When I began my career in search marketing, organic search was often times a last minute consideration. It was more of the rule than the exception to have SEO brought in after content had been created and/or after a website had already been developed. And many times, once the cost of reverse engineering the damage was identified, stakeholders in the organization would nix implementation.
Why was SEO an afterthought? Why wasn’t SEO programmed into project timelines? Why did creative and/or tech win out the prioritization? Because there was a lack of executive sponsorship for SEO within the organization. If you’re going to be competitive in organic search, you’ve got to have support from the top-down.
Executive Interest in SEO is Growing
Over time, I’ve seen an upward trend of executive interest in SEO and I attribute that to two main influences:
- The amount and percentage of revenue generated from the organic search channel
- The legitimization of the SEO practice
Remember, it wasn’t that long ago where SEO was all about gaming search engine algorithms. And only in recent history has SEO become more accepted as a reputable digital channel. As my good friend, Nathan Safran pointed out in his recent article on Search Engine Land, The New SEO Professional: Master Of Both Left & Right Brain, an SEO’s responsibilities now expand beyond a singular focus in to a multi-dimensional responsibility of developing technically sound Websites, creating and curating quality content and influencing user-experience.
If you’re going to be competitive in organic search, you’ve got to have support from the top-down.
This growth of executive support is evident in a study conducted by Conductor and Search Engine Watch in 2012:
- The second most common place (16%) for search in the organization is now in its own department
- 6 out of 10 organizations expect to increase SEO headcount in the coming year
- 63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago
- 65% of respondents say natural search is influencing revenue strategy more than 12 months ago
Again, in order to be competitive in organic search, SEO cannot be treated as touch-up paint on an old beat-up car. To quote the expression, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”. This means that your SEO team needs to be highly functional within your organization. And in order to be effective, your executive staff must care about organic search.
Be Proactive in Familiarizing Executives with SEO
The question is, how do you get your executive staff to care about SEO beyond the kudos when something goes right or the “What happened?” when something goes wrong? If your expectation is that they will magically one day figure it out, you’re already going in the wrong direction. Most executives are pre-occupied with other areas of the business and may not put SEO as a top priority. Thus, it’s important for your SEO team to be proactive in getting the attention of your executive staff. If your organization is not quite there yet, here are some tips from someone (me) who has been successful in getting executives to be an active part of a search program.
One thing most executives care about is the bottom-line. If your SEO practice can drive a nice chunk of overall revenue, you’ll have the ear of your top-brass.
Executives are ALWAYS looking for new opportunities to grow business. If you want your top-brass to keep your SEO practice close to heart, it’s important that your SEO team constantly look for new growth opportunities and communicate them to the powers that be.
We (SEOs) know how volatile the search landscape is (e.g., Google algorithm updates, changing search behavior, etc..) however it’s important that we communicate that to our executive staff. They may heard the names Panda or Penguin, but do they really know what they mean? It’s not enough to communicate it to middle management—it’s got to go all the way to the top. A few things I recommend are:
- Email forwarding of industry articles
- Inviting a key executive to attend a quality search conference (eg., C3, SMX)
- In-house whitepapers and infographics
- Executive SEO 101s/202s
SEO teams should meet and discuss goals executives have set for themselves and identify ways the SEO team can help achieve them.
This one may sting a bit, but it’s really important to hire the right people. If your SEO staff is incredibly talented but are poor communicators and workplace introverts, you’re probably not going to get the level of support from executives you need. It’s important that your SEO team is capable of managing senior level relationships. If your executives perceive your SEO team (or at least team lead) as articulate, personable, and confident, you’ll go a long way in driving support.
So to summarize, it’s vital to have executive support to have a thriving long-term SEO practice. And ensuring that this happens heavily depends upon the initiative of the SEO team in place.
In 2013, let’s make it a goal to bring SEO even more so, to the forefront of our executive minds.
Please note: All guest posts are the opinion of the author and may not be reflective of the views of Conductor.