Does your company use SEO for online marketing guidance? If you are a regular Search Engine Land reader, I suspect you will answer with something like, “Of course we do. We’re enlightened marketers, not Neanderthals.” And, you probably are.
Actually, I would not ask you this question without reason. Being an inbound marketing consultant, I get to enjoy conversations with people in many different roles.
From the c-suite to marketing and sales directors, to Web designers, developers, copywriters, community managers, social media managers, and search engine optimization professionals — I get to talk to them all.
SEO Is Scary!
Each of these people has a personal point-of-view shaped by their roles and responsibilities. When you begin talking about search engine optimization, some of them get downright hostile. It is understandable.
They are knowledgeable, work hard and become wary when others, especially outsiders, want to change how they perform their jobs.
As an example, I had a conversation with a social media manager. She sees her role as building brand awareness, enhancing her employer’s reputation, and driving traffic to the company website. She writes about company events and products. Talk to her about community and traffic, it is all smiles and excitement.
However, when you mention using social media to drive SEO, she withdraws. Why? Because writing about webinars, white papers, newsletters, product announcements, company news, and whatever else comes down the pipeline gives her a wealth of things to discuss.
More importantly, her enjoyment and excitement are genuine. To her, search engine optimization means having to contrive posts that feel forced, fake, and unnatural.
Here is another example, one I know many SEO consultants have faced. How many people search for products or services? Then why is the navigation for so many websites:
Add other frequently seen top navigation links like resources or solutions or press, and you have the makings for every cookie-cutter business website. These sites pick two or three top keywords, stick them into their homepage title tag along with the business name. They pile all the major keywords into the title of their product or services page.
Then, they use the keywords again for each individual product or service. Before you know it, these websites have two or three pages competing for the exact same keywords, and no one can give the copywriters clear instructions about which keywords should link to which pages.
Should you bring up the idea of rebuilding the site navigation around the business’s products and services, you might find yourself cornered by a defensive website designer explaining how this will destroy the site’s logical order, or that the content management system will not allow this type of navigation.
How do you, the search engine optimizer, circumvent this type of pushback? How do you take the scary out of SEO?
Stop Thinking Of SEO As A Marketing Channel
Search engine optimization is a set of practices and principles to apply to your marketing channels, not the other way around. Yes, non-paid search is an important source of traffic, but organic search referrals come to your website as a result of what you do on your website and social media accounts, and as a result of the authority people and websites bestow in the form of links and brand mentions.
You can influence Google, Bing, and other search engines, but you cannot place messages on them directly like you do on your website, social media accounts, press releases, or advertisements. As an analogy, Forbes, Fast Company, or The Wall Street Journal might write an article about your company, but you would not call this a marketing channel.
Evangelize SEO As A Company Goal
Get search engine optimization out of the marketing department and make it a company-wide responsibility. The proper place for a company’s SEO mandate is from the chief operating officer. While the actual training and daily evangelizing will likely come from the marketing department, SEO extends beyond any one person or section.
The website development team must implement on-site optimization of HTML markup. Your sales team is responsible for income. Finance is responsible for measuring and reporting ROI. While roles and responsibilities vary from company to company, compartmentalizing SEO will lead to pushback.
SEO extends offline. We know social media success affects SEO. Do your business cards carry the company Twitter address? If employees speak publicly or make sales presentations, do they put the Twitter address on a slide and invite attendees to follow? Look for avenues of indirect support that can help your SEO efforts.
Find ways for people to contribute to SEO, either directly or indirectly.
Make SEO A Responsibility
Not everyone can be responsible for SEO, either as a whole or for even a small part. But, as I have shown, many can. For these personnel, include how they can contribute to SEO in their job descriptions or work plans and make it part of their performance reviews.
Provide Education & Training
When you make SEO an employee responsibility, you do not want to shove it down everyone’s throats. Critical to earning buy-in from your personnel is education and training.
At the very least, you want employees to understand how the company operates and generates income. Just as more and more businesses are developing social media policies and training, search engine marketing should be part of their education.
For those working closest with SEO — your social media managers, copywriters, Web designers, and others — provide them with formal search engine optimization training, then include them in planning and discussions.
As a consultant, I do not want my first meeting with your website designer to be about reorganizing the navigation he or she spent many hours of time and effort crafting. I do not want to walk into your sales department, cold, to talk about SEOing their landing pages, especially after they spent months of performance testing and perfecting.
Change is inevitable. So is pushback. By educating everyone first, and asking them to think about how to enhance SEO, conversations will be more participatory and productive.
Good SEO Is Planned SEO
Your sales team knows what new offerings are coming for weeks or months in advance. This lets them plan, create materials, and schedule activities. Likewise, search engine optimization should use foreknowledge to plan SEO strategies, tactics, and activities. Minimize on-the-fly decision making as much as is practical.
Some decisions must be centralized. For example, one person should be assigned as the keeper of the keywords, given the responsibility for deciding which search queries will become targets and on what pages. You may not want one person targeting a blog article while another person targets a product page, both for the same keyword.
Identify potential points of conflict or failure and put somebody in charge. This is a terrific role for a dedicated in-house SEO professional who can work with different teams and departments.
Provide Specific Information To Those Responsible
If you want to drive people crazy, tell them to optimize for a keyword without giving them resources or guidance. Alternatively, ask someone to optimize a page without providing any keywords. These types of things occur all the time.
Provide keyword and target URL lists, then make sure everyone knows how to use them. Also give SEO team members access to analytics, webmaster tools, research tools and other resources that they will need to make smart decisions.
Search engine optimization does not happen in a vacuum. It is not a solo effort. Not every site change, blog article, or social media post needs a full-blown campaign. But when they do, personnel need to know who to go to for supporting articles, internal links, page inserts, press releases, and other parts of a campaign.
Create a clear pathway for choosing the proper level of planning and to create successful campaigns.
Hold SEO Team Meetings
In the enterprise workplace, the decentralization of SEO is inevitable. Get all the major players together on a regular basis. I suggest weekly or twice a month, depending on company size and how much organic search traffic contributes to ROI.
Include Web design, social media, copywriting, and anyone who has SEO as an important responsibility. Who leads these meeting can vary from company to company; usually it can be the marketing director or head of online marketing. He or she should be senior enough to make and enforce decisions. Include representatives from paid search, online advertising, and affiliate management.
Topics to cover include a rundown of SEO analytics, social media analytics, SEO industry news, company news (upcoming announcements, new products and updates, company events, events employees will attend/speak, etc.). Have each attendee make a report so everyone knows what is happening among the departments. Before the meeting, each member should give the chair a list of things they need input on or that require a consensus decision.
Over To You
SEO can have multiple points of both opportunity and failure, especially in large enterprises. What do you do to make sure you optimize your search engine optimization planning and execution? How do you take the scary out of SEO? Comments, if you please.
Image: Pennywise the Clown from the movie IT
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.