C3 2021 Takeaways: Experts Reveal Organic Marketing Tips & Tricks
- By Stephan Bajaio
- 12 minutes read
Our C3 2021 roundup of the top tips and tricks for SEO, Content and Web teams to take action and work together for SEO success.
Another year, another C3 in the books. Sure, we had to congregate virtually again, but Pat Reinhart and I were able to come together and host another amazing rapid-fire Tips & Tricks session. The best part of these sessions is that we're able to curate a broad spectrum of views from industry experts, influencers, customers, and even our fellow Conductors. A few key takeaways, undeniably accelerated by the pandemic, rose to the top:
- Your website means more now than ever: We're all spending more time online. To research, to compare options, and to purchase. If you have any form of brick-and-mortar presence, you've likely spent the past year pivoting time and attention to your website. A renewed sense of normalcy is coming into view, but we'll continue to see people rely more on digital tools to address their needs.
- Businesses are doubling down on SEO: Because of the shift to digital, businesses are focusing on getting their website found. In fact, we surveyed marketers and more than half of them stated that SEO is more essential during this time. As a result, companies are funneling more money into building out their SEO teams and strategies.
- But doing SEO well is hard work: Sure, having an SEO expert (or several) in your Organic Marketing team ensures that search is always considered in broader marketing activities, but it shouldn't exist in a vacuum. Best-in-class marketing teams break down internal silos so Content, Web, and Search teams collaborate cross-functionally. This is the only way to make sure that SEO is truly embedded into your Organic Marketing strategy.
If you were unable to see the session live, don't fret! Per tradition, I'm here to identify some key lessons and takeaways from our incredible panel of thought leaders. Here are the Organic Marketing best practices you need to know!
How SEO, Content, and Web Teams Work Together in Organic Marketing
# 1 Brian Merritt, TrustPilot
Everyone needs to operate like they're on one team. Everyone from the technical side, as well as project managers, the SEO team and content team, should align and work together towards one shared goal. Understand everyone's priorities and determine how you can best work towards them together.
#2 SJ Yun, Daniel Gale
If you want your SEO team working in tandem with your Content and Web Development teams, it has to start at the beginning. Get everyone together to discuss your goals, your tactical roadmap, and how you're going to measure success. As SJ eloquently stated: "You can't get where you're going if you don't know where you're going first." And if you're not working towards a unified vision, those pesky silos are bound to spring up.
#3 Christine Schrader, Wpromote
As a part of the marketing team, you’re used to researching, analyzing, and understanding your audience. You should put that same time and attention into understanding your colleagues. Christine learned this the hard way when she and her team embarked on a complete site redesign that included rewriting all web page copy. It was clear that web, SEO, and content teams were not speaking the same language. She said simple actions, like shadowing a team member in another function or simply asking the right questions, can help you improve alignment.
#4 Susan Watanabe, Johns Hopkins
Always keep the lines of communication open and always listen to each other's ideas. Between SEO, content, and web development, we all have different expertise, so finding ways to blend it together is what will help create the best product for the business.
#5 Ian Lurie, Digital Marketing Consultant
Create a comprehensive library or wiki of resources that answer key questions everyone in your team may have to help close the knowledge gap between teams. For example, provide articles to help the development team understand how to use the content management system, or create checklists to help content strategists understand how to resize images for web pages. That dedication to ongoing education and empowerment will help build trust and cross-functional relationships.
#6 Nate Perkins, Sanford Health
Every team has its own unique way of working. A content team may work similar to a traditional newsroom, while the web team works like a typical digital marketing team, and the developers work in an agile sprint session format. When all three groups come together, they must come to an understanding of how they're going to work, in what format, and how they can best get things done.
Content Strategy Best Practices
#7 Doug Cirillo, Lindblad Expeditions
Develop a content strategy rooted in consumer demand that covers everything from your high-level strategic objectives to your tactical content production for specific topics and terms. This helps ensure optimization is baked into your content from the start, not an afterthought.
#8 Hannah Whalen, Conductor
Content teams should think about their content strategy across their entire digital presence. Whether it's your blog, website pages, or YouTube videos, work with your SEO team and web team to think through the entire digital experience and how SEO supports it. SEO analysis helps us better understand our audience questions and needs, and ultimately shapes our content focus and direction.
#9 Susan Watanabe, Johns Hopkins
Do an SEO deep dive before writing any new content. Assess your existing resources and look for gaps. When you create content, do so in the voice of your target customer and always try to include visuals or videos to reinforce information. Finally, once content is live, conduct regular SEO analysis to optimize performance.
#10 Nate Perkins, Sanford Health
Leverage subject matter experts and executives in your organization to guide your content. They answer customer questions and solve their problems every day, so they know what to focus on.
#11 Ian Lurie, Digital Marketing Consultant
Repurpose your content to maximize reach and impact. If you create videos, transcribe them and turn them into blog posts. If you have great slide decks, turn them into blog posts. Have a great blog post? Record it and turn it into an audio podcast or video. This helps turn high-quality content into a high quantity of content.
#12 Brian Merritt, TrustPilot
Google your brand name to see mentions across social networks and customer review sites. Make sure you claim profile pages on these networks and encourage customers to share their input. Put that feedback to good use by reusing it across your site, branded social accounts, and other channels.
#13 SJ Yun, Daniel Gale
Focus on quality over quantity. So many websites are focused on content dumping to boost their traffic, but the key to success is getting the right traffic to your site. Take stock of your content, audit it for relevance and timeliness, and remove whatever is unnecessary to your target customer.
#14 Christine Schrader, Wpromote
Bring together team members that in some way touch the customer experience to ensure you're creating content that focuses on the topics, questions, and issues that they care about. Although it's easy to focus on top-of-funnel content that drives traffic and generates leads, you need to have content that supports their decision-making journey and inspires them to do business with you.
How SEO and Content Teams Can Collaborate Better
#15 Keith Goode, IBM
SEO practitioners should remember that SEO and content best practices haven't always aligned. For example, the keyword stuffing practices of yesteryear still haunt many content creators. Present your SEO analysis and audience research as content to help them understand how people are searching for your brand and the products and services you provide.
#16 Katie Greenwood, Conductor
When SEOs are looking for validation for content decisions, they should always look to their competitors. See how they're ranking for certain keywords and communicate that as validation for site changes.
#17 Dan Patmore, Sainsbury's
SEO teams can support their content colleagues by sharing everything they know about the customer. Share what they're looking for, what they care about, the keywords they're using, and what opportunities exist for your brand to get found. At the end of the day, effective content is about addressing your audience's needs and SEOs provide that necessary context.
#18 Duane Forrester, Yext
Consumers have been trained to ask questions in site search bars like they do in Google. Look at your site's search history for additional information about your audience's needs and search behaviors. This knowledge can uncover new content ideas and optimization opportunities.
#19 Claudia Higgins, Conductor
SEO and content teams want the same thing: for the site to be effective and bring in new visitors. SEO teams have the opportunity to bring in data to help their content colleagues understand what's resonating, what consumers are engaging with, and what's encouraging them to bounce. Giving the team seamless access to this data will help them work more effectively by their own measures and KPIs. See which team members are most enthusiastic about this access and collaborate with them on a project to show how a best-in-class process that combines SEO and content can work.
Tips for Aligning with Web/Dev Teams
#20 Stephanie LeVonne, Conductor
Sometimes, SEOs can feel out of the loop with all of the changes the web/dev team is making to the website. And these changes, for better or worse, can impact SEO performance. To close this knowledge gap, hire an SEO specialist with a technical background who understands "dev language" and is familiar with your content management system. Your dev team may be more receptive to collaborating with them and responding to their requests.
#21 Paul Shapiro, Conde Nast
Web developers and SEOs have their own unique priorities. SEOs should understand the dev team's mindset and the challenges they may be facing, such as technical debt and existing site features. With this context, SEOs can build their case for any recommendations they're making, and highlight how these changes can drive results that matter to the dev team.
#22 Duane Forrester, Yext
The SEO team should focus on things like Core Web Vitals scoring, which is really driven by the technical makeup of the site. They should also make sure they have a very robust, preferably machine-learning-powered search system in place. This will help lower the cost of customer service over time and will help boost customer confidence when they go to your site. Together, the SEO and web/dev teams need to make sure these areas are technically proficient and best-of-breed.
#23 Claudia Higgins, Conductor
Most dev teams are bombarded with projects, so SEOs need to focus on making the case for prioritizing their needs and recommendations. Quantify the cost of doing nothing. Highlight how making no change will ultimately impact site visibility, traffic, and conversions, and how this will impact the broader business.
#24 Spencer Stein, Conductor
Want to win your dev team over and make a strong case for collaboration? Present new information or new perspectives on a topic that matters to them. For example, a crawl report can help your dev see a different view of site performance and ways to improve the overall experience. Although you're not winning them over to see the value of SEO specifically, you're helping them see the benefits of the data and tools you use, and that's a strong starting point.
#25 Keith Goode, IBM
Remember that most dev teams are either agile or incorporate some elements of agile into their development processes. You can't just walk up to them and ask them to drop everything to help you; they have sprints and deliverables they're responsible for. Be considerate of their time and break requests down into sprint-sized tasks. This will help you inch your way into their development lifecycle.
#26 Katie Greenwood, Conductor
Be hyper-considerate of your dev team's time and resources. When you make requests for the website, list them by priority and potential impact. This will show your dev colleagues that you respect their time and will ultimately help you foster more meaningful (and mutually beneficial) relationships with them.
Top Technical SEO Tips for 2021
#27 Cindy Krum, Mobile Moxie
If brands want to maximize exposure in the age of Internet of Things connectivity, they have to think less about the screen-oriented experience and more about the assistant-oriented experience. This is where "speakable schema" can play a role, helping you ensure that your site content is optimized for digital assistants, such as FAQ and Q&A content.
#28 Greg Gifford, SearchLab
Local businesses need to ensure they're using the correct local business schema with every bit of information included. Single-location businesses need to put the schema code on their homepages and multi-location businesses need to add the unique local business schema codes to each individual location page. Finally, local businesses should look at their Google My Business listing to ensure they show up in mack packs and Google Maps searches.
#29 Lily Ray, Amsive Digital
Google's going to be unleashing this new algorithm update in May that considers all the different ways users interact with websites and specific web pages. That's why Core Web Vitals should be a core focus in 2021.
#30 Nate Perkins, Sanford Health
#31 Martha Van Berkel, Schema App
Google uses structured data that it finds on the web to understand the content of a specific page. You can architect your site content using these structured data labels to create relevant and rich search results. It not only will help you boost audience awareness; it will also help you build trust and validate that you can provide the information and resources they need.
#32 Paul Shapiro, Conde Nast
You don't want to make one-off, on-page changes to your site. You want to focus on making changes that impact the entire ecosystem of the website. Invest in a technical audit to better understand your website and identify which changes will make the most positive impact.
Visit the C3 Hub for More SEO Tips and Tricks
We're less than halfway through 2021, which means you have tons of time to implement the SEO tips and tricks we revealed during this year's C3.