With most large organizations, a number of key stakeholders must offer their buy-in for an in-house SEO effort to be successful. With various groups all tasked with a variety of other objectives, how do you get everyone focused on the common goal of optimizing your organization’s organic search efforts?
Make a sandwich, of course.
Think of this sandwich as having three layers (top, middle, lower). Each layer plays a pivotal role, so don’t let folks get focused too much on which layer they belong to. A closer look at these layers will reveal the following:
The top layer: executives
This would be the executive group. The folks who ultimately say yes or no to resource requests and drive their organizations forward. Their role is more visionary and forward thinking—very strategic. It’s critical that this layer of the sandwich buys into the organic search effort. Without them you are simply running a rogue group trying to gain traction. Get the top layer to buy into the long-term value organic search offers and you’re more than half way there. These folks decide that we’re playing chess and not some other game.
The middle layer: management
This layer is comprised of the operational management team for a give site or company. Their job is to apportion the work that needs to get done across the resources they have on hand. They are responsible for making sure that the executive vision actually translates into reality. They may not push the buttons and pull the levers, but they set up and manage the teams who do this work. These folks make the moves on the chess board.
The lower layer: everyone else
These folks push the buttons and pull the levers that actually make things happen. These are the editors producing content each day. The Ops folks ensuring servers are set up, that files get loaded properly, etc. This layer is where the rubber meets the road. Without them, nothing exists in our world. These folks are the pieces in play on the chess board.
Back to the kitchen, it’s time to assemble the sandwich.
By educating the executive (top layer) on the benefits of pursuing an organic search effort, they can understand how this impacts their strategic vision. It’s important you gather as much information for them as possible. Look at all the costs involved; look for projected results, impact on head count, etc. The key here is that you need to be armed with every conceivable data point to answer any questions that arise. If you cannot answer questions quickly and clearly, you may lose their attention. One thing to bear in mind, however, is that although you must be thoroughly prepared you may not be called upon to use all of your data. Execs are busy folks, so be sure to keep you presentation short and sweet. Include only the absolutely necessary details, and be ready with the rest if you need them.
To tackle the middle layer, you’re going to need to expose more of that detail you held in reserve from the executive team. These folks need to make decisions to move resources from project to project, so they’ll be looking for ROI numbers to help them rank projects against each other. You’ll rarely hear this layer say SEO isn’t worth the long-term effort, but their immediate need to drive results may seem at odds with getting your work done. Don’t despair. The key is to craft the message in a clear manner, with the right details, so they can back up their decisions to do your work. Also, getting the executive to spread the word that they feel SEO is worth the effort can go a long way to helping your cause at the middle layer.
My experience with the lower layer has been positive. I’ve rarely met anyone who patently refused to do the work. The trick, again, is to show them how doing your work impacts their results in a positive manner. With editors, this is relatively easy. By involving them in keyword research, they will quickly see how their choices of which content to create or publish can have an impact the volume of search traffic a site receives. On a deeper level, they can use this keyword data to help craft the verbage of the articles themselves, to even better effect.
Depending on how your company is structured, this lower layer may be comprised of a number of groups. Showing each of them clearly how what you are asking them to do impacts the end product, and thus organic search efforts, can go a long way to not only creating a better understanding of SEO work, but to creating actual results.
Now, the sandwich model is is great in theory, but what is one layer doesn’t play ball? Let’s say the middle layer is pushing back, resources are tight and your work is being pushed down the list of to-do items. How do you manage this?
Squeeze your sandwich.
The key is to play off your strengths. The top layer has bought in—they want the work done. The bottom layer is happy to do the work, if only someone would direct them to do so. The middle layer has tough decisions to make. By facilitating communications between all the layers, you can keep the conversations going that will lead to the results you need. It may be the middle layer needs more resources to cover the work load. It may be the lower level still needs specific training. Whatever the need, you should step in to ensure, one by one, all items are crossed off the list.
In the end, someone is going to need to make the call on whether the work gets done. If you block all the exits, save one, it’s obvious where folks will go. By ensuring the top layer understands the details when you get their buy in, they can be used as a resource to help your project move forward. By getting the lower layer as in-tune and trained up as possible, you’ve covered the low ground by ensuring the basic work items around everyday SEO best practices are covered. This leaves the middle layer in a place to clearly outline their needs to the top layer. If its equipment that’s a bottle neck, it can be addressed. If its staffing levels, that can be addressed. The key point is that by narrowing down the number of choices, you guide the conversation around getting your work done in the right direction.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.