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SEOs and CEOs: How to Explain SEO to Executives #semrushchat

Elena Terenteva
SEOs and CEOs: How to Explain SEO to Executives #semrushchat

Communication between SEOs and CEOs is quite different than communication between team members. Alongside researching, exploring, setting the tasks and asking questions, SEOs have to know how to report their team's results, present achievements and answer questions using accessible terms. You could say that SEOs have to know CEO optimization. Today will talk about the best ways to explain SEO to the CEO with Heather Lutze, Master Trainer & Owner of Findability University.

What is SEO?

Let’s face it, if a business owner doesn’t understand the benefits of SEO or its impact on other marketing activities, or has no idea how it works, there is no way you can convince him or her to hire you. So, how can you explain to an executive why SEO is essential in simple, non-marketing language?

First of all, let’s debunk some common SEO myths and consider Lee Oden’s famous SEO metaphor, which was shared by Matthew Young.

This really explains a lot about the integration of SEO into a company’s marketing mix, and this key idea is often overlooked by executives. It’s important to understand that SEO is not an island in the ocean of marketing. Knowing this will put you on the right path to success.

Spend some time explaining that SEO doesn’t produce immediate results. Why? Please raise your hand if you’ve ever heard, “I can’t see any results and you’ve been working for a month already.”

Yes, that’s what I thought.

Speaking of SEO technicalities, the questions “why” and “how” are always linked. The ability to explain SEO techniques may be the most difficult part, because there are a lot of issues to cover. Our participants suggested some universal metaphors that can be helpful when describing SEO techniques.

And not just organized and found, but presented in the best possible way: “SEO is there to ensure a website performs up to its best potential” – Dawn Jones ‏@DawnClicky.

When explaining something to someone else, speaking the same language is always a plus. So, of course, with a business owner, it will always make sense to speak money.

If you want to find more ideas and dig deeper into the topic - check out this article by Tony Dimmock "What the hell are you talking about? said the SEO client."

How to fight for a bigger budget?

The opposition of wishes and possibilities is an eternal story. So how can you convince an executive to agree on a bigger budget? Let’s find out.

As we said previously, you can’t trust any strategy if you don’t understand it, so be sure that you share the same SEO vision and goals as the executive you’re approaching.

When you want to convince someone to spend money, the best strategy is to show how much more money it can bring in a future. “Calculate how much value you will get out of SEO vs. PPC vs. social marketing and make informed decisions” - Bill Slawski ‏@bill_slawski.

But don’t describe a vague future.

If your current strategy is working, “show how it's already working with the current budget, and how a bigger budget equals more revenue” - ThinkSEM ‏@ThinkSEM. Reporting, which you must provide during the project, can be more eloquent here than any other words, so be sure that you developed a clear reporting system right at the beginning of the campaign. In addition to overall achievements, add some specific examples.

Show a bigger picture, “break down silos and help different departments. Demonstrate how SEO can go beyond “top search ranking” - Bryce Liggins ‏@BryceLiggins. Who would refuse to continue such a successful campaign?

Another very useful tactic – compere your budget with your competitors’ spending.

What should SEO avoid during reporting, meetings and hiring?

We’ve talked a lot about what to do, how let’s talk about what not to do. Which behaviors can lead to misunderstandings, incomplete reporting and different visions of goals?

Never promise things you can’t deliver. Unmet expectations will not only cost a business money, but you’ll also have to pay for them with your reputation. So no hard selling, or unethical or fraudulent tactics.

Professional ethics is always something you should keep in mind.

Speaking of reporting, it’s very important that you show your client a real picture of your achievements. Don’t hesitate to make the picture bigger.

But not that big that it has nothing to do with the CEO’s goals.

And of, course, don’t be tempted to embellish reality.

Stick with reality and be realistic is actually really important when we talk about money.

It’s actually really important to be realistic when talking about money.

But sometimes it happens that, in spite of all our efforts, a dialogue cannot be developed. In this case, if you see that just mark time, you may want to consider such a radical step, as a rejection of the client.

What is the best answer to "Why are we not ranking #1 for this keyword?"?

Number one SEO question of all time: "Why are we not ranking #1 for _____?" Sometimes you may be required to give a serious answer and go deeper into SEO basics; and sometimes all you need is a joke. Our participants prepared both.

Client education is always the best answer to this question. But if you are not in the mood for a lecture, here are some short but succinct speeches our participants use:

If you want to make it shorter, Danny Clutterbuck ‏@DClutt has an alternative: “Because it makes you no money.” The harsh truth is also an option. Who knows, maybe it can motivate someone to improve.

Or you can use this funnier alternative, which also underlines the importance of competition:

And of course remember, that there is always an opportunity to turn the situation in your favor.

Ok, that's it for today! Hope now you are prepared for a meeting with CEO for 100 %!

See you this Wednesday as usual!

Elena Terenteva

SEMrush employee.

Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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Tom Binga

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

Focus on reporting the number of users that have converted into leads. That should be your main goal.

Organic traffic is in my opinion the best kind of traffic because from my experience it converts more and costs the least to obtain (besides time). It costs me anywhere between $20-50 to have an article created that's well-written and blog-ready. I'm also in an industry where it costs more than that for one click in Adwords.

Show your client/boss that X amount of visitors on average will lead to X amount of leads, which in turn leads to X amount of dollars.

SEO is just one of the many pieces of the large marketing puzzle that contributes to that end goal, more sales.
Sean Francis

Occasionally takes part in conversations.

I'm a writerly type and I often fall into the trap of metaphor which is great when everyone understands the metaphor. The other trap in explaining SEO is 'pet theories' or outright 'conspiracy theories' on why certain elements of the search world are the way they are.

I find keeping things simple is best. Google wants to deliver the most relevant results for any given search query. The math behind delivering those results isn't perfect so we try to send the signals of relevance relating to the best queries for our site.

Those signals can be faked, but we've moved to a point where faking the signals of relevance is almost as much work as actually sending those signals of relevance.

When I discuss SEO, I often find myself talking about 'good stewardship' and building something sustainable. These terms lend themselves to farming/gardening metaphors and analogies.
Elena Terenteva

SEMrush employee.

Sean Francis
Agreed, metaphor can be a trap, if you don't know where to stop. Of course it's always better to explain things as they are. But at the same time when you start with metaphor you give a person a canvas, short plan, which makes explanation easier to understand.
Kathleen Garvin

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

From Leon Hamper:

I had fun reading this article. Some of answers are really
funny. But seriously, it made also made me ask how I am going to explain SEO to
other people. It’s kinda difficult actually. But anyway, thanks for sharing.

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