One of the best things about being an SEO is when your activities produce tangible results for a company that really moves the bottom line. What follows are some strategies and tactics that my company has used to increase one of our client’s year-over-year organic search traffic by more than 100 percent for every month (January to May) of 2011.
The Client: SEO Challenges & Goals
Workday.com is a 5-year-old company founded by Dave Duffield. They offer a SAAS, enterprise ERP and business management solution.
The challenges that Workday faced when we started with them over two years ago were similar to those faced by many other digital marketing professionals trying to make SEO part of the company DNA. As many of us know, things like link building and content production can be difficult to get budget for, especially in this economy.
Additionally, many of their marketing channels – including event marketing, PR, social media, and search (both paid and organic) – were living in silos that weren’t talking to one another. Therefore, a lot of opportunity was being left on the table from an SEO perspective.
Our goal for this campaign was to better align as many marketing channels as possible with SEO best practices in order to leverage all of these marketing activities from an organic search perspective. Additionally, we wanted to improve the internal communication, especially around keywords. We wanted everyone on our team and everyone on the various Workday teams that we work with to understand the importance of search, our target keywords, and priorities.
To do that, we focused on six areas. Let’s discuss some of the tactics that we used to successfully align each of these areas of focus with SEO best practices.
1. Internal Communication
Improving the lines of communication within the Workday organization was the cornerstone of our success. Getting everyone focused on the same goals will always have a tangible effect and produce better results than would have otherwise been possible.
In order to better align the members of various marketing teams, we provided them with keyword lists that were relevant to whatever projects they were working on. Some folks got the whole keyword set and some got a subset of the overall keyword list depending on their role in the company. Once those keywords had been provided, we trained each of those groups on how they could implement those keywords into the activities that they were responsible for (more about training later).
Equally important was getting this entire initiative prioritized by management and having that priority communicated to all of the teams that we were working with. There was a lot of enthusiastic support company-wide for our initiatives and that’s a big reason for the results that we got.
Part of the impetus for that enthusiasm was certainly due to upper level management communicating the priority of search to the entire company. Additionally, we were able to demonstrate using analytics how important SEO was to the marketing and sales efforts of the company which in turn created additional enthusiasm.
The other piece of the puzzle was a high degree of collaboration with the Workday team, including weekly SEO team meetings, our participation in quarterly marketing meetings where we were given a calendar of events and comprehensive understanding of the marketing plan for the company for the next 12 months. Workday hired an in-house SEO practitioner to help us implement recommendations more quickly as well as a central project management system that made it easy for people to get the information they needed to execute initiatives. At the end of the day, these tactics proved to be very successful in improving communication and getting everyone aligned with the goals and objectives of our SEO campaign.
2. Keyword Management
Segmenting Workday’s keywords into campaigns based on business objectives and then within those campaigns, segmenting by keyword group proved to be a very important part of our process. The segmentation allowed for more granular understanding of SEO performance, but it also made it easier for us to provide relevant keywords to various marketing teams within Workday.
Certain content writers and bloggers were given keywords that were relevant to their area of focus whereas other marketers were given the entire list depending on their role. Obviously training all these folks on how to use the keywords was a critical piece as well. But the segmentation of keywords made a big difference in the campaign.
3. Digital Content Strategy
Once the keywords were identified and segmented, a content gap analysis was performed to illustrate to the Workday team where they lacked sufficient content to address the keywords that they had targeted.
Additionally, a lot of the marketing content that they had lived behind an authentication wall. We created optimized sign up pages for this content that were targeted towards relevant keywords with content previews (snippets).
We also collaborated with various content producers to create new content (both text and video) that was aligned with their overall goal of thought leadership in the space and that was optimized around their most important keywords.
Keyword research is really user research that explains how your targeted audience is using language to describe your goods, services and concepts in your industry. Therefore, aligning your marketing content with those keywords means that you are talking the same language as the people you are trying to sell to, which improves your search rankings and conversions because people understand what you are saying.
The main goal within the digital content alignment was to have the people who are producing digital assets on an ongoing basis get the education that they need to create optimized content from inception. In other words, our SEO team wouldn’t need to optimize every new page on the site because it was built from an optimization perspective to begin with. For the most part, that is the case today.
4. Social Media
Social media was a huge area of focus for us. In addition to using social media channels like blogging, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to extend messaging, promote content, and engage our target audience, we wanted to use social media to create thought leadership, consistently produce new keyword focused content, and acquire new, relevant links that would make a difference in our SEO campaign.
In addition to the keyword lists and training that we provided their social media team, another successful tactic was a consistent posting schedule for all social media platforms for their content. We created a digital asset chart that gave instructions on how and where to promote each type of digital asset (blog post, video, webinar, etc). This way we always have a consistent approach to promoting content through social media, no matter whose job is ends up being.
One of the more successful social media strategies that Workday executed was their Technology Day where they invited some of the most influential bloggers in their space onsite to answer questions and demonstrate new technology. The event was a big hit with all of the participants and generated a number of excellent blog posts, tweets, and ultimately relevant links to the site. Using that event to distribute other digital assets like videos and infographics was also successful.
5. PR Optimization
One of the most important vehicles for link building for Workday.com has been press release optimization. Based on the strength of Workday’s brand, most of their press releases get picked up by a number of relevant and important publications.
By training their PR team on SEO best practices, we were able to make each release more impactful to the overall SEO campaign. The releases get more traffic because they get more search traffic, even if they live on someone else’s domain. And, because they are created with relevant, embedded links that point back to content on Workday.com, every time the release is picked up, Workday.com gets new, valuable links.
Obviously this tactic is only successful when you’re company has something meaningful to say. Fortunately for us and Workday, they always have a lot going on and a lot of great things to talk about.
6. SEO Training
This is another cornerstone in the success of this SEO campaign. Empowering people within the organization to make their own contributions to the SEO campaign is a huge priority for us in any engagement because ultimately it’s easier to scale across a large organization than trying to have one SEO team do everything. We conducted training for the following groups of people:
- Content writers
- PR team
- Social media team
- Internal SEO resources
- Keyword Research
- On Page Optimization (Content Optimization + Meta data + Page Titles)
- PR Optimization
- Social media / SEO best practices
- Link optimization (internal and external)
- Site-wide optimization (technical issues)
And, depending on which group we were training, we covered the following topics:
By demystifying SEO across various groups within the company, we were able to align all of the groups against the goals and priorities of the SEO campaign. By aligning all of these marketing groups with those goals and aligning their activities with SEO best practices, we have been able to help Workday achieve significant gains in organic search. And the program continues to grow to this day. Hopefully this model can provide a template for others to follow to achieve similar results.