Episode Overview

We continue content marketing month with an overview of how to build strong working relationships with your content marketing organization. Joining Ben for this episode is Taylor Robinson, Senior Manager of SEO for Conde Nast. Join Ben and Taylor to understand how to blend proactive, change agent approaches to filling online performance gaps with while providing excellent, reactive SEO support.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome back to Content Month on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to continue our month long deep dive into the words behind the numbers and discuss what SEOs need to know about content creation, publishing, and optimization.

Ben:                 Joining us today is Taylor Robinson who is a Senior Manager of SEO at Condé Nast, which is a media company that attracts more than 100 million consumers across its industry leading print, digital, and video brands, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ, Architectural Digest, and the New Yorker. And today Taylor’s going to talk us through her teams working relationship with the content production teams at Condé Nast.

Ben:                 But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic where member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                 Here’s on conversation with Taylor Robinson, Senior Manger of SEO at Condé Nast.

Ben:                 Taylor, welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast.

Taylor:             Hi, Ben. Super happy to be here.

Ben:                 It’s great to have you here, and I’m excited that we have fulfilled your boss John Shehata’s promise to get you on the podcast. He basically signed you up when we talked to him over the holidays.

Taylor:             He did. I would listen to it. He didn’t even tell me he was doing this really, and then he posted the link on Twitter. I gave it a listen, and then all of a sudden he’s name dropping me.

Ben:                 Well, it’s great to have you here, and thank you to John. Is there anything you want to sign him up for while we are on the podcast together?

Taylor:             I think we want to do a ping pong competition. He’s very good at ping pong. So I’m signing him up as a competitor.

Ben:                 Great. So, John, Taylor wants a raise and a promotion. That said, we’re here today to talk to you about how you work with your content team. Tell us a little bit before we get started about the relationship between SEO and content, tell us about Condé Nast and what your role is.

Taylor:             Sure. So I lead the SEO team at Condé Nast. I know John has mentioned this in previous podcasts before, but we are a small in relation to maybe some other companies. Small but mighty SEO team. So I report into John Shehata who’s our VP of SEO, search, and email. I oversee the SEO team, obviously. We have three SEO managers who work directly day to day with each of our 18 brands in our portfolio. We also have an SEO analyst who kind of weaves in and out as we see fit and wherever we need him. Then we also have an SEO engineer who focused on some of the tools that we want to build in house as well as kind of being the liaison between the engineering team.

Ben:                 So multiple brands. You mentioned 18 different properties. And you’re basically responsible for managing the projects that span across all of those brands, but then each specific brand has their own SEO optimization needs.

Taylor:             Yes. So each brand has a dedicated SEO manager, but the SEO manager has seven or eight brands. So they are very busy.

Ben:                 I could imagine. Talk to me a little bit about the structure of the editorial team at Condé Nast. How big is that team in comparison to the SEO team?

Taylor:             Sure. So it really depends per brand, but some of our larger brands may have 20 to 50 editors. Some brands are smaller, maybe like a 10 editor team. But, again, it really depends on the volume, the traffic to the site, not just search but overall traffic, as well as maybe the newsiness or evergreen of the site.

Ben:                 Okay. So essentially you’re working with roughly 100 different content creators.

Taylor:             Yeah.

Ben:                 I’m imaging that you’re not directly interfacing, or your team isn’t directly interfacing with each editor. Talk to me about the leadership structure of the editorial team and a little bit about what their process is like. How do they create their content?

Taylor:             Sure. So we have obviously Anna Winter, everyone knows her. She oversees all of the editor in chiefs of each title, but essentially from our end, we work really closely with two groups of people at the brand. The first is a main editorial contact. So this could be like your executive digital editor, and the second group of people are the dedicated development, audience development leads. So these are people who sit on the brand floors, are deeply integrated with the brand itself, so they know the brand voice. They know the brand DNA. The know what they would or wouldn’t write about. So these team members are vital to our success as an SEO team because we’re able to basically champion our strategies and recommendations at the brand. So we work really closely with audience development to get what we want slated into the editorial queue.

Ben:                 So there is a … You said there is an editor and an audience development resources. Was the first person editor? Sorry. I didn’t catch it.

Taylor:             Yes, it’s like the main editorial contact. So that could be per vertical or it could be just one person.

Ben:                 Okay. So you have a main editorial contact and then an audience development. Let’s just go into a little detail about the difference between editorial and audience development.

Taylor:             So the audience development team is basically tasked with developing the audience of the site. So bringing in as many users onto the site as possible. Whether that’s through search, social, email, or partnerships. The editorial group is tasked with pitching editorial pieces of content that they may be interested in writing, or they may have a bigger strategy. Like let’s say they really want to focus on hair this year. So we’ll work with them to kind of slate that or work with recommendations to get that to them.

Ben:                 I’m imagining the editorial team of the New Yorker is not the team that’s focused on hair this year.

Taylor:             You would be correct.

Ben:                 Okay. Good. Good. All right. I have a good understanding of the brands, and what I’m hearing is that you have no only an editorial contact that’s really responsible for content development but also an audience development team, which is really more focused on, let’s call it user acquisition and activation.

Taylor:             Yes. And they’re the ones that really champion our recommendations at the brand. At the end of the day, we’re just SEOs. We’re not writers. We’re not social people, etc.

Ben:                 SEOs can be social creatures, maybe not by nature, but it’s a learned skill.

Taylor:             Yeah, I haven’t met one yet.

Ben:                 Okay. Well, they’re out there somewhere. Okay. So I have an understanding of how your team is structured. You’re working with a large editorial team. You have a couple people that are basically project managing each individual brand. Talk to me about what those working relationships are like and how do you interface with both your editorial and audience development teams?

Taylor:             Sure. So the recommendations kind of go twofold. The first is this is more of our proactive strategy, and I don’t really like using the term proactive in this case. But we’ll go with it. This is where we as SEOs determine the things the brands need to cover. So this is through our own analyses using various tools, finding white space opportunities, taking a look at competitors. And then on the flip side, it’s actually the brand is driving … Maybe they have an idea that they do want to cover hair. So how can we best support their needs in terms of SEO? So it works in both directions.

Ben:                 So you basically have a proactive and reactive strategy where sometimes the SEO team is looking at the landscape of SEO and creating suggestions for an individual brand in terms of … Well, why don’t you tell me. What are the type of suggestions that you’re reaching out and trying to push? Are they related to types of content they should cover? Are they related to formats of content? Text versus video versus imagery?

Taylor:             We focus are recommendations in four different areas I would say. Content gaps, so this is identifying just white space opportunities around certain topics. Do a lot of refreshing on the brand. So taking a look at our existing content. I remember when I first started working on one of our wedding brands, they had 40 galleries on branded wedding hairstyles, and of course only one of them was performing. So a lot of this has to do also with content consolidation strategy, redirecting, that type of thing. And then the last two are kind of closely related, but we do a lot of seasonal or temporal related recommendations. So Vogue Met Gala is really big. It’s happening in May. We want to make sure we’re working a couple of months out of that event to give them the best recommendations as possible. Just constant meetings with them, making sure they understand the recommendations, maybe what performed well last year, what didn’t perform well last year.

Ben:                 So essentially you’re looking at the editorial output and trying to understand what has been successful, where there is an opportunity to create more content, and then also helping manage the editorial calendar in the sense of helping the team understand what has been successful in the past and what’s coming up. You mentioned the Met Gala as the seasonal example.

Taylor:             I will say though last thing we’re trying to do more of. I mean, Condé Nast isn’t traditionally thought of as a news organization, but we do try and help the brands capitalize on trending stories. So I would say that’s the fourth area that we focus on.

Ben:                 Okay. So you’re also working on not just evergreen content but also trying to help the team understand what’s likely to have a near term effect or something that’s more topical.

Taylor:             Right. I mean, a brand like Vanity Fair, for instance, is probably more naturally newsy versus evergreen. It’s good to have a little bit of a ratio. So maybe 70% news, 30% evergreen, and on some of the evergreen brands, it’s actually flipped. So it would be 70% evergreen versus 30% news.

Ben:                 Okay. Talk to me a little bit about the reactive work that you’re doing when it comes to interfacing with your content teams. How are they coming to you and asking for your help?

Taylor:             So each of the brands has … Like, for instance, I just met today with one of the brands where we’re talking about their editorial calendar for the rest of the year. So each month, what are some of the big initiatives content-wise that they need us to support because at the end of the day, we’re trying to get whatever they have in mind surfaced in search. So a good example of this would be like Bon Appetit City Guide Projects. They want to write about the best restaurants in New York City. How can we help them get there?

Ben:                 So what’s the process from basically being available to manage some of the inbound requests from your team? When you’re reactive and you’re audience development and editorial team are coming to you, do you set a weekly, daily, monthly cadence to try to understand what’s going on with them?

Taylor:             So we meet with the brand on a monthly basis, and by the brand who’s in the room, it could be our digital director, which also I think our audience development team obviously works heavily with. In that room may also be a product person so they can enter any technical things. And then we have our main editorial contact and audience development. And that meeting is meant to be very pie in the sky, overarching, SEO strategy. It’s just our normal SEO monthly, but on the more nitty gritty, day to day type optimization, we meet biweekly with our audience development leads to make sure we’re staying in constant contact, making sure we’re constantly up to date.

Ben:                 Okay. You mentioned that the conversation is for the monthly is more of a pie in the sky SEO, talk to me what you mean by that.

Taylor:             Yeah. I guess that was a weird phrase to use.

Ben:                 No, no, no.

Taylor:             It’s more not too in the weeds. I think we have a lot of stakeholders in that room. So once you start getting into like, I don’t know, someone’s talking about canonical tags, you start losing the room a little bit. So we keep it very like, “Hey, what’s coming in February from an editorial standpoint?” Or this is the time they want to all of a sudden bring up that they’re changing their navigation. So that’s something that we would talk about in that meeting.

Ben:                 Okay. And you mentioned that there is a second meeting that you’re having. Was that more of a short term meeting?

Taylor:             Yeah. So the second meeting is typically with our dedicated audience development person, an analyst for the brand. So in that meeting, it’s more in the weeds. Why did this story not perform well? Why did this story perform well? Talking about temporal or new strategies. So it’s more in the weeds.

Ben:                 Okay. So if I had to summarize sort of the way that you’re interfacing with the content production teams, you have a broad monthly meeting where you’re talking about your high level topics and picking your strategic direction. And then you really have a more frequent meeting that is tactical with your audience development team where you’re working on specific tactical projects.

Taylor:             Yes. Couldn’t have summed it up better.

Ben:                 Glad to hear it. That’s the job as the podcast host. Talk to me a little bit about how you build relationships between your editorial team, and by that I mean your editor and your audience development teams. I’ll preface it with there’s a balance in SEO and it just in content production between art and science.

Taylor:             Yes.

Ben:                 And editorial teams are generally writers, they’re artists, right? And SEOs are more scientists. They are tacticians and they’re thinking about data and more of the technical aspects. How do you communicate and manage that relationship?

Taylor:             So I think this really comes down to why the audience development team is so critical because they’re sitting on the brand floor with the editorial contacts. Essentially they’re taking our recommendations and disseminating it across the brand floor. But they’re also communicating it in a way that makes the edit team excited to write about the topic. So for instance, we have two food brands in the building where all of the editors have some type of culinary background. They’re legit. They’re legit editors. And if me as an SEO told them to write about how to roast a chicken, that probably does not sound exciting at all to write about. But the audience development person knows how to come in and position it to them as something exciting. Maybe they’re saying, “Okay. You’re going to write the best guide on how to roast a chicken that the internet has ever seen.”

Taylor:             So, I think having them as that liaison really helps get our recommendations across and kind of taking the here’s just a keyword with search volume.

Ben:                 It seems like you basically have an interpreter on your team.

Taylor:             Yeah.

Ben:                 Between here’s the SEO language, here’s how we optimize clicks and conversions and traffic and reach and everything wonderful about SEO.

Taylor:             Yeah.

Ben:                 You have an audience developer, a marketing manager who understands growth and then can communicate that to the editorial team.

Taylor:             Yeah. Because, like you said, really at the end of the day we are SEOs. We can inform topics and terms, but personally I don’t have the editorial expertise to craft a full headline. I’m not writer. So lead it back to the experts on the editorial team.

Ben:                 So what advice do you have for SEOs who maybe don’t have the luxury of having the audience development, that sort of interstitial marketer in your process. What recommendations do you have for working with content production teams and how do you communicate?

Taylor:             I think it’s always really important to share results as much as you can. So we do a lot of post analysis on the things that we’re recommending, and we’ll sit with them and talk about opportunities or missed opportunities for the specific content. Because at the end of the day, they’re writing all of this content, but if no one is seeing it, that kind of puts a damper on their editorial day to day. So we try as best as we can to communicate wins to the team and get them really excited about it.

Ben:                 Let’s talk a little bit more about the working relationship. I’m curious to know how you think about the balance between the editorial and the SEO teams in the sense of who is the end stakeholder and who is responsible for performance. Is it the SEOs are responsible for driving their metrics and they can dictate what the editorial team should be creating, or is it the editorial team is responsible for creating their art and the SEO team is there as a service provider to help them get it out there?

Taylor:             Sure. So I think it does go both ways and is a little bit 50/50. So we do determine areas of opportunity for each of the brands per vertical, provide that the main editorial contacts saying, “We should be winning here. Here’s what you need to do to get there.” They’re either onboard or they have a little bit of feedback, and then on the flip side, we’re sitting down with the editorial team themselves and they’re telling us, “Okay. We have this big content plan around X. How can you support us?” So it does go both ways.

Ben:                 It sounds like it’s a marriage. It’s split 50/50, and both parties are responsible for the overall success of the relationship.

Taylor:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben:                 What advice do you have for SEOs that are maybe struggling to communicate with their editorial team or just having trouble building that relationship?

Taylor:             I think it’s just continuous education over time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. We still do brand refreshers with the editorial teams SEO 101s even quarterly. So I’ve been here almost four years, and we do this every quarter. We have done it every quarter. So we’re kind of always in the face of the editorial team talking about why it’s important, why they should care, but they want eyeballs on their pieces of content. So they’re pretty receptive to what we have to say.

Ben:                 So what’s some of the content that you cover when you give your SEO 101s to the editorial team?

Taylor:             So we pretty much start from the basics, what is SEO, maybe the three pillars of SEO. So your onsite, offsite, and technical. But where we’re really delving into the education piece is obviously the onsite. So thankfully this is everything they can control as editors from the URL to the headline, SEO title, body content, and then basic keyword research.

Ben:                 Okay. So the thing that occurs to me is that Condé Nast is a large, very successful, content centric business, right? Your content and your editorial team’s output is really your product. How do you think that the relationship between SEOs are different when the organization isn’t really centered around content production?

Taylor:             So the way we think about metrics from our standpoint on the content side, we’re really starting to care about from a business standpoint, our engagement metrics like time onsite. So of course this is twofold where you have to have a great template that keeps users on the page, but the other side of things is also having really great, engaging content. So we’re really trying to do away with the 100 to 200 word pieces of content. I think a lot of publishing companies struggle with that. Like how do you come in and change the mentality to have them thinking quality versus quantity. On the other side of things, we’re also starting to think about search as it relates to user search loyalty. So we typically think a search user is a one and done visit, and right now we’re essentially trying to debunk that myth. It maybe true for some brands, but we’re trying to determine what loyalty means from the search user.

Ben:                 Yeah. It’s interesting that you talk about your KPIs and your time onsite and search loyalty are really interesting metrics. And going back to my question about how other brands that are not centered, their product is not their content, to me I think that there is likely a contrast between those KPIs. And for people that are in SAS business, it’s lead generations. For people that are in eCommerce, you’re looking at driving conversions. And my assumption is that no matter how big your team is, having a shared understanding and communicating what your KPIs are and driving toward a common goal helps the artists and the scientists speak on the same language because they’re all talking about the same numbers.

Taylor:             Right. And I think we’re really moving away from the term scale. Like how do we get more users to the site because we aren’t starting out as like maybe a startup or an eCommerce site with conversions. So we’re trying to think about search holistically and that what is a search user really mean. For instance, if I’m a searching for a recipe, most likely I’m a one and done type visit. I go to the website and I probably bounce back to Google and look at like a few other recipes. So that search loyalty is different than someone maybe searching for wedding hairstyles. Maybe they’re more engaged or spending more time on site. Maybe they are prone to viewing another page after that. So we’re trying to determine what search loyalty means maybe based on a topical category.

Ben:                 Yeah. So you’re saying essentially that you’re developing more advanced KPIs to understand the value and loyalty of driving someone through search and what the customer profile is for that, and that’s kind of a shared KPI between you and the editorial team.

Taylor:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ben:                 Okay. So, Taylor, let me ask you one last question before we let you go. Let’s just sort of summarize and talk about some of your big tips for how SEO teams should work and interface with their content team. What’s the way to build a healthy relationship?

Taylor:             So I think the primary here is just constant communication and knowing exactly what the brands plans are, whether it’s for the year or even more short term. So another one could also be education. So we are constantly educating our editors on an ongoing basis. We even educate new hires as they come in. On the education piece as well, we actually have an SEO scorecard within the CMS and their workflow. So they’re able to constantly see kind of SEO in their face at all times. So it kind of gamifies it for them, which has been really interesting and successful for us. But in general, just setting up shared KPIs in those meetings and talking about the goals that they have or we have and seeing how we can support each other.

Ben:                 Yeah, I think that you bring up some interesting points, and just to summarize, it’s a relationship. Working with your content team whether they are, like I said before, whether they are artists and you’re a scientist.

Taylor:             Yeah.

Ben:                 You are working to achieve a common goal. So understanding what those shared KPIs are, having regular communication, making sure that they understand what SEO is, all very, very relevant points. So good advice, Taylor. Appreciate you sharing the knowledge with us, and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast.

Ben:                 Thanks for listening with my conversation with Taylor Robinson, the Senior Manager of SEO and Content at Condé Nast. We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Taylor, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter where her handle is @Taylor_SEO. If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

Ben:                 If you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed next week.

Ben:                 Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this show and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Ben:                 Okay. That’s it for today. Thanks again to Taylor Robinson for joining us, and until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

 

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