May 8, 2010

Deciding on your SEO Strategy when Your internal beef is what holds you back

Let’s say you have an online presence and you have some traffic to your website. Actually, let’s say you have a huge website, but the traffic you receive is less than 20% of your overall incoming traffic. Let’s also say you have a couple of different internal departments that all quarrel about who can own the web presence. Let’s also assume there is a big dude from the HR department who always wins all the internal arguments and thus your index page and sub sections are cluttered with Employer Branding banners.

What the heck can you do?

To solve this kind of problem in SEO you need to understand more than keyword analysis and density. You need to really grasp which pages on your website are the most important and utilize them as negotiation tools in the internal debate. But before you even start to think about the negotiation you need to figure out some other things. So let’s start from the beginning.

Step 1: Who is the internal beef instigator – Key internal stakeholders

First of all you need to get to know who has an interest in the website you are going to suggest a strategy for. If you do not know who to get in line, you will have a huge problem implementing your SEO strategy. You need to know what their business goals are and you need to know what internal arguments and history they are relying on.

Step 1a: Measure everything

One thing I forgot. Before you start anything. You should really start measuring everything of SEO value.

  • Inbound links
  • Conversion rates
  • Keyword traffic density
  • Long tail keyword structure and variance
  • etc.

Step 2: Collect internal KPIs

The second step you need to go through is to collect internal KPIs. These are highly different from the external KPIs that have an effect on the business success of the online presence. Internal KPIs are most often based upon pride or some sort of seating pecking order. In order to get to know this you really need to understand people more than you necessarily understand SEO. Once you’ve found these internal KPI’s you can move on to the next step.

Step 3: Determine external KPIs

These KPIs are the ones that determine the overall business success of an online presence. With regards to SEO these are usually based on:

  • Inbound links to a webpage
  • Decrease of duplicate meta/content
  • Increase CTR to Success event on a specific landing page

Pretty straight forward KPIs that have to be put into a methodology later in the process in order to make any sense. It doesn’t matter how many KPIs you determine if you don’t set a method to act upon these KPIs. You need thorough analysis with regard to business goals and you also need to make sure that you have the work force suitable for this kind of task.

Step 4: Set intersect values or alternative values

The next step is more complicated than the two above. In order to set intersect values you need to put initial and comparable values to the two previous steps. This means you have to match the internal value of eg. having a banner on the front page with the external value of increasing revenue on a landing page. What is it worth to a person to increase his or her position in the internal pecking order contra how much do they value business success.

It might sound wicked, but most people do not work towards fulfilling external KPIs and thus they are not willing to walk the extra mile for that purpose. People are much more likely to work towards the internal KPIs and thus you need to align the external and the internal KPIs in order to really get to know how to build a governance implementation that truly works for your SEO strategy.

Step 5: Incentive models that increase value of external KPIs

Once you have set intersect values you can move onto creating incentive models. SEO in big organizations are very little about doing it right, but it is more of avoiding doing it wrong. If you have many people updating the pages, you need to support the system with incentive models that actually gives an incentive for people to do a good job.

Step 6: Negotiation

Once you’ve defined and sorted the above you shall get into negotiation with your internal stakeholders. You know what they value and you know what brings them external value or business success. This gives you a load of arguments in order to build a scenario that is favorable to the SEO strategies available for you.

Let’s say you have the big HR person who owns you like a bitch in the internal dialogue and rankings. If their ambition is to maintain their position on the front page of the website as that holds a high internal value, then it is up to you to increase the incentive to move to other pages. One such way could be to measure the number of inbound links to different other pages, use the high value ones to sculpt sections of the website to rank higher and thus draw better rankings, traffic or conversion.

If you get into the negotiation with real numbers you will be able to maneuver the internal bully quite beautifully. Regardless if you choose the conflict/confrontation with upper management method or the more diplomatic one on one approach, you’ll do a lot better now that you can present a clear incentive to the table.

Step 7: Creation of strategy and tactics

Now that you know the position of the internal stakeholders you know what SEO strategy will be able to implement. You have a true and comparative ROI that enables you to know before you get into an argument if it is worth it to move a specific stake holder towards a more favorable position by giving them increased incentives to external KPIs.

Argumentation will be so much easier if you do the ground work and can prioritize your own efforts when creating the strategy for SEO.

Step X: Optimization

SEO strategy has everything to do about internal content production, governance and resource management. Due to the industrial structure of many large companies you really need to focus on the interpersonal aspects when determining where to go next. A standard organization is split into Marketing, Communication, Sales and IT in one form or another. These kind of structures aren’t well optimized for modern online work.

If you aim to reach goals in SEO you need to find ways around the internal hierarchies and find solutions that do not require major organizational rearrangements. The above sets the maneuver platform for that to take place. Yes, this is really difficult to sell, and you will loose a lot of pitches to less qualified people, but, if you manage to sell this you will do a better job for the client and that is what it is all about in the end.

If I just confused you, or if you don’t agree. Then please write comment below.

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2 Comments
  • Andy @ FirstFound, May 10, 2010 Reply

    You didn't confuse me, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    Getting your KPI's sorted initially is key to putting together your strategy. Anyone confused by that might need to take another look at your post.


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