What I Learned As a Product Manager Launching A UGC Campaign

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

  1. Define the product early on, asking, “what problem is this solving? Who is it for?”
  2. Always define an MVP (b/c that may be the only version you release).
  3. 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).
  4. Even big brands need advertising to help educate and excite customers to action (esp. when launching a new product).
  5. Confluence is your friend (it helps keep all stakeholders informed).
  6. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Product brief for the #MacysLove challenge, 2019

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:

  1. Put an outfit together using clothes in a Macy’s store reflecting your take on that month’s theme (no purchase necessary).
  2. Take a picture of yourself in the outfit.
  3. 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.

The Macy’s Love landing page

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.

March 2020 Macy’s Love landing page

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.

Google Trends data comparing search terms: brand “Macys” vs. the new modifier, “macys love”

Organic traffic alone doth not a successful campaign make.

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Every SEO PM needs this book: Product-Led SEO by Eli Schwartz

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

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.

Mobile experience – Macy’s Love Sweepstakes

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.

Brand building in the digital era

The following is a recap of my responses to questions that were provided for a Twitter chat I participated in with Wrk.

As marketers we know there are no “quick wins” when it comes to marketing in the digital age. Trends and best practices are changing every single day. This makes building and differentiating your brand even more difficult.

Overcoming marketing challenges in the digital era

Question 1: In the digital age, how would you say our role has changed and transformed overall from merely promoting and selling products when it comes to building a brand? 

As a marketer, when you’re promoting or selling products, you’re solving a need or customer pain point. A product is something your customers own. But a brand is bigger than that, it’s intangible ownership; it’s an outlook or lifestyle that your fans and followers are a part of.

Fundamentally, selling is different from brand building activities because building is by nature inclusive; you’re finding like minded people and creating a space for them to come together and a collective identity (your brand) to rally behind.

From an operations standpoint, it largely depends on where you “sit” within the org & whether or not you’re part of a marketing team. Are you a brand builder focused on awareness and activation activities in the market? Or are you on the product team focusing on delivering a great user experience when customers are shopping on your site or app?

Question 2: In today’s digital era, what are some of the biggest challenges that marketing professionals face today that they’ve never had to overcome before? 

I don’t think the obstacles have changed that much as much as the focus has shifted to place more prominence on the message being delivered. 

I heard this at the AdWorld conference recently by Ryan Deiss (and I’m paraphrasing)  the marketers mantra has been: right message, right time, right person. But today, the effort should be placed on the message. Meaning: the message itself has now become more important than the medium because brands can basically leverage any medium they want to reach their audience. It’s the message that needs to stand on its own.

I think today consumers expect a lot more from brands they spend money with. I’m part of the Millennial group – and we especially – expect the brands we back with our dollars to give back in a meaningful & measurable way, to demonstrate actions to eliminate things like climate change, or to to act more sustainably. Consumers expect brands to use their resources to make a difference for current and future generations.

Question 3: There is an old saying in the industry: “The medium is the message,” which means the forms of communication (or media) used to deliver information significantly impact the message. Does this still ring true today in the digital era? Why or why not? 

I think that’s flipped now: the message is now the most important component because mediums are largely a commodity.

There is so much opportunity to reach the right audience(s) with things like automation and paid search but if the message itself doesn’t resonate, it will get lost in the noise.  

Question 4: Technologies are advancing at break-neck speed, and while it can be a challenge to keep up, there are also unquestionable benefits for #marketers everywhere. What types of tools are helping you build your brand digitally today? 

I’m a search marketer at heart so I like any tool that can tell me what people are searching for, what time of year they’re searching for it, and what words or questions they’re using to find what they want.

I use a variety of tools that show me metrics like search volume and/or trends over time. Some of the paid tools are Google Keyword Planner (Google Ads) and SEMRush. The best free tools are Google Trends, in particular because it shows Search Interest over time for keywords or topics, and KW Finder that can be added to your Internet browser as an extension. Other tools I love and use are AnswerThePublic.com, which tells you what people search for and the words they use. For audience insights, I like SparkToro. I use Glimpse for discovering trends before they take off.  

Question 5: Now more than ever, it’s vital that marketers unite online to share insights and ideas. What are some digital channels that you use to stay connected?

I think marketers should dabble in lots of different digital channels to stay up with what’s going on and to learn what others are doing and to see where people are spending time. I pop in and out listening to topics in Clubhouse or on Twitter Spaces.

I subscribe to a handful of newsletters. My rule of thumb is that information you consume as a marketer should help you get a read on things in 3 ways: what’s going on internally for your industry, what’s happening externally and a high level view of the trends in the broader marketplace.  Here’s what I mean: in the SEO industry, I subscribe to a handful of newsletters like #SEOFOMO and Marie Haynes Consulting – Search News You Can Use, a few external sources are DTC newsletter and Ann Handley’s newsletter, and sources that are going to help me get a broader marketplace perspective (my go-to currently is CNN’s 5 Things daily newsletter).

What sources help you stay connected? Tweet to me at @millertime_baby.

The Busy Marketer’s Guide to Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Update of 8/1

Are you sitting down?

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:

Google SearchLiaison on Twitter
Google SearchLiaison @searchliaison

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:

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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 11.51.34 AM

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:

Gabe’s Clues:

  • 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 😉

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Don’t revert changes – Keep the fixes in place for at least several months.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
    1. 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.

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Are Enterprise SEO’s a Dying Breed?

Imagine you’re a physician. You’re traveling home on a flight back from a week-long conference where you had to renew your certification. You met many new and old connections and came away knowing your industry is alive and well.  The plane loudly hums along through the air while you review your session notes. Then you begin to hear some commotion from the other passengers a few rows behind you.

One voice. “Can we get her some water?”

Another voice. “She’s having trouble breathing…”

The flight attendant call button sounds in the cabin “ding!” You remain seated. Ears pricked up but waiting.

Your eyes are just returning to your notes when the pilot comes over the loud speaker, “Sorry for the disturbance folks. If there is a doctor on board, please make yourself known to a flight attendant.”

Out of commitment to your field, you are obligated to get involved. Out of personal passion, you have chosen this field. Either way, you are required to help and try to restore that human being back to health. And because of this, people listen to you.

I often feel like I’m a doctor making as many helpful recommendations as I can when it comes to corporate SEO initiatives. But there are so many different parties involved; it can be hard to meet everyone’s needs equally – time involved, level of effort, impact on improving organic traffic, all while staying on top of industry fluctuations. For such improvements to make an impact site-wide, it takes a village.

My parents are both in the medical field. When I was young, I was actually dissuaded from becoming a doctor. But I still have this inherent desire to help and to fix things.

When I hear digital challenges like “why did organic traffic drop on this date,” or “why are these pages not converting” I like the investigation. I thrive on it.  I look at the symptoms the website or a page is exhibiting and I try to gauge that against what I know of Google’s standard for user experience and content that’s relevant to the intent behind the search query.

But I have to be careful not to go too deep down the rabbit hole on what factors might be the cause of the issue. Today, the algorithms are working in real time and we can never be fully confident in the knowledge that a single factor is the cause.

Which is why, we as SEO’s make recommendations to the best of our knowledge, we test and we watch. If the patient (website) improves, we know we addressed the right aspect of the problem. This is why SEO is a long term game. There are no shortcuts to quality. It’s an investment in the right things making sure you empower other teams to help you along the way.

“There is a new breed of SEO manager who is politically savvy and gifted at collaborating with and mobilizing non-SEO teams. If SEO-integration isn’t on your roadmap, you’d better hope it’s not on your competitors’ maps either–otherwise they’ll have gold, and you won’t.”  The Executive SEO Playbook, by Jessica Bowman

Why do doctors never give up? Because they care. And it might also have something to do with taking a Hippocratic Oath 😉

How can enterprise-level SEO’s be as effective? My prescription is the following:

  1. Have more productive SEO-based conversations with stakeholders.
  2. Make SEO easy to implement and actionable for each team.
  3. Foster connections with other trusted, in-house SEO’s and seek their advice regularly.
  4. Read Jessica’s book!

 

Email Marketing: A Little Known Way To Remain Relevant In Their Inbox

I thought this was a great and rather unique example of an email that aims to re-calibrate the level of engagement. Essentially proactively saying, we noticed you may need less communication: “We haven’t heard from you in a while, how can we adjust the frequency of our communication so you don’t unsubscribe completely.”

Ok, I’ll bite and open your email. I admit, I’ve been away from my personal inbox a bit more lately actively engaging in the physical world (#girlswhotrain). And also trying to be diligent about saving a bit of cash not buying every new Reebok shoe that comes on the market.

This email has a great approach because it taps into why I connect with the Spartan brand, reminding me of the mindset of never giving up. And the fact that they noticed I haven’t been clicking through to the website (clearly a diligent marketer leveraging their data & ESP). We, the brand, respect your training time and mental capacity so let’s actively provide you with a way to adjust the frequency of emails accordingly. I love how they use the illustration of buckets as a CTA to continue to engage with the brand at my own pace.

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How can you show your non-engaged consumers that you notice them? What can you do to ask them how they want to be communicated to or how often they want to hear from you?