SEO is taking on greater importance in the marketing strategies of brands large and small. In fact, in a 2021 survey of BrightEdge customers, 75% of respondents indicated that the role of SEO would expand in 2022. Too often, though, despite the growing role SEO is expected to play in establishing brands and reaching consumers, SEO staffing doesn’t scale in parallel. It is not uncommon, even among big brands, for SEO teams to be comprised of only a few members. Sometimes entire SEO functions fall on just one SEO professional.
In a recent BrightEdge webinar, we explored the challenges facing small SEO teams and learned the practical ways small teams can achieve big impact from SEO. Two customers shared insights into their methods and successes, and we provided guidance on how SEOs can use the BrightEdge platform to get big results with modest resources. Below are highlights from the webinar that you can put into practice. You can also access the full recording here.
Prioritize and Optimize SEO Processes
Maximizing SEO impact from a small team requires discipline. We laid out four basic principles to help bring the needed discipline to the SEO effort. While all SEO operations can benefit from these four guiding principles, working efficiently on the right things is particularly imperative for small teams:
- Create efficient processes within the team – even one-person teams can benefit from reducing re-work and eliminating high-effort, low-return steps in the SEO workflow
- Define success across teams – SEO will have an impact on the broader organization. Be clear on how other teams in the organization view SEO and agree on what constitutes SEO success
- Identify ways to minimize manual work – reducing manual work shifts your focus to the high-value measurement and strategy that contributes to SEO impact
- Pinpoint what will drive impact quickly – in short, develop the means to identify and prioritize the things that will help you deliver high impact fastest
Put Principle into Practice
So, in real terms, what does it look like to successfully practice effective SEO with a small team? We talked in the webinar with two customers who are doing so every day. Here are some of the key insights they offered:
Dan Pizzolato – Assistant Director of Organic Search at CROWE – public accounting, consulting and technology firm
Pizzolato initially took on SEO as a one-person team in 2018 and faced a couple of key challenges. For one, despite the important role content plays in Crowe’s client acquisition strategy, 60% of the company’s key thought leadership content was not ranking for top terms. Compounding the issue was SEO’s placement in the content development workflow: SEO was simply not considered until after content was created.
Pizzolato took on the challenge and ultimately built a BrightEdge Edgie-Award-winning SEO program. He shared some tips from Crowe’s success:
- Educate the organization on SEO – “Our journey at Crowe has been centered on internal education. Getting on calls with key stakeholders, educating them about what SEO is, how it works, how they can use it to drive their business goals.”
“We might identify some content that’s doing well, dig into the data, then get on a call with our key stakeholders, our content strategists and present the data. Everything we do is data-driven,” Pizzolato adds. Over the course of three years, Pizzolato was able to build up SEO’s role in the organization and incorporate SEO into multiple phases of content strategy and multiple facets of the overall business.
- Highlight wins to build a case for staffing up – By not only delivering value to the business, but also improving perceptions of that value organizationally, Pizzolato was able to make the case for adding a second team member. Crowe’s enhanced understanding of SEO through Dan’s evangelism, and the demonstrated results from SEO measurement were essential to making a successful argument for staffing up.
- Leverage technology to extend your capabilities – Pizzolato and his associate work daily in BrightEdge, which functions as an extension of the team. One of the key ways they use BrightEdge is to help them see clearly what’s working and where Crowe is winning. With this visibility, they can not only identify patterns they can leverage in the ongoing SEO work, but also further evangelize internally the impact of SEO.
More practically, SEO technology has helped Pizzolato scale his team in an unconventional way: “I’ve been collaborating with our editorial team. I’ve gotten them access to BrightEdge, and now they’re in there on a frequent basis…” Now, he says, he rarely has edits to their content because the editorial team has already incorporated keywords in a natural and technically correct way.
Dan Lauer – SEO Manager at HNI – solutions provider for home and workplace furnishings
HNI is a collection of brands with thousands of product pages across multiple websites. Lauer assists each brand’s individual marketing team. One important nuance in HNI’s SEO efforts is the coordination required between SEO and a significant paid search component.
Lauer shared some insights other SEOs can apply in their efforts:
- Keep an eye out for low hanging fruit – Lauer started early in his SEO work using the BrightEdge Site Audit to identify areas that needed to be fixed on the site like, “Broken 404 pages, 500 server URLs, just easy stuff like meta descriptions, meta keywords, fixing H1 tags,” Lauer says. With 15-20 websites under the HNI umbrella, this early emphasis on identifying and addressing low hanging fruit helped HNI secure early, impactful wins despite the small SEO team.
- Balance SEO against other marketing efforts – Some of the HNI brands employ a significant spend on digital advertising including search ads. “It’s a fine balance. SEO and paid work well when they’re collaborating together,” Lauer notes. “So, if you want to dominate the SERP having your Google ads as well as your local 3-pack, your knowledge graph entries, people also ask at the top of organic, you can really dominate page one.” The key point of collaboration? Keyword strategy for both SEO and paid must be in sync. Lauer concedes HNI has low probability of ever ranking high in organic for some ultra-competitive keywords. These keywords make rational targets for ad spending.
- Clear the decks if you want to have some fun doing SEO – Once you’ve optimized for technical SEO, Lauer says, you can start to have some fun. The fun begins, “when you can actually start getting into that keyword strategy, when you can start to think of every page on your site as a homepage, when you can really show the brands that you can target keywords and get to that proactive SEO.” He adds that this is the stage where you can begin to leverage the larger organization – including design, content, IT and analytics teams – to scale SEO even as the dedicated SEO team remains small.
- Outsource tasks to technology – Lauer’s ability to leverage BrightEdge and other technologies in his SEO work has given him added reach. “Having BrightEdge being able to do the technical and the on-page and off-page and content and data all in one spot; having all that data intertwined and connected really helps us automate what we’re trying to do.”
We’ve just touched on a few highlights from the webinar. Be sure and download the webinar recording for additional valuable insights from both Pizzolato and Lauer.
In addition to both customers’ informative perspectives, we explore four strategies in the webinar to scale and produce quick wins using the BrightEdge platform. BrightEdge’s Dave McAnally gives a brief, but informative elaboration on each of the four strategies in the webinar recording, which include:
- Use anomaly detection to gain positive traction in your SEO campaigns
- Align keyword groups to your business needs
- Use BrightEdge Data Cube or Instant for content ideation
- Use the BrightEdge Recommendation Engine to prioritize SEO work
Working alone or in a small SEO team doesn’t mean you can’t be successful on a large scale. Our webinar guests, much like many BrightEdge clients, have proven as much. If you find yourself in a similar situation, look here for some inspiration.