PPC – How to use SEO education for stakeholder management

PPC - How to use SEO education for stakeholder management


A lot of what impacts SEO success is ultimately out of the hands of search professionals.

We can have elaborate and robust SEO strategies in place. We can demonstrate substantial traffic growth. Our organic conversions can be higher than ever.

All it takes is an errant noindex tag to decimate our success overnight.

There are a few ways to protect against this happening – including building processes, checks and balances and QA systems.

But ultimately, the most important method is training those teams on how their actions can improve or destroy SEO progress.  

1. Invest in company-wide education 

SEO seems like a mystical dark art to many people. Either that, or they reckon it’s just keywords and meta. As search professionals, we know that there are many facets to SEO.

Depending on the industry and website, SEO strategies might have a wide focus. You may have international sites with local SEO and language handling considerations.

Perhaps yours is a marketplace and you need to deal with out-of-stock items frequently. Perhaps you manage a network of sites and have to consider syndication and links more than most. 

Why it’s advantageous to upskill colleagues

One of the biggest advantages you can give yourself in SEO is educating your company or departments who deal with the website/s.

This doesn’t mean in-depth training for every single person who has an impact on SEO. It can be as little as a general introduction to SEO carried out in your all-hands meeting or a guide you write and share internally. 

Educating your colleagues means creating SEO-aware champions in each key department.

It’s always better to have someone ask, “Does this matter to SEO?” than not. Without raising their awareness of what SEO involves, they may not know to ask. 

If your colleagues outside of the marketing department consider SEO to just be keywords and backlinks, they may not know to involve you in site architecture or branding decisions.

They may not consult you at the beginning of a site redesign or when considering re-platforming. You might not be looped in on the international expansion plans or the campaigns to create microsites for new products.

Opening the wider company’s eyes to the complexities of SEO can aid them in realizing when they need to involve you in their decision-making or quality assurance. 

2. Keep SEO in the public eye

Once you have given your company an overview of what SEO entails, keeping them aware of what you are working on and how it’s performing is a great idea.

Keeping SEO in front of them will remind your key stakeholders that they need to be consulting with you. Showing the impact of your work demonstrates the benefits of SEO to them. 

Training your colleagues or agency clients on the latest changes with search engines or approaches to SEO can remind stakeholders of the complexity and nuances involved in Search. 

Share the experiments you run and what you’ve learned from them company-wide. You can demonstrate that SEO doesn’t always have a straightforward answer.

The classic “it depends” answer can wear pretty thin with stakeholders. Demonstrating how much SEO is experimental and iterative can help reinforce that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy.  

3. Identify who needs more bespoke training

There will be colleagues who need more than the basic overview of SEO for their work to complement and not hinder yours. 

The key to identifying who could do with a deeper education in SEO is looking at who you communicate with daily.

Brand-side

Chances are that the teams you interact with each day are the ones who will be able to impact SEO success. Audit your meetings and emails over the course of a week.

  • Who are you messaging the most?
  • Who are you in meetings with? 

Alongside people who can help or hinder SEO through their work, consider key stakeholders.

  • Who holds the keys to your budget?
  • Who is involved in prioritizing developer time?

These people are the ones who can help your SEO strategy get implemented. It is prudent to help them to understand the importance of SEO.

Clients

If you are working as a consultant or for an agency, the process of identifying training needs will differ. After all, you may only have one key contact at your client’s organization. Consider asking your contact for an overview of their organizational structure. 

An organizational chart or department overview will help you know who might need SEO upskilling. Look for the teams that have an impact on the website. For example, this might be developers, project managers, or marketing teams. 

Alternatively, speak with your contact and ask them to identify who might benefit from SEO education. Explain that your training will ultimately help gain buy-in for SEO activity. They will likely have a list of who would benefit from that. 

4. Determine the SEO skills needed for each stakeholder

Once you have a list of people who may benefit from training, split them into three groups:

Needs to be able to carry out SEO-informed activities 

These people could use SEO skills in their work to help improve search performance.

For example, copywriters benefit from keyword research training and front-end developers from understanding how hreflang tags work. 

They will likely need an overview of SEO and how their work impacts it. They will need training on specific activities and the tools needed to accomplish them. 

Don’t get caught up in trying to teach them the entirety of SEO. It will probably make it harder to remember what they actually need to know. 

Give them sufficient SEO context to understand why the activity is important. This enables them to figure out better processes because you have equipped them with the knowledge to do so themselves rather than just training them by rote. 

Needs to understand the context of SEO 

These people will benefit from understanding where their work, or the work of the people they manage, can impact SEO. They might be your UX designers, project managers, or PPC managers. 

For this group, consider what they need to know to understand their impact on your work. Consider training stakeholders on when to involve SEO professionals in their decision-making.

This can be very important for team members who make changes to the website.

For example, your UX team might advise including pop-up boxes to encourage email sign-up. They will need to understand the implications of using interstitials and that it would likely need an SEO’s input to ensure it is implemented in a search-engine-friendly manner. 

They may not need in-depth training on rectifying the issues you are highlighting or which decisions they make could cause them.

Needs to understand the importance of SEO

These are your colleagues or client stakeholders who don’t directly impact SEO but indirectly do through prioritization and budget-holding.

These are your marketing directors, chief operating officers and finance managers. The people who need to understand the remit of SEO to sign off on the resources needed for your strategy. 

Your focus for training for this group is to show SEO’s impact on their bottom line. This might be operational efficiency, revenue or other KPIs important to your senior leadership team.

Work with them to find out what metrics they really care about and show them how SEO can impact them.


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5. Choose the best methods of training them

Workshops

As identified above, some of your colleagues or client stakeholders will need in-depth training. They may benefit from workshops to help them understand the processes they must follow.

Give them the full context of why the SEO skills you are teaching them are important. Walk them through examples and allow them to practice with you assisting. This will allow them to ask you questions as they learn new skills.

You may also consider follow-up sessions or refreshers when relevant new people join the company. This can act as a refresher for those you have previously trained.

Written updates

Sometimes the best course of action is to write up training guides and notes. This way, a permanent resource will be available for colleagues and clients to refer to.

If it is a document that allows tracked changes, you can also request that they ask any questions about it within it. This creates an FAQ within the guide to clarify anything where you accidentally omitted important foundational concepts or specific actions. 

Videos

Sometimes showing people will be the best way to teach them.

Creating a quick video of you carrying out a specific SEO activity, such as a crawl or keyword research, could be the key to helping instruct many people quickly.

You are not requiring them to be present in a workshop but giving them a resource they can use when they are carrying out the task.

6. Consider what needs to be provided externally

You might decide that you would feel more confident in an external trainer helping educate your stakeholders, especially on specific aspects like technical SEO training for your development team or E-E-A-T guidance for your content creation team. 

No SEO is an expert in every aspect of the discipline, so if you want to provide training but feel uncomfortable carrying it out yourself, employ an external consultant to help.

You may have been banging the same drum about an issue for a long time. Sometimes, having an external consultant provide the training on that issue can reinforce what you’ve been saying.

As frustrating as it might be, sometimes stakeholders respond better to hearing recommendations from external sources they have brought in for that specific project. 

7. Assess outdated knowledge

One of the biggest struggles SEOs face is correcting wrong or obsolete SEO knowledge. Many of the stakeholders you identified as needing some SEO education have probably worked with SEOs in the past.

Some may even have been responsible for SEO despite not being specialists. As such, they will possibly have a level of understanding of SEO already.

This can be a great head-start for getting buy-in for your recommendations. However, it can also mean starting right at the beginning and helping to unpick wrong thinking.

A quick way to see if any pre-existing SEO knowledge needs to be corrected is by creating a survey or quiz.

You can intentionally choose fairly common SEO myths like duplicate content penalties and PPC budgets to help organic search performance. It should give you an understanding of where to pitch your training.

Some stakeholders might already be very well informed and you don’t need to spend much more of their or your time training them. You can keep them updated on changes in the industry relevant to what they are working on.

Others may have had SEO training a decade ago and need to be updated on how modern SEO differs. 

8. Teach to encourage processes

Through the SEO upskilling of your stakeholders, you can encourage the adoption of SEO-beneficial processes.

For example, if you train copywriters to conduct keyword research, use those keywords in their copy, and write engaging page titles, they may add their current sign-off process.

The key to ensuring SEO considerations are adopted into relevant processes is educating the process owners. These are typically the senior members of teams.

They are the ones who decide if changes will impact efficiency and to whom you’ll need to highlight the benefits of considering SEO. 

Allowing the SEO team to sign off on changes to the website can save a lot of headaches down the line. Unfortunately, it’s not often something that gets built into the QA process for many teams.  

By training your colleagues and stakeholders, you will likely highlight the risks of not considering SEO impact in their work. This training can help to encourage them to build SEO into their sign-off processes.

9. Develop a self-serve curriculum

Creating a self-serve curriculum is the most efficient way of encouraging SEO upskilling.

Create a page on your intranet that houses all of the guides, videos and workshop presentations the SEO team has made. Tag them by department, project involvement or skill set to help your colleagues find training they might be interested in.

You can keep adding to the training over time and ask them to request their own resource from within that platform.

You can set out a roadmap based on training pathways, for example, “Training for Engineers” or “SEO training for Project [X].”

10. Get buy-in for your training

If you are asking entire teams to give up their time to attend an SEO workshop or asking for a half-hour slot in your next town hall meeting, you’ll probably need to demonstrate the benefits. 

As it is likely senior stakeholders, you must consider what metrics they use to define success. Work backward to identify how SEO-related mistakes may have impacted those metrics. 

For example, if a code deployment caused a crawling issue on the site, leading to rankings drops, demonstrate the link to the recent drop in organic leads and revenue.

Give examples of how training relevant people could prevent similar issues in the future. 

Using SEO education for stakeholder management

Whatever level of training you can give your stakeholders, the more buy-in to your ideas and processes you’ll get.

The time you invest now will save future time, stress and discouragement when pitching ideas. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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