective channel that’s worth investing in (especially in these types of economic times where costs are rising across the board.)
If I may, I feel Search faces the same scrutiny as other enduring mediums, those of art or comedy. It got me thinking as, on this particular Sunday, I was watching John Stewart’s acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center.
It struck me because, in a way, I could see many parallels between the medium he was referring to at the time (comedy) and that of SEO.
For context, here’s the full speech.
For the skeptics who keep asking “is SEO dead” let the record show Jon Stewart Googled it (the Mark Twain award), and he said, “it’s real. It’s a real award.”
He didn’t look it up on Snap, TikTok or Insta. He Googled. Google’s Search product is still very viable and likely will be for some time.
In that regard, I’ll leave you with a few quotes that resonated with me from his speech:
The first is personal.
“You’re not your circumstances. You are not what happens to you. You are what you make of it.”
Jon Stewart on his mother exemplifying work ethic
I love this so much. Get up. Pull yourself up as much as you can. Fight on. More than what you think is in your control.
And this one relates to my profession.
His entire acceptance speech about the art of comedy is endearing but the part that I feel pertains to what I’m talking about here, specifically about SEO, starts at minute 7:38.
“What we do is an iterative business. It’s a grind. It’s work. The best amongst us just keep at it. “
I did a lot of informational interviews coming up to learn where I should go and how I should spend my time. In that interview process, someone once told me about himself in the industry, “I’m in the right ballpark but I haven’t found my seat yet.”
In a dynamic industry like SEO, you will always feel like you’ve never reached the top; you’re never really an expert. That’s a good and bad thing. Good because the pursuit of knowledge is needed in an ever changing discipline, but bad (not helpful mentally) in the sense that what you do or know is never enough.
“When you’re a comic. you look in a room and 200 seats are facing one way. And there’s one stool and it has a light shining on it. And you walk into that room and go, “That’s gonna be my chair. I’m gonna sit in that one. And you spend the rest of your career trying to earn that stool.”
<<and a min epiphany goes off in my head>>
Since SEO is AKA earned traffic, we as professionals tweak things on a website from technical to content and wait to see if Google likes it and rewards it with higher rankings.
You spend your career trying to earn the spotlight, the stool Jon is talking about in comedy. For SEO’s it’s earning the preverbal top positions 1-3 of Google’s organic listings that get the most visibility and subsequent clicks.
Jon goes on to say,
“Some nights, you don’t even belong in the club…but you get back at it because, there isn’t any fixed point in comedy where you make it or you don’t make it. It’s the journey with the greatest friends I could ever possibly have made”
That resonated too. I probably know a handful of the OG’s in the SEO industry. But it’s also the type of industry to where, if you reach out to someone openly, you’re apt to get a genuine response and/or piece of advice from those that have gone before.
Here’s why I believe SEO will never die (READ: everywhere Jon says “comedy” replace it with “SEO”):
“and there’s a lot of talk right now about what’s gonna happen to comedy…’is comedy going to survive in this new moment?’ Now, I’ve got news for you, comedy survives every moment.”
And so will SEO. Because just like we all need an outlet, humans are naturally curious. They’re going to search for answers, insights, entertainment or whatever – you name it – on whatever platform suits them at the time. The only question is (as a business), do you want them to find you there?
If so, you need SEO.
In closing, I leave you with my interpretation of Jon’s closing thoughts:
“….it’s a reminder to us all that what we have is is fragile, and precious. And the way to guard against it isn’t to change how audiences think, it’s to change how leaders lead.”
Think about that: How leaders lead.
What that means to me is that every SEO Manager or leader in an organization or individual consultant role has an obligation to try to reach the upper echelons of leadership to inform and educate them as to what SEO does and is.
It’s a marketing channel that needs to be nurtured, continuously, over time, in order to deliver dividends over the long term.
If you are someone who has a voice in SEO or is developing your own voice, I hope you will continue that message.
Lastly, as you climb, don’t forget those under you who support you or lead in to your introduction.
What an incredible opportunity! Where do I even start?
That’s 90% of what I said to myself as I sat back down at my desk inside the 14 story building in downtown San Francisco as the SEO Product Manager at Macy’s Technology after having been given the assignment from the new VP of Product to “relaunch and reimagine our user generated content experience (UGC)”…on the Macys.com homepage no less. No pressure 😉
Let’s backup a bit. It was 2019. I was just hired onto the Macy’s Tech team in the Product organization. Let that just sink in for a moment: Macy’s. The company that has produced the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade we grew up watching every year, the iconic staple of American fashion with department stores all across America – little digital me now gets to contribute to the brand’s success online.
In many ways working there was a whirlwind and toned down version of the movie The Devil Wears Prada except slightly less stylish as I typically opted for practical office attire (i.e. jeans, a blazer and riding boots) to balance my Bay Area commute and daily meetings with cross functional partners across engineering, legal, finance, merchandising, to site operations.
This particular assignment was to harness the power of the Macy’s brand UGC. Simply put, it meant tapping into the opportunities when people would upload a picture of themselves to social media platforms and tag official Macy’s handles in the post. The idea behind the campaign was to create new excitement and brand awareness around user generated content specifically through a sweepstakes component where 5 monthly winners were awarded a Macy’s Gift Card.
What I learned as a Product Manager launching a UGC campaign for Macy’s
tl;dr below are my learnings as a new Product Manager in an enterprise organization
Define the product early on, asking, “what problem is this solving? Who is it for?”
Always define an MVP (b/c that may be the only version you release).
Once it’s live, be ready to pivot and adapt to the feedback inputs from your audience (we learned that unfortunately, people don’t read. Directions that we thought were perfectly clear were still misinterpreted).
Even big brands need advertising to help educate and excite customers to action (esp. when launching a new product).
Confluence is your friend (it helps keep all stakeholders informed).
You’ll never get everything you want (don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good).
My goal in documenting some of the on-the-job experience I’ve been through as a Product Manager is that it helps others evaluate if product management is right for them. In many ways, Product is like SEO; the best way to learn about it is by doing it. Through experience, reflection and cultivating relationships with great mentors in your career along the way.
In this scenario, I was a Product Manager operating in more like a project manager capacity for a few reasons:
This initiative came directly from leadership and was time sensitive (it was a 6 month pilot where an MVP needed to be live before the major holiday shopping season. I got the assignment in July).
The build and launch process was very condensed and highly unconventional which meant that success largely meant quickly wrangling resources and hammering out operational efficiencies to support this feature.
Since it was Q3, this initiative wasn’t on anyone’s roadmap so we had to be very resourceful acquiring internal resources. There was no reliance on the broader engineering or design teams. Broadly speaking, the path to launch was to use an existing third party widget and inject it onto the homepage.
So, with a very small but effective team, we found a way. I hope my journey helps others develop their own courage to always find a way through the challenges every PM faces on the road to delivering customer-facing features.
Here’s a snapshot of the concept brief
This is basically all of the information you get as the designated Product leader responsible for bringing a concept on paper to life digitally (I guess, when it comes to a product for Millennials, who better to lead the charge than a Millennial herself?). In a nutshell, the most exciting part about being a Product Manager is that you get to collaborate with a team and build something together that solves problems and/or delights real people.
Throughout this process, it was clear to me that what we were able to accomplish together meant that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
Insight #1: What problem is this solving?
It’s nuanced but in reading the brief, you can see how those words led to this product launch being positioned as a contest. Well, come to find out, there is a definable difference between “contest” and, we learned, a more inclusive definition of “sweepstakes.” At the time, internally, we thought a contest would be the best way to create awareness and excite brand advocates to participate. It was also just the term used when giving the elevator pitch about what this product launch was all about.
Looking back, I am so glad I was able to work with an existing vendor that was experienced and patient with me. Their SOW involved drafting the sweepstakes rules and regulations and hosting the page itself. They advised me that most fashion brands fundamentally steer clear of hosting “contests” and instead opt for “sweepstakes” because that structure means the brand doesn’t have to formally define what a quality submission means.
It also allowed us to more quickly define the entry rules in three basic steps:
Put an outfit together using clothes in a Macy’s store reflecting your take on that month’s theme (no purchase necessary).
Take a picture of yourself in the outfit.
Upload it to social media and use these two hashtags X and X.
At a fundamental level, the shift to a sweepstakes structure helped to open up the judging criteria to become more inclusive. Meaning the brand could court digitally savvy, Millennial shoppers without getting stuck in defining what was and was not a quality entry.
Insight #2: Always define a feature MVP
That’s Minimum Viable Product. Why? Because, pro tip, there are always numerous external factors at play for any business and, as a result, the MVP of your feature may be the only version you have time to get launched.
One of the aspects you learn as a Product Manager navigating inside of a large organization is how much time it can take to build, iterate, A/B test, launch and refine a customer-facing feature. Especially when the stakes are high and it’s basically your job to get it right.
You also learn that a lot can change during the course of a year in enterprise orgs that impacts your team’s ability deliver. There can be leadership changes, teammates that resign or new ones that come on board etc. So, one of the things you learn when you’re leading a big product release that spans multiple months is to break it into stages, starting with an MVP.
It’s especially important to do this if your development teams are operating on a holiday e-commerce cycle that includes a code-freeze period whereupon nothing is released into production (the live site) during the major holiday shopping period between November and December. Plan to be able to launch prior to this dark period.
At the very least, if you can release the MVP of your product, you get a chance to “test and learn” to see how your product performs in the wild. More specifically, you get actual performance data on how consumers interact with your product. It is invaluable information that can inform the next phase of improvements that get released.
Insight #3: Once it’s live, be ready to pivot
I can’t tell you how many times we reviewed the copy on the landing page for grammatical errors, design, brand alignment etc. But once the page was live on the site it also never ceased to amaze me how many photo submissions we received that were against the Ts&Cs (terms and conditions).
We saw plenty of entries we simply couldn’t approve: group shots, ones with under age kids, or people leaving off the second hashtag (which was literally part of the criteria for consideration). Other submissions even had another brand visible in the picture. At one point it felt like no one bothered to click the link and read the rules.
As a team, this was a customer input where we continued to refine the copy on the landing page towards the desired result.
Another lesson learned as we rapidly approached the “now it’s live, now what” phase was defining and securing commitments from the appropriate cross functional teams to support the feature and its upkeep. At the time, we were very much building the plane while flying it which meant Product & Site Ops temporarily owned and operated the feature until a more formal BAU (business as usual) operating plan and owners were defined post holiday season.
Insight #4: Even when you’re a big brand, advertising dollars help drive awareness
This is especially when you’re launching a new product. Hindsight is 20/20 and my documentation of my journey will hopefully help secure more resources and budget for another Product Manager overseeing a similar campaign.
At the time, we had no flashy, expensive ad campaign to promote the product launch. In fact, it was launching amidst the busiest time in e-commerce, the 4th quarter, holiday shopping season.
Try as I might, all budgets across social media, marketing teams etc. were either spent or committed. I think the most I was able to get was a few organic posts from the social media team (like, 1 post per month). That’s not nearly enough volume to generate any kind of awareness for a brand like Macy’s, let alone at scale.
Here’s my point, don’t be fooled that just because you’re a big brand your customers know exactly how to participate with your campaigns. It’s also a fallacy that big brands have all this money and resources to support every initiative assigned to a Product lead. The reality is, my Product pretties, sometimes we are asked to be scrappy and resourceful.
Brand terms can drives thousands of organic visits but, a campaign that’s overly reliant on brand searches alone will not succeed without the help of supporting marketing channels to educate the consumer on how to participate. The bottom line from SEO is, search is not a demand creation channel. It harnesses and captures existing demand.
Organic traffic alone doth not a successful campaign make.
Insight #5: When you have no ad budget, at least get a link from the homepage
If I were a Product Manager that didn’t know about SEO, I might have really tanked on delivering KPIs like visits and engagement because, as I mentioned this feature was being resourced, built and released in Q3 which means there was no supporting marketing messaging to direct customers to our sweepstakes landing page.
But as an experienced SEO professional, I figured I should at least leverage the basics of internal linking to improve our circumstances. Our feature was not linked to from the main, drop-down menu (global navigation) which meant the primary link was from the macys.com homepage that received roughly 40M/yearly unique visitors. Even though data showed customer engagement decreased the farther down the page one scrolled, a link from the homepage carried a lot of search equity in the absence of advertising.
I cannot discount the help and advocacy of my VP of Product at the time here; she was instrumental in negotiating with other internal stakeholders for placement on the homepage across all devices. The initial ATF (above the fold) placement lasted for about 10 days. After that, our widget moved to the bottom of the page, BTF (below the fold). In many ways, being able to secure actual real estate on the Macys.com homepage was tantamount to ad dollars for this campaign.
Now, that, in and of itself, was by no means a wholistic SEO strategy but, in a pinch, it was an opportunity for our little landing page to receive an incredible amount of link equity because of the mechanics of how website architecture works. The alternative would have meant that the sweepstakes page would have been an orphan page because it wasn’t properly linked to from any, more authoritative pages within the site. In SEO speak, orphan pages mean no one can actually find the URL unless they navigate to it directly or the link is in another marketing channel (i.e. an email confirmation or social media post).
Had we we continued to run the campaign, I would have had to advocate for other, stronger Category pages to be internal link advocates to the campaign landing page. This would help flow link juice to the sweepstakes page that was otherwise not well linked to from an overall taxonomy perspective and also was not architected to contain SEO optimized content that could have enabled it to rank well organically.
Again, SEO, the art of being found online meets Product Management, the art of getting things shipped. 🙂
Insight #6: A Confluence page is your best friend
Pro tip: as the PM, add the link to your email signature.
A well maintained Confluence page will help you keep all of your stakeholders informed anytime they want to see or know the project status. It’s also an invaluable time saver because its your curated repository when you need to report out on monthly performance.
When the project concluded, as a PDF, it was 20+ pages long! It was built out over the course of the project. Below is a rundown of what the Confluence page included for this feature (tip: it can be a template for others):
Project overview, table of contents (before launch the hypothesis statement was also here. After launch and we had user data it moved to the bottom portion)
Action items & Next Steps
Current creative/mock ups & hyperlinks to relevant pages in production
Action items – MM/YYYY (tip: make this a grid so that each team is represented)
A separate grid for any issues you’re running down on the technology/vendor side
Key contacts (Title, Role, Name, Email)
Product operating guidelines
Bottom portion: What did we learn, Top-line KPIs, Monthly callouts, ROI/Estimated financial benefit (6 months & 1 year projection), creative/design versions.
Insight #7: you’ll never get everything you want (don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good)
Here’s the thing; none of this was perfect. But the feature was launched on time (and, I daresay, near perfect because it didn’t have to be rolled back!). Along the way we figured out how to dial in the analytics aspect and ongoing ownership within the social media team.
In the case of a condensed timeline, we measured baseline KPIs like Direct and Associated Visits & Revenue.
In a perfect world we’d have a wholistic picture of the customer journey from arrival to cart to checkout. You can’t improve what you can’t measure but, in this case, I had to prioritize a bias towards action of our MVP.
Sidebar, your Honor, may I approach the bench?
To those leaders fearful of UGC,
It’s probably a good time to remember that real people are not models. Yes, product imagery should always try maintain a high brand standard, but it is, after all, a UGC campaign. User Generated Content. Which means the content comes from the very people who love and buy our products. It’s not a glossy magazine ad free of imperfections. It’s raw and real.
Our real customer deserves to see him/herself when they choose to shop with us.
I think there’ still a lot to unpack here but my hope, as I continue on the product path, is to help brands to embrace digital technology and create more places for UGC to thrive because billboard models do influence our aspirational perceptions but not everyone looks like a runway model. Retail stores are not filled with beautiful models buying the clothes on the rack. IT’S FULL OF REAL. PEOPLE. With all body types and sizes.
UGC is its own beast. I understand it can be a scary space for brands because they’ve worked so hard to cultivate the right brand positioning in the customer’s heart and mind. But, I say build a great experience on your .com site where customers can share their experience and let the true fans embrace the brand. People love when they can take something that resonates with them and make it their own.
In conclusion if I could do it over again…
Everyone always wants more resources. Be it time, money or teammates. I would’t change the team I worked with (I’d only add more helping hands). In terms of time, I would have loved to have been able to plan ahead and allocate at least 3-5 months of planning time to align internally with the proper stakeholders (maybe target a soft launch?) and refine everything leading up to the campaign launch. If it were up to me, I’d allocate marketing dollars (at least $5-15K/month for 6 mo.) to advertise the campaign across promotional channels to build awareness using email, social media, print, radio and streaming TV.
In a way, no matter how many more resources I might have had, UGC can be a big pill for any established brand to swallow. Yet it should not be ignored. I hope this post has illustrated how much of a bear it is to define, launch and manage this type of feature but there is a lot of power and opportunity in leveraging content from users because it’s basically a steady stream of authentic, creative attributed to a brand.
No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of authentic, online signals pointing to a brand’s O&O (owned & operated) domain.
Any brand that wants to keep a pulse on what its users truly want should tap into their UGC, invest in it, and reward it from time to time because consumers are the lifeblood of any business.
Unless businesses start accepting chickens or bitcoin (!?) as alternate forms of payment, I’m fairly certain customers will continue to vote with their wallet$.
If you read this far, you get a treat: data! I’ll share what KPIs I can. The below data is for the 6 month (Aug-Jan) UGC pilot where there were roughly 11M visits to the Macys.com homepage where this feature lived BTF:
~16K total Visits to the product landing page
At a 2% average conversion rate
Contributed to ~400 orders (where AOV was estimated at $107.00)
Revenue benefit to the business for this feature was est. $1.8M (annualized at just over ~$2M).
Thanks for reading my post! I’d love to know what from my experience resonated with you. Tweet to me @millertime_baby
The opinions, thoughts and perspective expressed in this post are my own. While I am a previous representative of the company, these are not necessarily the views of my employer.
3 Tips to not shoot your brand in the foot doing Influencer Outreach
I don’t need or want to spend too much time on this but I began noticing a pattern of bad influencer outreach emails and wanted to give my perspective to brands on how not to mess up your outreach.
Tip #1: Don’t automate outreach emails
I received an email inquiring about a sponsorship collaboration with an international e-comm brand. It wasn’t something I was interested in at the time but this was their subsequent reply:
It made me wonder who I could have been doing business with. So I took a quick look at their website. In particular, their company return and refund policy. Wow.
I’m pretty sure someone copy/pasted this from another website. I don’t know many e-comm brands that sell VHS tapes but it’s a safe bet this one does not and will not make a profit from VHS tapes.
Tip #2 Have a reasonable, upfront return policy
Why? Let’s get some data in here to illustrate.
A study by eMarketer found the reason why 60% of internet users hesitate when shopping online: poor customer service.
“Nearly 3 in 5 internet users worldwide are concerned with bad customer service when deciding to make an online purchase from a brand,” that’s a lot of opportunity to show the customer their business is valuable to your brand.
Tip #3: Establish a clear influencer FAQ page or affiliate program
We can’t all be Amazon but we can take a page from their Associates page. Your brand should take the time to outline clear expectations and compensation terms for participation as an online influencer, ambassador or affiliate. Ground rules are always appreciated.
When Googling “instagram influencer template” you’ll find the SERP is full of outreach templates, obviously, but my point here is, templated “collaborations” are an oversaturated approach to growing your brand.
If a brand wants to build a meaningful group of real people who in-turn deliver real revenue and growth to the brand the approach needs to be authentic.
Otherwise, in the words of Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” brands are making a “big mistake. Big. Huge.”
The opinions, thoughts and perspective expressed in this post are my own. While I am a representative of the company, these are not necessarily the views of my employer.
Good. Because Google just announced they made an algorithm update on August 1, 2018. They rarely confirm any kind of update let alone one having to do with their algorithm.
Still, the August announcement was made via the Twitter account from Google Search Liaison (@searchliaison).
Here is the tweet:
When did the algorithm update happen?
Here’s what makes this Broad Core (BC) algorithm update special, 8/1 is the third iteration of a broad core update that’s been announced this year. Which means Google is actively communicating to webmasters about algorithm improvements.
Here’s a quick overview of the timeline from SEO industry heavyweights:
August: An official Tweet from Google announces they released a broad core update is made. It’s similar to the announcements relating to its BC updates from March and April.
Per the Tweet above, these types of updates are done “routinely several times per year.”
More threads on Twitter expanded upon Google’s explanation around the latest 8/1 release:
This part of the Tweet is interesting to note, “There is nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefitting pages that were previously under-rewarded…”
Marketers & SEO’s shouldn’t jump to make changes to pages that may have slipped in rankings. It might be prudent to check pages that were ranking in striking distance position to page 1 (positions 11-20) to see if those pages are now ranking higher.
The speculation continued last week all the while the BC algorithm continues to roll out into the second week of August.
What is the Broad Core Update?
So there’s “no fix” only, get better. In my opinion, the takeaway around the BC algorithm is that it is related to the types of quality updates seen with Panda (maybe even to an extent Phantom) where pages with thin content did not rank well.
It seems like a re-evaluation of pages that have good content but have been underperforming. Meeting user intent (or relevancy) is a factor. Maybe searchers have been returning to the SERPS and clicking on what they feel to be better, more relevant results, further down the page?
All in all, Google wants to provide the best results to the searcher and better understanding the human intent behind the query or keyword search helps them refine their listings.
It would seem this BC update relates to Google’s core algorithm.
The takeaway: “This is a broader general change to the core algorithm.”
What does Google want at its core? Quality. It wants to provide the best individual user experience possible to the person asking a question or typing in a noun into their search box.
Marie Haynes, a recognized industry authority figure on algorithms, shared a few insights from here client’s data and clues about potentially affected industries:
What industries were affected?
Furthermore, Haynes’ data indicated the 8/1 update strongly affected sites dealing with diet products, nutrition and medical products otherwise known as YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) sites.
“It is important to note that most sites that I monitor did not see any significant changes. However, the majority of those that did see changes were very strongly affected” Haynes said.
In her opinion, the update is primarily about trust. Many sites that were hit were sites that lacked author E-A-T, lacked reputation information, or were selling products that could be deemed untrustworthy.
I happen to agree with her completely, especially on the point of sites needing to invest in content that reflects Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
Large service based businesses have been known to publish lots of pages that probably have little value (or content) on them simply because at one point, everyone thought more content translated into better rankings. But it doesn’t. It marginally increases the potential to have more pages ranking because you have a higher volume of pages in Google’s index. It doesn’t mean the content is of high quality.
Assuming this BC update is based on course correcting where Google is looking for more quality signals, it does not mean webmasters need more pages; it means they need to improve upon the pages that already exist.
Another trusted resource of the SEO community is Glenn Gabe. He has compiled two extensive blog posts detailing his data and the insights he is seeing thus far from this update. Here are a few of his highlights; clues to quality and relevance factors:
March was a global update impacting domains across categories and countries.
The impact was site-wide rather than at the page level.
“In January of 2016, we found out that Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm… Panda seemed to focus more on relevance rather than hammering sites that were low-quality.”
The March and April updates were big. Relevance AND quality stood out.
Make fixes and don’t roll them back. “Google’s John Mueller has explained several times that Google wants to see significant improvement over the long-term.”
Simply put, Relevance and Quality are the keys to these broad updates happening throughout this year. It’s very possible these two factors will continue to be at the forefront of future BC updates.
What should we do?
First things first 😉
Now that we know there’s no quick fix (hint: there never really is). Marketers & SEO’s alike should “focus on building great content.” Here’s my caveat: remain focused on building great content by improving upon what you have and provide a great website experience for users and bots that’s technically sound. If we do that, we’ll weather the upcoming iterations of Google’s broad core algorithm updates.
Reversals in organic traffic can happen (meaning your traffic dips for a time then comes back up) but webmasters should not simply wait around and do nothing. This is an opportunity to improve the elements on our web domain that are within our control. Here are the top recommendations and action steps I compiled from Gabe and Haynes:
Improve your website: add useful & helpful content, address any technical SEO issues, improve the user experience, cut down on pop-up ads and boxes “join-our-newsletter requests” that obstruct the visitor from seeing your content.
Don’t revert changes – Keep the fixes in place for at least several months.
Analyze queries and content that lost rankings – Check the queries the page was ranking for, evaluate the on-page content with an objective eye to see if the page is relevant to the search intent.
Perform real user testing – Invest in asking a handful of people to navigate your site with a goal in mind. Have them narrate the experience, record it, and make changes based on the findings. A fresh pair of eyes can help you see where to make improvements.
Read the QRT – Quality Rater Guidelines and have working review sections with your team. You can download the PDF of the general guidelines updated in July.
Use the GSC Index Coverage Report – This is a newer section of Search Console that helps webmasters understand which pages Google is indexing and which pages it’s not. Gabe recommends keeping a close eye on the “Excluded,” reporting. That’s where you can often find serious problems. It contains pages that Google has crawled, but decided NOT to index for some reason.
GSC Location: Status>>Index Coverage>>Excluded
Continue to monitor rankings for organic search traffic (especially on mobile!) from mid July through mid August since the update is still presumed to be rolling out this week.
Could your content and website use help identifying technical SEO improvements and specific quality and content areas to address during this update?
Contact me for an SEO Site Audit by emailing me at itsmillertime0baby (at) gmail.com. Subject line: SEO Site Audit – BC Update.
I had the good fortune of being introduced to Vito Brandle, Director of Finance at BrightRoll, and recently sat down with him to chat about the allure of startups and the collective growth-mindset of Silicon Valley tapping into the fundamental human desire for growth. Vito’s thoughts on the startup scene—how structure can be the foundation of spontaneity—was of particular interest to me.
There was no sugarcoating from Vito on the topic of mergers and navigating change in the corporate setting. But, I found his honesty to be compelling and his unique perspective as both participant and observer equally intriguing.
Design the life you want
In this town, one could argue there are more opportunities for new companies to acquire VC funding or get acquired than there are Tesla’s gliding around on the highway. There’s no shortage of opportunity in Silicon Valley and companies large and small get acquired all the time. While it can be difficult to remain positive in the face of a corporate merger, one of the choices Vito made early on was to consciously disengage from the personal aspect of the job.
“You have to be OK with putting a part of your work-self to bed” he said. “In a bigger company you have to remove that defense mechanism and let go of the fact that ‘it’s mine’.” This allows you to function without succumbing to the highs and lows of working through change.
I’m of the belief that the best parts of life are that way by our own design. They’re architected in such a way where we enjoy what we have yet we still strive to see how far things can go. “Every choice we look at should be a set of options,” Vito said “creating options allows us to optimize.” Once the track is set, then we just need to start the engine and accelerate down that path.”
What’s the best way to begin? Take action and course correct along the way? Or plan it all out in advance and then begin? There are merits to both but only one produces real results.
Structure allows for spontaneity
Just as there are certain types of people that operate better within a structured environment there are those that perform better when given more freedom. The same is true for the framework of corporations and startups where structured environments can be engineered to deliver growth and alternatively, autonomy fosters new developments. The great irony is that while it might not seem to be the case, companies both large and small rely on some form of structure to grow.
While structure provides a starting point, the inescapable fact of life is that there is ambiguity in almost everything we do. Even when developing structure itself. This is why taking action is so important. Actions produce results (or data), which can be mined for insights. It’s in the doing that there is refinement.
The upside to companies driven by large corporations, Vito noted, is that they can teach you about process and equip you with a more formalized method of operating. Vito had virtually made a mini career out of being at corporate giant, Yahoo!, over the course of four years. Albeit having a variety of jobs and the opportunity to “wear different hats” during that time helped to stave off boredom and career stagnation.
His advice, “Tell your manager up front what you want.” Be clear on your interests, inject variety into your work, and have challenges to work towards.
That’s not to say startups have all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks. But it’s the idea, Vito alluded to, of a collective acknowledgement that everyone in Silicon Valley is creating and playing and inventing in the same sandbox. Collectively, we’re making things better as a result of taking action.
Silicon Valley is one big sandbox
“My reason for coming out here was the tech space [because it offered] flexibility and optionality and the ability to pivot quickly. People have a desire to grow and change. There’s this cohesive mindset here—almost [like we’re in] a sandbox of sorts; there’s not that many obstacles here and you can build what you want.”
Indeed, it’s this consistency of mindset among the individuals in Silicon Valley, at large companies and startups alike, that makes this particular “sandbox” a unique playground. Startups may be the bedrock of Silicon Valley but the mindset of the individuals and their willingness to take action and architect a better way of doing something is what makes Silicon Valley attractive beyond measure. “Even if you’re not the one with the shovel, you’re getting your hands dirty,” Vito remarked.
So, get moving! I’ll leave you with a shortened list of Vito’s recent reads and a link to some great pod casts: