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Getting Top Management Buy-In For Enterprise SEO

My last post focused on selling the benefits of SEO in a large enterprise. Once you have done that you will already have made great progress, but now you need to take the next step: getting your management team to understand what is means to pursue SEO, and how it affects the business at an operational level. You want to explain this as at a very high level, in 20 minutes or less, because you will not be likely to keep the attention of top executives if you take much longer than that.

The goal in this post is to outline a strategy for overcoming internal objections and obstacles to effective SEO practices. So while the SEO advice in this post is simple, this post is best used as a blueprint for a short SEO 101 class for uninitiated senior managers. Even though you may only get 20 minutes to sell executives on SEO, you still need them to understand basic aspects of SEO, or your chances of SEO success will be greatly diminished.

First, dispell common myths

It is often a good idea to start by addressing two common myths.

Organic search results can be bought. You might be surprised how many people believe that you can buy your position in organic search. Search engine market share is very dependent on the public perception that the search engines display the best results. Make sure that executives understand that search engines strive to provide the most relevant results possible, and won’t accept money for rankings in organic search.

Buying PPC ads lets us ignore organic search. Paid search is valuable because you can buy position, and you can get instant results. It is also attractive because of its media buy model, and this model is well understood by most large organizations. The reality is that traffic from PPC ads represents only about 22% of total traffic from search. As a result, there is 3.5 X more opportunity to get traffic from organic search. Ask your management team if they can afford to ignore 75% of the overall opportunity.

Having skewered these myths, you can now focus on the actual mechanics of winning in organic search.

Explain basic search engine mechanics

I like to start by getting my trainees to understand the basics of how a search engine crawls the web and builds an index. I explain that a search engine crawler is just a software program. A really sophisticated program, yes, but a program nonetheless. Certain types of problems are very hard for software programs, such as optical character recognition and speech recognition. There are good solutions for these problems, but they require a tremendous amount of processing power—more than the search engines can expend for every page on the web. As a result, it is hard for search engines to effectively tell what is in am image or a video by reading the corresponding file.

Once executives understand that, you can explain other limitations of crawlers, such as the problems they encounter with JavaScript, Flash files, and so on. Usually, a lot of detail is not needed. The main point to hammer home is that SEO affects site architecture, and the tools you use to build a site. This includes very basic things such as the choices that need to be made in selecting content management systems and e-commerce platforms, and many of these are very problematic for SEO. If you can get executives to realize that SEO needs to be considered on the front end of any web development project that’s a big win.

The next part of the lesson is that search engines are really good at processing basic text and links. The flip side of this capability is that search engines have problems differentiating between pages with little text, perhaps because the content is primarily rendered through a video or an image, or just because there is not much “there” there. Pages with minimal or no text may simply be discarded from the search engine’s index.

Along similar lines, it’s very important to explain the importance of links. A voting analogy works really well here, and can help them see why link building is an important part of the picture. I usually use a simple chart showing election results, and talk about links as votes. If appropriate, you can then explain that links vary greatly in quality and impact.

Ultimately, you need to get executives to understand one thing: Search engines need special treatment. Getting search traffic happens through a deliberate process of doing the right things to help search engine crawlers understand what your site is about, and promoting your site so search engines will consider it better than that of your competitors.

Often, the job of an SEO professional is to get someone to do something they don’t want to. For example, you may have a web developer who wants to select a content management system (CMS) that is not friendly to search engine crawlers (this is actually quite common), or a marketing VP who does not want much, or any, text on the pages of the site. Having a methodology to quickly explain to top management why search is important, and detail the basics of how it all works, should be the very first step in any search engine optimization project in a large enterprise.

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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