MoneySuperMarket Group's David Harling on Why SEO Now Must Be Consumer-Centric

MoneySuperMarket Group's Head of Digital Marketing says brands must produce and optimize content with real people in mind.

Organic Search

Earlier this year, David Harling was interviewed in the eBook “SEO Now” to discuss his thoughts on change and evolution in the SEO industry. Harling, head of digital marketing at MoneySuperMarket Group, is a prominent and well-known speaker within the SEO industry.

“SEO Now” was authored by Linkdex, an enterprise SEO SaaS platform. The interview was one of a series of more than 30 interviews Linkdex conducted with search practitioners from all industries, and formed a comprehensive study of the state of SEO in 2014.

As seasoned and influential veteran of the search and SEO industry, it was interesting to hear Harling’s thoughts on how SEO has changed and what it means today. Key changes discussed included the importance of producing and optimizing content with real people in mind. This means combining behavioral intelligence with content that reaches touchpoints along the the entire consumer journey to provide consumers with the best possible user experience.

Also discussed was how brands should budget for and invest in SEO, and how investing in SEO really means investing in people.

Here is the full interview.

How Has SEO Changed?

SEO today is almost unrecognizable compared to the practice I took on 10 years ago. It has been a privilege to be part of an amazing journey in which organic search has become a vital digital marketing channel for any online business.

Today, SEO is far more understood, acknowledged and integrated in the heart of businesses’ operational structures - built around technical excellence and great digital content.

At MoneySuperMarket Financial Group, I lead a large in-house team of search marketers who have achieved almost a decade of organic search dominance across a breath of competitive services and products. We prioritize organic search at C-suite level, which allows us to implement future thinking, technical innovation, and content and engagement strategies that ensure we are always visible to our customers.

What Defines SEO Now?

The most profound change in SEO is in how it’s become much more consumer-centric. SEO now is about optimizing for the user experience instead of the search engine. Consumers sit at the heart of our content and we produce and optimize content with real people in mind.

MoneySuperMarket spends time to understand what our customers need and produce content informed with behavioral intelligence to drive a best-in-class website experience. We care about what people want and leverage our high domain authority to make sure that what they want is visible and can be found across all areas of customer-focused digital integrations.

Organic search is not just about search engines; it’s about being visible across a wide range of influential digital platforms. Today, optimization strategies should blend naturally with overarching marketing approaches. This results in team integration across PR, social, and paid search.

Team interactions are vital to the output and understanding of search. For all brands operating online, both in-house and external teams should play by rules and deliver common goals. People make the difference, not keywords. The investment and development of teams and people should be one of the main priorities for any brand.

How Can Brands Invest In SEO Now?

Success will only come if brands actually optimize their tech and marketing strategies. The brands that get SEO right are the brands that are always investing into their platform and website. This ensures that strategies evolve with the incredibly fast-paced digital landscape.

I always respect brands that embrace technology and keep ahead. IKEA and Argos are good examples of offline brands that prioritize ecommerce and digital. They are always visible and their users have great website experience. Good content with big brand association allows for effective engagement with consumers.

How Should SEO Be Budgeted For?

Long-term investment is vital – and there needs to be education and understanding at a CEO level. Brands that approach SEO as a tactic will end up investing more to achieve success.

Organic search is extremely accountable so you should budget based on what you can get in return. It is one of the most powerful ways to market your website and should never be seen as an add-on.

How Should We Approach KPIs?

We measure organic performance at a page level. We have core-landing pages, which must be visible. They reflect
compelling products, which allow our customers to save money – so understanding how they perform is essential. We take our content and customer experience seriously, therefore we need to understand the value of everything we publish online.

Not every visitor to our site will convert into a buyer. They could be existing customers. Therefore we must define KPIs around customer loyalty to retain their interest within the consideration phase as part of the overall purchase journey. Great content doesn’t always drive direct revenue, so you must understand how to evaluate your content investment.

What Does SEO Mean In 2014?

SEO now is a far richer operation for us, which has complete backing from the CEO and all senior stakeholders. It is prioritized and understood by multiple teams who interact in ways to achieve common goals. We have forgotten about links and keywords – and instead center all our efforts around our customer and their digital experience.

Organic search visibility will come naturally if you are in the right space, and you have a reason to produce great content. Invest in people and understand the psychology of how they interact – and educate them on your brand.

This interview of David Harling first appeared in Linkdex’s eBook “SEO Now”. Download the full ebook here.

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