Many organizations that have tried enterprise-level search engine optimization (SEO) know that it can be difficult to gain lasting results without pulling different internal teams into the process. At some point, inevitably, the process will be stalled due to workflow blockage.
In order to meet goals established when launching an SEO program, training key decision makers and departmental heads becomes as important as ramping up the internet/interactive marketing teams that will be closest to the program's projects.
Beyond the highest level, additional specialized/focused education should be tailored for teams ranging from IT, to branding, to public relations, to even third party vendors that may influence content.
The most important part of the training is actually setting up the agenda in a way that will be most efficient for scheduling executives and higher level resources. These are the hardest calendars to crack, and also unfortunately the most likely to be superseded by "more important" meetings as the scheduled training time gets closer.
"SEO 101" shouldn't be taught in its entirety to executives, who will likely start scrambling for their iPhones and Blackberrys at the fist mention of "canonical" or "nofollow." Crucial members of the IT team need this type of knowledge, but not the CMO.
Granted, I work mostly with large organizations these days, so some CMOs for smaller businesses may feel like they need to be there because they have a smaller team.
Here's a suggestion: don't think that way! The only way you'll grow from a small business to a large business is to focus on the high-level actionable metrics and how they're generated and measured.
What are ways to split up a SEO training agenda to be most educational to executives? In addition to important regional/global considerations, the "right stuff" for high-level decision makers to learn is the who, why, and how of measuring the SEO program (and how it will make them look good).
Who Will Measure the SEO Program
Ensure that those in power know the scope of resources/groups that may affect (positively or negatively) the outcome of a SEO program. If a CMO needs to make better friends with a CIO, they each need to know that, and also why.
Why the SEO Program Will be Measured
Training defines the importance of each group to the overall success of the program. Public relations and press teams can be a valuable ally to SEO success, and everyone needs to know that.
How the SEO Program Will be Measured
This is perhaps the most important training for the highest level group, because it will give them the basis to lead the program appropriately. Understanding the most likely key performance indicators is just the first step.
Executives and other leaders must have equal power in deciding which data to measure against in order to determine forward progress. If leaders allow an agency or consultant to pick the metrics, without truly understanding their importance, it's possible the data will be misrepresented, or frankly just come up short in terms of satisfying progress seekers.
For organizations that have regional footprints, or are looking to expand globally, prepare training that will highlight the geographical nuances particular to the business. Each region may have slightly different user behavior, depending on demographics. So when setting goals, the metrics measured to gauge performance will also come with minor variations.
For multi-region organizations, leaders with authority over each region or country should be involved in high-level training and understanding of major KPIs, but also should get information customized for their particular territory.
Training Isn't One Time and Done!
Most of the important relationships that will be built within an organization to allow for greater SEO prosperity won't happen within weeks or months. The strongest organizations are those that have been working on building relationships and buy-in for years.
With each quarter of ongoing recommendations and meetings/training, an evolution of sorts should be evident. It may take six months of asking for something like an internal link or a changing of the press release boilerplate, but once it happens everyone will be comfortable, and the numbers will support the decisions (as measured during successive quarters).
Training executives for SEO success is something that may still not be a part of every organization's roadmap, but going forward, more and more C-levels are going to be subject to performance from organic search -- specifically related to non-branded exposure for high volume keyword phrases.
Those who take the time to develop customized training for leadership, and are fortunate enough to get good attendance, will likely benefit from increased SEO performance as a result of higher-powered champions and evangelists who actually understand what's going on.