Sometimes as an SEOs its feels that we suffer from ADD. Often our strategies are all over the place, in the ever continuous pursuit of great rankings. We carry out site audits, write content, link build and seem to focus just on those top level keywords that we or our clients aspire to. We sit bogged down in reporting, analysing and processing huge volumes of data. Some individuals are better at planning this process than others – I for one am not really that great at planning a day to day work flow. I tend to work on whatever either interest me today, or whatever is required tomorrow.
Part of the reason I feel is a lack of universally accepted methodologies or frameworks in SEO. The other part of the blame I allocate to the liquid nature of the way SEO works. As we get cleverer at manipulating improving and refining search results, search engines try to get cleverer about dampening those efforts. Due to those ever moving goal posts we may find it hard to create a meaningful discipline.
Should we find it hard to do so?
We mustn’t forget that SEO is a MARKETING discipline – it is an increasingly important strategy that is both quantifiable and accountable to businesses. Yet it is only part of a mix of strategies that are available to businesses. As a result, it needs to start presenting itself as a real mix in the business, as opposed to a blind scramble towards SERPs that only the board cares about. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as search geeks and data junkies and start fashioning ourselves as real marketers. That is normally the first step towards giving our profession the badge of authenticity it so rightly deserves in any organisation.
We need to craft frameworks that can be used in meaningful deployment of our strategies which can be presented at board level in intelligible ways. This is how we can sequester those big budgets that other marketing departments seem to so easily acquire.
Working with large brands has taught me that there are two fundamental problems with getting SEO the respect that it deserves in business:
We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn. Peter F Drucker
I don’t mean ignorance in a negative way – I mean people genuinely don’t understand the work involved behind SEO – especially at the top level of any organisation. Most people use search engines – but most assume their existence and the results pages as part of life. They don’t take a moment out to wonder how hard it is often to rank for certain keywords – nor do they consider these results as a “Sales Channel”. So while the sales people get massive bonuses for delivering a large order – often the SEO team are given a pat on the back – for actually massive increase in sales across the whole year by the work they have done.
People make incorrect assumptions about the role and capabilities of SEO. They aren’t ready to accept the real, far reaching capabilities of search manipulation that can impact the whole business.
Involvement is actually an issue that many SEO’s create for themselves. We don’t often take the time to get the key stakeholders to buy into the processes, understand the objectives, and get involved in the strategic direction. We need to become better political animals if we are to take our business to the Jet setters. All businesses have a level of hierarchy – whether implicit or explicit. If all the levels of authority do not buy into our processes, real SEO cannot be properly deployed. This especially includes your parallels, such as the PR, Branding and Offline Marketing departments.
For example, if you are selling widgets – and are well known for widgets, but do not, say rank for “cheap widgets” should you target that term? Probably based on sales potential, yes would be the answer. But what if the Brand Police do not want the keyword “cheap” associated with the brand? This may mean that you may not be able to use the phrase “Cheap widgets” for onsite elements. This makes it harder to optimise for.
Often such battles can only be fought on paper, with strong arguments for various tactics and strategies. And these can only be adjudicated by people that exceed authority of both, the SEO, and the internal persecutor. And if you failed to enlighten them about SEO, the reach and the impact on the business in the long run, then you have already begun to fail.
I don’t think I have a complete solution, but over the next few months, I will definitely post more about how I tackle various issues at a more senior level. I am also going to revisit my marketing background, and try and bring some structure into the various marketing techniques and processes that have helped me in the past and hopefully share these too. It may be worth checking out my rant a little while back on Big Brands and Corporate Strategy which Jaamit kindly put together.
Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile