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SEO and the CMO: Communication and board room metrics that matter
Securing investment for SEO is a tough challenge, especially when CMOs don't fully understand the value of this channel. Columnist Jim Yu explains how SEOs can translate the data they track internally into metrics that matter to the C-suite.
SEO is now a digital marketing activity used by 94 percent of marketers, and it’s estimated that companies will spend just over $65 billion on SEO in 2016. Yet despite the increasing usage of and growing investment in this digital marketing channel, measuring the ROI of SEO efforts can still present a considerable challenge for marketers.
For brands to maximize the impact of SEO, they need to be able to communicate the value of their efforts and show their CMO just how well SEO is performing. It is only with this evangelism that digital marketing departments will be able to secure the resources, funding and attention they need to drive forward toward marketing maturity and revenue-based success.
What do the CMO and the board want to know?
For SEOs to communicate effectively, they need to consider their audience. CMOs do not want to see slides with information about the latest Google algorithm update or the steps being taken to avoid duplicate content penalties; instead, they want to know how the actions taken by the SEO team are directly impacting the bottom line.
CMOs are driven by numbers. They want to be able to see that SEO has a positive impact on the brand’s growth and revenue. They are interested in hearing answers to questions such as:
- How are we performing in conversions and revenue year over year?
- What is our market share and share of voice?
- How are we performing compared to the competition?
- What channels are driving our paying customers?
- What is our current and projected ROI?
An appropriate dashboard and presentation will directly answer the questions posed by the board and CMO, engage them and help them understand the value of SEO and the role it is playing in company growth.
SEOs need to learn how to take the data that they already track internally — such as the traffic to their different pages, engagement rates and conversions — and translate this into information that matters to the board and C-suite leaders.
You need to be able to present the right metrics to the right people in the right way, while also using their terminology and language. This is the key to engaging with these leaders and showing them the value of continued investment in SEO.
How do I communicate effectively with my board and business leaders?
- Understand what your brand leaders want to see. Your research and presentations should reflect the understanding that CMOs are not interested in day-to-day SEO tasks or changes. They are driven by numbers, specifically numbers that tell them how the brand is performing and how SEO is directly impacting that outcome. Your leaders want to see how different channels of digital marketing impact the organization’s success and reputation online, as well as the ROI of different marketing efforts. They also want numbers that make it clear how the brand has been growing within the industry space, including market share and share of voice.
- Have an intimate understanding the available digital channels. Your CMOs want to understand the entire story of your brand’s progress. As an SEO expert, your job is to be able to create an engaging story about your brand’s growth and success, and this requires a keen understanding of each channel. You should be able to answer questions about how your performance has changed and grown over time. This includes articulating how the different elements have impacted each other and where your biggest successes lie. You also want to be prepared to answer any questions that your board might ask you during your presentation.
- Show how insights can become action items. Not only do the leaders of your brand want to see the ROI for your different marketing efforts, but they also want to know what steps you will take moving forward to continue to grow. You want to be able to demonstrate to your board that your various efforts have paved the way for new action items that will justify any additional spend you need. These projections should help CMOs understand how you will use the resources you request to further brand growth.
- Be able to position your brand against the competition. Your CMO and board want to see not only how your own brand is progressing in response to your optimization efforts, but also how your performance compares to that of your competitors. If your competitors are optimizing their site at the same time you are and making more progress, you will see this impact in your share of voice and rankings. You want to analyze your competition from a variety of angles, including their rankings, backlink profile, share of voice and market share to gain a firm understanding of how your performance is progressing in comparison.
There is no denying that the SEO industry continues to grow exponentially with each passing year. Measuring the ROI of SEO efforts continues to be one of the most pressing challenges for many in the industry, yet those in the C-suite, who make the decisions about budgeting and resource allotment, want to see numbers that will justify this spend.
Understanding the priorities and metrics that matter the most to your CMO and board can help you communicate more effectively with your leaders, helping you to keep your company moving forward. Not only will following these steps provide you with more effective presentations, but they will also help you monitor your own progress, providing you with the guidelines you need to become more effective.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.