When working with a company that uses its IT department as a “gatekeeper,” you need to find ways to work with IT staff to get SEO recommendations implemented quickly. Here we’ll discuss our recommendations for making the SEO/IT relationship work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of SEO campaigns.
If you’ve never worked on an SEO campaign with a large corporate client, you may be wondering what makes it so different. The difference is in your ability to directly implement your recommendations. When working with smaller clients, or when you have direct access, it’s much easier to make recommendations, get approvals, and implement SEO strategies very quickly.
In large organizations, getting SEO recommendations approved and implemented tends to be somewhat glacial in speed. Often, there are many more people and organizations that recommendations must go through. Typically, you’re dealing with an in-house marketing team that answers to a corporate executive decision-maker. Once approval is obtained, you then have to work with the team responsible for maintaining the website, making updates, maintaining servers, and other tech issues – most commonly, this is the company’s IT department.
Understanding IT department roles
The thing is, IT departments are not always quick to make what they may consider small changes, because they’re more focused on the big picture: making sure the site is up and running, background processes are protected, and data is secure. Implementing page speed recommendations, updating 301 redirects, or making edits to improve click-through rate doesn’t exactly trigger their “gotta get it done now” gene.
There’s also the issue of backlogs of all the other requests and issues that people in the organization need the IT department to handle. When you think about how delayed SEO results can be, it makes some sense that IT departments want to deal with the here and now that will have a near-immediate, quantifiable result.
How to make SEO and IT work
Communicate and educate – The first thing we need to do is understand the IT department’s processes and how they operate. Our goal is not to add unnecessarily to their burden, so knowing how they work gives us insight into how to request and recommend our SEO changes.
The key to this is clear communication. It’s helpful for us to learn their language—we need to be familiar with how to speak like an IT person. You don’t need a computer science degree here, but being able to basically explain things in the language of IT departments will help move your request along.
You also need to educate the IT team on the importance of SEO in addition to more immediate technical issues, while keeping mind that IT departments are often overworked and understaffed. Because IT doesn’t directly bring in revenue, it can be one area in which companies try to do more with less. SEO can help spotlight the value of an IT department by quantitatively showing how an IT team’s assistance can generate revenue. Here’s an example: For companies hosting their own sites, there is a hardware component to achieving good page speed. SEOs can help show the ROI page speed improvements bring. This helps the IT team justify upgrading or buying new equipment to meet the goal of boosting page speed. This coordinated effort benefits both teams.
Helping IT teams know what we do, why we do it, and how it helps them goes a long way to having them accommodate SEO-related tasks.
Relationship building – Working with clients, at its core, is customer service. In some sense the IT team is also your customer, so ensuring you’re building a relationship and rapport with the people you need help from is crucial to success. Relationships take time to build, and one way to speed this up is to find someone in the organization who will champion the importance of SEO and your goals. It’s even better if this champion is from within the IT department.
Always include IT teams – When you have your kickoff meeting, one of the most important discussions needs to be how recommendations will be implemented. When IT will be involved in this, they must be included in this meeting. You should also schedule a meeting with the IT people directly. This will give you an opportunity to educate them and learn how they operate. This meeting needs to be held very early on; don’t let this wait until you’re ready to make recommendations.
Also, include IT as part of your team – they are as critical to the success of an SEO campaign as anyone. Recommendations aren’t worth anything if they aren’t being implemented.
Learn IT procedures and follow them (mostly) – Every department has processes they follow. HR has reporting procedures, a warehouse has inventory procedures … you get the idea. An easy way to annoy people is to try to circumvent their processes. In your discussions with IT, understand how requests are made and handled so that you’ll know how to go about getting your recommendations scheduled.
There may, of course, be times when something cannot wait in the IT queue. That’s when the relationships you’ve built and the champion you’ve enlisted can come to your rescue.
Create your own process – Knowing how overwhelmed an IT team can be and how their processes work will help you come up with your own process for recommending changes. One method that can work well is to batch everything into a day or time set aside with IT dedicated to implementing your marketing efforts. The goal is to make things easier for you and the IT team.
Working with people from disparate departments can be a challenge. Learning their language and processes and even their personalities can make for a difficult campaign. But if you take time to do this right and the IT and SEO teams can get on the same page, the chances of having an efficient, successful marketing campaign will increase exponentially.
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