We've all had those moments where we feel that we've explained our point perfectly, there's no way they can say no, none whatsoever. Then the daftest most inane negative response leaves their mouth and you wonder why you ever bothered in the first place.
Sometimes working as an in-house SEO can feel like a Sisyphean task, if Sisyphus had been told by his boss that once he was done he had to go clean out the Augean stables before leaving for the night.
Here are four examples of frustrating scenarios that many in-house SEOs will encounter over the course of their career, along with some ideas for how to work them to your advantage.
The Adamant Refusal
I received an email last week from a student in my SEO class at Georgetown University. He'd listened to what I'd said, about how having multiple URLs for your home page wasn't an ideal situation.
Looking at his work site he realized that both the www and non-www versions worked with no redirects, and no canonical tags. So he contacted the IT team to get it fixed. They responded with a resounding "NO".
In fact, they claimed that canonicalizing to the www version would inform the Internet that their domain no longer existed, which would cause disasters such as stopping their email from working, while also causing the death of several kittens (that last one was implied, not explicitly stated in the email).
The response to something like this is to use facts. Gently explain to them why they're wrong, and what the opportunity cost is of not actually doing something beneficial to the site.
The response my student gave to his IT team was to type in http://aol.com and http://yahoo.com, and look at what happens to the URL (they each move to the www version), then he asked them to think about whether they've ever received an email from someone with either an aol.com or yahoo.com account.
Experts Don't Work Here
It's a sad state of affairs that in some in-house positions, if the SEO has not made a name for themselves within the company, then their voice may not be heard, as the perception is that "well if you were any good, you wouldn't be working here." But once an external "expert" comes in and makes the same recommendations, they're listened to and their advice is acted upon.
This can be a frustrating experience for the in-house SEO, but it can very easily be turned into an opportunity to get projects pushed that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. The in-house SEO needs to make sure to be as involved in the selection process as possible, to ensure that the agency / consultant hired is someone who knows what they're doing and that it's someone they can work with.
Any decent consultant is going to want to get some subject matter expertise from the inside. That's a great opportunity to talk through stalled initiatives and potential projects with them.
If all goes well, this can serve to push progress on your initiatives, and to validate your expertise assuming the outside expert validates your views / recommendations.
Post Launch SEO
"We launched the new site / feature last week, but we're not seeing any organic traffic, would you SEO it for us now?"
Sadly this sentence, or one like it, is said way too often in companies around the world. With the sister question being one where the in-house SEO is given a ridiculous turnaround time to "SEO the site" before it launches.
In this situation the in-house SEO has to just bite their lip and set expectations. If the site isn't a high priority one, then they may have to wait, and the SEO should explain that next time they need to be involved much sooner in the process.
We'll Circle Back Later for the SEO
Your recommendations have been made, you've put together a full raft of necessary and valuable modifications that need to be made to get the site upwardly mobile as soon as possible. The project manager who brought you in has parsed out the work and has it sitting in the roadmap waiting to be worked on.
Then the site is launched – and the majority of the SEO projects haven't been completed.
But it's OK, because you've been told that trouble tickets have been generated and the developers will circle back post launch to work on them. Only they don't – and they don't because the site's launched and they have to go off and work on the next site or the next piece of functionality for the site.
This is then where the in-house SEO has to use their powers of persuasion. Management needs to be aware of the opportunity cost, they need to know what they're losing out on by not doing things in the right manner.
Have regular touch points with the various teams. Make sure you know what they're up to, and on the other side conduct training so that they know what you can and should be doing to help them.
While the tendency when encountering one of these frustrations is to slam your head repeatedly into your desk, or to whine about those [expletive deleted] pain in the [expletive deleted], look on it instead as an opportunity to educate and improve for the next time a situation like this could occur.