What to do?
First: don’t panic. You know your plan is sound, it’s just a matter of motivating folks to help you.
You know that if the product manager won’t come on board, the product will not get the SEO support it needs, and you won’t have a prayer of reaching your goals.
If those e-mails you sent out last month detailing what the product needs failed to garner any action, perhaps a re-think on your approach is needed.
No one likes to be told there is something wrong with their product or idea. A busy product manager has so many things on their plate that you showing up and requesting changes won’t be readily welcomed. Many PMs bristle at this approach, even if they requested you take a look initially.
Time for some basic psychology then.
Everyone has goals—you, the product folks, your boss—everyone. As an in-house SEM, you need to start thinking beyond your own goals in order to reach them. That’s right. If you spend your time focused solely on your own goals, you’ll struggle at some point. More than likely it’s not you who makes the changes to the actual pages online. You’re the expert—the planner, not the executor.
Keep in mind that the person who needs to do the lifting on your behalf also has goals, and then the path the getting things done quickly becomes visible.
Your first effort when looking to integrate optimization efforts into a product should be a meeting to learn what the PM’s goals are. Don’t try to offer immediate suggestions on things they can do during this meeting. Spend the time listening. Any research you’ve done prior the meeting may lead you to ask certain questions, but your desire is to understand a few critical points:
- What are the product goals?
- What KPIs is the PM tasked with reaching?
- What are the timelines?
With this data you’re in a position to draft a plan that will help the Product Manager reach his or her goals. This is critical. By helping them reach their goals, you’ll reach your own en route. More importantly, the goodwill you will generate by so obviously placing their needs above your own will spread far and fast throughout the company. Remember those e-mails you sent out that no one responded to? Those will be a thing of the past.
It’s very important to remember that your investment in other peoples’ goals must be genuine. Nothing erects barriers faster than folks thinking they are being used, rather than helped. This point cannot be stressed enough, and it’s why that first meeting with a Product Manager should be spent mostly listening. By getting good at listening, you will help build a culture that encourages others to come to you. Be a good speaker and you will often find an audience. Be a good listener, however, and everyone will want to meet you.
By taking the time to ask questions about the goals and direction of the particular product you’re about to work on, and listening carefully, you can uncover hidden gems of information which otherwise may have been missed. You’ll also get a sense of where any pressure points lie in advance, and that can be invaluable. If getting your suggested revisions live is likely to be held up by the IT department, you will often be alerted to this by the Product Manager, who’s already been down that road before. Having this knowledge in advance allows you to apply the same tactics on the IT folks.
SysAdmins have their own unique set of challenges that you’ll need to find ways to work with. By taking the time to listen to what they need, you’ll be able to tweak your plan to incorporate their needs as well.
The next time you call a meeting about integrating SEO-focused changes into a product, pay attention to the e-mail you write. Plan the agenda for the meeting you’re calling carefully. Plan to do little talking and much listening. Do this a few times and you’ll find more folks not only returning your e-mails, but calling you first before they do anything themselves.
In the end, you’re still focused on accomplishing your own goals. By focusing on and leveraging the needs of others, you can help them, help the product, and help yourself.
Duane Forrester is an in-house SEM, sits on the Board of Directors with SEMPO and can be found at his blog where he speaks about online marketing and monetizing websites. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.