A few months ago, the Content Marketing Manager at a client’s organization reached out to me, asking if we could provide his copywriting team with an SEO training session. I was floored! We had been optimizing most of their content for years, but they had never shown any interest in doing it independently. Why the sudden change? A new VP of marketing had come on board with search experience and prioritized SEO across the entire marketing department.
After years of getting them engaged, all it took was a new person to come in and make it happen. And now, it’s become the norm for individuals within the department to consult us on SEO matters. Amazing! Coincidentally, this all occurred as I was reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a book that looks at habits, how those habits are formed and how businesses have used the habits of their consumers to market to them. It got me thinking… How do we make SEO a company-wide habit within our organizations? After all, we know that the SEO team can’t do it alone. While I don’t have all the answers (yet), I think a few of these can help:
Get executive buy-in
SEO became a department-wide initiative in the story I mentioned above because the new VP made it so. The problem is that not every executive is going to come in and advocate for you. In fact, the majority probably won’t. So, how do you get them on your side?
Work with your internal advocate.
If you work at an agency, you have a contact within your client’s organization to implement your recommendations and keep the program moving. In my experience, they are usually organized, knowledgeable and amazing at managing relationships within the company.
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They are also key to the agency’s success. To help them advocate for you (and themselves), ensure they have the information they need to present to the higher-ups. Find out what KPIs the exec is tasked with hitting, and put together some data around how the SEO program can help them reach that goal.
Show them the results.
Whether you are on the agency side or the in-house SEO manager, executives care about money. If you can show them your efforts are driving sales and revenue, and it’s a key part of the marketing program, they’ll be hard to deny the need.
However, if you want them to be the SEO habit-driver, you also need to show them how everyone within the team is involved. They need to understand why the web development team should consider SEO implications and why the PR team should work with the SEO team to acquire mentions and bylines around key themes and topics. Go, team!
Make it easy
Do you know what people hate? More work. It’s often the reason other departments don’t want to work with SEOs. They think they will get more work. The thing is, they aren’t wrong. Adding an extra step to a process is, in fact, more work — but when that little extra pays off, the results can be beneficial for everyone. To make SEO easy for those around you, consider the following:
SEO cheat sheets.
We often provide our clients’ copywriting teams with an SEO one-sheet, breaking down the elements they need to consider when creating a blog, white paper, or other pieces of content. This includes elements like title tags, cross-links, ALT text, calls-to-action, and more. The idea is that they have it in front of them and can reference it when they have a question vs. having to ask someone or search online.
Dedicated SEO email or chat.
If you can get a person even thinking about SEO, you want to make sure you answer any questions they have as soon as possible. If they have to email your contact, who then has to forward it on to you, too much time can pass — and by the time they hear from you, they’ve already gone ahead and implemented what they were doing without your input. To avoid this issue, set up a dedicated email shared across the team (ex: firstname.lastname@example.org) or give them a dedicated Skype/chat name they can use when they have questions. The fewer friction people encounter, the easier it will be to form a habit.
Provide positive reinforcement
Have you ever trained a puppy? Just kidding. But in all seriousness, as Duhigg points out in the book, the more positive reinforcement you can surround yourself with, the easier it is to break a bad habit or create a new one. To provide your team as much positive reinforcement as possible when they are making SEO part of their process, make sure you:
Include other departments in SEO reporting;
call their success out in meetings; and
send email congratulations on wins.
Make it about them. Your success is often dependent on theirs, so show them how they are making a difference. Truthfully, they may have no idea. The development team was amazed to show them how a redirect they implemented helped drive many new visits and leads. While they aren’t on our side for everything, they often consult with us before making changes.
As SEOs, we know we must be continually working to make our sites and brands better. It’s certainly not a “set it and forget it” type of program. However, I do find we’ll often work with a department on a specific item and then never follow up again. That’s not how you build relationships, and it’s certainly not how you help drive habits. Whether weekly, monthly, or bimonthly, don’t forget to check in with folks you aren’t working with daily. A quick email or phone call to say “Hi,” thank them for something they did or ask if you can help with something can go a long way. The point is to keep yourself and SEO top of mind. Plus, if they like you, they’re more apt to help.
Creating a new habit is hard, and doing more work isn’t always fun. The key is to make everyone part of not just the process but the success. If you want others to believe in SEO, you need to show them why they ought to — and, more importantly, how it benefits them. Hopefully, these tips can get you started, and SEO will become a company-wide habit in your organization!