Episode
13

Nam Le

Growing Rippling’s SEO and Web Strategy, Comparing B2B & B2C Content Strategy and Setting SEO KPIs

August 30, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Nam Le for the thirteenth episode of the Optimize podcast. Nam is a a growth specialist with a specialization in SEO and Organic Growth, based in San Francisco California.

He is currently the Senior Growth Manager leading SEO/Organic Growth and Website Strategy at Rippling, with previous experience at Wayfair and SnagAJob.

In this episode, we navigated a wide range of content and SEO strategy topics for both B2B and B2C. Over the course of the episode Nam and Nate discuss unconventional SEO advice and how rapid product development impacts content strategy. Nam also shares his opinion on building an SEO and content team from scratch — revealing everything from screening candidates to setting effective KPIs. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

What to Listen For

02:14 Nam’s background at SnagAJob, Wayfair, and Rippling

03:47 Nam’s Wayfair experience

05:19 Unconventional SEO strategy advice

07:42 B2C SEO vs. B2B SEO

09:57 How Rippling strategizes SEO and content to influence the buyer journey

11:14 Different types of B2B content you should be creating in 2023

15:14 Getting ahead of rapid product development from a content and SEO perspective

17:36 How to set KPIs and goals for content and SEO teams

23:24 In highly competitive verticals, can building content and investing in SEO be successful in 2023?

28:44 How do I hire a person for my SEO or content team, and what skills should I look for?

30:54 The importance of cross-functional teams for SEO and content marketing

32:10 Rippling’s content and SEO team composition

33:02 Lightning question round

Episode Transcript

Nam Le (Speaking)

00:00

I think that when someone says that SEO is dead, I really think that it just means that some people might not be willing to change, depending on how Google really evolves and how Google reimagines the search experience for their users. I think a lot of the time when Google introduce new features or new SERP features or new policy, it will always take a little while for people to really understand what is the direction that Google Search is going towards and being able to come up with an idea or a strategy to really respond to that directions, right? I think being an SEO and being in a very, very competitive, you know, industry and an ever-changing one, thanks to Google — the successful SEO that I see is always, you know, willing to really continue to learn, or willing to change based on, you know, what they see are changing in the market, and willing to continue to experiment and see what works and what doesn't.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

01:06

Hi and welcome to the Optimize Podcast. My name is Nate Matherson and I am your host. On this weekly podcast, we sit down with some of the smartest minds in content marketing and SEO. Our goal is to give you perspective and insights on what's moving the needle in organic search. Today, I'm thrilled to sit down with Nam Le. Nam is a senior growth manager leading SEO, organic growth, and website strategy at Rippling. And before Rippling, Nam spent time working on SEO and product at Wayfair, an e-commerce furniture brand, and SnagAJob, the job search platform. In our episode today, I'm excited to learn more about the work he is doing at Rippling, his previous experience working on the incredible SEO team at Wayfair, setting KPIs, content strategy, and more.

Ad Spot

01:52

This episode of the Optimize Podcast is brought to you by Positional. At Positional, we're building tools for content marketing and SEO teams. We've got a great selection of tools for everything from content optimization to keyword research and technical SEO. And you can visit our website at positional.com. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:14

Nam, thank you so much for coming on the episode today.

Nam Le (Speaking)

02:16

Hi, Nate. Glad to be here. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:17

So you've worked on some incredible teams. And I know, like, you've been in SEO for a number of years now. How did you first make your way into the world of content marketing and organic search?

Nam Le (Speaking)

02:26

That is a story that I always love to tell. So when I was in college, and I was doing an internship in the summer, between my junior year and senior year — at that point I had zero clue what SEO is; I barely knew what digital marketing was. I went on Quora, remember when that was a thing? And I start asking people, “Oh, do you have an advice for somebody who wants to get into digital marketing, right?” And then a guy responded to the Quora questions, asked me if I want to shadow him and learn more about search engine optimizations. So I spent the next two or three months just sort of, like, you know, learn from him, learn about all the Google algorithms, learn about all the SEO techniques. And then after that summer, I went back to school, start working on some of the smaller websites just to hone my skills in SEO and digital marketing in general. And then after that, after I graduate from college, I started out at an agency, got a year of experience, learned a lot more about SEO and content marketing. And then about a year or two later, I ended up starting a role at Wayfair. So, and the rest was history.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

And Wayfair, they're known for having an incredible SEO and content marketing function. And I know it's been, like, a core part of their business since the inception. What was it like working on that team? Like, what were some of those big learnings that you had being part of that incredible SEO function?

Nam Le (Speaking)

03:47

It was an incredible experience. And, you know, I say this a lot of times, I attribute a lot of my, you know, current success and career growth to my start at Wayfair. I think one of the thing — and this is one of the thing that I mentioned in my recent LinkedIn post — is that it's not really about the exact things that you do in SEO at Wayfair, but it's about the way and the mindset that they approach anything in SEO. So it's famously said that they didn't really just follow SEO best practices; they challenged them, and then they continue to test and experiment and see what works for their website and what works for their vertical. So I think that is probably the biggest thing that I learned from my time there at Wayfair. And the second thing that I think was, sort of my career highlights at Wayfair, was just that ownership mindset that everyone on the team has, right? So people would often come up with ideas or come up with experiments and just run with it, and you are encouraged to run with it. There's no idea that is too small, or there's no idea that is too big. And anybody and everybody is encouraged to just push beyond their limits and boundaries. And that's what I really love about working on the team there. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

04:55

Yeah, I think as SEOs, we can often fall into, like, the cookie cutter way to do things or best practices. And so that's interesting that you said that, you know, Wayfair pushed the limits at times and challenged some of those, like, universally accepted best practices in SEO. Do you have, like, one or two examples where, like, you know, Wayfair might've, you know, pushed the strategy in an unconventional way and it ultimately ended up working for them?

Nam Le (Speaking)

05:19

For sure. I think one of the things that a lot of people have been just kind of, like, assume about SEO is particularly around meta descriptions, right? It doesn't really drive the keywords. It doesn't really drive the rankings. However, with Wayfair, we ran — I gotta say — like, hundreds of meta description tests every year just to really understand what is the messaging that really clicks with, you know, the shoppers, what is the messaging that really delivers the promise that Wayfair makes to our customers. And a lot of the time with this meta description test, what we learned was that just by really sending out the message about free shippings, the message about the quality or the styles of the offerings that we have, sometimes really clicks with searchers and customers. They ended up, you know, visiting the website a lot more, make more purchases, and the engagement from these Google visitors actually really sent signals to Google that, you know, our website has a lot of high-quality content, high-quality products, which in turn is actually, really improve our SEO performance for these pages.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

06:22

Yeah, so it sounds like by optimizing the meta descriptions, you may have had a positive impact on click-through rate from search, which could have then led to positive ranking and performance of those pages. But it also sounds like by optimizing your metas, you might have also had a positive impact on the user experience metrics — like, things like bounce rate, scroll depth — once someone already comes to the site. Is that accurate?

Nam Le (Speaking)

06:45

For sure. And I think this is something that I will say that we always sort of, like, have in the back of our mind is that we're not in the business of really trying to game the systems. We're not trying to really, like, trick Google into thinking we're the best. We're here to serve our customers, and by serving our customers and delight them with our experience, or with the experience on our website, we really send a signal to Google that, you know, this is the website that people should be visiting.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

07:11

Yeah, and anytime you've got, like, thousands or tens of thousands of pages, like a site like Wayfair, you can actually run, like, a lot of experiments on title tags and meta descriptions. Whereas if it's like a much smaller website, there might just not be enough pages to actually go and test and build a sample on. In your career, like, you've worked on both, like, B2C SEO teams, and you've also worked on, like, B2B SEO teams. Now in your role at Rippling, how has, like, SEO and content marketing been the same or different across, like, B2C SEO versus B2B SEO?

Nam Le (Speaking)

07:42

Yeah, I think that's a great question, and this was one of the things that I was thinking about the most before I accepted my role at Rippling. So with both Wayfair and SnagAJob, it's both, you know, e-commerce marketplace type of website where you can really scale the coverage of keywords you — that you want to target and the things that people are searching for and you want to rank for those keywords. With B2C SEO, what I found that was extremely important was technical SEO. Oftentimes, you have a hundred thousands, if not millions, of pages that you need to optimize, that you need to build or generate. And oftentimes, this leads to issues with crawlability, or sometimes page speed, or sometimes very complex internal linking systems. So those are the things that you want to make sure that are well optimized and are well taken care of in large-scale websites. Now when it comes to B2B SEO, what I have found over the past, you know, half a year working in B2B SEO with Rippling is that you put a lot more focus on trying to create really high-quality content that address your prospects’ and your potential customers' pain points and really, really attracts them to your website, and then sell your products to address those pain points. So I think those have been the biggest, you know, difference when I come from a B2C SEO background into a B2B background. And I got to tell you, it feels pretty weird but good not having to worry about, oh, like all these pages are not being crawled, all these pages not being discovered by Google — because we really, we have about, like, you know, thousands or a couple of thousands of pages compared to millions of pages that I had to work with before.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

09:28

Yeah, and it sounds like the buyer journeys are very different. Like, if it's a consumer, like, and they're looking for a new sofa, like, they might be ready to buy that new sofa today or tomorrow. And so you can convert them very quickly. But as you're thinking about, like, buyer journeys on the B2B side, oftentimes it's a lot more, like, nuanced. There might be many steps involved. So, like, in your current role at Rippling, like, have you spent a lot of time thinking about, like, the buyer journey and then how content and SEO fits into that? Is that something you've thought about?

Nam Le (Speaking)

09:57

For sure. And I think that is probably another thing that, you know, someone coming from a B2C background should be aware of. So with a site like Wayfair or SnagAJob, people — the main pages are oftentimes the pages that target people who are already ready to make the conversions, whether it is, you know, buying a sofa, as you said, a dining table, or whether it is to apply for jobs, in the case of SnagAJob. Whereas, especially in B2B SaaS, the buying journey is oftentimes much longer than people trying to buy furnitures. So you really have to think about — it's not just user landing on your blog post from SEO and they will convert right away. They might read more things, they might check out more blog posts, they might check out content, they might check out other pages that you have on the website that has nothing to do with, you know, SEO. But it's all part of your overall strategy to really, you know, be there and address any customers’ and prospect concerns or questions throughout the buyer's journey.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

10:56

Yeah. And I'm sure at Rippling, there are many different, like, types of content you would create — maybe, like a landing page or maybe a blog post or maybe, like, a feature page for a specific product. How are you thinking about, like, the different types of content you're creating in, like, your B2B role? And what's most important to you right now?

Nam Le (Speaking)

11:14

I think, you know, there's different ways to really think about, like, how different content and, you know, page types fits into your SEO strategies. One of the ways to think about it is, you know, just throughout the funnel. if there is a, you know, top-of--funnel’s contents or bottom-of-funnel contents, a lot of people might agree with me: with top-of-funnel contents, the whole goal of the content there is just to educate users or educate prospects on, you know, the problems they are facing or the pain points they are facing, and what are the potential solutions to that, right? So those pages usually really target, like, broader keywords, broader topics, and we write a lot about those as well just to create the awareness about what Rippling is and what sort of pain points we can solve for our customers — given that Rippling has just only been around for about seven or eight years at this point. And then, you know, as a user progress through the funnel and understand more about the problem that they're facing, the competitors, you know, the solution that is, potentially can help them solve their problems, we would have other contents that really helps with those sort of questions, right? How is Rippling compared versus another competitor? Or, you know, what are the features of Rippling products that, you know, really set us apart? So those would result in different, you know, sort of page types. For example, we have product landing pages on the website. We have comparison pages that really pit us against other competitors and really highlight, like, our pros and our cons. So really depending on what stage of the funnels a user is currently at, we have different content that is ready to really address those questions.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

12:48

Yeah, and you mentioned before, like, creating fantastic content, and I think you've kind of very quickly walked us through, like, what a fantastic piece of content is and that it's helpful and actionable, but to take it a step further, like, to you, like, what does it mean to create, like, a fantastic piece of content or a fantastic page at either Rippling or at any of your previous roles?

Nam Le (Speaking)

13:09

Yeah, so I think with Rippling we are currently focusing on the HR, finance, and IT space. And a lot of the problems that we have, that our prospects or our ideal customers have, is around just really being compliant with hiring, with managing employees, with, you know, managing contractors. So we have sort of, like, an internal test within our SEO team is that if we ourselves read the contents and we're not learning something new, that's not good enough to really push it out to our visitors to see, right? Because we want to be here and we want to be able to deliver something that is unique, that is interesting, and that is helpful for our visitors. So that's sort of like, you know, an internal test that we use to gauge whether the content that we are pushing out is really going to be moving the needle and is really something that we are proud to display on our website.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

13:58

Yeah, I love that. It sounds like, you know, viewing your content from how is it uniquely helpful from what is already ranking, I think is a great benchmark. And when we're creating a piece of content — because too often, you just see, like, websites regurgitate the same crap over and over again, or even worse, like, ask ChatGPT to write, like, a 2,000-word blog post that's not saying anything fantastically new.

Nam Le (Speaking)

14:18

For sure. And I think that, you know, it helps us well that we use all of the products, right? You know, we manage global team, we manage remote team, we have contractors. So we are deep into the products. We use it every day, use it to manage people, We use it to pay contractors. So we know all the pain points that somebody who, you know, might be interested in Rippling would face in their daily roles. That's why we're able to write contents that really resonate with our ICPs.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

14:46

Yeah, and speaking of the Rippling product, like, it's been amazing to see, like, the number of product categories Rippling has entered into. We ourselves are Rippling customers, and I've seen it firsthand when I log into my Rippling account, like, how many different features and functionalities, like, Rippling as a platform has. As you're thinking about, like, content and SEO from here, like, as Rippling builds out new features and capabilities to its platform, do you then need to, like, keep up, or are you getting ahead of it from, like, a content and SEO standpoint?

Nam Le (Speaking)

15:14

Rippling being a, what our founder and CEO call a, compound startup, is really to me personally as an SEO person, a curse and a blessing at the same time: A curse in the sense that, you know, when I started out at Rippling, there is essentially zero SEO, you know, strategy, or zero SEO program to start. So essentially I have to start the whole — we have to start the whole program and the whole strategy from scratch. So with Rippling being a compound, startup compound product, there is a lot of, you know, content gaps in terms of coverage and things that we already have contents around or things that we want to write about. And obviously, you know, resources are always limited. So there's only so many things that we can cover in a certain quarter, or there are things that we might have to, like, wait until the end of the year, for example — that's the curse, you know. The blessing in that is that the way that our products are, you know, built and the way that our products are positioned, they complement each other, right?. You know, for example, we really focus on the employees. So any employee data that your company has, we can leverage that to really build a product that serves not only on the payroll side, on the benefit side, but also we're able to manage the IT, the devices, for that particular employee. Anything that we write about essentially has some elements that can be linked to another product, right? If we write about payroll, we can write about how, you know, our PEO service also really helps a lot of companies consolidate through my payroll processing. So the blessing, like I said, is pretty much the products being complement to each other. That gives a lot of natural linking and navigation opportunities with our content. And then it also allows us to really craft our very unique selling points, right? You don't need 10 or 20 different software to manage your workforce. You only need Rippling.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

17:08

And you kind of hinted at it, like, goal setting and KPIs. Like, you mentioned that, like, Rippling's kind of now standing up and scaling an SEO and content channel. And in my career, I found that, like, goal setting and KPIs are very hard to do for, like, an SEO and content team. So, like, how are you thinking about, like, the KPIs either for this quarter or for next year? Could you walk us through, like, your goal-setting and KPI-setting process at Rippling, or even just in a general sense?

Nam Le (Speaking)

17:36

Sure, yeah. And I will say that I think KPI planning is nobody's favorite thing to do, honestly. I think there is a lot of different moving parts within an organization, you know, different conflicting interests, maybe at times. So it's really tricky sometimes to really set out a KPI that you will stick with through the rest of your, you know, say, career. I think different business, different companies will call for tracking different things. For example, I mentioned in my blog post that SEO drives maybe, like, a little bit more than 50% of marketing attribute revenues at Wayfair. That really means that the thing that we keep track of at Wayfair for SEO is super important because it really affects the revenue bottom line for the company. So with Wayfair, we will be tracking things like not only SEO traffic, but also the direct gross revenue stable that the SEO team drives, things like conversions — so people going to a website and buy a product, the add-to-cart rate, you know, as, like, a measures of, like, how interactive user are with our product listings, or things like, you know, just AOV, average order values. So things that is very typical for e-commerce team. With SnagAJob, since it's being a job search company, we, outside of the SEO, KPI, usual, the traffic stuff, we really look into website visitor — are they applying for jobs? Are they showing interest in viewing different jobs? And then eventually, like, what are the actual jobs they apply to? So things that will really moving our, you know, revenue goal, our revenue target for the year. With Rippling, it's actually even more interesting, and this is coming back to, like, the B2C and B2B questions that we talked about at the beginning. With Rippling, outside of the SEO traffic, we also are measured on the ability of us to bring in sales-qualified opportunities, which eventually pipeline and then turns into ARR. Different companies, I have found, has different goals, different business goals, which really influence how you want to set your KPIs.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

19:35

Yeah, in any case, it's great that you are thinking about, like, the downstream impacts of content and SEO to the actual business and not just setting, like, a KPI on traffic, which companies will often do. But yeah, like, the reason we're building this channel is to ultimately, like, drive revenue or, you know, new subscriptions or new sales leads. And I mean, at Wayfair, like, I know you haven't been there in a number of years, but, like, 50% of the marketing-attributed leads was coming from SEO. Like, that must have been, like, such a great feeling. And also, like, to the rest of the org, you must have been, like, the most valuable team or at least one of the most valuable teams, as just part of the business. But then at Rippling, like, given that it's such a new strategy and a new team and function, do you find yourself, like, having to introduce content and SEO to the rest of the org? Like, now that you're kind of the new team as part of the marketing function?

Nam Le (Speaking)

20:28

Yeah, yeah, I think that's a great question, and I think I've been very lucky that across all the organizations that I've been working for, leadership has always been really understandable and understanding of the values of SEO and what we drive for the business. So with Wayfair, the founders and CEO and current presidents of Wayfair actually started out being actually SEO professionals and SEO experts. So when they initially launched Wayfair, it wasn't actually Wayfair.com. They launched multiple different websites that target different product verticals. For example, they had a website called Racks and Stands that sells, you know, just clothing racks and then TV stands. They have a Everything Cuckoo Clocks that sells like, you know, just clocks that has a cuckoo design. So the point I'm making here is that they really understand, like, the importance of SEO and the importance of it to driving business and driving bottom line revenues. So at Wayfair, we place a lot of emphasis on the success of the SEO strategy and the same thing with SnagAJob as well. And then with Rippling, everything that we've done so far has been really driving a lot of traffic, as well as leads, to, for the SEO program. And then eventually, I think one of the things that we're still trying to figure out is how to really fully understand throughout the funnels how our visitors who came from SEO might interact with other channels that we have on the website, might be interacting with our website and really attribute that to whether it is SEO or any other channels. So those are the things that we still have to really, like, put in place in order to measure that accurately.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

22:08

I did not know that the Wayfair co-founders started out as, like, niche website builders, but that is so interesting to hear. They must be, like, true SEOs at heart. And it must have been great working with them because they just saw the value in the channel and took it so seriously.

Nam Le (Speaking)

22:24

Yeah, they were niche site builders before it became a huge thing, I guess. And I would encourage everyone to go listen to a podcast on “How I Built This” by Guy Raz. One of the episodes, they talk in depth about how they built the company. And it was really fascinating just to see how everything was going on behind the scenes.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

22:44

You know, you're not a stranger to competitive industries. You've spent your entire career doing SEO in very competitive industries, including, like, software for HR and finance and e-commerce and before that job posting sites. And so you're not a stranger to competition. And, you know, one of the questions our customers always ask me is, like, “If it's too competitive, should I try?” Or “Is it just too competitive that I can't even get started?” And so I guess I'm going to ask you that question. Like, how do you think about competition? Like, if we're talking to a new startup that's maybe raised, like, a Series A and they're in a very competitive space, can they make SEO work even though it's competitive?

Nam Le (Speaking)

23:24

Yeah, I think this is a very interesting question; it’s one that I think about often, every time that I come across, you know, a new sort of, like, SERP feature, right? So when I think about competitions in SEO, it's not just competition between, you know, different players within the industries. So for example, with Wayfair, whether it is Overstock or Crate and Barrel or Amazon, oftentimes Google themselves is also a competitor in that particular vertical, right? And since they are the one controlling the search engine result page, they have full control over what SERP feature that they want to introduce, or SERP feature that you, that they want to take away. So oftentimes, what I've seen is that a lot of time companies might see reduced clicks from SEO or reduced traffic from SEO, even though they don't see any changes in rankings. The fact is that Google might take away a prominent SERP feature that was benefiting them, and as a result, they lose the clicks on those SERP features. But then Google might be introducing something that actually will divert those clicks into themselves. So when thinking about, you know, competitions, it's not just between players in the market, but it's also against, you know, Google. And this is something that I've seen with Wayfair and this is something that I've seen with SnagAJob. So Wayfair —  Google introduced, you know, the product listings within the SERP pages. They introduced, you know, the shopping ads, which really captures a lot of the visibility of the SERP pages for the keywords that, you know, e-commerce websites usually try to rank for. And then with job search, it's also very interesting situations, where they introduced the Google for Job widget recently — I think it was about, like, two or three years ago, where now if you go search for jobs on Google Search, instead of being presented right away with all the job searching websites, there is a little widget that Google will gather the clicks from the Google users and then divert it to their own job search engines instead of trying to, like, pass it down to different players in the job search industry. So I think one of the things that I think is important, whether you want to start in SEO within, you know, a competitive industry or not, is that at any given point, Google can take away the things that makes your SEO program work, your SEO strategy work, regardless of your size, whether you're a startup or like big companies, you should always be prepared to pivot and make the adaptations or make the changes that will help drive your SEO and your business forward.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

25:58

Yeah, and to all the members of Congress listening, I know Nam would be happy to be an expert witness at Google's next antitrust hearing. But yeah, you make a really good point. Like, as SEOs, sometimes we forget that, like, Google has its own business that they very much care about, and we are very much operating within their ecosystem. And you make a really interesting point that we're not just competing against other SERP results, but we're competing against Google's own featured snippets or SERP results. And that kind of brings me to a related question that I wasn't sure I was going to ask, but I think it's an interesting one. Is SEO dead? I think I saw someone post on Twitter recently that, like, SEO is dead or it's going to be dead in five years. Like, if someone was to ask you that question, how would you respond to it knowing that, like, search could be changing or not? I'm not sure. Like, what do you think?

Nam Le (Speaking)

26:48

Yeah, I would say that I hear SEO is dead every other month since I started working in SEO, right? And here we are, still here. So just aside, I think that when someone says that SEO is dead, I really think that it just means that some people might not be willing to change, depending on how Google really evolves and how Google reimagines the search experience for their users. I think a lot of the time when Google introduce new features or new SERP features or new policy in their ranking algorithm, it will always takes a little while for people to really understand what is the direction that Google Search is going towards and being able to come up with an idea or a strategy to really respond to that directions, right? I think being an SEO and being in a very, very competitive, you know, industry and an ever-changing one, thanks to Google … the successful SEO that I see is always, you know, willing to really continue to learn, willing to change based on, you know, what they see are changing in the market and willing to continue to experiment and see what works and what doesn't. Brings me back to the point I made earlier,is that it's really just about the mindset of always wanting to get better and really understand more about how to improve the experience of Google users who land on your website.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

28:13

A question that I'm always asked by founders is “How do I hire a person to my SEO or content team? And like, what should I look for in that candidate?” Because oftentimes for founders, even at like the Series B stage or Series C stage, like, they've never made an SEO or content hire before. And so if you were, like, the hiring manager, bringing someone onto your team, what would you look for in that candidate, either from, like, a personality perspective or like a skillset perspective to know that that's like a good candidate you wanna bring onto your team?

Nam Le (Speaking)

28:44

One of the thing that I always gonna be looking for, someone to hire, will be somebody with a extreme ownership mindset. And what I meant by extreme ownership is that they never say, “No, it's not my problem.” They will take things and they just run with it. And they're always going to be heavily invested in making things work or the success of your business. The second thing that I really care about when I look to hire someone is that I want to make sure that that person has, you know, some analytical skill sets. As you're also aware, there's so many data, so much data, to work with, to dice, to manipulate, to understand in SEO. There's clicks, impressions, there's log files. So being able to really navigate all these different data sources and understand, like, how data works is an extremely helpful asset that I think anybody who works in SEO should possess. And then, you know, the last thing is just, you know, extreme curiosity as well. Google is always changing, so I want somebody who is willing to change with Google and who is willing to continue to iterate and then explore things that might be unconventionals, but might be the way to propel their SEO program.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

29:56

Yeah, your point on curiosity really resonates with me. I found that, like, for the SEOs and content marketers that have worked on my team, and just also other SEOs and content marketers that I know are really good, they come from, like, non-traditional backgrounds. Like, sometimes they're engineers, or possibly have gotten a degree in something that's not at all related to marketing, but they are tending to be, like, very curious people. Like, they always wanna learn. There's always something new that they could try and experiment with. And what you said there really resonated with me. And I know at, like, the companies and teams you've worked on, like, these are fairly large organizations. I'm not sure who's bigger now, like, Wayfair or Rippling. I'd probably guess it's Wayfair, but I'm not sure. You've worked on some big orgs. Do you find that, like, SEO and content marketing is a very cross-functional part of the business? Like, do you find yourself talking with, like, the paid ads team or the product marketing team or the sales team, like, pretty regularly today at your role at Rippling or in past roles?

Nam Le (Speaking)

30:54

Yeah, I would say when we talk about, you know, different sort of, like, marketing channels, collaborations, I would say that it's something that we sit with or, like, you know, talk to every single week, but definitely something that we always want to collaborate and then, you know, brainstorm ideas maybe once a month. What I've found is that a lot of the time, different channels has different levers that works for them, different messaging that resonates to people who are we targeting on that platform, right? So with Rippling or with Wayfair, we have really good folks who works on other channels like paid social or paid search. And what I have found that could really be really helpful is the messaging from say LinkedIn, for example, or from Facebook. You should always see if there's an opportunity to test that messaging on SEO as well, because essentially you are targeting the same ICPs, you are targeting the same people who are resonating with the messaging that you are putting out. So anything that is live on your paid social, you should, you know, try testing it on SEO and vice versa.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

31:58

As far as creating content goes, like is that something that is handled internally at Rippling or do you guys rely on, like, a team of freelance writers to work with? How do you actually create content day to day?

Nam Le (Speaking)

32:10

Yeah, we have a, I would say, pretty small SEO team. The only SEO lead is me, and I work with a content lead who's incredible and a content strategist who's also very smart, who joined recently to help us out with, you know, briefing and really driving the content strategy outside of just SEO. So we also have a team of freelance writers, contractors who we work with. Some of them are on retainers, some of them are on, like, a one-off basis. I really sort of, like, just rely and just trust my content lead and content strategist to manage the writers in terms of resources and in terms of timelines. And then so that I can fully, you know, focus on coming up with a strategy, coming up with the content angles, coming up with coverage that we want to go after. That's how the content, our SEO team at Rippling is positioned.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

33:02

Heck yeah, and it's been such a good episode so far, and I've really enjoyed having this conversation today. If it's OK with you, could we jump into, like, a quick rapid-fire round where I'm gonna ask you, like, five or six questions, and you can tell me what you think? 

Nam Le (Speaking)

Let's do it. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

I’ve got at least seven questions here. So more than my normal five or six. And my first question is on backlinks. Do they matter? Like, is it something you think about on a daily basis?

Nam Le (Speaking)

33:29

I used to not think about it as much when I was at Wayfair or SnagAJob since they was pretty well established and there's always a lot of natural linking, backlinking, opportunities. I've been thinking about that a lot more with Rippling in particular, being in a very competitive market with other incumbents. And I think it does matter. It does move the needles when everything else is equal. And we don't engage in any agency who builds links for us. We do manually reach ourselves and really just trying to identify partners who, you know, share the same values and who might have relevant and complementing contents that we can offer to link out to. So for us, it has been working out really well and expect us to really slow down in that aspect anytime soon.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

34:16

Internal links. Do internal links matter? Is that something you think about?

Nam Le (Speaking)

34:19

Yeah, I definitely think that internal link matters. I think there are three main reasons when I think about internal linking. One is that it goes back to that user experience values and delighting the users. So when you implement good internal linking, first and foremost, you're helping users navigate through your website. The second thing is I think internal linking also really helps with content and page discoverability. And this is especially important with website, large-scale scale website like Wayfair or SnagAJob where there's millions and millions of pages. So being able to really show and help Google bot understand what pages we have and our internal linking structure was really crucial. And I think the last thing is just that it really just signals to Google bot the importance of different pages and different content on our website, right? What content we want them to focus the most more, what content we want them to crawl as much as possible, things of that nature. So definitely very important.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:14

AI-generated content, should we be using it? Is it a good part or a good tool to our content creation strategy?

Nam Le (Speaking)

35:21

Yeah, I think that's a question that really plagues a lot of people. And I think the way that I've been looking at it is that I don't want to think about it as an AI-generated content. I think about it as an AI-assisted content. And here at Rippling, we actually don't shy away from the use of AI. We encourage our writers, as part of their research and as part of their writing, if using AI helps them really do research faster, if it helps them write certain things faster, then by all means we will encourage them to do that. What we want them to make sure to do is that, to verify the accuracy and verify the integrity of the contents that are being, or things that are being pushed out by AI, ChatGPT or any other tools. And we always, every single content piece has a human writer writing and managing and editing. Like I said, it's AI-assisted content, it's not AI generated.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

36:14

E.E.A.T. expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness, does it matter? Is that something you're thinking about?

Nam Le (Speaking)

36:23

Not something that I have really focused on or think about as much as I thought I would. I think with a lot of websites that focus on things that is super important, or, like, “your life and your money” type of content or websites where, you know, any content that you push, that you put out has some implications in terms of, like, maybe somebody's health or somebody's finance. I think those are extremely important when it comes to E.E.A.T for a lot of the others, not Your Money, Your Life websites, I don't think it really matters as much.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

36:56

What is one thing that you see, like, in the SEO space or the content marketing space that you see teams doing that's either just a waste of time or something we really shouldn't be thinking about?

Nam Le (Speaking)

37:06

I would say there are things that I think is probably a waste of time at this point. There's a very few of them, because like I said, I think if you have the ability and you have time to do so, you should test out every theory you ever have about SEO. But there's one specific thing that I think is definitely a waste of time, and it will be a mistake if you continue to do it, is essentially showing your sitemaps in the robots.txt file. And there's a few reasons for it. One is that Google makes it very easy to submit sitemaps to them these days. There's no point in including it in the robots.txt file. And second thing is by including the sitemap in the robots.txt file, you are essentially revealing to your competitors what pages you have, what contents you have, and essentially can actually show them what are the strategy that you're trying to go after. So all downside, no upside. I would not do that.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:02

San Francisco, you've just moved to San Francisco, and I'm gonna be in San Francisco in about, like, a month and a half from now. Where should I eat? Like what's your favorite restaurant you've been to so far?

Nam Le (Speaking)

38:12

Yeah, so I think San Francisco has an incredible food scene. There's no shortage of food for you to try from different cultures, different ethnicity. What I have found that is particularly really good about San Francisco is the Mexican food. We didn't have the same level of quality back in Boston, so I've just been really indulging myself in a lot of burritos in the Mission.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:35

Is there one place that you really recommend we try?

Nam Le (Speaking)

38:37

Yeah, I will recommend El Techo. It's a Mexican restaurant in the Mission, incredible views, and incredible food.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:47

Heck yeah, we are gonna give it a try.

Nam Le (Speaking)

38:50

I'll take you there.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:51

Well, Nam, thank you so much for coming on the episode. You've built a backlink from us today. So we're gonna link over to the Rippling site in the show notes, as well as to your LinkedIn. And so thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our listeners?

Nam Le (Speaking)

39:04

No. I think if there is one thing that you want to take away from this episode, it is always learning, always, you know, testings always experimenting, and extreme ownership is what really drives your program forward.

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39:27

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More Ways to Listen

Optimize Episode 013: Nam Le on Growing Rippling’s SEO and Web Strategy, Comparing B2B & B2C Content Strategy and Setting SEO KPIs

Aug 30, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Nam Le for the thirteenth episode of the Optimize podcast. Nam is a a growth specialist with a specialization in SEO and Organic Growth, based in San Francisco California.

He is currently the Senior Growth Manager leading SEO/Organic Growth and Website Strategy at Rippling, with previous experience at Wayfair and SnagAJob.

In this episode, we navigated a wide range of content and SEO strategy topics for both B2B and B2C. Over the course of the episode Nam and Nate discuss unconventional SEO advice and how rapid product development impacts content strategy. Nam also shares his opinion on building an SEO and content team from scratch — revealing everything from screening candidates to setting effective KPIs. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

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