Every SEO I know has had difficulty getting buy-in for a recommendation at one point
In a decade, the job of an SEO has changed significantly. Prioritization is now a prerequisite for success.
A framework that includes opportunity analysis, discovery and measurement is essential for proper prioritization of your roadmap.
Sometimes it can be difficult to win over stakeholders due to skepticism towards advertisers. SEOs can also have competing interests if they don’t get early buy in and talk in terms of business KPIs
This SEO Strategy Flywheel will help you unlock SEO roadmaps that are implemented
Today’s SEO industry is filled with human challenges that far surpass technical ones. Over the past 10 years, our job as SEOs changed dramatically. SEOs used to manually inspect sites in order to show value a decade back and then created a list of SEO actions items to fix. Prioritization was not essential to success, because of the small marketing teams and smaller websites. SEO also didn’t have a clear home. Should SEO be based on content, marketing, or creative? It all depends, as we love to say.
Since then, SEO has required meaningful prioritization in order to gain buy-in from all stakeholders. Prioritization is mandatory now for two reasons.
Resources are finite – as SKUs grow and sites expand, the SEO resources often don’t.
Tools can replace manual audits, but they cannot replace human expertise in prioritizing against business objectives and needs
John Mueller is a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google.
An SEO’s role is to evaluate all optimizations available and determine which ones are worth your time. While any SEO tool can generate a lot of recommendations, most of them will not be relevant to your site’s search visibility. It takes time to find the right items to work on.
Modern SEO success requires more than excellent prioritization. It doesn’t matter where SEO is located within an organization. We all agree on one thing: SEO = marketing! SEO is marketing. That makes us SEOs advertisers, regardless of whether or not we like it. SEOs = advertisers.
Gallup polls show that people hate advertisers.
This presents us with obvious challenges as we attempt to win over people like developers and content writers.
Introducing the SEO strategy flywheel
My personal experience has shown that the SEO strategy flywheel is difficult to master. This flywheel is available for agencies, freelancers, or in-house SEOs.
Myriam Jessier tells SEOs that heart surgeons use checklists. They are not above you .”
We aren’t above the process, but we can take it further. In today’s SEO world, this process must transcend traditional SEO knowledge. The process must be used by SEOs to overcome technical and human challenges. The process can seem monotonous, repetitive, or even robotic. Too often, I have seen SEOs living in chaos without any defined processes or workflows. We aren’t above process, and it doesn’t make us robots.
Instead, we become more human by creating process. It removes the need for survival tactics and allows us to concentrate on strategic initiatives that have greater impact.
A team of stakeholders and a team can commit to a process, which increases efficiency, allows for greater collaboration, and ensures that we can see our recommendations being implemented.
1. Opportunity analysis – Infuse confidence and humility into your process
Step one allows us to evaluate our strategic vision and compare it against the new competitive landscape.
We as SEOs often become too rigid in our strategic vision or are too passive to make recommendations, even if they may not be approved. You can either fall prey to imposter syndrome or armchair-quarterback syndrome, where you are too naive to solve difficult cases. Adam Grant’s book, “Think Again” describes Confident Humility as the goldilocks spot.
All teams are required to conduct an opportunity analysis. This involves reviewing site performance and analyzing and preparing for any industry/vertical changes. The opportunity analysis encourages confidence and humility. Confident humility is the key to improving quarter after quarter.
It is important to have an “outsider” perspective to help you validate your opportunity analysis. Brainlabs does this by checking-ins with the Group Account Director or VP of SEO and performing QA. This perspective helps us narrow down the most important findings to make recommendations.
An audit will reveal where someone made a mistake. This could be unimplemented content or a wrongly implemented schema. This should be rectified before the Discovery Meeting, where you will review findings and discuss them with key stakeholders like developers.
Never forget to consider the business KPIs and not SEO KPIs.
2. Discovery meeting – Get buy in from stakeholders early
My favorite and most influential part of the process, as well as the most collaborative: the discovery meeting. We use the discovery meeting to establish relationships with all stakeholders and understand their needs and desire for change. Simply put, robots cannot build relationships. That’s something we still have over any SEO auditing tech.
The Opportunity Analysis is the first step. You don’t want the opportunity to leave this meeting without asking meaningful questions. These questions can be divided into four categories: Partnership, Business Industry/SEO and Resources. Although templates are great, it is important to tailor the questions to your brand.
Example questions include:
Which project is your favorite? Do we need to do more?
Is there anything that could/will affect the website or your marketing efforts?
Are there any projects in your backlog that you are excited about? We can provide evidence to support implementation.
Will you have the resources to meet the new economic uncertainty?
You can either make this meeting QBR-esque or you can leave it alone if that is what you prefer.
Invite stakeholders (for example, developers and execs), to gain perspective (for instance, content marketing executives, brand marketers, and other relevant members).
If you have the time, have a mock-call to make sure that questions are properly crafted and that the team feels comfortable giving them.
3. SEO roadmap development – Let rubber be the road
Many SEOs skip this step. It is costly, both in terms of time and political capital. A roadmap is not a good idea for SEO projects. It will result in many unprioritized recommendations, little implementation, and a loss of trust with stakeholders.
When preceded by a thorough opportunity analysis and a productive Discovery meeting, the roadmap will achieve three things:
Layout projects with enough detail to allow for early purchase
To avoid a collective action issue, identify participants in each activity.
Use as an activity log to make it easier to measure
Below is an example of a quarterly SEO roadmap. Each project is defined and quantified using the relevant SEO KPIs. (outlined in pink).
Next, we will include a RACI Model (outlined in blue). This model identifies project participants by who are Responsible, Accountable and Consulted.
Finally, after the Roadmap has been approved, we add the middle Project Status Section (outlined in black) and track each activity to measure the success of the implementation.
Be confident with your roadmap and know when you need to pivot a project
Use the roadmap to constantly update and guide status calls
The roadmap can be used to plan resource allocation and project management. New projects must be created in place of an existing.
4. Implementation – Get sh*t done
Although site implementation can fall to different teams depending on the project, it is important to be able to identify who needs to approve each implementation early. This will allow you to immediately implement each recommendation once it is complete.
If you have a clear roadmap and a timeline, submit development tickets early to allow the implementation team to prepare resources for them during upcoming sprint
QA all implementations to make sure that your final result is consistent with your recommendation
Track site changes to see when stuff is implemented
5. Measurement – Find the winning strategies to scale
This is step five, where the framework becomes a flywheel: Measurement. An activity log allows you to identify both pre- and after-implementation effects. You can tie performance to specific optimizations to increase the compounding effect of SEO.
It’s the best way to gain influence over a site development team. Follow up on their work and share it with them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly SEO projects are added to your development roadmap during future sprints if they have access to the post-implementation reports.
Check that implementation dates (including site adjustments!) are correct
Take into account seasonality when you analyze
You should track pre- and post-measurement starting at the earliest crawl date following implementation. It can take up to three months for a page of data to be recrawled.
- To speed up this process , you can use the GSC API in conjunction with Screaming Frog
- Use an SEO A/B testing tool for testing ranking/traffic impact–like SearchPilot for large sites–and/or a conversion testing tool like Google Optimize to test for engagement/conversion impact
Start tracking for SEO KPIs as soon as you can to obtain enough pre-implementation information
SEO strategy flywheel lets you direct your SEO team’s resources and time to SEO, rather than reacting to prioritization conflicts. This process will help you build confidence and humility in your work. It will also get stakeholder buy-in quickly, which will allow you to scale up winning efforts. You are encouraged to adapt this process to your workflows. Please share your modifications in the comments.
The quarter’s planning is just around the corner. Get it now!
Travis Tallent, VP, SEO, Brainlabs, oversees the SEO product. He ensures account teams have the best talent, tools, tech and processes to perform their jobs. Travis enjoys spending time in nature, playing the saxophone with a local band, as well as volunteering for LGBTQ+ charities.
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Search Engine Watch’s first article, An SEO strategy flywheel that wins leadership buy-in to drive results, appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
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