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Rallying The Troops When Support Turns To Apathy
When you first started your in-house SEO program, it was likely a tough sell. You had to convince executives to green-light your idea, which many probably didn’t understand the first time around. They wanted projected ROI, and you tried to explain the difficulty of predicting that. Your boss wanted things rolled up to a higher level, and despite your efforts to explain there are too many details to roll up to a higher level, you were given but one humble slide in the PowerPoint deck to state your case. Everyone wanted a quick turn-around, and they were shocked when you said 3 to 9 months for results to accrue.
Yes, it was a tough sell—but you did it! Your program was given the go-ahead and you’ve been busy evangelizing the benefits, the direction, and the thinking since then. You’ve lived every minute of it, basked in the successes and scratched your head at the road blocks. But you’ve done it—the program is running, people in the company no longer think SEO means Smoke ‘Em Outside, and things are going well.
Or are they?
Lately you’ve been feeling like things just aren’t moving. Executives are still looking for results—especially given the investment of time and money in your endeavor. You suspected you might hit a really serious wall, but at this point, with everyone saying the right things and making the right noises, you thought you were past the worst.
Now you’re seeing the reality. The hair has been split. All the support from the top is nice, but those who have to implement your suggestions are slow to respond. Work is planned in advance, things are prioritized based on projected ROI, and your asks are not making it into the work flow. Everyone wants to do the work, they say, it’s simply a matter of resources.
The reality may be simpler, and the solution is so simple, it’s often overlooked.
In most cases, folks are simply busy. This means a couple of things:
- People do not take kindly to new work being added to their roster
- People don’t want to have to learn new things
- People have their own goals to meet—and your goals are not their goals
So what’s that simple solution I alluded to? Well, it’s actually a multi-part solution. It combines the skill of listening, with clear thinking, detailed planning, and a small amount of fearlessness to pull the trigger in the end.
First, let’s look at the listening part. This goes directly back to my point about goals. Everyone has their own goals to meet. In your case, however, you usually need others to do things for you so you can meet your goals. Chances are you are not the one tweaking the code or massaging the content, so though the goal may be stated simply enough (increase inbound visits from the engines), getting to that goal is most assuredly a team effort. The surest way to get there is also one you learned way back in your early school life. Make friends. One of the best ways of doing this, in your grown-up world, is to listen to someone and help them achieve their goals. Simplified, this means you should ask those you need to do work for you what their goals are. Then plan a way that shows how doing your work will help them reach (or exceed) their goals. Show a product manager how his support will result in him reaching his own goals, and you’re gold.
So, we’ve covered the listening and we’ve touched on motivating others to implement your suggestions.
This approach won’t work in every instance, so what do you do to keep everyone honest and enforce the need for your suggestions to be followed?
Use some of that influence you have at the executive level. This one goes way back to your days in the sandbox. Not Google’s, but that of your childhood school yard. The threat of “telling the teacher” was pretty powerful back then. These days, it’s not really cool to tattle, but creating metrics that show a company’s level of compliance to SEO rules across its products has value. The executive can clearly see how the various areas of the company/website are doing with regards to the investment in the area of SEO, and let’s face it, no product manager wants their product/area of responsibility shown in red on the chart.
This tactic can convert even the staunchest of hold-outs to rabid fans of your service. Worst case, at least they’ll listen to you and think about doing what you ask.
Unless you have direct control over implementing the changes that need to happen, setting up a responsibility grid might be your next best bet. You can clearly list each item that needs work, who it’s been assigned to, and when they think it’ll be done. Put those points on a PowerPoint deck destined for executive review and folks will do their best to look their best.
The final point here is that you, the grand leader of SEO wonks, need to be confident enough in your direction and directives to pull the trigger on this course of action. You won’t earn many friends in the short term, but long term, when everything is moving forward as planned, and the kudos are being handed out to those who did the work, they won’t forget that their success in reaching their goals was directly helped by your team.
Duane Forrester is an in-house SEM with Microsoft, sits on the Board of Directors with SEMPO, can be found at his blog where he speaks about online marketing and monetizing websites and is the author of How To Make Money With Your Blog. The In House column appears on Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.