Interview – Chris Green, Head of Marketing Innovation @Footprint Digital & Oncrawl Ambassador

November 27, 2019 - 6  min reading time - by Emma Labrador
Home > SEO Thoughts > Interview - Chris Green, Oncrawl Ambassador

Who is Chris Green?


Chris is a Tech SEO/Digital marketer of nearly 10 years of experience. He has recently joined Footprint Digital as their new Head of Marketing Innovation. Chris is a regular speaker at conferences, webinars such like BrightonSEO, State of Digital, Optimisey, SAScon & can be found blogging mostly on State of Digital as well as (sometimes) pontificating on Twitter.

Watch the interview: 

Getting started in the SEO industry

Fell into it as a content writer, and had the opportunity to do some of the marketing elements and SEO work. The first role was a combined one that covered general digital marketing, then he worked in-house for a while, which is where he probably learned the most. Chris has also held technical SEO and content management jobs before moving towards Head of Search.

He considers himself an SEO at the core.

[Ebook] Crawlability

Ensure that your websites meet search engine requirements for crawlability to boost SEO performance.

How has the SEO industry changed over 2019?

Chris would chart the evolution of the industry based on two factors:

  1. New product launches
  2. Algorithm updates

There’s been a lot of shift recently: the “SEO is dead” movement has a lot less traction, and technical SEO has gained visibility.

We’ve moved into the era of the Broad Core Update, which brings an increased sophistication and a lack of transparency as far as what’s going on from Google’s side.

This comes along with the trend of people developing skills well beyond what we’d consider traditional SEO.

The role of SEOs is shifting to that of someone who helps people make better websites and makes sure that Google is able to crawl them. As “fluffy” as this sounds, it’s also a good message to get future clients on board, compared to descriptions of an SEO’s work that we used to see!

Data-oriented approach: How do you track success for an SEO campaign?

Campaigns each have different objectives. The key is money: ROI–but demonstrating ROI on an SEO investment can be a really challenging, depending on the client and the website.

You will still want to look at:

  • How much visibility have you gained
  • How many conversions do you get
  • How much revenue can you attribute

Attribution is really the key, particularly if there’s multi-channel work involved. But for pure SEO work such as migrations and site audits, you can use a technical standard: is it working better? The site should be able to be crawled and indexed better after the SEO project than before.

The critical point: make sure you are tracking the before and after, no matter what KPIs you’re following. Whatever metrics you’re using, make sure you know where you started, where you think you can get it to, and where it is when you’ve finished.

The hardest part of SEO is managing people’s expectations.

Showing the value of SEO projects to C-Suites?

This is always a tricky discussion, because whatever SEOs find interesting, C-Suite and high-level managers probably don’t. You need to understand what they are expecting to deliver, and how does SEO drive that. Generally, this comes back to revenue and traffic.

Often this can be done through projections and modelisations.

The trick of demonstrating the value of the project isn’t as much of a challenge as getting the initial buy-in: why should we do this? The easiest time to do this is with a migration, whether before you start or after it’s gone badly. It’s very easy to estimate the website traffic that might be lost. This is even more straightforward for e-commerce website.

Chris’s advice for dealing with the C-Suite: be succinct, and always bring it back to the top level figures as quick as you can.

You can also use high-profile examples of projects going wrong that illustrate the risk. No one is happy with that level of risk, and it becomes a question of what you’re willing to invest to prevent that.

You also need to get the buy-in from the team underneath. For example, if you’re introduced to the C-Suite by the head of marketing who loves you, it makes it much easier.

BERT: is the SEO community is overreacting?

When we’re talking about the SEO community and an update, there’s always a degree of overreacting.

It’s a very significant update, for two reasons:

  1. Google’s query understanding capabilities, and what that means for the search user experience. Better search is something that we can all benefit from, and Chris is pretty excited about it.
  2. The percentage of queries that are impacted by BERT, which is given by Google as 10% of US, English-language queries. We might see a broader impact as other languages and regions are included in the update.

Many SEOs have said they haven’t seen a lot of change, though Google says the opposite. This is partially because the queries that are most impacted are often the ones in the blindspots of many SEO campaigns. These queries are often knowledge-based, intricate, long-tail, and not very “commercial”.

We need to know about it because it influences what a website is about, where in the user journey a visitor is, and what piece of content is going to best serve them. Most websites will encounter users at different points in their journey and should have content appropriate for these different stages.

Traditional marketers might think this sounds obvious, but Chris believes this has not been a strong point in SEO in the last 10-15 years.

As far as what we should be doing differently, most people who are already doing it right are already doing what they need to do. Optimizing “for BERT” is not a thing. We should focus on creating value and trust that Google is getting better at returning better results.

Every client that wonders why a website with terrible content is ranking above theirs erodes the case that SEOs make about doing things well. So ultimately, the better Google gets, the better the buy-in for SEOs, and the easier the job will be.

If you had to evangelize an SEO topic, which one would you pick?

Chris has spoken several times recently about site migrations and the core technical SEO things involved. He most recently took the stage at the State of Digital, which was held in conjunction with the UK Search Awards in November.

Based on the hundreds of migrations he’s been involved in, Chris’s key points are:

  • Do you understand the website you’re migrating?
  • Do you know how to do a migration well?
  • Do you know how to recover if it goes terribly?

What does Chris do in his free time?

Chris’s free time is mostly based around his two daughters, who are 6 and 2 and keep him busy.

He’s also interested in whiskey, playing the guitar, and messing around on the internet even when he’s not being paid to do it.

On becoming an Oncrawl Ambassador

Chris used Oncrawl for the first time two years ago, and it felt really robust and strong, and felt that more people needed to know about it. He loves most tools in general, but he really likes tools that make his job easier.

Chris is also pleased to be part of the community that Oncrawl is building up around the platform, and has gained a lot from the interactions he’s had with the Oncrawl team.

Welcome to the Oncrawl Ambassador program, Chris!

Emma Labrador See all their articles
Emma was the Head of Communication & Marketing at Oncrawl for over seven years. She contributed articles about SEO and search engine updates.
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