Being an SEO Evangelist within an organization requires lot of energy, a lot of knowledge, thick skin, and a lot of relationships. Success is hard to come by and will require a lot of hard work, but it is definitely attainable. I would almost say that this does not apply to just SEO, but to all programs launched within an organization. Along with all that being an evangelist for the entire industry requires the same amount of tenacity.
I have spent a lot of time doing this through consulting efforts by convincing SMB’s to embrace the web and most importantly (at least to me of course!) adopting SEO. Each and every time was a struggle and required hard work, but was *always* worth the time spent.
As I mentioned, getting organizations to adopt SEO when they (a) have never heard of it, (b) don’t believe it is “really that important right now” (typically I’ve heard this from startups), or (c) still believe SEO is spamming. That all being said, here is my “guide” to the art of SEO Evangelism.
Knowledge of SEO
I start with knowledge, because it is extremely important to bring that into your conversations. Your knowledge and experience is crucial to your successes. Companies want proven success and someone that has the ability to deliver. This is especially true in the consulting world, as organizations want that track record of successful projects. In-house organizations are looking for a track record of successful performance.
Be sure that you have done your research on an industry, a skill and/or an organization. Have an understanding for what the company is doing for SEO. Put together questions that you feel people should be asking. Make sure that you have the skill set to do the research, put together the strategy, and execute the plan.
You also bring that knowledge to the table through the experiences that you have been through. Bringing only theories and ideas to the table will leave you in a weak position. So, that means that you want to speak in a strong tone and voice about your experiences. Using terms like “I think” or “i guess” or definite no-no’s. In previous consulting roles I have started conversations by saying, “My experience…” or “Previously…”, so that you are talking in terms of experiences. Now remember, you still need to be able to deliver, but I am assuming you already have that ability.
Knowledge is an important piece of the salesmanship of your SEO Evangelism. Use your knowledge and experiences to your advantage and make sure that people know of your skills.
Energy & Thick Skin
Energy and thick skin go hand-in-hand because I compare traits of the evangelist role similar to a telemarketer. Have an understanding that people are going to do and say a number of things that will upset you. They will mock you, assume they have more knowledge, challenge you, etc. Don’t let this get you down at all, keep your energy level high and keep going at it. NEVER get into a pissing match with someone about how important SEO is.
That all being said, keep that intense energy level and constantly talk about SEO in meetings, in passing, at lunches, and anywhere else you can think of. SEO should be mentioned in almost every conversation you have. Start asking product teams if they are building SEO into their product lifecycle? How is marketing integrating SEO into campaigns? Show everyone that you are talking to that you care about their job more than your own and that you are truly vested in their success.
Now, remember those people that did not want anything to do with SEO? Drop hints here and there, provide statistics and results, show case studies, etc. The more data that you bring to the table and the more fact finding you do will start to sell them, just based on performance and metrics. Keep going at it and let the data win them over!
Relationships within the organization
The most important piece of the puzzle, in my opinion, is the relationships you build. I feel this way about any new program that you launch. As always I feel it is especially important with SEO, because it is so hard to sell within an organization, to startups and getting buy in from individuals.
Start developing casual relationships with everyone you meet. Keep in touch with the people you meet and continue to have conversations. Sometimes conversations will drift towards the interest (or sometimes lack there of) of SEO. Ensure that you are developing contacts that are spread out throughout the entire organization, in product, marketing and technology. You are looking to create evangelists within each organizational unit in the company that will then begin take SEO under their wings as well
Creating relationships and empowering peers within these cross-functional areas will spread the word of SEO to their teams. This is very important because the knowledge you gain is not something that you can get by digging through analytics data. They can provide insight into their organizations key strategies, thoughts and challenges. The relationships that you build are crucial for that alone!
Putting it all together!
All of this is to your advantage because you can now start to build your SEO Strategy for the business needs and get buy in from executives about incorporating SEO into the product and marketing lifecycle and strategy. You can also find yourself with UX teams that are excited to fit keywords and phrases into content and create link architecture while building out a sites information architecture. Finally, technology will have no problem helping to ensure the meta data and tags on the page fit into the SEO strategy.
The cycle continues…
You will be consistently selling, re-selling, evangelizing, re-evangelizing, and so on and so forth. It will be a constant that you will always see within organizations as they change, adapt and bring in new people. The key is to maintain that same level of energy and continue to build those relationships!
Web Standards based design and SEO – Win technology teams over by showing them you care about Web Standards
Website Link Architecture – Empower UX to tie this into Information Architecture
Dominate Search Engine Results Pages – Show executives how to protect your Brand’s online reputation