Four Takeaways from Botify’s Virtual Crawl2Convert

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Botify’s annual Crawl2Convert event was held virtually on October 29th which brought together hundreds of attendees from Singapore to Seattle for panel discussions, presentations, fireside chats, networking, and even a live-streamed acoustic concert! While we would have loved to host you all in person, we were invigorated by the online energy, engagement, and enthusiasm we saw from the SEO and marketing communities. 

Botify’s CMO, Rachel Meranus, kicked off the event alongside Botify CEO Adrien Menard, underscoring the pivotal moment we’re facing within marketing – and in particular organic search. With online consumption at an all-time high, consumer behaviors changing drastically, digital competition growing, and an unprecedented focus on ROI, the role of SEO – and its attributable contribution to marketing within an enterprise – has never been more important. 

Through Crawl2Convert, we sought to present a range of perspectives from a lineup of experts with diverse backgrounds and experiences, but who share a passion for SEO and unlocking the potential of organic search within their organizations.  The result: dynamic conversations covering relevant and timely topics such as scaling SEO at an enterprise, turning SEO metrics into business data, Core Web Vitals, javascript, dynamic rendering, machine learning, advocating for SEO, performance marketing, and more!  

If you weren’t able to join us or catch all of the sessions you hoped to, you’re in luck.  All of the Crawl2Convert content is available on demand and can be watched at your leisure.

 In the meantime, here are four key themes and topics that bubbled to the surface. 

Advocate and Influence with Data

Whether proving the value of organic search to executives, engaging stakeholders on a particular development project, or advocating for more resources, it always comes down to the data.

During  “Driving and Measuring ROI of SEO,” moderated by Botify’s Jen Chittim, Move.com’s (realtor.com) Monika Kulkarni emphasized a recurring theme that was woven throughout C2C: the need to find common KPIs that are tied to business goals that everyone, regardless of team or level of SEO expertise, can understand. 

“Having everyone understand how the upper funnel experience can tie down into more important metrics that the company is trying to measure really creates that buy-in across the company.”  And before doing some impressive mental math to turn that idea into a real world example, she said   “Numbers don’t lie and that’s easy buy-in.” 

“Having everyone understand how the upper funnel experience can tie down into more important metrics that the company is trying to measure really creates that buy-in across the company.

-Monika kulkarni, move, inc (realtor.com)

Your data doesn’t need to be in the form of extensive, complex models. Jordan Silton from CoStar Group suggested testing some back-of-the-napkin math to start the conversation and “as long as  you show your work, you can have a discussion about whether the calculations were good or bad or what assumptions are okay or not.”

Jenn Matthews from GitHub, continued the sentiment and encouraged SEOs to start with some smaller, quick wins to obtain initial buy-in and validate calculations. Referencing her time at Nordstrom, managing billions of dollars, she commented that trying to convince teams ‘if you do this big huge project that’s going to take you six months to develop and another three months to get rankings, but we’re going to make a couple of billions of dollars…’ ” there wouldn’t be much confidence.  She continued, “Botify… is really great at finding that low hanging fruit.”

Jordan Kennedy, Botify’s SVP of Customer Success, led a panel discussion, “SEO as a Customer Acquisition Channel,” with Holland Dauterive from Dropbox, Shawn Huber from T-Mobile, and Angelina Fadool from Atlassian, who each highlighted how their roles were rooted in data. 

Holland referenced her internal agreement with their analytics team and clear delineation of pages that are owned by SEO. “It’s a very sort of cut and dry attribution model. It’s by no means perfect, but again, it is a great way to say ‘without seo, you’d be missing X percent of revenue if we weren’t here doing this.’ So that’s really what made people take notice; that we actually know that we did that.”

Shawn also praised his “phenomenal analytics team” with whom he works closely to quantify the search opportunity, tying traffic to conversion to revenue value and in turn, customer value, however reassured that even without access to big data teams, proving value through some pieces of data such as customer value and traffic sources is achievable.  “You don’t need an awesome team behind you, you can be an awesome team, you just need that little bit of information.” 

Test & Experiment When Possible

Tim Resnik, Walmart

Sometimes, that little bit of information is a result of experimentation.  Walmart’s Tim Resnik sat down with Botify’s CMO Rachel Meranus to chat about building a strong foundation for long-term SEO success, how he creates organizational change from the top down, how he addresses both the hits and the misses, and why even at Walmart, he could argue they still don’t have enough resources.  

One of his biggest pieces of advice to SEOs working at organization of all sizes is to test and experiment when possible. He admits, “sometimes doing the test is more work than doing the thing,” but it’s still his preferred means to building and evangelizing the bigger and more holistic SEO vision. 

Even without a Walmart-sized team, he describes SEOs as “entrepreneurial, hacky, and scrappy” so testing hypotheses, even without a data-scientist backed, statistically significant experience, can breed insights and be the starting point for building the bigger picture and help to align with senior leadership. 

Internal Relationships, Trust, & Communication are Key

While attribution models, KPIs, and contribution to customer acquisition will vary across companies, creating alignment on those key objectives within an organization surfaced as a top priority for many of the brands represented at Crawl2Convert; alignment that relies heavily on the relationships forged between colleagues and teams. 

More than any other marketing discipline, SEO requires cross-functional collaboration, buy-in, and shared resources. In fact, while a channel such as paid media or email are almost always a marketing function that can execute from start to finish fairly independently, it’s certainly grayer with SEO. It’s not uncommon for SEOs to be part of marketing organizations, or to sit within product teams; for technical SEO and content SEOs to be part of separate teams, or if they are lucky, for SEOs to have dedicated engineers and analysts.  This not only adds to the breadth and complexity of an SEO’s role, but also underlines the need for clear means of communication, iterative processes, and ongoing collaboration.

Renee Girard from Crate and Barrel, who joined a panel on “Advocating for SEO” and is part of the product management team within the e-commerce group, articulated the value of having a voice among development teams.  “I’m living the dream. We are an agile shop which means SEO gets treated as an agile product.” She continued, “Something really special is that I get my own dedicated scrum team and we aim for a goal of about 20% of all tickets dedicated to SEO, per sprint… Outside of scrum, SEO is a shared consultancy across the organization and for other scrum teams.”   

“I’m living the dream. We are an agile shop which means SEO gets treated as an agile product.”

– Renee Girard, Crate & Barrel & CB brands

During that same discussion, Daniel Marks from SeatGeek, reminded us of the value of humility and trust.  When demonstrating ROI to get investment from leadership, he noted “it’s really important to be humble and honest about the limitations. If you’re constantly going to leadership with a super confident and super ambitious ROI, you’re going to quickly burn that trust.”

With regard to JavaScript-related projects, James Patterson from American Eagle Outfitters and Frederico Rebeschini  from Luxottica also talked about the necessity to align with Engineering teams. During The JavaScript Dilemma, Patterson described the evolution of his relationship with his Engineering team, specifically the process of defining smoke tests surrounding releases to ensure that “if they pull a lever upstream, something downstream doesn’t break.  Having smoke tests can save you a lot of headache over time.” And while that may seem idealistic for some, he noted that it can be a fluid process that grows over time.  

Robin Eisenberg, Botify’s VP of Engineering, rounded out the sentiment of open and regular communication by saying:  “The best way to tackle your JavaScript issues is by having a coffee with your developers.” 

Cross-departmental alignment not only helps to see technical requests through to development, but also impacts how all of the teams and channels influencing and managing the customer journey remain in sync.

Angelina Fadool, who sits within a performance marketing group at Atlassian, partners with her paid media and email counterparts to create shared goals and projects, and while the ultimate goal is to align on acquisition objectives, they “started out with awareness… And then year two is when we transition to an acquisition model.”

Education Can Be Half the Battle

To many, SEO can be a foreign language and it presents a lot of nuance and complexity, so often education is also an important piece of reaching shared goals and maintaining those strong relationships. 

During “Organic Search & Performance Marketing,”  Rasida Begun from Browns Fashion, Alexis Krasinski from Host Gator, and Dan Patmore from Sainsbury’s / Argos, emphasized the value of education in helping stakeholders within an organization better understand the impact of SEO.

Patmore said, “things like canonicals are a bit abstract… bring it to life, make it about the customer, make it about what the experience means for a user,” while Begun agreed that offering a basic understanding of SEO can really help move projects forward. “Once you start to simplify the language, people start to relate more and ask more questions.” She continued, “we can all agree, no one likes to not know how something works and approaching that can be quite daunting, especially if you’re quite senior. Education is so key in driving that forward.” 

“…things like canonicals are a bit abstract… bring it to life, make it about the customer, make it about what the experience means for a user.”

– Dan patmore, Sainsbury’s

When scaling SEO across a large, global enterprise, education becomes even more essential.  During “SEO @ Scale,” Esteve Castells, Global SEO Manager at Adevinta, shared his experience building a company-wide community-focused program centered around global SEO initiatives. By leveraging Slack, live streams, and regular calls, he’s been able to educate and inform thousands of employees across 16 countries. 

Sometimes education takes the form of lessons learned following an SEO disaster, as discussed during “Mitigating Risk & Avoiding SEO Disasters,” dubbed “SEO Group Therapy” by Frank Vitovitch, the session’s moderator. 

Kunal Dhawan from TES, Dana Tan from Under Armour, and Aleksander Yershov from Radisson shared some of their biggest SEO mishaps and how that fueled education internally, but Dana’s #1 lesson learned, which bears repeating, remains: “No one but an SEO should be touching your robots.txt file.” 

“No one but an SEO should be touching your robots.txt file.” 

— Dana Tan, Under Armour

Just Scratching the Surface

Needless to say, one blog post won’t sum up all of the great learnings and insights that were shared among our esteemed speakers and attendees, but it’s crystal clear that we are witnessing the sea change toward the overdue recognition of organic search as a quantifiable, cost-effective performance marketing channel. Botify is dedicated to helping you elevate the impact of SEO within your organizations, providing you with revenue- or conversion-driven metrics in the platform, so that you can eventually skip the back-of-the-napkin math and earn that well-deserved seat at the table.  

 

 

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