The battle lines are drawn. On one side stands our plucky heroine: the redheaded stepchild of the corporation, the search marketer. Armed only with her knowledge and expertise, she stands, all alone. On the other side stand the massed hordes of the IT department. Armed with their “best development practices,” their coding standards documentation, and their knowledge and expertise, speaking in their arcane language of such strange topics as struts, asp, and refactoring. In the middle stands the prize—the corporate website. And conventional wisdom says that only one side can have control over the prize and only one group can win.
Of course, the reality is that it’s not like that, although it may sometimes feel like as though it is. Both the search marketing team and the IT team are on the same side. Both want the corporate site to succeed, and both want to be a part of that success. As an in-house search marketer, here are some of the issues that you’ll probably encounter, and how to deal with them (writing as a former developer, these are observations from both sides of the fence).
We’re all human. Everyone has a different personality, and while some work well with others, some just don’t. Some of the more frequent personality types that you’ll encounter include:
- The know-it-all
- The closed mind
- The control freak
The know-it-all thinks that they know everything about the web, and as such your requirements are merely “recommendations.” How can you know what needs to be done on the web site when that’s their job? To work with this personality you do need to network with them, and then you want to educate them. This can be done subtly by sending them articles that you “think they’d be interested in reading,” and by inviting them to formal training sessions within the company. It may be wise to invite them to training sessions for management so that they’ll have to take part, rather than disrupt the meeting with interruptions as they “make their point,” or as they sit there playing with their smart phone, not listening. You’ll have to decide based on your experience of interactions with the person which is the best approach.
The closed mind is a dangerous personality type, especially if they’re incompetent. The closed mind just doesn’t want to listen. They have their way of doing things and that’s the way it’s going to be. They’ll make excuses that they don’t have the resources, or that implementing your recommendations would involve a radical change to the system that just isn’t budgeted, etc. When dealing with this personality, you may feel like you’re in a constant battle to get anything accomplished. The only way around the problem is to network with management, as you’ll find that they’ll have more sway with this personality type than you. However, that can also lead to resentment, so it has to be done carefully and without malice, as you want the focus to be on getting the work scheduled and done, not on the personality issues.
The control freak is an interesting personality to work with. They want all changes to go through them. They’ll send back changes that don’t conform to their standards, which may, most likely, make sense in an ideal world, but in this non-ideal world that you’re operating in, may just serve to hinder and slow down your work. The way to deal with them is to work within the guidelines where necessary, and work to change the guidelines that don’t make sense. Use your position on the search marketing team to set your own guidelines, stroking the ego of the IT control freak, by letting them know that you’re doing this based on the success of their work on guidelines. Heck, you can even then turn the monitoring of the guidelines over to them, since they like doing that. Then the next time that changes are made they’ll have the power of approving the changes based on guidelines that you’ve set. If they want to take credit for the success of the guidelines, let them do it. As long as the work’s getting done and implemented, what does it matter?
With any of these personality types, and especially when you’re dealing with a combination, you’re going to want to keep a close eye on the site so that previous recommendations of yours don’t suddenly get changed because IT decided that another way was better—for example, moving the analytics code to an external file because “it all looks the same.” If you don’t notice a change before it goes live, you’re going to notice it the next time you look at your analytics and either see a massive spike or a drop to zero in conversions.
In a lot of organizations, especially smaller companies with limited budgets, you’ll find that you’re going to have a battle for resources, especially when the work directly involves the IT team (database modifications, content management systems, integration, etc). The challenges here involve getting buy-in that your recommendations will be more beneficial to the long term success of the site than that new piece of functionality the IT team wants to implement.
This, again, is where educating your organization and networking within your organization will enable you to get your items on “the list.” You’ll also have to accept that there will be times when management will deem other work more important than the work you’re recommending. What you should do then is, after making a point of the opportunity cost, look at the work that has been approved, and see how search marketing can be applied to that work.
You’ll also have the challenge of scope-creep in other projects forcing your project to be pushed out into the next release cycle. Regardless of how much educating and networking you’ve done, you may not be able to get your project back on the schedule. All you can do then is make everyone aware of the opportunity cost of the delay, and get ready to make your case for the prioritization meeting for the next release.
In reality, the in-house search marketing team and the IT team are both on the same side. The issue is that they both see the prize at the end of the road, but they may have mapped out different routes to get there. It’s only by working together, and understanding the issues that each faces, that you can compromise and find the best and fastest route to success.
Simon Heseltine worked as an in-house search marketer for a medium sized Virginia company before moving over to work as Director of Search for RedBoots Consulting. He also organizes the Virginia SEM meetup group. 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.