Today I will make a case that nearly every organization should offer SEO training to anyone who even remotely touches the company’s web site, and why every senior manager should also be encouraged to attend. Failure to train people can lead to serious problems, with a frightful waste of time, blown schedules, wasted expenditure and ultimately a failure to effectively capture search traffic. You may think I am fear-mongering here, but to head that off, let me provide some real world examples:
One company had an existing site that they wanted to migrate to a new domain. A key goal was to preserve the legacy search traffic as much as possible. They selected a CMS for the project and built the site. Then they brought in the SEO firm to begin working on the site. The trouble was that the CMS was an SEO disaster, and did not allow unique title tags on each page. The cost of fixing this problem: a six month launch delay at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Another company was rebranding their site. They were going for a major upgrade in look and feel, and they had made a corporate level decision to target all their messaging at the “C-Suite” (CEOs, CFOs, CIOS, etc.). Based on this they made a decision to implement an all-Flash site (see this article by Vanessa Fox on why that is a bad idea). They created a site with a beautiful user experience, but that was virtually impenetrable to search engines. The in-house SEO that was trying to work on the site did not have the pull to get people to understand the consequences of this decision, and search traffic plummeted.
The source of the problem
In large enterprises one of the big challenges is that there are many different groups that are involved in decisions. You have marketing, sales, development and the executive staff. Anyone of these groups can make decisions that are basically fatal to SEO. Successful SEO efforts require that all these groups are working in unison. Yet coordinating all these groups of people can be very difficult to do.
There are two ways that the problem gets worse, both of which are examples of bad decisions being made about SEO. These are:
- In some organizations SEO is thought of as something you do after the site is built. This is just too late. At this point the damage has already been done.
- The organization hires someone to do SEO work for them, and they are knowledgeable about SEO, but they are relatively junior and do not have the confidence or presence to sway the C-Suite or other decision makers.
To summarize, either bringing in an SEO resource too late, or making use of one that is too junior to have sufficient influence in the organization is a mistake you do not want to make.
How do you solve this problem? You put key people in all constituent groups in your organization (including the C-Suite) through basic SEO training. Knowledge can be a very powerful thing. Once people “get it” they are in a position to make much better decisions. Sometimes there is a tension between corporate objectives and the requirements of SEO, but these can nearly always be handled elegantly if the issues are confronted up front.
In one training session I did, I had the senior management team of a good sized company for 4 hours. The group was comprised of really smart people, but with no background in SEO. During the course of that meeting we kept everything at a high level, and we covered a lot of ground. There were tons of questions and dialogue, and by the end of it all the team had gotten the basics down.
The outcome of the meeting was amazing. Historically, they had a great focus on on-site SEO (or technical SEO) but the focus on link building and web site promotion was not high enough. After the meeting decisions started to get made a bit differently. The focus on link building went way up, and the improved results on new business obtained from search engine referrals has been impressive.
The key to success
Large organizations are complex beasts, and a lot of different people have the opportunity to provide input (or directives) about the web site. Everyone is usually well-intentioned, but what you don’t know can hurt you. Training people is the key. It’s not necessary for most people to spend years learning all the ins-and-outs of SEO, but they do need to know the basics.
The best time to do this is as soon as possible. Decisions about the web site are made on a regular basis. Of course, there are other priorities in the organization, and those need to be taken into account. Sometimes a good time to fit this training in is in conjunction with planning meetings for site redesigns or updates. These meetings usually bring the various constituent groups together to make decisions anyway, so it’s an ideal time to provide them with the knowledge they need to make better decisions.
Training can help prevent disastrous decisions, and can also enable great decisions. Knowledge is indeed power, so make sure that those with power over your web site have the knowledge they need to be successful.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.