16 Mar 2012

Who Needs an SEO Primer?

jigsaw puzzle coming together

Bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together can lead to SEO success.

As SEO service providers, we get to talk to a lot of different people. Our client contacts are frequently in-house SEO managers but not always. We often find ourselves talking to various members of the organization. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that when there are more people in the business that are invested in SEO, we are able to achieve much more as a team. In an agency, we eat, sleep and breathe SEO, but we realize that with many of the people we work with, it’s a line item on a long to do list. And that’s OK; that’s why you have us.

If your business has decided to take the plunge and integrate SEO into your website’s long-term plans, there are a lot of people involved. But it helps if there are some key players who are on board, in addition to the person whose main job is SEO. In order to make your campaign as integrated and effective as possible, it might help to make sure some of these folks have at least a decent handle on what SEO means, what it takes and what to expect.


The CEO or President

It all starts at the top. Whether it’s getting approval to move forward with the plan or just getting budget approval to hire a service, the man or woman on top has some input. The more they understand that SEO is a life-long, developmental evolution for a website, the easier it gets to do what needs to be done. If the person who signs the checks has the wrong impression of SEO (like the mistaken idea that it’s a one-time project and expense), everyone’s life gets more difficult. If they can spare the time, it helps to get them in on some of what is going on. If a CEO thinks success is how many pages you have indexed or how well the company name ranks, then you may have issues showing value in other areas which are actually much more valuable. Helping leadership to understand the need for SEO, the process and what to measure, makes it infinitely easier for necessary changes to happen and for the right metrics to be judged.

It’s easy to assume this is not something the head honcho needs to be involved with but I’d say it’s crucial that they be in the loop. Their understanding of your site’s current standing, needs and goals can also help them gauge your job performance. The more they grasp the process and realities of SEO, the more you can accomplish. In order to implement effective SEO, you’re going to need things from other people in your business, and in order to get those things, you need a little bit of jurisdiction. The boss can grant you the kind of authority it takes to make things happen. It is definitely worth the boss’s time to get a brief history of SEO and some of the high points of what matters most. With his or her buy-in, and realistic expectations for results, it’s a lot easier for everyone to do their jobs and be recognized for their work.


The Marketing Department

This seems like a no-brainer. SEO is Internet marketing, and Internet marketing is a part of marketing, right? Yes, totally. But it doesn’t always work that way in a company. If SEO falls to the tech department, or marketing and SEO are looked at as separate entities, you wind up with an inevitable disconnect. When SEO efforts and marketing efforts are unified, you have the best chance for success. Whether it’s experimenting with QR codes on print materials or ensuring that press releases are optimized for the right keywords, SEO is a part of marketing.

You can have two people with separate areas of expertise working together of course, but it does help if they both know a little of the other one’s world. That’s why marketers who are not familiar with SEO should be briefed on the fundamental principles. They should know the importance of back links, specifically optimized back links in terms of page targeting and anchor text. They should know that title tags play a vital role in on-page optimization. A marketing person’s insights will also help an SEO to make sure that the brand voice and message always shines through everything else. But ultimately, whether it’s one person’s job or a whole group of people, marketing efforts and SEO efforts need to be coordinated in order for both to reach their maximum potential. If one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, they’ll never reach as far as they could if they were working together.


The Web Team

Again, this seems simple, but I can’t tell you how often the web team puts up SEO obstacles for some of our contacts. From publishing content to URL structuring, these guys ultimately hold the keys to the kingdom. If you can’t go in and add alt text to images yourself, you need one of them to do it for you. And if they understand why you’re bugging them with all of these pesky requests for things like image labels and internal links, you’re a lot more likely to get what you need in a timely manner. Adding keywords to content can fall pretty low on a priority list if you don’t think about it as directly important to sales.

Now, I know these guys are always slammed. But it’s worth taking some time to review the key tenants of SEO with them. Simple concepts like session IDs that create multiple URLs are bad or that 301 re-directs are preferable to 302s are things that are better communicated before there’s a problem than after. If they accidentally cause a fire, like 404ing your strongest sub-page, if they don’t know SEO, it’s not entirely their fault. But the more they know about how SEO fits into their job, the safer everyone’s jobs will be.

In a perfect world, everyone would know the value of SEO from the executive management to the sales reps. But outside of agency life, that’s just not practical. However, if these key figures can at least gain a basic understanding of the SEO aspects most crucial to their roles in the company, then the entire process becomes much smoother. SEO can unify a business or divide it. And which one it is will largely depend on the buy-in of these individuals. When SEO is kept isolated within the business, opportunities are missed and misconceptions about success can run rampant. But when it’s integrated into the core values of the company, you’ll build yourself an unstoppable team.

So who did I miss? Who else do you think needs to know SEO in a company?

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