Whether you are an in-house SEO specialist or an SEO agency specialist, you will need to quickly come to terms with the fact that you are exactly that: a specialist.
That’s not to say you are special. You might be, but that’s not the point here. The point is that you are there to know everything about SEO and to find out more if you don’t know enough.
Your job is to have the depth of knowledge on this subject so that nobody else needs to and so that they can get on with other business critical activities that can help keep the lights on. For the most part, people will be delighted that you are there to shoulder that burden so they can be assured that someone else has that corner covered.
However, people will occasionally worry about it and will occasionally check in to make sure you do actually know what you’re doing and that they can continue not worrying about it in the future.
Here are some pointers on how best to manage internal stakeholders on the subject of SEO and some of the things you might need to tackle.
General SEO internal stakeholder management strategy
The most effective way of keeping internal stakeholders happy with SEO is to keep up regular communication.
Specifically, this means doing the following on a regular basis:
1. Monthly SEO reporting
Select some KPIs and start sending these out to management every month. Even better, have a conversation with your managers and find out what they’re particularly interested in tracking, but make sure it’s sensible and meaningful.
It is easy to send out reports for the sake of sending out reports and that isn’t the objective here. It’s ok if people don’t read every report, but if they do open one up and dig in, it needs to actually say something.
2. Flagging up potential issues
If you see a potential roadblock or limitation of your website, or a negative development of some kind, it’s way better to get ahead of that and bring it up to management rather than wait for someone to come to you about it.
Exactly how you go about this will depend on how much of an issue you’re facing.
3. Flagging up significant SEO news
We would not recommend sharing every small item from Search Engine Land or every single tweet from Google, but if there is big news in the SEO community around an algorithm update or a significant shift in the search engine landscape, summarising this for those that aren’t as plugged into the industry can be hugely beneficial.
I’ve seen this work for other digital marketing functions too. A Social Media Manager I once worked with pushed out a weekly newsletter to everyone in the team summarising some of the things that had happened in the social media world that week. This is probably a bit of an extreme example, but it went down really well with the rest of the team and kept them more engaged in that channel.
8 common SEO expectations and questions
Managing expectations and answering questions around SEO can end up being a significant part of your role. Here are some of the things you might be dealing with.
1. You will know all the answers
Why is organic traffic down year-on-year? You’ll be expected to know.
What can you do to make that one product page appear higher up in Google? You’ll be expected to know.
How will implementing that new feature on the website impact SEO? You’ll be expected to know.
All of these present an opportunity for you to learn more about this field of digital marketing and get used to saying “I’ll find out” because you’re going to be saying it a lot. After a while you will be able to give some off-the-cuff theories to most questions that get thrown your way, but you will always need to go away and do a little investigating when you get asked most of these questions.
Remember that you are the team’s go-to for SEO. This is why you are here. You are the specialist that finds out about this stuff so nobody else has to spend their time in this manner.
2. How long will it take to see the benefit of this SEO investment?
Stakeholders want to know how long it will be before they start seeing a return on their investment.
It’s a fair question. Unfortunately the answer will ordinarily be vague and you need to be clear that sometimes it can take three months before you start seeing a benefit from SEO work that is completed.
It’s also worth pointing out that the scale of the benefit is going to be variable and you need to be clear that whilst there will almost definitely be a positive impact from any SEO work that you do, the degree to which it will work is never certain.
In terms of timescales, you can give a range if you’re confident about this. If you’ve seen similar work take effect within two weeks, then you can say that you’ve seen it take effect within two weeks before, but be careful when giving absolute time frames in relation to something as variable and fickle as Google.
3. Why don’t we rank for this one specific term?
Sometimes you’ll have to field unexpected “why don’t we rank for this” style questions from parts of the business that aren’t part of the marketing function.
Parts of the results of search engine optimisation are by their nature very visible and publicly accessible, being literally a quick Google away. Almost everyone acknowledges these days that you can’t just “do SEO” and get the exact results you want, but there are still going to be people checking up on certain search phrases that they think are important.
What you don’t want to do with this is shout them down, ignore them, or patronise them (even if it’s tempting sometimes). It’s really healthy for other parts of the business to show an interest in SEO and to consider it important. Instead what’s better is to spend a bit of time explaining which keywords you are going after and why you have chosen them. You could even discuss the anatomy of a keyword with them if that helps.
There is of course the possibility that you have a very straightforward answer for them – it might be that you’re trying to rank for the term they’re interested in but the competition is high, and you can explain that. It might also be the case that they have genuinely found a term that you should be ranking for but you’re not and you can incorporate that into your keyword strategy. It is good to encourage other minds to consider your search strategy from time to time after all.
4. Why can’t we use this guy offering SEO services on Fiverr?
Some surprisingly senior marketing people might occasionally believe that you can get your site ranking for a laundry list of keywords for the princely sum of £5 according to services offered on Fiverr.
In this case, you need to educate people in the dangers of following these tactics and the long term ramifications and punishments of following a black hat strategy and how painful a domain being punished and blacklisted can be.
5. Why don’t we do content marketing?
If you don’t have a content marketing programme, you will occasionally be asked why you are not single handedly running a successful content marketing programme.
Greet this question enthusiastically and offer to write up a document requesting budget for funding a successful content marketing programme (including recruiting costs) along with projections on when you are likely to see a return on investment. You never know, they might bite.
6. Why do we do content marketing?
If you do have a successful content marketing programme, you might be asked why you have this. It’s expensive and many will see it as a drain on time and resources.
This is actually a really good opportunity to either promote the successes of this programme in terms of PR, link building and social media promotion, or to audit your content marketing and see if there is merit to this challenge.
Many content marketing activities can run unchecked for a long period of time and occasionally being challenged on this is a good exercise. You can normally find ways to optimise and re-focus this sort of activity too to ensure you are not wasting resources.
7. We’re spending more on PPC to improve our rankings
There is sometimes a misunderstanding that spending on Google Ads has a direct impact on SEO.
This long held conspiracy theory held by many is outright false as Google is very committed to keeping these two functions very separate.
You could argue there is an indirect boost to SEO that can be given by PPC as the increased visibility of your brand can lead to more people talking about it and linking to you.
You could also argue that running PPC generally seems to improve your organic click-through rate as well, which is likely to improve rankings.
However, more investment in PPC is more about creating a healthy digital marketing ecosystem rather than being a legitimate investment for SEO purposes.
8. Can you work on our social media now to improve SEO?
Much like the misunderstanding about the link between PPC and SEO, some people have the same muddling when it comes to social media.
Much like PPC, there is a link between the two. Content that does well in social tends to do well in SEO terms as well, but this is only a correlation rather than a causation. You can make the same arguments about indirect link building as you can with PPC, but this correlation is more about good content being rewarded regardless of the platform.
This is of course a good opportunity to grab if someone is offering you experience in running social media, but if you accept this challenge you will need to manage expectations first and make it clear that it is a distinct channel and not the same as SEO at all.
Become the SEO specialist
Generally, SEO as a function is far better understood than it used to be, at least insofar as it is understood that it cannot be fully understood by anyone.
Most people are aware that SEO borders on shamanism from time to time with nobody really understanding how Google exactly works, up to and including Google itself.
Internal stakeholders want you to be in control of this area and will always appreciate your input on SEO matters. That is after all why they have you as part of the team and it is up to you to constantly expand upon your knowledge so you can be the support that they need.