You know, I get this all the time –
‘Hey Austine, when is my SEO traffic going to grow? I have an SEO department. There are a few of them. They have support from an agency. They’ve even had their SEO budget increased. Yet, traffic has not grown. It’s really frustrating! Why is it the SEO department are failing to perform?’
There is a lot here.
This is more common than you may think.
SEO is so new that many organisations have a hard time maintaining confidence in it, especially when it comes to addressing things beyond the typical keywords, rankings and links aspect of SEO.
So let’s get into it. Let’s break down the intricacies of making SEO a success.
When you invest in SEO, you commit to launching it in your organisation.
Launching the SEO channel, under most circumstances, will require the status of it being brought to par with the industry standard.
What do I mean by this…?
SEO, as an industry, has a consensus of what has been agreed as ‘best practices’.
You can think of this as a minimum level – a bar all organisations should be at if they are to compete in search, organic search.
And this level is for the 3 pillars of SEO – on-page, off-page and technical SEO.
Organisations tend to be at different levels across these 3 pillars.
And because of this, SEOs will primarily aim to bring an organisation to these ‘best practices’ levels, as the starting point in optimisation.
And this is quite right.
SEO is all about improvement. If there are levels to this channel, the goal is to move from one level, whichever level you are in in your organisation, to the next level, and move onwards. Continuously.
Now, in your organisation, launching the SEO channel will require figuring out the level you are on and making plans to improve on your SEO status.
This will inevitably require bringing SEO to the best practices level, across the three SEO pillars.
In an effort to make progress, SEOs are faced with a variety of barriers.
What types of barriers…?
Let’s group SEO barriers into ‘Business’ and ‘Operational’.
Business Barriers to SEO
Business barriers are where SEOs have to convince the business of something they need.
For example, convincing the business to invest in SEO is a business barrier.
Making a case of why SEO needs a budget, besides being the ‘free’ channel, is a business barrier.
Overcoming the stigma of why SEO is more than keywords and rankings, is a business barrier.
Any activity that involves getting top influencers in your organisation, i.e. the C-suite, on the side of SEO, is a business barrier that SEO has to overcome.
And then there are operational barriers.
Operational Barriers to SEO
Operational barriers are what prevents SEO from being implemented.
The daily grind of SEO, the reality of the journey to realise business growth with SEO, lies in SEO operations.
And having barriers to this is a big problem because, as you’re aware, it affects business.
What are the operational barriers to SEO?
Copywriters working on the Copy for several pages without SEO, is an operational barrier.
Designers updating the site layout without SEO input, is an operational barrier.
Devs relaunching the site without SEO involvement, is an operational barrier.
What do all of these amount to…?
Oh, I’m sure you’ve come across this phrase once or twice before.
What is SEO firefighting?
SEO firefighting is where the SEO department works to resolve SEO issues that are usually caused by departments outside of SEO, which negatively impacts the performance of the SEO channel.
Ever wondered why the SEO department needs so many SEOs, and still struggle to improve traffic?
It’s because they’re too busy firefighting!
They’re not able to drive SEO forward because they’re too busy trying to make things not get worse.
When your CMS is not optimised, and you continue to launch international websites, guess what happens?
SEOs have to optimise the site, painstakingly manually.
This unstreamlined approach leads to manual tagging of pages.
This unstreamlined approach leads to a disorganised process.
This unstreamlined approach leads to interdepartmental relationships being unwelcomed.
What do all of these lead to? More SEO firefighting!
When this continues in your organisation, your organisation cannot grow the SEO traffic because the status of SEO is not yet readied to grow.
In other words, SEO in your organisation is struggling to meet the best practices levels mentioned earlier.
When there are barriers preventing your SEO from reaching the best practices levels, how do you expect to outperform your competitors in the SERPs?
SEO goes far beyond keywords and rankings. Doesn’t it?
On paper, SEO is simple.
You want to increase business revenue.
SEO can do this.
SEO can get you more visibility in the SERPs. It can give you more rankings. It can increase your traffic. It can get you better conversion. It can generate you more revenue.
The reality of achieving this is far more complex.
The reality is that achieving SEO traffic and revenue growth requires more than the SEO department.
SEO as a silo leaves SEOs doing SEO for SEO purposes, i.e. SEO firefighting!
This isn’t very scalable, is it?
You can have 5, 6, 7, 8 people in the SEO department. The channel’s performance is always going to be hindered until the interdepartmental performance is optimised.
Do you see why the best optimisation starts from within the organisation?
Your SEO department may be working as well as they can do.
It may just be that SEO in your organisation is at a state where SEOs are constantly firefighting.
You could get more SEOs. Or you could change the way that SEOs are working, or rather, the way other departments are working with SEO.
Having more SEOs in a state of firefighting means that more SEOs are firefighting.
This may be necessary in an emergency.
At some point though, you’ll want to shift to a more preventative state.
This is why SEO evangelism should be an always-on activity in your organisation.
It’ll make the big difference between performing to not lose traffic and performing to grow traffic.