Working With Cross-Departmental Decision Makers for SEO Success

Two years.

That’s how long it took me to get the meta tags changed on one of my first-ever SEO jobs.

For two years, a company paid my agency to run reports on their SEO “progress” while refusing to implement any of the changes I suggested.

Until one day, I decided to bring donuts to the IT staff.

You see, back then, the IT staff was 100% responsible for the upkeep of a company’s website.

If you wanted any change made to the site, you had to send in a ticket and hope that the IT staff found your request worthy of attention.

I was so tired of waiting, I decided to go analog.

I found out when the IT team had its weekly meeting.

Donuts were procured.

I crashed the meeting – introducing myself and dropping off the donuts.

I made sure they all knew my name and who I worked for.

Two weeks later, 10 of the 30 tickets I had waiting in the queue were cleared.

Search Is Not Everyone’s Priority

Most of you reading this column live and breathe search.

But it’s a pretty safe assumption that most of the people you work with have priorities that supersede search engine marketing.

If you want to make your priorities the priorities of those you work with, you need to find your “donuts.”

You need to understand how to get those whose input you depend on to do your job understand how important your job is.

Make Friends & Influence People

Many of us in the search engine marketing industry hang out in our own “caves” with our own tribe.

But when you are dependent on others to achieve your goals, it helps to have friends in your corner.

Whether it’s getting meta tags placed on a site where we don’t have access, pushing new content live, or building links, search engine marketing does not live in a vacuum.

It truly takes a village to optimize a site.

If you are an in-house search engine marketer, you understand the value of someone owing you a favor when it comes to getting things done.

If you are at an agency, having an effective champion at your client’s place is more valuable than all the SEO knowledge in the world.

Status calls can’t just be about status.

In the account management training at my agency, we preach that at least 30% of the time on most client calls should be about items other than search engine optimization.

We talk about our client’s lives, the weather, and even what is going on in the rest of their jobs.

In short, we work to become friends with our clients.

After all, it’s harder to fire a friend than it is to fire a contractor.

But beyond just keeping our jobs, we get more done when we work with people that we like and respect.

If your client doesn’t want your efforts to succeed, your efforts won’t succeed.

The best way to make sure that your clients or colleagues are invested in your success is to make sure that they respect you (and preferably that they like you, as well).

Empathy Goes a Long Way

Empathy is the art of understanding someone else’s circumstances.

I believe it is the most important skill for anyone in advertising to have.

Whether you are working with clients, buying media, creating content, or working on creative, understanding your audience and internal decision-makers is essential to the success of any campaign.

This is particularly true when it comes to dealing with clients or internal decision-makers.

Back when I was working with that client who took two years to approve meta tags, I had no idea the types of stresses and workload the IT department was experiencing.

In fact, many days I cussed them as lazy jerks who just didn’t get what it was going to take for the company to be successful online.

What I didn’t understand was that they were responsible for keeping the company’s day-to-day operation running.

Every time someone’s email didn’t work right, they got the call.

They were up to their ears in just keeping the doors open, while at the same time moving the company’s technology forward during a period of rapid technological change.

My meta tags could always wait because fixing them wasn’t going to help the IT department in any way whatsoever.

After I brought the donuts to the meeting, I was invited to participate in future meetings.

I soon understood what the IT team was up against.

And it made all the difference going forward.

I no longer just filled out a ticket and hoped that the IT decision-makers would see the benefits of what I was doing.

I realized that my tasks made their jobs harder, and they didn’t understand why I wanted these meta tags changes.

Not to mention, they didn’t completely understand how the code worked and worried that my changes might break something and make their job harder.

I started working on educating the IT team on the basics of SEO, and its benefits for the company.

This team might have been overworked, but they definitely wanted what was best for the company.

Once I understood this, I was able to prioritize and present solutions that I could either implement myself or that made sense based upon the IT team’s point of view.

I may not have agreed with the IT team’s priorities, but I worked to understand them.

And by understanding their priorities, I was able to present my priorities to them in a way that made them their priorities as well.

Education With an Eye for Personality

I frequently ask my clients to take personality tests.

I find that if I understand how my clients prefer to work based on their personality, we work better together.

There is no place this is more true than when educating a client.

If a client’s personality is very detail-oriented, and they have a need to be right at all times, starting their education with concrete search engine marketing strategies is extremely important.

This personality type doesn’t do well with the standard SEO answer to every question, which is “it depends.”

Until they understand the landscape, they need a black and white answer – even if those rarely exist in the world of SEO.

Other personalities don’t care about the details and just care about the results.

But it’s still important to educate this personality type.

If they don’t understand a bit about how things work, they will blow you off when you have something important that needs to be done that they don’t think is important.

I work to educate these clients by presenting items in a way where they see the personal benefits of the strategies and tactics.

Educating shouldn’t always be done with a webinar, as they don’t appeal to all the personalities of your decision-makers.

It’s important to provide education that appeals to the individual personality of your decision-makers.

In Conclusion

In SEO, it’s important to know your audience.

In search engine marketing management, it’s important to know and understand your decision-maker – whether it be a client or in-house decision-makers and gatekeepers.

And sometimes, it takes donuts to get things done.

More Resources:

Image Credit

Featured image by author, March 2021