Kelly J

Senior Director, Content & Web Strategy - Lever

Defining the Ideal SEO Stack for Content Marketing 

From Lever to Abra, content marketer Kelly J has worked in a myriad of technology companies and this has helped her come up with her own definition of content marketing. This definition focuses on user experience and optimization of conversions by keeping in mind the search perspective. SEO inspires her and drives her to deliver exactly what consumers might be looking for.

COO and Co-founder of Pepper Content Rishabh Shekhar chats with the Senior Director of Content & Web Strategy at Lever, Kelly J taking help from her to define a perfect SEO stack that can produce an effective content marketing strategy. 

1. Please give a quick introduction to what you've been doing. What's your journey?

I joined Lever, a recruiting software company, almost five years ago, and my role here is to create content marketing strategies and think through the whole user journey to tell the right story about Lever from a brand perspective. 

I am also keen on finding and surfacing different touchpoints in the web journey and others that can create a better user experience and optimize conversion. 

I feel passionate about working at Lever because it's a mission and purpose-driven company. Today, especially in the tech world, you see high attrition and layoffs in different roles and companies. A platform like Lever is really important because it can help organizations think through how they can structure their hiring goals or pivot their strategy based on the company goals. 

And it's very focused on increasing representation in different roles and helping keep that on top of mind for hiring managers. The idea is to make them think through the roles that they have and the makeup of their workforce to see if there is a diversity of opinion and profiles to create a better product and reflect on the world we live in today. 

So previous to joining Lever, I was at a crypto company called Abra as a senior director of content, helping them launch the platform with a go-to-market strategy. I loved that it had this new emerging technology that did not just focus on one coin but on a platform that would help democratize access to alternative financial avenues.

The short version of my backstory is that I have worked for over 20 plus years in content, especially in the tech world, in various companies, small, medium, and large, to help them focus on how content is produced from the search perspective and how it can drive consumers down the content funnel and connect with them just by being high quality and resonant.

2. So you have majorly been in tech but across different industries and marketplaces. Is content marketing at the core similar or do you also work on building industry-specific expertise that is probably needed for someone in your role?

It's a bit of both. I ensure that I become a subject matter expert in the industry I'm working in. However, I also leverage other subject matter experts to help build the content strategy effectively. Sometimes, that third-party contribution can lend more credibility to your content marketing. 

I always look to develop domain expertise in the industry I'm working in so I can speak to it intelligently with the content marketing strategy. 

3. In the industries you worked in, like crypto, gaining customer trust might have been challenging. So how did you manage that gap regarding current marketing for these companies? 

I try to understand where there might be a lack of trust, which might involve getting closer to sales teams to see what the objections are and any objections selling they're doing. I also understand it from a user perspective and apply my own perceived lack of trust that I might have in a product like ours. 

I use my own experience, marrying it with what we hear from our sales team and doing a listening session using social media as a lever around what we might hear in the market. So it's a series of knowledge-building exercises internally and externally relying on personal experience as a consumer.

4. Taking a cue from FTX crypto’s collapse, people's perception of a company depends on what the competitors may end up doing. The tech space is infamous for its selling practices. How do you negate that negative PR or perception in your consumer's mind with the help of content?

FTX is a very strong example of what can go wrong in crypto. I don't know what the win back in terms of trust looks like there because this is pretty catastrophic. You must have your CEO at the front and center via a YouTube show, blogs, or social media posts. And thus, continually reinforcing the values of your company, stating that we would never have a rug pull or make it so that you can't get your money out if we lose liquidity for any reason. 

So, it's the onus of the company to ensure that they can be as truthful and connect and keep their word. However, if things go badly, there needs to be an honest answer and approach from the leadership team explaining the next steps.

At FTX, the leadership has gone dark for one reason or another. I think when you hit issues like this from an external point of view, you have to do some PR, and it's best to be honest and use your content levers like your blog, YouTube, videos, and series of posts on different subjects that help re-instill trust in the market.

5. Today, how personable a brand can be is directly proportional to the number of individual leaders or reputation carriers that come out of that brand. They become the center of disseminating information. So today, you must do content marketing for all those in power. Are you experiencing the same, and if yes, how do you handle that?

Personally, I like to develop an internal bench of speakers and thought leaders that can speak about specific issues depending on their domain expertise. Then, we work with PR to cultivate a media train.

We ensure that we all understand the brand values of the company. And in some cases, each speaker is assigned a brand value that connects directly to their line of business.

For example, we have Jess Green, our SVP of Customer Success, who is very passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She leads our video series on DEI in the workplace, how different customers have been able to implement successful DEI programs, and what the learnings are. And you can tell just by her interactions with the interviewees that she lives the brand values of DEI, especially within our platform. The series is so bang-on that you want to watch the next one because she asks all the right questions and understands the subject matter.

6. One thing that stood out in your profile was SEO. What has been your involvement in SEO? 

At Udacity, I was the director of content SEO strategy. At Abra, I was leading web strategy where SEO is important. I didn't start with an SEO background. It's something that I built over time, either through training or just through roles that I had. It has changed how I think about content, how users and potential customers discover content, and how search can impact your discoverability. Basically, it made me rethink my marketing strategy. 

Yes, you can write good helpful content. It doesn't have to be written for bots, but it does have to adhere to some of our PR best practices as indicated by Google so that it can be discoverable search. 

SEO is amazing since it provides insights into what the customer wants. SEO has given me an edge in terms of being able to lead substantive conversations with engineering, product, larger teams, external teams, etc., around our content strategy and also be able to quantify some of our efforts. 

7. What's your take on the current ideal SEO stack?

So our tech stack right now has Google Search Console, Semrush, etc. I would love to get into more robust tools that can help from a holistic standpoint.

And we also use an agency to keep monitoring all of this effort. 

8. If you have to design one end-to-end platform for content marketing to solve, if not all, at least 80% of all things needed out of content marketing what would it look like?

I am a process-oriented person. I would love to see something that would, from an SEO perspective, tell me how my keyword terms and phrases are ranking and if there are any recommendations to ensure that they're ranking. Also, suggest new keyword terms that come from a competitive gap analysis. I would love a more prescriptive approach where the tool says these keywords are the ones that you should target, and we recommend that you either write a blog article or optimize an existing one or think about improving your discoverability and search and add a video. 

To some degree, the ideal tool should scan YouTube saying these are the videos that could be targeted towards these keywords or written to target these keyword terms. Also, we need you to optimize the description, add more tags, etc.

From a technical perspective, the tools should say that these are the errors impacting your site. These are how many spammy links you have. These pages weren't crawlable. These have duplicate content and title tags. This is what you need to do to fix these problems fast, and this is the impact if you don't fix them. It should also surface any algorithm changes, and this is the impact it will have on your rankings. 

I'd love to be able to take some of those keyword terms, at least from a content perspective for SEO, and build those into a content brief in the platform and write about that or assign it to somebody. The tool should make sure that it all pulls over into an editorial calendar where you can see that it's been assigned to someone, and when it's due, this is the content brief with all the relevant keyword terms. And then be able to track that in the editorial calendar once it's live.

Also, as you are forecasting for the next year or next quarter, the tools should be able to connect to Salesforce, your CRM, Google Analytics, different APIs, etc., so that you can understand how much organic traffic you can expect to drive the next year.

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