I’m always jotting down useful ideas, tools, pointers, thoughts etc. etc. for SEO – everything from chats in the pub to conferences – there’s endless amounts of information out there to help make your life easier and your rankings climb.
However I think there’s a really crucial tool that just doesn’t get used enough by SEOs when working on projects, and that’s communication. Especially with clients or stakeholders.
Get them on board and it’s amazing the difference it can have on both your stress levels and your keyword positions.
I want to give a couple of examples of this point, as the idea for this post actually came to me from a client a couple of weeks ago.
I travelled for 8 hours to see this client a little while ago, meeting them for the first time for the grand total of one hour. It’s a pretty long time to sit on a train just to say hello really, especially when conference calls are commonplace and generally fairly effective in communicating needs and issues.
As I left, the MD made a point of coming up to me, to thank me for talking to them like humans. This caught me off guard, the meeting had been pretty basic – really just to meet and greet as far as I was concerned. He explained that in other SEO meetings he’d been in, they had either blinded by technical science or spoken to like silly children. This was something that rang with me, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end it (yes I’m looking at you Mr. Bike Shop Salesman) and have been guilty of it too. If it’s not someone trying to impress you with their amazing acronym vocab, it’s them talking down to you assuming it’s really all just above your head and you can’t understand a thing. Always talking up the latest SEO rainbow. The meeting goes round in circles and no definite action points actually come out of it, nor any satisfaction. Just taking the time to run through basics in a normal equal manner makes a difference.
10 days later, I’m getting emails from both the marketing manager and their tech guys. The marketing manager had noticed some content on a partner’s site that had recently gone up but wasn’t linking back to our site. She “wasn’t sure” but wanted to check what the best course of action was. The tech guy wasn’t just fixing issues his way anymore, he was bothering to ask my opinion on how it should be done and what effect it would have.
You’d think these are pretty simple, basic daily communications. They’re not! You can’t control everything. You are reliant a lot of the time on people getting in touch with you – you can’t double check every piece of content sent out by a company or every site modification made. But get your clients on board, and they can do that for you.
Duplicate content on site avoided, 3 new links generated and happy people all round.
I won a client a while ago that had absolutely no idea about SEO but did have a strong brand name and therefore a strong site. They assumed we were there to ‘make things happen’ as an external agency. They ask, we do, end of relationship.
As part of the kick-off stages, I set up 3 days of training in everything from acronyms to other online marketing channels to analytics. This wasn’t to get the team doing these jobs but to EDUCATE.
They won’t become SEOs overnight but I’m yet to meet a client who doesn’t get a little excited about the impact they can have on their own site themselves. Personally I genuinely don’t think it’s hard to make SEO interesting and make the potential exciting. They had the sales pitch in the proposal but what you can offer as an SEO is the real future possibilities and the tools to do it.
In the ensuing weeks after the training, I got a lot of emails and questions from the client. They started looking at their analytics account and taking an interest in what data actually means.They realised they were being abused by some partner sites – handing links out to them all over the place unwittingly. They noticed link potential in the daily marketing activities they were conducting anyway, and genuinely got excited when they managed to get links back to their site with no help from me.
Ongoing link building efforts not undertaken just by me, improved internal linking techniques and a wider support team for content and link baiting efforts.
I’m not saying it’s all roses and easy. HiPPOs and key stakeholders rarely want to see the nitty gritty – you need to judge your audience accordingly. You may find yourself bombarded by over-eager staff that email and call you about everything. Grit your teeth. SEOs both agency-side and in-house are often under-resourced, especially when it comes to link building or having time to work on the finer details of on-page content.
One day of chatting, explaining and training could equal countless link opportunities from places you would never think of.
Get your marketing managers, your tech guys, your PRs, your editorial staff on-side and it’s worth all the link building or research tools in the world. They know their brand, they know their products and they know their commercial partners – you just need to add another string to their bow.
It doesn’t have to be perfect! You can’t teach all the finer details of the perfect link or the perfect page setup and expect people to remember it. Rather than over-expanding points, keep it simple. They want links for their website. If they are talking to partners, PRs, advertisers, clients – is there an opportunity to get one from that conversation? Simple, effective.
Image credit: Brick and Me