Guy’s insights are really impressive. His years in the SEO industry have taught him so many things about the ins and outs of SEO itself. Going through the toughest decisions when it comes to strategizing campaigns, working with numerous people with various skills to come up with a common goal, setting the right expectations and making your clients understand how SEO timeline works are the secret sauce to make you truly indispensable when it comes to SEO. How did Guy manage to do it?
Guy Roberts is an SEO expert from Melbourne. He has spent his entire (young) career of 7 years working in the SEO field – starting as a Junior SEO Account Manager, to now managing the SEO for some of the biggest, most profitable and competitive websites in Australia. Among working in the digital space as an employee, Guy has worked on several online start-ups, the most recent one looking promising, which is Backpacking and Travel – a camping, hiking and travel blog and 2nd hand store, with reviews of hiking/camping gear, trails and destinations, accompanied by the knowmads app – both projects are in the final stages of development. Guy hopes to keep gaining more skills, experience and knowledge working on some of the countries toughest digital projects and then eventually work full-time on his own online venture.
Optimising Australia’s Comparison Giants, The iSelect Group of websites is mainly made up iSelect.com.au, InfoChoice.com.au and EnergyWatch.com.au – all three websites compare a range of products, from energy to internet plans, insurance and finance with the majority of the groups revenue generated from selling variety of providers health insurance policies through iSelect.com.au.
WHAT YOU DID
I joined iSelect in later months of 2016. The role was originally just meant to be to turn around the organic performance of the iSelect Energy, Internet and Home Loans departments while also managing the SEO of two other major websites owned by iSelect: InfoChoice.com.au and EnergyWatch.com.au. These different areas of the business were spiraling backwards out of control and had been for sometime, in reference to organic performance. It took a lot of work and time to turn things around. iSelect had a lot of work done to the website, early 2016. There were separate Energy, Internet and Home Loans subdomains, more-or-less making them separate websites, they were migrated across to the iSelect.com.au domain.
Although a pretty good job had been done and there was loads of content with some decent organic search engine rankings still remaining, the migration and on-page SEO had not been done in a way where search engine’s robots, such as the GoogleBot, would consolidate or carry across past strength or “authority” and to really understand what each web page should show up for when people are searching on Google. I put together a solid plan of how I was going to move forward, although after about six weeks of being employed at iSelect, I was then made the SEO Manager of the entire iSelect Group and all of its assets.
The role changed from ambitiously working across about 5 different “verticals” or departments, to now needing to optimise 15 verticals (and growing) with thousands of products and tens of thousands of webpages for 3 websites that generate a total of several hundred millions of dollars per annum – the challenge was on. The only way I was going to turn the ship around was to have an approach that would cover the entire website, for each website. I started with iSelect and began by mapping out every webpage and researching all of the different queries and keywords that people were typing into search engines when trying to find the information that was on any of our pages. I spent some time in the call centre listening to what our customers want and what they are looking for. From here, I was able to understand what the content of each web page should be focused on and what content we were missing and therefore not able to rank for, in-turn missing out on some qualified traffic and potential revenue.
I completely restructured the website’s URL hierarchy to make sure that there was a meaningful and so that search engines could easily crawl and understand the website. With the help of copywriters and content creators, we wrote hundreds of new pages of content and optimised hundreds more existing pages. I went right through the site adding and editing internal links, meta tags, canonical tags and structuring the content to appear in Featured Snippets and Voice Search. With help from the UX and web dev teams a huge amount of site-wide optimisation was done, such as cleaning up 301 redirects, heavily increasing site speed performance, migrating to HTTPS and upgrading to HTTP/2, removing redundant legacy code and so on. The results speak for themself. “Health Insurance” is our highest revenue keyword. In the first weeks of January, 2017, this keyword was ranked in the 8th position on Google – by March, 2018, it finally took out the first position of Google with huge impacts on revenue as March is the peak month of the year for health insurance sales across the industry due to policy rate rises. Look for yourself on Google, anything from Car Insurance, Pet Insurance, Income Protection Insurance, Internet, Electricity, and a lot more, iSelect is in the first position on Google and Bing or close to it.
InfoChoice.com.au required a different approach. This website was built on a dirty old platform in the 1990’s and most of the website hardly worked. I made some major improvements early on by 301 redirecting old 404 error pages and duplicate content – by getting rid of a lot of junk, search engines weren’t bogged down in old content and started increasing keyword rankings for major terms, such as ‘term deposits’, ‘home loan calculator’ and ‘high interest savings accounts’. I was also able to get a good working relationship going with the project manager and developers – they made some great changes to the URLs, giving them meaning, which is great for giving clarity on the overall taxonomy of the website to the GoogleBot and gets hundreds of old pages ranking, fast – restructuring a websites URL hierarchy for an old site with high Domain Authority and plenty of content can be one of the most powerful things done to increase organic performance.
When I was working for Megantic, an SEO agency in South Melbourne that specialises in this, I saw ten year old websites with 2-10,000+ pages grow by 500% in organic traffic within six months of releasing a new URL hierarchy. Due to the poor platform, it was very hard and time consuming to make the smallest of changes.The real work on InfoChoice.com.au began when we took it from a 50,000+ page website with 36,000 301/302 redirects to a 20,000 page website with 56,000 301 redirects. A team of us migrated the website from the DNN (DotNetNuke) platform onto WordPress. We rushed to finish this within six months. In late March, 2018, we relaunched InfoChoice.com.au onto WordPress, also putting it onto HTTPS & HTTP/2 and the results are looking good, with some major keywords increasing by several positions in the search engine results, although it’s still too early to really know the impact.
When I started the role, it didn’t take long to see what needed improving, so I didn’t need to use many SEO analysis tools in the beginning. I wanted to start tracking rankings right away, to keep an eye on performance. I tried a range of tools and ended up using ProRankTracker.com as their results seemed to be the most accurate. I live in the Google Search Console and jump into Google Analytics when I want to dig deeper. SEMrush.com and the Google Keyword Planner were used for keyword research, and ScreamingFrog for crawling and URL mapping, while also manually mapping the website hierarchies in Microsoft Excel.
Once I started looking at our link profile, I mainly used Ahrefs. Ahrefs told me a lot about our link profile, although I was able to see where our competitors were getting their authority, which is super helpful. After getting the initial optimisation out of the way, I started using SEMrush for auditing. I also use SEMrush and ProRankTracker for tracking rankings and our SEO agency, Predikkta built us our own amazing tool for tracking thousands of keyword rankings and what traffic they generated.
The biggest challenge isn’t in the SEO itself, it’s the stakeholder management. At times, I’ve had up to 15 people telling me what to do and what results they want. Anyone that knows a little bit about SEO understands that it takes a lot of time to get top results, especially on the most competitive keywords – this is something that many senior managers didn’t take the time to understand. I’d constantly be asked to deliver incredibly ambitious results with very short timelines.
To deal with this, I stopped looking at my targets and started having requests go through my manager – looking at targets was pointless for me, it was only stressful. I knew that I could deliver top organic rankings, but I needed to do it my way and on my timeline, which I ended up achieving once I blocked out unrealistic demands – as for the workload, my manager was quite skilled in prioritising and understanding if the work requested would actually increase organic performance, so he blocked anything that didn’t help reach SEO goals. I find the toughest part of SEO is dealing with the clients or internal stakeholders when working in-house, this can be overcome by putting effort into nurturing relationships, building trust and setting the right expectations.
INSIGHTSDoing SEO for so long really allowed me to understand just how a website works. Click To Tweet
Just like a lot of other people working in the SEO or broader digital industry, I joined so that I would have the chance to learn enough and get started on my own online business. I’ve tried quite a few online ventures, the latest one finally looking like it might go somewhere and I’m glad that I stuck it out and stayed working in SEO.
Over the years, the people I have worked with at SEO agencies have rarely stayed put and instead chased cash and moved into more senior roles, such as digital or ecom managers. I had to go through a good 3-4 years of earning an average salary, not because of my level of skill at getting websites to the top of the search engine results, but due to credibility – eventually the pay matches the efforts and best thing is that doing SEO for so long really allowed me to understand just how a website works, how to optimise it and what the most sustainable way of generating an online income is – most other roles won’t begin to teach someone this.