CMO Directive: ‘Think SEO’ or Work Somewhere Else

It was some years back when my team at Bruce Clay Inc. delivered a 100+ page SEO audit to one of the largest research and review sites in the automotive sector.

We proposed a number of improvements including radical siloing of their massive website contents. We said that if they implemented every recommendation in our strategy, it would generate a significant increase in traffic. So much so that they’d need to upgrade their servers to handle the load.

It was quite a risk for the client to take, but they got behind it.

Every SEO recommendation, no matter how large or small, would be implemented. They knew in order to pull it off that, everybody — from the executives to the marketing and IT teams — would need to be a part of it.

The chairman of the board called a company meeting. He announced that search engine optimization was a key strategic initiative for the company. Everybody needed to be on board … or, essentially, they could find another place to work.

After implementing the SEO program, then came the results: a 900 percent increase in traffic within the first week. The site’s prominence continues to this day.

CMO directive: Think SEO or work somewhere else, quote by Bruce Clay.

SEO Takes Commitment

Commitments cannot be half-hearted and succeed. With SEO, you’re either all in or you’re out. CMOs and other top decision-makers must understand that SEO is a key strategic initiative for any company today.

Unfortunately, a 2019 Gartner study found that in North America and the UK, less than 7 percent of the marketing budget is allocated to SEO. Yet most of the budget goes to the website. Notice a gap in thinking?

Percentage of marketing budget graph per Gartner.

In fact, Gartner reports that “nearly half of brands lack a discernible search strategy; only 10 percent are maximizing the opportunity search offers.

This is a problem when organic traffic drives more than half of the traffic to a website and up to 60 percent of the revenue versus other channels (per BrightEdge research in 2019).

Pie chart showing search's dominant channel share.

Obstacles to Thinking SEO

One issue that many forget is that SEO is a long-term strategy. So, they invest in other channels that offer quicker gratification.

Balancing different marketing strategies is a CMO’s job. But it’s imperative not to sacrifice long-term sustained search traffic by focusing too much on alternatives.

Another issue: siloed thinking. While silos in SEO are a good thing, they’re not so great when it comes to organizational success. McKinsey reported that cultural and behavioral challenges, which include functional or departmental silos, have the most impact on the ability to meet digital priorities.

Chart showing most significant challenges to meeting digital priorities.

In fact, in its research with executives, McKinsey found “siloed thinking and behavior number one among obstacles to a healthy digital culture.” And, as shown in the chart below, it can have a negative impact on the economic growth of a company.

Cultural obstacles have negative correlation with economic performance.

Overcoming the Obstacles

The key to breaking down silos, according to McKinsey, is education and accountability. When staff understands the impact of an SEO initiative and is held accountable for their decisions (it’s not just “someone else’s job”), you can begin to make great progress. This, by the way, is why we enroll clients in our SEO training course at the start of their project.

At the end of the day, an SEO strategy is not really just about “doing SEO.” It’s about driving growth and remaining competitive. And above all, it’s about putting the user first. These are the ideas that need to be communicated and bought into for SEO to succeed.

At its best, customer-centricity extends far beyond marketing and product design to become a unifying cultural element that drives all core decisions across all areas of the business.

–McKinsey & Company, “Culture for a Digital Age” report

Companies that make big bets on their digital strategies know what their competition is up to. As McKinsey points out, “Goals should reflect the pace of disruption in a company’s industry.”

This includes Nordstrom, which, in the face of Amazon, “committed more than $1.4 billion in technology capital investments to enable rich cross-channel experiences,” McKinsey reported.

And this is exactly what our client did when they bought into SEO as a key strategic initiative for their company.

If you’re doing search engine optimization, with every decision, you need to ponder: How will this decision impact SEO’s ability to put the user first and drive results?

  • Redesigning the website? Ask how SEO needs to be involved.
  • Writing content? Consider how it can be optimized to fit the SEO strategy.
  • Launching a new product? Involve SEO sooner in the planning.

SEO needs to be a natural process throughout our businesses, not a seldom-remembered “nice to have.” One voice is not enough within the company.

The CMO or the SEO cannot always be in the room, so in order to support SEO as the key strategic initiative that it is, we need others in the company to live and breathe SEO.

United is how we win, so others in the company should get on the bandwagon … or get off.

If you found this post helpful, please share it and subscribe to our blog. To inquire about our SEO audits or other services, contact us today.

FAQ: Why is a customer-centric approach essential for SEO success?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential tool businesses use to expand their online presence. While traditional keyword stuffing and link-building techniques may once have provided businesses a competitive edge in the online world, for SEO to truly work successfully, businesses must adopt customer-focused strategies instead.

Understanding the Customer-Centric Approach

A customer-centric approach in SEO revolves around putting your audience first. This approach emphasizes providing users with value and relevance rather than simply optimizing for search engine algorithms. Understanding their preferences will allow you to tailor content specifically to them and tailor websites as per user preferences.

Building Trust and Credibility

Adopting a customer-centric strategy is one way to build trust and credibility among your users, who will more likely engage with and return to your website when they find its content relevant and valuable. Search engines recognize this increased engagement from users as a sign that the site provides quality resources; rankings will eventually rise accordingly.

Enhancing User Experience

Customer experience is an integral component of SEO success, so customer-centric approaches should ensure your site loads quickly and offer an uninterrupted browsing experience for users. These factors keep visitors on your site and reduce bounce rates, contributing positively to your SEO efforts.

Long-Term Relationship Building

Lastly, a customer-centric approach fosters long-term relationships with your audience. You can transform one-time visitors into loyal customers by consistently delivering value and addressing their needs. Engaging customers are more likely to promote your brand and share its content, driving up SEO rankings.

Customer-centricity isn’t just a buzzword – it’s an effective strategy that will lead to success. By prioritizing the needs and preferences of your target audience, prioritization helps build trust, enhance user experience, and forge lasting relationships – essential ingredients in reaching top SEO rankings.

Step-by-Step Procedure: How to Implement a Customer-Centric Approach for SEO Success

  1. Research Your Audience: Start by deeply understanding your target audience’s demographics, preferences, and pain points.
  2. Keyword Research: Identify keywords that align with your audience’s interests and needs.
  3. Create High-Quality Content: Develop informative, engaging content tailored to your audience’s interests.
  4. User-Friendly Website: Ensure your website is easy to navigate, loads quickly, and is mobile-responsive.
  5. Optimize for Mobile: Given the prevalence of mobile device usage, prioritize mobile optimization.
  6. Prioritize Page Speed: Optimize your website’s loading speed for a better user experience.
  7. Use Structured Data: Implement structured data markup to enhance search results and provide more information to users.
  8. Quality Backlinks: Focus on acquiring quality backlinks from reputable websites in your industry.
  9. Regularly Update Content: Keep your content fresh and relevant to maintain user engagement.
  10. Engage on Social Media: Connect with your audience on social media platforms to foster relationships.
  11. Collect User Feedback: Gather user feedback to improve your website and content continuously.
  12. Local SEO: If applicable, optimize for local search to attract nearby customers.
  13. Monitor Analytics: Regularly analyze website and SEO performance using tools like Google Analytics.
  14. A/B Testing: Experiment with strategies to determine what resonates most with your audience.
  15. Adapt and Evolve: Be flexible in adapting your SEO strategy based on changing user behavior and search engine algorithms.
  16. Build Online Communities: Foster online communities related to your niche to engage with your audience.
  17. Leverage Social Proof: Showcase customer reviews and testimonials to build trust.
  18. Educate and Inform: Provide informative resources that help users solve problems or make informed decisions.
  19. Track Competitors: Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing regarding SEO and user engagement.
  20. Stay Updated: Continuously educate yourself on the latest SEO trends and customer behavior to stay ahead in the digital landscape.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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5 Replies to “CMO Directive: ‘Think SEO’ or Work Somewhere Else”

I love this content, it is very nice and helpful.

Content on this blog is always amazing and informative.

A great insight into what SEO is. Love what you do at BruceClay.

This is really an awesome guide. Got so many useful insights from this post. Now, I can confidently put some great points in front of upper-level management to focus more on SEO.

Definitely “All in” for me…

SEO “is” Forever!

Thank you for this post, Bruce!


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