Mention SEO on the show, and Gert Mellak of SEOLeverage.com naturally springs to mind. As James’s go-to SEO expert, Gert has guested many a time on the podcast. And on this occasion he and James discuss SEO through the lens of something called full-agency integration.
Many businesses hire an SEO agency, either as sole handler of their SEO or to complement their in house SEO strategy.
James and Gert will look at the advantages of effective team integration when working with an agency.
They’ll talk about the importance to an agency of knowing a client’s business goals, their product, their SEO in-house efforts, and what would be a useful SEO target for them.
And they’ll discuss the need for an agency to have both tech skill and a smooth client onboarding process flow.
Table of contents:
1. Understanding full agency integration in SEO
2. The evolving landscape of search engine optimization
3. The growing importance of brand in search
4. AI’s role in search results
5. The depth of fully integrated agency partnerships
6. How an agency can enhance clients’ SEO goals
7. Optimizing communication in SEO agency collaboration
8. The crucial role of a knowledgeable point person
9. Strategic SEO planning: moving beyond quick wins
10. Content pruning and focused brand representation
11. Staying technically informed in SEO
12. Key takeaways for effective SEO
Understanding full agency integration in SEO
From James’s perspective, full agency integration in SEO is a deep, team-based collaboration with an SEO service provider, where the agency functions almost as an internal team member. This integration involves regular communication and coordination, such as through platforms like Slack, and taps into the comprehensive resources and expertise of the agency, rather than relying on a single hire.
It’s important, Gert stresses, that an agency thoroughly understand a client’s business for effective SEO service. He compares it to a doctor needing detailed information about a patient to provide the best care. This approach involves asking in-depth questions about how the client acquires customers and what they seek from the SEO service, ensuring a knowledge transfer that allows the agency to be fully integrated and effective.
James reflects on the varying levels of integration needed for different services. A lawn mowing service, for instance, requires minimal knowledge of a client’s broader business needs, whereas SEO demands a deeper understanding and integration.
The evolving landscape of search engine optimization
The landscape of search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved significantly, James has noted. Through the deep integration of Gert’s agency with his team, it’s come to his attention that many pages on his websites receive neither visits nor links, and so might as well not exist. The way SEO currently works, this suggests a need for ongoing analysis and adaptability in SEO strategies, recognizing that some content may no longer be relevant while other parts continue to attract traffic and links.
The behavior of users, too, in searching for information, has changed, expanding beyond traditional search engines to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Slack, and various community groups. This diversification in search behavior, coupled with increased mobile phone usage, has altered how and where people seek information and how Google presents search results, including the prominence of snippets and YouTube videos.
Despite these changes, maintaining a website remains crucial for collecting email addresses and converting sales. James highlights the importance of controlling one’s brand and reputation online through SEO efforts, especially in light of Google’s evolving approach to displaying search results. Staying current with these changes requires more than superficial or infrequent engagement with an SEO agency.
The growing importance of brand in search
Gert speaks of the growing importance of branding in search engine optimization (SEO), noting that while annual audits and implementing suggestions can yield results, they don’t foster strong integration or a clear understanding of a business’s trajectory. He agrees with James that SEO, search trends, and user behavior are evolving, making branding increasingly significant in how businesses are discovered online.
Gert explains that a website’s content is critical in communicating a brand’s identity to search engines, which then cross-reference this with external sources to validate the brand’s authenticity. This process affects how a brand is perceived and discovered on various platforms, emphasizing the vital role of consistent branding and a well-maintained online reputation in achieving effective search visibility.
AI’s role in search results
James is interested in AI. AI tools, like ChatGPT, are increasingly playing a role in search results by building their databases and performing searches for additional information. This integration of AI in search engines means that being visible for specific keywords remains important, though the process may not always be direct.
Gert explains that AI tools use language models for predictions and access knowledge bases, like Google’s knowledge graph, to enhance accuracy and relevance. This approach leads to more fact-checked and reliable outputs, reducing the occurrence of inaccuracies or “hallucinations” in AI-generated content. These tools can also be used to compare and summarize content from specific URLs.
The depth of fully integrated agency partnerships
What sets fully integrated agency apart from the surface level engagement many experience when they hire an SEO agency, James asks?
The process of fully integrating an agency partnership begins, says Gert, with an initial briefing, where the agency schedules a call to discuss the client’s business, goals, and the potential role of SEO. This step involves a thorough exploration of the client’s business model, target audience, lead sources, sales strategies, and service focus.
Gert emphasizes the importance of understanding the client’s business as if he were an employee, aiming to acquire a level of knowledge that informs the agency’s decisions. This understanding is critical for making ‘micro decisions’ that significantly impact SEO outcomes, such as selecting the most relevant keywords from a potentially vast pool, based on a deep knowledge of the client’s business and objectives.
Gert notes that many clients underestimate the depth of decision-making involved in SEO agency work. When clients engage an agency without providing detailed information about their business, they often receive limited benefits, missing out on the full potential of the agency’s capabilities.
How an agency can enhance clients’ SEO goals
What if clients lack clarity in briefing an SEO agency?
Gert engages his own clients in detailed conversations to uncover their true goals, moving beyond superficial objectives like ranking for a specific keyword. He emphasizes understanding the client’s business context and advising them on more effective, realistic SEO goals.
SEO, Gert explains, is a long-term strategy, and its effectiveness increases with deeper integration into the client’s business. He stresses, as before, the importance of building a comprehensive understanding of the client’s business and competitors, which enhances the SEO team’s ability to identify and leverage opportunities over time.
Unlike some agencies that may focus on quick, ego-driven keyword rankings, Gert’s approach is to foster motivation and meaningful progress within his team by working on projects that genuinely benefit the client. This approach avoids possible frustration and aligns with the long-term success of both the agency and the client.
Optimizing communication in SEO agency collaboration
James touches on the evolution of communication methods in SEO agency collaboration, from Zoom calls to Loom calls, highlighting the shift towards asynchronous communication. He notes the use of Slack for updates and queries, asking Gert about the frequency and nature of these communications in his work.
Gert says that communication preferences vary among clients, leading to a mix of methods including email, helpdesk responses, Slack channels, and scheduled Zoom calls. The agency adapts to these preferences, often utilizing asynchronous methods like Loom videos for efficient communication.
Gert emphasizes the necessity of active engagement from the client’s side for successful SEO outcomes. The agency requires ongoing input and feedback from the client, and if communication ceases, the agency may pause its services until the dialogue is restored.
The crucial role of a knowledgeable point person
It’s important, says Gert, to have a knowledgeable point person with industry experience to collaborate effectively with an SEO agency. This person should be deeply familiar with the business and capable of providing essential information, rather than being a virtual assistant with limited knowledge of the business.
While founders may often be too busy to engage directly, Gert notes that many clients have competent VAs who have been with the company for a long time and are empowered to make decisions and interact with the agency. James adds that investing in SEO requires dedicating resources within the team to provide necessary input and team integration, as this involvement is crucial for the success of the SEO strategy.
Strategic SEO planning: moving beyond quick wins
Strategic guidance is needed in SEO, says Gert, cautioning again against a narrow focus on short-term ‘quick wins.’ He encourages clients to consider where they want their SEO efforts to be in the next 12 months, rather than just the immediate future.
Gert uses a metaphor of a diet plan to illustrate the need for a sustained, strategic approach in SEO, as opposed to just cutting out certain elements for quick benefits. James agrees, noting that a consistent approach allows for better management of fluctuations and a more effective overall strategy.
Highlighting the difference between short-term goals and strategic objectives, Gert explains that a long-term goal might be to dominate a topic on Google, ensuring broad visibility across many related keywords. This approach contrasts with merely aiming for a short-lived high ranking for a single keyword.
James has his own personal experience where focusing on key phrases over time has led to significant business benefits, with his name consistently appearing in searches related to his areas of expertise. This underscores the value of a strategic, long-term approach to SEO.
Content pruning and focused brand representation
At Gert’s advice, James has agreed to content pruning on his website, which involves deleting a significant amount of content that no longer aligns with his current focus areas like revenue share and partnerships. He expresses a mix of emotions at this, including a sense of both loss and relief, as he realizes the necessity of removing content that no longer serves its purpose.
Gert acknowledges the emotional aspect of content pruning, while stressing the importance of aligning website content with current business goals. He advises focusing on how Google ranks each article in relation to the business’s current objectives and encourages clients to reflect on the relevance of their content.
The process, Gert further explains, involves evaluating which content to keep or remove, ensuring that the website accurately represents the brand’s current specialization. This approach is crucial for how AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard perceive and represent a brand based on the website’s content.
James relates the content pruning process to decluttering, suggesting a more frequent tuning of website content to avoid accumulation of irrelevant material. He is committed, he says, to applying this approach to his surfing website as well, recognizing the importance of maintaining a focused and relevant online presence.
Staying technically informed in SEO
Would Gert say he has his finger on the pulse, as far as the technical side of SEO, asks James?
Gert confirms that staying technically informed is essential in SEO. His agency, in fact, dedicates significant time each week to understanding and testing SEO strategies. This involves experimenting with different websites to see what techniques are effective in improving rankings and verifying how Google interprets various content.
Beyond technical SEO specifics, Gert advises looking at the broader marketing landscape to understand where SEO fits into overall strategies, especially considering emerging trends and technologies like ChatGPT. He emphasizes the importance of having a trusted SEO partner who can view developments through the client’s unique perspective and adapt strategies accordingly to stay ahead of future changes.
Key takeaways for effective SEO
For effective SEO, Gert highlights the importance of deep integration with an SEO agency. It is crucial during the briefing phase that the agency fully understands the client’s business, what has been effective, their in-house SEO strategy if any, and the client’s objectives. And clients should be open to the agency’s expertise and insights, as they have exposure to various benchmarks and best practices in the industry.
James advises being proactive in discussions with an SEO agency, inquiring about their vision of what’s possible and successful strategies they’ve observed. He underscores the need for setting and agreeing on clear goals and strategies, being ready to adapt as needed, establishing an effective communication rhythm, and focusing on substantial results rather than just keyword rankings. This approach, combined with choosing an agency with strong technical knowledge, is key to successful SEO.
If you’d like help with or a consult on your own SEO efforts, you’ll find Gert at SEOLeverage.com.
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