Due to the time it takes to demonstrate Search Engine Optimisation return on investment and the challenges faced with explaining it as a concept, getting SEO buy-in at Board level can be one of the most daunting challenges for marketers.
Here are my top 5 tips for successfully explaining the value and importance of SEO as a marketing channel and convincing a business it is a channel that needs to be invested in for long term success.
Before you undertake any SEO or content creation project it’s important to make sure that you’re tracking and collecting the right data and have appropriate success metrics that are achievable.
A simple approach to establishing project objectives is to use a combination of Google Analytics and the Search Console (Webmaster Tools) data to benchmark your current strengths and weaknesses.
Initially we like to segment landing page data by site section using Content Groupings in Google Analytics. This allows you to get a holistic view on current content performance and to segment commercial and non-commercial landing pages.
This is important because you need to know what percentage of site traffic is going to your blog and what percentage of traffic is going to your main commercial landing pages. This allows you to benchmark current performance and define suitable KPIs and targets for each area of your site and, most importantly, this will allow you to manage expectations. For example, your blog should aim to engage users and drive return visits. For commercial content you’re naturally going to be more focused on sales and revenue KPIs.
We're also big fans of the Search Analytics report in Search Console. Here we like to export keyword impression and click data into excel and use reguarExpressions to segment keywords into brand and generic. We also use the same content grouping rules so we can export impression and click data at a page level and align this with the landing page data we see in Google Analytics.
Finally segment all both data sources by device category. Here I think it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that site users will usually want to accomplish different tasks on mobile and tablet devices, such as researching a product or looking for directions. Segmenting organic data by device category will give you additional understanding on what’s working well and what’s not.
Understand the role different areas of your site fulfil and what user expectations are by device used to benchmark current performance by site segment.
This will help you set realistic SEO targets for traffic, engagement and conversion.
Present your findings back to your business in the form of a SWOT diagram. These are easy to understand and an excellent way to summarise complex data.
SEO is a
zero sum game. This means that if you are going to move up a search ranking position, someone else is going to move down a position. Consequently it’s important to know what your competitors are doing.
Taking time to work out what assets your competitor has and what tactics they are deploying is not only useful from a strategy perspective, but also invaluable in determining their budget. This will provide some much-needed market context when requesting budget for your own projects. Hypothesise the cost of content they are creating based on how long you know it would take to plan, execute and promote. Provide insight into what the competition is doing to help convince your company that investment in SEO success is worthwhile.
Use a tool like
Search Metrics to look at their ranking data. The key here is to understand the context behind what the rankings are showing. Is their visibility based largely on brand keywords? Do they rank for high volume generics? Are there any obvious areas where there are gaps that you could aim to fill?
Use this information to formulate your own approach. Try to find areas where you may be able to differentiate your business from theirs. Have a look at the keyword history. How long did it take for them to rank? Use this information to manage expectations.
Also have a look at what keywords they are bidding on in paid search. This will help to understand what is strategically important to them or possibly identify areas where they are under performing on SEO.
After completing a SEO competitor analysis you should have an idea of budget, strengths and weakness as well as the time taken to achieve success. You can use this insight to ensure your plans are realistically achievable.
Understanding who you need to work with and forging strong relationships internally is critical to the success of any project. SEO projects can be tricky because more often than not you are going to need to get detailed information from several different teams within the business.
Start off by undertaking a stakeholder identification exercise of all internal and external departments or agencies you anticipate working with. You might want to create an organogram to help you spot the people and departments who will be important to the success of your SEO projects and who you’re yet to build a relationship with.
Once you have identified stakeholders, use a
RACI matrix to help clarify roles and responsibilities. This will help you plan your communication with the wider company to ensure that everyone is kept in the loop and aware of project milestones and progress.
As with any piece of strategy it is important to establish realistic objectives. Remember that different stakeholders at each level of your organisation will have different expectations.
Senior stakeholders will naturally want to see ROI, so it’s important to manage their expectations by communicating appropriate revenue based KPIs alongside the softer engagement objectives. The key point here is to communicate SEO optimisations in their language.
Channel specialists will no doubt want to see data broken out based on more commercial and non-commercial pages, products or services so they can get an idea of the landings, engagement and revenue they can expect.
SEO is notorious for using a wealth of metrics. My advice here is to set up a data dictionary which can house the definitions of all dimensions and metrics you use so that anyone you work with has access to an easy to understand definition.
To create your plan make a list in excel of the optimisations or tactics that you’re planning on making and score these by priority, impact and ease of implementation.
The next step is to add in a column to assign each optimisation a KPI. The key here is to use a KPI that the wider business will understand.
Finally to make the business case, add in a column which projects the impact the optimisation or tactic will have on an incremental basis for an entire year.
When you present this back to the C-Suite they should now be able to see the bigger picture and the life time value of SEO work.
When you’ve got buy in starting a strategy with a small project as a proof of concept is an excellent way to build trust and demonstrate that SEO budget is being deployed sensibly.
Another great tip is to celebrate small wins with everyone that you’ve involved or been helped by. This will ensure your SEO project gets noticed across the wider business and over time will help secure budget for more ambitious projects.
Hopefully these tips will help you get your strategy up and running. You might also find our write-up of the recent Brighton SEO conference useful.
If you have any further questions or tips of your own, we’d love to hear from you! Alternatively check out equimedia's SEO services.