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October 3, 2008

SEO Bailout or Digital Initiative

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Christopher Hart is Director, Eastern Region Operations of Bruce Clay, Inc. Welcome to the blog, Chris!

It’s been impossible to miss what’s going on in the American economy today. If you aren’t watching it on the news, you’re feeling it on the bottom line. Along with the lessons we’ll inevitably learn about how the country can better manage finances, there are lessons to be learned for Internet marketers and corporate executives navigating companies through the upcoming business evolution, as well. To illustrate this, I am going to draw a parallel between SEO and the current banking bailout.

For the purpose of this conversation, let’s just agree that the main goal of the bailout is to provide credit to the banks so they can lend money and keep the flow of credit within our economy moving. Let’s also agree that SEO has the same main goal as the bailout, and that is to keep the flow of credit within your economy moving, a.k.a. company growth. So for your business the “flow of credit” is the sum of all departments functions as they connect, touch and influence your digital strategy. Likewise, “economy” represents the elements that go into your ROI calculations and your final profit.

The key concepts to remember are flow and economy, and simply put, if you want to get the most out of your business you need to keep things moving along smoothly.

So why, when it comes time for companies to develop their digital strategies, do executives allow their organization to mutate into territories of business functions that do not work together and often fight each other, and not into elements of a system working together?

See, in my view the banking collapse occurred because as long as people were making money they did not want to ask any questions. And as long as no one asked any questions the banks were happy to keep doing what they were doing without any oversight. Now this is oversimplifying the issue, but I am not here to fix that problem. Instead, I think that the lessons we’re learning from the financial crisis can help you look within to help fix your company’s digital strategy.

Let’s turn the focus to your digital strategy — or lack of one. Before we were all rudely awakened by today’s economic predicament, it almost seemed easier not to develop a digital strategy. If you saw positive results, you could tell your out-of-the-loop boss that some Web thing you made did some stuff. You were more than happy to do just that and move on. Fast forward to a time of crisis where the flow has been disrupted and everyone is looking at your work. Now you are feeling the pinch.

What has happened over time is that, without an effective system of communication, almost all of the company’s processes and procedures were only mentally documented by a few individuals. There were a bunch of people, with no clear leader, each working from their own opinions of how to best use their technology/information/process to protect their own role in the company. There was nothing designed to systemically support the overall needs of the company and protect it from danger.

Along comes what you feel is your digital strategy bailout, a.k.a. SEO. There’s a good chance you view SEO as black box hocus pocus, in part because no one took the time to explain it to you or maybe because you did not take the time to learn about it.

So to help put you on the right footing, make no mistake: doing business online is just that — a business initiative. As with any revenue generating function, the online business needs a full time manager, an individual that is focused on the needs of the project in sum of all it parts. This person must work with all the different teams that have input in the digital initiative. This person must be charged with the specific function to coordinate all of the efforts into a successfully flowing economic system and to be empowered to prioritize goals and act as the final word in all aspects of the company initiative. It must be their mission to make the elements of your digital initiative work together and in support of each other.

It turns out that SEO is not just optimization for search engines, nor is it a bailout of any kind. It is education, planning and communication. SEO is measuring all the functions across your company that go into your online business initiative. SEO helps you to maximize the ability of your company to communicate and to distribute your products and services through search engines to the end users which are your prospective clients.

So like the banking issue, we are here mostly due to our own issues and any solution that is not forever monitored and allowed to mature over time is bound to fail.

It will likely take some time before we find ourselves climbing out of the current crisis, but in the meantime, I’d like to invite you to come say hello. At SMX East next week, I’ll be hanging out in the Bruce Clay, Inc. booth and I’ll also be speaking at Scary SEO mini-con in Florida at the end of the month. Hope to see you there!

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