Search engine optimization has evolved into a pervasive discipline. It must work with every aspect of digital marketing and development to be successful. With this evolution, some of us SEO professionals have seen our ability to implement successful SEO programs diminish. Here’s why.
SEO breeds a different kind of marketer: too technical for most marketers but not technical enough to be developers. In years past that was acceptable, because SEO was more of an isolated discipline.
SEO breeds a different kind of marketer: too technical for most marketers but not technical enough to be developers.
But modern SEO requires that we collaborate with other marketers and developers. Together with strategy, user experience, designers, writers, and coders, we need to accomplish our disparate disciplinary goals in service to the one large goal: serve customer experience to increase revenue.
SEO is an excellent way to increase revenue by increasing customer acquisition and brand awareness. Depending on the strength of your marketing budgets and programs, SEO may drive between 10 and 50 percent of your ecommerce customers. That’s too large a segment to ignore, and too large an expansion opportunity to let pass without examining the reasons why SEO isn’t accepted at your company.
Stop and think: Who are you talking to at your company and what aspects of SEO do they really need to know about to accomplish their work in an SEO-friendly manner? They do not need to know everything.
What follows are the four barriers I’ve come across in my SEO career. If you need to open the locked doors that gate your SEO performance, identify which pertain to you and work on breaking them down.
Speak Their Language
Before they can work with you to drive more customers to the site, your coworkers have to know what you need for SEO and why you need it. Sometimes the words and analogies you use make all the difference. Before jumping right into a passionate missive about bots and canonicals and filters, stop.
Who are you talking to? A creative person like a designer only cares about how your SEO is going to wreck the clean design of his template with lots of ugly links and words. It doesn’t have to. And you don’t need him to understand every little aspect of SEO to have a conversation about how SEO and design can work together to create a clean and user-friendly experience that also sends the necessary authority and relevance signals to search engines. Achieving that connection means you both win — you drive more customers to the site to see the user-friendly designs that he’s created for those customers.
A creative person like a designer only cares about how your SEO is going to wreck the clean design of his template with lots of ugly links and words.
“I know, you want us to talk to bots.” This, said with a sneer, was a red flag last week that I wasn’t communicating well with the creative director. After a couple of minutes of discussion about common goals (driving customers to the experience) and SEO’s role in that goal (using signals that search engines understand), with some assurances that we could accomplish our goal and still meet his creative goal (don’t screw up the design he worked hard to perfect for the customer), we came out the other end ready to roll up our sleeves and talk constructively about options.
Know Their World
In the same vein, it’s important to know what your peers do. You probably have incorrect assumptions about their disciplines, just as they have incorrect assumptions about SEO. How do they serve the customer? When they’re presenting their work, really listen to the words they use and the concepts they hold true.
How are they measured? This one is critical, because if your measure of success is fundamentally at odds with theirs, you’ll need a higher-level conversation with management about potentially revising goals.
… if your measure of success is fundamentally at odds with theirs, you’ll need a higher level conversation with management …
I’ve come across this one twice recently, and in both instances my SEO key performance indicators revolved around traffic driven to the site via search marketing. But the teams I’ve felt friction with were measured on a different form of conversions. Because meeting specific goals is so critical to career performance, both teams are reluctant to make changes that would affect their performance to conflicting goals. Only discussion with management about what goals truly serve the best interest of the company can resolve some of these issues.
Lead with Data
Data is the only objective aspect of marketing. Everything else is opinion, educated guesses and professional experience. If SEO is already the dark horse on the marketing team, educated guesses and professional experiences won’t go that far. Use data to grab attention and speak to the bottom line.
Keyword research is SEO’s foundational data source. Show your peers how many customers a month they’re leaving on the table for their competitors to snatch up. Remember to always bring it back to customers; searches are too nebulous.
Data is the only objective aspect of marketing. Everything else is opinion, educated guesses and professional experience.
Consumers collectively search Google 22,000 times in an average month for “adult diapers” and only 480 times for “incontinence briefs,” the product’s official term. With that data in hand, as well as some information about how competitors speak about the products, you’re set up for a more productive conversation about copy and branding. Even if your coworkers decide that a set of keywords is too far out of brand voice, they’ll at least make the decision knowing the ramifications based on the data.
Show and Tell, Respectfully
All the amazing keyword research in the world accomplishes nothing unless it influences content on the site. If your keyword research is stuck in a spreadsheet, maybe it’s because your marketing counterparts are paralyzed by the data.
Accompany every set of keyword data with a bite-sized analysis in PowerPoint. Sum up the high-level recommendations that the data suggests so that it can be used strategically to guide content planning and site development. Relate the data to the initiatives that your marketing team is focused on, and then show them the other opportunities that the data suggests.
Accompany every set of keyword data with a bite-sized analysis in PowerPoint. Sum up the high level recommendations that the data suggests …
Absolutely send the full set of data, as well, for those who choose to crunch through spreadsheets. But a higher-level summary will be all that most of them have time to work with.
For writers and other roles that need a deeper familiarity with the keyword data, make sure to hold a work session to so that everyone can become familiar with using the data. Ask them to bring something they’re working on already, walk them through how to use your keyword research spreadsheet, and have them apply it to their copy. Work more closely with the ones who look puzzled, and ask the ones who look confident to share their work.
Make sure to praise more than preach, and remember that copy writing is an art form. If you trash their copy or rework it entirely, you’ve disrespected their art and their talent, lost an ally, and lost a chance to improve your SEO performance. Look for ways to gently insert a word here or there without really changing the copy itself dramatically. Make suggestions like, “Well, what would you think about including this word here?” Show respect for their art and they’ll develop a new respect (and lose some of their fear) of SEO as well.
Often, writers and other marketers will also have insights that you didn’t think to research. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table, and keyword research can change dramatically based on that perspective. Embrace those ideas and maybe even use them as a teaching tool to show them how keyword research works by doing some digging in Google Keyword Planner on the spot.
These are the four most common barriers to SEO implementation, and how I’ve been successful overcoming them. Certainly there are others, such as authority within the organization, personality differences, vocal peers in the organization that think they know more about SEO, and so forth
The four areas, though, repeated with confidence and patience, can eventually win over an organization that doesn’t understand or prioritize SEO.