SEO is not something that is done. SEO is a way of doing things that encompasses many teams and initiatives. This is especially true for large organizations with well-established and potentially siloed teams.
Most marketing disciplines have concrete inputs and outputs. Consider the following examples, which may seem trite at first:
- PPC results in visibility in search results.
- Email marketing results in visibility in the inbox of folks on your mailing list.
- Content strategy results in marketing content on your site.
But this isn’t really the case for SEO. Can we say:
- SEO results in visibility in organic search results?
It’s not quite the same thing, is it?
“Doing SEO” does not directly result in visibility in search results, or traffic. SEO might lead to better indexation of pages on your site, or improved targeting. But these are only stepping stones to increasing search traffic. They are inputs that ranking algorithms will use, not the output of better rankings.
No SEO work can guarantee organic search visibility in the same way paid search guarantees paid placements.
In this way, SEO has more in common with business operations than it does with other marketing channels. It’s about getting the most possible benefit, through organic search, from the marketing assets that you have. It’s the responsibility of the digital marketing manager to make sure that the organization understands this, and that SEO requirements are baked into whatever processes they need to be.
In order to say that SEO is being properly managed, 3 teams and their processes need to be considered. These core practices touch the leadership team, the dev team, and content strategy teams. This post explores why search marketing is important at all, and why doing it right involves each of these 3 groups.
1. Commitment: Your leadership team
Before you can really invest in search marketing, your leadership team must be bought into doing search for the right reasons. If the marketing team is pulling in a direction that the company’s culture doesn’t support, there’s no chance things will end well.
Let’s make the risk of this concrete. You may have heard of penalties like Panda and Penguin. Certainly at Distilled we get a lot of inquiries from companies who are trying to recover from (or get in front of) these problems. But these prospects see them as “SEO” problems that have an “SEO” solution. It’s more accurate — or at least more helpful — to see them as symptoms of bigger organizational issues.
Here’s what I mean: Maybe your organization has decided that increasing rankings and traffic from search is a priority. In fact, it’s such a priority that you should buy links to accomplish it, because everyone knows links lead to better rankings. That’s a plan that is doomed to failure, perhaps ending with a manual action that is hugely detrimental to your site. No SEO practitioner would recommend buying links. The directive comes from somewhere else, and that needs to be dealt with before the organization can make the right choices for the right reasons.
That’s why it’s crucial to get everyone on the same page; if you don’t, SEO can be undermined even from outside the marketing team. Let’s summarize the benefits of getting the whole team on board, and the potential consequences of failure:
2. Platform: Your web dev team
Next up is the team responsible for your website and the platforms that support it. For smaller organizations, it can be easy to identify a change that will help SEO, and to make that change quickly. For larger organizations, actually making the change can prove quite challenging.
In order to improve SEO for the organization, making those changes has to become easier. Specifically, we might push for new platforms or updates that:
- Generate a site that is crawlable
- Make it easy to manipulate indexation directives and robots.txt files
- Make it as easy as possible for content producers to publish their content
None of these things can be done by an SEO practitioner alone. They are unlikely to have the experience necessary to make the technical changes required. Even if they did, organizational boundaries will impede them from making the changes. As in the case with getting commitment across the organization, an individual practitioner cannot be responsible for changing everything that needs to be changed here — rather, the expectation should be set that whenever someone makes a change to the organization’s web platform, SEO must be taken into consideration.
So what does successfully integrating SEO into your web development processes look like? What does it look like when you fail to do so? Here’s a summary:
3. Content creation: Your content strategy team
The third piece of the core SEO puzzle is the ability of the company to create content in a timely manner.
To make sure requirements for SEO are considered, the content production process must be designed with SEO in mind. Are posts (or product listings or category pages) being optimized appropriately? Does the content that we are creating actually help the user fulfill their objectives?
For instance, if you have individual location pages for offices or stores, you might want listings for those locations to show up in local search. Maybe such pages would have relevant store hours, events, or offers. These pages would clearly benefit SEO. But unless they are prioritized over other content, they won’t be created. SEO must be baked into the content strategy so that the team knows the importance of developing content that’s relevant for SEO.
Without quality, targeted content, there really can’t be any winning in SEO. The consequences of succeeding or failing to produce such content can be summarized as follows:
What you should do about it
As a digital marketing manager, you must do more than hire someone to “do SEO” or even “manage SEO” in your organization.
Whether it’s lead by one person or many, you must establish the idea of the SEO function in your company — the idea that search marketing is something that must be considered by many people and processes within your company. At the very least, the 3 teams above must be looped in.
It is the responsibility of the SEO function to:
- Set appropriate expectations in your organization
- Hire someone (or partner with an agency) that has enough experience to manage
- Enable the type of work that needs to get done
That may mean that if you are hiring one person, it’s not good enough for that person to have a couple years of SEO experience and be able to rattle off the major factors contributing to organic search performance.
SEO is an exciting, rapidly changing field — and it’s crucial to the bottom line of many enterprise organizations. To take full advantage of the opportunities it offers, though, you need to get these 3 teams working in concert.