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How To Frame Your SEO Conversations So Work Gets Done

Getting buy in for your SEO work is critical. For in-house SEOs, there is usually at least a small measure of politics involved and a number of different levels of understanding during each phase of sign off. During all of your conversations, pitches and back-room deal making (ex. I’ll wash & wax your car for a month if you install the rel=canonical code for me), have you ever asked yourself if you’re having the right conversations with the right people? And, are those conversations being held at the right level?

Having the right people in the conversation is obvious and critical. As your company size grows, though, it’s not always easy to understand who is doing what, thus making it much less clear who should be in the room. When asking yourself if the conversation is happening on the right level, I’m not only referring to corporate hierarchy, but also levels of knowledge on the topics being discussed.

I recently sat in a meeting attended by folks from many levels – managers on through a couple of VPs. When I wrapped up a sidebar conversation with an SEO Manager about 301 redirects, the VP sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I know you were speaking English, but I have no idea what you just said.”  We all had a bit of a chuckle and I explained that what was needed from them was sign off on time & dollars to manage work. That they understood clearly.

Seems like every meeting I attend is stacked with all manner of folks. Titles largely don’t matter here at Microsoft in our day-to-day work, but asking someone if they know SEO is a dangerous move. Some say, “No” outright. Others come back with the non-committal, “Some, but I’m still learning…”.  Some even brazenly state “Yep, there’s not much more for me to learn”. No matter their own perceived level of knowledge on the topic, I always start conversations assuming they know very little. Those who do know offer the right signals of knowledge and we move deeper, quicker.

For those who didn’t know the topic so well, they get to safely learn new things, or graciously save face as the slow approach lets them build their comfort level easily. At all times, though, I’m watching, learning and tweaking my presentation, questions and delivery to get to my goal – answers to my questions. Actions against my needs.

Last week, I attended a training session called “Precision Questioning & Answering”. True to its name, it taught skills to dig deeper into topics to fully understand what’s being discussed. It highlighted skills around digging deeper when someone offered a vague or undefined statement. When asking when the new rel-canonical tags will be implemented, a response such as “Next month…” would elicit further, refining questions like “What date; early in the month or later?”

While that example is obvious, throw cultural variances into the mix, sprinkle in differing personalities and set the oven to full-on hidden agendas and you have a recipe for disaster. This training is designed to develop your nose for reading between the lines and digging deeper to get to the truth. Highly useful skills for an in-house SEO to possess.

On the answering side, we come full circle. A VP looking for a project update will not want, or even necessarily understand, that 19 page email with every detail. You need to know that this person needs a clear sound bite to take to their audience. You also need to know that if you don’t craft that sound bite carefully, it may be taken out of context, so choose your words wisely. Still, you need to be concise.

The overall point here is that one critical factor in you being successful in getting SEO work complete, is factoring in your audience and bending to their needs based on how they ingest data. Some people love detail. Others love bullet points and summaries. Knowing the difference across your audiences may mean the difference between getting your work moved forward, or it being forgotten.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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