BACK TO BASICS: Tips for In-House SEO Evangelism: How to Get Buy-In
Can you juggle? How big is your hat collection? Have you ever considered a rewarding career as a cat herder?
In-house SEOs may have answered: yes, impressive and it's already on my business card.
As a multi-hat wearing, juggling cat herder you work to keep your organization in sync with communication goals, in-line with brand messaging and maintaining an outstanding industry reputation.
You petition for budget, mediate the needs of multiple departments, and promote ways to improve search visibility across the organization.
One thing that's certain, an in-house SEO can't work alone. Inter-department cooperation is critical. SEO initiatives frequently require participation by executives, directors, business departments, editorial and creative departments, technical operations, and Web development departments.
And so, wrapped up into the job duties of an in-house SEO is the responsibility of SEO evangelist.
What Does SEO Evangelism Entail?
The role of evangelist is similar to a missionary in that SEO is a vital mission for a healthy organization. To gain converts to the mission of SEO, the first step of evangelism is getting the word out.
Humans don't generally respond well to broad outreach, preferring instead a personal approach that addresses individual desires and interests. SEO buy-in is generally difficult to achieve via mass emails or memos about best practices.
Rather, personal connections formed between the SEO evangelist and individuals within key departments are far more likely to develop into mutually beneficial relationships based on the meeting of minds and needs.
In order to build inter-department relationships, create and maintain free-flowing communication channels. People are often moved to participate when they see discussions taking place. Send out an email to the IT, marketing and editorial teams about Google's new product and individuals may respond to the group with comments about how it affects their work or department. Encourage people to think about how search engine rankings and visibility can positively influence their objectives.
Likewise, you may discover messages or channels that can be leveraged for your SEO goals. For instance, talk to the sales department about the most frequently asked questions they get and what collateral they'd appreciate that might help with sales. Maybe they often get requests for a white paper. Coordinate the creation of a white paper with the help of the marketing and content departments, and optimize the offering as an SEO asset. Develop communication channels for the organization that tie all media channels back to SEO.
Why is SEO Evangelism Necessary?
People inherently want to do their job well. Pressed for time and resources, they'll commit time to the most important tasks that move them closer to their professional priorities. SEO won't be a priority unless they understand why it helps the organization as a whole, and their department in particular.
Companies are also always trying to eliminate inefficiencies and productivity drain. Demonstrate how, by contributing to SEO goals, they'll be reducing inefficiencies in their processes. If the sales team can receive better qualified leads when searchers fill out a quote request form, sales team time will be saved by reducing time spent qualifying leads and tracking down new prospects.
It's important not to become frustrated if faced with push-back from another team. This usually occurs when someone doesn't understand how a proposed SEO tactic will help them meet their goals. Instead of butting heads, explain the benefits site- and organization-wide.
And when working to develop buy-in throughout the organization, start from the top down. People may be willing to argue with you, but what are the chances they'll argue orders from the top?
However, even though you can strong-arm participation via a management mandate, never stop communicating with your team and listening to their needs as well.
Open communication channels will help ensure everyone feels the benefit of effective SEO.
What Tactics Help SEO Evangelists Get Buy In Across the Organization?
Images are worth thousands of words and a story is one of the most persuasive vehicles of communication. A concrete story supported by numbers and visual aids will go a long way toward making the case for SEO and convincing others to participate. Being informed of precise figures and data (such as increased traffic, sales or brand awareness), and understanding the direct return on their investment will help them consider SEO as a regular part of their development or management process.
Make a point of regularly reporting SEO progress to the whole organization or all key departments with a stake in Internet marketing success (management, directors, sales, marketing, editorial, IT). Pay attention to who takes the most interest in SEO and build a network of SEO evangelists, with one or more representatives within each department.
Significant successes and failures should both be included in reports made at regular intervals, helping to get people in the habit of looking forward to the report, enjoying the supportive nature of the team, and boosting motivation to stay involved in SEO initiatives. Give kudos where they are due, so that people stay active in the team.
Speak in terms of your experience, using phrases such as "in my experience" or "previously" when explaining the value of SEO tactics. People will better understand the importance of SEO initiatives if they understand that you're speaking from past success and when they have a concrete image to associate the strategy with. If they can feel comfortable assuming that if you've found success with a tactic before, they will suspect you'll be able to deliver it again.
And the need for establishing signals of trust and authority is something we're all familiar with as SEOs, right?