In this article, we will discuss the relationship between SEOs and executives from the executive’s perspective. We’ll be delving into some of the challenges of navigating education, reporting, and communication best practices between SEOs and executives that will lead to more fruitful and productive business relationships.
Meeting in the Middle: SEOs and Executives
While it varies widely depending on the backgrounds and experiences of certain individuals, most executives are not experts in the SEO field (nor do they want to be). However, if you are part of leadership in a business that lives in the digital space and relies on a certain amount of search traffic to achieve enterprise goals, you likely recognize SEO as an important channel to understand and support. Too often, though, executives make the mistake of viewing SEO as something that can be directly controlled or definitively solved by applying a specific set of tactics. But SEO doesn’t work that way. SEO success is contingent on so many unique, temporal, reactive, and interconnected factors that it can be frustrating for executives that traditionally seek out more linear channels that can be mastered and guarantee a more easily quantifiable ROI. And that disconnect is precisely why communication and education between SEOs and executives are so critical.
Beyond its unpredictability, there are other executive challenges that arise from the nature of SEO. One of which is the complexity and variety of subcomponents within the channel, which tend to work against an executive’s natural desire to simplify and synthesize marketing elements into something easy to digest and align with the organization’s broader goals. Some executives with limited knowledge may view SEO as a purely technical mechanism, others as a structural framework or a content composition solution. But as any experienced practitioner knows, SEO encompasses all those things and more.
Alignment Between SEOs and Executives
Establishing a positive working relationship between executive leadership and SEOs in the field is all about determining which SEO components are worth investing in, defining expectations for initiatives, and aligning SEO efforts with broader enterprise goals. Executives, by nature, are going to look to identify the specific workstreams, silos, and processes that will lead to success within the channel. The SEO must educate leadership about the various courses of action available and the contingencies that may affect them. But to build genuine trust and awareness, SEOs must also be able to clearly explain why initiatives should be prioritized or moved in a particular direction, the value they will provide, and the dependencies they may rely on from other teams within the organization.
While education and communication are crucial factors in achieving alignment between executives and SEOs, the most important way an SEO can establish trust, from an executive perspective, is by delivering results. The ambiguity and inconsistent nature of the SEO channel is a reality, but blaming unforeseen influences and contingencies for lack of results won’t work forever. To be blunt, you must deliver the goods. In some ways, as an SEO, this can work to your advantage. Most executives are not looking to become SEO experts. They want results distilled down into meaningful KPIs that align with a larger organizational strategy. For SEOs, that means how you report and frame your results can significantly affect future support for your initiatives. Presenting clear, predictive, leading KPIs with solid, quantifiable results can go a long way toward gaining trust and confidence from your executive team. Don’t focus on lagging KPIs that may take months to come to fruition. Instead, recognize the line of sight and highlight shorter-term, impactful successes that have produced measurable value.
Translating SEO Successes into Business Value
One of the things some SEOs struggle with is a form of tunnel vision. Because SEO is such a broad channel with so many moving parts and unpredictable elements, some practitioners can get caught up in the complexity of the SEO world. This can make it difficult for SEOs to align their successes in SEO with a larger business strategy, which can weaken their value as a business partner in an organization.
SEOs and other teams within a business can sometimes forget to pan back and remind themselves what the organization is trying to achieve. What are the overall goals of your business, and how does what you do fit within them? How do your SEO successes contribute to the success of the organization? This context will provide the proper lens through which to view your work. It will allow you to utilize a broader perspective to make better strategic decisions, recommendations, and resource investments. It will also align your mindset with that of your executives, making it easier to communicate and gain support for your initiatives. SEOs already work in a cross-functional channel that relies on good communication skills with multiple teams to succeed. Cultivate that skill set, and you will be able to steadily diversify your SEO and business acumen and progress your career.