For SEO to be truly effective, it needs to impact the entire breadth of a business.
From product to design, technology to customer service – SEO can and should be integrated into processes far beyond digital marketing.
But how do you change a company’s mindset from SEO as a marketing channel to SEO as the foundation of success?
Using the learnings from my talk at BrightonSEO, we will find ways to refocus your business with an SEO-first mindset.
What is SEO First Thinking?
Many companies claim to be “SEO-first” because they understand its importance at the marketing, product, and development level. Unfortunately they stop there.
When it comes to decision-making, the SEO team gets a token hearing or simply a notification to conduct reviews after a project is completed.
SEO-first thinking isn’t about the SEO team’s views holding precedence over other departments. Nor is it about designing a company’s website to primarily serve the needs of SEO.
Fostering SEO-first thinking in a business is about increasing its importance and benefit to everyone involved.
It’s about changing the culture, so the questions for each new initiative or feature start with “What could be the impact on SEO?”.
Why is SEO First so important?
That all sounds a bit arrogant. Every organization has many departments dedicated to doing what is right in their channel or area of expertise. What makes SEO so special?
Mistakes are expensive
The main argument for putting SEO first is simply this: when something happens that negatively impacts SEO, it can take a significant amount of time to fix.
SEO, especially for an online organization, is very important for reputation management, leads, brand awareness and ultimately sales.
It is not alone with that.
But it’s quite unique in that not many other departments these affect can be damaged so easily and then take so long to repair.
A coding error can bring a website to its knees, but it can often be undone the same day.
Writing a product description in a way that reduces conversion can be fixed as quickly as it takes to edit a page in a content management system (CMS).
A PPC campaign is accidentally deactivated; it just needs to be turned back on to take effect.
SEO problems, on the other hand, are not always so easy to spot. It may take some time for our tools to alert us to a crawl block. A drop in rankings or traffic could be the first indicator that something has gone wrong.
It can then take months for rankings and traffic to get back to where they were.
In some extreme cases, they simply never do.
Rewards can be huge
Probably no other form of marketing has the same breadth and duration of impact as SEO.
Stop paying in PPC campaigns and the ads will stop showing.
Stop sending email marketing campaigns; the existing ones are buried in the inboxes.
If you get SEO right, you can have a continuous source of high-converting traffic for years to come at no extra cost.
SEO needs a village
There are many moving parts to successful organic search engine marketing.
There is little an SEO team can accomplish alone.
We often need to work closely with developers, content writers, and project managers.
We need approval from product owners, customers and executives before we can proceed with an idea.
Fostering an SEO-First mindset can help these stakeholders engage with SEO recommendations.
How can you encourage SEO first thinking?
Once you’re on board with the idea that it’s okay to increase the importance of SEO in your business (and it really is), how do you go about it?
Identify the most important stakeholders
An important step in embedding SEO first thinking into an organization is identifying the key stakeholders. These are all people inside and outside the company whose work is influenced or can be influenced by SEO.
Identify departments and teams
You should look at all the departments throughout the organization that may help or hinder your work as an SEO. These are departments whose own work may cause changes to the way the site works, such as: B. Engineering and content teams.
It will also be any team that can impact online reputation, like branding and customer service teams.
One of the biggest stakeholders in terms of SEO in any organization is the senior leadership team.
If you work in an agency or as an external consultant, this can take some time. If possible, take a look at your client’s company structure. This may be available on their website under a who’s who page, or you may need to ask your contact there to go through it.
Don’t forget that they may have other external partners like development agencies that you need to consider, or even other teams in your own agency also working on the client’s website.
Prioritize teams by impact on SEO
Assemble a matrix like the one below to help you identify the level of risk and opportunity that each team represents. Enter the department or agency in the matrix based on how much impact their work has on the outcome of SEO in the organization.
For example, the finance team may have few options to negatively or positively impact SEO other than approving the budget for the latest tool! This team would likely be classified under low-risk, low-reward.
Engineering team can help implement changes in code, improve loading speed and add schema markup to a page. Your department can get high rewards for SEO.
Conversely, they can all too easily take the site offline, block search bots, and not index the site. They are therefore also a high risk.
Identify SEO champions for each team
Next, look for one or two people on each team under “medium” or “high” risk and reward. These people will be the ones you use to propagate changes in the process and think about SEO. They are your champions.
It helps if these are people who are already curious about SEO and able to help lead and develop others within their team.
Make sure you meet up with these champions regularly. Educate them about the relevant developments in SEO that may impact their team. Offer them training and mentoring.
All of this will help gain the approval of the teams that represent them.
Motivate from the top of the team
Getting their management and executives to care is often a good way to get your colleagues interested in SEO.
If the department manager understands the risks and benefits that SEO poses to their team, they will likely be motivated to help you achieve your SEO goals.
Educate them on the importance of SEO
The key to this is helping them understand the importance of SEO.
Check out the departmental impact SEO can have.
Talk to your Brand Director about the importance of reputation management and how SEO can help foster a positive online mood. Discuss the benefits of keyword research and optimizing copy for search intent and conversions with your head of content.
Make it clear to every stakeholder why they should care about SEO.
Link SEO to your success
Help leadership and their teams take an interest in the work of SEO by sharing the impact they are having on key outcomes.
Showing the engineering team that their work on reducing load speeds had a direct, measurable impact on Core Web Vitals can help them see the connection between their work and organic traffic and leads.
Show the Customer Success team that the Top Customer Questions Survey they filled out has been turned into an FAQ. Explain how this led to an increase in organic traffic.
The more you can tie teams’ work to SEO success, the more receptive they might be to your future ideas.
Bake SEO into your processes
Along with training and gaining buy-in from your teams or your client’s teams, let them integrate SEO into their own processes.
This might look like they include SEO considerations in their templates such as: B. Text letters or product inquiries. SEO team members may be added as stakeholders to engineering tickets.
Try to ensure you are involved in quality assurance and approvals for the type of activities that may pose a risk to the success of your SEO work.
For SEO to truly drive growth in an organization, we need to break down silos, encourage training, and keep SEO in mind.
This means identifying knowledge gaps in key departments and ensuring ongoing training in these areas.
SEO must be at the heart of corporate communications.
Find the best way to do this across your organization, whether it’s a monthly report and email briefing to key stakeholders, or a company-wide message in your internal chat.
It’s entirely possible for a business to start thinking SEO first, but it takes time and strong stakeholder relationships to make it work.
Featured image: Creativa Images/Shutterstock