Beyond SEO: Managing the management

You may be an SEO guru, but how are your people skills? Columnist Casie Gillette makes the case that it’s important to know how to deal with people and provides tips for doing so effectively.

As search marketers, we face many challenges as part of our job. We’re tasked with bringing in more traffic, more leads, higher rankings, better links and improved sales. Reaching these goals is challenging, but it’s the reason people pay us money in the first place.

However, there is another challenge we face that is just as difficult to address, if not more: people. And it turns out, even after 13 years in the industry and 35 on earth, I still haven’t figured them out. I thought it would be easier!

What I have figured out is that there are certain challenges that arise more frequently than others, including things like employee turnover, management changes, executive requests and more. These types of things can have a drastic impact on any program, especially for agencies, and without being properly prepared to address them, you increase your risk of losing the client.

To help ensure you’re prepared the next time one of these “people” challenges arise, I’ve put together a few tips on managing management and how you can best deal with some common issues:

Understand roles & expectations

As an account manager, you likely deal with Marketing Directors and VPs. Their goals tend to be focused on traffic, leads, sales and general site improvement. They have a solid understanding of program goals and knowledge of the existing programs, and they understand the nuances of keywords and content marketing.

Link Building Expectations

Enter the VP of Product, who does a search and suddenly wants to know why the site isn’t ranking for a specific keyword. Or at a larger scale, the CEO who realizes there’s a pretty big line item in the marketing budget and starts asking about results.

The way you address these questions must be based on the understanding that their goals may not be the same as yours, but it doesn’t make them less important.

In the case of the VP of Product, we can show them why they aren’t ranking and what they can do to help. For the CEO, we need to be able to tie our program back to sales. For many organizations, the attribution issue is still a major challenge, but money talks, and it’s important to be able to prove you are worth the cost.

A few key tips:

  • When starting a program, get an understanding of the various players involved and their goals. Even if you aren’t specifically working toward those goals, you’ll have an idea of what questions may surface down the road.

  • Set KPIs at the beginning of the program. This will help ensure you can showcase results now and in the future.

  • Stay organized. When a question is asked, you need to be able to answer it in a timely manner. There are often a lot of moving parts to an SEO program, and organization is key.

Be prepared to educate

In the past few years, I’ve been really lucky to work with marketing managers, VPs and directors who have a solid understanding of SEO and content marketing. However, that hasn’t always been the case and likely won’t be the case for all future clients.

In fact, while I’ve been fortunate to work with some highly knowledgeable people, I’ve also worked with a number of folks who simply don’t understand how SEO works or have the wrong information. It doesn’t always end well.

As marketers, it’s our job to ensure clients understand the program, the goals of the program, and why it isn’t okay to just go buy 100 directory links (yes, we still get that question).

Let’s look at an example:

At Client A, the existing marketing manager leaves and a new person is hired to take their place. The new person has no existing knowledge of the program and outdated knowledge of SEO. They start questioning what you are doing and why you are doing it that particular way.

While it can be frustrating to have to justify your work again and again, the new manager is just doing their job, and as such, we must do ours: proving value and educating them in the process. So, whether it’s the on-boarding of a new client or a new contact at an existing client, keep these questions in mind:

  • What are we doing?

  • How are we doing it?

  • Why are we doing it?

  • What can we show?

Additionally, if a new program manager starts or internal changes are made, make sure your contact has the following:

  • An overview of the SEO strategy and steps involved

  • An outline of existing deliverables and high-priority objectives

  • Recent results and successes

  • Next steps and how you can continue to build on the program

Focus on results

As I noted at the beginning of the post, we get paid to drive results and, well… we need to be able to show them. Specifically, we need to be able to show recent results.

The marketing space is very much a game of “What you have you done for me lately?” Just because you increased traffic 100 percent last year doesn’t mean you get to rest on your laurels.

Always have something positive ready.

Even if it’s something small, the ability to showcase something positive each time you speak can go a long way. For example, if you know the VP of Product is making an effort to improve on a particular keyword, make sure you show them how their efforts are paying off. If there’s one lead that turns into a big sale, you better be ready to take credit.

How to prepare:

  • Check results daily/weekly/monthly. Based on the KPIs mentioned above, know where things stand. There’s nothing worse than getting to the end of the month to find the site tanked two weeks ago.

  • Showcase results as they come in. Recently, a blog post we created for a client drove a pretty big lead. You bet your bottom dollar we immediately emailed the info over.

  • Small wins matter. Results can take time, especially when starting a program. Be on the lookout for small wins, including those around client goals.

Final thoughts

There are any number of challenges to running an SEO program, but people can often be the toughest. By understanding these common issues and being prepared to face them, you increase your likelihood for success. You also might just learn a lesson in patience and understanding.



[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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