Keith concludes by sharing a formula that he utilises to prioritise his SEO business-funding efforts.
Keith Goode says:Prioritise your efforts, and request business funding based on the LOE/LOI Matrix - the Level of Effort versus the Level of Impact, or 'Return on Investment'. This is the way to gain, or retain, legitimacy in the minds of corporate leadership. SEOs need to prove their value.
How many SEOs are doing this at the moment?
A lot of SEOs tend to be running around in circles based on whatever news is coming out of Google. When there's an algorithm update, or a core update, coming, the Twittersphere descends into chaos as SEOs start worrying and gnashing their teeth. Instead, they should be focused on the basics: doing the right thing and avoiding Black Hat techniques. 90% of the time, if you are running an ethical SEO practice, you don't have to worry about an algorithm update.
Is this only for SEOs working in big business?
It is for everyone who is dependent upon other people to get something done with their website, or anyone who has to request funding. It's for agencies as well. A friend of mine, who works for one of the largest military banks in the United States, has just received a 50-page audit from a highly respected SEO agency. It was just a list of things that they saw as problematic with the site. The audit didn't tell them where to start, what to focus on, or what would have significant impact for their efforts. These clarifications weren't forthcoming from the agency. It was a blanket, 50-page list of problems. You end up with a Paradox of Choice. Like going to a restaurant with too many items on the menu; it becomes impossible to choose or you default to the most basic choice that may be the least impactful. When you do an audit for a site, break it down for them and let them know what you recommend. Show them which efforts will have the greatest impact in the short-term and what will take a bit longer and have a long-term benefit. You need to explain the options that are available. As SEOs, we need to be able to discern what is valuable and what isn't valuable. Kristina Azarenko recently posted a quote from John Mueller that said, 'Any SEO tool will spit out 10s or 100s of 'recommendations', most of those are going to be irrelevant to your site's visibility in search. Finding the items that make sense to work on takes experience'. This is where SEOs step in. Your customers, or your company, can get any of the bigger tools that will spit out recommendations daily. However, without an SEO to make sense of it for them, it's going to go to waste.
How does an SEO really calculate the level of impact, and then articulate that for a client to understand?
It is largely through experience. A tool might tell you what to change to have a big impact, but experience is going to be wiser. Essentially, you have to use the LOE/LOI Matrix, and sit down with your writers and developers. Ask the people who are actually going to be working on these items how long it will take and what the effort will be. Agile methodology can help for a 'T-Shirt Sizing' type of request, where you simply want to know how large the request will be. Once you've communicated with the relevant people, you can ask yourself if something like changing page titles or rewriting the content to answer the user's intent is going have a greater impact on ranking. Likely the latter, but that's going to take a bit more effort. A lot of it is on experience, but it's also a matter of collaboration. If you're new, and you don't have the experience, then experiment. Start on a smaller site, see what changes you can make now, and measure the impact. Gain the experience that you don't have. Also, reach out to your fellow SEOs - I have never been in an industry more giving, and willing to share information.
Is the Level of Effort as simple as calculating the number of hours required?
In the corporate world, everything comes back to money. If it's developer hours, those are hours they have to pay the developer. Those hours are your costs. When they pay that cost, they are hoping to get a 10X Return on Investment for that. If I'm not returning 10X ROI every year when I'm earning, from a salary perspective, then I feel like I'm not really adding value to the company. If I'm looking to meet that 10X criteria, then any of the resources or requests that I make need to meet that 10X criteria as well.
Where are some specific areas that you can implement this within SEO procedures?
It really starts at the planning stages for everything. I break SEO down into the URA SEO framework - Usability, Relevance, and Authority. I break all my needs down into one of those three categories. Usability covers crawlability, your Core Web Vitals, and everything related to coding on the page. Relevance is your content - how relevant you are to the query and to the user needs. Then Authority covers everything from external links to social to PR. It even includes internal linking, because the goal there is to build the collective equity of the site. Look at the tasks you feel are important and put them in the appropriate category, then use that to talk to the appropriate team. You're not going to talk about content with your developers or talk to your content team about coding issues. Then you can get estimates from the right people on what it would take to fix a problem and you can estimate, based on experience, what the ROI is going to be. This means that, when you hand in your budget requests, you've got all the numbers that you need. You can show what is important, what is costing money, and what it would take to fix.
How do you articulate the value of SEO to other marketers that aren't technical?
It depends on their area of expertise. We have marketers who focus on programmatic, and others on paid media, or on social. It's a matter of demonstrating what SEO offers to their discipline. I'll give you an example. We noticed that our paid campaigns had terrible Quality Scores when I first started. A bad Quality Score, from a paid perspective, means an increase in the amount that it costs to pay for each click. With an increase to the Quality Score, you can decrease the amount of money you're having to pay per click. As an SEO team, we could help them optimise the pages, to be better suited to the queries that they were going after. We could get rid of the queries that had nothing to do with the content and we could save tonnes of money. It's a matter of collaboration. You can show other marketers that if you make pages better from an organic perspective, you save money on those pages from a paid perspective. It's about working together and letting them know how you can benefit them.
What is one thing that you think SEOs should stop focussing on to spend more time considering the impact of their efforts?
Stop chasing your tail. I'm specifically referring to being on constant algorithm watch: obsessing over Search Engine Roundtable and letting every hint of a potential shift in the algorithms throw you into a panic. Instead, focus on doing the right thing. If you're going to pay attention to what's happening in the industry, be pragmatic. When there's an algorithm shift coming, you can put an annotation in Analytics, in case anything does happen to the rankings, or the traffic. If it does, you can then investigate which particular change is negatively affecting you, and where you might look to fix it. Use those updates as an annotation opportunity. Otherwise, focus on what really matters: the user.
You can find Keith Goode on @keithgoode on Twitter
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