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Late last year when Google released its Search Quality Rating Guidelines, the resource that the search engine’s human quality evaluators use to manually assess websites, our technical SEO team here at Fresh Egg duly printed it out, locked themselves in a room, and set to work dissecting the document for insights that they could apply to client strategy.
Very soon the room was full of specialists from all of our digital marketing teams discussing the document. Unsurprisingly, the content of the guidelines spoke directly to nearly every digital marketing discipline.
This led to some fierce debate over what SEO really is, and why agencies and clients’ internal teams should never be put into the ‘SEO box’ and siloed from the rest of the ecosystem.
If you’ve ever thought about employing an ‘SEO expert’ for your business, read on to see why you need more than one person, or even one small team, working on maximising traffic and revenue through organic search.
Firstly, let’s be clear what we mean when we talk about SEO. It’s crazy that we still talk about SEO as a marketing channel in its own right. It’s not. It encompasses a range of different platforms, channels and activities.
Search engine optimisation is commonly understood to mean optimising a website so that it performs well in organic search.
At Fresh Egg we separate this out into two parts:
The first part is the only one that actually focuses on optimising for search engines – but this work still needs to put the website audience first and still can’t be looked at in a silo. At Fresh Egg, this stream of work is looked after by our technical SEO team, who are experts in understanding how search engines crawl and index digital content.
The second part, maximising conversions from organic traffic, has hardly anything to do with optimising for search engines. And really, the work done here isn’t only going to improve the traffic and conversions that you see through organic search, but should improve the performance of all traffic sources.
Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines highlight the importance of supplementary content. This includes anything from navigational elements to related content widgets, such as ‘similar products’ on ecommerce product pages. Google likes this because supplementary content can improve customer experience. We shouldn’t be adding supplementary content because Google likes it, but we should if it increases onsite engagement and conversions. At Fresh Egg, we have a conversion rate optimisation (CRO) team. These guys are experts in user experience and conversion optimisation. While the technical SEO team might work in partnership with CRO, particularly on areas such as website structure, they leave user experience recommendations and website testing to the experts.
The Quality Rating Guidelines also highlight the importance of site speed and optimisation for mobile. Our technical SEO team does assess this when auditing client websites. However, the recommendations for optimisation and improvement will always be arrived at in partnership either with our web development team (when we are hosting and managing the client’s website) or with the client’s developers (when we aren’t). Developers are the experts in this area.
A large focus of the Search Quality Rating Guidelines is onsite content. One part of this being E-A-T: how well the website content demonstrates expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Other areas of focus are whether the page achieves its purpose, and whether website content matches the needs of the user, based on the intent behind the search performed. Again, this isn’t something that any business should be focusing on just for search engines. This definitely is something that all businesses should focus on for customers.
Our technical SEO team are not experts in content quality, so we have a content team for this. The content team are experts in understanding audience needs, search intent and content gaps, and producing written and visual content to fill them.
The final part of Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines that I’ll touch on here is brand reputation. We’ve known for a while that brand strength impacts performance in organic search. We also know that search itself can be highly influenced by media events and ATL advertising. Now, Google is telling us that online brand reputation is also important. Here again, while our technical SEO team might be involved in projects to build a positive online brand reputation for clients, they are not the experts in this area. This is where we enlist our social media and inbound marketing teams, who understand the platforms and tactics needed to influence this.
So, you can see how that meeting room soon became full of Fresh Eggers in various shapes and sizes, all diving into Google’s report and debating the meaning of SEO. Even our biddable media and analytics & insights specialists were getting involved.
I have not met one person who is an expert in absolutely every aspect that you need to consider in order to maximise traffic and conversions through organic search. And thus I have come to the conclusion that SEO is no longer a one-person effort.
Our greatest successes for clients have been when we can work across digital touch points and channels, rather than just being restricted to the SEO box. Please don’t employ that silo’d SEO expert to ‘look after your SEO’. Call Fresh Egg instead!
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