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SEO Optimus Prime

How do you explain your job to your grandmother, your dentist, or to a class of 8th graders on career day? That was the basic idea behind this past week’s #SEOChat a weekly tweetchat hosted by Alicia K. Anderson . Here’s the list of the SEOs from all over the world who gathered on Twitter to discuss how we address our jobs and our work to people who don’t know all the details but want the results we can provide. 

Executive education and relationship building are crucial to any marketer’s success (for agency, freelance, and in-house). While the person funding your budget doesn’t necessarily care about every detail of your work, he or she needs to know you’re getting the job done (once that person realizes what your job actually is). Here are the best ways to communicate your value to executive-level  

1. Don’t Get Mired Down in Details

When asked how most SEOs describe their jobs to people who really have no idea, many people kept it basic and neutral saying that most people don’t understand or sometimes don’t care about the details:


You Google stuff? We make our client's stuff stand out.

If the person asking understands the basics, some people continue on to show how it’s important to work on SEO factors to get to potential conversions:

For people who don't think it's witchcraft, I then go on about leads and customers from organic search.

The basic idea is to find a way to describe what you do that’s easy to understand, doesn’t make people feel dumb (because that automatically puts some people on the defensive), and describes your value to their company and bottom line.

2. Use Easy Analogies

One of the best ways to help people understand what you do for their marketing and revenue is to use analogies that are easily relatable. Some people likened it to a delivery service–of answers:

I use

Some wanted to ensure that the hard work behind the good rankings and conversions was recognized for what it was–not just a quick magic trick.

I do not like any references to SEO as Magic because it is not. It is the process of getting your website to the top in Google.

Find something that strikes a chord with your executive audience and use that as a bridge to the gap between what they need from you and what you can do for them. By speaking their language, they’ll be on your side faster and willing to work with you as challenges arise.

3. Know Your Audience

There’s nothing more annoying than feeling like you’re being condescended to. Ensure that you know your audience’s knowledge level so you’re speaking to that. If your pitch or reporting insights are too technical, your executive audience may feel frustrated or even tune you out. However, it can go the other way too. If you’re talking points are too low-level, your crowd might find you condescending. Know their level and speak to it.

Many of my clients have little SEO knowledge, So I spend a lot of time explaining the basics.

Used to be in house and they were always the worst - highly focused on not spending any budget and expecting the earth. Now it's clients and we gently lead them through the forest.

4. Engage Your Client/Executive Continually

As with any business relationship, constant communication is often key to ensuring all parties remain satisfied and happy. For SEOs this means keeping on top of the latest news in tech and marketing and passing that info on to people you know who might be stakeholders.

Is there a big change in Google My Business? Your franchise owner client will definitely want to know about that. Has Facebook changed its algorithm again? A company that relies on social for customer feedback and engagement will need to know about that shift.

Being the expert who cares about your client’s business is an invaluable relationship builder. Here are some of the ways #SEOChatters said they keep the conversations going with the executives they serve:

Laying the groundwork for later conversations with execs takes planning, but I like to begin with newsletters and a specially created RSS feed to show the trending topic we're discussing, provide a good list of why this will work for us in particular. Ask questions about the overall business goals & that helps to forward the discussion on how digital marketing (SEO, PPC, Content, Social) can support those overall goals they're looking to achieve

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Working on this now. But we've almost got a good reporting format to where we can really dig in and analyze the numbers. Then start meaningful conversations from there.

5. Set Expectations

Part of a good communication plan and education plan is setting expectations. Not only does this give the exec a notion of what’s worth freaking out about and what’s not, but it can also avoid the “You provided X, but I expected Y scenario.”

You get an email at 2 AM about a new WSJ article talking about SEO, asking if we need to be worried about XYZ update. How (and when) do you respond?

At 8:30 a.m., when I get into the office and check my email. I had a boss with a poster behind her desk:

Review the e-mail and the article first thing in the morning, and reply after, taking the article and personal SEO knowledge/experience into consideration. It tends to be YMMV.

When your executive is confident that you’ve got it covered, there hopefully won’t be a freak-out email at 2 am. Just a calm, “Did you see this?” at a reasonable hour. 🙂

Participants in #SEOChat span all levels of marketing, multiple divisions, varied backgrounds, and more, but their knowledge and tips ring true. As with any relationship, it’s crucial to work with your executive team toward mutually beneficial targets–whether you’re an agency working with a client, a freelancer helping a business reach it’s goals, or in-house on a company’s marketing team.

These tips can help you get started on the right foot.

Carolyn Lyden Carolyn is the resident Search Engine Optimus Prime at CallRail , a call tracking software company.

Previous to joining CallRail, Carolyn specialized in franchise, local, small business SEO. In her free time, she loves to participate in marketing- and SEO-related Twitter chats.

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