Many years ago I interviewed for a director role to manage an agency’s paid search marketing.
During the interview, the hiring manager noticed my experience in SEO was stronger than my paid search experience.
I was passed on to meet with the company’s CEO.
That CEO’s most pressing question was “How do you get clients to do the work?”
My answer: “Find the champion within the organization.”
That question and my answer ring in my head every day.
When working with (and for) an enterprise company, it is important to find that person (or a few people) that have a spark for what SEO is and the value it can play for the company.
SEO champions come in many forms and needs – whether it is the champion that supports the agency, the stakeholder champion, or someone on another team that knows just enough SEO to be dangerous.
One of the keys to success for enterprise SEO is to identify your champions and work with them.
SEO Champion for the Agency
The biggest struggle that agencies tend to have is with getting their clients to complete the work they have recommended.
The weeks pulling reports, as well as the tools it takes to analyze the site and identify opportunities for the client are a lot of time and money spent.
The all too common scenario:
- The agency is hired.
- The SEO audit is complete.
- Recommendations are made.
- Nothing gets done.
- Agency is blamed for not improving SEO.
If you’re an in-house SEO in an enterprise corporation, or an agency working for an enterprise client, you have been through this many times.
Agencies almost expect that client engagement is limited to a few months or a few years.
They know the signs of when a contract is about to cancel as expressed by Clark Boyd in his article, Reasons Clients Fire Their SEO Agency (And How to Easily Avoid Them), and prepare for it.
However, that shouldn’t have to be the case.
While Clark talks about communication, reporting numbers, and being proactive he missed the part about finding your champion within the organization.
In my article, Partnering with an Enterprise SEO Agency: What You Need to Know, I talk about how to best partner with an agency and be that enterprise SEO champion:
“The key to managing your enterprise SEO agency is to keep the levels of communication flowing.
Give them the tools and access they need to become successful and help them champion any work they need through.”
I have worked with companies as an enterprise SEO consultant in addition to my work as an SEO manager (or the like) within an organization.
The experiences I have managing SEO on both sides of the fence have allowed me to fully understand what it takes in terms of communication and identifying who the champion is.
Whether you are the champion for the agency, or you’re an agency needing a champion, no work for SEO will get completed unless there is one.
The champion is one or more person that regularly communicates with the agency representatives and encourages others within the organization to work with them.
Communicating with the SEO Champion
Once you have identified who your champion is for SEO, it’s recommended to keep the lines of communication flowing.
You are most likely going to need to be the bug flying around and buzzing in their ear constantly.
People get busy, they get distracted, and their priorities change frequently within the organization.
Schedule regular check-ins and have more than just reports showing improvement to their SEO.
Offer up recommendations on low hanging fruit that could show even a little bit of an impact.
Recommend follow-up meetings with stakeholders and offer to help file issues and tickets around the recommendations to help them see the work through.
I always set my agency account reps up under a contractor status in my organization so that they can log Jira tickets or GitHub issues.
They have company emails and access to the Slack and Hangout channels so that they can communicate without needing me to do it for them.
If they hit a roadblock in communication, then they ask me to step in and I schedule meetings or introduce them to the people they need to talk to in order to get the ball rolling.
As an agency, it is your responsibility to see the work through.
It’s not enough to send over the recommendations and pass the buck when the company complains that nothing is getting done for SEO.
Alternatively, as the champion in an organization, it is your responsibility to ensure the work the agency hired is getting what they need in order to be successful.
It’s a symbiotic relationship that ensures both sides are successful.
Stakeholder Champion for SEO
The stakeholder champion is important for the success of SEO since they often have influence over the big decisions.
Stakeholders are usually in meetings where business priorities are discussed.
If at least one person in the room during those important meetings supports SEO there is a better chance than if SEO isn’t talked about.
Stakeholders also manage teams that complete the work needed for SEO and can communicate to their direct reports that any SEO requests are to be prioritized.
Get to know the stakeholders that show an interest in SEO within the organization.
Set up regular meetings, take them to lunch, buy them drinks, and get them involved with decisions being made.
When they feel respected, communicated with, and involved, they will invest time in SEO and everyone benefits.
SEO Subject Matter Expert (SME) Champion
Some larger organizations will task a member of a team with learning SEO and helping other team members with making decisions related to SEO.
Merchandisers, product managers, engineering, or other teams can benefit from having someone on the team with SEO knowledge.
Recognizing who the subject matter experts (SME) are, and establishing a form of communication, is crucial to getting work done for SEO.
In addition, it’s good to educate the SMEs on proper SEO to ensure that all decisions and strategies for SEO are consistent across the organization.
By recognizing the SEO champions in an enterprise, the work for SEO has a better chance of getting done with positive results.