Patrick Langridge is the Head of SEO at search marketing agency, Screaming Frog.
For the first in our ‘Spotlight on the Elite’ series, we chat to Patrick about the biggest SEO lessons he learnt in 2018, and what we can expect for the year ahead. You’ll also hear some of Patrick’s top tips for managing big teams in a fast paced environment, and get a sneak peek into what life is like inside the agency that brought you the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool.
Some people may think screaming frog is ‘just’ a tool. Tell us more about the agency side of things:
“That’s correct! When most in the industry refer to ‘Screaming Frog’, they really mean the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, our desktop crawler and auditor which is used by many in the industry. Perhaps less people are aware that Screaming Frog are a search marketing agency based in Henley-on-Thames in leafy Oxfordshire.
It’s a nice problem to have though, working for a company who are world renowned due to the success and passion for our software, as that has helped us to grow the agency side of the business in tandem. We have a wide range of agency clients who we provide SEO, paid search and analytics services for, and just recently we won Best SEO Campaign at the UK Search Awards, which we’re very proud of!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get into the office about 8am where my first action of business is to grab a coffee, sit down and check client performance. For this I’ll open up Google Analytics and Search Console, as well as SEO tools like SISTRIX, Searchmetrics, AWR and SEMRush to get some quick insights. I also still manually check rankings for a few of each client’s key terms – it’s a bit old school but it’s good to keep an eye on any movements and changes within the SERPs. Following that I’ll usually have a few emails to get back to from clients and from team members, before I plan out the rest of my day.
A typical day usually includes at least one client-facing engagement (a meeting or conference call) and one internal meeting, usually about a client campaign or project we’re working on. I’m regularly involved in creative ideation and validation sessions with the team, to help come up with creative content and digital PR campaigns, as well as ensuring our team are focused, motivated and equipped for all the work we’re doing. I try where possible to schedule meetings and calls in the morning, as I like to try and crack on relatively uninterrupted during the afternoon, where I might be undertake some technical or analysis work for a client, or work on forecasting and proposals for potential new business. In amongst all of that, I try to reply to as many emails as I can!
What are the most important developments you’ve seen in search in 2018?
Google placing more importance on website performance has been an interesting development this year. Speed and usability are really important factors if you hope to succeed in the organic results – simply building links is no longer enough. As a result, we’ve undertaken a lot more user testing and CRO work this year. This helps us to ensure client’s websites are working as hard as they can to retain and convert their users.
What are your predictions for the future of search in 2019 and beyond?
I can see Google lessening its reliance on links as a ranking signal further, as access to user data and behaviour data becomes easier to understand and process. There is already a better understanding of user intent, and I expect this to only become better and more sophisticated in the coming years. If a query is deemed commercial in intent but your page is informational, don’t expect you’ll be able to hang on to top position rankings much longer!
What are the biggest issues your clients faced in 2018 and how did you and your team helped them overcome these?
We also expanded our digital PR offering last year and have increased our activity in this area for clients. Integrating PR into SEO is something that a lot of clients still seem to struggle with, so as well as undertaking more digital PR campaigns for clients ourselves, we have also been working with clients closely to educate them on best practices and how the two channels can complement each other well.
You say you now manage a team of 25 – what are the biggest challenges you have found in running a team of this size? How have you overcome these issues?
The team of 25 we have are those dedicated to working on SEO campaigns and projects for clients, and is made up of a strong blend of technical SEOs, account managers, digital PRs, content marketers and a design team too.
Working with a team this size poses it’s obvious challenges, but I’m fortunate to work with such smart and dedicated people that it makes managing them a pleasure. We’ve certainly improved our communication and project management over the last year, moving away from email where possible to Slack and Trello, which has vastly improved the efficiency of our work. We’ve also worked to integrate the teams and individuals much closer over the last year, to ensure we’re working as a team to collective goals.
What is your top tip for other managers out there looking to grow happy, productive teams?
I’m a big music fan and have a favourite quotes from a musical hero of mine; Flea, the bass player in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He was talking about recording their 1991 album ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, and how in albums leading up to that record he ‘played this hard, funky, slap bass thing, and I did the hell out of it’, but while recording the new album, his approach had now changed. He said ‘I stopped playing, and started listening’.
I think this can be transferred to business and running a team, adjusted to ‘I stopped talking, and started listening’, which is very much how I try and help our team. I listen to what they’re telling me and try to be an effective problem solver, to give them the best possible platform to do great work for our clients. I don’t think there’s any room for ego in running a successful team, and I would hope my colleagues would agree that I try and promote a positive, empathetic and helpful environment at Screaming Frog.
What’s the biggest and best lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?
In the spirit of the ‘no room for ego’ line above, I suppose I’ve learnt that I’ve still tons more to learn! It’s often a bit of a cliché to say that an industry is ever-changing, but I genuinely believe that to be the case in SEO. If I think about the work and activities I was doing 6 or 7 years ago, they are a world away from what I’m doing today. Being open to change and accepting that I need to keep learning about the industry rather than assuming I know it all, has been a valuable lesson.
Why should we all go to Digital Elite Day 2019?
I’m really excited about Digital Elite Day 2019. I’ve been to the last two Search Elite events, both of which went above and beyond in delivering in depth presentations from expert speakers, crucially on new topics which I found really interesting.
I’m doubly excited as I know that the Search Elite and Conversion Elite brands are coming together as part of a single event, allowing attendees to pick and choose between CRO and SEO sessions throughout the day. As CRO is an area I’m keen to learn more about, I will certainly be checking out some of those sessions, as well as catching up with some of the top SEO speakers like Izzi Smith, Kevin Gibbons, Barry Adams and Aleyda Solis.