Communicating SEO effectively
How many people do you work with who ‘get’ SEO? Whether you are an agency working with a number of different clients, or you work in-house, a common theme is that people are not excited about SEO. Perhaps I am biased, but knowing how much of a positive impact SEO can have on a business, how can I not be excited?
Decision makers need a tailored approach when communicating SEO. Deliverables and messaging need to change, depending on who they are being delivered to. More often than not, these people have not been given the time or attention needed to fully understand the story.
Do these scenarios sound familiar to you?
Development teams receive your technical recommendations, but rarely implement the bigger changes
Your big-ticket items from a technical audit are always at the bottom of the priority pile
Your content recommendations have been implemented, but not correctly
Other (non-SEO) teams try to take control of the SEO narrative
CTO’s may not understand the SEO opportunity behind migrating from legacy tech. Marketing managers might not have been shown the long-term value of reducing PPC spend in favour of SEO. Content editors sometimes do not even realise any changes they make to their content could have an impact on organic performance.
Whilst a number of different factors may play into the above points, I think, unsurprisingly, the root of this issue is communication. These issues arise when people outside of SEO, quite rightly, just may not care enough.
If you manage SEO work streams it is your responsibility to ensure the right people are getting the right message. The risk, the opportunity, and the reasons why, all need to be delivered in a way which resonates with the recipient.
Understand your audience
The type of work you deliver will depend on who your audience is. It’s easy to slip into the habit of completing a piece of work via your usual template and ways of working without properly considering who you are delivering to.
Take a technical SEO audit, for example. The goal of a tech audit is to inspect the current state of the website, and deliver a series of recommendations based on your findings. This is typically a long-form written document, with explanations and screenshot examples against each issue/item. For other SEOs, a technical audit may be completed in Sheets/Excel with minimal writing.
The audit might end up sitting in the inbox of various teams, all with different interests and communication requirements:
Senior leaders may not care about the specific recommendations, but instead want to understand the impact and how it fits into the business goals
Marketing managers may want all the detail – the why, the what, and the how
Technical fulfilment teams may only care for the specific recommendations and have the knowledge to action tech changes
Is it effective to have one single document sent to all of the above teams? Slice and dice your audits into a set of deliverables to deliver more effectively. For example:
An overview presentation of work completed, briefly covering the high priority issues, with details on potential impact and requirements
A written document outlining each issue, with examples, and explanations of next steps
Technical spec documents, one-pagers, or a straightforward list of issues and fixes
Whilst this creates more work, it allows recipients to filter out unnecessary information and find exactly what they are looking for.
Training and development
If all parties have an understanding of SEO, then communication becomes much easier. If you feel wider teams have a lack of SEO knowledge, part of the solution is training them directly. Consider creating some level of training programme, designed to upskill and empower the business.
This can start off as something small, such as a single SEO session for those who are most relevant. You can scale this up with additional types of training, even getting to a point where all new staff are enrolled in a basic ‘intro to SEO’ training session as part of the onboarding process.
Survey the landscape – identify the gaps in knowledge within each team/business area
Think about what areas of SEO you would like to push – what will help your team in the long run?
Develop a training programme consisting of different types of interactive sessions, workshops, demonstrations, for each team/area
Gather feedback to improve training delivery
Keep banging the SEO drum
Again – always consider who you are trying to communicate with. Content teams will be far more interested in an interactive ‘how to conduct keyword research’ session than the development team would.
Managers or senior leaders are unlikely to be interested in the specifics of optimising content, and will want to hear about SEO from a strategic point of view, such as top-level information on what SEO is, what the value of SEO is, etc.
Find ways to shout about SEO that get people excited. In time, you will develop keen superstars who will champion SEO internally.
Imagine getting to a level where SEO is so embedded in the business that organic search becomes a key part of people’s day-to-day work. For example, organic metrics are baked into the content team’s KPIs. This makes the life of an SEO team much easier in the long run.
Be confident in your knowledge and utilise your team
As with most things in life, confidence plays a crucial role in the social dynamics of the SEO world. Your recommendations can fall on deaf ears if you are not assertive.
Being self-assured is not always easy. But you, the driving force behind the SEO team, need to have confidence in what you are saying.
The senior leadership team may not take you seriously if your messaging keeps changing, or if you are unsure about anything. How can they accept that your proposed content changes might drive +X% traffic over the next 12 months, if you don’t believe it yourself?
Make use of your team
Being an SEO lead means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Your team may be a powerful resource. Who else would you rely on to wax lyrical about SEO?
If you have someone who specialises in technical SEO, bring them into conversations with developers and tech teams. Are you trying to communicate a content strategy which someone else wrote? Ask them to weigh in on the discussions.
You might not be the best person to deliver a particular piece of work. Be honest with yourself and uplift your team by working together on calls and presentations.