Many companies are not aware of the different roles that various departments in their organization will fill when they begin to work with an outside SEO firm. What follows is a demonstration, in play form (bear with me), of which internal departments are involved in a typical SEO campaign and why. It also demonstrates some of the resistance that may be felt by those departments as well as what valuable contributions a company can make to help its SEO firm craft a successful campaign.
Sales - These folks are the front line of the organization. They know how prospects speak, and they are generally very useful when it comes to keyphrase suggestions. Most of the salespeople are out for themselves, but they will gladly participate in a joint initiative if it means that they will have more targeted leads. The Sales team has an uneasy relationship with Marketing and often questions exactly what it is that Marketing does, since they do not believe that Marketing is helping them in the least. They generally cannot stand IT people, a feeling which is reciprocated with gusto.
Marketing - These people are in charge of the company message and finding more leads for Sales. They are generally creative and are in charge of seeing campaigns, such as SEO, through from beginning to end. As a result, they usually initiate an SEO campaign and are responsible for its ultimate success. They may also be the ones to find an SEO firm with which to work. They view Sales as a necessary evil, but feel that they are greatly underappreciated by the department. They have a better relationship with IT than Sales does, primarily because they have to work with IT on the corporate website. This does not mean that the two departments are best friends, however -- they rarely have nice things to say to each other unless they are in the same room.
IT- The people in this department are a legend in their collective mind. The IT team fails to see the need for any other departments besides their own – according to them, salespeople are arrogant and marketing people are ignorant. On the other hand, they think that IT people know everything that there is to know. They feel that SEO is an IT issue, so they are sullen with the outside SEO firm and sometimes downright hostile. It is the job of the SEO firm to gain their cooperation in order to make the campaign a success.
SEO Firm - The hero of our story... of course.
It should be noted that the above are, by necessity, stereotypes. We have worked with more than a few companies that all seem to be on the same page and who do not have much interdepartmental conflict, but those seem to be the exception rather than the rule. We have also worked with some excellent IT departments who were extremely open to new ideas and were nothing but helpful (and were also, believe it or not, reasonably humble). However, such experiences are also fairly rare.
And so, without further ado:
Act 1: Building Blocks
Sales: Here's a list of the terms we hear our prospects using all the time. We also called many of our recently landed customers and asked them what terms they would use to search for us.
Marketing: We've looked the list over and added some ideas of our own, and we eliminated phrases that we definitely cannot use due to our marketing and messaging.
SEO Firm: Thanks. We'll check out the phrases, add some others you may not have thought of, and work with you all to finalize the phrases.
SEO Firm: You bet.
IT: We have no idea why an SEO firm was hired - we already put meta tags on the site.
SEO Firm: We have a few more things we'd like you to change. Just be patient with us.
IT: Well, since you put it nicely...maybe.
Act 2: The Master Plan
Sales: Here's a list of questions that we are always asked by new prospects. It could save us time if we addressed these issues on our website.
Marketing: Here are all of our existing articles, whitepapers, and everything else that is still current.
IT: We hate you, but here's what we have decided can be changed on the site, and here's all the technical information about how it is built, even though you can't possibly comprehend it.
SEO Firm: Thanks. We'll get back to you with some proposed structural changes to the site to maximize your search engine exposure.
SEO Firm: No problem.
IT: Since you seem like you're listening to us, we'll probably also try to implement at least a good majority of your suggestions. Please note that we did say "try."
Act 3: Content
Marketing: Here are all of our current marketing materials.
SEO Firm: Thanks.
Marketing: Also, as you requested, we've made our production people available for some quick interviews.
SEO Firm: Thanks. We'll put together some new content that targets the keyphrases we've decided are important. These new pages will be written in the same style as your current marketing materials and will make the job of your Sales team easier, since they'll be able to spend more time on customers who are already educated and ready to buy.
SEO Firm: No worries.
IT: We hate you.
Act 4: The Plan in Action
SEO Firm: We've worked with your IT department and gotten all of the changes to your site implemented. We've also done our best to make sure that more sites with authority in your industry are linking to you. We should be seeing some great results shortly as the search engines recognize the changes and reward you accordingly.
IT: Your foolish plan will never work.
Act 5: The Ongoing Campaign
Sales: Hey, Marketing? It's been two months since we started this project and we aren't getting any new leads. We think that either you didn't listen to us or that you're not doing what you're supposed to do.
Marketing: Oh yeah, Sales? Well we're working as hard as we can, and we've talked to the SEO firm several times this week already. We have already started seeing some preliminary results and the SEO firm keeps reassuring us that we have just begun. We're tired of your attitude.
IT: We knew this would happen. Why are these guys even here? They keep wasting time when all we really want to do is update the site, of course. It's not our fault, don't look over here.
SEO Firm: As we told you at the outset, it can take about three to six months to start seeing results from your SEO campaign. Sales, if you are patient we will be able to show you some solid numbers in a few more weeks. Marketing, please make sure that you are available to set up appointments with us so that we can continue to write you copy that adheres to your messaging and so that we can cut down on the number of edits you need to make. IT, thank you for your patience – we'll have some things for you to do shortly.
Sales: OK, fine. Sorry, Marketing.
Marketing: Yeah, same here Sales.
IT: (Mumbles something unintelligible)
Epilogue - 1 year later
SEO Firm: As you can see from this graph, you are now crushing your competition, search traffic is up over 1,000 percent, and the results are still improving each month.
Sales: Thanks to you guys, we all have new yachts, summer homes, and fancy cars.
Marketing: Thanks to you guys, we all got raises and our resumes are stacked.
IT: Thanks for nothing - we're taking all the credit. After all, we did the hard part!
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Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.
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