In The Spotlight: Ben Barker, head of SEO at Netmums.com



Netmums.com head of SEO Ben Barker is a passionate digital marketer with a bias towards SEO.

He’s contributed to articles on 123Reg and SEMrush, and was also a guest speaker at the 2014 Creative Entrepreneur event held at Salford Business University, where he discussed the topic of SEO and social media for business.

Today he kicks off ‘In The Spotlight’, a new series on the Tecmark blog, by revealing his industry insight and advice. Follow Ben on Twitter.
 

How did you end up working in SEO for Netmums?

I was browsing through LinkedIn one Saturday afternoon with my networking cap on and was sending a few connection requests to senior managers that were working in-house. After a few connection requests I noticed I had a message in my inbox from one of the directors; we had a couple of conversations and I got offered the job. It goes to show that making the time to connect and network pays off!
 

It must be very different to your previous agency role. What does a usual day involve?

Yeah, definitely. The role differs now because it’s much more of a content-led approach; not in the sense of writing, but in the sense of using the data we have to inform content creation and re-optimisation.

There is, of course, still a technical element to my role – but the majority of it is working closely with our editors to provide insight into content performance, as well as liaising with the sales and other internal teams to ensure that everyone’s aware of current campaigns and KPIs.

There isn’t really a typical day but, in a nutshell, a usual day would involve arriving in the office early and checking Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools for the sites I manage.

I would then split my time working between netmums.com and sofeminine.co.uk on various tasks such as setting up custom reporting for campaigns, liaising with the editors on current and future content, working with them to plan in seasonal content, providing ad-hoc training to internal teams, competitor analysis and working with our dev team to fix any tech issues that may arise.
 

How much do Netmums consider SEO in their online strategy, and what are the key metrics of success in your role?

SEO is at the heart of the business. One of the reasons I love working here is because right from the initial conversion with the directors I could tell this is an area they’re hugely passionate about.

I’d heard horror stories from people who’ve worked in-house that constantly fight an uphill battle with senior management because they don’t “get it”.

At Netmums and Sofeminine I’ve found that all senior management have a great understanding of SEO and, as such, are always fully supportive of the SEO team.
 

Does Netmums notice many changes in search engine traffic as algorithms fluctuate? Or does it have a level of immunity from such changes?

We’ve actually not really noticeably been affected by any algorithm updates.

We’ve never tried to unnaturally gain links, so we haven’t had issues with Penguin.

Our content’s produced at a very high standard, and our website is well laid out, so we’ve never had any Panda issues.

And our site is fully responsive, so we’ve never been hit by the mobile update.
 

What type of activity has had the biggest impact on traffic during your time at Netmums?

Our social channels have been a great win for us. Our organic traffic has been steadily growing year-on-year, but the social traffic and engagement has seen some great uplift in the time I’ve been here.

Our editors and social teams do an amazing job collaborating on creating content and posting over social media; they always seem to create content that resonates with our audience and generates a conversation.
 

Do you get involved in any interactive content projects, or is it more about optimising the content that’s already being produced?

I get involved to some degree, in the sense that I’ll perform keyword research or analyse content groups in GA to see what type of content performs and why. I’ll then liaise with the editorial teams to discuss content topics, timelines, etc.
 

How much of your focus is on creating new and interesting content, and how much is it just optimising the UGC from the forums?

Most time is spent on creation of new content.

As an established site within the parenting niche we cover a lot of news as it happens, like the Royal birth for example, and we also spend a lot of time on the creation of new content around other current topics of debate such as the recent breastfeeding issues.

In regards to the forums, we don’t need to optimise any of the content there as we have a huge community of users that frequently post. We actually perform really well for a whole bunch of longer tail keywords because of the types of conversations users are having in our forums!
 

What are Netmums’ core SEO considerations?

Content, content and content – but this is all centred around the needs of the audience of Netmums.
 

What advice would you give to someone considering making a move client side?

If you want to try it, go for it. It’s definitely helped me further develop!

I would, however, urge them to figure out how important SEO is for the company. If the company is just hiring an SEO because they know it’s something they need to do, but they don’t quite get it, then it might be something to potentially steer clear of.

This is likely best judged on a case-by-case basis, but you need to consider that your time is best spent actually optimising sites and planning campaigns rather than sitting in long meetings trying to justify changing a title tag on a web page.
 

And finally, what are the biggest challenges you face at Netmums? And what are you doing to combat them?

Keeping on top of the industry and, more importantly, the competition. I keep this in check by performing regular competitive analysis on us versus the competition.

There’s also a pretty cool tool I use called Change Detection, which tells me when a change happens on a competitor’s website via an email alert.

 

 
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