About This Episode
In this episode, we’re joined by Adam Gent, an independent SEO Consultant and Product Manager. Adam has spent over 12 years working in SEO, Digital and Product. He’s worked in award-winning agencies as a Senior SEO Strategist and in-house as a Product Manager.
Adam is also the founder of The SEO Sprint newsletter. A weekly newsletter that helps SEO professionals become smarter at working effectively with development and product teams.
In this episode you’ll learn how to implement SEO recommendations effectively, prioritize your SEO work, and leverage SEO case studies for persuasion, as well as tips for improving your writing skills.
Just a quick tip with prioritization: it isn’t just a one-off thing. I think a lot of people, And this is something I learned as a PM. Prioritization is a skill. It’s not a one-off thing. It’s not like high, medium, or low six months ago, right? And now we’re, you know, we’re doing it again six months later, high, medium, low. It’s like, I call it ruthless prioritization. You are constantly working on it.
– Adam Gent
This episode is for you if you’re curious about the following:
- How an outcomes mindset and product briefs as an in-house SEO can help you get more of your recommendations implemented.
- How to build trust for your work internally.
- How to prioritize your technical SEO work.
- How to leverage SEO case studies to persuade others.
- How a product manager approach to SEO might make your efforts more successful.
- Tips for improving your writing.
Tune in for an insightful conversation with Adam Gent!
Connect With Adam
- Learn more about Gent of Search
- Check out The SEO Sprint newsletter
- Listen to The SEO Sprint podcast
- Connect with Adam on LinkedIn
- Follow Adam on Twitter @Adoubleagent
- How to create an AI writing coach with OpenAI’s GPT and Zapier
- SEO MBA by Tom Critchlow
- Hemingway App
- Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice G. Redish
- The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking by Barbara Minto at McKinsey & Company
- Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration by Keith Ferrazzi and Noel Weyrich
Check out all of the resources mentioned across our other episodes.
Other episodes you’ll enjoy:
- S1E19: How to Communicate Negative News and Become a Better Listener to be a More Effective Marketer – Dana Theus
- S1E08: Persuade More Effectively by Becoming a Better Speaker – Brenden Kumarasamy
- S2E02: Unleashing Business Potential: A Dive into Jobs To Be Done Theory with Zac Stucki
Loved this episode?
Leave us a review on your favorite podcast app. Tweet and tag us @dmvictories!
[00:00:00] Katherine Watier Ong: Welcome to the Digital Marketing Victories podcast, a monthly show where we celebrate and learn from the changemakers in digital marketing. Great digital marketers understand that people are the most challenging part of doing their jobs. This show focuses on the people part of digital marketing wins and what tactics or skills the guests use to align people with their marketing strategy. I’m your host, Katherine Watier Ong, the owner of WO Strategies, LLC. We focus on increasing organic discovery for enterprise-sized, science-focused clients. Thank you for joining me. Let’s get into it and celebrate our victories.
So today, we’re joined by Adam Gent. He’s a technical SEO consultant and product manager.
He’s worked for companies like Moneyco.UK, Latbrook Sports, and Bathstore. He’s worked as a product manager at Deepcrawl which is now Lumar, for a number of years. And he’s the author of the SEO Sprint. So this episode is going to be perfect for you if you’re curious about what kind of workflows you could adopt as an in-house SEO to get more of your recommendations implemented.
How to prioritize your technical SEO work. How to leverage case studies to persuade others and he’s got some really great tips there and how a product manager approach to SEO might make your efforts more successful. So, Adam, welcome to the show.
[00:01:18] Adam Gent: Hello, Katherine. It’s good to be here. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:23] Katherine Watier Ong: Yeah. So can you tell us more about your background? How did you get into SEO and product management?
[00:01:28] Adam Gent: Yeah, how into SEO? Just like everyone I stumbled into it. I fell into it. I just came out of uni, I did my master’s and I couldn’t get a job in what I wanted to do/took a master’s in, which is like sustainability and consultancy which is a whole other thing.
And I just got a job as a lowly… What do they call them? Off-page, off-page SEO analyst, or whatever they’re called. Which is just a link builder. And then, and then I moved, moved, kind of moved my way up, and I just enjoyed it so much. I’ve just been, you know, eight years in, like, agency side in the north of England.
Companies like Branded 3, Salt.agency being very technical based, quite enjoyed technical stuff, working with developers agency side, working with client developers, working with, with branded threes in house developers and then Salt, I’ve got to become even more technical because of Salt.agency is the kind of technical SEO agency of the North still going strong.
And I moved somehow, I still don’t know how, I got a job at Deepcrawl (now Lumar) as a part of the professional services team, who were basically just tech SEOs. In-house at Deepcrawl using Deepcrawl and helping clients with Deepcrawl, like using it, you know, managing it, etc. And then I just bothered the product head of product, Alec Bertram.
And again, somehow became a product manager and did that for… Well, I did it with professional services for like six months and then three months, six months. I can’t remember. And then two and a bit years as a PM at Deepcrawl. And then I, I, I built, helped build software and do and prioritize things and workflows and get things delivered.
And it changed my mindset of how to work with clients. Developers, it made me realize how bad I was at working with developers which is, which is, we can get into that if you would like. And yeah, just, it also kicked off my interest in the topic of delivery, I guess, product management, project management, engineering, best practices, agile, because we’re not exposed to it as SEOs, really, if you go to BrightonSEO.
We’re not, we don’t really talk about it that much, but it’s, it’s very much ingrained in the training and culture of those teams. And because, obviously, SEO, you have to work with those teams to get things done. I just found it fascinating that I, literally, when I worked at Deepcrawl, my SEO skills kind of stayed the same, but my communication, project management, discovery, validation, business, acumen, all of that skyrocketed in terms of skills.
I call it the skill stack. Everyone has that skill stack of things they add to their skills as they go through life and work in different companies and in different careers. And that was for me, just this, this huge opportunity to realize that. You know, again, how bad I was at working with developers and getting things done.
And then, yeah, and now I’ve been a consultant writing – writing for the SEO sprint, consulting with clients, working with dev teams, you know, design teams, product teams to implement SEO. Kind of, I call them SEO features, SEO projects really, that drive results. And that’s me up until today, where I jumped on this, jumped on this, on this call and yeah, podcasting with you.
[00:05:01] Katherine Watier Ong: Yeah, I mean, so, so, I mean, obviously that’s the meat of this podcast. I think there’s a big gap. If you’re an SEO trying to grab that skill set at the shows you know, how to actually communicate to get your stuff implemented. There’s plenty of like, how to figure out what the problem is and how to document the problem.
Maybe, but how to actually communicate that in a way where somebody you generally do not directly manage will help you out? And most of the doing of our recommendations are people. We don’t directly manage. very much. And that part is really sticky and we just, we don’t talk about it enough in the industry.
And it’s a detriment because I think a lot of SEOs stumble in that 1 spot.
[00:05:44] Adam Gent: Yeah, interestingly as you, as you say that in products, it’s called leaving without, you know, Leading Without Authority. I will get into this, but I was fascinated by the fact that I was a PM, and I could almost go around the company and ask all these questions.
And everyone was very open to talking to me. You know what I mean? Like leading that authority, and building trust with the teams. I was fascinated by it because as an SEO, if you’ve ever wandered around as an SEO, like asking questions, it was a very different experience. So even just that. I don’t know if it’s just a mindset change or a title change.
[00:06:17] Katherine Watier Ong: Is it the title? Do you think it might be the title?
[00:06:17] Adam Gent: Probably the title, but it was just like, Oh yeah, he’s here to solve problems and he cares about the customers versus SEO, or it’s just, I don’t know, the perception of SEOs. I don’t know, I just found it a really interesting, like, complete dynamic switch from, yeah, being, you know, being, worrying and worrying about indexing and crawling and rankings and revenue and still worrying about revenue, but it was like solving problems and, but you could almost navigate the spaces between teams you navigated around them and led with that authority.
And it was just fascinating that you say that and it’s like, as a PM, you have to do that. Like, that’s something you, you have to do. So, yeah, I’m really interested and really.
[00:06:58] Katherine Watier Ong: I was about to say, I’m going to have to have a whole other podcast episode about whether or not we need to ditch the SEO title.
I’ve been in those conversations for the last month. I obviously do a lot of senior strategy stuff, and I’ve had people be like. Oh, she’s overpriced for an SEO. It’s just very funny because somebody inside this organization I’m pitching, and the CEO knows me and the CEO is like, well, she’s much more than an SEO.
And I was like, yeah, I could probably ditch the title. Yeah. I don’t get to the white. Sometimes I’ve had those conversations where people are like, are you shady? Like, oh, I’m not that kind of an SEO anyway. Yeah. It’s sticky.
[00:07:31] Adam Gent: No. Yeah. Again, yeah, if you do that, if you do that episode, I’d love to join, because I’m very interested in chatting around titles and perceptions of people, people naturally group things together, like, you know, because they have names and, and I think SEO is unfortunately, with history, you know, fall into that, unfortunately.
[00:07:50] Katherine Watier Ong: All right. So clearly I got a future episode. So let’s get back to the product management part though. So I’m curious about this concept of treating websites like products. So how does this mindset switch? Impact you as an SEO professional?
[00:08:06] Adam Gent: So it’s called, I call it solving impactful problems. Okay.
It’s very simple as a concept, right? A website is a product taking it back to the basics. So people visit like a business and they like your product. If you know, businesses ship product services you know, Amazon, Walmart, et cetera, you know, I’m trying to think of American, American brands. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. But when they ship those things. The point of them is people will like them enough to pay for them. Now, whether they’re good for you or bad for you is another question entirely. But if people find value in that, if they like it, that solves a different job pain point, they’ll pay for it.
Right. And that’s, that’s the basic framework, you know, mental model. I communicate when I talk about solving impactful problems when you’re working on a website. Okay. Oh, sorry. Before I get into that, just, as a PM, your job is to identify those, and solve those impactful problems. So what is that target customer?
What is that pain point and what is the solution you’re coming up with to solve it? And then you ship those things. They’re called features in product and engineering. You ship things, right? And if you are solving that problem, if people find value in it, they will pay for it. Now it’s really hard to do that, right?
Like 90 percent of startups, I think in America, at least they don’t work for like five years or something. They end because it’s hard to do. It’s hard to find, you know, it’s hard to think about the target customer and solve the pain point and find a solution. It’s business, you know, that can actually sustain a business for a long time.
And then products can also kind of decline as well, which is another topic entirely. But that’s the, they’re the basic building blocks, foundations of. You know, business and products, right? And now you, now you, you bring it on websites. Okay. So, same principle, right? You ship things that should help the target audience find.
Your services, your products. And again, great. You know, I found this thing. Zapier is always kind of brought up, as an example, right? Zapier integrates quite a lot of its products into its pragmatic, you know. Pages so you’re it tries to target people for specific like Google Sheets connects to Gmail or Google Sheets connects to different applications, and you’re finding them through that, and you’re finding their service, and you can sign up because it’s free for certain tier and then you might start paying right that’s an example of solving impact problems through and treating your website kind of like a product because of the product experience nowadays, especially for a lot of SAS companies and for e-commerce, right? The website and the products are pretty much the same thing, right? When you go to an e-commerce store, you look at the images.
You look at the reviews, you look at the descriptions, right? You’re, the experience on the website is almost kind of like the product. You get sent the product, and you will start using it. But that first experience of treating the website like a product, treat, like, shipping, you know, shipping these features, shipping those things that solve those impactful problems, help people find it, the right audience at the right time.
Because not every click is equal, right? Because you’ve got, you know, really hot clicks, like people, people are trying to find that solution. Or you’ve got really cold clicks, where people are still trying to, You know, top of the funnel, still trying to find those, like, you know, maybe the topics or the ideas that kind of swirling around their heads, trying to find something, you know, just on the fringe of the problem, right?
So really, when I’m talking about a website as a product, you’re having that mindset of shipping things, solving problems, helping people find things integrates a lot with the product, the service of the company, and it helps get customers that pay for things. Okay. Now the really important part of all of this is this outcome mindset shift. And again, I’ve talked about this on the newsletter, but the outcome mindset shift basically is instead of thinking about the deliverables that you ship, think about the behavior you’re changing in your target audience to drive results.
Okay As SEOs, right, we have the same problems as product teams, in that businesses are like, we need to ship, you know, all of these features, and there’s no, sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it, they just ship these features, then they’ve, you know, then, then they’re like, oh, we’ve done all this, we’ve spent all this dev time, but it hasn’t resulted in any revenue or any, you know, driving any sales.
And it’s, it’s, it’s a feature factory mentality, it’s called because you’re just. Want to keep shipping these things, you know dark mode is an example, right? There are lots of memes on the product community, but you ship dark mode, but you know, you’ve got no customers. Do you know what I mean? It’s just that kind of, you, you, you don’t, you’re not thinking about, right?
What is the thing that’s, you could, you could ship one thing and drive so many sales because you’ve really understood the target audience, their problems, and the solution to that. And sometimes in honesty, it’s a, it’s a lot simpler than you, than you think. But. People get caught up in politics, you know, their opinions and you’re not treating your website.
You know, like, like a product, you’re just, you’re just trying to ship all of this content, or maybe, you know, optimize every single link or ship every piece of content, try to answer every question in, you know Google search results or keyword research. But have you really understood the target audience, their pain points, and their jobs?
And how are you solving them? How is your content either solving it or helping drive people to understand the product or the service? Being part of that product experience. That’s what I mean by a product, a website as a product.
[00:14:00] Katherine Watier Ong: But I’m hearing like, so as an SEO, if you want to be more of a project management focus, you’re on two things very clearly.
One is the reporting needs to shift so you can demonstrate those two. But then I’m also hearing like a strategy change. It sounds like to me. Yeah, or delivery of the strategy that is different.
[00:14:19] Adam Gent: Yeah, so, I don’t like the word strategy, if I’m being honest. Because it’s just, we just attach a strategy to tactics.
But yeah, strategy really starts with…
[00:14:34] Katherine Watier Ong: Or focus on this sprint, whatever, I don’t know what term you’re using, but yeah, you know…
[00:14:38] Adam Gent: What I’m talking about is the website as a product, you really need to, in the product, it’s called discovery. Right. But it’s just research and insights, which is just, you know, discovery is just a fancy word for research and insights.
Right. Do the, do the target audience research, do the, and then I’m trying to understand, like, why are they trying to come to the site? Okay. Why? And then why would they use Google search or Bing search or whatever search engine, you know, TikTok apparently nowadays? Yeah. Yeah. You, why, why would they be coming via search?
Right? And if you, and, and if that’s the, the foundation upon which I try and understand with some of my clients now, I’m like, is this a good channel fit? Like, is this product, this service, like, have you started, have you done PPC? Have you tried email? Do you know what I mean? Like, why would you, why invest in SEO as a channel?
Because it’s a long, you know, it takes a long time compared to other channels to start to see, you know, returns, especially for like a sales company or a small company. For large companies, obviously, you have the authority, and the trust there to, to start ranking a lot quicker. But still, like, why is SEO as a channel a fit for this, right?
And that’s, and when I’m reporting as well, it, it, what is that, they call it like a north star metric, but I much prefer the outputs and inputs kind of, kind of framework, right? So what are the things, I have a client right now, and he can tell me in his B2B company, he can tell me exactly the nine or so levers that make up a successful deal.
Right? And we can track that through this system that I’ve helped to work with them to build traffic comes in, we can tell which deals are going to be good and which deals aren’t going to be a success, just by understanding those nine key things. Have they done this, have done this, you know, are these, and then there are features attached to each of those nine things so that you can fetch this information, you can pull this information, connect this in, do you know what I mean?
That’s, that’s an outcome mentality. What are those behavior changes? Because if the, if the, if the, if the sales team don’t, don’t send this information to the client, you know what it won’t really probably likelihood according to the data, probably won’t turn into a good deal or won’t turn to deal at all.
So it’s, it’s, it’s trying to find those inputs that add up to, okay. This is an outcome that we can track to see if there’s a positive change in user behavior here, right? The classic example is Core Vitals for SEO Core Vitals for some bizarre reason is linked in with SEO and rankings, and every SEO I’ve talked to has had disastrous results from trying to measure Core Vitals against rankings and traffic.
But if you actually look at the case studies, which will be the case of a database, which you can talk about in a minute every single case that he looks at conversion rate, you know, basket in average order value or number of products in the basket. Do you know what I mean? It looks good. What are the behavior metrics?
What are the things, the input metrics, that are going to add up to? Core Web Vitals was successful because we drove, like, more, you know, more revenue because more people are adding products to the basket and average value goes up. Do you know what I mean? It’s those kinds of input metrics that are adding up to revenue going up.
That’s, that’s the thinking of outcome, outcome kind of mindset shifts. It’s not, it’s not just core, we’re going to do core with vitals because Sightbulb told us that it’s poor. We’re doing it because we want to drive, you know, drive revenue to the business because this is, this is shown by case studies, by our own, like, experiments, that it’s going to be, you know, it’s going to help us drive business results that they care about, right?
That’s like an outcome mindset shift. You’re, you’re, you’re minimizing deliverables, but maximizing, you know, changing user behavior, really.
[00:18:43] Katherine Watier Ong: So, so you get in, you get on board with a new client, or you’re in-house, and you’ve done your discovery research. Slash audit, whatever you’re going to call it, you sort of got a lay of the land you figured out and maybe you’ve pivoted their channels, right?
So you figured out they’re on the right channels. You’ve looked at the metrics, you know, that they’re reporting is accurate. You’ve added, I don’t know, user tracking if it’s not there. So you got all the stuff you need to measure and outcomes, right? Laying the foundation of all that. Okay, great. But now you have this pile of stuff to fix.
Right? In theory. Or levers that you want to move. How do you figure out which one? And then when you get down to the weeds of that, how do you compile an effective, persuasive document or presentation or whatever it is to get the rest of these team members you don’t manage on board to get that thing through the pipeline and execute it?
That’s my burning question.
[00:19:35] Adam Gent: Always. Just the question, right? How do I get involved?
[00:19:41] Katherine Watier Ong: Well, it’s your product management approach, right? Is there something about product management that makes all that easier?
[00:19:46] Adam Gent: I’m going to pull in, product management is just a load of different things, like different topics like pulled in together.
So I’m going to be covering, I’m going to talk you through it, but just bear in mind, I’ll try and be clear about pulling different topics in like business consulting and things like that, right? Communication and things like that. So let me, I’ll start from the beginning. So, I’m going to take your scenario.
Let’s say we give it to e-commerce, right? Because I think e-commerce is fairly straightforward too, it’s easier to track, right? So you, you understand, you’ve done your target audience research, you understand the customers, you know, loosely understand the customers, what everyone is talking about. You understand that there are a set of products, a set of categories that are higher priority.
And you understand that you’ve done you, you know, you’ve done you, you’ve done your audit, or you’ve begun to do the usual crawling, you know, you’ve set up the tracking, you made sure that’s all correct. So you’ve got, you’re beginning to get some data into your workflow. The key thing here, right?
And this is, this is true e commerce, markets, B2B, wherever you are, right? You need to really think about business orientation, okay? When I was in-house. The CEO announced, like, this is the direction we’re going and just went through a whole presentation, but one thing always stuck with me, right? He showed a graph, right?
A very simple graph basically showed that all of our competitors’ SEO tool competitors are going this way, right? They’re trying to be SEO suites. They’re trying to be, you know, all the bells and whistles, all the features, all of this, all of that, but we’re going this way. So he, he, if anyone’s listening, he went to the right.
So everyone went up. I realized I went like everyone like that and no one can, no one can see what I’m doing. Everyone went up. Okay. And we were going right. So we were different. We were, that’s the direction we were going in. So we weren’t doing the SEO suite back then, right? What we were focused on was helping that tool be the best tool to help tech SEOs identify problems, get buy-in, et cetera.
And he was like, we’re going this way. And that, for me, still sticks with me today because what that was, was him trying to communicate the vision, the direction that business is going in, right? And all the strategic priorities. We’ll revolve around that vision, right? Where we’re going. So this is orientation in the commoners, right?
You need to understand where that business direction is going? Because as an SEO, as an employee, you’re not unless you have a massive sway with the CEO. Or the leadership team, the management team, C suite, I guess you, American Scholar, you would find it very difficult to massively change the direction.
We’ll call it ship, right? It’s hard to like, it’s a huge, like, you know, massive ship going one direction. It’s very hard to move. That ship, unless you have real sway. So you need to understand where it’s going. Like, okay. They have all these products. Are you just targeting the US are you going international at all?
Do they care about, you know, the user experience? Is there a particular product that they care about? Do you want to mean like, is there a particular set of initiatives that they’re really, they really want to drive? Obviously, it’s about revenue. Right? Because it’s business. It’s always, it’s always about revenue.
But you need to understand the business, I call it business orientation, the direction that’s going, right? And this is something that Tom Critchlow at SEO MBA talks about, something that Will Critchlow talks about. You need to listen to what they care about because it’s very hard to get buy-in on technical, tactical things if you can’t connect that work to what they care about.
So that’s number one Okay, number two, right, and that’s probably a business consultancy thing, by the way, and that’s what I noticed as a PM as well. I could get things done. There was a certain strategic direction that needed to be positioned at. I still take this into account today, working with another client.
You know, that’s what I’ve been doing. He wants to go a certain direction with this, you know, finance company and I helped him. I was like, actually SEO wise, that makes perfect sense, you know, same with this e-commerce company that we’re fictionally working for, there’ll be a set of these.
And you need to listen and make notes and write it down and think about how you, what you’re doing can fit into these things. Okay. And I actually have, interestingly, I have a podcast on the SEO Sprint where Areej AbuAli, I can never say people’s names. She talked about that when she moved to a company.
She looked at the robot, understood the strategic initiatives, and had just moved into SEO into those things. Are you working on faster navigation? Cool! Like, great! Like, you need to just worry about these things. Oh, you’re worried about creating new categories? You’re updating the main nav? Cool!
You know, I can help you SEO these things, okay? It, it, it’s, it’s It’s just a skill you need to learn and sit down and listen and just absorb in the information But you just need to do that, right? Number two, you need to connect your SEO work So you have, okay, I’ve got the strategic initiatives. You need to connect your work to a problem.
Okay? Interestingly, as SEOs, we communicate these, these tech, these, these technical things that need fixing, okay? The biggest issue, I won’t say problem, but I was going to talk about problems a lot, so I’ll say the word issue. The biggest issue with that is it’s not it’s not connected to anything.
Do you know what I mean? It’s just like a lot of lists of things that people could implement if they really — if they have the drive to do so. But if, like you said, we need to lead without authority. We need to get people involved. You need to connect it to a problem, right? A problem that is worth solving, right?
That is a lot of what business consultancy is about. Okay. That’s what, and that’s what PMs do, product managers do. Identify the problem. Why is that problem worth solving? Okay. And what are the strategic things we need to do? The initiatives. The projects, the roadmap that we need to do to do it. Okay. It’s about connecting your work, like literally just forming this kind of understanding we’re overcoming this challenge and this is why we’re overcoming it again, and then you’re tying in those strategic initiatives to that problem, right?
That problem should be helping the business move forward. I’m like, for this ecommerce company, let’s imagine that, you know, they want to go international. In other English speaking languages, okay? Instantly, you would probably already know in your head, well, if you’re going international, that means hreflang, that means, you know, translated content, that means, like, URL structure, you know?
Already, you begin to naturally, as necessary of your experience, to know what you need to do because, you know, you know the technical things, but you just need to connect those technical things to a problem that you need to overcome. The problem being, well, if you want to grow revenue in those, in those, In those countries, but you need to do the right things, right?
You want, you’ve got the targets to hit. I know because I’ve listened to the strategic priorities. I know the goals. Great. Well, that’s the problem we need to solve. Like, we need to hit those targets to overcome the obstacle. We need to achieve these initiatives, right?
[00:27:34] Katherine Watier Ong: So, that sounds to me because we’ve got again, coming back to the technical SEO, hopefully, you’re listening.
You’ve got a whole pile of stuff to do. And that means you strategically ignore things that aren’t directly tied to moving—business objectives. So, keeping in mind the discovery, crawl, indexing, et cetera anything that’s potentially outside of that becomes a different initiative or gets put on the back burner permanently.
[00:28:02] Adam Gent: And so yeah, so that problem strategy-wise is something I call. So for me, there are four types of strategies and four types of problems. That’s an expansion problem, right? They’ve said. We’re going international or the, you know, the, the, the leadership team, the C suite like international, like that is how we’re going to drive more revenue, that’s how we’re going to make, drive more business, that’s how we’re going to, you know, make, make more money.
And you’re like, cool. Well, here are the initiatives. The thing you have to be aware of though, at the same time, while you’re doing that problem, identifying that problem, you also need to be gathering allies and partnerships within the company. Right. So, to do those technical things. Right. Already, you need the dev team on the side.
Right. You can’t do hreflang, you know, you know, you know, the right folder structures or folder paths of international without understanding the tech stack, without understanding their processes about understanding if they, what are they, what are they been asked to do because of going international to huge, you know, probably a huge undertaking for like a massive website.
You know, you need to, you know, you need to set up CDNs and make sure that, you know, the, the, the right people go to the right place, you know, and, and, and start building out these new page templates because you, you know, you wish you could just copy and paste it from one, one, one place to another, but actually you may need to start thinking about, you know, user flows because maybe different countries think differently.
Your UX team, your product team, your dev team, it’s an imaginary, yeah, and content, your imaginary, well. I’m going to keep the content slightly separate just for now, for a reason. Keep it, you know, all those three teams already, they’re already, they’re, they’re, they’re focusing on their strategic initiatives, which is going to be, Probably international, right?
So you just get you need to You you need to be sitting there and working on site now I highly recommend not just walking up to them and going I need these things for a co
I would highly recommend sitting down and just listening to this. This is what I did, by the way, and what I learned in-house and what I do now. Just sit down when you first. Let’s say you’ve just joined, right? And you’ve maybe that’s the first two weeks, right? Understanding those, those few things started doing the audit, right?
Cool. Well, now just sit down and ask the developer to take you through how the platform works, and how the backend works. What are the SEO features and functionalities of the system?
What does it do, and how does it work? Maybe it’s the tech lead, you know, doing that when you first join is great because naturally, you would be, you need to know these things anyway, so you can. Ask these questions it becomes a lot harder the more you know, the longer you are a company, BbI’m just a curious person, by the way. So I’m always asking questions, right? So I get into trouble, but you just need to ask, Explain how this this system works, explain how these features we’re going to do. And then you’re just like, what is it that you’re like working on the next three to six months? And then they’ll probably explain.
Oh, you know, because of you know, we’re going international we’re doing all these things We’ve got this and this and this And they’re just explaining to you the challenge, maybe the challenges they’re going to face and the problems that that might be trying to overcome the things on their to do list, right?
Because they’re going to have their own strategic priorities. Okay, great. And then you just keep doing that product, and you do that design. And then you also do with content. Now, in this scenario, I’m going to put you with the product, right? I’m not going to put you in marketing, right? I know for a lot of people it might be controversial, but there’s a reason why.
So if you’re in the product team and you’re directly kind of lining, lining into maybe the VP of product or the head of product or the, you know the product team, it’s going to be a lot easier to be part of that process. To make sure that website is optimized and, you know, up to, up to, up to scratch exactly what you want because of something called Conway’s law.
So Conway’s law is like a 50-year-old law. It’s a very simple law. Basically, I can’t remember it now. The communication structure of your company will mirror. But the system will make the system they’re building will mirror the communication structure of the team so if SEO sits in another team and doesn’t really communicate to the product engineering and dev team.
And design team, and they’re building the thing, and that’s really, I mean, the foundation upon which your international strategic work is going to sit is technical, right? Obviously content’s important naturally, but if decisions are made without you, well, then your system will mirror the communication structure of your company and of your teams.
So I’m going to put you in Product, right? Or. You go, you try and work on a product. Are you trying to work with them within their process as much as possible? If you have listened to this and you work in marketing, right? It’s difficult, but there’s absolutely a lot I haven’t met, generally a lot of. Engineers, developers, Product people who aren’t willing to just join with “Hey, Can I just join one or two meetings?”
I just want to better understand what’s going on because a lot of my work and My performance is based on what you’re doing. I want to make sure you know it’s all you know. We’re following the workflow or the recommendations I’m implementing. I haven’t really met a lot of people or developers or product people who are against that. I’ve met a lot of SEOs who kind of neglect that relationship, Right?
Just, you know, throw it over the wall and run away. But if you work in-house and you are, and this strategic initiative is going on, you’re gonna have to build those partnerships, those relationships with those teams, because it’s key for you to get things done. Okay? Because sometimes I’ve learned, and I’ve spoken to other SAPMs, other tech SEO, you don’t always have to have, if you build really good trust with them, you don’t always have to have a case study to do something.
Right? If it’s a low effort, we don’t have to. We don’t, you know, oh, it’s pretty easy to add that, you know, self-referenced contact. Sure, no problem. I trust you. Do you know what I mean? But you have to build that trust up. Fix time.
[00:37:28] Katherine Watier Ong: So you mentioned throwing it over the wall and running away. So I mean, there’s a fear, I think, with some SEOs about talking to devs.
So two questions here. One, you mentioned the key: sit in on meetings early. Cool. But I don’t know if that’s the full extent of what you might do to build relationships. And two, if you are an SEO that has that fear reaction when it comes to devs, what tips do you have?
[00:37:33] Adam Gent: Well, you say that it isn’t the key just sitting in on meetings, but remember, when you’re sitting on meetings, you’re absorbing through, I believe, I believe it’s osmosis.
[00:37:50] Katherine Watier Ong: Yeah, yeah, but are you just doing it once? Are you just doing it on the first two?
[00:38:02] Adam Gent: No, no, no. It’s a habit. It’s a habit. It’s a habit you form over time, and you just want to keep that habit up, right? I’ve actually written about this recently in the newsletter. You want to form those habits, right?
You want to form those. I’m in this e-commerce company. I’ve got the strategic initiatives coming up. I do not just want to hand into, you know, hreflang initiatives, hreflang recommendations to the devs and just, you know, I just really hope they get it right. You want to form those habits of talking to them, like seeing them all the time, even if it’s just a week, like start with a, with a, with a weekly 30-minute meeting, right?
Just a weekly 30-minute meeting. I did that with a client, and now I’m working as part of their products and dev and engineering team to do all sorts of features, right? Just a single meeting, 30 minutes every week, right? It takes about two months for people to form these habits. Okay. So don’t just give up after a month or two or three meetings.
If no one shows up, keep pushing it. Okay. Number two the Slack channels. There’s always a Slack channel. Join them, right? I was in lots of Slack channels in-house. I didn’t understand a lot of it because they’re talking dev, they’re talking dev stuff, but then, the best way that these teams communicators to slack, you know, in terms of quickness in terms of speed of being, of being asked questions.
And, you know, hey, just introduce yourself. And this year, if you have any questions about SEO, any, you know, any of these things, just let me know. Always have a monthly chat with tech leads. Okay. Just again, keep doing that. That listening thing where you’re like, oh, I just want to sit down and understand where you’re coming from with the product person, the dev person, the design person.
I just want to understand what you’re working on. You know just to get a better understanding of how the team works you’ll be surprised at how much that works, and just always, if you’re going to talk to them, it’s their saying that people are worried about talking to them. I found the best. You don’t have to be technical, right?
But you do have to not waste their time and clearly communicate. Okay. Now, devs are makers, right? They, they, they need long stretches of time. To think things through, write code, solve problems, okay? You don’t want to be Slacking them every five minutes. You don’t want to be booking meetings in the middle of the afternoon for three hours, okay?
You don’t want to tap them on their shoulder and just ask them one question, right? It’s annoying. I’ve, I’ve done it.
[00:38:13] Katherine Watier Ong: And it breaks their workflow.
[00:38:19] Adam Gent: So what you need to be is you need to just. Be mindful of their work; they need like half-day units to solve problems.
So I make sure that if I have to book a meeting, I make sure it’s early in the morning, midday or late afternoon, right? If it’s an, it is just an easier meeting, right? I always make sure that when I communicate, I communicate using examples, right? Because examples are the quickest way. To communicate what you’re trying to get out of them.
Hey, I’ve seen this problem, or hey, you know, I want this thing built. Here is a terrible, like, drawing. I’ve seen people draw using A4 sheets of paper, sketching, to try and communicate what they need. You want concrete examples. Right. You know, data screenshots of the website, maybe even manipulating the website using Google Chrome or, you know, working with the design team to get a design.
Some devs won’t touch a recommendation unless there’s a design, right? So examples are really key to communicating, right? And always make sure that you’re communicating, like, what the problem is and why it’s worth solving. But again, once you start building up that trust. You know, that’s why sometimes you can kind of trust yourself. It’s not always about why sometimes, it’s about trusting you.
But if you are, then it’s also about prioritizing it. So don’t just keep coming to them to like small, tiny things that don’t really mean anything. When I talk to a dev, I always make sure that I’m giving them something that is important, right? And it’s not something like, why are we doing, why is the SEO asking us to fix these 404, like these 12 404s on, on, on these pages that nobody visits?
It’s really important that we discuss this. You know, this thing because it’s here’s why, right? I write these things down. Okay, before I talk to them, I write, you know, I write these things down. So what the problem is, like why is it important? Here’s an example. You know, I just follow that flow.
Follow that. Just make sure that when I talk to them, I’m giving them something important, right? I’m not just bothering them because I’m geeky and excited about something. Although you can do that, but.
[00:40:32] Katherine Watier Ong: I’ve built relationships where sometimes, That’s my moment. I had a great relationship with the head of dev when I was at Ketchum.
And sometimes, if I got dorked out, I was like, Oh my God, I just have to do this video because you’re going to be excited with me. But that’s, that’s the later stages of the relationship.
[00:40:49] Adam Gent: Exactly. Like, and, and you know what – just also talk to them, like, I played like D& D, I played poker, I went and had lunch with them, I, you know, and I chatted to other SEOs a few years ago and interviewed 15 in house SEOs, and most of them did the same thing.
They treated the developers like human beings. Can I grab you coffee? You know, can I get yours? Can I just get your opinion on this while, you know, we go for lunch? I’ll buy you lunch. You know what I mean? Just, you, you’re trying to, you’re trying to build a relationship with the, you know, with these people.
And you know, there are going to be times where they’re not, you know, reciprocating or they’re, they’re not, they’re not always, you know, there’s always that dev. But generally, I’ve found that most, most are, you know, open to chatting just need to be respectful of their time, really.
[00:41:36] Katherine Watier Ong: And you would be surprised at how much the habit of touching base with people can lead to success.
So when I was in-house at Points of Light Foundation running the 1-800-Volunteer.org startup, I think I was employed and drowning because I had no help, but I realized that in order for me to, I could only sell to people who were already a member of the Points of Light Foundation. So having a relationship with the membership person is super important.
And she was very. Okay. Did not want to help me out of the gate, and I could not figure out why I eventually figured out that what had happened before they started our initiative was that they laid a bunch of people off. And so everybody thought we were taking their jobs. Well, I still have to be successful.
I can’t just, like, quit at that point. So, what I ended up doing was every Friday again, like a habit, I put it on my calendar. I got up from my desk, no matter how drowning I was, and I walked around the entire office and chatted with people. Every Friday. Then, we started hosting parties on behalf of our team.
And, you know, I, they probably took six, nine months, and it wasn’t quick, mind you. But lo and behold, I got to a moment where she pinged me. She’s like, I got a new member. I think you might want to sell her the software. I was like, Oh my God, I did it. But yeah, get up from your desk and, like, walk around if you’re there physically, you know, but book that meeting so that it doesn’t fall off your calendar. You actually build the relationships and give it the time it needs.
[00:43:02] Adam Gent: And, honestly, like, there’s like a trust equation that I talk about but one of them, one of the foundational parts of that equation, is just taking an interest in other people and taking an interest in what they’re doing. It’s not just, let’s just do this as we work, right?
It’s, they’re not factory workers, they’re, they’re, most are trying to solve problems by writing code. And I find, yeah, I find just taking interest in them is, is, is a, not like you said, it’s not a quick process, but it. It eventually pays off.
[00:43:35] Katherine Watier Ong: In Dana Theus’ episode, she’s got a bunch of tips, but the one that resonates with me is that for a while there, she had like a post-it note on her screen so that she would only ask questions, nothing but questions, which is perfect because it gets the other people talking.
Let’s not talk as much. It’s guaranteed to start building a relationship, to be honest. So listen to that episode if you haven’t already. Okay. So let’s see. We’ve talked about prioritization a bit. We’ve talked about building a relationship. How about this? The part we haven’t really talked about much is letting go of things.
So we’ve talked about how you ladder up the things that attach to a business focus. But what if you’ve got something that you know is just, as an SEO, it makes you cry, and you’re having trouble laddering it up to a business focus? What do you do? What are the tips there for people to let go of that bone?
[00:44:29] Adam Gent: I guess you need to find the right time. So, when I worked in-house, there was a list of things that needed to get done. But we’re always put on the back burner because of these strategic priorities, right? I think everyone can relate to that. There’s always something that needs doing, but, and just as an SEO, like, the thing is, as an SEO, there’s also, you’ve got to remember that there’s UX, there’s dev, there’s product, there’s content, there’s sales, there’s marketing, right?
Everybody has that list. There’s a list on everybody’s desk of things they’d love to do but can’t get done. So, so maybe, like try it, like core vitals is a good example where sometimes you will like to do an audit and it’s like, this website is slow as you know, it’s, it’s just really slow, and you go and talk, and then you use that kind of partnership thing.
So you go and talk to the devs, and you understand, you know, the system and the backend, and they’re like, we really want to improve. The performance of this website, right? I actually had that they were like, I really want to improve the bonus website I just can’t get them to make it a priority, and then you just go.
Okay. Well, UX, Dev, and SEO are like, hey, there’s actually business reasons why we should be doing this, and then you put forth it, you know They just need someone to help them put forth a business case as a PM. It is your role to validate and put forward ideas and understand why the devs bring the how, right?
So sometimes it’s, you know, identifying partners who might be able to help you get it done. It’s also making them make sure you’re doing it at the right time. There’s no point trying to improve Core Vitals if the whole platform is moving in six months’ time, right? So maybe, but maybe you could do it then.
You’re like, hey, could we also think about this because it’s a good opportunity to do this, right? Because you’re literally re-platforming. So those are the two things. I think that I would use to, I mean, obviously building, as I said, building trust, because sometimes there are things that I’ve done with the devs where, like, nobody, there’s no, there’s never any business case for it, but the effort of doing it isn’t really that hard.
So I’d also just say understand the effort, build a relationship with the devs, and sometimes you can get things done just because it’s really not that much work. Yeah, we can fit it in. Give us a ticket. All right. Yeah, great. Okay, cool. Yeah, no worries. We’ll do that. No, you know, we trust you. You know, you’re always giving us things that are a priority, always giving us things that, you know, see business results, you’re sharing that with us.
[00:47:07] Katherine Watier Ong: So, so say, say you’re, for whatever reason, low on a little trust because maybe you’re new. And you, you can’t do testing because your website’s a little bit too small for that. So we’re going to lean on the other one, which you’ve mentioned a few times but we haven’t really talked about yet. This case study database.
Tell me more about your amazing case study database. Mostly because I had an informal one in Trello that was not public, and I’m like, Oh, thank God. Somebody actually has it on the internet that all of us can reference. So tell me more about it.
[00:47:38] Adam Gent: So I’ve been collecting, like, weird case studies. It was just like, you know, it’s just like a hobby, you know, it’s just I collect them because I’ve used them in the past to get things done, right?
It’s like, nah, we, you know, I don’t think content pruning on, you know, large websites work at them. Well, here’s this, this, this, and this case that is showing that actually, overall, you can get maybe a 15 to 25 percent increase in overall traffic just from not like removing every single piece of content, but having a look and doing a content audit and really understanding if every page either needs to be improved, removed or redirected, right?
You know, and I’ve just been doing it for a few years, and I was just, I think I kept seeing people being like, I’ve got a case study for this. And I was like, oh, I was like, oh yeah, I’ve got that. Or people on Slack, you know, communities, it’s like, has anyone got a case study for this? And I was like, oh yeah, here’s one, you know, explained it.
Oh, that’s great. And I was just like, it seems to be this lack of swipe files, you know, a coffee book of. Tests, right? Product teams UX teams have these studies, these swipe files to handle all the time. And I was like, well, SEOs don’t. We’re not very good at capturing information and putting it into a publicly accessible thing because everyone wants to hoard their own.
Right, keep their cards really close to their chest, even though, I mean, most tactics you can learn just by applying it for a few years and then realizing, ah, okay, these things, these things work, these things don’t. There’s always that, there’s always that, if you work in-house, or if you work with certain clients, there’s always that situation where you’re like, well, I’ve never migrated 14 websites in a headless. There are situations where you’re like, I can’t lean on my personal experience, or nobody in my community or my network has any case studies, you know, which is usually the go-to right before you do ask publicly.
Oh, actually, you know, if you do a bit of research, if you like me a bit of a nerd and you just capture these things, unless it’s just a Notion database, just push, push these things using the notion Chrome extension to Notion like it’s, and then just go through it every week and just categorize it. I’ve been doing that for years, and I just, and it’s also a case of going through and making sure you have the right ones because some, like, nothing in the case study, like, folder and agency is probably, you know, useful.
I’ve actually seen case studies where they’re like, we moved a keyword from position nine to position seven. And I was like, okay, no, I can’t use this. I was like, do you know what I mean? Where it was so similar. Here are the results. We saw this revenue increase and this traffic increase, and this is what we did.
And I’m like, and you can go in like, okay, so they improved internal linking, they, you know, content pruned, they added this content. They did this, that, you know, there are things that you can specifically tie into a situation where it’s like, this is either a good test or it’s going to help validate an opportunity that an idea I’ve had and you can use that.
In product and dev teams, because they appreciate all the ones I’ve worked in, they appreciate there is something you’ve done some research and look and gone like, this isn’t just a crazy idea I’ve had, there’s actually documented public case studies of this seeing improvements, right? And because product teams love testing things and experiments, right? Quite a big part of their culture. They’ll recognize that, right? And that, yeah, they’ll, they’ll, they should be open to it, right? Again, this is another way to get buy-in for for these strategic priorities. In terms of what you said there about prioritization, always remember, just a quick tip with prioritization: it isn’t just a one-off thing.
I think a lot of people, And this is something I learned as a PM. Prioritization is a skill. It’s not a one-off thing. It’s not like high, medium, or low six months ago, right? And now we’re, you know, we’re doing it again six months later, high, medium, low. It’s like, I call it ruthless prioritization. You are constantly if you work in, and the reason why you should work in the product engineering and design team, the engineering team, is that things will constantly be moving around, right?
Your initiatives. Right, which order do we do them in? When do we do hreflang? Before URLs? When do we build the page templates? Before hreflang? Do you know what I mean? It’s sequencing those initiatives. Right. What order do we do it in? And then, within the initiatives, there is a series of opportunities, I call them.
So just like another level down, right? What is the sequence of ordering and those opportunities? Now, what you can do is group your initiatives by, like, I don’t know. I’ve done it before where it’s like, I need to fix the facet navigation and the internal linking of two initiatives, right?
Two really important initiatives in optimizing a large e-commerce site. Big initiatives, within those, there are opportunities, right? There are different things you need to do to do those things. And then you prioritize those. And then, within those opportunities, there are tasks. Right? There are small things that need to be done — sweating the details, everything adds up.
So, if you complete the tasks, and you complete the opportunities, you complete the initiatives. But that’s all about sequencing things in order and working with the team directly to make sure that those things, those questions, those sequencing always adds up. Now, if you talk to SEO PMs, as I have, they’ll all tell you that they’re roadmaps.
They’re roadmaps they’ve built. To do these strategies, to build these, you know, to get these cheat initiatives done, they change within the month, within the month into doing it, it changes, right? But you need to be on it because you need to make sure, because if, if, if it gets out of, kind of, out of sequence.
You know, people drop it because the priorities out there will be dropped. They won’t. They won’t pick it up for you because they have other things to worry about because devs and product teams always have a lack of resources and time to get things done, always in the default setting in most companies.
Right? So you need to. Run with it effectively and run, you know, chase the bus and be like, actually, you forgot this. You know, I mean, you need to make sure that they’re always in their mind to do those things and that they’ve said that they would do and that’s prioritization. By the way, to me, it’s not just a high, medium, low.
[00:54:12] Katherine Watier Ong: That sounds like a skill. Somebody needs to build. So, what resources do you have where folks who haven’t done that kind of work could get some experience — take a class, or read a book? Do you have anything?
[00:54:27] Adam Gent: Yeah. You can, so, the SEO Sprint Newsletter, I have a referral program, and I have within that referral program, There is a checklist.
The first thing you can win is if you refer three people, I will give you something called an SEO product sense checklist. Within that checklist, there are activities to help build that, it’s called product sense. Basically, the ability to order and sequence things and, like, identify what needs to be worked on and what doesn’t need to be worked on.
There’s a checklist in there, and I give you assignments, things to do to build those skills up. But honestly. Like the best thing you can probably do is like, if you work in a company where there’s a PM team, shadow them and just watch over time how this initiative they’re trying to get done,. within it, things change very quickly.
[00:55:20] Katherine Watier Ong: That’s helpful. Because I don’t, I’m aware of the fact that everybody has a unique experience going through your young life and school and advanced school and work experiences. Right? And so some things that are neat to you might not be a need to everybody. So, for instance, you’re reminding me of the fact that.
I was a big 4-H er, and one of the weird things I did with 4-H was Franklin Covey gave us their print organizers. This is back before computers, people. But there was an. I think it was a 3-hour workshop on how to organize your day, right? Which walks you through how to prioritize something. So that’s like a weird, unique experience that I have.
So I’m just trying to be aware that not everybody listening Has the same experience as us, and they might need that little help to figure out how to prioritize. So related to making sure our listeners get what they’re looking for. So, the soft skills, but do you have anything other than what we’ve talked about, which is regular habits of meeting that 1st meeting early on regular other habits?
Are there other sorts of soft skills that you think are essential for us to get that? You’ve got some thoughts around or resources.
[00:56:26] Adam Gent: Yes, writing.
[00:56:290] Katherine Watier Ong: Writing, okay.
[00:56:30] Adam Gent: Yeah, an odd thing to say, but when you work in a product team, you communicate, like, devs write code, designers build visuals and design, and product people communicate.
That’s, that’s the thing you do, right? That’s the job. And how do you communicate? Well, you write things down, you talk to people, and you present things. Turns out writing things down is super, a super important skill because What I do like when, So, okay. Let’s say we go, you know. We’re getting people bought into this e-commerce company. We’ve got those strategic initiatives set because we wanted to drive more, you know, international revenue. Okay.
So what, like, how do you go from strategy to planning? What is that jump? What is that thing that helps you brief the dev team, the product team, and the design team on what you need them to do? Will you write things down? You write what is generally called a product requirement document. There are different names for it.
I personally prefer a product brief, but basically, it’s a series of sections of questions that you ask, and if someone reads it, they understand the project, they understand why you’re doing it, they understand the requirements, the specifications that you’re trying to get them to do, understand the milestones, understand the questions, understand the assumptions, and they can comment on it, okay?
So writing again, we could do an entire podcast on writing on business writing because it’s something that I’ve, I’ve realized the last few years, I’m like, Oh, actually, this is super, super fun. There’s a lot to it. Especially with our newsletter, right? Like, like writings become a big part of, like, a big part of my day to day.
But I also use writing to communicate with clients, you know, their bosses and them on what’s going on, the progress of the team. I use it to communicate with devs and brief them and designers on the feature that we’re trying to build and why we’re trying to build it. I use it to think through problems. I use it to literally write things down and just think them through and just really get into the problem that needs to be solved and why I need to be solving it and structuring it into a memo that actually can, people can quickly understand and, and really digest.
Yeah, no, writing’s huge, huge, part of, like, soft skills. I would, I would say I would, I would keep writing up there. And then, I would like presentation skills. I mean, obviously, Tom Critchlow’s SEO MBA has really made this more of a thing in SEO, but both of those things are business consultancy kind of skills, right?
Right. Try to communicate recommendations and initiatives, and structure your thoughts. Into a way that people can digest very quickly, and then putting it into slides is all about managing up, really. Most slides I do now are really just about getting buy-in from leadership or getting buy-in from like a manager or something.
I’m just really quickly communicating, you know, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what the problem is, the revenue, you know, the ROI from this, and then if they want to, they can get into more detail into the document. But generally. That’s the soft skills I would recommend writing, writing, and presentation are powerful tools.
[01:00:00] Katherine Watier Ong: Well, and some of that you and I know is practice, but I’m wondering because again, coming back to sort of. Unique background: I had an undergrad where I had to write a lot. It was a very small, weird school, and I wrote a thesis to graduate. I’ve written two theses in my life. So, I just had a lot of writing practice because I had a weird educational background.
But again, not everybody has that. Well, and then I worked in an agency where I’m writing memos and, like, a lot of business writing. So do you have any tips around other than practicing what folks might do to improve their writing skills blog? Obviously, I think. I think everybody in our industry should produce content at whatever pace they can do it because I’m at a very slow pace at the moment, but putting your thoughts on paper and sharing them with other people, somehow.
[01:00:45] Adam Gent: Yeah, so there are. I guess there are four tools that I’d recommend. So, number one is called copy work. So copy work is a practice that old, like historic copywriters used to use to get better at writing, right? It’s very simple. You take a piece of writing that you find good or like a good piece of business writing.
Maybe it’s your favorite. Like the author, or maybe it’s a, you know, a favorite, you know, maybe someone in your company writes really well, you know, they do really good emails, right? Out. Okay. Basically, literally, literally, write it out. Yeah, okay. I do this all the time. It’s how I got; it’s how I feel I got better at writing the newsletter.
And why, why would you do that? Simple. The reason why you do that is because let’s, well, the analogy is, and the theory is, well, you, to get better at playing an instrument, you play other people’s music, and you get used to the beats, right? I can’t. I’ve never played an instrument. I’m terrible at instruments.
But. The theory of the application of writing is there, right? You write other people’s writing to get to understand the patterns, the sequencing, and how good writing is done, right? You just get used to it. Literally 30 minutes on your calendar. The best way to do it is by hand, apparently, but I do it by hand, and I do it.
I have a Google Doc where I literally have. It’s called Copywork, and I actually open it, and I just look at some writing, and I just start to write. Like short pieces. You don’t have to write the whole thing, but just, just spend time to just feel the writing, like, and the sequencing, right? The other thing you need to do is use Hemingway.
Okay? So Hemingway, if you don’t know, is a free tool, completely free. Most writers will use it. Okay? It looks at the grade level of your writing. For me, I think it’s like US grade level, right? It basically shows you if you’re writing at the postgraduate level. Or if you’re writing like grade six or grade eight, right?
You look, apparently, you’re looking for an average of grade eight, but I try to hit grade six. So, in all of my newsletters, I try to hit grade-six writing, okay? And it’s just; you would be surprised at How, like, just changing the right, your writing to structure it in a way that is easier to read using Hemingway and just better explain by removing all this technical jargon, you know, because, you know, I’m guilty of it.
We write this technical stuff. Nobody understands it. And then we wonder why anybody. It’s doing these things. I’m not doing these things. Sorry. Well, part of writing and writing product briefs is making sure that the designer, the dev, the person I work with, you know, the client understands this document.
So it has to be both in plain English and in a way not dumbed down but written in a way that everyone in that stakeholder group can understand. The best way to do that, I use Hemingway. I just want to make sure that it’s between grade 8 and grade 6. And just make sure that. I’m not, I’m using, like, you have to kind of forget a lot of what you learned in school because it’s not about writing, like, like, huge chunks of paragraphs. It’s about structuring your writing so it can be understood fairly.
Quickly, scanning. Yeah, exactly. I mean, everyone scans, like, everyone. Everyone. But the easier it is to read, the easier it is to understand, the more they’ll comment, the more they’ll ask questions, the more they’re interested. Okay. Third thing. Is yeah, like you said, just, just write, just open a blog, don’t, you don’t even have to, you don’t even have to share with anyone, just write, just write, just get used to the practice of writing these things out.
If you really don’t want to start a blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, like, lots of people I know just use Twitter and LinkedIn as a way to get better at writing out their thoughts and ideas, you know? Mhm. Fourth thing. You want to use what is called the Pyramid Principle, right? And the MECE Principle.
So Pyramid and MECE are, I can’t remember her name. Do you know her name? I’ve forgotten her name, but..
[01:05:01] Katherine Watier Ong: No, it’s referenced in the book I always give people to read if they’re new to web writing, which is called Letting Go of the Words. Which is a very easy reference to pick up if you’re new to all this.
[01:05:12] Adam Gent: Yeah. Basically, the McKenzie and Boston Consulting Group use these techniques to write out memos that are easily understood and structure your thoughts and ideas into information that can be understood, right? It’s very similar to writing a press release. You get to the main point first, and then you get into the weeds as you get further down the document.
Exactly. the big takeaway. Yeah, exactly. But, the Pyramid Principle also always starts with writing. You’re starting at the bottom. And you’re grouping information into relevant parts. Then you go into the next level, and you’re grouping that information and, you know, synthesizing that information into three parts.
And then, like you said, the main takeaway, right? And the MISI principle is you group things into a shopping list, like, you know, grouping it by the categories. Right, it’s easier to understand when you have a set of categories than it is just a random list of bullet points. A prioritized list of bullet points, you know, numbered listicles with groups of information.
And again, that’s a lot of what I do with writing is just trying to use all of those tools to get better at it, but also just helps me structure my ideas. Again, it takes time. But if I was going to tell people, you know, what to do to get better at soft skills, better communicating, better thinking, writing would be the way.
And you don’t have to write a blog to do it. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t believe you have to do that, but there are definitely ways you can get better at doing it.
[01:06:43] Katherine Watier Ong: Those are great tips. And then, if anybody’s actually interested, we’ve got an episode about how to improve your public speaking skills, which would be the other part that I was just talking about.
But what I love about this conversation is that here we are. Wondering if AI is going to take our jobs. In this entire episode, you’re talking about things that AI cannot take away. It’s all this business consulting. It requires a person herding the cats, and communicating with people, right? That’s not something that AI is ever gonna become part of.
But I am going to give two AI tips on the other side if you’re interested in dropping the reading level of your writing. I’ve had some great success with ChatGPT. You just tell it because I have a client who loves to create stuff, and he’s college educated, and his target audience is not, so I’ve been able to take his stuff and get AI to rewrite it at a lower rating level.
It is super fast. Super easy. It’s been successful. The other thing I do, which works to persuade him, particularly, is that he wants all the copies. We’re writing a copy for him. He wants all the copies to sound like him. So I’ve been able to train AI on his voice and drop the reading level. And just this last week, I had to tell people because it’s a big deal because he always edits stuff.
Just last week, I pitched something over with no edits from him. He thought it sounded great. So two things: 1, AI is not coming for your job. If you do business-level SEO work, business strategy level stuff. And 2, I recommend everybody use ChatGPT here and there to make your process easier and faster.
Of course, it’s going to work because they hallucinate and make crap up, but. That’s my standard.
[01:08:20] Adam Gent: Just to add to that as well remember that writing is thinking, right? ChatGPT I’ve been asked, ” Oh, can I use ChatGPT to do this? I’m like, well, you could, but the AI is doing the thinking for you, and it’s not necessarily doing the right thinking.
So it is like that when I talk about business writing, what I really talk about is thinking through these problems and just getting your mind into the right place so you can communicate better to the client, the Dev PM team because I guarantee you they will have a million questions and a lot of them you’ll need to answer up front and you’ve already thought about them because you’ve written about it.
[01:08:56] Katherine Watier Ong: Right. The other bit I think we should share is that I have run a newsletter. I mean, you know, 18 years of being an SEO, I’ve been doing a newsletter the entire time because it forces me to process new information and explain it to others. So thank you all for being on my newsletter, if you are, but you’re not the reason I write it.
Actually, read it for me, write it for me so I can process new information. So there’s this value to, like, literally writing it down. I agree. It’s huge. This has been an amazing episode with so much useful information right in the sweet spot. So this has been perfect. So I’ve got just three additional questions at the end that we always ask everybody.
So the 1st one is, have you ever had, or currently do you have, an AHA moment that you had related to working with others or your audience? That was kind of surprising. Something you did that surprised you recently.
[01:09:44] Adam Gent: Something that did that surprised me.
[01:09:49] Katherine Watier Ong: Related to persuading.
[01:09:52] Adam Gent: Oh, to persuade?
[01:09:54] Katherine Watier Ong: Yeah. Or their behavior.
[01:09:56] Adam Gent: Yeah, so the thing that surprised me was, although I know this information, but it always surprises me, is the way that some people will make decisions, but it’s not really based, it’s based on anecdotal evidence, but they’ll just. You know, they’ll, they’ll, oh no, this, we’ve looked at this and, you know, we’re gonna do this, and I’m like, you, that’s like three videos, like five minutes each, you’re gonna like rip up a lot of work that’s been done to, like test this out, and you’re just gonna ignore that.
People are led by their emotions, not a lot, not a lot, not a lot of logic, that happens a lot. And yeah, just, it always surprises me. Because I’m, I’m quite logical, I guess. I’m like, well, I don’t really see it in the data, but some people see it, you know, because they want to see it or because they think, oh, we need to do this because, you know, I watch these few videos.
[01:10:55] Katherine Watier Ong: You’ve given me a whole other episode about how people make decisions based on their emotions. Because I had a sales role, I had one of those where I tried to sell this one elderly lady who blew me off and didn’t even look at the demo of my software. Then I strategically sold everybody else in the state and then called her up again and said, hey, all of your friends are on my software, and she bought it sight unseen.
You know, sometimes what the crowd is doing and trust matters a lot. It’s weird. It’s not logical, but it’s a thing.
So you’ve got a bunch of other wins and resources. Have you had a personal win recently? Or do you have any additional resources you want to share with the listeners?
[01:11:35] Adam Gent: Yeah. Yeah, so when would be? I’ve had a bit of a moment in terms of, you know, you know, when an idea hits you like a second product idea, just smashes you in the face.
I’ve had one of those this week. This made me Go. Oh, wait, so it doesn’t sound like a win, but for me, I’m like, oh this, you know? You get excited about an idea. Yeah, I consider that a win, right? Because — yeah, it’s just nice to have those exciting projects. A resource to share with my audience. Does the SEO Spring count?
[01:12:14] Katherine Watier Ong: It totally does. This is where we’re going to move into how people can learn more about you. Go ahead.
[01:12:20] Adam Gent: Sure. You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on LinkedIn. But I would just go to www. The SEO Sprint .com. Sign up for the newsletter. I’m also doing a podcast. You can just sign up for it in the same place.
And you can every week get three ideas on how to work better with products and engineering teams. It ranges from communication skills to little stories, to little tips on yeah. How to, like, just incrementally, just, bit by bit, help you improve and think of new ideas and new ways and new ways of working.
[01:12:58] Katherine Watier Ong: Awesome. Those are great. Thank you so much for being on the show. I’m sure this is going to be a very popular episode because there’s a lot of great information shared.
[01:13:05] Adam Gent: Thank you, Katherine. Thanks for having me.
[01:13:06] Katherine Watier Ong: Thanks so much for listening to find out more about the podcast and what we’re up to go to digitalmarketingvictories.com. And if you like what you heard, subscribe to us on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Rate us, comment, and share the podcast, please. I’m always looking for new ideas, topics, and guests. Email us at email@example.com or DM us on Twitter at dmvictories.
Thanks for listening.