Welcome to the Friday Commentary. In this series every Friday experts will shine a light on the digital industry. Where are we heading, what is going on and how should we approach this as decision makers? This Friday it’s the turn of Kristine Schachinger, a website Implementation Consultant, specializing in SEO, Accessibility & UI/X. She explains how CMO’s should stop worrying about SEO.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love SEO –
Removing Roadblocks to Success
At our company we practice what we like to call “Concierge SEO”. This means we often are working very closely with internal teams to implement proper SEO processes and procedures.
In this scenario it would seem the prevailing thought should be, “I have hired these consultants based on their experience, expertise and reputation to help my team succeed at this very competitive stage in our business life and since I am paying them a good deal of money to do that, I should let them do that.” However, this concept of “letting them do their job” is more often than not – not the case.
When it comes to internal teams working with outside Digital Marketing (and SEO) consultants more often than not there is some member of that team that is given internal authority over the process that finds the very concept of outside consultants a threatening one, so they create roadblocks and supplant the consultants expertise with their understanding. None of which gets the team and site where it needs to go.
Why the fear? Some of the fear is understandable. In order to recover a site from a lack of SEO, poor SEO or damaging SEO (as in the case of penalty situations) the consultant will need to direct many changes in processes and procedures. After all you cannot create change with the same systems that created the problems, right? However, these changes will often involve different internal groups that may or may not already work together, may usurp an employees understanding of how the work needs to be done or might require doing the work in a way that might feel very unfamiliar or even counter-intuitive. All of these can set up a contrary relationship between the internal team and the Digital Marketing Consultants.
Why is it Counter-Intuitive?
What is good SEO is often contradictory to what common sense would tell you is the correct, or proper, method to apply to improve a website search issue.
In fact common sense does not often apply, algorithmic logic however does. This algorithmic logic is based on what is good for the search engines; but unless you live, breathe and eat Digital Marketing the way your consultant must you and your team are likely not to know the finer, more granular points. Not knowing these points are the very details that can kill a successful campaign or at the very least, hamper its effectiveness.
The more drastic conclusion to this scenario is the SEO does not work and the consultants are blamed. However, the reality of the situation is it was actually the roadblocks encountered/created that kept the team from implementing what needed to be, as it needed to be, when it needed to be; that was the real cause of failure.
So what is a C-Level Executive to do?
You are in the C-Suite. You do not have time or the inclination to micromanage your processes because you hired good people to do that, so how do you prevent internal roadblock?
5 C-Level Rules to Help Remove Internal Roadblocks.
1. Take Part in the Process.
Now taking part does not mean micromanage the processes. What it does mean is you should be part of the internal information network and understand the plan as it is given BY YOUR CONSULTANTS.
During the course of our work we have encountered situations where the only information the person in charge receives is from the “trusted” team member. Unfortunately, this trusted person by accident, misdirection, afraid for their jobs or unhappy to be working with external teams will often misinform the person in charge with either incorrect or faulty data or data based on “their interpretation” of the task at hand. However, with over 600 changes to Google last year along with more than 10 major updates, it is very unlikely your internal persons understanding of the Search Environment will supersede the consultants you hired. Yet, when a team member has the role as sole communicator and they, either by intent or accident hand over the faulty data, the information can become a point for debate and contention.
As mentioned previously however, the CMO does not want the to be involved in the daily bits and pieces of the implementation process and they should not be, you have far more important things to do in those limited hours of the work day. So what do you do?
Make sure to stay in tune with what is happening, don’t approach the project with hands off mentality. Make sure to sit in on the higher-level overview meetings where strategy and reporting occurs. Make sure to have the 50,000-foot view of what is taking place and why, so that when your internal roadblocks happen, you know the roadmap and why that path was laid out as it was.
Summary: Digital Marketers are often incredibly adept at educating the team while working with them. Make sure you have not missed the important information transfers and are relying solely on an internal member to report to you the solutions. To keep the plan on track, you need to be involved.
2. Trust Your Consultants.
Assuming you have vetted your consultants well, your consultants will know things about the search algorithms that are never printed online, or said in a public forum.
Why? SEO is a very inside game skill set. Whether it is because you have seen 20 sites with the same issue, or because you know the other consultant who spent six months studying a factor of the algorithm or someone happened to talk to a Google Engineer; the SEO puzzle is only one figured out through solid base knowledge, a lot of experience and good conversations with others in the industry.
Your team, unless someone has the same level of knowledge and experience as your consultants, which is unlikely if you are hiring consultants, will NOT know these things. So make sure your team is not allowed to continually challenge the agreed plan and the consultants’ expertise because of some articles they read on Moz or something they saw on Twitter. Unless it is your internal SEO team, they do not have the knowledge base to fully comprehend the SEO challenges of your site, NOR SHOULD THEY! You are not paying them to know these details; you are paying your consultants. TRUST THEM and if you don’t get another SEO firm to audit the work and hire/fire accordingly.
Summary: One of the number one killers of a successful Digital Marketing plan is someone inside the company with “knowledge”, They often challenge the consultants requiring them to spend precious time on “proving” what they know instead of doing the you’re your hired them to do. Don’t let it happen to you.
3. Access and Control.
Give your consultants proper authority to control and direct the processes that need to be completed in order to succeed. Set them up to win. They should not take over a department’s core roles, but they do need to be allowed to implement the rules of search over the internal process.
Now, not all companies can give direct access to their file systems or website, but that is ok. Just make sure there is someone they can work with who has been tasked for this work and that they are not waiting on people to complete tasks.
If this means giving the implementation work priority in your IT group or with your PR team, you MUST let them do what they need to do, WHEN they need to do it. SEO is a finally tuned strategic plan with definitive timing. To maximize your return on your investment, your SEOs must be able to implement items in the way and method that is best. LET THEM!
Summary: One of the issues that are sure to slow down a Digital Marketing plan is an inability to quickly make changes as the search engines roll them out. Don’t let process be your roadblock.
4. Haste Makes Waste.
So often when we get hired to help a site achieve its goals, there has been a long standing site issue that has become critical in nature. Maybe it is just budgetary concerns or maybe jobs are on the line, however this creates a sense of urgency that can be destructive. Often the internal team pushes for a much faster outcome than is desirable or even possible.
SEO and proper Digital Marketing plans take time to work effectively. Also rushing a plan, like accelerated link building to get keyword positioning, can actually result in a penalty which can result in much more than a website issue, a penalty can result in some businesses closing their doors as all organic search traffic is replaced by paid.
So when your external team tells you that it will take 6-8 weeks or 6-8 months, believe them. They are not trying to garner extra time and money; at least not a well vetted one. It means they actually need that time. They have done this before. TRUST THEM.
Now, if this means you need to talk with them about how to supplement your revenue streams in the meantime, do. All good SEOs will have a plan on how to assist you in making short term gains while doing the proper work to get your long term sustained improvement.
Summary: Never rush your plan or your external team. Make sure to be up front and honest about what you need in the beginning, so proper expectations can be achieved. Sometimes this means you will need alternative revenue strategies while you work on building up the long-term effort.
Think of this like you would losing weight. If you rush the process, you often just are right back where you started or even worse, you gain an extra 10 pounds. However, when you do what needs to be done, slow and steadily applying the principles each day you can overcome your obstacles and achieve lasting success that will make everyone happy.
5. Learn. Get Basic.
As a CMO you should not have to understand the many facets of link building or why you need a better site architecture. Your consultant will explain the ins and outs of site’s needs and strategy changes. However, you should know what a penalty vs. an algorithmic shift or why your page speed matters.
Of course this may seem to fly in the face of my earlier rule for trusting your consultants, but it doesn’t. Digital Marketing and SEO are very complicated and complex knowledge sets. One rule never applies to everything, there will always be an exception and when you discover this is usually when you hire us. However, you should know Digital Marketing 101 so that when the consultants tell you the strategies they have outlined for your property you know what they mean, but only generally speaking.
Summary: Learning SEO as a profession is like learning a new language while being immersed in the country that speaks it. Immersion is your best teacher, however, that does not mean as a CMO you cannot educate yourself to the basic tenets and understandings. Doing this will help you assist your team over the obstacles they fear or create.
SEO is often thought to be “voodoo” or worse “bovine feces”, but nothing could be further from the reality. It is the ability through time and experience to understand a very complex algorithm of which there is no outline or rulebook.
Of course, there are certain core practices that always work well – then there is the rest. The rest relies on the skills, experience, knowledge and nuances of your SEO team (internal or external) in order to succeed. Skillsets your internal team, no matter how practiced at their jobs will not likely know. Now this doesn’t mean the SEO should take over the job of your star Public Relations team, however it does mean they need to know how to do what they do within the constraint of the rules of SEO – TRUST THEM. LET THEM.
In Digital Marketing, the old adage you get what you pay for is the law, not the rule. The good news however, is because it is based on math and logic those who do know how it works can bring you traffic increases you had never thought possible and protect you from the damages of doing it wrong or even not at all. That is IF you remove your roadblocks. You must trust, get your internal team out of the way and let your consulting team do their job. Then you will need to allow time for everything to work. If you do this, as long as your vet those consultants well, you will never wonder if SEO and Digital Marketing are worth it again.