If you ask search engine optimization (SEO) experts how they get their site changes through the IT department, before they give any response, you will hear some form a groan – because it's challenging! But you can pave the way for a smoother ride by getting everyone on the same page with in-house SEO training.
The traditional approach is for an SEO to make a very specific request to IT, then IT meets, discusses it and rejects it for various reasons. Then the SEO grumbles in frustration.
Instead, take a different approach – equip IT with SEO knowledge so that IT can truly understand the problems that search engines face with your site, and then come up with their own solution that is technically feasible (and they are willing to implement).Don't Hoard Your SEO knowledge – Spread it Around
What many in-house SEOs don't realize is that the best way to get IT thinking about your problems is by showing them how search engines work, what makes them get stuck and by demonstrating how what they have created isn't working for search engine robots. I always say, "nobody likes to hear their baby is ugly", so instead of telling them this reality, let them figure it out on their own.
When IT is equipped with SEO knowledge, the will see how ugly their "baby" really is in terms of SEO, and they will naturally start thinking about how to do things differently so that it meets the needs of all.In-house SEO Training Isn't a One-time Thing
Once you do your SEO training, don't think you're done with spreading your SEO knowledge around – it's only just begun.
Remember that SEO is top of mind for you, and only you. Everyone else has a million other things that come first. The eye-opening knowledge and insight gained from SEO training will last about 3-6 months, and after that, it will be forgotten and you'll be back to square one.
The best thing you can do is develop a very strong internal SEO communication plan that includes some form of SEO Training with IT no less often than every 3-6 months. In-house SEO training can range from full-day sessions to brown-bags. Be creative to get SEO on their calendar and get them in front of you to learn.
This same insight applies even if you are working with an agency, someone within your company needs to spread the SEO knowledge to IT to obtain buy-in for what the agency has recommended.
In the event that you are working with an agency, they should be able to offer this training. However, don't be afraid to bring in someone else that you know is a great, compelling speaker with the panache to evangelize IT and make them SEO champions. When attending conferences, keep an eye out for speakers who you think will resonate with your team and help make your job easier.If IT Opposes SEO Training – Take an Alternate Route
Sometimes IT managers don't think their team needs a full 1- or 2-day SEO training program, and will leave you with no options. When this happens, just take a different route by doing your in-house SEO training in small snippets at every opportunity. Management will never know they are slowly getting every aspect of a 2-day in-house SEO program.
How you do it: When you want to pitch an idea to IT, get a meeting with the tech leads to talk about and brainstorm your options. Begin with a brief SEO 101 on the issue. Show the problems your site is facing in Google (this means turn on the computer and literally show IT what's happening in the SERPs, in Google Webmaster Central, etc.). The conversation will naturally flow into the leads talking amongst themselves about the options, and at that point your role is to guide them to the right solution.If You Can't Do In-house SEO Training Yourself, Bring In an Expert
While you may be the SEO manager or have SEO duties, not everyone in this role has the SEO expertise to do a full in-house SEO training session. If you find yourself in this situation, bring in an SEO expert to do the training for you. In fact, some people in your company will give more respect to an external consultant, don't be threatened by this. Accept it, and use it to your advantage – many in-house SEOs work with a consultant merely to help sway IT toward the direction they want to take.
When selecting someone to do your in-house SEO training, find someone who can handle IT opposition and identify how IT ought to work with you moving forward.
If you find IT doesn't want SEO training, and you have to use the "alternate route" described above, then engage an SEO expert to either participate in the IT brainstorming sessions mentioned above, or engage the expert to prep you to do run those meetings yourself. In a 30-60 minute phone call you can get everything you need to walk in, educate IT on the issues at hand, blow them away with knowledge and get IT tech leads thinking about what they can do to fix the problem.
Never underestimate the power of knowledge. When put in the right hands of open-minded IT tech leads (they do exist), they, too, will start thinking like an SEO.
Jessica Bowman is an SEO strategist available for SEO training, SEO audits and giving the vital details you need for a successful SEO program. Jessica is on the SEMPO Board of Directors, identified as one of industry's top in-house SEO's, and kicks butt at the board game Connect Four.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!