Podcast | Tackling SEO conflict with British Vogue

07 Jun 2019

Tackling SEO conflict with British Vogue

This month we spoke to Alyson Lowe, from British Vogue about how she uses search data to build an extremely well organised SEO strategy.

  • The growing importance of SEO for online publishers
  • The challenge of keyword cannibalisation
  • British Vogue's water tight strategy for tackling cannibalisation
  • The importance of editorial teams understanding SEO best practice

Read more about keyword cannibalisation here.

Listen on Apple podcasts and Spotify.

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AI Transcription

This podcast has been transcribed using an AI transcriber. There may be some errors and this is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Emily Hogarth 0:04
Hi, you're listening to elevate search podcast from Pi Datametrics, exploring the expansive benefits of search intelligence. This month, we spoke to Alyson Lowe from British Vogue about how she uses search data to organise and plan content that takes the top spots in Google.

So we're joined by Allison low the Engagement Manager for Vogue.co.uk. Hi, Allison.

Alyson Lowe

thanks for joining us.

very welcome. It's nice to be here.

So tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities at Vogue.

Alyson Lowe's role at British Vogue 0:33

My role at British Vogue, is Engagement Manager, which I know sounds quite a peculiar title, but it is in house audience development at Vogue. And so essentially, what I do is make sure that British Vogue digital is growing as healthy and strongly as it possibly can, and all of our content performs as well as it can. So I'm the source on the team for whether something is doing well won't do well, or whether it's going to do well in future and leading on from this, I work with the team on how to optimize all our content to make sure it performs as well as it possibly can. So um, with this comes a huge focus on search, and I am the inbound SEO expert at British Vogue. So I plan all of our SEO strategy for big events, especially like the Met Gala and the Oscars. So these kinds of well not kind of they absolutely do make our big tent poles of the year, alongside of course, big moments that we create with our own brand. And with our own cover stars, I'd say that we were pretty aggressive with our search strategy. So I'm constantly on the lookout for where our competitors are getting search traffic and how we can get that. Above all, I think what's important is that were data informed rather than data and enforced and as working at very good. Yes, we're about setting the trends rather than following them. We make data aware decisions all the time,

The growing importance of SEO for online publishers

EH 2:09
you talked about SEO a lot that that's clearly, quite a large part of your job. Yeah, so how much are you focused on SEO in your role? And has it become more important in recent years?

AL 2:26
hugely focused. So as I said, I'm the in house expert for SEO, I'd say I, my actual day to day job, I probably focus maybe 60% of my time on like hard SEO, hardcore SEO, and SEO and kind of all of its shapes and sizes. In the time that I've worked at British Vogue. I've been at British Vogue for about 20 months. And then before that, I was digital editor of another title at Conde Nast. So I've been at the company for about three years. And as time goes by such gets more more important every month that goes by. So I think three to four years ago, a lot of publishers, probably all publishers were really benefiting from the heyday of social and Facebook was incredibly generous to everybody, you could post something really quite mediocre on Facebook, and it would like make your weekend, now. And we all noticed priming, it must be nearly 18 months ago that the what I like to call the Facebook crash happened and traffic fell off a cliff. So we can't rely on social as much for a steady backbone of traffic as we used to. So search is even more important than it ever has been. And we were really successful. We've been really successful, because we never really relied on social that heavily to start with. I know a lot of publishers have probably gone bankrupt because they'd work that we never did. And focusing on search has always been important to us for that reason. But while social remains so unpredictable, it's more important than ever.

EH 4:15
Yeah. So What challenges do you face online as a fashion publisher?

Competing with Google and SEO conflict 4:21

Many every day is a new day every day and new challenge. But I think that's part of the fun way, when you work in audience development. I mean, just as one ship starts to float it another will sink. So at the moment, I would say I get search wise competition from ecommerce. And the way that Google is prioritizing shopping results more and more. That's a challenge for us. And when you're competing for fashion keywords that really sit in that ecommerce space, that's been quite a challenge. And I've noticed the same with MBT as well. I think like every publisher, and probably like every single website, we faced challenges when it comes to ever more enriched, send rich snippets. So they're increasingly we know that the more and more, more and more as time goes on. People are googling questions, and they don't have to leave the results page to find their answer. And that's a real challenge for everyone when they're trying to get traffic from Google. So Google snippets are still really valuable to us. And I know that we see good traffic from Google snippets, but those rich answer cards. And so it's a competitive space. And it feels like as well as competing against other publishers and other websites were also competing against Google for its own results page.

EH 5:51
Yeah, definitely.

AL 5:52
We published a whole lot of content, and negotiating internal conflict and cannibalising our own website is, is a is an issue. And, you know, every year that goes by, we're going to publish Spring Summer trends. Every summer, that happens, we're probably going to publish summer wedding guest dresses. And a large part of my job is navigating this internal capital conflict of our own site, and making sure that we are updating rather than starting endless news stories that destroys our own website from within. So more and more. It's becoming about the detail of how we shape our content, and micro variations in keywords. I'm seeing more and more even closer, important. seasonal variations. You know, are we writing this at the right time? Should we leave it? That's super important to us. And Google News is also crucial to how we get our traffic as well.

How do you tackle SEO conflict?

EH 7:05
So you mentioned cannibalization of your own site. Have you been using any tools, such as search data to tackle that challenge?

AL 7:15
Absolutely. One of the key ways how I work is if we have a big event on the horizon, especially, I plan out all of our package of content in a massive spreadsheet with the aim of avoiding internal cannibalization. So taking the example of the Oscars, if I know that on that, that night, probably in that 36 hour period around the event, we're going to publish a lot of content about the Oscars. And the nightmare situation is that all of it competes with each other. Even some of the more specific things compete with each other. So we would cover a big red carpet gallery. But we would also do a Best Dressed list, we would also do breakout stories on what specific people were wearing. And the nightmare situation is that all of that has a massive internal conflict and none of it ranks and we get none of the traffic. So what I do is before the event, I literally just start a massive spreadsheet. And any of the writers who are planning content on it for the event have to drop it into this spreadsheet. And Firstly, if it's going to cause a massive problem there do it. And then secondly, what we do is we map out what keyword is that going to go for? So if we have, say, a lady gaga and her story and what she's wearing, like, what keyword are we going after with that? If we're doing best dressed, what are we going after with that item, make sure that we don't have two stories that are going after the same time because it does cause conflict on our site. And we've got you know, we've got enough content already, we need to be really tactical about what we do publish. So I'd use last year's data to inform what the keyword variants would be. So I would always know that for the Oscars, we need to cover the red carpet, I know that we need to cover the winners. But I'd go deeper than that with the micro variants. And using a keyword tool, I would see whether we need our hero keyword to be so Oscars 2020 red carpet Oscars 2020 dresses, this is usually quite foolproof, but I there was a situation this year when it wasn't without fault. So for the Met Gala for years, and the hero key word was Met Gala dresses, but this year and from we've got enough search data on my god 2019 to see now that that actually wasn't the case this year. And it turned out to be Met Gala outfits. And on the night, I realized this from looking at Google suggested search. So I would always on the night look at suggested search. And I noticed that that was up there. So on the night, we really optimized for what emerged to be the hero time. We are very, very granular about the way that we prepare. The other thing that we do, when we create this big spreadsheet when we want to dominate a topic is make sure that we are writing about it for a period of time beforehand. It's more it's more and more important than ever to build up authority around a topic before it happens. Because you can't just suddenly write about something on the day that you've never written about before and expect to rank for, if you want to rank big on big days, you have to have built up your authority on the topic beforehand. With that spreadsheet in mind, I do the spreadsheet is my favorite thing as you can tell. And I also in force and I mean enforce a very watertight internal linking strategy

Is the value of search appreciated by editorial teams?

EH 11:26
Thats super organised and really strict. But in a really good way. Do you find that in doing that, that spreadsheet and all the other organization just laid out there? Do you find that the value of search and SEO is fully appreciated by your editorial teams?

AL 11:47
Absolutely. They are also well informed about knowing where our traffic comes from. And they know how important searches on big events like this. And they know well such as SEO as as a whole, but increasingly more so they really understand internal conflicts, they really understand how easily you can cannibalise your own site. Also, one thing that's really useful is that they've all got a really encyclopaedic knowledge of the whole site. And it's very helpful. If we wrote something about like, I don't know, the best vintage shops in Lisbon in 2012. And there will be someone that remembers this. So we were very lucky that the team of incredibly dedicated and know that website inside out, but the team really take ownership. Because I mean, who doesn't love seeing really great numbers, who doesn't love being the writer with the most readers that we yesterday, and they really take ownership. And that's great.

EH 12:52
Thanks so much for talking about your watertight SEO strategy there.

Thank you.

Yeah, it's been a pleasure.

AL 12:59
Thank you for having me

EH 13:03
If you liked what you heard today and want to read more about cannibalisation, click the link below. Please subscribe on iTunes and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn @pidatametrics. Thanks for listening and have a great week.


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