Most of us have a goal we are pursuing. Some of us want to retire early, others want to run a marathon, and some dream of buying a house. Whatever the goal, achieving it requires focus, effort, and commitment, as well as paying attention to its unique success drivers – those factors that contribute to the attainment of the goal.
The same can be said about outsourcing the management of your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. Below are some of the drivers that directly influence your success at outsourcing. The importance of each will vary depending on the size of your organization, its culture, and the age of the business, but together they create a solid foundation for success.
Expectations & Commitment
When you decide to engage with a search engine marketing firm, you have either recognized that you have encountered a challenge that you cannot meet as effectively as you could with some assistance, or you have recognized an opportunity that you can more effectively capitalize upon if you get some help.
Yet just because you seek outside help with your SEO efforts, that doesn't necessarily mean you know what to do when you get it! But that's okay, because, in fact, most marketers don't. Further still, some marketers believe that once they outsource the management of their SEO campaign, they are all done with their job, and that all they need to do is sit back and wait for the results to be delivered. Unfortunately, such thinking is delusional.
To be successful at outsourcing SEO, you need to understand that it is not a turn-key solution, and that it requires more than just expert consultation. A lot more. More time. And more internal resources. Why? Because search engine optimization is not a one-shot deal; it is inherently iterative. In short, it is a process, not a project.
Moreover, SEO is but a tool to enhance business results. Consequently, it cannot be performed in isolation. Rather, it necessitates collaboration between you and your vendor, and with all the areas of your company that are impacted by your marketing efforts. Given these factors, expectations need to be established up front between you, your various internal constituencies, and your vendor, so that everyone can understand and agree on what's truly involved in achieving success.
Beyond setting expectations, organizational commitment is essential to be successful with SEO. Quite simply, you need buy-in from senior decision-makers within the organization who understand what is required so that they can manage and influence resources and priorities when as needed.
Internal Champion & Support
Think of the most successful causes you know. Chances are, they all have one thing in common: a champion. Someone who is passionate, carries the torch, and spreads the word. He or she believes in the cause, and that belief translates into activism. In essence, that person is an evangelist.
Well, SEO is no different. To be truly successful with it, someone from within the organization needs to step up and take the lead as a champion. This role is about creating momentum and growing adoption by spreading the word, publicizing the successes, and motivating others from within the organization to drink from the fountain of SEO.
Ideally, the champion should be well liked, respected, and an adept influencer. The champion should also be a natural team builder, and capable of garnering support and resources, as he or she will surely need help from numerous disciplines within your organization, such as copywriting, technology, product development, business development, public relations, marketing, etc.
Ultimately, an internal SEO champion is a success driver whose importance cannot be overstated. In my opinion, it is critical. In fact, I would even like to see it taken one step further. Ideally, organizations would nominate an individual from within each department to be involved with SEO initiatives -- a committee of sorts. The objective of such involvement would be to learn SEO as it pertains to their group, and to help educate the rest of their teams. Such a plan would provide everyone with a sense of ownership, foster collaboration, and reduce any obstacles that the champion might face down the road.
Education & Information
Everyone knows that communication can be a tad challenging within a large organization. I guess you could say it's the nature of the beast. But unfortunately, there's no getting around it. If you want to be successful with your SEO initiatives, developing open lines of communication is essential. Doing so provides you with the opportunity to educate and inform everyone about SEO, and the organization's specific challenge or opportunity to be addressed by it. Moreover, communication will also help grow adoption and maintain momentum. After all, no one likes to be left in the dark, but if you light the way, they will follow.
You need to be mindful that communication is a two-way street. You can't keep asking for help from everyone without people expecting something in return. Be sure that everyone understands the overall objective, how they can directly contribute to meeting the challenge, and what they stand to gain from their efforts.
For example, imagine what would happen if you counseled a copywriter on how to craft optimized content, and then later showed them how their efforts yielded them a prominent ranking in Google. The response? Gloating. Guaranteed. Such experiences help to create a healthy level of internal competition on whose content will rank better or whose page design will reign. So keep in mind that results, big or small, need to be passed along to motivate and inspire everyone involved to want the SEO campaign to succeed.
Prioritization & Making a Business Case
It would be nothing short of naive to think that the SEO process will automatically trump what other departments are working on, given that everyone has their own initiatives and priorities. Therefore, to effectively lobby for your programs and get the resources and funding you need, it is imperative that you be able to speak about them in a language that resonates within the organization.
For example, it probably wouldn't prove fruitful to attempt to obtain organizational buy-in to create and host a sitemap in order to get rankings. It's necessary to position and communicate the project in a way that makes sense to them. If you tell them that by doing so, you expect to see a ten-fold increase in pages indexed, which you believe will increase your rankings by 76 percent, and consequently increase site visits by 92 percent, which will net the organization an incremental $92,781 a month in revenue, it just might make for a more compelling argument.
Just make sure you can back up your statements with results, or they certainly will not believe you when you come by to sell them on the next project.
Ultimately, building a business case can prove instrumental in helping to prioritize search initiatives or secure additional funding to move a project along. Perform this a few times and prove the results, and you'll quickly convert skeptics into believers. As a result, you'll have to jump through a lot fewer hoops going forward.
Keep in mind that a business case does not always need to be built on hard facts and numbers. Instead, you make your point by demonstrating how your competitors are successfully executing tactics and reaping the rewards, while you struggle to get resources assigned.
Remember, if you want to achieve your goal, it takes focus, effort, and commitment. Outsourcing your search engine optimization is no different. Pay attention to the drivers; they will allow you to build a solid foundation for success. Fail to do so, and it could fall like a house of cards.