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Combating SEO Implementation Paralysis

boggs-chris
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For several years, SEO consultants and agencies have faced one major challenge, beyond keeping up with ever-changing organic ranking algorithms: lack of implemented recommendations. What causes this "implementation paralysis"? The answer is typically grouped into three areas:

  1. Technology barriers.
  2. The approval process.
  3. Ownership issues within the site's organization.

Let's look at some examples of each of these results-paralyzing factors, and some ways to avoid or mitigate them.

Technology Barriers to SEO Implementations

Working with an organization that produces both HTML Web sites and major e-commerce platforms with IBM and Microsoft technologies on a regular basis has allowed me to observe and help overcome technology roadblocks frequently over the past few years. Having an internal team of more than 200 e-commerce engineers and dozens of Web designers who are eager to work with us (the search and media practice and specifically our SEO teams) in developing search-friendly sites and platforms streamlines the SEO process when it comes to dealing with technology issues.

Working together with outside vendors or client internal IT teams can be as effective, as long as the proper "respect" is given to the desires of SEO consultants. Simply saying that it's "impossible" to have a home page resolve always to the root domain (i.e.: always to www.example.com versus www.example.com/home or some variation) means either there's no budget or no desire to accomplish the task. Similar recommendations that are met with initial resistance include those around the use of 301 permanent redirects, the repositioning of JavaScript or other code, or the rewriting of URLs.

URL rewriting is probably one of the recommended processes in SEO that causes the most headaches. When dealing with large dynamic sites, people sometimes place too much value on what could happen if URLs are changed, and they most often have to do with the analytics being used to measure traffic and behavior on the site.

There are workarounds for this! Cookies are usually a possibility, or the rewrite can be written in a way that allows for the continuance of measurement through URL structure. Additionally, pages that resolve to multiple URLs based on user navigation can be addressed very effectively if the time is taken to address the issue at the engineer level.

As a marketing manager, you should never have to simply take "no" for an answer, and should always follow up with "can" it be done in order to really push the envelope toward success.

Approval Process and Content Ownership Layers

Many SEOs have written about the approval process anxiety caused by the delay in optimized on-page or descriptive content being added to pages of a Web site. This is becoming even more of an issue as blog and other editorial content is being created and added.

The stories are usually the same: the legal review process for blogging for the pharma and finance verticals; the merchant or vendor content approval for retail sites; or the organizational content ownership structure which often is bureaucratic and counterproductive. The last is most often no fault of the company, it just got that way over the years they have existed. Catalogers will be catalogers and strong entrenched IT teams will balk at change.

The process of dealing with site changes is something that requires more than just "force-feeding." In order to truly enhance any marketing structure, formal training around processes should be initiated and repeated regularly.

The internal teams on the organization side have to understand that SEOs aren't out simply to diminish the value of an existing site. Rather, SEO consultants often are the means to keeping up with changes in online marketing best practices. If the job is getting done right, the end result of organic optimization often yields a site that is not only more search engine-friendly, but often more user friendly and "modern" in terms of navigation choices.

The key to increasing the adoption rate of SEO tactics, as well as coordinating the more rapid implementation of recommendations, is to improve communications and to try to plan ahead for the inherent obstacles that will appear. Most of all: always ask "how could we" instead of "what if we didn't?"

Frank Watson Fires Back

This hesitancy to implement changes that could improve organic placement is a big one. In these hard economic times, marketers should be telling executives that they can bring in a major increase in traffic and potential customers. Increasing profits for little expense may be more attractive than the fear of possible drops in the status quo.

Tell the IT department that these changes will bring in more money that could be used for other improvements. Realistically, the implementation should sell itself these days.

Developing a rapport with the IT department can be tough, but if their department is losing employees just like the others, then an appeal to them on economic grounds could break their resistance.

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