In-depth: Dan Patmore, Search Marketing Manager at Argos

by Jessica Ramesh

Dan Patmore, Search Marketing Manager at Argos, will be among the speakers at the Figaro Digital Marketing Conference in London on 18 July. He outlines what he sees as some of the key issues in search marketing over the next 12 months and explains how Argos is repositioning itself as a more digitally-focussed retailer.

What for you are some of the key issues in search over the next 12 months?

Everything’s moving at an incredible pace at the moment and in our business, like a lot of others, the focus is very much on digital, but there can be a tendency to focus on where things are going, rather than what’s happening right now. 

Huge trends are emerging in areas like content and mobile and we’re all adapting to those. Something which people seem to have stopped talking about though is site speed, which is one of the most important things to think about from a natural search perspective. 

Making sure you can track your mobile traffic in the best way possible – that’s also very important. From a paid search perspective, there’ve been huge developments with the changes in Google’s Enhanced Campaigns. There’s an awful lot of work for us all to do now as we work out how we’re going to make Enhanced Campaigns work for us and get the benefit of those new developments.

I also think Google+ is interesting. Everyone was in a furor over this last year, but it’s becoming quite potent now from a PPC perspective. There are still opportunities to adopt Google+ and make it really work for you. Generally though, my advice is to be pragmatic. We all need to calm down and really look at what we have in front of us. Data, insight, technology and content are going to be huge forever. The question to ask is where you’re at right now in this multi-device, multi-channel world.

What’s your advice for making the most of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns? 

If I’m honest, especially for a larger organisation, the first thing is to make sure you really understand what’s happening with your traffic. With tablet and desktop being taken as one and the same thing, there’s a certain amount of unpicking to do. What kind of cost inflation are you seeing? How are tablets performing for you? It’s the same with mobile; getting these adjustments right can be a long-term process. For me, the analysis has only just begun.

After decades as a high street staple, Argos is repositioning itself as a more a digitally focussed retailer. What does that change mean for you?

It’s massively exciting. In the ecommerce team here at Argos we’ve spent the last three years getting people to really buy into this and seemingly, almost overnight, everyone in the business now wants to speak to us! 

One of the big challenges for us internally is communicating with people who may not be that digitally aware and bringing them with us on that journey. It’s about us speaking in a language that the rest of the business is going to understand so that they can support us as much as we can support them. Digital marketing moves at a fast pace and the business translation plan needs to reflect that. You need to be agile.

What do you find influences organic search and keywords at Argos?

The same things as everyone else, really! One of the biggest issues here, and something I’ll be discussing at the conference, is speed. Speed can make up for a lot of other things. In terms of influences, though – high quality traffic, a high quality onsite experience, a credible and natural back-link profile. In the last 12 months I’ve been lucky enough to get out and meet a lot of people in the industry and I’ve realised that whether you’re in the biggest organisation or the smallest team, everyone is in the same boat. Though having said that, when it comes to search, being in a large business does have its advantages. It can be difficult for smaller businesses to get noticed unless they’re very niche focussed. 

What do you think is the most common mistake retailers tend to make in their SEO strategies?

The fact that some people still think of SEO as being a separate entity. There are those who talk about best-in-class customer content, then you ask them about SEO and they’ll say they haven’t had time to do it. If you’re doing customer content right, you’re doing SEO. Everything you do on a website impacts on SEO, whether in a positive or negative way. I meet people who still see it as a nice-to-have or an afterthought if they’ve got the time or budget. In fact, SEO is the driving force behind your insight; it needs to inform how some of your most important decisions are made.

Interview by Jon Fortgang