Whether you work at an online marketing agency or run an in-house SEO department, you’ve likely encountered the dreaded “work wall.” That wall may have been a lack of resources or budget, or it may have involved that one person or department who just wasn’t interested in helping you get done what you needed to get done.
It’s a common scenario. We are all trying to do our jobs, and when someone else’s job interferes with ours, we may be hesitant to help out. The challenge for SEOs is we rely on these other departments to help us be successful.
In fact, as Erin Everhart pointed out in a recent post here on Search Engine Land, as SEOs, one of our responsibilities now is educating other teams on how to integrate SEO into their own departments, so we are not constantly working to get other people involved.
So, how do we break down the walls and get our cross-department counterparts to do just that? There is no one answer, but by using the three tactics outlined below, you will certainly have a better chance.
1. Know What They Know
If you search “how to speak to colleagues” you will be met with all sorts of advice — some good, some bad, and some that is just plain common sense. But what most of them will tell you is that no one, regardless of their position or department, appreciates being talked down to. Even more so, no one appreciates someone else telling them how to do their job.
When working with other departments and specifically other team members, it’s important to understand what their current level of SEO knowledge is.
For example, when we sign a new client, we always start with a discovery call that looks at all elements of the business, including technical capabilities. We want to understand the processes for change, the site structure, and what the IT team currently knows about SEO.
That way, when we are reviewing the technical audit with the team or discussing site changes, we know exactly how much or how little we need to explain. We avoid insulting anyone’s intelligence and (in most cases) save ourselves time and work by creating the right messaging and instructions the first time.
Identifying how much a person knows can be tricky — but by asking the right questions and talking to people in the know, you can get a pretty good idea.
2. Make It About Them
“What’s in it for me?” While it’s unlikely that anyone is going to ask this directly, it’s surely going through a few people’s minds when you are asking them to add more hours of work to their week.
You have to show what the benefits are for them. Or in the words of a famous, down-on-his-luck sports agent,”Help me help you!”
Now, we could take the “ego bait” approach here and let them know they are the best ever and that the company and the world will never be successful without them. However, that’s probably only going to work for a short time. As with most things in marketing, I recommend using data.
What can you pull from past results to help get people interested?
Let’s take a look at Client A:
Client A has an in-house content team that is responsible for writing the blog content. The SEO lead, who is in a separate department, feels the blog is a valuable asset and will be essential in driving qualified traffic and improving the overall brand presence in search.
When approached about integrating SEO into the existing blog strategy, the content team is worried it will take away from what they are already doing. They aren’t interested in writing about boring SEO topics and don’t really see the value since the blog is already driving a ton of traffic, which is what they are goaled on.
Here is where data comes in…
Take a look at how the blog posts are currently performing in organic search. See if you can identify a theme or two that’s working and be sure to point out the positives.
If you can, find a post that is well optimized and is consequently performing well in search. The team may not even realize they are actually already doing a bit of SEO.
In addition, using Webmaster Tools, show the team which keywords are driving traffic to individual posts and how you want to integrate those (or additional keywords) into posts in the future.
Using the data you have, show the team how making small changes to what they are currently doing can improve the odds of a post driving traffic and shares — and, more importantly, help the team reach their traffic goals more quickly.
Your request should be framed around how it helps them.
3. Involve Them In Decision Making
As mentioned above, no one wants an SEO dictator. If you are going to get other people on board, treat them as if they are part of your team.
Find something on the technical end that needs to be resolved? Get the IT team involved early and let them help you come up with a solution.
Remember Client A above? Provide training on optimizing blog posts and start them off with a few topics to work with. Don’t force them to write something they don’t want to write — instead, show them how they can optimize what they do want to write.
Don’t forget to follow up with results. Invite everyone involved to the monthly SEO meeting and showcase how their roles impacted the site’s performance. It’s important to ensure that everyone feels as though they are making a difference — and that they are incorporating your SEO requests into their work for good reason.
The key to all of this is getting buy-in from all levels. It’s fine if Tom from IT is on board but if Tom’s manager isn’t, how he spends his time isn’t going to change and you likely aren’t going to get what you need done.
Make sure that you are talking to the key influencers in each department. While you want everyone to feel involved, they also need to feel accountable.
How do you get other departments on board with SEO?