Achieving even the simplest improvements to an ecommerce site can feel like a Herculean effort. Effective search engine optimization requires buy in and participation from your entire organization, from the top down and the bottom up.
SEO isn’t possible without close interaction with personnel in strategy, merchandising, user experience, creative, copywriting, and technical resources. Yes, you can do some keyword research, but optimizing the actual content on the site will likely take reviews and approvals with merchandising, marketing, and legal.
That’s assuming the pages and spaces within your templates exist to house the content. If not, user experience, creative, and technical resources need to get involved. If even one of those resources places low priority on the work, or blocks it entirely, you won’t be able to complete the optimization, a foundational task.
SEO is a group effort. SEO practitioners need to forge relationships, learn the basics of many different disciplines, and work across an organization to get the job done. But first you need to pave the way.
SEO is a group effort. SEO practitioners need to forge relationships, learn the basics of many different disciplines, and work across an organization to get the job done.
People: Priority and Education
If competing priorities suppress all of the actions needed to successfully implement SEO, performance will not improve.
Priorities are subjective, set by people based on the available information. If people in your organization do not understand the importance of SEO and how it impacts their daily activities, you can’t expect them to make SEO a priority.
Identify the critical players inside your company — those who make decisions or manage key processes regardless of title or level. Then meet face to face with them individually to forge two-way understanding of the challenges they face and how SEO can help — or at least not hurt — in their roles. It’s not just about what you need for SEO. To get their buy in, you need to help them understand what you can bring to them and to the organization with SEO and the data it produces.
For example, merchandisers may not be excited to learn about SEO and what they need to do to improve performance — until they learn about the free thematic search data you can give them to highlight the products and categories that real people search for in Google. It’s not even extra work because you’ve had to analyze the keyword data anyway to plan content optimization.
In some cases, the needs of other disciplines will be at odds with SEO. The goal should be to find a middle ground. Look for places to give way where the impact to SEO is less than the benefit to the other.
After meeting individually with the decision makers in the organization, arrange to give SEO brown bag sessions for their teams. Focus each on a specific role and tailor the information accordingly. For example, the merchandisers need different information than the technical teams.
Process: Embedding SEO
After gaining theoretical buy in from organizational leaders, integrating SEO into existing processes, workflows, and meeting cycles becomes possible. Use your newly strengthened relationships to weave SEO into the way that your organization does business. This ensures that SEO is baked into the decisions that other teams own and establishes more control over SEO performance.
Start with the technical side. Influence in technical decisions is especially important because they impact SEO heavily and are costly to change. For example, if a navigational element isn’t accessible to search engine crawlers, your category shelf pages may not even be indexed and, therefore, not ranked. That’s a critically important SEO performance issue and a very expensive and time-consuming change. This is your value add — you can prevent costly rework.
Work with product data and development teams in their maintenance cycles, migrations, and redesigns. Their processes need to become your own so that you’re working within the existing workflow. Do not expect them to adopt your tasks and timelines.
On the content side, there should be an editorial process. Someone decides what will be featured on the home page and major landing pages. Decisions are made to produce buyer’s guides or recipes or other complementary content to help shoppers convert to become customers. Find those processes and join them. Use your value add on the content side: your keyword data that serves as customer research.
Technology: Use Their Tools
Processes are driven by technology. Even simple processes like an editorial meeting held between three people to decide the editorial content for the month depends on an email invite and a shared spreadsheet of content ideas. Get on that email invite. Make sure you’re added to the email list. Get invited to the wiki that the technical team uses to manage their projects, or to JIRA, or whatever they use. If someone references a shared document in a meeting that you haven’t seen, make sure you ask for it.
Make it easy for your organization to work with you on SEO by using the tools that they use.
Analytics are another important technology to share. If everyone else is marching to a common goal supported by certain data points in the web analytics, SEO should use the same data source as well. Naturally you’ll have your own goals and measurements for SEO, with your own data requirements to manage the channel and drive performance. But the key performance indicator you report should relate to the shared organizational goal and be supported by the same data source, if at all possible.