How To Educate Your Boss About SEO

When it comes to SEO and digital marketing, I admit that I am a bit of a fan; I’m passionate about what I do. I’ve definitely found myself, on more than one occasion, geeking out about search to someone that I already lost ages ago.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had this experience.

Now, imagine that person, with the blank stare on their face standing in front of you, is your boss and you’re trying to justify an increase in SEO spend. Suddenly, geeking out about search doesn’t seem so fun, right?

As someone that has traveled the world discussing SEO, to both nerds and novices alike, I’ve learned a few things about communicating to people of all levels of understanding about the topic.

When it comes to justifying SEO spend to your boss or upper management, here’s tips to help you successfully communicate and educate them about search.

Gauge Their Existing Knowledge

“SEO is an important component to any business in today’s Digital Age. When a business optimizes its website to rank high in search results pages, it increases visibility and attracts new…,” blah, blah, blah.

We know. Your boss knows. You’re not bringing them the formula for everlasting gobstoppers. What I mean is, your boss already has some basic knowledge of SEO. You don’t have to start at Step 1.

Sometimes, in an effort to make the more complex dimensions of SEO accessible, we over-simplify. Not only does this do little towards helping us educate others (as we’re just recycling information they already know), your boss also isn’t going to be interested in having their time wasted.

They may even be insulted that you’ve undermined their understanding of SEO.

The challenge is to gauge what they already know and provide new information to further that understanding, without becoming overly complex.

If you don’t have any idea how knowledgeable your boss is about SEO, it’s not a bad idea to simply ask. This creates a conversation about the topic, instead of you talking at them for the entirety of the meeting.

Once they’ve explained what they know about SEO, you’ll have the perfect point to jump off from and what holes in their knowledge you need to fill in to get them to a comfortable understanding.

Use Terminology Lightly

As you begin your explanation, think about the terminology you’re using and how to simplify those terms to eliminate any confusion on their end.

This may sound easy, but a lot of this jargon comes as second nature to us, as SEOs. 

Even concepts as simple as redirects and backlinks might not be fully understood by your boss. So, be sure to break these concepts down during your talks and define any jargon you use as they come up.

You may want to run through your proposal or explanation with an associate who is also unfamiliar with SEO. They’ll be able to identify which terms need more explaining; this will better prepare you for the real conversation with your boss.

When you’re able to effectively demystify SEO terminology, it will make it much easier and quicker to educate your boss. Their time is vital, so the less of it you spend fostering their understanding of key concepts, the better.

Focus On The End Results, Not The Tactics To Get There

Whenever you address any type of audience, you tailor the content to address their questions, concerns and so on. The same is true when educating executives and upper management about SEO.

Remember, their time (and yours) is important. The goal should always be to communicate the information they want to know in the least amount of time. Thus, the conversation remains short and direct.

In this respect, your boss is almost always going to want know how SEO fits into the big picture. They don’t want, nor need, to hear about every step or tactic that you’ll deploy to reach that end.

Unfortunately, this can be incredibly difficult for SEOs, as much of what we do is done to appease search algorithms and the latest updates. Not every strategy has a definite, tangible metric that can be tracked and benchmarked or given a timeframe. And, “because Google wants it that way,” isn’t the justification your boss wants to hear.

For example, we can’t definitevly tell our bosses that strategies A and B will help improve our search rank by X positions, thereby increasing website traffic by Y%. 

It just doesn’t work like that. So, how do we justify what it is we’re doing? How do we show the end results when we’re not always certain of them ourselves?

The best case scenario is that you have existing organizational data or past SEO projects that you can rely upon to demonstrate potential impact of newly proposed tactics. I say potential because you may have to get a little creative and make broad correlations. 

Additionally, you can use the Internet to find case studies, statistics and examples of other companies that have leveraged similar-or-same strategies and how it affected their business.

Let’s say we wanted our boss to invest in an SEO auditing tool to find duplicate content on the website. First, we educate them on a few reasons why eliminating duplicate content is important: it improves the search experience for users and Google is known to penalize sites with duplicate content.

Next, we make a broad correlation: “The last time we invested in an SEO strategy that  improved our search experience, visitors to our site converted X% more.” Then, we showcase examples of Google penalizing websites with lots of duplicate content.

This allows us to substantiate our proposed strategies with some data, even though we lack directly related metrics/benchmarks ourselves.

Document, Monitor, Test, Explore

While the above example is a nice alternative when you don’t have organizational data to show your boss, there really is no perfect substitute for it. That’s why you should be in the practice of really documenting all of your SEO projects as often as you can.

The more time you commit to documenting your SEO efforts, the deeper your data coffers will grow and the easier it will be to justify future projects and educate your bosses about what it is you’re doing.

Monitoring Existing projects continuously is also important. You’ll be able to have updated metrics on how well current SEO strategies are performing. Sometimes, the best evidence to support future projects is a consistently positive track record. 

Plus, having the latest data available will have your boss more enthused about being educated about SEO and the latest trends and strategies you want to explore next.

Grow Your Own Reputation

As I said, I’m a nut when it comes to all things search. But, I’m also an expert with a large online presence across multiple social media pages, websites and so on. This demonstrates the extent of my expertise and translates that borderline-fanatical passion into a well-documented reputation steeped in credibility.

When it comes to educating your boss about SEO (or anything for that matter), being taken seriously is vital. Yes, data and research are important for justifying your decisions and proposals, but, without a strong reputation, it’ll be hard to even get their attention.

The simple truth is that we pay more attention and listen closer to someone whom we respect. A strong online reputation helps build that respect swiftly, which means it will be easier to have your thoughts and ideas heard and your projects approved.

Not to mention, establishing your reputation in this manner will almost make you more credible in the SEO community. This will make it easier to find jobs in the future and you’ll be able to compare your efforts alongside what other people in your field are doing.

You may even find other experts willing to collaborate on projects or offer their advice.

Money, Money, Money

In the end, your boss is most concerned with making money and growing the business. Every project you propose, SEO lesson you teach or concept you cover should, somehow, connect back to increasing revenue. 

When you successfully make this connection between search and profits, your boss will always remain interested.

The key is to focus on the metrics that are most closely related to revenue-producing actions, such as CTR, total web traffic, conversion rates, etc. These represent steps in a potential customer’s buying process, from searching a keyword to completing their purchase.

The fewer steps removed from that final purchase that these metrics are, the better and more profit-driving.

Conclusions

We’re all passionate about search. But sometimes, we trip over our own passion when we’re trying to educate others about SEO, especially when it’s our boss or a member of upper management.

Educating your boss about SEO is really a practice in bottling that passion in a way that’s digestible for them and not overwhelming.

To summarize how you accomplish this, I’ll leave you with three of the most important kernels of advice when approaching your boss about SEO:

  1. Always encourage questions; get your boss participating in the conversation and sharing their own personal interests towards SEO.
  2. Avoid getting bogged down in the details and focus on providing tangible evidence that allows upper management to see the light. 
  3. When in doubt, show them the money and demonstrate how your SEO strategies connect to customer activities that produce sales.

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is the Founder of Madhouse Marketing, a digital marketing agency in San Diego, specializing in content and social media marketing. Speaking both internationally and throughout the US, Ashley regularly teaches workshops and speaks at conferences like Pubcon, BrightonSEO, SearchLove, Digital Summits, Retail Global, and the prestigious SMS Sydney. Ashley has also co-authored the best-selling book “The Better Business Book V.2” and is a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

Filed under: Insights

One Comment

Jaaved Khatree

This is a really good article and a great reminder for myself first and foremost! It’s easy to get frustrated when others roadblock SEO efforts all because they don’t understand it the way we do. I wrote a loosely similar article just last week but yours says it far better than I ever could!
https://www.jaaved.com/3-lessons-for-the-in-house-seo/ – I’ve updated it with a link back to your article for added reference.

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