How To Get The IT Team On Your Side

Ah, the IT team: The land where SEO dreams go to die. The bigger the institution, the harder it is to pry a few tiny SEO tweaks out of the developer group. They’re resource-constrained, buried in the poop that the entire company dumps on them and, by the time you get to their office, not in a particularly giving mood.

Welcome to IT - please enter at the door

Welcome to IT - please enter at the door

So, how do you get the IT team to work with you? Work with them.

Make A Case For Growth

Why is IT treated like garbage? Same reason SEOs are: We’re both seen as a cost center, not a value generator. So try something like this:

  • Figure out the total ‘universe’. Dig up the total search numbers for your space – the available ‘clicks’.
  • Then, get the total number of non-branded organic visits to your site.
  • Find the difference between the two.
  • Calculate the percentage of organic search visitors who become customers…
  • …and the average value of those customers.

With those numbers, you can figure out the total potential sales floating around out there, unrealized. Go to the head of IT. Show them the potential. Information Technology could have revenue attributed to their work.

If they won’t listen to that, move up the food chain, politely, a bit at a time. You may eventually find someone willing to listen. I say ‘may’ because I’ve had 50/50 success with this technique.

Sometimes, folks just ignore the evidence. That’s probably not their fault. Chances are they’re ignoring it because they don’t trust it. They don’t trust it because they’ve been taught, more than once, that SEO is a bunch of hooey.

Which brings me to the next technique…

Build Trust

Find the one, really easy win. A single title tag change, or a tweak to server response codes. Get that one thing done.

Then, track the hell out of it. Know when traffic goes up for that page, and by how much. Know how much revenue that generates.

Next, do it again with another small change.

In between each of these small changes, go do some link acquisition, or whatever will make your bosses happy.

Eventually, this will get folks trusting you, or make it crystal clear that it is hopeless, or demonstrate (yikes) that in this case SEO is not a good investment. At least you’ll get some clarity.

Change Your Name

If everyone’s so dead-set against ‘SEO’, try a few different names for it. Hold on, I’m not being snarky, or cynical, or trying to be funny. This can actually work, because sometimes it’s all about semantics.

Everyone’s been hard-coded that SEO = waste. You need to remap the connection. Reintroduce SEO as one facet of a long-term lead nurturing campaign, working alongside PPC, media buys, etc.

Partner up with the PPC team and do your presentations together under ‘Inbound marketing’. Work with the editorial team on content visibility. Or, work with the IT team on site performance.

It’s All About Creativity

I know what a lot of folks are going to say after reading this: “Ian, I was hired to do SEO, not to run the diplomatic gauntlet.”

Wrong. You were hired to do both. As is anyone hired into a large organization. It’s all about creatively building relationships. Go and build ‘em.

Feel free to rant, or (even better) post positive stories about making SEO work in big, traditional companies below.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Enterprise SEO

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About The Author: is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, Inc, a firm he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting.

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  • http://logan9497 logan9497

    Ian,

    I could not agree with you about this article. it is imperative that SEOs get IT involved in what they need to accomplish for the site. Too often, the argument is “we can’t do that without destroying the integrity of the site” or “That can’t be done”
    I believe that every SEO needs to be a diplomat in dealing with IT and other departments.

  • http://www.itsaweblife.com Ecler

    As mentioned in the post, in-house SEO is very tricky and requires much more than just search marketing skills. There is always a lot of red tape in slightly larger organisations and making yourself heard takes diplomacy, resilience and very often involvement in office politics.
    If you come up to the IT team with a strong plan including exact resources required (expected hours, costs, benefits) then you’ll stand a much better chance of getting your SEO programme moving forward.
    From experience I can confirm that buidling relationships with technical teams is well worth the effort as clashing with them would put a halt to a lot of your SEO efforts.

  • http://mklofurno mklofurno

    This is a tough subject. I would say “sometimes” the strategies you present work..sometimes they don’t. All the justification in the world, does not make it so. Two things I would like to add:

    1) Pray alot…I do…God helps with big and small things.

    2) Alot depends upon the org structure. Is Interactive Market/Search Marketing reporting to a position that has product marketing responsibility? Is it just a service group, like say “art” or “IT” When I first came to my job, my VP had product marketing responsibility. Then there was a reorg and Interactive Marketing ended up in Corporate Marketing and the product marketers reported to the product people instead.

    3) So how do you get around (2)..by having what you are presenting or prescribing become the “VP’s” or the “CEO’s” idea. How do you do that? By working from the bottom up. If you have one product group that will listen and try new things…do it, get a use case, get examples, data…try it one place, help it to spread.

    Case and point..when I first came, none of the web sites at my company ever had “media centers” or “pressrooms” [they had social, but that is not what I mean]. So I went on a slow and steady campaign of selling the idea of “content marketing” and “content syndication”. I suggested we start doing press releases when they had new content. I only got one business unit to listen to me at first. They tried it and it started to spread..then another business unit picked up the idea..then another…then another..until one day, quite recently..I heard in a meeting that the “CEO” directed one of the last “non compliant” business units to start doing press releases. At that point, it was his “idea.”

    I could give you other examples about social strategies/tool use that I have used the same type of strategy with. Start at the bottom, spread the idea…gently promote it and shape it…and be patient. It happens..just not as quickly as you think. Once the business/product group picks it up..IT is forced to comply..because that is who they serve.

    In full disclosure…truth is I pray alot! Have a great day. Mary Kay

  • http://twitter.com/connections8 James Norquay

    Nice article, I think what works with IT team the best is when you get them involved with the projects, I have done a fair bit of training with various IT teams, I agree at the start they dont want to let you in the door yet once you show them value and show you can work with them they start to listen a bit more. But then it is not easy at all and it takes a long time to get every one on the same page. 

 

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