Methodical data collection. Trend analysis. Big picture.These are all concepts that come up frequently when chatting with agency SEO professional Zak Becker of Nashville, TN.
While many of us may perceive SEO as a fast-paced career full of mystery and excitement, his portrayal of a day of work is a lot quieter and much more data-driven than you probably ever imagined.
Zak began his career in radio broadcast in the early 1990s, where his roles ran the gamut from on-air host to production directorships. After building a weekly audience of 4 million listeners, he made the switch to professional SEO work, where he’s remained continuously since 2012.
To gain a little insight into how Zak works, as well as what he’s learned about SEO from his role as an agency employee, we spent a few minutes sitting with him to learn about a work day in his life. In this blog, you’ll learn how he approaches onboarding, monitoring, professional education, and much more:
Monitoring SEO Clients: Take a Big Picture Approach
“One of the first things I do after arriving at the office in the mornings is reviewing either Google analytics or Webmaster tools. I evaluate what’s happened to websites overnight, but I’ve found it’s usually best to avoid getting too granular with analytics and checking every hour.
Analytics monitoring is a lot like losing weight, really. You’d never get on the scale every hour to check progress. You’re ultimately going for a big-picture overview of trends, not a ticker tape. The goal is to understand how things are trending.
Several times a week, I’ll review Google Webmaster tools for additional insights on trends and errors. This tool offers helpful suggestions on improvements which can be implemented.”
On Reporting: Context Matters
“I send monthly reports to my SEO clients, but these are never sent without some analysis and explanation. I take time to explain trends fully, and provide context around the ranges that their metrics may fall into.
If a client had a bounce rate of 12%, I’d tell them that’s extremely good. An average bounce rate falls somewhere closer to 41-55%. They’re losing less than ⅓ the average of their website visitors to the back button, so this metric is extraordinarily well optimized.
I also take the time to look at larger context, especially factors like seasonal trends in industries. Many organizations experience a massive dip in sales and website traffic in late December and early January as clients take time off from their phones to celebrate the holidays. This is one very simple example of the context people need to understand about their website trends. If you send reports out without analysis, it can be misinterpreted.”
Auditing Websites: Get Below the Surface
“The first thing we’ll do when onboarding a new client is a full audit. It’s like an annual Physical with your Doctor to get a well-rounded picture of your health. This includes the SEO equivalents of blood work, and other tests. We perform a full assessment to determine problems before recommending any options for treatment.
We start with technical, on-page SEO. I use a wide variety of tools, but I recommend Google Webmaster’s tools for the review of things like page speed. These are free tools that anyone can use.
After measuring on-site SEO, I review off-site factors like backlinks. Quality matters a great deal more than quantity when it comes to backlinks. I take a look, and determine which links are actively benefiting the site’s SEO, which have a pretty neutral effect, and the spammy links that are actively harming the site’s reputation. I’ll determine the dangerous links, and create a list to understand which ones need to be disavowed.”
Common SEO Issues: Discovering Slews of Hidden Issues
“75% of the time when I start doing an audit, I encounter issues that are a little deeper than surface-level. This could be as strange as spammy links or other websites owned by the same client that are affecting a suite of site’s SEO. Sometimes these factors end up tree-forking and leading to a slew of hidden issues.
One very common SEO mistake is heavy use of blog tags on older content marketing assets, which can lead to duplicate content. If I notice that a site has 500 indexed pages but the content management system says 100 pages have been published, that’s a huge discrepancy. I’ll start to dig to discover exactly why these pages are being duplicated so heavily in search. These below-the-surface discoveries can lead to big issues, and that’s a lot of what we’re up against as SEOs. About 75% of the time, I find things I never expected to find.”
On the Value of SEO: Tiny Changes Rarely Fix Everything
“Most SEO clients are busy running their businesses and don’t have time to dig sufficiently deep into their websites. As far as the benefit of SEO service in today’s search environment, it’s not like you can make tiny changes that fix everything. Positive SEo requires a pretty methodical approach to data collection and continual analysis to discover trends and fine-tune until the site is optimized.
SEO is not magic, but it is priceless.
Proper SEO is invisible SEO. If you can’t physically see the results on a webpage, then someone’s probably doing it right. If your SEO’s work stands out like a sore thumb, they may have been keyword stuffing or something else that’s going to be detrimental.
Ultimately, SEO is a bit of an oxymoron. Your clients really need this service, but they can’t see it. It has to be there, and it has to be done right. A true SEO has to understand the rules before they can even imagine breaking them.
There’s a mistaken belief among some marketers and entrepreneurs that Google’s search recommendations are unnecessarily tricky. Ultimately, it’s easy to build a site that’s close to optimized, if you’re focusing on quality content. It’s a bit harder to make sure that every technical factor is aligned absolutely perfectly, which is where a professional SEO’s help comes in and benefits a client’s business. An SEO can lend an edge in highly competitive markets.”
On SEO Risks: Bad Information Abounds
“It’s crucial to make sure that clients don’t fall victim to bad information. I’ve encountered a lot of businesses and business owners throughout my career who’ve been misinformed or absorbed outdated or black hat content.
Convincing individuals that they’ve been operating off bad information can be challenging. I often have to furnish proof in the form of screen shots of analytics tools, internal case studies, and other secondary resources.
Even professional SEOs can have wrong information.”
Continuing Education: Learn on the Ground
I’m a big fan of various SEO expert Twitter personalities for byte-sized insights, like Matt Cutts.
I’ve also found that webinars can be a very handy tool. I learn a lot on the ground from meetups (digital or in-person), and the ability to network with other SEOs in person.”
Do you have any SEO questions for Zak Becker? Share your queries in the comments - he’ll be monitoring and responding frequently with his recommendations!