How to compete with Google in the SERPs, make the jump to agency or in-house, and support ‘the doers’ in your organization
Areej AbuAli discussed a wide range of topics affecting the SEO industry at SMX.
“Don’t wait to see if Google makes moves into your vertical,” says Areej AbuAli, “It’s one thing to be optimizing for your own website, but then it’s another to be thinking, ‘Well, how do I compete with the SERPs? Maybe it’s not enough that I rank in the first three positions when there’s a lot of other stuff that can show up above me.’”
The London-based SEO manager of property listings site Zoopla and founder of Women In Tech SEO discussed the affects of Google moving into new verticals, SERP changes, agency and in-house roles, and diversity in search marketing during our keynote conversation at SMX Tuesday,
Take note, advised AbuAli, from travel and other industries where Google has become an effective competitor in the search results. “It’s quite important to kind of think, well, what potentially could Google put out?” AbuAli added.
Embed to get SEO buy-in
With that constant “what if” mindset, AbuAli said, it’s critical to keep brand value, authority and differentiation in mind in all aspects of of SEO and content development. “I like to speak to our content team and embed them in all the work that we’re doing because it doesn’t matter how much stuff Google comes out with. Why would consumers and why would users still go ahead and click through your website? Get that content and get that authority through.”
Asked about how to get buy-in from designers and developers, she said “At the end of the day, they’re going to be your closest allies and friends. You need to be really embedded in their teams.” She takes the approach of acting like “our own SEO product managers, because even if you work with a product leader on the tech side, they’re not going to understand the scope of work more than you do.” You’ll assess things from an SEO impact and they can assess the technical effort involved. The collaboration should happen from the brainstorming phase of a project or change — right from the start — and the SEO team should be embedded in those discussions. “I’d say that probably 80% of our time is spent working with the product and technology team,” she said.
On agency vs. in-house life
AbuAli had agency experience before going in-house. We discussed the differences between the two and the value of having been on both sides of the relationship. In-house, she noted in response to an audience question, you’re likely to have greater access to stakeholders and data and be able to communicate directly to the executive team more easily. And client expectations of agencies are often outsized. In the context of core updates negatively impacting a client site, for example, the December 2020 core update having just rolled out, AbuAli said, “There’s always a lot of tie into [the work the agency has done], whereas when you’re in-house, it’s more as one team, this is what happened. . . . How can we move forward from that? So a lot of the time is actually spent on communicating and educating across the different stakeholders than the feeling of ‘Oh, this is tied to specific work that I’ve produced.'”
If you’re considering the move from in-house to agency, on the other hand, be prepared to embrace breadth rather than depth, advises AbuAli. You’ll typically find yourself working on multiple clients, perhaps across multiple industries. For those making the jump, “I’d say, take a deep breath. Don’t try to go into a lot of detail across everything. Make sure you have a good understanding on what are the main KPIs across different clients. . . . Try your best to have as much access to the data as you can to help evaluate what are the upcoming steps. It can definitely be overwhelming at first. So it’s just really important for you to get a good understanding on how they measure success.”
Look for the doers and support them
Women In Tech SEO now has more than 3,000 members globally. We discussed Nicole DeLeon’s North Star Inbound research on gender and diversity in SEO. “When you have it on paper and when you have actual data backed up behind it and you get more people to speak about it, you know that is a really good starting point in terms of [saying] these are challenges and issues we have right now in our industry.”
AbuAli noted that people reach out to her with job listings to share with Women in Tech SEO. “But they’re always junior and mid-level roles. You never see the director, CMO type roles,” she says.
“Women tend to be your doers, and they tend to do tons of work, excellent quality work, but they tend to get kept within that role, and there’s very little training and development,” said AbuAli. “There’s very little leadership training as well.” Too often, women see little reward or advancement for being the doers in their organizations.
Further, she encourages more people to speak up about the value of diversity, and not leave the conversation to women or those who are considered diverse. If you’re a regular voice in the industry, consider giving up your seat for others: “It makes a massive difference,” she said. Other tips: Mentor. Establish leadership training. Promote from within. Go outside of your own network to ensure have a diverse pool of candidates.
You can register to watch the full discussion with Areej AbuAli on-demand here.
More on diversity in search marketing:
- Replay: The SEO gender gap and how to close it
- 13 stories of women who are shaping the SEO field
- Actionable ways to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in your marketing organization
- Women in search: Why allies and networking are critical
- Replay: Addressing diversity, recruitment and retainment in agencies and marketing teams
- What does commitment to diversity look like in an organization?
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