Tag Archive | "Work"

Email Marketing: Why phishing emails (unfortunately) work … and what marketers can learn from them

Phishing emails are just plain thievery. While phishing emails don’t ultimately deliver value, they do communicate value. Not to everyone, but to a specific audience. And that is why some people act on them.
MarketingSherpa Blog

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Your Red-Tape Toolkit: 7 Ways to Earn Trust and Get Your Search Work Implemented

Posted by HeatherPhysioc

Tell me if this rings a bell. Are your search recommendations overlooked and misunderstood? Do you feel like you hit roadblocks at every turn? Are you worried that people don’t understand the value of your work?

I had an eye-opening moment when my colleague David Mitchell, Chief Technology Officer at VML, said to me, “You know the best creatives here aren’t the ones who are the best artists — they’re the ones who are best at talking about the work.”

I have found that the same holds true in search. As an industry, we are great at talking about the work — we’re fabulous about sharing technical knowledge and new developments in search. But we’re not so great at talking about how we talk about the work. And that can make all the difference between our work getting implementing and achieving great results, or languishing in a backlog.

It’s so important to learn how to navigate corporate bureaucracy and cut through red tape to help your clients and colleagues understand your search work — and actually get it implemented. From diagnosing client maturity to communicating where search fits into the big picture, the tools I share in this article can help equip you to overcome obstacles to doing your best work.

Buying Your Services ≠ Buying In

Just because a client signed a contract with you does not mean they are bought-in to implement every change you recommend. It seemingly defies all logic that someone would agree that they need organic search help enough to sign a contract and pay you to make recommendations, only for the recommendations to never go live.

When I was an independent contractor serving small businesses, they were often overwhelmed by their marketing and willing to hand over the keys to the website so my developers could implement SEO recommendations.

Then, as I got into agency life and worked on larger and larger businesses, I quickly realized it was a lot harder to get SEO work implemented. I started hitting roadblocks with a number of clients, and it was a slow, arduous process to get even small projects pushed through. It was easy to get impatient and fed up.

Worse, it was hard for some of my team members to see their colleagues getting great search work implemented and earning awesome results for their clients, while their own clients couldn’t seem to get anything implemented. It left them frustrated, jaded, feeling inadequate, and burned out — all the while the client was asking where the results were for the projects they didn’t implement.

What Stands in the Way of Getting Your Work Implemented

I surveyed colleagues in our industry about the common challenges they experience when trying to get their recommendations implemented. (Thank you to the 141 people who submitted!) The results were roughly one-third in-house marketers and two-thirds external marketers providing services to clients.

The most common obstacles we asked about fell into a few main categories:

  • Low Understanding of Search
    • Client Understanding
    • Peer/Colleague Understanding
    • Boss Understanding
  • Prioritization & Buy-In
    • Low Prioritization of Search Work
    • External Buy-In from Clients
    • Internal Buy-In from Peers
    • Internal Buy-In from Bosses
    • Past Unsuccessful Projects or Mistakes
  • Corporate Bureaucracy
    • Red Tape and Slow Approvals
    • No Advocate or Champion for Search
    • Turnover or Personnel Changes (Client-Side)
    • Difficult or Hostile Client
  • Resource Limitations
    • Technical Resources for Developers / Full Backlog
    • Budget / Scope Too Low to Make Impact
    • Technical Limitations of Digital Platform

The chart below shows how the obstacles in the survey stacked up. Higher scores mean people reported it as a more frequent or common problem they experience:

Some participants also wrote in additional blocks they’ve encountered – everything from bottlenecks in the workflow to over-complicated processes, lack of ownership to internal politics, shifting budgets to shifting priorities.

Too real? Are you completely bummed out yet? There is clearly no shortage of things that can stand in the way of SEO progress, and likely our work as marketers will never be without challenges.

Playing the Blame Game

When things don’t go our way and our work gets intercepted or lost before it ever goes live, we tend to be quick to blame clients. It’s the client’s fault things are hung up, or if the client had only listened to us, and the client’s business is the problem.

But I don’t buy it.

Don’t get me wrong — this could possibly be true in part in some cases, but rarely is it the whole story and rarely are we completely hopeless to affect change. Sometimes the problem is the system, sometimes the problem is the people, and my friends, sometimes the problem is you.

But fortunately, we are all optimizers — we all inherently believe that things could be just a little bit better.

These are the tools you need in your belt to face many of the common obstacles to implementing your best search work.

7 Techniques to Get Your Search Work Approved & Implemented

When we enter the world of search, we are instantly trained on how to execute the work – not the soft skills needed to sustain and grow the work, break down barriers, get buy-in and get stuff implemented. These soft skills are critical to maximize your search success for clients, and can lead to more fruitful, long-lasting relationships.

Below are seven of the most highly recommended skills and techniques, from the SEO professionals surveyed and my own experience, to learn in order to increase the likelihood your work will get implemented by your clients.

1. How Mature Is Your Client?

Challenges to implementation tend to be organizational, people, integration, and process problems. Conducting a search maturity assessment with your client can be eye-opening to what needs to be solved internally before great search work can be implemented. Pairing a search capabilities model with an organizational maturity model gives you a wealth of knowledge and tools to help your client.

I recently wrote an in-depth article for the Moz blog about how to diagnose your client’s search maturity in both technical SEO capabilities and their organizational maturity as it pertains to a search program.

For search, we can think about a maturity model two ways. One may be the actual technical implementation of search best practices — is the client implementing exceptional, advanced SEO, just the basics, nothing at all, or even operating counterproductively? This helps identify what kinds of project make sense to start with for your client. Here is a sample maturity model across several aspects of search that you can use or modify for your purposes:

This SEO capabilities maturity model only starts to solve for what you should implement, but doesn’t get to the heart of why it’s so hard to get your work implemented. The real problems are a lot more nuanced, and aren’t as easy as checking the boxes of “best practices SEO.”

We also need to diagnose the organizational maturity of the client as it pertains to building, using and evolving an organic search practice. We have to understand the assets and obstacles of our client’s organization that either aid or block the implementation of our recommendations in order to move the ball forward.

If, after conducting these maturity model exercises, we find that a client has extremely limited personnel, budget and capacity to complete the work, that’s the first problem we should focus on solving for — helping them allocate proper resources and prioritization to the work.

If we find that they have plenty of personnel, budget, and capacity, but have no discernible, repeatable process for integrating search into their marketing mix, we focus our efforts there. How can we help them define, implement, and continually evolve processes that work for them and with the agency?

Perhaps the maturity assessment finds that they are adequate in most categories, but struggle with being reactive and implementing retrofitted SEO only as an afterthought, we may help them investigate their actionable workflows and connect dots across departments. How can we insert organic search expertise in the right ways at the right moments to have the greatest impact?

2. Speak to CEOs and CMOs, Not SEOs

Because we are subject matter experts in search, we are responsible for educating clients and colleagues on the power of SEO and the impact it can have on brands. If the executives are skeptical or don’t care about search, it won’t happen. If you want to educate and inspire people, you can’t waste time losing them in the details.

Speak Their Language

Tailor your educational content to busy CEOs and CMOs, not SEOs. Make the effort to listen to, read, write, and speak their corporate language. Their jargon is return on investment, earnings per share, operational costs. Yours is canonicalization, HTTPS and SSL encryption, 302 redirects, and 301 redirect chains.

Be mindful that you are coming from different places and meet them in the middle. Use layperson’s terms that anyone can understand, not technical jargon, when explaining search.

Don’t be afraid to use analogies (i.e. instead of “implement permanent 301 redirect rewrite rules in the .htaccess file to correct 404 not found errors,” perhaps “it’s like forwarding your mail when you change addresses.”)

Get Out of the Weeds

Perhaps because we are so passionate about the inner workings of search, we often get deep into the weeds of explaining how every SEO signal works. Even things that seem not-so-technical to us (title tags and meta description tags, for example) can lose your audience’s attention in a heartbeat. Unless you know that the client is a technical mind who loves to get in the weeds or that they have search experience, stay at 30,000 feet.

Another powerful tool here is to show, not tell. Often you can tell a much more effective and hard-hitting story using images or smart data visualization. Your audience being able to see instead of trying to listen and decipher what you’re proposing can allow you to communicate complex information much more succinctly.

Focus on Outcomes

The goal of educating is not teaching peers and clients how to do search. They pay you to know that. Focus on the things that actually matter to your audience. (Come on, we’re inbound marketers — we should know this!) For many brands, that may include benefits like how it will build their brand visibility, how they can conquest competitors, and how they can make more money. Focus on the outcomes and benefits, not the granular, technical steps of how to get there.

What’s In It for Them?

Similarly, if you are doing a roadshow to educate your peers in other disciplines and get their buy-in, don’t focus on teaching them everything you know. Focus on how your work can benefit them (make their work smarter, more visible, make them more money) rather than demanding what other departments need to do for you. Aim to align on when, where, and how your two teams intersect to get greater results together.

3. SEO is Not the Center of the Universe

It was a tough pill for me to swallow when I realized that my clients simply didn’t care as much about organic search as my team and I did. (I mean, honestly, who isn’t passionate about dedicating their careers to understanding human thinking and behavior when we search, then optimizing technical stuff and website content for those humans to find it?!)

Bigger Fish to Fry

While clients may honestly love the sound of things we can do for them with search, rarely is SEO the only thing — or even a sizable thing — on a client’s mind. Rarely is our primary client contact someone who is exclusively dedicated to search, and typically, not even exclusively to digital marketing. We frequently report to digital directors and CMOs who have many more and much bigger fish to fry.

They have to look at the big picture and understand how the entire marketing mix works, and in reality, SEO is only one small part of that. While organic search is typically a client’s biggest source of traffic to their website, we often forget that the website isn’t even at the top of the priorities list for many clients. Our clients are thinking about the whole brand and the entirety of its marketing performance, or the organizational challenges they need to overcome to grow their business. SEO is just one small piece of that.

Acknowledge the Opportunity Cost

The benefits of search are no-brainers for us and it seems so obvious, but we fail to acknowledge that every decision a CMO makes has a risk, time commitment, risks and costs associated with it. Every time they invest in something for search, it is an opportunity cost for another marketing initiative. We fail to take the time to understand all the competing priorities and things that a client has to choose between with a limited budget.

To persuade them to choose an organic search project over something else — like a paid search, creative, paid media, email, or other play — we had better make a damn good case to justify not just the hard cost in dollars, but the opportunity cost to other marketing initiatives. (More on that later.)

Integrated Marketing Efforts

More and more, brands are moving to integrated agency models in hopes of getting more bang for their buck by maximizing the impact of every single campaign across channels working together, side-by-side. Until we start to think more about how SEO ladders up to the big picture and works alongside or supports larger marketing initiatives and brand goals, we will continue to hamstring ourselves when we propose ideas to clients.

It’s our responsibility to seek big-picture perspective and figure out where we fit. We have to understand the realities of a client’s internal and external processes, their larger marketing mix and SEO’s role in that. SEO experts tend to obsess over rankings and website traffic. But we should be making organic search recommendations within the context of their goals and priorities — not what we think their goals and priorities should be.

For example, we have worked on a large CPG food brand for several years. In year one, my colleagues did great discovery works and put together an awesome SEO playbook, and we spent most of the year trying to get integrated and trying to check all these SEO best practices boxes for the client. But no one cared and nothing was getting implemented. It turned out that our “SEO best practices” didn’t seem relevant to the bigger picture initiatives and brand campaigns they had planned for the year, so they were being deprioritized or ignored entirely. In year two, our contract was restructured to focus search efforts primarily on the planned campaigns for the year. Were we doing the search work we thought we would be doing for the client? No. Are we being included more and getting great search work implemented finally? Yes. Because we stopped trying to veer off in our own direction and started pulling the weight alongside everyone else toward a common vision.

4. Don’t Stay in Your Lane, Get Buy-In Across Lanes

Few brands hire only SEO experts and no other marketing services to drive their business. They have to coordinate a lot of moving pieces to drive all of them forward in the same direction as best they can. In order to do that, everyone has to be aligned on where we’re headed and the problems we’re solving for.

Ultimately, for most SEOs, this is about having the wisdom and humility to realize that you’re not in this alone – you can’t be. And even if you don’t get your way 100% of the time, you’re a lot more likely to get your way more of the time when you collaborate with others and ladder your efforts up to the big picture.

One of my survey respondents phrased it beautifully: “Treat all search projects as products that require a complete product team including engineering, project manager, and business-side folks.”

Horizontal Buy-In

You need buy-in across practices in your own agency (or combination of agencies serving the client and internal client team members helping execute the work). We have to stop swimming in entirely separate lanes where SEO is setting goals by themselves and not aligning to the larger business initiatives and marketing channels. We are all in this together to help the client solve for something. We have to learn to better communicate the value of search as it aligns to larger business initiatives, not in a separate swim lane.

Organic Search is uniquely dependent in that we often rely on others to get our work implemented. You can’t operate entirely separately from the analytics experts, developers, user experience designers, social media, paid search, and so on — especially when they’re all working together toward a common goal on behalf of the client.

Vertical Buy-In

To get buy-in for implementing your work, you need buy-in beyond your immediate client contact. You need buy-in top-to-bottom in the client’s organization — it has to support what the C-level executive cares about as much as your day-to-day contacts or their direct reports.

This can be especially helpful when you started within the agency — selling the value of the idea and getting the buy-in of your colleagues first. It forces you to vet and strengthen your idea, helps find blind spots, and craft the pitch for the client. Then, bring those important people to the table with the client — it gives you strength in numbers and expertise to have the developer, user experience designer, client engagement lead, and data analyst on the project in your corner validating the recommendation.

When you get to the client, it is so important to help them understand the benefits and outcomes of doing the project, the cost (and opportunity cost) of doing it, and how this can get them results toward their big picture goals. Understand their role in it and give them a voice, and make them the hero for approving it. If you have to pitch the idea at multiple levels, custom tailor your approach to speak to the client-side team members who will be helping you implement the work differently from how you would speak to the CMO who decides whether your project lives or dies.

5. Build a Bulletproof Plan

Here’s how a typical SEO project is proposed to a client: “You should do this SEO project because SEO.”

This explanation is not good enough, and they don’t care. You need to know what they do care about and are trying to accomplish, and formulate a bullet-proof business plan to sell the idea.

Case Studies as Proof-of-Concept

Case studies serve a few important purposes: they help explain the outcomes and benefits of SEO projects, they prove that you have the chops to get results, and they prove the concept using someone else’s money first, which reduces the perceived risk for your client.

In my experience and in the survey results, case studies come up time and again as the leading way to get client buy-in. Ideally you would use case studies that are your own, very clearly relevant to the project at hand, and created for a client that is similar in nature (like B2B vs. B2C, in a similar vertical, or facing a similar problem).

Even if you don’t have your own case studies to show, do your due diligence and find real examples other companies and practitioners have published. As an added bonus, the results of these case studies can help you forecast the potential high/medium/low impact of your work.

Image source

Simplify the Process for Everyone

It is important to bake the process into your business plan to clearly outline the requirements for the project, identify next steps and assign ownership, and take ownership of moving the ball forward. Do your due diligence up front to understand the role that everyone plays and boil it down into a clear step-by-step plan makes it feel easy for others to buy-in and help. Reducing the unknown reduces friction. When you assume that nothing you are capable of doing falls in the “not my job” description, and make it a breeze for everyone to know what they’re responsible for and where they fit in, you lower barriers and resistance.

Forecast the Potential ROI

SEOs are often incredibly hesitant to forecast potential outcomes, ROI, traffic or revenue impact because of the sheer volumes of unknowns. (“But what if the client actually expects us to achieve the forecast?!”) We naturally want to be accurate and right, so it’s understandable we wouldn’t want to commit to something we can’t say for certain we can accomplish.

But to say that forecasting is impossible is patently false. There is a wealth of information out there to help you come up with even conservative estimates of impact with lots of caveats. You need to know why you’re recommending this over other projects. Your clients need some sort of information to weigh one project against the next. A combination of forecasting and your marketer’s experience and intuition can help you define that.

For every project your client invests in, there is an opportunity cost for something else they could be working on. If you can’t articulate the potential benefit to doing the project, how can you expect your client to choose it above dozens of potential other things they could spend their time on?

Show the Impact of Inaction

Sometimes opportunity for growth isn’t enough to light the fire — also demonstrate the negative impact from inaction or incorrect action. The greatest risk I see with most clients is not making a wrong move, but rather making no move at all.

We developed a visual tool that helps us quickly explain to clients that active optimization and expansion can lead to growth (we forecast an estimate of impact based on their budget, their industry, their business goals, the initiatives we plan to prioritize, etc.), small maintenance could at least uphold what we’ve done but the site will likely stagnate, and to do nothing at all could lead to atrophy and decline as their competitors keep optimizing and surpass them.

Remind clients that search success is not only about what they do, it’s about what everyone else in their space is doing, too. If they are not actively monitoring, maintaining and expanding, they are essentially conceding territory to competitors who will fill the space in their absence.

You saw this in my deck at MozCon 2017. We have used it to help clients understand what’s next when we do annual planning with them.

Success Story: Selling AMP

One of my teammates believed that AMP was a key initiative that could have a big impact on one of his B2B automotive clients by making access to their location pages easier, faster, and more streamlined, especially in rural areas where mobile connections are slower and the client’s clients are often found.

He did a brilliant job of due diligence research, finding and dissecting case studies, and using the results of those case studies to forecast conservative, average and ambitious outcomes and calculated the estimated revenue impact for the client. He calculated that even at the most conservative estimate of ROI, it would far outweigh the cost of the project within weeks, and generate significant returns thereafter.

He got the buy-in of our internal developers and experience designers on how they would implement the work, simplified the AMP idea for the client to understand in a non-technical way, and framedin a way that made it clear how low the level of effort was. He was able to confidently propose the idea and get buy-in fast, and the work is now on track for implementation.

6. Headlines, Taglines, and Sound Bytes

You can increase the likelihood that your recommendations will get implemented if you can help the client focus on what’s really important. There are two key ways to accomplish this.

Ask for the Moon, Not the Galaxy

If you’re anything like me, you get a little excited when the to-do of SEO action items for a client is long and actionable. But we do ourselves a disservice when we try to push every recommendation at once – they get overwhelmed and tune out. They have nothing to grab onto, so nothing gets done. It seems counterintuitive that you will get more done by proposing less, but it works.

Prioritize what’s important for your client to care about right now. Don’t push every recommendation — push specific, high-impact recommendations that executives can latch on to, understand and rationalize.

They’re busy and making hard choices. Be their trusted advisor. Give them permission to focus on one thing at a time by communicating what they should care about while other projects stay on the backburner or happen in the background, because this high-impact project is what they should really care about right now.

Give Them Soundbites They Can Sell

It’s easy to forget that our immediate client contact is not always able to make the call to pull the trigger on a project by themselves. They often have to sell it internally to get it prioritized. To help them do this, give them catchy headlines, taglines and sound bites they can sell to their bosses and colleagues. Make them so memorable and repeatable, the clients will shop the ideas around their office clearly and confidently, and may even start to think they came up with the idea themselves.

Success Story: Prioritizing Content

As an example of both of these principles in practice, we have a global client we have worked with for a few years whose greatest chance of gaining ground in search is to improve and increase their website content. Before presenting the annual strategy to the client, we asked ourselves what we really wanted to accomplish with the client if they cut the meeting short or cut their budget for the year, and the answer was unequivocally content.

In our proposal deck, we built up to the big opportunity by reminding the client of the mission we all agreed on, highlighted some of the wins we got in 2017 (including a very sexy voice search win that made our client look like a hero at their office), set the stage with headlines like, “How We’re Going to Break Records in 2018,” then navigated to the section called, “The Big Opportunities.”

Then, we used the headline, “Web Content is the Single Most Important Priority” to kick off the first initiative. There was no mistaking in that room what our point was. We proposed two other initiatives for the year, but we put this one at the very top of the deck and all others fell after. Because this was our number one priority to get approved and implemented, we spent the lion’s share of the meeting focusing on this single point. We backed this slide up verbally and added emphasis by saying things like, “If we did nothing else recommended in this deck, this is the one thing to prioritize, hands down.”

This is the real slide from the real client deck we presented.

The client left that meeting crystal clear, fully understanding our recommendation, and bought in. The best part, though? When we heard different clients who were in the meeting starting to repeat things like, “Content is our number one priority this year.” unprompted on strategy and status calls.

7. Patience, Persistence, & Parallel Paths

Keep Several Irons in the Fire

Where possible, build parallel paths. What time-consuming but high-impact projects can you initiate with the client now that may take time to get approved, while you can concurrently work on lower obstacle tasks alongside? Having multiple irons in the fire increases the likelihood that you will be able to implement SEO recommendations and get measurable results that get people bought in to more work in the future.

Stay Strong

Finally, getting your work implemented is a balance of patience, persistence, communication and follow-up. There are always many things at play, and your empathy and understanding for the situation while bringing a confident point-of-view can ultimately get projects across the finish line.

Special thanks to my VML colleagues Chris, Jeff, Kasey, and Britt, whose real client examples were used in this article.

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The Minimum Viable Knowledge You Need to Work with JavaScript & SEO Today

Posted by sergeystefoglo

If your work involves SEO at some level, you’ve most likely been hearing more and more about JavaScript and the implications it has on crawling and indexing. Frankly, Googlebot struggles with it, and many websites utilize modern-day JavaScript to load in crucial content today. Because of this, we need to be equipped to discuss this topic when it comes up in order to be effective.

The goal of this post is to equip you with the minimum viable knowledge required to do so. This post won’t go into the nitty gritty details, describe the history, or give you extreme detail on specifics. There are a lot of incredible write-ups that already do this — I suggest giving them a read if you are interested in diving deeper (I’ll link out to my favorites at the bottom).

In order to be effective consultants when it comes to the topic of JavaScript and SEO, we need to be able to answer three questions:

  1. Does the domain/page in question rely on client-side JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links?
  2. If yes, is Googlebot seeing the content that’s loaded in via JavaScript properly?
  3. If not, what is the ideal solution?

With some quick searching, I was able to find three examples of landing pages that utilize JavaScript to load in crucial content.

I’m going to be using Sitecore’s Symposium landing page through each of these talking points to illustrate how to answer the questions above.

We’ll cover the “how do I do this” aspect first, and at the end I’ll expand on a few core concepts and link to further resources.

Question 1: Does the domain in question rely on client-side JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links?

The first step to diagnosing any issues involving JavaScript is to check if the domain uses it to load in crucial content that could impact SEO (on-page content or links). Ideally this will happen anytime you get a new client (during the initial technical audit), or whenever your client redesigns/launches new features of the site.

How do we go about doing this?

Ask the client

Ask, and you shall receive! Seriously though, one of the quickest/easiest things you can do as a consultant is contact your POC (or developers on the account) and ask them. After all, these are the people who work on the website day-in and day-out!

“Hi [client], we’re currently doing a technical sweep on the site. One thing we check is if any crucial content (links, on-page content) gets loaded in via JavaScript. We will do some manual testing, but an easy way to confirm this is to ask! Could you (or the team) answer the following, please?

1. Are we using client-side JavaScript to load in important content?

2. If yes, can we get a bulleted list of where/what content is loaded in via JavaScript?”

Check manually

Even on a large e-commerce website with millions of pages, there are usually only a handful of important page templates. In my experience, it should only take an hour max to check manually. I use the Chrome Web Developers plugin, disable JavaScript from there, and manually check the important templates of the site (homepage, category page, product page, blog post, etc.)

In the example above, once we turn off JavaScript and reload the page, we can see that we are looking at a blank page.

As you make progress, jot down notes about content that isn’t being loaded in, is being loaded in wrong, or any internal linking that isn’t working properly.

At the end of this step we should know if the domain in question relies on JavaScript to load/change on-page content or links. If the answer is yes, we should also know where this happens (homepage, category pages, specific modules, etc.)

Crawl

You could also crawl the site (with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb) with JavaScript rendering turned off, and then run the same crawl with JavaScript turned on, and compare the differences with internal links and on-page elements.

For example, it could be that when you crawl the site with JavaScript rendering turned off, the title tags don’t appear. In my mind this would trigger an action to crawl the site with JavaScript rendering turned on to see if the title tags do appear (as well as checking manually).

Example

For our example, I went ahead and did a manual check. As we can see from the screenshot below, when we disable JavaScript, the content does not load.

In other words, the answer to our first question for this pages is “yes, JavaScript is being used to load in crucial parts of the site.”

Question 2: If yes, is Googlebot seeing the content that’s loaded in via JavaScript properly?

If your client is relying on JavaScript on certain parts of their website (in our example they are), it is our job to try and replicate how Google is actually seeing the page(s). We want to answer the question, “Is Google seeing the page/site the way we want it to?”

In order to get a more accurate depiction of what Googlebot is seeing, we need to attempt to mimic how it crawls the page.

How do we do that?

Use Google’s new mobile-friendly testing tool

At the moment, the quickest and most accurate way to try and replicate what Googlebot is seeing on a site is by using Google’s new mobile friendliness tool. My colleague Dom recently wrote an in-depth post comparing Search Console Fetch and Render, Googlebot, and the mobile friendliness tool. His findings were that most of the time, Googlebot and the mobile friendliness tool resulted in the same output.

In Google’s mobile friendliness tool, simply input your URL, hit “run test,” and then once the test is complete, click on “source code” on the right side of the window. You can take that code and search for any on-page content (title tags, canonicals, etc.) or links. If they appear here, Google is most likely seeing the content.

Search for visible content in Google

It’s always good to sense-check. Another quick way to check if GoogleBot has indexed content on your page is by simply selecting visible text on your page, and doing a site:search for it in Google with quotations around said text.

In our example there is visible text on the page that reads…

“Whether you are in marketing, business development, or IT, you feel a sense of urgency. Or maybe opportunity?”

When we do a site:search for this exact phrase, for this exact page, we get nothing. This means Google hasn’t indexed the content.

Crawling with a tool

Most crawling tools have the functionality to crawl JavaScript now. For example, in Screaming Frog you can head to configuration > spider > rendering > then select “JavaScript” from the dropdown and hit save. DeepCrawl and SiteBulb both have this feature as well.

From here you can input your domain/URL and see the rendered page/code once your tool of choice has completed the crawl.

Example:

When attempting to answer this question, my preference is to start by inputting the domain into Google’s mobile friendliness tool, copy the source code, and searching for important on-page elements (think title tag, <h1>, body copy, etc.) It’s also helpful to use a tool like diff checker to compare the rendered HTML with the original HTML (Screaming Frog also has a function where you can do this side by side).

For our example, here is what the output of the mobile friendliness tool shows us.

After a few searches, it becomes clear that important on-page elements are missing here.

We also did the second test and confirmed that Google hasn’t indexed the body content found on this page.

The implication at this point is that Googlebot is not seeing our content the way we want it to, which is a problem.

Let’s jump ahead and see what we can recommend the client.

Question 3: If we’re confident Googlebot isn’t seeing our content properly, what should we recommend?

Now we know that the domain is using JavaScript to load in crucial content and we know that Googlebot is most likely not seeing that content, the final step is to recommend an ideal solution to the client. Key word: recommend, not implement. It’s 100% our job to flag the issue to our client, explain why it’s important (as well as the possible implications), and highlight an ideal solution. It is 100% not our job to try to do the developer’s job of figuring out an ideal solution with their unique stack/resources/etc.

How do we do that?

You want server-side rendering

The main reason why Google is having trouble seeing Sitecore’s landing page right now, is because Sitecore’s landing page is asking the user (us, Googlebot) to do the heavy work of loading the JavaScript on their page. In other words, they’re using client-side JavaScript.

Googlebot is literally landing on the page, trying to execute JavaScript as best as possible, and then needing to leave before it has a chance to see any content.

The fix here is to instead have Sitecore’s landing page load on their server. In other words, we want to take the heavy lifting off of Googlebot, and put it on Sitecore’s servers. This will ensure that when Googlebot comes to the page, it doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting and instead can crawl the rendered HTML.

In this scenario, Googlebot lands on the page and already sees the HTML (and all the content).

There are more specific options (like isomorphic setups)

This is where it gets to be a bit in the weeds, but there are hybrid solutions. The best one at the moment is called isomorphic.

In this model, we’re asking the client to load the first request on their server, and then any future requests are made client-side.

So Googlebot comes to the page, the client’s server has already executed the initial JavaScript needed for the page, sends the rendered HTML down to the browser, and anything after that is done on the client-side.

If you’re looking to recommend this as a solution, please read this post from the AirBNB team which covers isomorphic setups in detail.

AJAX crawling = no go

I won’t go into details on this, but just know that Google’s previous AJAX crawling solution for JavaScript has since been discontinued and will eventually not work. We shouldn’t be recommending this method.

(However, I am interested to hear any case studies from anyone who has implemented this solution recently. How has Google responded? Also, here’s a great write-up on this from my colleague Rob.)

Summary

At the risk of severely oversimplifying, here’s what you need to do in order to start working with JavaScript and SEO in 2018:

  1. Know when/where your client’s domain uses client-side JavaScript to load in on-page content or links.
    1. Ask the developers.
    2. Turn off JavaScript and do some manual testing by page template.
    3. Crawl using a JavaScript crawler.
  2. Check to see if GoogleBot is seeing content the way we intend it to.
    1. Google’s mobile friendliness checker.
    2. Doing a site:search for visible content on the page.
    3. Crawl using a JavaScript crawler.
  3. Give an ideal recommendation to client.
    1. Server-side rendering.
    2. Hybrid solutions (isomorphic).
    3. Not AJAX crawling.

Further resources

I’m really interested to hear about any of your experiences with JavaScript and SEO. What are some examples of things that have worked well for you? What about things that haven’t worked so well? If you’ve implemented an isomorphic setup, I’m curious to hear how that’s impacted how Googlebot sees your site.

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Why Informative Content Will Make You Think Content Marketing Doesn’t Work

You might want to take an extra sip of coffee before you read the next paragraph … We’re going to start with a brief geometry lesson today, but I promise it will be gentle.

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Get More Traffic, More Confidence, and More Work Done

Good to see you again! With the Monday Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, this was a short week on Copyblogger. On Tuesday, Kelton Reid kicked things off with a thoughtful look at impostor syndrome — with clues on how to approach it from different sources, including the famous Turing Test. And on Wednesday, I talked
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Competitive analysis: Making your auction insights work for you

Columnist Amy Bishop shares tips for identifying actionable takeaways from your AdWords auction insights data.

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Does Influencer Marketing Really Work? Here’s What You Should Know

Companies have to fight tooth and nail to get their message across these days. And while content marketing still has its place, influencer marketing is the new trend, particularly with the ubiquitousness of social media.

The site Relevance likened influencer marketing to “celebrity endorsement advertising,” when Nicole Kidman could plug Chanel #5 or Leonardo di Caprio could extol the virtues of just about any product in commercials and magazines. Influencer marketing is basically the same thing, except that these days, you use “influencers” and social media.

How Does Influencer Marketing Work?

Influencer marketing basically boils down to three things – get in touch with someone with influence, like a popular blogger, get that person to promote your company in some form, and boost your exposure on social media.

Let’s say there’s a lifestyle maven named Party Pat with about 5,000 people following her on her blog and Instagram. You were able to convince Pat to help promote your online bookstore among her followers. She first blogs about her favorite books and mentions your store as her go-to place for ordering books. She later tweets or posts a photo of the latest book that she acquired and mentions how she easily ordered it from your shop and that it arrived in just one day. Her casual mentioning of your store and her experience could prompt her followers to check out your site as well.

Related image

The example might sound simple but it’s actually not. It entails a lot of hard work and preparation. First, you have to find an influencer who’s a good fit for your brand, whether they’re bloggers, YouTubers, writers with regular contributions to popular online sites, or industry experts. Next, you have to reach out and build a rapport with said influencer. Some do this by following the influencer and interacting with him or her while others do it the relatively old-fashioned way and send an email.

If the influencer does respond, you still have to find a way to convince them to promote you. Maybe you can send a sample product or offer to be a guest blogger. Offer compensation is possible but could also be tricky. You have to convince and prove to the influencer that it’s good for them to help you out. This means that if you’re going to guest post, your content should be impeccable. If you’re going to send a sample product, it should be high quality.

3 Tips for Using Influencers

If you are convinced that influencer marketing will help you and your brand, consider the following tips:

  1. Know that the relationship between the brand, the influencer, and the audience must be real.

Image result for real relationship with brandInfluencers have a strong following on social media because they capture their audience’s interest; they have established a relationship with them. Maybe they’re the same age as their audience, have the same interests, or have undergone the same life experiences. This strong relationship with their followers means influencers will only work with a company or brand that they and their audience believe in. For example, an influencer known for her quirky and affordable style of clothes won’t suddenly start campaigning for a high-end shoe brand.

  1. Be ready to play long-term.

Don’t go into influencer marketing thinking that one sponsored post will shore up your business. While a one-time mention by a mega-influencer can make a big difference, it’s a rare, and very expensive, situation. Most of the time, influencer marketing should be looked at as a long-term approach, as you have to slowly build trust among the influencer’s followers.  Followers might have to see his favorite influencer trying or mentioning your product several times before they become curious enough to explore and give your brand a try.

  1. Give creative control over to the influencer.

You might have complete control over your marketing strategy when it comes to traditional advertising, but influencer marketing is far from conventional. The goal is for your brand to have a quality engagement with the influencer’s audience. To achieve that, you have to relinquish creative control to the influencer, as they know their audience. They understand the best way to introduce your brand and make their followers receptive to it.

Does Influencer Marketing Work?

Image result for online influencer effectiveness

There’s some controversy on whether or not influencer marketing really works. Data from a 2016 marketing survey has shown that 94% of those who used this marketing strategy believed it works. However, what the ROI is of influencer marketing is still something of a challenge this year. But there’s no question that this strategy has wide reach, especially with Facebook and Instagram being key platforms for influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing might not be for every company, but there’s no doubting its influence on today’s social media savvy consumers.  

[Image via Pixabay]

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Josephine Baker Google Doodle honors Jazz Age icon & highlights her civil rights work

Born on this date in 1906, Baker was one of the most photographed women of her time.

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5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil

"We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions." – Jerod Morris

All writing is persuasion in one form or another.

This is more obvious in some types of writing than others, but it is nonetheless true for all.

When it comes to copywriting, it is clearly true. Every piece of copy we write should drive a reader toward a specific action.

“Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.”

– David Sedaris

But even the best piece of copy in the world doesn’t actually control a reader’s actions. Well-written copy only provides the “illusion of control.” What a reader does after reading is dependent on the “stuff” they brought into it.

That “stuff” includes past experiences, preconceived notions, and, above all else, cognitive biases.

Let’s discuss a helpful handful of these cognitive biases — some you’ll know well, some you may not — and how understanding them and structuring your content in a way that acknowledges and appreciates them will help you connect, compel, and serve better.

What are cognitive biases?

“A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”

Wikipedia

In other words, cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we all make, all the time, without consciously realizing it, that can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.

An example:

We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.

I sat down to write this article believing that understanding cognitive biases would be useful for content marketers. So, I researched articles that discussed how marketers use cognitive biases to influence decision-making. Naturally, I found many, which confirmed by preconception.

This is called confirmation bias.

In this case, my clear confirmation bias did not lead to a poor or irrational decision. The scientific evidence is quite clear, and ever-expanding, that cognitive biases are indeed constantly affecting people’s decisions and behavior. So, the premise of this article is built on a solid foundation of unbiased evidence.

But what if my goal had been to poke holes in the idea of cognitive biases existing and affecting behavior?

I would have had a hard time finding any credible evidence to support my hypothesis — and, if I did, I would have been much more likely to place undue weight on its validity due to my preconception.

We’ll never eliminate cognitive biases, in ourselves or others. There’s no use trying. All we can do is understand them, embrace them, and endeavor to use them ethically and morally*.

*This is important: There can be a fine line between understanding cognitive biases and then using them for good or exploiting them for evil. If you’re not committed to staying on the ethical and moral side of that line, please stop reading this article now and consider not coming back to this site. You’re definitely not for us, and we’re probably not for you.

4 more cognitive biases you need to know to better serve your readers

Hopefully it’s clear why acknowledging your own natural proclivity for confirmation bias is important. You and your audience will be well-served by your commitment to combating it.

Now let’s run through several additional cognitive biases that your readers bring with them to your content and how those might help both you and your readers make better decisions. (This is a carefully curated list, but I recommend this blog post at Neuromarketing for a deeper dive into 60+ cognitive biases that are useful to know.)

1. Attentional bias

We have a tendency to be affected by our recurring thoughts. Brand advertising is built on that premise.

The more people see an image or a message, the more likely they are to remember the brand, trust the company, and then do business with it down the line.

So if you want to influence your audience with a call to action — for example, trying out our new StudioPress Sites product — then you’re much better off repeating it often, and in several different places.

Consider how often we have subtly and not-so-subtly exposed people to StudioPress Sites as they’ve navigated through the Rainmaker Digital universe over the last few weeks:

  • StudioPress.com has been revamped to display Sites as a major component
  • Brian Clark dropped hints, then followed with explicit mentions on his podcast Unemployable
  • We reached out to StudioPress affiliates prior to the launch to prepare them, and many have published posts alerting their audiences to Sites’s arrival
  • We published an announcement here on the Copyblogger blog
  • We’re running paid ads announcing Sites

You get the picture.

Don’t say it once — say it often, and in many different places.

2. Framing effect

There is the offer. And then there is how you frame the offer.

For example, we recently had a fundraising drive for The Assembly Call — a live postgame show and podcast about Indiana basketball that I co-host. We have sponsors for the show, but we are also listener supported.

Our goal was to generate $ 2,613 (more on the odd specificity of this number in a minute) during an eight-day window. We promoted the fundraising drive to our email list of about 3,300 people.

The offer — in this case, more of a request — began with:

“All we’re asking is for you to contribute what you believe our content is worth. If you do find value in what we do, any donation helps.”

Okay. Fine.

Now here is how we framed the donation request:

“The average donation has been $ 52 and the most common donation denomination has been $ 50. But we’ve had donations as small as $ 4 and as large as $ 300.

In fact, this email will go out to roughly 3,300 people … so if every person just donates a dollar, roughly the cost of a gas station coffee, we’ll fly past our goal.”

The initial request left so much open to interpretation: How much should I donate? What’s reasonable? What have other people donated? Will my donation actually make a difference?

Questions like these, left unanswered, can lead to friction that prohibits action.

But framing the requested action based on what’s common and what the range has been — and then explaining how a comparatively small contribution could still make a difference — helped to reduce this friction and induce action.

(In addition, you can see the bandwagon effect at work here: the part that explains what other people have already done.)

We reached our goal in less than 24 hours. I have no doubt this framing had a huge impact.

So, did we play a psychological trick on our audience?

No.

We had many donors who actually thanked us for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the cause. They wanted to support us. We have a good product, a good relationship with our audience, and this was a fair request that we’d earned the right to make.

This is the difference between ethical and moral use of cognitive biases in marketing and using knowledge of cognitive biases to take advantage of an unsuspecting target.

3. Bizarreness effect

So, why the oddly specific number $ 2,613? Why not $ 2,500 or $ 3,000?

Because people are more likely to take notice of — and remember — something that stands out rather than blends in. This is also referred to as the Von Restorff effect.

I’ve found it to be especially true when it comes to headlines and email subject lines, and I knew that the amount of donations we’d receive would be in part dependent upon the open rate of the email blast.

The subject line we used was: “Will you help us reach our goal of $ 2,613?” I also had the email come from “Jerod Morris” as opposed to “The Assembly Call.”

The number shouts from the inbox, inducing curiosity and demanding a click. As does the request of “help,” especially from a person’s name rather than a brand name; it’s compelling.

We never ask our audience for “help” and they rarely get an email from my name. Bizarre. We figured they’d want to know why.

An open rate of 70 percent suggests they did.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 11.28.43 AM

And the donations that were coming in as late as a week after sending that email (without another email blast to remind them) suggest that the offer was indeed memorable.

4. Risk compensation

Some of these cognitive biases just make simple sense. Like risk compensation, which suggests that people adjust their behavior in relation to perceived risk — we’re more likely to take a bigger risk when perceived safety increases, and vice versa.

This is precisely why every single product we sell at Rainmaker Digital comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

And why we focus on the guarantee toward the ends of promotions.

For example, we recently announced that the price of the Rainmaker Platform was going up. (Spoiler alert: the promo is over; the price has already gone up.)

Here’s what the final email, sent two hours prior to the price raise, looked like:

“Subject: [2 Hours Left] The Price of Rainmaker Goes Up Soon

One last reminder …

Start your free, 14-day trial of the Rainmaker Platform in the next two hours so that you lock in the current price (before it goes up).

Of note:

  • If you cancel prior to your 14-day trial ending, you won’t be charged at all.
  • If you decide to cancel within 30 days of your first payment, you’ll get a refund with no questions asked.
  • In either situation, you can export whatever progress you’ve made with your site and take it with you elsewhere.

So there’s no risk, just a massive annual savings you can lock in.

Click here to start your no-risk free trial of the Rainmaker Platform today.”

We’d proudly suggest the Rainmaker Platform to any of our audience members who have a desire to build and sell digital products. Still, that doesn’t mean starting a trial is without risk, or perceived risk.

A few risks people might identify — rationally or irrationally — before signing up:

  • I have to enter a credit card, so am I going to get charged right away? (Nope, you aren’t charged until the trial ends.)
  • If I make a payment, but then realize Rainmaker won’t work for me, am I out the money? (Nope, you get a refund within the first 30 days of payment.)
  • But what if there is nothing wrong with the Platform and I just decide I don’t want it? (Not a problem! We don’t ask any questions.)
  • I just don’t want to be hassled if I want to cancel and get my money back. (Again, no problemo. The money-back guarantee is no questions asked.)
  • Okay, but what if I did a bunch of work to set stuff up. I don’t want to lose that if I cancel. (No worries. You can export any work you do and take it elsewhere.)

See how that works?

The copy answers the kinds of questions that will naturally come up before action and can even preempt the fears that cause the questions in the first place.

By dissolving the fears that risks induce, we offer people a more comfortable journey down a path they are already interested in walking (and that we know, long-term, could be a path they’ll be thankful we presented to them).

And this is a big reason why (along with the cognitive bias that induces FOMO, of course) the last day of the promo was by far the most successful one. Thirty-eight percent of new trials during the promo period started on the final day, many after this final risk-compensating reminder email was sent out.

So, is the “illusion of control” really such an illusion after all?

It’s interesting to note that illusion of control is also a cognitive bias, suggesting “the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.” (Via RationalWiki.org)

You’re not there with your reader as she consumes your words. You’re not inside her brain, finding out exactly how she’s interpreting what you’ve written. You’re not present to offer any additional arguments about why she should take the action you’d like her to take.

So any control you feel you have as a copywriter does, indeed, seem like an illusion.

And yet …

We know that well-written copy is more likely to influence desired outcomes than poorly written copy.

We know that well-written copy contains words that make sound logical arguments, that empathize, and that possess the ability to compel useful emotional reactions in a reader.

Your ability to understand and acknowledge cognitive biases with your copy allows you to empathize with your reader, and that is what opens the door to compelling a useful emotional reaction.

And we know that emotion drives action more than logic — the latter of which serves more to justify than compel.

Look, who am I to defy the words of a writer like David Sedaris? And to deny a known cognitive bias? Writing probably does give you only the illusion of control.

But maybe, just maybe …

By committing to a better understanding of the “stuff” our readers bring to our words, we increase our ability to turn an illusion of control into … let’s call it … an opportunity to connect.

And when we connect, we have a chance to compel — a privilege and responsibility that truly unlocks the next level of service to our audiences.

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How to Delegate SEO Work Effectively

Posted by zeehj

Whether you’re the only SEO at your company, work within a larger team, or even manage others, you still have to stay on top of your projects. Project management skills aren’t and shouldn’t be exclusive to someone (or some tool) with the title “project manager.” I believe that having good project manager skills is essential to getting work done at all, let alone delivering high-quality work in a timely and efficient way.

In defense of management

Freakonomics Radio released this podcast episode in October called In Praise of Maintenance. The TL;DR (or TL;DL, rather) is that our society rewards innovators, but rarely (if ever) celebrates the maintainers: the people who get sh*t done, and do it reliably, often without anyone’s noticing. This podcast episode confirmed what I’d been feeling for a long time: We don’t award enough praise to the good project managers out there who keep engagements moving forward. And that’s largely because it’s not a sexy job: it’s not exciting to report to stakeholders that necessary services that have been reliable for so long are, as always, continuing to be reliable.

It’s only when things aren’t running smoothly does it seem project managers get recognition. A lack of a rewards system means that we’re not teaching PMs, Consultants, Account Managers, and more that their excellent organizational skills are their most valuable asset. Instead, the message being communicated is that innovation is the only praise-worthy result, which oftentimes may not be essential to getting your work done. The irony here is that innovation is the by-product of an excellent project management framework. The situational awareness of knowing how to delegate work to your colleagues and a repertoire of effective organizational habits is vital if you ever want to free up your attention to allow for the headspace and concentration ingenuity requires.

Sound familiar? Lately I’ve been focused on the idea of a cluttered headspace, where it feels like everything on your to-do list is floating ephemerally around in your head, and you can’t seem to pin down what needs to be done. Of course, this isn’t specific to just professional life (or consulting work): it can happen with personal tasks, which can present their own set of organizational challenges. Regardless of your professional role, crunch time is exactly when you need to put on your project manager hat and get yourself organized. Read on to find out the tools and tricks I use to stay on top of my work, and how I delegate work when needed without losing a personal touch on projects.

Manage projects with tools that work for you

What do you do to make that process easier? One Slack conversation that seems to always come up is which project management tools do we use (and which is best). I take the annoying middle-ground stance of “whatever tool you use is best” and I stand by it (don’t worry, I’ll get to the actual list in a minute): a tool is only useful if it’s actually used.

So how do you get started? It’s always important to have preferred methods for project tracking, note keeping, and reminders. Depending on your role and learning style, you may find that some tools work better than others for you. For instance, while I have a few tools I work with to stay on top of client work, I also have a clear plastic desk cover that I can jot down notes and reminders on. Here’s a breakdown of the tools I use to manage projects, and the needs they meet.

  • Inbox by Gmail. Yes, it’s different from classic Gmail. The two greatest aspects of Inbox, in my opinion, is the ability to snooze emails until a specific day and time, and save reminders for yourself (e.g. “Check in on Ty’s progress for the page speed audit,” or “Watch the video in this link after work”).

    Why are these my favorite Inbox features? Both functions serve similar purposes: they tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. The ability to snooze emails and save reminders for yourself is invaluable when we’re talking about headspace: this way, you can use your email as your to-do list for any given day. If you know you don’t have to respond to someone until X date, there’s no reason their previous email should sit in your Inbox taking up space. As a result, I use Inbox as my personal assistant to remind me when I need to jump back to a deliverable or respond to a client. It’s possible to reach Inbox zero on a given day, even if you have an email awaiting your response. Just snooze it and attend to it when you really need to.

  • Google Drive. Sure, not a sexy or new tool, but it’s my home for everything. Not only does GDrive cover all the file types that I need (Documents, Sheets, and Presentations), it also allows for easy, real-time collaboration on files with your colleagues and clients. If you like to nudge people to do things, too, you can assign contacts work to do from your GDocs (just highlight text, click the comment icon to the right, and insert the @ symbol with their name). If you’re crafting a presentation with a colleague, for instance, you can assign slides with questions for them. I recommend tagging them with your question and including a due date for when you need their answer.
  • Tools my colleagues love:
    • Trello. It’s not my personal favorite, but a lot of my teammates love using Trello as their to-do lists, or even for tracking web dev or SEO projects. If you prefer text over visuals, you can also try Basecamp (which I tend to prefer).
    • Asana. Another great project management tool — I tend to use it on a project basis rather than a to-do list. If you’re a developer, you may prefer JIRA.

Of course, it’s possible to manage and delegate work without these, but I’m of the mind that pen, paper, and email can only get you so far, especially if you want your delegation process to be somewhat automated (think tagging colleagues in comments within documents, or assigning projects to them within standard project management tools like Asana).

How to delegate effectively

Tools can only get you so far: any good delegation process starts with a conversation (no more than five or 10 minutes) about the work you need and a great brief. The conversation establishes whether your colleague actually has the bandwidth to take your work on, and the brief goes into greater detail of what you actually need done. The brief format I follow works for a large number of different deliverables — I’ve used this same layout to delegate page speed, technical and backlink audits, and content briefs to colleagues. Below are the fields I always include, and the type of information always provided:

Subject: [BRIEF] Work I Need Done

Deadline: The precise date and time you need it, with enough time for you to review the work before delivering it to your stakeholders or your client. If it’s something like a page speed audit, I would allow up to a full week to review it and ensure that it’s in the best format and all the information is correct. Of course, it also depends on how familiar the delegate is with projects like these — if they’ve done a number of audits for you in the past, they may know your style and you may not need as much time to edit their final work.

Output/Deliverable: The format in which you need this work delivered to you. Maybe it’s a Google Doc or an Excel Spreadsheet. This brief format can work for any output you need, including more creative pieces (do you need a video edited to :30 seconds in a .mov format? A photo edited to certain specs and saved as a PNG or IDD?).

Expected hours: This may be the most challenging element of the entire brief. How long do you anticipate this work to take, start to finish? Keep in mind the experience level of the person to whom you’re delegating. Is this their first SEO technical audit, or their 30th? You will almost definitely need to check in with your delegate a few times (more on that later), so how long do you anticipate these meetings to take? Just like the deadline timing estimate, use your best judgment based on work you’ve done with this person in the past, and the type of work you’re assigning.

Relevant materials: This is where you can provide additional articles or tools that should help your colleague do the work you’ve assigned to them. Some good examples are 101 articles (like ones on the Moz blog!), or a tool you know you always use in projects like the one you’re delegating (think SEMRush, new photo editing software, or Google’s Keyword Planner).

Check in with your delegate along the way

Once you’ve delivered your brief, the next step is to make sure you check in with your delegate along the way. Even the most experienced person can benefit from added context, so whether it’s an in-person meeting or a five-minute call, touching base shortly after delivering a brief is necessary to ensure you’re on the same page. Beyond kicking off a project, it’s important to have check-ins along the way to stay on track.

At Distilled, we like to follow a check-in model at the following completion points:

  • 1% (kickoff conversation);
  • 5% (validation of process);
  • 30% (ensure you’re on the right track before you invest too much time into the project);
  • and 90% (final editing and proofing).

Not only is this good to keep everyone on the right track, it’s even more valuable both to the person delegating and the delegate to know how much work should be completed at which points, and how much detail is required as you give feedback.

In many ways, great project management and delegation skills are really future-proofing skills. They allow you to be on top of your work regardless of what work (or life) throws at you. You can be the best SEO in the world, but if you can’t manage your projects effectively, you’ll either fail or not see the greatest impact you otherwise could achieve. It’s time to ditch praising the model of a lone innovator who somehow “does it all,” and instead truly celebrate the maintainers and managers who ensure things remain operational and steady. Often, our biggest problems aren’t best solved with a complex solution, but rather a clear mind and supportive team.

A large part of turning projects around comes down to improving the project management process, and being organized allows you to juggle multiple clients and acknowledge when you’re at capacity. Without a solid foundation of project management skills, there is no groundwork for successful innovations and client projects. The next time you’re looking to bolster your skill set, do an audit of how you manage your own work, and identify all of the things that prevent you from delivering the best work on time.

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