Not to be pes­simistic, but SEO can be an incred­i­bly frus­trat­ing job.

It didn’t take very long work­ing in the indus­try for me to real­ize that SEO pro­fes­sion­als were the out­siders.

Our suc­cess often relied on oth­er teams, not our own, so we were rel­e­gat­ed to ask­ing for favors.

At best, these requests would make it on the list (albeit usu­al­ly close to the bot­tom). At worst, they’d be com­plete­ly ignored.

I often referred to this as “yelling into a black hole.”

My advice and requests went in, nev­er to be seen again.

That’s why I felt so val­i­dat­ed to read Jes­si­ca Bowman’s book, “The Exec­u­tive SEO Play­book”. In it, she says:

The root prob­lem is that every­one needs to do SEO, but the only peo­ple who have it on their per­for­mance review goals are mem­bers of the SEO team. This makes SEO tasks, for [oth­er depart­ments], more of a favor than a must-do activ­i­ty. Most are avoid­ing this type of extra work in order to hit a time­line, know­ing they can ‘fix it lat­er,’ but not real­iz­ing it is often expo­nen­tial­ly more expen­sive.”

That’s when it clicked.

For so long, so many com­pa­nies have been think­ing about SEO as its own chan­nel.

In real­i­ty, it’s a con­sid­er­a­tion that can help search engines and searchers dis­cov­er what your oth­er depart­ments are cre­at­ing (i.e., code and con­tent).

This means that SEO is everyone’s respon­si­bil­i­ty.

SEO as a Second Language

I recent­ly heard Jen­nie Baird, SVP of Prod­uct & SEO Strat­e­gy at News Corp, explain SEO as “A sec­ond lan­guage that every­one in the orga­ni­za­tion needs to be con­ver­sant in.”

I love that.

We’re not try­ing to make every­one SEOs. We do, how­ev­er, want non-SEOs in our orga­ni­za­tion a lit­tle more SEO-aware.

The byprod­uct? Our SEO met­rics will like­ly improve.

To accom­plish that, here are five tips you can try.

1. Give Them SEO KPIs

A lot of the con­flict between SEO and non-SEO teams stems from oppos­ing (or rather, seem­ing­ly oppos­ing) incen­tives.

The project man­age­ment team’s suc­cess is being judged on how quick­ly they can get some­thing launched, but this is often anti­thet­i­cal to the SEO’s goal of pre­serv­ing search traf­fic (e.g., a fast launch may mean there’s no time to do redi­rects).

Or maybe Infra­struc­ture and Finance want to use client-side JavaScript because it’s cheap­er, while SEOs want serv­er-side ren­der­ing because it puts less bur­den on users and is eas­i­er for Google to access.

As long as non-SEO teams see your SEO asks as at odds with what they’ve been tasked to do, you have lit­tle hope of get­ting them to help you.

The trick is get­ting them to see your SEO KPIs as not only not-opposed to their goals, but even as some­thing they’ll want to adopt them­selves.

But how?

One way to get non-SEO teams to adopt SEO KPIs is for that direc­tive to come from the top down.

Your Direc­tor or VP who over­sees that depart­ment would need to see the mer­it of giv­ing their team SEO KPIs and rolling it out them­selves.

When pos­si­ble, this can be a great option. It’s much eas­i­er to get oth­er depart­ments to care about SEO best prac­tices when that’s part of how their per­for­mance is judged.

But how com­mon is that?

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, SEOs split about down the mid­dle.

Since so many SEOs are in orga­ni­za­tions where they don’t have the posi­tion­al author­i­ty to roll out SEO KPIs to non-SEO depart­ments, is get­ting non-SEOs to con­sid­er SEO best prac­tices even real­is­tic?

Or will SEO always be “not my job” to non-SEOs?

If you’re in that camp, I think the next tip might help.

2. Show Results

When it comes to get­ting buy-in, the proof is in the pud­ding.

One of the best ways to get what you want, in SEO and in life, is to show the ben­e­fits of what you’re sug­gest­ing.

It’s easy to reject an opin­ion. It’s much hard­er to reject some­thing you can see will objec­tive­ly ben­e­fit you.

If you work on a crawl bud­get project, for exam­ple, you’ll like­ly get Google to index more of your impor­tant pages.

As the SEO, your KPI might be some­thing like “increase the quan­ti­ty of impor­tant pages indexed by X,” but guess what? That also will like­ly help the con­tent team reach their goal of “increase traf­fic by X.”

And it doesn’t just stop at con­tent.

  • Rev­enue mar­ket­ing teams have lead gen goals, so show them how many leads can come from the organ­ic search chan­nel.
  • Web per­for­mance teams have load time and user expe­ri­ence goals, so show them how projects meant to help Google find and under­stand your con­tent also often ben­e­fit the end user.
  • Exec­u­tives will have rev­enue goals, so show them how SEO influ­ences rev­enue pos­i­tive­ly, and how fail­ing to con­sid­er it can influ­ence rev­enue neg­a­tive­ly.

Mak­ing these con­nec­tions can help flip the con­ver­sa­tion from “Why would I work toward anoth­er team’s goals?” to “This oth­er team’s goals help me achieve my own, there­fore it’s in my best inter­est to care about SEO.”

Derek Glea­son, Con­tent Lead at CXL, put it this way:

I’m offi­cial­ly a con­tent per­son, but we know that ~80% of our traf­fic comes via search, so con­tent KPIs like traf­fic and leads tend to live and die by organ­ic search per­for­mance.”

One caveat is if they haven’t bought into SEO, it may be dif­fi­cult to show them the ben­e­fits of SEO (because those haven’t been real­ized yet).

If this is the case, adopt a “test and learn” mod­el, as Craig Harkins, Man­ag­er of Glob­al SEO at IHG, rec­om­mend­ed to me.

Test what you’re propos­ing on some­thing small, share the results with the team in ques­tion, and allow them to see why they should roll out your sug­ges­tions on a larg­er scale.

Show Results

3. Speak Their Language

You can’t get buy-in from non-SEOs if they don’t under­stand what you’re talk­ing about.

SEO has a lan­guage all its own, which makes it all the more impor­tant to be mind­ful of how we explain things to our non-SEO coun­ter­parts.

Some­thing that’s com­mon in your ver­nac­u­lar may be for­eign to anoth­er depart­ment, or even more con­fus­ing, the same word could mean dif­fer­ent things to both depart­ments.

I can’t stress this enough: you’re not help­ing any­one by using jar­gon.

Use layman’s terms, and even when you can’t, break down your ter­mi­nol­o­gy with exam­ples, analo­gies, and any­thing else that will help make the con­cept click.

But by def­i­n­i­tion, a con­ver­sa­tion goes two ways. Not only do you need to speak clear­ly, but you’ll also need to under­stand the oth­er team’s for­eign ter­mi­nol­o­gy.

The best piece of advice I can give here is that when in doubt, ask ques­tions!

The bet­ter you under­stand each oth­er, the more like­ly you’ll be able to see eye-to-eye.

4. Embed SEOs on Different Teams

To quote Jen­nie Baird again, it’s great if every­one can become con­ver­sant in SEO as their sec­ond lan­guage.

How­ev­er, some orga­ni­za­tions have even gone a step fur­ther and embed­ded SEOs into their web prod­uct and edi­to­r­i­al teams.

So instead of SEO advis­ing and ask­ing from the out­side, give SEOs a built-in seat at the table. This makes it eas­i­er to fit SEO rec­om­men­da­tions into the sched­ule.

The “where does SEO live?” ques­tion is a tough one, and after a lot of thought, I don’t believe there’s one right answer to this.

For some orga­ni­za­tions, it makes sense to have a uni­fied, stand­alone SEO team. For oth­ers, it makes sense to have them live under mar­ket­ing, or tech­nol­o­gy, or both.

The point is, good things can hap­pen when SEOs aren’t just on the out­side look­ing in.

5. Make Friends

At this year’s Moz­Con, Heather Phys­ioc talked about one of my favorite sub­jects in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing: inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty.

Inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty is the con­cept of com­bin­ing mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines in pur­suit of a com­mon goal. For her, this looked like merg­ing organ­ic, paid, and con­tent teams.

Eager to learn more, I joined her “Birds of a Feath­er” table dis­cus­sion after the fact. Turns out, oth­er SEOs are hun­gry for this infor­ma­tion as well.

There were plen­ty of peo­ple who, like me, have strug­gled to get their non-SEO cowork­ers onboard with their SEO rec­om­men­da­tions.

So we asked, with­out the posi­tion­al author­i­ty to force the change, how can we get oth­er depart­ments to help us?

From that point on, the con­ver­sa­tion became almost exclu­sive­ly about friend­ship. In oth­er words, when you don’t have posi­tion­al author­i­ty to get oth­er depart­ments to do cer­tain SEO tasks, your next best bet is to rely on your rela­tion­ships.

This came up again in a recent webi­nar I host­ed where we were dis­cussing how to imple­ment SEO in SEO-imma­ture orga­ni­za­tions.

My guest Collin Col­burn from For­rester said:

Think about it in the con­text of your own job. When some­one comes up to you and asks you to do some­thing that might not tech­ni­cal­ly be your job, if you like the per­son, you’re prob­a­bly more like­ly to say yes.”

It sounds so sim­ple, but it’s true.

Take a gen­uine inter­est in your non-SEO cowork­ers. Make an effort to say hi in the hall­way, take them out for cof­fee, or go vis­it their desk and ask them how their day is going.

As a bonus, estab­lish­ing pos­i­tive con­nec­tions with your cowork­ers is good for you and your cowork­ers’ emo­tion­al well­be­ing too (and let’s not for­get which is more impor­tant)

Buy-In Wasn’t Built in a Day

If you’re an SEO in an orga­ni­za­tion that doesn’t involve you in impor­tant web­site deci­sions, doesn’t make time for your projects, and loops you in only after traf­fic has suf­fered, I get how deflat­ing that can be.

But I sin­cere­ly hope that by imple­ment­ing even one of these tips, over time, you’ll start to see progress.

It doesn’t hap­pen overnight, but I hope the non-SEOs in your orga­ni­za­tion start to see SEO as their respon­si­bil­i­ty, too.

SOURCE: Search Engine Jour­nal