For most of us, the beginning of a new year allows us to look forward, set goals for ourselves, and imagine all the wonderful things we are going to accomplish in the upcoming year. Of course, we get to the end of the year and realize we didn’t do nearly all of the things we wanted but hey…that was last year. This is a new year and things are changing! Right?
One of the problems is we often set our goals too high, making them difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The same thing happens with SEO.
Marketing teams start an SEO program with the highest of expectations only to realize that while they were ready, the rest of the organization wasn’t. We see it all the time and as I’ve noted before, for SEO to truly be successful, we need support from other departments.
So, this year, as we outline our goals and look forward with optimism and hope, why not set ourselves up to truly be successful, starting with SEO guidelines.
For many of our larger clients, with departments spread across different offices or even continents, it can be extremely difficult to get everyone on board and SEO integrated into processes. To deal with this, we’ve developed guidelines that can be shared within the organization and can make SEO a part of everyday life.
Let’s take a look at how this can be done within your organization:
Identify the Necessary Departments
When thinking about guidelines, it’s important to know which departments you need support from. For example, if you manage the website, guidelines are likely unnecessary but if you have an outside web development team, it’s important for them to know the types of changes that can impact SEO and how they can help.
Departments that are most aligned with SEO include but are not limited to:
- IT / Web Development
We all know how important the IT team is to an overall SEO program. From small things like title tags to major things like HTTPS transitions, the IT team can be a huge help to SEO.
- Product Marketing
We love being integrated into our client’s organizations and this can often mean product marketing. When a new product is launching or an existing product is changing, the name and overall product messaging can impact SEO. Having input can be tremendously beneficial.
- PR / Corp Communication
Many organizations work with internal or external communications teams who are responsible for developing bylines, press releases, and mentions…all things which may or may not include links. This team is an important one and it’s good to have them on your side.
While DemandGen typically falls under marketing, it doesn’t always fall within the same department as SEO. This can include email marketing, webinars, display, and even PPC. While your DemandGen team may not have an immediate impact on SEO, working together to create assets and campaigns that tie together can.
- Creative / Content
For several clients, the content team is its own entity, separated from product marketing and search. However, it is one of the most important pieces of SEO and ensuring content integrates with search is essential.
As noted above, this isn’t an end all be all list. The key is identifying departments within your organization whose efforts have an impact on SEO. Once you have that, you can begin to create guidelines for each team.
Start Drafting Your SEO Guidelines
Why? Because as SEOs, we often want things done in a particular way and in a particular time frame that doesn’t fit in the existing workflow. What we have to remember is that we each have our own way of doing things and as long as the end results are the same, that’s what matters. That’s where guidelines come in.
By outlining the elements teams actually need to be aware of ahead of time, they can do it their way, within their own workflow, and ideally, we can ensure changes are made with SEO in mind.
When it comes to actually creating the guidelines for each department, you’ll want to start by outlining a list of elements they touch that can impact SEO. For example, when providing guidelines to content teams, specifically those responsible for blog creation, we call out the following:
- HTML Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Open Graph Tags
- Cross Links
For those in web development, we stick to things like:
- Page Removal
- Navigation Changes
Within those, we then provide tips, best practices, and most importantly, the why. Ex:
Click to download full document
The goal is that each department knows how their work impacts SEO and more importantly, they know how changes can help or hurt overall site performance.
Now, I know that every time someone goes to make a change they aren’t pulling out the template we created but if it is at least in the back of their mind and they take the time to consider SEO, I’ll call it a win.
Keep Pushing for Integration
The biggest thing to realize here is that like most things, this isn’t going to work overnight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent, re-sent, and re-re-sent these types of documents. I’ve had countless meetings with dev teams on why we shouldn’t change folder structures or editorial teams on why we shouldn’t just take down pages.
We have to be patient.
What you can do however is continue to encourage those within each department. I’ve talked in the past about showing them the results when good things happen. If people know their work is driving results and more importantly, those results are visible to the C-suite, they will likely be more apt to continue helping.
Additionally, when integrating your SEO program, consider hosting trainings for each department. For a number of clients, we meet with various departments once a year to showcase results, reiterate guidelines, and answer any questions they may have. It helps them see there are real people behind these efforts and not just someone giving them more work.
At the end of the day, the only way for you to be successful is for your team to be on board. Creating SEO guidelines is certainly not the end all be all but it does give you a better chance of getting efforts integrated across the organization and into the process. That is a goal that certainly seems achievable.