Our special guest for episode 363 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast was Jessica Bowman, Founder of SEOinhouse. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Jessica about how to do SEO right at the enterprise level. Here’s what we learned:
Jessica Bowman: Her Background and Experience
Jessica Bowman is Founder/CEO of SEOinhouse.com. She’s a marketer who comes from an IT background, bridging the gap between both project requirements and how marketing and IT need to collaborate more effectively. Her diverse experience in project management, website usability, and process analysis gives her insight into what needs tweaked in your complicated enterprise-level world. She has a systematic approach to transform your SEO program into a well-oiled machine with an army of 30-100+ people (even though only a couple/few folks in the company carry an official SEO title) thinking about SEO every day, and it depends on doing the right kind of SEO Training.
What Jessica learned early on was that the one or two people in a company who have an SEO title don’t really have much influence over how SEO happens because it’s something that needs to be done by so many different people throughout an organization who they simply can’t control. So, while her company does all the sorts of things any other SEO consulting agency does, they don’t stop there. They take it to a whole new level by advising companies on how to take SEO organization-wide for maximum impact. This can often involve 2-4 days of training for people from all areas of the organization.
When Jessica’s project manager role at Enterprise Rent-A-Car was eliminated, they handed her one last project, which was to research search engine marketing and SEO. Two weeks later, based on her findings, they hire her to be the in-house SEO manager for the company. From Enterprise she went to Business.com and then to Yahoo, after which she realized what she wanted to do was provide the consulting service she never had available as the in-house SEO manager at a large company, which was how to spread effective SEO involvement throughout the organization.
Barriers to SEO
Why does it seem like a lot of larger companies avoid SEO as a standard part of their production mantra? Jessica notes that doing SEO right requires doing things differently and requires an extra effort in terms of time spent. To pull it off, the SEO team has to be pulled into a project early on to know what the requirements are and to have time to execute them. But all too often what happens is the SEO team finds out too late in the game about the requirements, it then becomes too expensive to execute them, and so the company decides to go live and skip the requirements and fix them later, which rarely ends up happening because the chain of priorities keeps rolling along and then it feels like other things are more important and the SEO changes are perceived as things that won’t drive a ton of revenue.
On its own, SEO doesn’t feel like enough of a driver because one change isn’t a silver bullet. But then if a company misses a lot of those small things, they quickly accumulate into sizable negative impacts. It’s like death by a thousand papercuts. But this can all be avoided is SEO is brought in early on in every project. Doing it right and doing it early in the process is like saving money and protecting yourself from more time, effort, and expense down the road to fix them later.
The Biggest Mistakes SEO Managers Make
The biggest mistake SEO managers make is fumbling the training aspect. One simple presentation to the development team about SEO is nowhere near adequate training for what the development people should know about SEO. They also often don’t put together the right content for those trainings. They put together these pieces of training about all kinds of fascinating SEO topics, but they aren’t the ones those particular people should be focusing on. The development team needs SEO training, but only in the handful of SEO aspects specifically appropriate to their role. The SEO managers need to be up-to-speed on what’s happening with Google updates, but nobody else needs to get distracted by any of that. They just need to know what they should be doing.
But another common mistake among SEO managers is not being sufficiently data-driven. As an overall group, SEO managers are lagging behind other groups in being savvy about data analytics. The focus too much on tactics rather than analytics. And that tactical focus results in another area of weakness for many SEO managers—strategy. Part of the problem is in the hiring of SEO managers without really knowing or understanding the skillsets they should have. The final big-picture mistake Jessica sees frequently is focusing on what is being done as opposed to how it is being done. Unless you focus on the how piece, a company will never get to the point where SEO happens systemically and consistently on every project. That’s the one remaining SEO “silver bullet” that can have huge impacts and produce a really significant return on investment (ROI). But so often it feels like the overall approach ends up being of one of hoping to do the least amount of SEO damage as possible. It’s time to turn things around from playing a constant game of SEO damage control to proactively getting it right from the start in every project.
Red Flag Tests
When a company hasn’t figured out how to do SEO well at the enterprise level, new content and development projects roll out without them even realizing they’re hurting themselves because the SEO component is missing at launch. But there are tools companies can and should be used to identify many of these issues ahead of implementation. Jessica notes that the biggest missing link along these lines is regression testing for SEO. Very few companies do this and what it can prevent is the scenario where some great SEO is implemented but down the line suddenly disappears and the reason is that the right people weren’t aware of it, didn’t know it should be protected, and weren’t testing for it.
Another hang-up is the need to manually study the data. Yes, there are some enterprise-level tools that will identify some things, but they won’t identify everything that needs action, in fact, they will miss a lot. And so you really have to do a manual analysis of the kind of data you can get from a Screaming Frog site crawl to really see what’s going on determine what actions need to be taken.
Communicating with C-Suite Leaders
A big challenge faced by SEO managers is effectively communicating their perspectives, concerns, needs, and so forth to C-suite leaders because everything gets lost in translation when the two sides speak completely different languages. And those C-suite leaders are the ones who make all the budgeting decisions. How can the C-suite level be trained to understand the value of doing SEO right?
In her book, The Executive SEO Playbook, Jessica presents a fantastic matrix that helps SEO managers translate their priorities and issues into a language that C-suite leaders will intuitively grasp because of how it’s presented. It’s a kind of scorecard approach you can get a quick glimpse of on the F2R Framework page of her website. This approach is how you get leadership to understand what needs to happen since they’re the ones who can really make things happen. It’s also important for them to understand the long list of people in roles throughout the company that should be doing something related to SEO. And it is a long list that extends everywhere in the company.
Getting Buy-In from Other Roles
Given that long list of different company roles who should be actively participating in SEO for the company, how do you get buy-in from the them to participate when some of them don’t even realize there is a role they can and should be playing in SEO work? Especially when some of them are thinking or feeling like the SEO managers are just trying to get other people to do the job they ought to be doing.
Jessica notes that this is a whole round of education that needs to happen as part of the enterprise-level approach to SEO. The need to understand how their day-to-day decisions and actions do affect SEO. Important keywords ought to be part of the basic language people are using in all aspect of the company’s work because it then trickles out and permeates in way that is helpful—it helps everyone get on the same page. There’s also the “stick” approach of making sure they understand how their actions can negatively impact and even wreck SEO in ways that have bottom-line impacts on the company.
This highlights another SEO manager mistake Jessica sees all too often: They don’t proactively monitor the change queue from development. To really be on top of things, they should be looking at every single development change taking place and asking whether or not it’s a change that they should be concerned about from an SEO perspective. Instead, they seem to expect these other roles and teams, like development, to know when to pull the SEO manager in, but that simply doesn’t happen without intentional mentoring and training because those other roles and teams simply don’t know!
Closing the Loop on Communicating Results
Another failing among many SEO managers is that once they do start getting all the other roles and teams doing their part on SEO, they never come back with metrics that show the wins, which can once again cause resentment to build up among people who feel like they’re doing the SEO team’s job and they don’t even know if it’s making a difference. SEO managers must communicate effectively not just with company leaders, but also with all the people they’re asking to help with SEO so they understand the impact they’re having.
Executive Responsibility Regarding SEO
Jessica explains how at the executive level, that’s where the focus is on getting people to get stuff done. The way you think this would happen is that the SEO manager presents something to the executives, the executives say “Yes! Do this,” and then everyone who has a part to play in it throughout the company gets it done. But in reality, the SEO team itself in the typical corporation has very little influence in the organization. This is just the reality when SEO is relatively “new” in the corporate organizational schema. They don’t have the influence to get people to show up for trainings, to participate in meetings, to loop SEO into projects, and so on. Executives who understand and are on board with SEO work need to be more hands-on in boosting SEO as a priority where the SEO manager and SEO team don’t have the influence needed to get things done. It’s not how it should be, but it is the current reality at most companies. Smart companies are going beyond mere training and are requiring certification in relevant aspects of SEO for various roles throughout a company. It’s that important!
Connect with Jessica Bowman and SEOinhouse
Twitter: @jessicabowman (https://twitter.com/jessicabowman)
Book: The Executive SEO Playbook ~ https://www.seoinhouse.com/book
SEO Training: https://www.seoinhouse.com/training
SEO Certifications: https://www.seoinhouse.com/certifications
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