When executing an effective SEO strategy in the enterprise space, you need to secure the buy-in of the C-suite and other corporate stakeholders.
But what’s the best way to go about it? And how do you ensure your organization’s leaders understand the incremental value of organic search?
Having worked with various enterprise organizations, I can confidently say there is no single way to approach different C-level members. However, there are tools you can add to your arsenal to be proactive (and in some cases, timely reactive) to C-level requests.
In this article, I’ll help you answer these important questions by providing a comprehensive guide on successfully engaging corporate stakeholders with SEO.
I’ll also offer practical advice for communicating with executive decision-makers about search engine optimization and strategies for making sure your message is heard.
Why does it matter to the C-suite?
C-suite executives are primarily concerned with the bottom line and recognize that a well-executed SEO strategy can significantly impact the company’s pipeline and brand visibility.
While we see ranking non-branded terms as improved brand visibility and topical relevancy this translates into improved market share, customer retention, and long-term growth for C-suit executives.
SEO is a long-term strategy that requires investment and patience, but the benefits of ranking higher in search engines can be significant.
Most C-suite executives understand that making the right decisions early on can affect the timeline from initial SEO investment to high-yield results. They’re eager to ensure everything is on track and efficient to shorten the timeline.
Understanding your company’s SEO objectives
Engaging your corporate stakeholders on SEO can be daunting. It’s hard to make complex technical topics easy to understand — but it’s important you help the C-suite understand the enterprise business of SEO and how it helps meet their goals.
You need to take inventory of what the company is already doing in terms of SEO, then determine its objectives in relation to organic search. To do this, you must have a deep understanding of what the company wants to achieve from SEO, as more traffic and rankings usually lead to:
- more free trial signups
- more activations
- more FTDs and account signups
- more sales
- more leads.
There are some tactics you can employ as an SEO to improve your cohesion with the company. For example, with SaaS companies, you should set up meetings with product owners and have them talk through the product, its USPs, and its roadmap.
This information can be built into the strategy, so you can build a connection between the product itself and your content messaging. Not only will you be ranking, but you will also create realistic expectations of the products to prospects.
With eCommece businesses, you should try to speak to product buyers and the wider marketing team for a more in-depth assessment.
Managing C-suite expectations for SEO performance
It’s easy to be intimidated when it comes to engaging stakeholders at the executive level, but with the right approach and preparation, you can easily win them over. Here are some tips for managing C-suite expectations,
Setting realistic expectations
It’s important to set realistic expectations for SEO performance.
Expectations of performance can come from a number of places, including:
- the individual’s perception of how SEO works (high knowledge, low knowledge)
- the individual’s experience of ROI and the cause/effect of other marketing channels
- what previous agencies/sales personnel have promised either as part of the pitch or during a campaign.
The best way to communicate this is through an activity timeline that shows where resource is being spent and which initiative it is against.
This method is also useful to help steer prioritisations away from using things like keyword difficulty scores or targeting keywords based on assumed traffic from third-party tools.
This is also the place to introduce and focus on concepts, such as marginal gains, and utilize Bayesian structural time series (BSTS) graphs to show upper and lower bounds when forecasting performance. Combining this with marginal gains, using ranking, search volume data, and conversion data, you can show what improving organic performance could mean for conversions and business impact.
When discussing challenges with C-level, focus less on the issue and more on the potential solutions and their business impact.
Propose ideas for how to address obstacles and provide tangible goals you can use as benchmarks for progress. Suggest metrics that can be used to track if the initiative is on course and set boundaries of when action might be needed to correct.
This can be demonstrated in most cases with a RAG update, which is a simple-to-understand visual aid.
Track and report progress regularly
Make sure you track and report progress regularly so everyone is on the same page about performance metrics, key achievements, goals, etc.
Create an easy-to-understand report with visuals such as graphs or tables that illustrate the success of your efforts in relation to those of your competitors.
Retrospective reporting is important for understanding trends and showing progression over time. In most cases, SEO never leads to linear, month-on-month gains, so you look at the quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year performance to establish patterns.
Many industries have their own “seasonal” systems, when in theory they’re not seasonal products or services. An example of this is in financial software verticals, where some niches see an increase in people searching before and after key tax submission dates. Those searching prior tend to be looking for a solution, and those after are looking to change solutions due to changing needs and tool capabilities.
Handling multiple requests from multiple stakeholders
When you’re dealing with multiple requests from multiple stakeholders, trying to keep everyone happy can seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry — with the right approach, it’s possible to handle tricky situations well and ensure everyone gets what they need.
First things first — identify the key decision-makers and influencers within your organization. Get to know them and their preferences to tailor your conversations so each individual feels heard and understood.
Next, prioritize requests. Don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer number of requests coming in — focus on the ones that will have the greatest impact on SEO results first, and then move down your list as needed. Don’t forget to communicate progress back across all stakeholders — they need to know how their input is being incorporated into any plans of action or campaigns you may be running as part of your SEO strategy.
Finally, manage expectations around timelines. When it comes to SEO success, patience is a virtue! It’s important to be realistic about how long it will take any given change or campaign you’re implementing to make an impact on organic search results. Set up reporting structures so you can report back quickly and easily whenever possible. This will help keep everyone in agreement about what’s being done when throughout the process.
Which metrics matter to C-suite?
When it comes to engaging corporate stakeholders in SEO, understanding which metrics actually matter to the C-suite — the executives and decision-makers of the organization — is key. The most important metrics for the C-suite are typically revenue, conversions, ROI, and overall cost savings.
When trying to make the case for investing in SEO, you need to be able to clearly show how it will lead to increased returns for their investments. Here are some key areas you should focus on.
SEO can help drive more qualified website traffic, leading to higher sales and increased revenue. Explain how your SEO efforts can help target relevant customer segments searching for specific products or services that align with your organization’s offering, and how this will ultimately result in higher revenues and ROI.
This metric is usually expressed as a percentage of site visitors who take a given action such as making a purchase or signing up to your newsletter. Implementing SEO best practices can help drive more organic website traffic that will likely convert into paying customers or leads. Showcase how effective SEO strategies and tactics can help increase conversions on key webpages that have been identified as high priority—and explain how it will directly impact their bottom line.
Present an estimate of how much money your team can save by embracing organic search optimisation from the get-go — rather than going back to fix errors ater (which is common when starting out).
Explain that, by harnessing the power of data-driven strategies during development stages, you can streamline costs significantly over time, pivot into new markets, and become appealing to more segments in your TAM.
Structuring communications to C-level
One of the most important things you can do when engaging corporate stakeholders in SEO is to structure communications in a way that is tailored specifically for them. This requires a deep understanding of their role, responsibilities, decision-making process and how they consume information.
Let’s look at a few ways you can effectively structure your communications to C-level.
Establish a strong foundation
It’s critical to start with the basics of SEO before diving into the details. Make sure C-level understands how it works, what success looks like, and what’s driving your business objectives.
Make it relevant and visual
No one wants to read blocks of text, so make sure to use visuals to help explain concepts. Leverage real-world examples that are meaningful to decision-makers and make sure the language used is concise and simple.
Focus on the incremental value
C-suite executives will be more likely to prioritize SEO if they understand the incremental value it brings for cost savings or revenue growth opportunities for the business. Be ready with data-driven ROI metrics that clearly demonstrate value with good visuals.
Streamlining reporting for better clarity
Knowing how to communicate the value of SEO to your corporate stakeholders is crucial, but it’s not always easy. One way to make it easier is by streamlining your reporting process so you can present your numbers in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand.
Make the data visually appealing
Most C-level executives are time poor but are key enablers within the business.
By presenting data visually using graphs and charts, you can really help make the information easier to interpret and digest — it just takes one glance to see what those numbers mean.
That clarity will give them a better understanding of how SEO is working for your business, and help them make better-informed decisions, as well as keeping them abreast of the campaign progress and how well it is performing.
Keep it concise
It’s important to think about who will be reading the reports and why. Try condensing the needs-to-know information into as few words as possible so there are no misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
If you can streamline the reporting process and deliver results in an easily understandable format, it will be much easier for your corporate stakeholders to get on board with SEO initiatives. They can trust the numbers are correct and see how SEO is impacting overall growth.
At the end of the day, the power of SEO lies in its ability to foster positive relationships between corporate stakeholders, their customers, and the wider digital world.
The key is to take a holistic approach, making sure to keep all stakeholders informed and engaged throughout the entire process.