Effective search engine optimization requires cross-discipline collaboration. Make friends or forge strong working relationships with these key stakeholders to ensure that SEO needs are met at every stage of site design, development, and maintenance.
Depending on the size and structure of your company, these friends will have different titles and wear different hats. They may be executives, but they could be mid-level influencers.
Depending on the size and structure of your company, these friends will have different titles and wear different hats.
Strategy and SEO
Identify the persons most responsible for setting the strategic direction and strategy of your site. The keyword research that feeds your SEO strategy should also feed into the site’s digital strategy as a whole.
Keyword research is a vast and free source of customer research that opens a window into the products that people search for and the questions they have. Work with your strategy friend to share keyword trends that inform the strategic direction of the site, including content planning. Otherwise your site could lack an important area of content required to drive a subset of consumers to your site.
Your strategy friend will also be responsible for decisions like whether a new campaign should be hosted as a microsite, and how flashy and image-based the site needs to be.
User Experience and SEO
Identify the person most responsible for the user experience or architecture of the site — the person responsible for sitemaps, wireframes, and user acceptance testing. This person works with the creative team to translate the strategy into a functional site.
Once again, keyword data will be important to share with your UX friend, because it exposes what people want. From the UX perspective, that’s one way to quantify the benefits of adding a new set of filters or removing a section of content.
Create a keyword map to help your UX friend quantify the relative value of pages in the sitemap based on the number of times people search for the names of each page. As you go through this exercise, you’ll likely find alternate suggestions that could drive even more value. Discussing these options can lead to a stronger site all around.
Creative and SEO
Identify the person most responsible for designing the page mock-ups and writing the copy. Depending on the size of your company, this responsibility may reside with two friends: one that focuses on imagery and the other on copywriting. Regardless, whoever is responsible for the creative expression of strategy and UX design can make optimization more difficult if she designs in modules or entire templates.
Development and SEO
Identify the person most responsible for developing the site. This one is tough because marketing and technical people tend to speak different versions of the same language. Befriending your development influencer means you’ll need to learn the language, or at least admit freely that you don’t know the technical language and try to learn.
With your developer friend, describe the end state you envision and ask for his expertise in identifying the technical solution to get there. Creative developers can find a solution to nearly any SEO issue. Whether or not that resolution will be cost effective is something you’ll need to discuss together.
Speak in terms of value to the customer, or visits and sales you can drive to the site. It’s hard to quantify these on an individual, task-by-task basis, but you should at least have an idea if the opportunity is large or small, and perhaps be able to relate the value to SEO in comparison with other projects.
How to Make Friends for SEO
You have the same goal as your four friends: Sell more product online. Sometimes we lose sight of that goal because we’re so focused on the task at hand. Take a step back and tie the discussion back to that goal. How will your SEO need and your friend’s need impact shoppers? How will it affect their purchase decisions? How will it affect the number of shoppers that even make it to the site in the first place?
Understand what your friends need to get their job done and approach them in a way that helps them get that job done more effectively. Make sure to seek out and respect their expertise as well, instead of always coming to them with ways you can make their work better.
Approach the task or problem with a spirit of collaboration, rather than dictation. No one likes to be ordered around or talked down to, especially when there’s a difference of opinions in what can be largely theoretical areas.
SEO is always a series of compromises between what’s best for SEO and what’s necessary for branding, strategy, UX, and development. When we steer more of those compromises to the benefit of SEO, we improve the site’s ability to drive organic search traffic and conversions.
But not every compromise has the same value. Some compromises are small — back down gracefully on the compromises where the customer will benefit more if SEO is sacrificed a little. These small compromises give you the reputation of being a team player, and make it more likely that SEO needs will be respected when the benefit is large.
Lastly, I have an odd suggestion, coming from an SEO professional. Remember that SEO is not the center of the universe. In some organizations, SEO may not even make the top 10 priorities for the digital marketing team. If this is your reality, making friends is even more important to growing your sphere of influence and growing the organization’s understanding of the value that SEO can drive.
For more, read “How SEO Integrates into Site Design.”