Selling SEO to the C-Suite: How to Convince Company Executives to Support SEO

Selling SEO to the C-Suite: How to Convince Company Executives to Support SEO

Convincing company executives that SEO is one of the most critical elements of a holistic digital marketing strategy to increase website traffic (and therefore customers, sales, and revenue) won’t be easy, but these steps can increase the chances of your program being taken seriously, and getting the budget needed to make it a success. Results. Start at the beginning: Define what SEO is, and what it isn’t It might sound like a no-brainer, but before you even start, find out your C-Suite’s SEO expertise level. Implementation: Whether this is an internal project or you're engaging an SEO agency, the project lead should be very hands-on, making SEO recommendations and guiding the IT team through the successful implementation of as many of them as possible so as to have the biggest impact on organic search. We conduct SEO audits and provide recommendations for success, in priority order — but getting access to internal IT resources and getting your SEO recommendations into the implementation queue can be incredibly challenging. Goals and measurement of results: HubSpot has presented the core metrics that CEOs care about the most; you should address these metrics with benchmarks and informed predictions (not vague guesses) for how SEO can improve them. Therefore, it can be estimated that increasing ranking to #1 will lead to 90,000 monthly unique visitors. But that’s how SEO goes. After several months, organic search traffic and revenue was leading all other digital marketing channels for this client — more than PPC and email marketing. A solid SEO strategy — and one that will convince stakeholders of its worth — is made up of a myriad of components from audits to content development, from link building to site architecture.

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The implementation of a solid SEO strategy often gets put on the back burner — behind website redesigns, behind client work, behind almost everything — and even when it is taken seriously, you have to fight for every resource for implementation. SEO must be a priority. However, convincing the company executives to prioritize it and allocate budget to SEO initiatives can feel like scaling a mountain.

Sound familiar?

Convincing company executives that SEO is one of the most critical elements of a holistic digital marketing strategy to increase website traffic (and therefore customers, sales, and revenue) won’t be easy, but these steps can increase the chances of your program being taken seriously, and getting the budget needed to make it a success.

Before you start: Put yourself in the shoes of the C-Suite and be ready to answer their questions.

While it’s no doubt frustrating that your executives don’t understand the importance of SEO, put yourself in their shoes and consider what is important to them. Have solid answers ready to questions.

CEOs are decision-makers, not problem-solvers. They are going to ask:

  • Why should we invest in SEO vs. [insert another strategy here]?
  • Is this going to be profitable?
  • Do you have proven results?
  • What does success look like? What are your KPIS?

CIOs and CFOs will fixate on cost reductions. They are going to ask:

  • What will this cost us?
  • Can similar results be achieved at a reduced cost?
  • What level of spend will maximize ROI?

CMOs want to ensure the organization’s message is distributed to targeted audiences in order to meet sales objectives. They will ask:

  • How many more qualified leads will this bring us?
  • What will this do to increase our brand exposure?
  • What is our competition doing?

CEOs are unbelievably busy. In the nicest way, they don’t care about details, and they don’t care about tactics (because they simply do not have time to care). What do they care about? Results.

For example, the CEO of a large insurance broker sits in his office and Googles the term “Seattle insurance.” Success for him is seeing his company listed at #1 in the organic results. He doesn’t want to know how it was achieved, but for as long as that’s the result, he’s happy to invest.

Getting the support you need for your SEO strategy can be tough, to say the least, especially if there is no understanding, no interest, and no funding from the C-level executives in your company — and unfortunately, without these, your SEO plans will never get off the ground.

However, executive-level buy-in is crucial for a successful SEO campaign, so don’t give up!

Educate your stakeholders

1. Start at the beginning: Define what SEO is, and what it isn’t

It might sound like a no-brainer, but before you even start, find out your C-Suite’s SEO expertise level. Bizarre as it may sound, some might not even really fully understand what SEO is, and the concept of keywords might be entirely alien.

Start from the very beginning with examples of what SEO is, and what it isn’t.

Include:

  • How people search for your business online with non-branded industry keywords. Use analytics to show that this is what people are actually searching for.
  • Show what happens when you conduct a simple search for a related keyword. Where does your business rank and where do your competitors rank?

If you want to go into a bit more detail, you can show things like where keywords appear in your page content, or what meta-data in the titles and description fields look like. Gather as much valuable insight as you can from the CMO to help tailor your presentation to fit the style the CEO is used to. It will vary from CEO to CEO. Same story — but a different approach to getting the message across.

Remember, keep it high-level. When talking to your C-Suite about SEO, it’s important to talk to them in a language they’ll understand. If your presentation includes references to “schema,” “link audits,” or “domain authority,” start again, scrapping the technical jargon. Instead, talk about how SEO helps businesses connect directly with people who are searching online for the products and services that are being offered by the company. Highlight how it’s a powerful business development tool that aligns your business with customer intent, one that targets potential customers further down the sales funnel because it attracts traffic mostly from people who are in the market to convert. Focus on the purpose of an SEO program being to build a sustainable base of monthly quality potential customers by generating additional traffic to the website.

Use hard facts to support your points. For example:

  • 72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
  • 71% of B2B researchers start with a generic search. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)
  • Conversion rates are 10 times higher on search than from social on desktops, on average. (Source: GoDaddy 2016)
  • Half of search queries are four words or longer. Not including long-tail keywords could mean losing potential leads. (Source: Propecta 2017).
  • Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published 0–4 monthly posts. (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

2. The meat of your presentation: Why SEO is so important

Once you’ve shown what SEO is, you can move onto why it’s so important to the organizational goals. Sounds simple, but this is probably the most difficult part of convincing your executives of the need for an SEO strategy.

C-Suite executives are not interested in the how of SEO. They want to know the why (the value, the return on investment), and the when (how long it will take to see the results and the ROI of this endeavor). It’s almost guaranteed that they’re not going to want to know the minute details and tactics of your proposed strategy.

Outline the project at a high level, and don’t get bogged down in the details. If the CEO is well-educated in other channels (like paid search, offline marketing, print marketing, or display advertising), try to use SEO examples that can be understood in a relative way to how these other channels perform.

Note: To sell SEO to the C-suite doesn’t necessarily mean you’re committing to doing all of this work yourself. You might be pitching for the budget to use an SEO agency to do all of this for you.

Break out the proposed project into 4 sections, each with a “what” and a “why.”

1. SEO audit:

Your website is a business development tool, and so the SEO audit is focused on assessing how well the site is performing currently. Talk about how you’ll assess the website in several areas to understand any problems impacting site performance and identify any potential optimization opportunities…

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