How SEOs can grow their talent, influence and impact

SEOs who adopt the growth mindset will be able to provide integrated services that span across paid search, mobile, content, social, display and email.

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We know that SEO is a huge priority for marketing; 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority (HubSpot). But across the organization – right on up to the C-level – brands are now starting to tap into the full potential of their SEO talent.

As an SEO, you have amazing potential to become ingrained in your organization’s DNA, as you have the best insights and knowledge into what customers want and need.

And in terms of career development, you are in the best position to fulfill the hybrid roles modern organizations need to combat the skills shortage impacting the wider digital marketing industry. In this post, we’ll explore a few ways you can show your value and gain that additional investment to scale your campaigns by utilizing your skills and outputs in the most creative ways.

1. Grab your seat at the planning and strategy table

Many of the most talented SEOs I meet want to have an impact not only on search rankings, but on the business they are working for as a whole. After all, you are agents of change; the interpreters of data, technical wranglers and creatives all in one. When your organization needs insight into consumer experience, chances are people come to you as the best bet.

Organizations are near-universally struggling with the volume of data they have to process – and with activating its insights. Your access to search and CRM data, on-site and search ecosystem behavior, which conversion triggers and offers work best, how customers feel about your products and services via online reviews, and more makes your insight indispensable.

Yet some organizations are making better use of SEO’s insights than others. In fact, companies using marketing analytics in corporate decision-making tend to invest more in marketing as a whole. The C-suite is missing out on a massive opportunity to make better-informed decisions when SEO is not afforded a seat at the table – so let them know. How many times have you had to issue a fix, come in and clean up, or create time-consuming work arounds because you weren’t consulted early enough?

Fight for your place at the table from the very initial planning stages, but understand that you need to do so with tact. Learn to speak the language of those you’re trying to win over; translate the benefits of SEO to real, tangible business results they can understand. Remember, you don’t need to explain how everything works; doing so will quickly result in glazed-over eyes and lost interest. You just need to be afforded a seat at the table while decision-makers are strategizing, so SEO is an integral part of the process and no longer an afterthought.

2. Collaborate instead of competing internally

The days of IT and marketing duking it out for a share of budget need to be left far behind us. The different channels and tactics of successful digital strategy have converged as the customer’s journey has become a scattered matrix of touchpoints across devices and networks. Organizations are adapting, but slowly. When it comes to paying for martech, for example, acquiring the budget is solely marketing’s responsibility 40% of the time. Marketing leads with guidance and collaboration from IT just 37% of the time [Gartner].

And while Marketing and IT are perhaps most closely related, there’s room to look at how SEO interacts with Ops, R&D, Sales, and other departments, as well. As an SEO, you know from a technical perspective how to read and interpret the data. But you also understand from a consumer perspective what decision makers in other departments are looking for; what expectations customers have of their interactions with your brand, and how to pull the answers to specific questions from data.

It’s not always easy to assert yourself. Depending on the size of your organization and its culture, there may be all kinds of interpersonal and political hurdles to SEO being seen as a collaborative partner. Find opportunities to share SEO insights in ways that are helpful, not competitive. No one likes to hear “I told you so,” so swooping in after a failed campaign to list all the ways your data would have prevented it won’t find you a receptive audience.

Instead, look for ways to proactively share insights in company-wide or cross-departmental meetings, newsletters, or other communications. If those opportunities don’t exist yet, take the initiative to create them! I met an SEO recently who started a company-wide newsletter in which he planned to share search insights but, knowing that most other departments didn’t really understand search and wouldn’t read it, he invited every other department to input news they wanted to share, as well. In getting others invested in the project, he guaranteed its success and now week after week, the newsletter is widely circulated internally and has become a conversation starter, as those who contribute have an incentive to not only read but share it, as well.

And that SEO? Well, he has full ownership of a company-wide communication that has won the eyes and ears of decision-makers from sales to R&D to ops and beyond.

3. Invest in yourself and your own professional development

Search is an incredibly fast-moving space and staying at the forefront of all of these changes is incredibly challenging. As an SEO your skill sets are likely already broad and wide-ranging, rooted in elements of content marketing, PR, digital advertising, video, brand messaging and more. SEO requires equal parts creative and technical, innovative and analytical to do it right.

Make sure your leaders understand the importance of your access (and your team’s) to ongoing training, a community of your peers and professional development. Share the knowledge you gain in workshops and at conferences back to your peers and the organization as a whole, across departments. Don’t wait to be given these opportunities; create them. Go into each learning experience with the goal of bringing something back to the company and they’ll be happy to keep sending you.

Reconsider the types of professional development opportunities you’re asking your company to fund, too. Technical SEO, content marketing, local marketing and related disciplines are all certainly within your wheelhouse. But if you really want to stretch and grow within the company, you should be looking at communications, leadership development, and marketing technology, as well.

Gartner research shows that 29% of marketing leaders indicate that training and upskilling existing martech talent is a major impediment to their martech stack effectiveness. Identifying and recruiting talent is a major impediment for 27%. Building those skills enhances the importance of SEO to marketing as a whole and helps to make you an indispensable asset.

Make it clear that as SEO grows in importance in the organization, you plan to be the one leading that charge. Develop your people management skills. And if your company won’t fund all of the training you feel you need to grow as an SEO leader, take some of it on yourself. If the company you’re with today doesn’t value these new skills, the next one you choose certainly will.

4. Develop a growth mindset and focus on how SEO can move the whole organization forward

As we head into 2020 more and more challenges and opportunities are opening up for SEOs, with voice and visual search, in particular, leading the way. Furthermore, as brands increasingly focus on providing SEO focused multi-channel experiences there are significant opportunities for you to build new skills, become more creative and take on more digital marketing responsibilities.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck explains the benefits of a growth mindset; where you know that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop. It’s not an entirely new concept, but developing your growth mindset is highly relevant to the SEOs of today who want to become digital leaders of tomorrow.


Source: Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

SEOs who adopt the growth mindset will be able to provide integrated services that span across paid search, mobile, content, social, display and email marketing. You can become hybrid marketers who will continue to drive change inside the organization. You’ve long been an expert in growing traffic, visibility, and revenue. Now’s the time to focus on growing your own influence and the impact of SEO, as a result.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jim Yu
Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise content performance platform. He combines in-depth expertise in developing and marketing large on-demand software platforms with hands-on experience in advanced search, content and digital marketing practices.

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