Inside Vertical Leap: SEO works when you have ALL the data

My name is Lee, and I’m the head of the SEO service team. I’m a veteran at Vertical Leap now, having been at the company for five years, and although my job has changed over that time, every day still starts and ends the same – with data.

Yes, at Vertical Leap we all live and breathe data. From the moment we get into the office to the moment we leave, we’re using data to make effective decisions. Our own deep data platform, Apollo Insights, helps us to do this.

Lee Wilson, Head of SEO at Vertical Leap

Our fix, boost, fill approach


In the SEO team, we take a ‘fix, boost, fill‘ approach with every one of our clients’ websites. First, we need to fix what’s broken. Your website is an ever-changing entity; pages will be removed, widgets will break – it may even be attacked by hackers. This can result in broken links and slow site performance, among other issues, and all of these will affect the effectiveness of your website.

Luckily, Apollo makes it easy to identify all these problems and more. The site audit section of Apollo alerts campaign delivery managers (CDMs) to any problems with the site that need fixing, either soon or immediately. This helps us prioritise tasks and fix the most important issues as quickly as possible.

For example, one morning I logged in to look at a client dashboard and noticed that the audit score had dropped. When I investigated further, I saw that something had changed on the website, causing a large amount of ‘low content’ pages.

Apollo Technical Fix Analysis

I then discovered that these ‘thin content’ pages were caused by a series of filters that were auto-generating page URLs that Google was indexing. I used canonical meta tags to fix the issue and came back a few days later to check on the site’s performance. Sure enough, the audit report had improved.

Apollo dashboard data analysis tools

Our dashboards provide an ideal platform for us – and our clients –  to see these issues and address them quickly.


Once your site’s major problems are fixed, we focus on boosting. Using Apollo, we can see your visibility footprint for every single relevant search query. If you’re not appearing enough on search for keywords and phrases you should be, we need to give you a little helping hand. It may be a single page that needs boosting, or the speed of your whole site. For instance, if we wanted to increase visibility of a certain piece of content, we’ll promote it via outreach, social media and through links.

It’s not always as simple as this though. After all, if your site isn’t appearing for something it should be, we need to investigate why. For example, I recently noticed one of our clients, which provides a number of different services, wasn’t seeing any growth for queries regarding a particular service.

Apollo example of impressions by month

Some of the services this client provides are seasonal, so I looked at the peaks and troughs forecast for the next six to twelve months. It turned out that the query group we’re focusing on was expecting a peak in demand within the next few months. Therefore, I needed to ensure that any changes that are made to the site will make the most of this growth in demand, and capture as much traffic as possible.

Apollo example of results from February to March


This is where the fill bit comes in – the Words section of Apollo enables us to see what words and phrases people are searching for, and where your site is appearing in those searches. In the case of this client, we saw there were over 7,800 of them, so we needed to start prioritising these and review the site.

Apollo example graph of site visibility

Working together with the journalists in the content team, as well as our own SEO writers, we created useful and engaging content around these terms. Usually, it doesn’t take long to start seeing some impact from these types of changes, and sure enough a month later we saw our actions had been successful.

Apollo example of impressions by month

There was an overall improvement in visibility (impressions) with an increase from 1,181 phrases in February to 1,227 in March. Although this increase in the number of phrases gaining visibility was small, we were able to improve total impressions by 11,243.

Apollo really is the centrepiece of our day to day activity. Having all this data in one place is so useful, as it means we don’t have to log in to various other tools.

Lee Wilson Head of SEO at Vertical Leap

Sprinting to the finish line

Of course, we didn’t do all the work above in just one day. To make things easier for ourselves, we structure the work we’re going to carry out into time frames called sprints. These allow us to identify key opportunities and focus on them to obtain the biggest results. This avoids a generic work methodology of aimlessly fixing this and that, or adding content here and there.

The SEO world is a fast-paced one and the sprint approach allows our team to adapt to changing environments very quickly too. We can pause a sprint and start a new one with a shorter time frame and a clear focus. Once that sprint is complete, we return to the previous sprint to continue working on the opportunities identified. This enables us to carry out our continuous fix, boost, fill process.

Integrating with other specialist skills

Our team are called specialists for a reason; we have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the field of search marketing. When it comes to other disciplines such as content creation, PPC or design, we collaborate closely with other specialists within the company.

Although these disciplines are inherently different, there is overlap. This leads to more data we can use, for example what PPC know about SEO services, or sharing SEO knowledge with the content team.

In fact, one of the content team’s journalists, Chloe, has recently been working very closely with our team to gain a better understanding of how we work, as well as inform us how we can improve our own processes. This type of knowledge sharing is essential within any company, and a new perspective can really help us shake things up.

Lee Wilson, Head of SEO at Vertical Leap working

Keeping each other, and you, updated

As the head of the SEO team, I run daily scrums. These focused, open meetings help to figure out what barriers people are facing and break them down. This process is critical to having an effective group of specialists who can adapt quickly and get things done efficiently.

However, this isn’t the only way we keep an eye on what each person is tackling each day; we also use Apollo’s WorkStream function. Working in a similar way to Tweetdeck, WorkStream allows us to record a running commentary of what we’re up to on your campaign. This allows us to have complete transparency between every specialist working on the campaign, and you, the client. It’s as close as you can get to sitting right next to us, as at any time you can log in and see what we’ve been up to.

Lee Wilson Head of SEO at Vertical Leap

Learn what happens in other departments

That’s it from me but below are similar articles from our other specialist teams. Click the links for a sneaky peek into what goes on in their worlds.

Inside Vertical Leap: Launching successful design from a data platform

Inside Vertical Leap: Data led, content fed

Inside Vertical Leap: What goes on behind the PPC metrics?

Inside Vertical Leap: The serious data behind the social showmanship

Lee Wilson profile picture
Lee Wilson

Lee has been working in the online arena, leading digital departments since the early 2000s, and oversees all our delivery services at Vertical Leap, having joined back in 2010. Lee joined our company Operations Team in May 2019. Before working at Vertical Leap, Lee completed a degree in Business Management & Communications at Winchester University, headed up the online development and direct marketing department for an international financial services company for ~7 years, and set up/run a limited company providing website design, development and digital marketing solutions. Lee had his first solely authored industry book (Tactical SEO) published in 2016, with 2 further industry books being published in 2019, and can be seen regularly expert contributing to industry websites including State of Digital, Search Engine Journal, The Drum, plus many others. Lee has a passion for management in the digital industry and loves to see the progression of others through personal learning, training and development. Outside the office he looks to help others while challenging himself, having skydived, bungie jumped and abseiled (despite a fear of heights) with many more fundraising and voluntary events completed and on the horizon. As a husband and dad, Lee loves to spend time with his family and friends. His hobbies include exercising, trying new experiences, eating out, playing countless team sports, as well as watching films (Gangster movies in particular – “forget about it”).

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