You have an amazing idea for the perfect outreach campaign. You just know it’s going to fly. The backlinks will come flooding in. You just need sign-off from the boss.
She says no.
The client really needs to address the serious indexation issues with their site. You’ve laid out the step-by-step plan of how to tackle the problem. You just need to add it to their development queue.
The answer is “not yet”.
Sometimes the hardest part of SEO is getting everyone else to buy into your strategy. When working in-house or for an agency, there is often a chain of authorisation you have to follow before you can make implement your SEO recommendations.
How do you take that “no” and turn it into, “that’s a great idea!”?
We’re going to look at how to get the buy-in, and budget, you need for your excellent SEO plans.
What stops buy-in?
Often it is one or more of the following that stops the immediate “yes” from a boss or client:
- Budget limitations – with all the will in the world there’s going to be a limit on what you can carry out if there’s no budget available to you. This is difficult to overcome.
- Lack of time – if it seems like there is no resource available to carry out the implementation of your ideas then getting sign off is unlikely.
- Lack of understanding – when the decision maker doesn’t full appreciate the reasons behind the SEO activity getting sign-off will be a challenge. If they don’t see how the plan will be of benefit to their bottom line it is also likely to not be agreed to.
- Not a priority – it may be that SEO isn’t up the list of priorities which means any suggestions you make may fall behind other activity on the list instead.
- Risk aversion – perhaps what you are recommending carries a lot of risks with it. Website restructures, migrations or content pruning can all have serious knock-on effects that a boss or manager might not want to risk.
- Burned fingers – if a boss or client may have had a bad experience with SEO in the past; promises have not been kept, work has not been delivered or results have not been achieved. This will likely make them more hesitant to sign off on any ambitious or untested SEO plans again.
How to get buy-in
There are several ways to add weight to your argument when trying to persuade decision makers to agree to your recommendations. Some will be more successful than others depending on why the go-ahead has been difficult to gain so far.
At the end of the day, the key is to prove the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Set clear goals
One way to persuade a decision maker that your recommendations are a good idea is by setting goals for the work. This helps to communicate the expected outcome of the activity and can highlight the benefits of carrying it out.
For example, if you are looking to get the go-ahead for restructuring a website you will need to explain why it will help increase organic search conversions. It’s too much time and money to invest in something that has no clear benefit.
By setting goals it is also possible to measure the success of the activity afterwards which can put their mind at ease that they are not just throwing money to the wind.
Wherever possible, goals should be informed by key performance indicators such as traffic or conversions. This should be something that is easily measured and can be isolated against the work carried out. For instance, if you are making changes to the website’s content at the same time as restructuring it then identifying what impact the restructure had on traffic will be tough.
Goals should be timebound to provide a review point when success can be identified. For instance, “by moving the blog from a subdomain to site within a subfolder on the main domain we expect to see an increase in organic views to the pages over the course of 3 months”.
It is important to be realistic. There are some really good ways to predict organic traffic growth over time. Use these models to get an accurate estimate of conversion, traffic or visibility growth. If you pluck a figure out of the air and are not able to achieve it then your chance of pushing through further changes going forward will be low.
To further reassure your client or boss you may want to identify other deliverables that aren’t necessarily success metrics. For instance, guaranteeing they will receive audits, research documents or assets can help assure them that they will definitely see some benefit from the activity. Even if they only have the reassurance that they can take the data you have gathered through the activity, and implement it themselves going forward, it might be enough to lessen the risk of carrying out the work.
Giving the client or boss ownership over the deliverables adds value to the work you are carrying out. For instance, if working for a client on competitor research then provide them with the findings afterwards. Even if the research was to inform your own ongoing strategy, giving them access to the data can give them the sense of value that might encourage sign-off.
Tie in your activity with other teams’
Whatever your role in your company – whether pure SEO, a broader digital marketer, or the CEO who has to do everything. Your SEO plans have to tie in with other channels strategies.
Working in alignment with other channels means you are less likely to cannibalise traffic from each other. You can collaborate on activity and share its cost.
If the social media team has recently launched a campaign to promote a particular product use the discussion it prompt online to identify content ideas. If the interactions centre around questions about the product this can help guide your SEO content strategy.
Campaigns that share costs across budgets are more likely to get sign off that those that require a big investment for one channel.
Make assets reusable
SEO content isn’t just about copy. With the SERPs serving ever increasing types of content, from videos to images to podcasts, our recommendations for content should go beyond words alone.
It can be a struggle just to get buy-in for new copy however. The cost of copywriters, the resource needed to build the new page, it all adds up. Sometimes it requires an industry expert to validate the copy which can be an additional expense or time requirement.
It can be harder still to get the budget for something more elaborate such as a podcast series or a video “how-to” guide. ROI predictions in SEO are hard enough to do. Try to predict the return on investment for something that targets “top of the funnel” searchers. It’s a challenge.
Creating a plan to reuse assets created for SEO purposes can be a good way of getting them signed-off. That video you want made to answer a longtail search query – can snippets of it be used on the product pages? Could it be repurposed for inclusion on social media channels? Can it be used within sales collateral?
Identifying other uses for the copy and media you want to use for SEO activity will help to reassure the holders of the purse-strings that there will be return on their investment.
Be the trusted advisor
One of the hardest objections to overcome is the one made because of a bad experience you had nothing to do with. We all get tarred by the same brush. When a client or boss has had a bad experience with SEO in the past, it will affect their perception of your ideas.
If a previous campaign went badly, or costs spiralled, they are right to be nervous when you begin pitching plans.
Unfortunately, there is only one way to help your colleague or client see past their bad experiences with SEO. Keep delivering value.
This isn’t a quick solution however. Over time the results you generate as an SEO will speak volumes about your ability. Show that your knowledge and advice is to be trusted. That way you will have less of a fight on your hands when trying to get buy-in for the next idea.
Align it with the stakeholder’s goals
Whatever idea you are trying to pitch if you are meeting resistance, consider; “how does this idea benefit them?”
Understanding the needs of the person you are negotiating with. Identify their personal goals and aspirations so you can show them how your objectives align.
Find out what KPIs your boss is being measured by and work to show how your activity will impact those. If your latest outreach campaign will help your boss with their objective to increase target audience awareness of new product launch, position it as such. Help them to see the shared value in your idea.
You and the stakeholder will likely share similar objectives. They might just be measured differently. Your client might just want sales to improve. Your SEO strategy is working towards increasing conversions by organic search visitors to the site. Don’t expect the client to make the link between the two. Show how the SEO activity you are proposing will lead to increased sales.
Use the language they do when communicating your ideas. If they talk about sales on the site, say sales, not “macro conversions”. It’s simple, but often overlooked when reporting on SEO success and projections. Our vernacular as SEOs is not always the same as our stakeholders’. Make it clear that you are working towards the same goal.
How to keep getting buy-in
Getting one idea approved is not enough. We need the freedom to carry out whatever work is reasonable to achieve organic search success. Once you have an idea signed-off it is your job to prove to the stakeholder that they made the right decision.
After any lengthy or expensive SEO activity, be it an outreach campaign or a major technical changes, hold a “wash-up” meeting.
A wash-up meeting gets all the stakeholders together to summarise the project and tie up any loose ends. Would you do it differently next time? Have you had more success than anticipated?
Using the end of a project to refine future ones can instil trust in your stakeholders. If your strategy was not as effective as you predicted it might seem like all hope is lost for future plans. A wash-up meeting will show that you have learned from the experience. Explain how you would execute the idea better next time.
Report on success
The key continuing to get buy-in for your SEO plans is to show your success to date. Forget the standard monthly SEO report you usually provide. Learn how to communicate success in a way that resonates with your client or boss. Do they simply need an email explaining the direct link between your work and increased conversions?
Whatever works for your stakeholder, make sure that’s how you communicate. The goal is to succinctly link back your activity to your shared KPIs.
You are great at your job, but stakeholders will sometimes be reserved when you make recommendations that could be costly or resource heavy. Learn how to communicate your ideas in a way that shows their benefit clearly. Then work to keep proving the trust that was put in your plan. The next time you think you have a fight on your hands for budget, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Post from Helen Pollitt