Hi Tom, tell us about yourself, your background?
Hello! I’m Tom Chapman, SEO project manager at digital agency Dark Horse – based in Manchester, UK. As you can probably guess from the job title, I specialize in search engine optimization and help brands rank better in search results. As I’m sure you can imagine, a lot of companies are looking to boost their business online during the pandemic.
I’ve been in the industry for around a decade and, I can promise you, no day is ever boring!
How has COVID-19 changed what you do?
As a side effect of the pandemic and the lockdowns we’ve seen worldwide, many businesses were forced to shut their doors. Those who could sell online had to get their website up to scratch or die – simple as that.
That’s where digital agencies such as Dark Horse come in. Firms that would have never previously considered moving online are now coming to us seeking help. I hope it’s not arrogant to say that I feel we’ve saved some companies from going under!
We’re helping more and more businesses sell to online customers, but one of the most interesting developments is the amount of competition now out there. More retailers coming online means consumers have more choices. This means you really need the best SEO out there to get noticed.
Tom’s tips for personalization & SEO
What tips do you have for companies that want to improve their personalization strategies?
This is a good question because it brings me back to competition. You don’t want to be just like every other company coming online at the moment. Consumers have more choice than ever, so SEO is important, which means nothing if these people don’t convert.
Therefore, experiment with your language, try standing out from the crowd, run regular A/B tests, learn exactly what makes your target market tick. Once you’ve got that, you’ve got an edge in this increasingly crowded market.
What tips do you have for companies looking to boost their SEO?
Hire an expert. No, seriously, you’ve got a business to run. Let someone who knows what they are doing take over this aspect. Still, if I had to give one bit of advice, I’d say figure out your target market.
Sounds obvious, but I’m talking beyond simple demographics. I want to know their search habits. For example:
- Are they doing near me searches?
- How do people find you? Are those keywords targeted or more informational?
- How do these people find your competitors?
Once you’ve got that in place, you can start rolling out a strategy to get your customers in.
What’s the most common mistake you see in a company’s SEO strategy?
This is why I said hire an expert. SEO has changed so much over the years that there is a lot of outdated information out there – stuff that can actually harm your website if you’re not careful.
I routinely speak to business leaders who thought they knew what they were doing and then get penalized. From buying links to keyword stuffing, I usually have to clean up so much when I take over SEO for a company.
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
I know what you want me to say, ‘this great business book blah-de-blah. The truth is, during the pandemic, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is as important as ever. Largely for your own sanity…
As a result, I have not read any books for work/business during the whole of 2020.
I did, however, read a lot of Terry Pratchett. That man was insightful as heck. I’d recommend Jingo, actually, as that was very profound during the George Floyd protests. Take this quote from top copper Sam Vimes:
“I’m not a natural killer! See this? See what it says? I’m supposed to keep the peace, I am! If I kill people to do it, I’m reading the wrong manual!”
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
Well, let’s look at this question from my point of view:
I NEVER want to go back into an office full time again
The reasons for this are numerous but let’s take a couple:
- I got to spend more time with my family (including my baby, who is now a toddler)
- I didn’t have to waste money commuting for hours
- I learned I was just as productive (or even more so) working from my home office.
- I was more relaxed and had more control over my workday
Consequently, even when the pandemic is over, I’ll most likely be adopting a hybrid system of work where I spend most of my time at home with occasional trips to the office.
That’s my viewpoint – and similar ones are shared by professionals worldwide—my advice; adapt and be flexible. If you insist on making these people work in an office full time, they will look for work elsewhere.
That’s a lot of talent (and money) potentially walking out the door. Rest assured, other companies are adapting, and you do not want to be stuck in the past.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Blimey, just one? I use so many metrics and KPIs every day that it’s hard to narrow it down. Still, if we’re looking at CX metrics, ‘meeting expectations’ is a great one.
This is because it can be used for both machines and customers.
Let’s look in the context of SEO. Google’s whole reason for being is to provide great search results. If consumers aren’t getting great queries, they’ll head elsewhere – that’s less money in Google’s pocket.
We need to provide great search results which fulfill the expectations of customers and machines. If we fail to do so, we’ll slip down the rankings – and that’s something we don’t want to happen.