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Agency takeaways and tips from BrightonSEO (April 2024)

An image of George Nguyen, accompanied by various search-related iconography.

For SEO agencies, client website optimization is just one aspect of the job. If you want your agency to actually thrive throughout industry shifts (and challenges from competitors), you also need to keep a watchful eye on upcoming changes to the SERP and algorithm, opportunities to leverage novel multi-channel strategies, the client relationship, as well as the satisfaction of the employees that carry out all that work.


At BrightonSEO in April 2024, some of the SEO industry’s top experts shared their experiences on these topics and the approaches that have worked best for their agencies and clients.


Table of contents:




Why social & SEO are multi-channel MVPs in 2024

SEO experts Sukhjinder Singh, Carmen Dominguez, Crystal Carter, Grace Frohlich, and Barry Adams recording the SERP’s Up podcast at BrightonSEO in April 2024.
SERP’s Up at BrightonSEO, April 2024, featuring Sukhjinder Singh, Carmen Dominguez, Crystal Carter, Grace Frohlich, and Barry Adams.

In the age of TikTok (and other social platforms and formats, like Reddit), social media can work in tandem with SEO better than ever, according to the experts on the live session of the SERP’s Up podcast at BrightonSEO. While the experts did mention the well established benefits, they also highlighted novel ways to discover emerging search demand or potentially even rank pages.


“I was just thinking about social media bolstering E-E-A-T,” said SEO Consultant Sukhjinder Singh, referencing the now-commonly evangelized practice of including links to authors’ social profiles as a way to convey real-life experience and authority. “But it’s also a good research tool,” he added, citing an earlier BrightonSEO session by Ray Saddiq.


“You need to be different to stand out—to do that, you need to look outside of Google (at organic social channels). But looking outside of Google often leads to terms or phrases with low search volume. Stop being afraid of zero SV keywords. Using these keywords might get you first-mover advantage, helping you to serve a search intent when it emerges. This is also an opportunity to show Google you are covering topics as whole and in depth by targeting topics your competitors may not have even thought about.” — Ray Saddiq, SEO Consultant

Ray Saddiq presenting on stage at BrightonSEO in April 2024.
“If the phrase or topic is popular on two social platforms, I’ve found it will pick up search on Google.” — Ray Saddiq

Beyond using TikTok for keyword research, Carmen Dominguez, head of organic at Hallam, noticed that inbound links from the platform may help move the needle on the SERP: “I recently did a test on TikTok and Instagram with one of my eCommerce clients and getting lots of links coming from TikTok got people to click on my products and they now rank, even though I no longer have people coming from TikTok—just because the clicks made Google recognize my product.”


“But also, my brand is now much better recognized on TikTok because of that, so people come from brand much more often,” Dominguez said, reminding attendees that time invested into social can pay dividends all on its own. “So I think it’s all related to making sure that we do an organic strategy where we look at all the different channels all at once, rather than just single points in different areas.”


How to report on SGE’s potential impact to stakeholders


“Stakeholders who sign contracts, who sign checks—they still think ChatGPT equals AI; they think all they have to worry about is the content” said Dan Taylor, head of technical SEO at SALT.agency, during his session on communicating SEO risk potential to stakeholders. “The fact that SGE is around the corner, they’re completely blindsided by.” 


While some stakeholders will focus on how they can put generative AI to use in their own campaigns, SEO professionals must also assess and communicate how search engines apply generative AI to reshape content on the SERP—potentially affecting all the businesses that rank on that SERP.


A slide from Dan Taylor’s presentation, showing a Torino scale and a blue dot between the 5 and 9 scale points, indicating that the impact could be moderate to severe.
Dan Taylor’s modified Torino scale for SGE threat assessment. The blue dot is an example of where SGE might land for eCommerce businesses.

To communicate both the likelihood and severity of SGE’s potential impact on clients, Taylor adapted NASA’s Torino scale (shown above).


And to further aid your stakeholders’ decision making, Taylor recommends a PESTLE analysis to provide strategic context. A PESTLE analysis includes a review of the following macro-environmental factors:


  • Politics

  • Economics

  • Society

  • Technology

  • Legislation

  • Environment


A graphic that says “PEST for trending search terms. Political, legal, and regulatory changes. Economic changes that impact users. Social interest in popular culture. Emerging industry technology.”

The final step to communicating the risks associated with SGE is to organize all the information in a simple, easily referenceable format. “The easiest way to explain this to stakeholders is using this one slide—it’s a little four-box that can essentially be tailored to anything or any business,” Taylor said.


A slide from Dan Taylor’s BrightonSEO session, showing four boxes: Active projects, upcoming focuses, recent progress, and potential risks & issues.

“It gives [the client] an idea of some key aspects of the project, so they feel involved, they feel like they know what is happening,” Taylor said, adding that this also creates a paper trail that you can reference later.


Why honesty is the best client relations policy


“When you’re working as part of a collaborative SEO venture, sometimes there’s awkward conversations,” said Crystal Carter, head of SEO communications at Wix. “Like somebody takes credit for something that you’re pretty sure was you or sometimes you’re working with a client and they say ‘Hey we want to bring in this other agency,’ and you're like, ‘who are they?’”


The audience at the live recording of SERP’s Up at BrightonSEO.
The live recording of SERP’s Up at BrightonSEO.

“The most important part when building relationships is being able to have the hard conversations at the very beginning. If you don't have the hard conversations, trust breaks and if trust breaks, you’re going to have a competitor coming in and that is actually your own fault.” — Carmen Dominguez, Head of Organic at Hallam

Whether they were trying to maintain a client or on the client side (hiring the digital marketing agency), the “hard” conversations that the expert panelists provided as examples shared one important thread: honesty. “My old boss was really honest with people, [she would say] ‘This is what we’re good at,’ and they would appreciate that and stick with us,” Singh said.


While the addition of a second SEO agency could certainly catch you by surprise, the expert panelists were quick to highlight the opportunities and positive experiences they’ve had.


“The client’s website is on the line, so it’s their right to bring in a second opinion. In that sense, I think I’m more okay with it, especially if that other agency proves my point. So it's more like an opportunity to do that.” Grace Frohlich, SEO Consultant at Brainlabs

“This exact thing happened to me where I was brought in to do a specific piece of work for a client and they told me there was another agency who’s also doing the exact same piece of work,” said Barry Adams, SEO consultant at Polemic Digital and co-founder of the News & Editorial SEO Summit, explaining that it was a fairly big agency and that he was a freelancer at the time.


“It turned out that other agency took a slightly different angle and our work complemented each other really, really well—it gave the client the whole holistic view they were looking for so that turned out to be fantastic,” he added.


How agencies can go from employee turnover to tenure


“We were a very small agency, clients came through the door, we needed to get things going,” said Miguel Varela, managing director at Unik SEO, during his session on talent retention for agencies


So, Varela’s agency started hiring SEOs, but the lack of process and support for these new employees created issues for the culture of the agency: Senior SEOs did not have time to train newer SEOs because they were busy with client work, processes were skipped, and talent started to leave.


The need to “get things going” for clients is often at the center of decision making, and while results ultimately drive agency retainers, you also need to support the staff that delivers those results if you want your agency to survive over the long run.


Miguel Valera presenting at BrightonSEO.

To retain top talent and keep your agency competitive, Valera recommends that agency managers:


  • Monitor motivation — Understanding why people leave is only a piece of the picture. Valera recommends that employers schedule regular “stay interviews” (in addition to standard exit interviews when employees leave) to find out what you can do to improve. “Maybe [the employee] wants to move somewhere and be remote because they’re from outside the country—many things can change, so you should be aware of what’s going on,” he said, adding that the interviews should be conducted by the HR department or a neutral party. You can also take anonymous “pulse checks” (Valera’s agency uses a Slack integration for this) to monitor motivation across the company. With the recent prevalence of “quiet quitting,” these tactics can be a crucial boon for talent retention.

  • Prioritize your employer brand as much as your consumer brand — Labor trends are constantly evolving, with more people turning to social media to help them choose where to work. There are many ways you can revamp your image to appeal to the professionals you want to attract, but Valera recommends bucketing your employer brand content into three categories: Entertainment, education, and inspiration. Entertainment-related content includes your office pizza parties or all-hands/happy hours, for example. Education-related content includes in-depth articles, white papers, and thought leadership. And, inspiration-related content includes in-person events (like SEO conferences), charitable events, pro bono work, etc. “Sometimes this last one [inspiration] is the most important for people to want to work with you,” Valera said.


  • Diversify the age of your workforce — SEO is a younger marketing discipline and so it naturally attracts a younger workforce. However, a mix of both younger and older employees can balance fresh perspectives with experience, facilitate retention (as older employees may prioritize stability over career growth), and empower all parties involved through mentorship programs.

  • Recognize performance — There are many ways agencies recognize employees, including performance reviews, feedback sessions, bonuses (or other compensation), etc. Instead of focusing on the reward component, Valera focused on recognizing employees based on KPIs for individual performance. “KPIs are important because people can understand where they’re going and what they need to do to excel,” he said, adding that this helps distinguish what success looks like at your particular agency. 


More takeaways from the latest SEO industry events on the Wix SEO Learning Hub


In addition to our regular tactical and strategic articles on SEO (and related digital marketing disciplines), the Wix SEO Learning Hub will be on-site for live events throughout the year, including in-person industry meetups at the Wix Playground in New York, MozCon, BrightonSEO in San Diego, and more.


To keep you updated with the latest challenges and how the industry’s experts are addressing them, we’ll publish takeaways from these events shortly after they occur. If you didn’t catch our first edition of this series, you can read about in my article Google’s SGE: Insights from SEOFOMO x Wix.


 

george nguyen

George Nguyen is the Director of SEO Editorial at Wix. He creates content to help users and marketers better understand how search works. He was formerly a search news journalist and is known to speak at the occasional industry event.

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