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Get to know Neil Hannam, Head of Organic Search, Anicca Digital


Neil currently leads a team of seven covering all areas of organic search, including Technical SEO, Content Marketing and digital PR. He has been at Anicca for over three years, having been promoted from SEO Account Manager to Consultant and now as Anicca’s Head of Organic Search. Neil has an advanced theoretical and practical knowledge of all areas of SEO, and specialises in delivering SEO training in a simple, concise and accessible way. Neil has worked on a host of clients including national household name brands. Neil is a nationally recognised speaker on SEO having delivered talks at the regional conference, the E-commercial Conference, B2B Marketing Expo and has also guest lectured at De Montfort University.

Please introduce yourself and where you work.

My name is Neil Hannam and currently I’m head of Organic Search at Anicca Digital, having worked in a number of roles including SEO Account Manager and Consultant with Anicca in the past three and half years.

How do you think SEO has changed over the last 10 years?

In one word, dramatically. I think it won’t be long before you can drop the ‘E’ from the SEO and we’ll just think of it more as Search Optimisation and less about the Engines. Gone are the days of spending time simply trying to game Google algorithms and we’re now at a point where SEO’s realise that the route to long term, sustained organic visibility is to take a proper strategic approach to marketing your business online.
Whilst a lot of the ranking signals remain the same, we’re seeing more user-centric elements coming into play such as mobile friendliness, speed and user experience. These changes are helping to spread SEO, thinking beyond search engines and to cross over into other aspects such as user and mobile experience as well as conversion rate optimisation. I think this has prompted a revival in the technical side of SEO too as implementing the new technologies such as AMP and the development of true SEO-friendly websites crosses over far more between SEO and Web Development.
And obviously, content marketing has exploded but I’d say the last couple of years there’s been a real shift to looking at quality over quantity, which hasn’t always been the case. At Anicca, we’ve adopted a campaign based approach to content marketing that better enables us to assimilate with clients existing marketing activities as well integrating more effectively with other channels.

How did you get introduced to digital marketing, more specifically SEO?

I knew nothing so we had a consultant associated with the Leicester Chamber of Commerce come in once every couple of weeks to help us learn. We started with some fairly basic PPC campaigns then looked into SEO and took some very tentative steps into content marketing. Looking back, it was all very basic. I left that company and worked primarily in sales then returned for two years before deciding that I really wanted the opportunity to dedicate myself to digital marketing. That’s when I applied to Anicca Digital. Originally, I interviewed for a PPC role but was told by our current Managing Director that she felt I was far better suited to SEO. Three and a half years later and I’m now managing an SEO team of six with big growth plans for the coming twelve months.

What are the services you provide to your clients?

As an agency, we offer PPC, Social Media, Analytics, CRO and PR in addition to our SEO offering. However, it’s integrating these channels that really enables a relatively small agency such as ourselves to put together full-service campaigns for some of the large brands we work with. These days, a lot of our projects are quite fluid in that they aren’t primarily one single channel but a mix of services from multiple channels designed to achieve the results a client wants.
Of course, we also have SEO-only projects but even these are a tailored blend of technical SEO, content marketing and PR designed to meet the individual needs of each client and their specific objectives. A real growth area for us recently has been in supporting clients and their web developers with site rebuilds, migrations and relaunches to ensure smooth transitions and minimal loss of visibility and organic traffic.

What strategy according to you will prevail in 2017 for SEO?

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy that will prevail for everyone. Whilst most SEO projects will have some consistent elements to them, the strategic aspects need to be tailored to each client, sector and their place in the market. What I do think is important in 2017 is to stop measuring success based on rankings of specific head keyphrases and to look at levels of organic visibility on a topic or subject level.
We use SEOmonitor as our tracking tool of choice and this allows you to set keyphrases into groups around topics or subjects. This enables us to monitor a wider level of visibility as opposed to just at a keyphrase level. Single keyphrase rankings are far too narrow a measurement on which to gauge success or failure of an SEO campaign.
On the content marketing side of SEO, I think it’s about time companies really looked at the value and return they get from the content marketing work they are doing. Too often companies are stuck into a plan of posting a set number of pieces a week and thinking that is content marketing. This ‘post and hope’ approach all too often fails to yield any tangible results that help achieve business objectives. This is content but misses out the marketing aspect. You need to invest at least the same amount of time into promoting your content as you do into producing it. And if you don’t think your content is worthy of the time to promote it, then your content probably isn’t worth publishing in the first place.

What would your advice be to people who are looking to take up digital marketing as a career choice?

Last year I spoke at DeMontfort University in Leicester to a group of undergraduates about life working in a digital agency. Since then two of those who attended have gone on to work at Anicca, so hopefully my advice helped them.
There’s some basic things you can do to help develop some skills to get you started. Google Analytics will almost certainly play a role in any digital marketing role so work through the Google Analytics Academy courses and build up to taking your Google Analytics IQ exam. Having this will set you apart from a lot of other new candidates trying to get into the industry.
Also, you can’t read enough so get yourself on Feedly, follow some of the industry publications and set aside some time to read each day. Even if it’s just to help some basic knowledge or familiarise yourself with the industry, the different channels or terminology. It all helps when you come to the interview.
One great way to stand out is to build and market your own website. Nothing shows a real interest and desire than doing it for yourself and this will impress most employers. WordPress is simple to get started on and don’t think it needs to be anything overly fancy. Just pick a subject that interests you and have a go at building yourself a blog, even if it’s a blog about your journey trying to get into the digital industry.
And finally, there’s always work experience and intern placements you can look for. Don’t wait for them to be advertised, just approach an agency with a well-written email and a solid CV and you’d be surprised how many would be happy to offer a couple of weeks’ experience (albeit usually unpaid) and this foot in the door could be the foot in the door you need to get started.

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