How Any SEO Can Compete With Amazon, WebMD and Other Industry Giants in 2020 with Helen Pollitt


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Competing with Amazon, WebMD and other industry giants in SERPs is no joke. But it’s a reality we are going to have to face if we want to stay relevant. That’s why I brought on Helen Pollitt to talk to us about how to navigate the increasingly difficult landscape. She discusses everything from how to combat this problem, how to have difficult discussions with clients and better ways to measure success.

Helen is an industry veteran that has spoken at conferences like Brighton SEO, International Search Summit, Learn Inbound, Search Leads and Bristol SEO. In addition to her very long list of accomplishments, she actually does the work as the Managing Director at Arrows Up. 
How do you approach creating a strategy when you are first onboarding a client in a competitive industry?

  • When looking at any strategy, think about what the biggest impact wins are (low hanging fruit)
  • Identify where your competition is weakest. For example, if they have a lot of pages, their pages might be poorly optimized
  • Do they happen to have content gaps?
  • Do they have really poor tech issues?
  • Did they suffer a bad migration?
  • Next, look at how you can fill those gaps
  • What resources does my client have? Do they have content that meets the needs of the customer more so than the giant?
  • Where can they implement changes technically that the giant can’t?
  • Can they capitalize on social trends?

Do you need to be incorporating other search engines into the SEO toolkit, like Trip Advisor?

  • She hasn’t seen a huge call for it yet
  • She has never been asked to do it yet, though it might be done in the paid media team
  • It’s an exciting opportunity for SEOs

How do you recommend SEOs approach video? I know that a lot of SEOs look at this as maybe stealing jobs away, but video is definitely here now.

  • This is a really exciting opportunity that SEOs should embrace
  • Consider giving advice to those creating the content
  • In addition, think about how you can use structured data to leverage video content

Is there any way that SEOs can leverage voice search in a way that maybe industry giants can’t?

  • Voice search is really equally available to both large and small brands
  • It’s more about getting into the featured snippets
  • Looking at things like People Also Ask in the SERPs

Can you talk about why you believe best practices are deadly?

  • Best practices leave you blind to the nuances of each campaign
  • It stops you from being creative in your work
  • It squashes creativity


Usually, the goal of best practices is to rank number 1 in Google, but is there ever a situation where it makes sense to be happy with your number 5 ranking?

  • It’s a calculation. Focus on ROI, not vanity metrics
  • If it’s not too competitive to bump up to the next spot, sure, go for it. 
  • An example where you may not want to have the goal of ranking number 1 is “seo agency”. There are already a lot of talented search professionals fighting for this keyword, so the energy and money put out to achieve it may fall short of the keyword’s value


So to follow up with that question, how do you know which keywords are worth pursuing and which ones you should leave in the 5th position?

  • Look at how long it took you to get to the position you are currently ranking in. If it was very difficult to get from say 10th to 5th, maybe it is not worth it to try to go higher
  • She uses tools like Ahrefs to asses the level of difficulty of a certain keyword
  •  Also, look at the intent in the SERPs. Are your competitors simply better optimized or are they actually offering a different/better product altogether?
  • Some terms are also too ambiguous. For example, if you type in Jaguar, you might have the animal and the car brand making it very difficult for you to optimize your page

A rather frustrating occurrence that happens more often than one might think is that a poorly optimized page ranks above a perfectly optimized page. How do you explain to a client what’s going on in a situation like this?

  • It’s very frustrating and if the client is very concerned we do a deep dive audit into the competitor’s website. How is the site structured? What kind of content do they have? What’s their backlink profile look like? 
  • At the end of the day, it’s an educated guess
  • What I tell clients “We shouldn’t be so focused on our competitors, but rather we should be focused on how we can make our website better.” 
  • There are always additional optimizations that can be made


What kind of KPIs do you use?

  •  She prefers to use the client’s business goals and then create goals that feed into those.
  • Therefore your KPIs will be meaningful for the leadership team
  • One KPI that she does not invest much in is keywords and rankings. They change day to day and can be a useful diagnostic tool, though they shouldn’t be your end goal
  • The amount of converting traffic should be your end goal

Conversions are a great metric, but they don’t happen overnight. What kind of KPIs guide you until the website is in a position where it can convert?

  • The best way to show a client how you are getting them to the goal of conversions is to simply show them the work that you are doing in the process and explain how you think this work will get you to conversions
  • Also, look at pre-conversion actions. For example, are they a returning visitor? Did they fill out a form? Which pages did they visit?
  • Google Tag Manager is great for this. Have they clicked a button? Did they navigate to the right pages? Use these trends to understand how customers interact on your website


What is the biggest problem you or SEOs in general face today?

  • The amount of both information and misinformation available today.
  • Sometimes your boss may read something (perhaps even a statement released by Google) and you will have to explain why it may not impact their particular website


How much time do you spend reading versus actually doing?

  • She does a lot of reading and enjoys working with junior teams as they may have read something she hasn’t and it’s also good to know that they have interpreted the information correctly 
  • A lot of industries get different results from different tactics, so as much as you read, it’s equally important to execute


Twitter: @helenpollitt1

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