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Why SEO must start with strategy, planning

SEO is ongoing. It isn’t a one-time thing.

Achieving the results you desire requires disciplined thinking and focus.

If you dive into the weeds too quickly, you may find that hours or days have passed and you’ve invested time into areas that may not have any real impact in the end.

While agility is key on an ongoing basis in SEO, it is equally important to have a solid strategy and plan upfront.

A strategy and plan, with a clear direction and baseline, allows for:

  • Meaningful objectives to be set.
  • Expectations to be managed.
  • Adjustments to be made along the way.

Being both proactive and reactive (within a moment) is important, whether you’re working for yourself, your boss, or your clients.

Here’s why.

Goal setting

“What are your goals?”

This is the first question you should ask when someone reaches out for SEO help.

Define them. Document them.

Knowing what you need SEO to produce is critical. Goals are a critical filter for all strategic and tactical plans.

Goals could be:

  • E-commerce sales.
  • Leads.
  • Pageviews.
  • Specific types of engagement.
  • Some other conversion or metric.

When you don’t know what the end goals are – and how to reach them – you can waste a lot of time and resources guessing or floating from SEO tactic to tactic.

Defining target audiences

You need to define who you’re trying to reach and how they search and behave online.

Once you do that, you can map out conversion paths, funnels, and ways to target and engage them.

In addition to knowing who you want to reach, it’s also critical to know the size of the net that you’re casting.

Sometimes, goals can be too big for the opportunity that SEO presents. Reaching a certain audience could be too ambitious. Or perhaps the competition is simply too great to get meaningful results.

Keyword research tools, industry/market research and sources within your industry can help you research and define your target audience, as well as with persona development.

Competitor research

When you know who your audience is and what topics and keywords map out to your conversion goals, you have a narrowed competitor landscape to review.

Dive deep into who owns the SERP real estate for terms and topics that you want to drive traffic to your site.

Use SEO tools to identify, set up monitoring and an ongoing plan to track the competitors. This will give you a reference point and can help you understand why they are ranking.

KPI definition

Goals and KPIs are not the same. Yes, you might have a single KPI that is tied to an end goal, but you can measure several data points that may be close to, or far away from, a conversion goal.

Don’t jump into your action plan before you define the KPIs that matter based on your goals, target audience, and funnels.

While average position and impressions might not be close to the end goal of a lead submission or e-commerce transaction, they are necessary to get there.

Define all the KPIs that matter. Put emphasis and priority on the ones that will be indicators and progress metrics versus those that are tied directly to the end goals.

Be consistent with them and map them out in advance.

Baselines and benchmarks

Using what you know about audiences, competitors and the KPIs that matter to you, it’s important to understand your current performance.

You want to objectively measure the return on investment and outcome of your efforts over time.

Now is the time to capture baselines of your own performance and benchmarks of how they stack up against the industry. Plus, we can compare them to our ultimate goals and see how far we need to go.

This can range from visibility through rankings and average position to impressions to visits and conversions. There are engagement metrics that you can look at as well as to how visitors are moving through defined funnels.

To get this data, you can use SEO tools or Google Analytics’ benchmarking report.

Be sure to document benchmarks. These metrics will become your baseline and define your starting point so you can evaluate your efforts in meaningful intervals going forward.

Reporting setup

Now it’s time to set up your reporting infrastructure. Whether you’re configuring Google Analytics to be your data source, leveraging Google Data Studio, or third party software, you want to get everything in order now.

Don’t wait until you’re off and running. In many cases if you don’t have clean data, filters, and segments, you can’t fix the details later.

There’s nothing worse than over or under counting and not being able to go back and correct it once you’ve gotten deep into your work.

Also, configure your reporting to show the starting points and how you’re tracking toward goals. The reporting should help you tie back to your efforts and gain insights to adjust your strategy as you go.

Strategy development

By this point, you should be ready to do some final initial auditing and strategy work.

A quick technical audit will help you understand how much work is needed to get the technical house in order when you start planning out the work. It will also help you understand how big that effort will be in terms of IT, code and site performance.

At the same time, you’ll want to know what kind of effort and strategy is needed for content.

Doing a gap analysis, going back to audience and competitor research data, and factoring out how much effort is needed to match and exceed competitors will be critical while also delivering exactly what your audience wants.

Use the auditing and reviews to develop a strategy and overall assessment of needs that will go into your tactical plan.

Tactical plan and schedule

By this point, a big picture roadmap should have started to emerge. You’ve identified and defined your big needs.

But you can’t do it all at once. How quickly you can reach specific goals will depend on your resources and pacing.

Now you need to plan the work, measure it and control the resources in a prioritized way. Put together a phased schedule and plan. All the while knowing there will still be a lot of unknowns as you go through multiple tasks, such as:

  • Updating copy.
  • Optimizing on-page elements.
  • Digging deep into technical issues.
  • Going through rounds of link building. 

You must be proactive, not reactive. Drive an organized strategy and the needed tactics to achieve your plans.

Resource planning and roles definition

This step can happen earlier and/or throughout your planning process. Be careful not to get too deep into crafting the perfect strategy and plan without making sure you have the resources to pull it off. 

Resources include:

  • An SEO team.
  • IT.
  • UX.
  • Content creators.
  • Those that will be approving the work.

Your stakeholders are important, too. 

Additionally, any hard costs in terms of vendors and tools shouldn’t be overlooked. These all factor into ROI and as well as how much they can enable or slow your plan and efforts.

Avoid overestimating. Also, make the case for more resources if you think your plan can’t deliver on the goals with your current resources.

Now is the time to have these conversations – not months or years into an effort.

The big idea

I would argue with anyone that SEO is best approached as an ongoing discipline that has proper balance between planned activities and the necessary agility that comes with constant search engine changes and fluidity of the web.

Yes, plans are subject to change – maybe even right after they are written and launched. However, the absence of a strategy and plan leads to a reactive approach and one that lacks efficiency, focus and prioritization.

Start with a strategy and plan. And revisit it on a regular basis.

Take this approach for every new initiative or client. It will make life easier!

The post Why SEO must start with strategy, planning appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

NBCUniversal, Google competing to help Netflix deliver ad-based option

Google and Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal are competing to help Netflix create an ad-supported tier of it’s streaming service. 

Subscriber numbers falling. In April Netflix announced that it had lost about 200,000 subscribers, which is the first time the streaming platform had lost any subscribers in over 10 years. Netflix reports that its user base is growing, however. One reason this may occur could be password sharing due to the increase in monthly fees. Either way, Netflix is hoping to boost its revenue by selling ads. 

What it means for NBCUniversal. It’s likely that a partnership with NBCUniversal would be exclusive. The ad unit, called FreeWheel, would provide the necessary technology to deliver the ads. The NBCUniversal sales team would help to sell the ads across Europe and the US. 

A Google partnership. Google brings its own ad platform, which Netflix is currently a customer of. An agreement with Google could mean an exclusive arrangement, but it hasn’t been confirmed. 

A shift in strategy. For over 10 years, Netflix has provided users with an ad and commercial-free streaming experience. But due to competition from rival streaming services, they’re rethinking their approach. Bringing in Google or NBCUniversal could help Netflix deliver an ad-supported tier much faster, though experts say it could still be a year or more before it becomes a reality. 

Experience supporting other companies. Both competitors are currently working with other large brands. A potential deal with Netflix could mean sharing access to its tech partners and audiences. NBCUniversal is the exclusive reseller of ads for Apple News and Apple Stocks since 2017 and has recently expanded into the UK. Google works with the Walt Disney Co. (a previous FreeWheel customer) to serve their ads since 2018.

What Netflix is saying. Netflix hasn’t provided any details of its plans, how many ads will run, ad targeting, or reach. 

Read the announcement. You can read the article from the Wall Street Journal here.

Why we care. An ad-supported Netflix tier would give advertisers another channel to promote their business, which could be lucrative and cheaper than traditional television commercials. However, a partnership with either means more data sharing and targeted advertising, which could be a turn-off for many users. 

The post NBCUniversal, Google competing to help Netflix deliver ad-based option appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Twitter launches Campaign Planner

Twitter has just launched Campaign Planner, a forecasting tool designed to help advertisers estimate campaign results before launching. 

What does Campaign Planner do. The new Campaign Planner helps advertisers:

  • Forecast reach, impressions, average frequency, and CPM for a specific audience, duration, frequency setting, and placement
  • Budget for auction-based campaigns
  • Start and save draft campaigns directly from the tool

What Twitter says. Twitter created this tool in order to help empower partners and advertisers to better understand the size and cost of reaching a target audience during the campaign planning process. 

Campaign Planner unlocks more forecasting information than ever before and we’re excited to continue to build toward the goal of making Twitter easier to buy for advertisers. Throughout the coming months, we will be expanding campaign planner to support more objectives and in more markets, and enable plan comparison to help evaluate the best campaign settings for your goals.

How to access Campaign Planner. The Campaign Planner is available to all managed advertisers in the US, UK, and Japan. Managed partners can access the tool by contacting their Twitter Client Partner. You can access the Campaign Planner from your Twitter Ads account. Upon doing so, you’ll be prompted to enter details to begin building your forecast.  

What the Campaign Planner Looks like. 

Twitter recommended settings. Twitter has outlined recommendations on how to set up your campaigns most effectively. Twitter claims these recommendations are backed by research, but advertisers should set up their campaigns how they see fit based on testing and what works for their specific business. 

Reach and frequency. Once you determine your core audience, Twitter recommends using higher levels of weekly frequency to achieve better results. Most advertisers are aware that increased brand awareness leads to better results. A higher budget can help you achieve this. 

Campaign length. Twitter also recommends letting your campaigns run for a longer period of time to allow sufficient time to build brand recognition. They suggest letting the campaigns run over 5 weeks to gain momentum and up to 13 weeks to resonate with your audience. 

Learn more about Campaign Planner. You can read more about Campaign Planner via the announcement here.

Why we care. The Campaign Planner seems like a useful tool for advertisers to predict the impact of their campaigns. However, the Campaign Planners forecast is estimated and their recommendations are general. There is no substitute for constant monitoring and testing.

The post Twitter launches Campaign Planner appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

TikTok ads 101: How to get started with TikTok advertising

In a span of just a few years, TikTok has seen massive growth in popularity and app usage. By April of 2022, it managed to reach 1 billion active users worldwide. And in our previous post on TikTok basics, we explored some of the reasons for the app’s popularity as well as how brands can market on the platform.

Besides those marketing tactics, you could also invest in paid advertising on TikTok to further boost your brand’s impact on the app’s audience. With the app’s immense popularity, TikTok ads could be a great addition to your social media advertising strategy.

But advertising on TikTok isn’t the same as advertising on other social channels. This post gives you a detailed overview of how to advertise on TikTok and what kind of ads you can use.

Which brands should use TikTok advertising?

A wide range of brands advertise on TikTok—Chipotle, Guess and Fenty Beauty, for example. What these brands have in common is that their products are a natural fit for TikTok’s video format.

TikTok advertisers can show their products in action and pack a lot of information into a short video clip. While this format may be challenging for B2B brands that sell difficult-to-illustrate services, it’s ideal for B2C brands that want to move away from static ads and share engaging content.

Types of TikTok ads

TikTok provides you with plenty of options to advertise on the platform. So you can choose what will be most effective in reaching your target audience and getting your message across. Here are the different types of ads you can run with the TikTok ads platform:

  • In-feed video – These are ads that appear among the native news feed of TikTok users on the “For You” page.
  • Brand takeover – This type of ad allows you to dominate the conversation as your message takes over the whole screen for a few seconds. It then turns into an in-feed video ad.
  • Spark ads – TikTok rolled out this ad type in 2021, giving brands the ability to sponsor popular organic content that relates to their products.
  • Image ads – Brands can place image ads in videos that appear via TikTok’s news feed apps: BuzzVideo, TopBuzz and Babe.
  • Video ads – These ads are full-screen videos of 5 to 60 seconds that appear in a user’s “For You” feed.
  • Pangle ads – Pandle’s video platform integrates with TikTok to offer video, native and banner ads, but this feature is available to only specific countries.
  • Carousel ads – These ads include up to 10 images and appear in TikTok’s news feed apps.
Example of a TikTok carousel ad.
Source
  • Branded AR content – Your ads can also appear as branded stickers, lenses and other types of AR content so TikTok users can use them in their videos.
  • Hashtag challengeThis type of ad shows up in the “Discovery” section of the app and can encourage user participation.
  • Sponsored influencer content – For this type of TikTok advertisement, you get your message across through sponsored content from an influential TikTok user.

How to set up ads on TikTok

Now that you know about the different types of TikTok ads, let’s take a look at how to set them up from your TikTok ad account.

Step 1: Create your TikTok ad account

The first step is simple: start by creating an account on the TikTok Ads Manager.

Choose your billing country or region and then select whether you’re using the account for a business or individual. Then click on “Next.”

tiktok ads manager first step signup

Enter some basic information such as your email address and password. Then enter a verification code sent to your email. If you choose to sign up with your phone number, then you’ll need the verification code sent to your phone.

Confirm that you agree to the terms and conditions, then click on “Sign Up.”

tiktok ads manager second step signup

Once your brand is approved, log in to your dashboard and finish the initial account setup according to the instructions. Then you can follow the steps below to create TikTok ads:

Step 2: Create and install the TikTok Pixel

Now you’ll need to install the TikTok Pixel—a snippet of code on your website that gathers information about site events (such as how users arrived on your site, what device they’re using and where they’re located).

After selecting “Standard Mode” or “Developer Mode,” you’ll create your Pixel by first setting up a “Web Event” in your TikTok Ads Manager. Remember to review your cookie consent settings before deploying your Pixel. Then download or copy the Pixel code and paste it into your website header.

Step 3: Create a new campaign

Create an ad campaign under the “Campaigns” tab and clicking on the “Create” button.

tiktok campaign creation first step

This will give you the option to choose your campaign objective — whether you want to drive traffic, conversions or app installs.

campaign objective selection

Then give your campaign a name and set a campaign-level minimum budget. You can set a lifetime budget to quickly reach as many people as possible. But if you set a daily budget, you can gradually and steadily reach out to your target audience.

campaign budget settings

Step 4: Create an ad group

Create an ad group to define audiences, campaign budgets and placements for your ads.

Choose the promotional type or goal:

Select either “App Install” or “Website” as your promotion type.

Select the ad placement:

Your choice of ad placement will determine where your ads appear on TikTok and its partner platforms. If you’re just getting started with TikTok ads, you can choose “Automatic placement” to have TikTok place your ads for maximum reach and value. You can also manually place ads across TikTok and its news feed apps.

tiktok ad placement selection

Select your creative type:

Turn on the “Automated Creative Optimization” feature, and TikTok will create variations of your content and test its engagement. You can turn off this feature at any time.

Define your target audience:

Choose the audience for your ad by selecting location, gender and age group. You can also specify user languages, add users with specific interests and include people who have previously interacted with your content.

tiktok ad targeting options

Select a delivery type:

Choose either standard or accelerated delivery. Standard delivery ensures your ad will appear during high-traffic times throughout your ad delivery period, with your ad budget spread consistently across that time frame. Accelerated delivery means your ad budget is dedicated to getting the most eyes on your ad as quickly as possible.

Step 5: Create a new ad

After setting up your ad group, you can configure your first ad. TikTok gives you the option to upload either a video or an image file as your ad creative. For best results, make sure you follow the recommended ad specs. This will ensure that your ad looks great on TikTok and across all the partner platforms.

ad creative customization page

After creating an ad to your liking, you’ll have the option to preview it and get an idea of how it’ll appear to TikTok users. At this point, you can also find out whether your ad needs some tweaking before you submit it for review.

You can further customize your ad by naming it so it’s easier to distinguish between different ads within the same ad group. Then enter your ad text using 12-100 characters to get your message across even more effectively. This text will appear above your ad.

Next, you’ll have the option to choose between different calls to action depending on what you want your audience to do. So you can ask your audience to “Sign Up,””Download Now,” “Contact Us,” “Book Now,” “Shop Now,” “Apply Now” or “Learn More.” Then click on “Submit” to finish creating your ad.

Use TikTok Promote to boost existing ads

TikTok Promote is a paid feature that lets you choose a goal—video views, website visits or new followers—and promote your video content. Select an audience, define your budget and schedule the duration of your ad, then start your promotion.

Step 6: Measure your ad performance

The job isn’t done after launching your ad; you should also measure your performance to see how the campaign is paying off. TikTok provides native analytics that can show you how your ad is doing in terms of impressions, clicks, conversions and more. You can even test and compare the performance of different ad creative and placements to see what works best for you.

TikTok ad specs

TikTok in-feed video ads must follow formatting guidelines in order to display correctly and generate engagement. Start by creating a video in TikTok’s suggested range (9 to 15 seconds), that’s less than 500MB and is one of these file types: .mp4, mov., mpeg, .3gp or .avi.

Then consult TikTok’s list of ad specs for additional formatting guidance.

How much do TikTok ads cost?

TikTok closely guards its pricing algorithm, which is based on a bid model. At a minimum, campaign-level budgets should be $50/daily, and ad group level budgets must be $20/daily.

7 examples of TikTok advertising done right

Besides learning the basics, it’s just as important to see how other brands are using TikTok ads. This will give you a few ideas on how to run your own campaign. Check out these four examples of brands that launched brilliant advertising campaigns on TikTok:

1. Chipotle

Chipotle has been dominating the TikTok platform with fun and creative video content. It also nailed their influencer advertising campaign to promote their annual “Boorito” offer for Halloween. The brand roped in top influencers known for their creativity such as Brittany Broski and Zach King.

influencer brittany broski promoting chipotle's halloween offer on tiktok

2. Kroger

Kroger was among the first companies to test out the TikTok “Hashtag Challenge Plus” feature. This allowed TikTok users to shop directly on the app for Kroger products tagged with the campaign hashtag. This not only encouraged user participation and brand visibility but also enhanced user experience by providing a smooth shopping functionality.

kroger hashtag challenge showing user videos

3. Experian

Experian launched an in-feed TikTok ad that’s straightforward and easy to understand. It showed a simple text conversation between two friends to highlight the benefits of Experian Boost for your credit score. It also came complete with a “Download” button. Everything about this ad is great because it puts directness and simplicity at the center.

experian ad featuring text conversation

4. IHOP

IHOP (International House of Pancakes) used TikTok ads to target millennials and generate buzz about its limited-time offers. It temporarily rebranded as the “International Haunted House of Pancakes” for its Halloween 2021 campaign, promoting “Scary Face” pancakes and other spooky menu items.

The campaign reached more than 33 million users, and IHOP used behavior targeting to find the right audience. The result was a CPM that was 26% lower than TikTok’s national average.

5. Partymachines

Partymachines began using TikTok marketing in 2019 to expand its reach and generate more B2B sales of its foam-generating machines. (Entrepreneurs who buy the machines can then lease them to local customers.).

One of the company’s initiatives was to use Spark Ads to find popular content featuring their product. In at least one video, the company added a voiceover about their product and invited users to comment about how they would use a Partymachine. Thanks to Shopify integration, TikTok users could click on the video, land on the Partymachines website and buy the product.

@partymachines uses TikTok Spark Ads to drive sales and revenue.

The Spark Ads campaign increased website traffic from TikTok by 620%. And by using existing content, Partymachines kept their advertisting costs low—just 10 cents per click.

6. eBay

Online marketplace eBay is a go-to destination for sneaker enthusiasts, so it launched a TikTok campaign to drive engagement with that audience. Using three different Spark Ads with Voting Sticker overlays, eBay’s “Sneaker Showdown” campaign invited users to pick the winning shoes in a bracket-style tournament.

The campaign—which coincided with the NCAA basketball tournament— resulted in a 54% increase in eBay’s comment rate, and 1.2 million users participated in the poll.

7. Kooapps

Kooapps wanted to increase awareness of its mobile game “Snake.io” and drive installs in the United States. It found two TikTok users who had created content showing how the game is played and partnered with them to produce Spark Ads.

Within two weeks of launching the campaign, Snake.io app installs increased by 67% among US users.

TikTok advertising best practices

To get the best results from your TikTok ad campaigns, follow these best practices:

Stay on brand

TikTok users respect authenticity, so make sure your ad content is true to your company’s values and conforms with your branding.

Be direct

Yes, TikTok allows you 60 seconds to make your point, but videos of 21 to 34 seconds are best for boosting conversions.

Keep it vertical

Videos with vertical orientation outperform the square or horizontal format, with a 40% boost in impressions.

Promote at the right time

The success of eBay’s “Sneaker Showdown” campaign was due in part to its timing in alignment with the NCAA basketball tournament. Look for trending topics or events that can help you generate buzz for your ad campaign. And don’t forget that TikTok analytics will show you the best time to run your ads for maximum audience reach.

Use sound and text

According to TikTok, “audio of any kind” boosts ad impressions. Captions and text overlays also improve the impact of ads.

Incorporate hashtags

Help users find you by including relevant hashtags. You can see trending hashtags on the TikTok discovery page and choose the ones that make the most sense for your ad and your brand.

Incorporate interactive add-ons

TikTok’s interactive features encourage interaction with ads. For example, you can use the Gesture add-on to encourage users to swipe or tap on an ad to reveal a reward. Or use the Voting Sticker overlay to seek input from your audience.

Partner with influencers

TikTok influencers already have a following, so partnering with them on an ad campaign can greatly expand your reach. Search for influencers that are either already using your product or are among your target demographic. You might be able to launch a new campaign with an influencer to build buzz for your brand, or find an influencer with existing content that would work well for a Spark Ad.

Test and optimize

Review your TikTok analytics often to see how your content is performing. Look at metrics such as views, interactions and click-through rates, and adjust your content strategy if you’re not seeing the engagement you’d hoped for.

Winning at TikTok advertising

TikTok advertising may feel completely different from the other social platforms you’re advertising on. But once you understand how to run ads on TikTok, you could see impressive results for your business. Put directness and simplicity front and center so you can easily get your message across to the app’s wide-ranging and fast-moving audience.

And if you’re still not convinced about whether to use the platform, check out some of the top reasons why brands should use TikTok.

The post TikTok ads 101: How to get started with TikTok advertising appeared first on Sprout Social.

Reblogged 6 days ago from sproutsocial.com

How to conduct a Facebook competitor analysis report

A bit of competition can bring out the best in people. On social, a Facebook competitor analysis can bring out the best in your brand.

According to the 2022 Sprout Social Index, over 80% of marketers check their social data on a daily or weekly basis to inform everything from content strategy to market research. These decisions aren’t made with owned data alone. Competitor data is essential to getting the full picture.

Using Facebook data to bolster your competitive intelligence can provide you with the insights needed to zig where others zag. It’s no wonder Facebook is the most-used platform by marketers worldwide.

If you’re ready to engage in some old-fashioned competitive sleuthing, you’re in the right place. Here’s everything you need to know to start monitoring your competition on Facebook.

What is a Facebook competitor analysis?

A Facebook competitive analysis is the process of evaluating your competitor’s Facebook activity for benchmarking data. These reports also provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s social media strategy overall.

Conducting a Facebook competitor analysis involves reporting on key brand growth and engagement metrics for your brand and its rivals. Your team can use this social data to set a baseline for audience growth, publishing and engagement goals.

These findings can help you define what it means to offer superior content and service on social media, increasing the business impact of your presence on the network.

Why should you do a Facebook competitive analysis?

If you plan on conducting a social media competitive analysis, make Facebook your top priority. Over two-thirds of consumers anticipate spending more time on Facebook over the next year, making it a goldmine of strategic insights. If that’s not enough, here are some other reasons to consider:

Establish more relevant KPIs

Competitive benchmarking on Facebook can take the guesswork out of goal setting.

For example, say you’re trying to set a new engagement goal. Looking at your historical data can help you set an achievable target, but without competitive insights, you risk setting goals that aren’t in line with industry standards.

Your Facebook competitor analysis can motivate you to aim higher with your social content while keeping your strategy attainable and actionable.

Identify content gaps

Competitive analyses can illuminate cracks in your content strategy while supplying the information needed to fill them.

For instance, an oral health care brand conducting a Facebook competitive analysis might notice that Quip incorporates month-long observances and hashtag holidays into their content strategy.

It’s National Dentist’s Day *and* Women’s History Month, and Leonie von Meusebach-Zesch is one of the most interesting…

Posted by quip on Saturday, March 6, 2021

Since these posts do well from an engagement standpoint, that brand may consider how they can put their own unique spin on similar events.

Create better content for your followers

Coming up with new content ideas is a top challenge for many social media marketers.

Rather than starting to brainstorm from a blank slate, use industry data to create some much-needed guardrails. That’s where your Facebook competitor analysis comes in.

The analysis will help you identify your rival’s content themes. As you notice them, ask yourself how your brand might approach something similar. What would you do differently? What opportunities are they not taking advantage of?

Eventually, you’ll come up with a unique piece of inspired content that stands independently from its source material.

Understand the strength of customer service efforts

More than half of US consumers turn to Facebook the most for customer service needs, making it the preferred network for customer care.

A quantitative and qualitative review of your competitor’s Facebook pages can help you clearly define what they are and aren’t getting in terms of customer service. This will show you exactly what it takes to gain a competitive edge on social.

Facebook competitive analysis tools will help you keep a pulse on what your audience expects from brands on the network. Eventually, you’ll find ways to one-up their service offerings, cementing your spot as the brand people turn to for a better customer experience.

Test new Facebook features

Facebook started as a social network for college students. Now, it’s a social network, a marketplace, a media platform and so much more.

This creates an ever-flowing river of new opportunities for marketers. The only downside is, it can feel overwhelming to keep up.

A Facebook competitor analysis can help you identify which Facebook features are worth embedding into your strategy. If a competitor seems to be gaining a lot of traction from using a specific tool, that’s a clear sign to get in on the action.

How to analyze competitors on Facebook with Sprout

You could do some of this research manually, but Sprout will make the process much more efficient. Sprout’s Facebook Competitors Report lets you track metrics for any Facebook page to compare them against your own. Here’s how to use it:

Step 1: Set your filters

Use the Filter Menu to customize the data you want to see in your report.

Sprout's Facebook Competitor Report with the 'Your Pages' filter drop down selected.

You’ll find three different filters within the menu: Pages, Competitor Pages and Date Range.

  • Use Pages to select which owned Facebook pages you’d like to include in the report.
  • Use Competitor Pages to manage and select competitor Facebook pages
  • Use the Date Range date picker to select a time period for your report.

Step 2: Check the summary

The top widget in the Facebook Competitor Report is a summary table. This features averages of key metrics including Fans, Public Engagements and Public Engagements per Post.

A screenshot of the Sprout Facebook Competitor Report summary table.

Use the trends highlighted in the summary as starting points for your competitive investigation. For example, if you notice that your fan average is lagging behind, that may be the first item to review and cover in your report.

Step 3: Dig into the numbers

You’ll find three different chart widgets in the Facebook Competitor Report:

  • The Audience Growth chart shows how your audience grew compared to your competitors’ during the selected time period.
  • The Publishing Behavior chart shows the different types of posts you and your competitors published during the selected time period.
  • The Engagement chart evaluates how people are engaging with posts based on publish date.

Each of these charts goes deeper into the high-level metrics available in the Summary table. They also provide averages of each metric for both owned and competitor Facebook pages. Use this information to benchmark your performance against your competitors’ averages.

Step 4: Review post-level data

Use the Top Posts widget to review the most popular posts published during your selected time period.

A screenshot of the Top Posts widget in Sprout's Facebook Competitor Report.

The Top Posts widget will help you analyze published content across all competitors to understand what’s resonating within your shared audience. As you review the data, stay on the lookout for qualitative trends as well. What type of visuals and messaging drive the most engagement? Are there any topics people seem particularly excited about?

Understanding these trends will come in handy during your next brainstorm.

Step 5: Share findings

There are a few different ways you can distribute your report from Sprout.

A screenshot of the sharing options available in Sprout's Facebook Competitor Report

If you’d like to limit the number of disparate files floating around people’s inbox, try the link sharing option. This will allow you to share reports with multiple stakeholders regardless of whether they have a Sprout account or not.

Understanding your Facebook competitor analysis

Numbers are nothing without the right context.

For example, what if one of your competitors ran an enticing social media contest during your reporting period? That would definitely have an impact on either their engagement or audience growth. If your report lacks that context, it can result in an unfair assessment of your team’s performance.

Use storytelling to give your data meaning. Include the “why” behind your most interesting numbers so that your teammates understand the full story behind the report as well.

May the best brand win

A Facebook competitor analysis can be exactly what you need to level up on the network. Understanding where their strengths and weaknesses lie is the first step to understanding how to outperform them on social.

Compiling that data takes a lot of work, especially when analyzing multiple competitors. Sprout Social can eliminate all the data collection work so you can focus on planning your next steps. Sign up for a trial today to test out the Facebook Competitor Report free for 30 days.

The post How to conduct a Facebook competitor analysis report appeared first on Sprout Social.

Reblogged 6 days ago from sproutsocial.com

Googlebot will crawl and index the first 15MB of content per page

Google has updated its help document on Googlebot to specify that Googlebot will crawl up to the first 15MB of the page and then stop. So if you want to ensure that Google ranks your page appropriately, make sure Googlebot can crawl and index that part of the page within the first 15MB.

What is new. In the Googlebot help document, Google added this section that reads:

Googlebot can crawl the first 15MB of content in an HTML file or supported text-based file. After the first 15MB of the file, Googlebot stops crawling and only considers the first 15MB of content for indexing.

Why we care. In general, you probably want to keep your pages pretty light for both users and search engine crawlers. But here Google is being very clear about how much Googlebot will consume from your page.

A good way to test this is to use the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console and see what parts of the page Google renders and sees within the debugging tool.

The post Googlebot will crawl and index the first 15MB of content per page appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Twitter launching Branded Likes

Twitter has launched Branded Likes – custom Like animations for tweets that brands can create through the ads manager.

What are Branded Likes. Branded Likes are Like buttons stylized for specific tweets. You can see an example here promoting the “Scream” movie.

A costly addition. Branded Likes were featured during the Super Bowl with brands Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo taking the bait. But the price tag for the emojis then was around $1 million. They won’t cost that much when they’re launched, but it does make us wonder what sort of impact they had at that time if any.

Who will get access. Twitter says that they’ll make Branded Likes available as an ad option to all advertisers in the U.S., UK, and Japan next week.

Why we care. I’m not entirely sure we do. Branded Likes are a novelty, but there aren’t any early indicators that they’ll have a positive effect on brand awareness or engagement. 

The post Twitter launching Branded Likes appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

TikTok commits to updating ad policies to better align with EU rules

Following discussions with the Commission and network of national consumer protection (CPC) authorities, TikTok has agreed to implement regulations around promoting alcohol, cigarettes, and ‘get rich quick’ schemes.

TikTok will also allow users to report undisclosed branded content and flag ads that trick children into making purchases. 

New labels for paid ads. The policy will identify ads with a new label, allowing users to see immediately whether a post is sponsored. Publishers will also have to switch on a toggle button when they’re publishing content captioned with certain keywords such as #ad or #sponsored.

In addition, users with more than 10,000 followers will also have their videos reviewed to ensure they meet TikTok’s guidelines.  

The new commitments. According to the European Commission, the main commitments agreed to by TikTok are: 

  • Users can now report advertisements and offer that could potentially push or trick children into purchasing goods or services.
  • Branded content now abides by a policy protecting users, which prohibits the promotion of inappropriate products and services, such as alcohol, “get rich quick” schemes and cigarettes.
  • Users are prompted to switch on a toggle when they publish content captioned with specific brand-related keywords such as #ad or #sponsored.
  • If a user has more than 10,000 followers, their videos are reviewed by TikTok against its Branded Content Policy and Community Guidelines to ensure that the content is appropriate.
  • Policies clarify how to purchase and use coins, and pop-up windows will provide the estimated price in local currencies. Consumers are allowed to withdraw within 14 days from the purchase, and their purchase history is also available.
  • Policies also clarify how to get rewards from TikTok and how to send gifts, for which users will be able to easily calculate their price.
  • Paid advertisements in videos will be identified with a new label, which will be tested for effectiveness by a third party.
  • Users are able to report undisclosed branded content, and new rules for hashtags and labels will be implemented.

What the Commission says. “All social media platforms are required to play by the rules and make sure that consumers can easily identify commercial content, including when promoted by influencers. … Despite today’s commitment, we will continue to monitor the situation in the future, paying particular attention to the effects on young users.”

A troubling history of challenges. In 2020, TikTok came under hot water regarding its content moderation process and its exposure of young users in the app. While there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the app itself, a leaked document in 2020 showed that TikTok moderators had been instructed to suppress content that featured people who may have been seen as less desirable, as investigations have uncovered that TikTok relies on pretty young women, in particular. 

TikTok’s commitment. To learn more about TikTok’s commitment to EU rules, you can read the article here.

Why we care. Creators need to ensure that they’re disclosing any relevant information regarding paid content or else they could face consequences. And any regulations aimed at cracking down on predatory social platforms that target children, and moderate content based on insufficient policies and practices that leave users vulnerable, are OK in our book. Hopefully, these new regulations will help make TikTok a safer place for children, but we’ll see.

The post TikTok commits to updating ad policies to better align with EU rules appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Reblogged 6 days ago from searchengineland.com

Get more eyes on your latest content with auto newsletter

Have you ever labored over a piece of content — whether it was a blog post, article, podcast, or video — hit publish and… nothing happened? 

It’s even more frustrating when you talk with your biggest fans and they haven’t heard about your new thing because Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or others decided your post shouldn’t show up in your followers’ feeds. These are the people who want to know when you have something new to share.

Instead, let email automation do its job: Share your newest content with your fans via email and stop letting social media algorithms decide your fate.

Now, with Auto Newsletter, you can! An email is sent to your audience whenever you publish something to your: 

  • YouTube channel
  • Etsy store
  • blog
  • podcast
  • or anything that has an RSS feed

The email that’s sent can be designed however you like, and it will automatically include your latest content.

Want to send a weekly or monthly digest instead? No problem! Auto Newsletter does that, too.

How does Auto Newsletter work?

Auto Newsletter is an automatic email that gets sent whenever new content is added to an RSS feed. 

What is an RSS feed? Essentially, an RSS feed is a web page that includes a website, YouTube channel, or podcast’s content — updated in real-time. But this web page is meant for computers to read, not humans.

So, for example, when you publish a new blog post, your RSS feed will also update with the post content and information about it like the title, images, and author.

Related: Save Time and Increase Productivity with RSS Feeds

Here’s how RSS feeds work with your Auto Newsletter:

  1. Check feed. You choose how often to check for new content (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). 
  2. Send email. When something new appears — a YouTube video, blog post, podcast, Etsy product, etc. — a new email is sent automatically.
  3. Subscribers get new stuff. The email will go out to your subscribers with your newest content.
  4. You do nothing. Yep, that’s right. You don’t even have to think about it.

Pretty cool, right? 

You can offer weekly and monthly digests of your content with Auto Newsletter, too. The campaigns will go out on a set schedule with the newest content from that week.

Plus, any auto newsletter can be added to an existing campaign. So, say you have a welcome campaign. Include an email with your newest blog content on day 3 without having to update it manually.

What’s the benefit of sending automated newsletters with your new content?

Maybe you email your audience regular newsletters. Or, you have an awesome welcome campaign set up. And you’re wondering — why would I add a new content notification into the mix?

Well, there are five reasons to set up an automated email for your content.

  1. Get more views, downloads, and eyes on your content
  2. Get more value out of your work
  3. Get an early boost in the algorithms
  4. Control the connection with your audience
  5. Save time

1. Get more views, downloads, and eyes on your content

These days, marketing is a grab for people’s attention — even the people who know and love your content are regularly distracted by YouTube suggestions, advertisements, and pop-up ads. They expect you to let them know when you’ve created something they may like.

Most people won’t remember to seek out your new thing.

By remarketing to your current audience, you have the best chance of having someone click through to see your newest video, blog post, or podcast. And they’re also the most likely to consume it.

Don’t forget, it’s way easier and more affordable to market to current fans than to introduce yourself to someone completely new. Auto Newsletter allows you to do just that.

2. Get more value out of your work

Let’s face it — you work hard on your content. It’s time to get more back from what you put into it. 

Don’t depend solely on an algorithm to put the thing you worked hard on in front of people. Just like you’d promote a YouTube video on your Instagram feed or post your newest blog post on Twitter — it’s time to send everything out to people’s inboxes (without adding yet another task to your to-do list).

There’s a reason larger companies promote their new stuff via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and email. Because it makes their investment of time go further.

3. Get an early boost in the algorithms

A big factor in the way algorithms rank your content is how many people watch, listen, or read in the hours immediately after you’ve published. (“Algorithms” = fancy word for computers looking at your stuff.) 

It’s a real make-or-break time. And you can boost the algorithm by telling your fans about your new content first. With a bunch of people hopping on your content early, you can actually drive more attention and success overall when the algorithm decides “yes, this is something everyone wants.”

4. Control the connection with your audience

Whether you create YouTube videos, podcasts, or blog posts, you are dependent on an algorithm to bring in new viewers. Which is scary.

What if the algorithm changes? What if you get banned or dinged because of confusing rules? What’s the real risk of depending solely on one platform for your business to succeed?

By creating and growing your email list and regularly engaging with your fans, you can recapture some control and create a backup plan for your channel.

5. Save time

Auto Newsletter is fully automated: You set it up once, and it continues to send your newest stuff forever, with no extra work on your part.

If you wrote a short email and included your new blog or video, it would probably take at least 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound like too much, right?

Well, what if you put out two pieces of content per week? That’s at least a couple of hours a month, just on sending emails alone. That doesn’t include social media, responding to comments, or of course the time you spend creating.

The more you can do to automate tasks like this, the more time you’ll have to create, or to clock out early, or spend with your family and friends.

Okay, you get the general benefits of this email automation tool. But let’s talk specifics. There are a few types of content creators who stand to benefit the most. Anyone with a YouTube channel, a podcast, a blog, or an Etsy store can get a lot of mileage out of Auto Newsletter.

How to get more views on your YouTube channel with an automatic newsletter

YouTube views on a video go up from 10 to 894.

The YouTube algorithm is tough. You can spend days, weeks, or even months recording video, hours editing, and then click publish and… nothing. A few views but not nearly enough to help you go viral.

But there’s a trick. If you get more views in the immediate hours after you publish, the algorithm will favor your videos. That’s why it’s easier for more popular YouTube channels to have their content go viral.

So, notify the fans who already like and subscribe to your channel about your new content! How? With Auto Newsletter.

Here’s what they’ll see:

An email showing a new video from the AWeber YouTube channel.

With a pre-built signup page, it’s easy for your fans to opt into your email notifications. Once they do, you can send them automatic emails every time you publish a new video, so they can watch it straight away.

So what are you waiting for? Start collecting emails and send YouTube notifications today!

How to get more podcast downloads with an automatic newsletter

Creating a podcast is a lot of work. Between finding guests, recording, editing, and publishing, creating a podcast can take hours… days… weeks!

And then it’s live and you just hope your subscribers listen. But while some fans are refreshing their apps daily waiting for your newest episode, most aren’t. You usually have to wait for them to come across your podcast.

So, ask them to sign up for regular notifications. They’ll know what’s in your latest episode and — similar to liking and subscribing — fast downloads and listens can help you in the Apple Podcasts algorithm.

As you build your email list, you can also include ads in your footer and send other announcements. Expand your podcast’s impact on your business.

The AWeber podcast in a Gmail inbox.

How to get more blog traffic with an automatic newsletter

By far the most common use for Auto Newsletter is an automatic blog notification. 

Are you sending out regular newsletters with your newest blog content? Skip the weekly project and automate new notifications instead.

Shortly after you publish your new post, a notification can go out to your audience or customer base. 

Or, if you are more likely to send a weekly or monthly newsletter, offer a Friday digest instead. Send out your newest posts automatically, letting people know what you’ve published.

Here’s what it could look like:

An example of an automatic blog notification newsletter

An automatic newsletter is useful for journalists, bloggers, and business owners. No need to write an email on top of your blog post — let your original piece do the talking.

Show off your newest Etsy products with an automatic newsletter

Got an Etsy store? You can let people know about new products in your store automatically or weekly, with no extra work.

Set up an email to send automatically when you add new products to your store.

This powerful email-on-publish can allow you to:

  • Sell new products faster
  • Alert your biggest fans to products with limited inventory
  • Get more clicks on your store (hack the algorithm)
  • Save time by promoting new products without extra work

Check out this example of a simple promotion for a new product from The Next Gen Artist who makes wooden cat figurines.

An example of an auto newsletter triggering an email for a new product on an Etsy store

Just think — a new notification to your biggest fans and previous customers every time you add a new product. The sales potential is huge!

Three ways you can use Auto Newsletter today

New YouTube video notification

…or blog post / podcast. This is the best way to get eyes on your content as fast as possible. Here’s how to set it up.

Step 1: Set up a page where your YouTube followers can sign up to receive the notifications. Use this template or any from our landing page template gallery. Make sure you include a sign up form on the page and tag it with something like “youtube-newsletter.” Then publish the page.

GIF showing auto newsletter set up

Step 2: Set up an automatic newsletter campaign by clicking Campaigns -> Create a campaign -> YouTube newsletter. Set the campaign to trigger from your form tag (e.g. auto-newsletter). Add your YouTube channel in the Check Feed to “hourly.”

GIF of setting up the RSS campaign to trigger on tag auto-newsletter, a YouTube channel feed, then check hourly.

Note: “Hourly” is just how often we check the feed — your emails will just send if there’s a new video, not hourly.

Step 3: Click in the email to design it. Add your YouTube channel to the feed element in the email and update the copy with anything you’d like it to say.

It can be as simple as the below design, or you can add your own logo, colors, social handles, and other design elements:

Example of an auto newsletter email from NatGeo

Once you have your email set up how you like it, activate the campaign.

Step 4: Start promoting your YouTube newsletter on your video, in your channel’s description, and on your About page. Include a link to your sign up landing page and get fans signed up.

That’s it! With the campaign active, everybody with this tag will receive an email whenever you publish a new video to YouTube. No extra work from you.

Weekly content digest

Do you have a blog, YouTube channel, and a podcast but just want to send out one weekly newsletter? You should create a weekly digest.

A digest has tons of benefits: You’ll be sending regular emails to your subscribers with new content, you’ll get more page views, downloads, and YouTube views, and it completely takes a task off your plate (writing a weekly newsletter).

Here’s how to set it up:

Step 1: Set up an automatic newsletter campaign by clicking Campaigns -> Create a campaign -> Blog Newsletter. Choose a new tag (like weekly-digest) then set the campaign to trigger from it. Note: Don’t choose a tag you currently use.

Add your blog, YouTube channel, or podcast RSS in the Check Feed. Set it to “Weekly” and choose a time and date.

GIF showing how to set up the email automation for the auto newsletter

Step 2: Design your email to include any new content you put out. Drag the RSS element in to the email for each feed — blogs, YouTube channel, etc.

Here’s an example using the email template “Amelia.”

GIF of searching for Amelia the template and then replacing the RSS feed with a YouTube channel.

When the design is set, activate the campaign.

Step 3: Add the weekly-digest tag to any subscribers who you want to start receiving this campaign. That could include a list or segment of your current subscribers and/or adding the tag to a current form.

That’s it! Your weekly digest will now be sent with the new content you published that week.

Send monthly blog post updates after your welcome emails

Do you have an awesome 5-10 step (or more) welcome campaign set up? Worried you don’t check in with subscribers often enough after that?

You can set up your Auto Newsletter to send forever after your welcome emails. Plus, you don’t even need to build a new automation. Simply drag the feed element into the existing campaign.

GIF setting up auto newsletter to send forever after the welcome email

Step 2: Design your email to include any new content you put out. Drag the RSS element in to the email for each feed — blogs, YouTube channel, etc.

Once you have your email design how you like it, re-activate the campaign. Then, you’ll be sending regular emails to your subscribers forever, after welcoming them!

How to set up your Auto Newsletter

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Ready to send automatic emails for your YouTube channel, podcast, blog, and/or Etsy store? Great! Let’s get started.

We want your success stories

Auto Newsletter is included in all AWeber accounts, so set yours up today. Need an account? You can get started for free.

Tell us how you used Auto Newsletter for your business! We will be choosing a few lucky customers to feature in our YouTube channel, talking about their success. If you’ve had success, let us know in the comments. 👇

The post Get more eyes on your latest content with auto newsletter appeared first on AWeber.



Reblogged 1 week ago from blog.aweber.com

How to Hire for and Develop a Successful SEO Department

It’s a highly competitive market for SEO skills at the moment. But as a hiring manager, how do you ensure that you are selecting the right fit for your team, and not just the available candidates? It’s crucial for the well-being of your existing team, your prospective hires, as well as your SEO performance, to hire well.

Who you hire, when, and in what order can come down to several factors. Working in-house may mean your budget for hiring SEOs is limited, so you might need to find someone who ticks a lot of skill boxes broadly, but less deeply. With an agency, or enterprise team, you may have the luxury of investing in a broad roster of talent where each individual is highly-focused.

Skills needed for a well-rounded team

Not every SEO team is created equal. You have to ensure that you’re hiring in a way that suits your organization. To do this, consider what skill sets already exist in your business and where there are gaps.

SEO skills

First, let’s look at some commonly sought-after SEO skills. I’m loosely categorizing these into practical skills (those that are needed specifically for great SEO performance) and soft skills (those that are needed for a good team dynamic).

Practical skills

Practical skills are often the ones focused on more in the hiring process. After all, we want to ensure our new colleagues are proficient SEOs! How you cover these skills might be a mix of staff, freelancers, and agency support.

  • On-page optimization

  • Technical optimization

  • Digital PR

  • Data analysis

  • Strategy development

  • Project/account management

Soft skills

As important as practical skills are the “soft” ones. These are the skills that are interpersonal and can help your team be efficient and collaborative.

  • Mentoring

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Leadership

  • Training other departments

Adjacent skills

There are other skills that, whilst not strictly SEO skills, can help your team to function at a higher efficiency. These adjacent skills are often rolled-up into SEO skills, although it’s debatable as to whether every SEO should have an in-depth grasp of them, or merely know how to work alongside those that do.

  • Data manipulation (R, Python)

  • Coding

  • Copywriting and editing

  • Team management

  • Budgetary control

These skills are by no means a comprehensive list, but they show you the core elements that your team will need to comprise.

How to assess your team’s skills gaps

Before looking at whether you need to hire new team members, or how to upskill the current ones, you need to look at where the skill gaps are.

If you work closely with the SEOs in your company, you’ll likely already have an idea of where their strengths are, or the areas of SEO that they naturally gravitate towards. Perhaps you have that one person on the team who is always asked the technical questions or is the go-to for help with E-A-T issues.

Determining your team’s areas of weakness doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. Here are some quick methods of getting a good enough picture of where their competencies lie.

Self-assessment

Your team will know their own strengths and weaknesses well. A good first port of call is to ask them to rate their own confidence with the list of skills mentioned above. Ask them to rate their practical experience of them out of 10, as well as their theoretical knowledge out of 10.

By running this exercise you not only see where there may be skill gaps in your team, you’re also helping your colleagues to take stock of their own areas for development. Through this and a robust development plan, you may be able to fill those skills gaps internally without the need to hire.

External assessment

If your team is small, or their manager is not experienced in SEO, you’ll need the help of an external coach to identify skill gaps.

Bringing someone in from outside your company will remove any bias in assessing the availability of necessary skills on your team. You could consider a career coach, but given the specialism, you may benefit more from bringing in an SEO consultant with management experience.

Peer assessment

A third way to get a good understanding of where there are skill gaps is to ask your team to identify them. They will have a good idea of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and where they would like to see additional resources focused.

Identifying other useful skills and experience

Your team may have experience tangentially related to the work they are doing for you that actually helps them to be better SEOs. When you’re considering the skills gaps in your company, don’t forget to encourage your team to look at these skills that weren’t necessarily developed through work.

Experience gained outside of work

Consider their hobbies and volunteer work. You may be looking to hire externally for the next people manager role because no one on your team currently manages their colleagues. Could a candidate have developed those skills through their outside lives?

Perhaps you have a scout troop leader in your team, sports coaches, or voluntary industry mentors. These skills might not be immediately apparent from a CV or your experience of them at work, but dig a little deeper and you may find the missing skillset or experience you need for your department.

Don’t discount the valuable skills and experiences gained outside of a workplace setting, especially for candidates or team members who are more junior. It may be that they have not had the opportunity to showcase those skills in their careers so far but they excel in them outside of work.

What to do once the skill gaps have been identified

Once you have a better idea of where your team’s skill gaps lie, you have to decide whether to hire, train, or contract out those skills.

You may be able to grow your existing colleagues’ skills to bridge that gap with formal SEO training or like those from Moz Academy. This can also be a great way of keeping your team engaged, with the added bonus of professional certifications.

When considering training, be sensitive to life commitments. SEO is an industry that seemingly rewards “hustle”. However, a lot of people don’t want to carry out more work outside of their contracted hours, even if it is for themselves. Don’t expect your team to always be working to improve their knowledge and skills outside of work. Instead, if you want to build a world class SEO team, give plenty of space within work hours for your team to develop their skills.

If the skill gaps are too significant, you may need to bring that resource in. One way of doing that is through agencies or freelancers, but this isn’t always a cost-effective long-term solution.

Finally, you could hire someone new. Here’s how.

Create a job specification

Use the skills your team is lacking as a foundation for your new role specification. Create a description and list of capabilities around these core skills. For example, if you have identified a need to bring more technical expertise into your team, create a role that focuses on that.

Remember that it’s hard to hire an SEO who is a phenomenal all-rounder. Most of us have our leanings towards tech, content, digital PR, etc. That said…

Be careful of being too narrow

Don’t be overly prescriptive in your job specification, either. Consider whether you really need candidates to have over two years’ of experience with Python. Does this new person have to have the ability to code in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, or do they just need to know how these languages impact SEO? Do you need someone with copywriting skills, or can they just be great at communicating briefs?

If you create a very rigid “wishlist” of necessary competencies or experience you may miss out on applicants who have the right skill set for the role.

Benefits of overlapping skill sets

There can be benefits of doubling up on competencies within a team. For instance, if you’ve noted that you need a great on-page SEO but you’re getting applicants who also have a technical background, consider that a plus even if you already have great technical SEOs in your team. There’s always more that we SEOs can learn, and bringing in people who have similar specialisms, but different approaches, can help deepen our competency.

How to interview SEOs

There are many, many guides on how to conduct great interviews. What I want to focus on here are the nuances of interviewing SEOs.

In my experience, interviews for SEO roles tend to come in two main flavors:

  • Discussion about experience and skills

  • A practical task that usually results in a presentation

What combination of these, the number of stages involved, and who sits in on them differs greatly. But is this the optimum way to assess the competencies of an SEO?

The interview process

How you structure your interview should depend on a number of factors including:

  • The skill set for the role

  • The seniority of the role

For instance, an SEO with two years’ experience may require a different set of questions to that of a managerial candidate with 10 years’ experience.

There are a variety of interview techniques and activities you can use to better gauge the suitability of a candidate for a role and help them to understand if your company is the right one for them.

The formal interview

Most of us will have taken part in a formal meeting with a prospective employer. It can be a good way of quickly determining if you have rapport, and in theory, allow for both the candidate and interviewer to dig into skills and experience.

In reality, however, it’s quite a flawed method of assessing fit. Many people simply do not excel within the high-pressure situation of a one-on-one or panel interview. Depending on the role they are applying for, it could be the last time they are expected to perform in that set-up, so why interview them like that? Having a great set of interview questions can help, but to understand an individual’s capability, you may need to dig deeper.

That said, some SEO roles, in particular client-facing account or project management, will require meetings that are actually quite similar in nature to an interview. The formal interview process might be a good stage of assessment for these types of roles.

The informal chat

A less formal method for finding out information about a candidates’ skills and experience is through a more casual discussion. This interview style can be much more laid-back, giving as much space to the candidate to ask questions as the interviewer.

This can be a good way of assessing how a candidate might perform in team meetings, liaise with outside agencies, or communicate with suppliers. For roles that don’t necessarily require sales pitching or formal presentations, then an informal chat is a better route to discern a person’s fit for a job.

Homework task

Often a second or third stage of the interview process is the take-home task like auditing a website and presenting findings, or pitching a marketing project. The idea of the homework is to give candidates some time to think through a problem and work towards their best solution. It allows an interviewer to gain insight into how a candidate might actually go about a real-life SEO issue.

This is a tricky stage to get right, though.

In practice, the at-home element of these tasks can often take a candidate a long time to prepare. Given that they’re likely in several other interview processes at the same time as yours, they may be working well into their evenings and weekends to prepare for all of these tasks.

In addition, these tasks often require access to SEO tools. It’s possible to get free trials for some, but they’re limited in functionality and by trial length, or a candidate may not feel comfortable using their existing employer’s tool licenses to complete work for an interview. It will be better if, as part of this stage, you offer candidates data dumps to work from or give them temporary access to the tools they need to use.

There is also the risk on the candidate’s side that they may well come back with some excellent work and still not get hired. They will have sunk time, energy and expertise into an SEO situation just to have the interviewers say no. In some, unfortunately not atypical cases, the interviewing company may go on to use the candidate’s work even though they haven’t been hired.

On the side of the interviewing company, you also don’t really know how independently the candidate worked on the project. Look at SEO focused forums and subreddits and they are awash with people asking advice on how to best complete a task or present their findings for interviews.

A further complication of these stages is that they often test skills that aren’t necessarily needed for the role. In addition, the tasks usually need to be shared back in the form of a presentation and Q&A. As we’ve already discussed, if presentation skills are not crucial to your role, you may not be assessing the right competencies. After all, a candidate might have found a great solution to an SEO problem, but is this the right format for finding out how they arrived at it if presenting makes them nervous?

Live task

An interview assessment method that is common in the engineering and development world, but hasn’t really made it across to SEO, is the live task. Candidates can be given a problem to solve, or a website to audit, and asked to work on it whilst they are in the interview. This way, they can easily be provided with the tools they need, the risk of them asking for external help is mitigated, and they aren’t required to spend additional time outside of the interview to prepare for it.

It can, however, be quite a daunting prospect for the candidate. To make them more comfortable, consider giving them the site or rough outline of the sort of task they will be working on before the interview. Also make sure to give them the freedom to turn their, and your, cameras and microphones off if on a virtual interview, or for you to leave the room if it is an in-person interview. No one likes being stared at as they work!

Peer interviewing

To ensure it’s not just you getting to know the candidate, but that the candidate gets to know your company well, you could consider including a peer interviewing option.

Here, a candidate gets to sit with a selection of their potential colleagues and discuss what it’s like working at your company. It’s crucial that the meeting does not contain managers or anyone involved in the hiring, so the candidate can feel encouraged to ask the probing questions they want in order to find out if the company is the right fit for them.

Interviewing at the right level

It can be tough to ask the right questions of candidates who are at a different stage of their SEO career than you. If you’ve been in the industry for several years, it might be difficult to identify what someone of their experience should know and be able to achieve. Equally, if you’re not an SEO yourself, but involved in hiring one, you may not know enough about the discipline to really gauge the extent of your interviewee’s knowledge. It’s important to identify the depth of skills you would expect someone at the level you’re hiring for to have. One way of doing this is by looking at the types of problems you would want that person to solve. What skills would need to be present for them to do that? Then look at weighting those skills. Which are absolutely necessary for getting the job done and which would aid to a degree.

If you have little experience in SEO yourself you may need to consult with members of your SEO team, or look to an external advisor to help you.

Be clear about the role’s level

You don’t want to discount an eager, quick learner from a job that only requires a basic understanding of SEO because they didn’t interview as well as your last hire who is now a manager.

Similarly, a candidate may really impress you with their expertise and experience but is the role too basic for them and they are likely to want to advance on from it quite quickly?

Level appropriate questions

To make sure you’re giving your candidates the best chance to shine in their interviews, here are some ideas of questions for each of the main skill sets and how they can be tailored for junior, middleweight, and senior roles.

On-page optimization

Junior

How would you go about optimizing a page to maximize its exposure in the SERPs?

This type of question allows for the fact the candidate might not have direct experience of carrying out this activity themselves, but tests their theoretical knowledge and approach to problem-solving.

Middleweight

Give me an example of when you used on-page SEO to improve rankings of a page. What did you do, why did you do it and what were the results?

This sort of question allows for the candidate to show their direct experience with on-page SEO but does not require them to show responsibility for the strategy behind it. They can show their practical knowledge and also hint at the reasoning behind the activity.

Senior

Give me an example of when you developed and employed a content pruning strategy. What was the strategy, why did you develop it and what was the outcome?

This type of questions allows the interviewer to test the candidate’s strategic reasoning as well as their ability to identify the best methodology for achieving results, and how they analyzed those results.

Technical SEO

Junior

What would you look for when carrying out a technical SEO audit?

This type of question helps to identify whether the candidate has a theoretical knowledge of broad technical SEO activity.

Middleweight

Give me an example of when you’ve encountered a duplicate page issue, what caused it, and how you resolved it.

This type of question begins to examine the candidate’s practical experience in technical SEO and can help you to identify if they have a working knowledge or merely theoretical knowledge of technical SEO.

Senior

Give me an example of a deindexation issue you encountered, how you identified it, and how you rectified it.

This type of question will give the candidate space to demonstrate their end-to-end practical experience of serious and complex technical SEO issues. It will likely allow them to show their experience of setting up alerts and automations as well as how they think through technical problems, communicate those to other teams and work to find a resolution.

Digital PR

Junior

What’s a campaign that you’ve seen recently that you admired, and what would you have done differently?

This tests the candidate’s ability to iterate on ideas without expecting them to have launched campaigns themselves yet.

Middleweight

Give me an example of a campaign that you launched that wasn’t initially successful, and what you did to improve it.

This tests a candidate’s strategic thinking, ability to adapt to the needs and wants of the media as well as giving examples of their work.

Senior

What would be your strategy for launching a campaign to generate links in a highly regulated industry like gambling? How have you overcome struggles with regulated or hard-to-represent industries in the past?

This type of question assesses a candidate’s ability to create a well-considered strategy within a set of limiting boundaries. It also assumes prior experience of more complicated campaigns.

Analytics

Junior

If the company’s core KPI is conversions, what metrics would you look at to see if SEO is helping towards that goal? What additional information might you need?

This question does not assume the candidate has had experience with onboarding a new analytics account before but tests their theoretical knowledge.

Middleweight

What is your process for ensuring data integrity in a new analytics account?

This sort of question will allow the candidate to show that they are conscious of how data can become compromised and their process for ensuring clean data. It will also show whether they understand how they can compromise data themselves.

Senior

Tell me about a time when you deployed a complex tracking solution, your steps, and the reporting you were able to produce through it.

This type of question will explore the depth of experience a candidate has in more complicated analytics and tracking solutions.

Strategy

Junior

What do you feel are the key components to a successful [SEO/digital PR] strategy?

This type of question will test the candidate’s theoretical knowledge of creating strategies and will empower them to talk about their knowledge of auditing, measuring, reporting, and iterating.

Middleweight

Give me an example of a strategy you created that yielded great results, the steps you implemented, and the outcome.

This question allows the candidate to show their own experience of creating strategies and gives them the opportunity to discuss one they are particularly proud of.

Senior

Give me an example of a strategy you created that was not successful and what you did as a result. What would you do differently next time?

Asking this sort of question explores the candidate’s ability to fail well, including how they recover and what they have learned from that experience.

Project/account management

Junior

How would you manage your time if you were asked to complete multiple tasks with the same deadline, but only had time to complete one?

This question allows the interviewer to see how a candidate would handle a situation they are likely to encounter a lot early on in their career. It assesses the candidate’s time management and communication skills.

Middleweight

Give me an example of a time when you had conflicting deadlines and how you managed the expectations of the stakeholders involved?

Through this question an interviewer can get an idea of how a candidate has approached scheduling conflicts and stakeholder management in practice when facing that pressure, rather than what they would hope they would do in theory.

Senior

Give me an example of a project that required significant scope changes and how you handled the communications, time management, and activity allocation considering the changes

This question assesses a more experienced candidate’s approach to project management when there are multiple factors that are impacted by scope change. It allows them to discuss their line management approach, resource allocation and stakeholder communications.

Removing bias in hiring

The SEO industry has typically had a problem with promoting similar faces in conferences, committees, and within jobs. To ensure that your hiring practices encourage diversity, you should look to remove as much bias from the process as possible.

Nameless CVs and resumes

One way of removing bias is to only pass on anonymized CVs or resumes to hiring managers. This way, there is less risk of any implicit bias towards specific naming conventions affecting the hiring process.

It needs to be mentioned, of course, that this is just papering over a bigger issue, and that any employees in charge of hiring should take implicit bias training.

Bias testing

There are numerous tests available that identify whether your hiring managers have any subconscious bias towards or against people based on various characteristics. One such suite of tests is provided by Project Implicit, a non-profit organization staffed by international researchers with the mission to educate the public about bias. Their tests cover a range of potential bias such as sexuality, disability, and skin color.

Diverse interview panels

Another way of limiting bias is ensuring a diverse group of people are involved in the decision-making. This means your interviewers represent a diverse cross-section of the public, not just your organization.

Consider foregoing CVs or resumes

To make sure you aren’t hiring people based on years of working, rather than the quality and breadth of the experience they have gained, you may consider doing away with the CV altogether. Instead, candidates can answer a series of questions when applying that assesses their competency for the role.

This can stop hiring managers from weighing suitability based on former job titles (of which the SEO industry has no standard), length of time at previous roles, or impressive-sounding brands. Instead, candidates will be invited to interview based on their aptitude.

Hire people with little experience but great potential

We all had to learn somewhere. At one point in our careers, a manager took a chance on someone with relatively little SEO experience and let us loose on a website. In order to help the industry grow and adapt, it’s imperative that we continue to hire in and train up entry-level SEOs. However, this isn’t something that should be done lightly, and you should always have a good support system in place.

What to watch out for when hiring

There are a few things to be mindful of when hiring SEOs in the current climate.

The reasons behind short periods of employment

There are several reasons why candidates only worked for a year (or less) at a role. Traditionally, short periods of employment have been treated with suspicion, but ours is a flexible and dynamic industry where staying for years and years in a role doesn’t always make sense. There’s also the COVID-19 pandemic to consider, as several companies went through severe hiring and working disruptions.

In addition, it’s important to encourage employees to find the best possible fit for them, which may entail some movement between jobs. Be careful not to dismiss a candidate purely because of short stints in previous positions or companies.

Values fit

As mentioned above, you’ll often want a “culture” type interview round for new hires. The idea being that it can help to determine whether a candidate would fit in well with an existing team or structure.

This isn’t always a great idea, though. If we’re looking to promote diversity in hiring and also bring new ideas and approaches into our teams, then we should hire for values fit and not culture fit.

Culture fit is expecting a candidate to fit in with the existing way of doing things. Values fit is making sure they agree with the core principles on which your business is based, but allowing for differences in approaches, personality, and behaviors.

Conclusion

It’s a tough market to hire in at the moment, because SEO skills are very in-demand. Make sure you aren’t overlooking great candidates or even existing colleagues when trying to build your perfect SEO department.

Be clear about what you need from your team and look both internally and externally for that skill set. Remember to hire for potential and not necessarily for their current experience level, and don’t rule out candidates unnecessarily or arbitrarily.

There is a lot of movement in the market at the moment allowing for amazing opportunities. Make sure you’re setting yourself and your future team up for success.

Reblogged 1 week ago from moz.com