Remember when electric cars were more Star Trek than Subaru? Learn how the search bar can help you bring your marketing strategy out of the past and into the future by leveraging data drawn from 5.5 billion searches per day across all of your channels. Access the insights hiding in plain sight on search engine results pages—and how that information should inform decisions across your business beyond your rankings.

Check out the full video of Conductor’s Head of Content, Christine Schrader, presenting at State of Search in 2019. Below the video you’ll find the full presentation deck and transcript.

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Presentation Deck:

Presentation Transcript:

So as Bill said, I have the content team at Conductor, and SEO falls under me, so organic social, organic search falls under there, and one of the things we’ve noticed both as a company that provides SEO technology and services, and as our own internal content team, is that there’s a real need right now for search data to become something we call search intelligence, and actually break out of the silo that is SEO.

So I’m going to talk to you guys about what exactly that looks like, and how to bring that kind of mentality and evangelism to your companies. This is really about being empowered to get past something that looks like this. Originally, when we talked about SEO, it was looking at our business competitors on the page, right? We’re here, they’re here, how can we get above them in rankings? But that’s not really all SEO is, as all of us in this room know, and it’s worth thinking about where SEO often falls at companies, and sometimes it’s not on the IT teams, and sometimes it’s on web dev teams, but often it’s on marketing, and it’s sort of sitting in marketing, a digital channel, and siloed off from the rest of the company, and that’s not all SEO can do.

So what we get into for SEOs in all of these organizations, for you guys, for even at our company, we’re an SEO company and sometimes we silo SEO in the wrong way, is actually this pain loop, where you’re stuck between your company’s website and the search engine, and your company’s saying, “I want this,” and they’re not necessarily listening to you, right? Your recommendations, and their algorithm, on Google is changing all the time, so you’re being told you should be doing this, not doing that. There’s this very prescriptive thing that’s happening, which leads us to this reactive style SEO, right?

We hear things from all across our company, from our IT teams, our exec teams, content teams, marketing teams, product teams. They’re asking us for things, but we’re not necessarily giving them the intelligence to get ahead of these problems. That’s proactive SEO. That’s something different, and what we want to get to, is a position where we are not just digital janitors cleaning up after messes people have made, right? All of those errors that come up, something’s broken, something’s not showing up, there’s this thing happening, we put all of these things with no follow on them, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

No more digital janitors, instead, we want to do something else, and that’s something we don’t call SEO, although we do. It’s called SPI. What that means is search presence intelligence, because we’re not just optimizing for search engines, that’s not what we’re doing. We are optimizing our businesses, often starting with the marketing team for our customers, for those people searching, that we have this huge array of insights about. That’s kind of our super power, because we have that search intelligence, and instead of sitting on the edge of our organization stuck inside that marketing bubble, and maybe not even influencing that whole team as much as we should, we need to be at the center, informing our entire organization, because we are the repositories of intelligence about our customers, what they want, what they need.

So what we ask ourselves here, is where can we get this information from? Oftentimes, we think of search as just something that applies to content, right? Or we need to sort of tart something up on our website. Product teams might not be naming things the right way for people to actually find the solutions you guys have online, you can get resistance from content teams, because they wrote the most beautiful thing in the world, and then you come in and you’re like, “Ah, these keywords have to go in there,” but if we get ahead of this, we do something that actually is not data, because data’s overwhelming. Data leads to paralysis. It’s intelligence, it’s focused data that you are providing across your organization.

So let’s actually get into how we actually get to the future. We started this presentation by talking about gas-guzzling SEO, that’s the old school way, but all across our lives, we were promised flying cars, we were promised something way cooler. I own a 2003 Toyota Avalon, okay? I was promised flying cars all over the place, over and over again. So if SEO is my Toyota Avalon, it gets me where I’m going. I love that car, it does what I need it to do, but what it doesn’t do is revolutionize the space I’m in. It doesn’t let me achieve all the dreams in the future that I had of a flying Toyota Avalon, which would be ideal, because it is very reliable. So if SEO is our reliable one, and it’s just about getting your site found, your content found, SPI is revolutionary, and it’s our future, because this is actually optimizing your organization, using that intelligence, and that’s really exciting. I’m really bad at this clicker.

The evolution of SEO into SPI looks something like this, and it’s not finished yet. It went from them and us, and where we rank on the search engines to understanding, oh yeah, there’s not just organic results out there, there’s other things people are seeing on the SERPs, to something where you’re actually looking at publishers and how they’re getting information, because anything on the SERP is fighting for intelligence, right?

It’s fighting for that space with what you’re telling your customers, and helping them get to the solution and drive the value that you are providing, that your organization is uniquely placed to provide. And even now, this is not quite true, we have a million other things. All of those different universal search results, all of those different kinds of things that appear on the SERP, and it’s changing all the time. New knowledge graphs, everything is constantly changing on the SERP. And we actually need to understand this as total intelligence, because it tells us not just about our competition in business, it tells them about competition for attention. Who are the other sources that your customers are seeing when they’re looking for information that your business can provide?

So what we want to learn from this intelligence, is what do our customers care about? So to prolong that car metaphor, we decided to look into another revolution that is happening right now, and that’s the electric car. So getting a little closer to that future state we want to be at, and what we did was we invented a company, so we’re Conductor, this is Semi-Conductor, because we’re taken with our own cleverness, and our brand new electric SUV is called the SERP XLT. It’s a nice name, it’s a hot name. We looked at 4,000 plus electric car related terms and asked ourselves, who’s showing up on the SERPs for these? And these are sort of across the sales funnel, right? These might be just sort of curiosity questions, but these are the things people interested in electric cars are looking at. And I want to call your attention to the bottom here. Auto manufacturers, 1%. that’s sad. That’s really, really sad. So all of these people are asking these questions, they’re telling us, “We care about this,” and the actual car manufacturers aren’t the ones answering them.

So let’s talk about what actually drives the purchase decision, because we all know that starts long before clicking to buy or signing a contract, right? It comes long before that point. It starts with trying to understand your actual product, right? So if we look at something like a product page, you can see there’s all of these kinds of things. We actually looked to SPI, our product page, we looked at costs. That’s a big factor obviously, and that’s something that most manufacturers know about, but we also used that intelligence not just to optimize the page, but to understand the questions that customers are asking, that they will want to know about your product. And that includes things like how long it takes to charge, towing capacity, et cetera, right? We can actually look at trends, we built in towing capacity here, because SUVs are sort of a new thing with electric cars. So you can see that’s a lower MSV, but it’s been rising. So we’re noting where our customers are going, thinking about what they care about.

So let’s look at this thing. 40 to 60 kilowatt, lithium ion battery. Does anybody know how much a kilowatt is? I don’t, okay? And it doesn’t mean anything to me, if I’m thinking about replacing my Toyota Avalon with a brand new electric SERP XLT, I don’t actually know that. I know miles to gallon, because that’s the car I drive, and I know how to fill it up with gas and get where I’m going, but kilowatt means nothing, but when you look at car manufacturers, we see things like this, and I’m not trying to be mean to Nissan here, even though I’m a Toyota girl, okay? But what they have on their product page for the Nissan Leaf is not how long it takes to charge, how long you can drive the Nissan Leaf, literally, the only thing they tell us is, “Now with a 40 kilowatt battery,” and you could get a more powerful, by some unknown amount, 62 kilowatt battery.

Does that tell me how far I can go in that car without charging it? Does that tell me any information that I care about as a customer? It sounds good, 62 sounds more than 40, but it doesn’t actually give me the information in a way that actually helps me get to an answer. So let’s see who does it better when we asked these questions. We looked at a thousand questions around electric cars. These are the things like how to charge it, the cost to charge it, where these actual charging stations are, and guess what? Auto manufacturers did even worse here, 0%. Zero. That’s sad. That’s even sadder than 1%, and 1% is already upsetting, but we do have publishers showing up. We have this video result that ranks for all of these. Autotrader is a great brand, that’s a great publisher. That’s very cool. Does anybody see what’s actually wrong here, that this is what’s showing up in the prime position?

It’s from the UK. At Autotrader UK, this is showing up on Google US. Has anybody ever tried to plug in an American appliance in the United Kingdom? I’ve lost a good blow dryer that way. So even that kilowatt thing is different in the UK, and this is the information that’s actually out there for your customers. That’s a huge opportunity for a manufacturer. So what actually is going on? We are letting, these car manufacturers are letting, and all of us do it, all our brands are not totally capitalizing that, even brands with strong SEO strategies, we are giving away real estate to other people.

For example, taking a look at this article on U.S. News about the electric car tax credit, which was a huge question we found in our research, and look at this. This is beautiful content. Ooh, yeah. Got some of those FAQs, right? Maybe mind some of those people also asked, so you’re actually building your concept that way. U.S. News is doing a great job. What’s the most famous electric car manufacturer? What springs to mind? Anybody? Tesla. Tesla answered this question too. Ooh, a snapshot of the electric car and the electric grid, and that’s it. They’re not going to rank for this, not when U.S. News is putting out in a way that customers are actually looking for, and answering the question, Tesla’s not even in the game, and this is Tesla, this is the big guy in the room. That’s opportunity lost for car manufacturers.

So you, your brand needs to be answering those questions, and that’s how you start to build search presence intelligence outside of just the SEO silo in your organization. And that’s really, really important. So looking at our very, very attractive product page for the totally real Semi-Conductor SERP XLT, we can see that these key questions, these top performers, are exactly what we build out into our actual product page, and we go a little further, because a lot of electric car companies actually are not even getting into the charging questions. We talked about that kilowatt battery, but where do you charge it? How do you charge it? All of these are kind of getting left behind.

So what we put at the bottom are two buttons: a charging map and a charging cost calculator. Those are the two key questions. Now, will those buttons make us rank for this? No. No. Probably those charging systems, these electric grids, they’re still going to edge us out, but we know that people care about this, so we put it right on our product page. That builds a relationship with our customers, because we’re listening to search presence intelligence, not just for optimizing for a search engine so you show up on the SERP, but to optimize your organization and its strategy for your customers.

They want to know this. They’re going to be more likely to trust you because you provide it, and maybe you don’t have this information, right? Maybe you don’t have a charging map, but there are companies that do, so that can actually inform outside of even your marketing organization, who should you be partnering with? Who else should you be talking to? What should your company, not just your marketing team, be doing differently to better serve customer need? That’s what intelligence is all about.

So one other thing that we need to talk about when we talk about search presence intelligence and how to use it, is this kind of decision making. So when we look at this SERP, we see the popular domains for these charging questions. Again, we might not be the ranker here, but you can let your teams, your executives know who could be, who’s already powerful in this space. And actually for us as a company, and this is not a commercial for Conductor, how we’ve approached our product building, it is actually driven by this intelligence from the search engines, from our customers. That’s why we partner with organizations.

We knew that people that use our software needed to be able to crawl their sites, have site audits, et cetera. So we looked out there and we said, well, who’s the best out there? And we ended up partnering with DeepCrawl because of that. Again, this is not selling Conductor to you, it’s talking about an approach. It’s talking about how you figure out what people need, and not always thinking that you have to build every single thing, but giving that information to your business and your organization, so they know what steps to take, and that’s not necessarily just we have to build it from scratch or we don’t have it at all.

So when we approach marketing, which is usually our first step in evangelizing, because SEO, we know that we have to have content strategies, we know that marketing materials have to be optimized, but it’s not just about organic. Now a lot of people here are involved in both the SEM and the SEO worlds, but how do we really make sure our display ads, our paid ads are punching above their weight, are as trustworthy as organic results? They too need to be powered by search presence intelligence, by the very insights and intelligence that every SEO in a company is regularly looking at and using.

So let’s look at this, and poor Nissan, I’m just mean to Nissan today, but that’s my cross to bear. The Nissan ad here for affordable electric cars. We have an adjective, they’re affordable. Raise your hand if you see anything in Nissan’s ad that really talks about affordability, that makes this relevant to this search. I’m not going to go too long, because there’s nothing there, okay? So instead of actually just auto-populating this, you can build automated systems that are taking into account the context and intent, things we think about for organic purposes, but not always for paid ads, and do it better. Okay?

So looking at our Semi-Conductor SERF XLT paid ad, that’s totally real for this, right? We actually just do some punchy copy, and immediately deal with the fact that people are looking at affordability. Okay? This is still a product ad. It’s still maybe lower funnel than we would think, but it’s talking about the intent and the need of the searcher, right? This is what they actually want to know about, and we need to give it to them.

So looking at our publishers here, there’s actually even further we can go in aggregating data to further inform intelligence for our marketing teams. So we have stuff like U.S. News, Car and Driver, these publishers that we know, we saw that U.S. News report, that they’re making great content. So how can your brand take advantage of some of this? Okay? We have these display ads for eight best electric vehicles in 2018. Are these Chevy ads for an electric vehicle at all? Do you think people on this page are interested in buying a gas guzzling Chevy Blazer? Probably not, if we’re thinking about intent. We also have a 2018 list with a 2019 Tahoe, that’s called out sort of right there. Maybe not the best way to go.

So if we do it, if we bring our actual SPI, our intelligence, our search presence intelligence, we know that this high ranking thing that drives over 100,000 visits a year, the eight best electric vehicles in 2018, we are talking about electric power. We’re calling that out, right? We are talking about the two specific things that we know are the highest performing things in our search presence intelligence, which has cost and range. How far can it go? How much money is it? Is it just for the really wealthy people? Are electric cars actually affordable? So we want to touch those things, because we know once again, that that is what people on this page are likely to care about, because we’re fueling our decisions with intelligence based out of the SERP.

So looking at our author here, John M. Vincent, this is where when we’re actually placing these ads, when we’re using intelligence, we always want to be giving more than we’re getting. We want to be providing things to other members on our team, helping them drive their success, okay? That’s the way to get where you need to go, not adding things to their to-do lists without necessarily helping them. Okay? We talk about John M. Vincent, and if we’re trying to make friends, we might look a little deeper into who John M. Vincent is. Well, he’s not exactly a social influencer in the way we would think about it, but when we look at how he performs on search engines, he writes for a lot of those publications we saw before, he actually drives a huge amount of traffic. He is probably impacting our customers who are thinking about buying an electric car, who are getting information about electric cars, he is probably influencing those purchase decisions.

So thinking about that, and thinking about taking advantage of the intelligence that we’re driving, making friends on the marketing team, we might go to our PR or our social teams, and offer them, John M. Vincent, are we connected with him? How can we talk about him? Can we look for his articles to get display ads on? Can we reach out and try and get him to notice our brand new product? But marketing is just the beginning. Search presence intelligence goes beyond the marketing team. We’ve actually worked with brands that are looking at highly restricted industries, that we want to make sure that they aren’t running afoul of anything legal. Our SEOs have actually worked with legal teams to understand what they can and cannot put on their website. When they’re producing content at scale, that’s huge.

We talked about how our growth team, our partner team, actually is working with our SEOs to understand what our customers need, so we can figure out who we should partner with to get them what they need, or what we can develop in house when we’re talking to our product team. We had a part of our product, and the Conductors might laugh here, called competitive and telescope, which is words no one has ever looked up in Google, so we have learned our lesson. We renamed it based on search presence intelligence, because we want to make sure if people are looking up something we could help them with, we’re using the words that they’ll actually be looking for. So across your entire organization, you can be helping fuel better decision making, and actually optimizing your business, not just your website.

SEOs are not just website people, you are the people holding in your hand the intelligence to change your organization, which makes us wonder about how to do that, how to get in the rooms where it happens, and actually influence this, and it’s not all at once, but there are three key things. The first is to be generous. It can be hard in a silo, especially if you feel like you’ve been put to the side or people don’t tend to listen to you, to actually want to be generous with intelligence if you’ve been shot down before, and that’s totally understandable, that’s human. But when somebody listens to you, and you optimize the job they’re doing to help them get the success they’re looking for, you generously provide them with that intelligence that you are the repository for, you can give away the credit. You talk about those successes.

One of our customers, Ticketmaster, I had a conversation with the other day. They have a monthly SEO newsletter. They host meetups and they do a monthly case study. Their SEO team grew from one to four people, and they are actually embedded across their organization. Every case study they do is about a different part of their organization, their product team, their exec team. That’s how they actually get that information in people’s hands.

So when you evangelize, when you talk about how this data can help, you have to interpret it, and that means letting go of some of the technical terms, think about the language those teams use and what’s important to them. You do it for your customers, you do it for your customers, you put your customer hat on and think about what they need when you consider how to help them. You need to do the same thing for your internal teams. What does your product team care about? How does your legal team define success for themselves? Probably not getting sued, right? Figure out what the success looks like for them, and speak their language. Think about how you can help them.

Empowerment is the final thing, and all of these three things are connected, which is why they’re in circles that are interconnected. It’s a design choice. Empowering people is really what this comes down to. When you do that, when you generously give of the intelligence you have, when you speak the language of the people you’re sharing with, when you actually help them eliminate items on their to-do list instead of adding stuff that’s just for you, you start to build a case that will help you change your entire company. That might start with the marketing team, but it’ll go beyond that if you have the right attitude and the right strategy. So think about the other members of your company like you think of your customers. What do they need, how can you help them, and how can you make it worth their while?