If your sales and SEO team need a refresher on how to work together, Columnist Casie Gillette has the answer with five communication tips that will get them talking in no time.
It’s no secret that marketing and sales don’t always see eye to eye.
The sales team gets mad at the marketing team for lack of leads and marketing gets mad at sales for not closing deals.
For two areas so closely tied to one another, the lack of cooperation is pretty amazing.
In fact, according to a recent study from InsideView titled, “The State of Sales and Marketing Alignment in 2018,” only 37 percent of salespeople reported meeting with marketing to discuss lead scoring.
Even more telling, Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2017 report noted only 44 percent of marketers feel they are aligned with sales. Yikes!
Breaking down silos isn’t simple, and it certainly isn’t a new concept. We’ve been talking about this for years, and while technology has made it much easier for sales and marketing to align, many companies still treat these departments separately.
How can we better align our sales and marketing efforts, specifically when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO)?
Obviously, there isn’t one answer, and for each organization it will be different. However, when thinking about SEO and sales, there are a few things we can do:
1. Set up monthly integrated meetings
When I worked in-house, the marketing team held weekly calls with the support team. The goal was to discuss common issues facing customers, identify problems or gaps on the site and ensure the marketing and support team were aligned with communication.
The same thing can apply to sales and marketing.
Set up monthly meetings to discuss goals, strategies, results and campaigns. The key to being successful is ensuring everyone knows what is happening, why it’s happening and how to address it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a marketing team launch a campaign without telling the sales team. How are they supposed to sell something they don’t know anything about?
Consider creating a Slack channel for the teams to communicate. Open lines of communication and shared knowledge equate to a more cohesive team.
2. Use sales data to inform SEO tactics
When we bring a new client on board, we spend a considerable amount of time talking through the sales process, evaluating existing sales materials, and in many cases, sitting through product demos and sales pitch decks.
We ask questions like:
- Who is the target buyer?
- Who is the decision-maker?
- What are key issues you hear during the sales process?
While these questions may seem basic, they help determine how and where buyers search and what type of content we need to give them.
For example, if a client only sells to companies with over $100 million in revenue, addressing the challenges facing small business doesn’t make any sense. If the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is the decision-maker, their main concern is likely tied to how your product or solution will help them financially.
Understanding the nuances of the buyer, the sales process and everything that comes with it is key to creating an SEO strategy that helps drive sales — which leads us perfectly into our next point.
3. Map your keywords to the customer journey
What is the goal of an SEO program? To be found by the right people, at the right time, in search results. More or less.
Easier said than done. We need not only to understand the buyer but also to understand the keywords our buyers are using and the search intent behind them throughout the entire customer journey.
That feels like a lot!
Fortunately for us, the data found in the material used to bring on a new client, the sales process, the pitch deck and common problems can help form the keyword research process.
A keyword research process must also adapt. It has to focus on themes and intent and can no longer be about selecting a few phrases and calling it a day.
Once you have your keyword themes, you can review with your sales team, start mapping them to the customer journey, and more importantly, begin applying them to the overall content and SEO strategy.
4. Create assets that work for everyone
As an SEO, you typically have firsthand knowledge of what content is needed, what content is being created and where that content lives. That isn’t the case for every department.
A few days ago, a client mentioned she found a bunch of really great content on the site that wasn’t linked from anywhere and was only being used for sales. The marketing team didn’t know about it, and we didn’t know about it. What could we do with it?
Understanding what is out there and how it can be used across marketing and sales can be beneficial to your overall strategy.
Let’s take webinars, for example. Most companies hold a webinar, and then you never hear about it again. But what if we took that webinar and used it across departments? What if we took that one piece of content and turned it into several? We could have:
- A blog post summarizing the webinar which can be optimized for search, shared across social and sent out to everyone who registered for the webinar to re-engage them.
- Short clips from the webinar which can be shared on YouTube, added into the blog post and embedded into landing pages for the sales team to utilize.
When creating assets, we have to think beyond search and consider how we can create something that benefits the organization as a whole.
5. Use SEO data to inform sales
We already talked about using sales data to inform your SEO strategy, but it also works the other way around.
As SEOs, we spend a lot of time in analytics working to understand how our site is performing, what our visitors like, what they don’t like and where we can improve. We also spend a lot of time looking at search results and competitors.
How much of that are you sharing with your sales team?
During the monthly meeting I mentioned above, make sure your sales team is aware of the following:
- Top-performing content themes. They don’t have to know the exact pieces of content, but if specific areas are resonating with visitors, they can push that topic during calls or share the materials with prospects.
- Competitor updates or campaigns. Very few people are looking at one solution and one solution alone. They are also looking at your competitors. The team should be aware of how competitors are performing, the type of messaging they are using and any other updates coming from them.
- Customer reviews or complaints. What are people saying about you on the internet? What are the positives and the negatives? By sharing these with the sales team, they can proactively address potential concerns and promote positive reviews.
Sharing information between departments will go a long way in helping the organization. While the three bullets mentioned above may not seem significant to your efforts, they could be to someone else’s.
Tying it all together
Aligning efforts across the organization, specifically between SEO and sales, can make both teams better and drive growth faster. It may not be easy to get a process in place, but if you start with communication, the rest will follow.
Due to the degree of difficulty and ever-increasing complexity of search engine optimization, you can’t fully erase the qualms of small businesses when it comes to ROI.
You can’t really blame them though. After all, if I’m pouring in over a thousand dollars a month on a strategy that doesn’t improve my sales, I’d begin to question my investment decisions, too.
But before you hit the brakes and abandon ship, you need to understand that SEO is a “go big or go home” kind of commitment. It’s not something you can casually do on the side — overshadowed by a collection of other marketing strategies — and expect it to produce substantial results.
Statistics show that the top result on Google has a 33.64% click-through rate. This is significantly reduced to only 5.61% on the fourth position — tapering off to only 0.95% by the tenth.
In other words, you either go all-in with everything you’ve got, or give up SEO altogether. Just do yourself a favor and decide now — will you keep pressing on, or call it quits?
Still here? Good.
It’s time to set the direction of your SEO campaign straight. But first, you need to identify the top reasons why it’s not producing results in the first place.
1. Your Campaign Is Led By Amateurs
It may sound harsh, but in SEO, there’s no room for amateurs.
You can’t expect to win against a stacked, full-service SEO agency if you only have a subpar “specialist” or team with half-baked strategies and truckloads of guesswork.
Sure, a budget SEO services company might be capable of putting your brand on Google’s first page. But even if they do manage to help you secure one of the top three spots, then they were most likely only targeting unprofitable keywords just to get you excited.
Remember that effective SEO requires a tremendous amount of work. It requires a team to be well-equipped and ready to take on even competitive keywords.
More importantly, they can design a system wherein your SEO efforts can directly translate to sales. This means they already know everything else in this list like the back of their hand.
2. You Didn’t Build Enough Branded Links
Here’s An Inescapable Fact: You’ll Never Snag One of the top three positions until Google trusts you.
From an SEO angle, brand building can be reflected across multiple areas. One of which is in the science of link building — more specifically, the aspect of keyword optimization.
A lot of new businesses make the mistake of optimizing too much for niche-related keywords. As a result, they build an unnatural backlink profile that doesn’t establish brand authority.
To help you understand this, let’s take a look at the homepage backlink profile of one of the biggest brands in the e-commerce space — Amazon:
- Amazon.com – 30%
- Amazon – 28%
- www.amazon.com – 16%
- https://www.amazon.com/ – 12%
- Niche-relevant keywords – 6%
- Others – 8%
Notice anything peculiar? Yes, up to 58% of their homepage backlinks contain a branded anchors — 86% if you include the naked URLs.
Put simply, you need to optimize for branded anchor texts on your homepage if you want to .
Think about it — authoritative brands that legitimately draw the attention of online users would naturally amass branded links to its homepage. That’s why you should aim to have at least 80% of your homepage links to have a branded anchor text.
3. You Forgot To Build Your Brand
In online marketing, brand building can pertain to different activities.
Influencer marketing, for example, is one endeavor that will definitely benefit your brand. It describes practices that will let you leverage the authority and online reach of other experts, brands, or other customers to improve your reputation and boost buyer confidence.
Granted, being on Google’s first page is impressive in its own right. But the influx of traffic you can achieve is meaningless if your visitors don’t have even an ounce of trust in your brand.
A common solution is to have a steady supply of relevant and useful content for your target audience. The more valuable and accurate information you freely provide, the easier your content consumers will turn into paying customers.
Another area of brand building is investing in social signals that incorporate social proof numbers and user-generated content.
For instance, if one of your posts have garnered thousands of likes, re-shares, and positive comments on social media, other users would become more receptive of your value propositions. Your content’s potential for links would also exponentially increase as more people share and engage it.
Some of the best ways to generate social proof is to launch social media contests and track brand mentions with a social listening tool.
4. You Don’t Score Your Seo Leads
Keep in mind that brand discovery through search engines is only the first step in the customer’s journey. They may not complete a purchase during their first visit, but you can show them the path to conversion by delivering content that matches their needs.
This is where the art of lead scoring steps in.
According to statistics, companies that have an effective lead scoring system can improve their lead generation ROI by up to 77%. It’s a marketing strategy that involves giving points to leads whenever they perform actions, and then sending them off to the sales team whenever they reach a certain “point threshold”.
For example, if one prospect clicks to a webinar landing page via a newsletter, then they can be attributed a point. But once they do attend your webinar, then their lead score can be increased by 5-10 points.
With SEO in mind, lead scoring begins by assessing the search terms and links they used to find your site.
If they used a keyword that signals a high purchase intent, then it might be ideal to send them off to the quickest path to sales. But if they arrived at your homepage via a branded link, then they most likely need a more proper introduction to your brand’s story and unique value propositions.
Remember, SEO is an incredibly intricate mechanism with a lot of moving parts. Considering the
fact that SEO can be bloody expensive, you can’t really blame small businesses who are hesitant to adopt an SEO strategy in their marketing.
Hopefully, learning the reasons why SEO isn’t affecting your bottom line would set your direction straight. If you’d like to know more about the SEO landscape in 2018, feel free to check out this post. Good luck!
Entrepreneur magazine contributor, Mike Templeman, shares his thoughts on the SEO snake oil being solicited by top agencies and advertisers alike. SEO takes time and like Mike references, there is no “overnight” fix or silver bullet that can take you to the top.
Don’t get burned by a snake oil salesperson when it comes to your company’s SEO needs.Do you know what snake oil is? It’s a term used to describe any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. If you read this Wikipedia article on the topic, you’ll see that real oil from snakes used to be prescribed as a cure for everything from small cuts on up to arthritis and skin diseases.
And a recent study came out touting that companies will be spending $65 Billion on SEO this year.
Now, as the title to this article would imply, I believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople. Individuals who knowingly are selling a product that either will not work for the buyer or that they know is of inferior quality.
Let me explain. I run a marketing agency. I have to hear dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, sites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce zero results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of. These stories are the grownup versions of the campfire stories we told each other as children. Except now, they end in the loss of millions of dollars. Terrifying, I know.
Now, I mentioned that I run an agency, as such you’d think that we’d have a pretty good grasp on marketing. But you wouldn’t guess that if you looked at my spam folder. I receive hundreds, yes hundreds of unsolicited emails every day from marketers promising to take my brand to the #1 spot in Google (total lie). Or to bring me thousands of visitors in a matter of weeks (liar liar pants on fire). They tell me that my site is breaking numerous rules set forth by the search engines and if I don’t fix them my company will die a fiery death (oh really?).
Related: Here’s What Really Matters for SEO in 2016
These are the Exhibit A’s in the snake oil industry of digital marketing and SEO.
To see the Exhibit B’s you’ll need to reach out to an agency of your choice and ask to speak with their sales team. Odds are you’ll end up talking with someone that will guarantee that your wildest dreams will be fulfilled by focusing on SEO. Or maybe they’re a social media agency. If that’s the case, their silver bullet will undoubtedly be social media. Either way, they’ve got the tonic that will cure your website’s disease. And if you act now, you’ll be guaranteed results!
Look, as someone who has worked in SEO and every other digital medium for the last decade or so, I can tell you that there are no silver bullets and that nothing is guaranteed. I also know that SEO doesn’t work for some companies. Just like PPC isn’t for everyone, nor is social media. After all, billboards and commercials don’t work for every industry, so why would digital marketing be any different?
But let’s examine what makes a lot of SEO services snake oil and give you the information you’ll need to protect yourself.
Why is it snake oil?
Snake oil originated in the medical industry. It was used as a cure for ailments. It was easy for salespeople to pull the wool over they’re buyers’ eyes because back in the day, no one really knew what the heck was going on with their bodies. Medical information wasn’t as readily available. And since medical conditions are by nature quite scary, the sufferers were ready to believe anything that was thrown their way.
Well, guess what? The Internet is the new medical industry when it comes to snake oil. You see, the Internet is still not that old. It’s really only become prolific over the last 20 years or so. With that being the case, most people don’t understand the ins and outs of it. Yes, like a medical condition, they can tell when something is wrong. But they’re not really quite sure what the cause of the issue is. Enter the snake oil salespeople.
Whenever there are uninformed customers, there will always be predatory groups looking to take advantage of that situation. And with a 65 Billion dollar industry up for grabs, the streets are running wet with snake oil right now.
Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
What I’ve seen.
While some snake oils can be rather harmless, when it comes to your digital marketing snake oil is anything but. For instance, I wrote an article a few years back about a large company that was removed from the Google search results due to their digital marketing activities. They had some sloppy marketing being done and it ended up making them disappear from the search results. Harmless, right? Wrong. You see, this company relied heavily on their search results for new leads to their call center. This call center was staffed by dozens of people. These people had families, mortgages, and relied on that income.
Well, when the phones just stop ringing one morning, it’s going to be very hard for a company to keep employing an entire sales floor. And while the company did their best to avoid the inevitable, they eventually had to face the facts and they ended up laying off the entire department.
So this one company that unfortunately trusted a snake oil salesperson, ended up having to lay off almost 50 people at a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well. I’m sure there was a lot of financial pain felt by these families.
So, yes, snake oil SEO can be extremely dangerous in today’s digital economy.
How do business owners avoid getting burned?
This is probably the most important part of this article. As I mentioned earlier, the reason these groups are able to prey on consumers is because of the lack of information. To this end, you need to gird yourself with knowledge. Do research on the topic you’ll be discussing with your potential agency partners. Have talking points and specific questions that you’d like answered. By doing this, you’ll be able to avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel snake oil salespeople that can’t even face mild scrutiny.
Related: The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
Once you’ve weeded those ones out, you’ll want to really do your research on the agencies that have made the first cut. Check the background of the founders, look for third party reviews. Ask them for case studies, testimonials, and references. Do not look at a slick sales deck and assume that because they can put together a decent PowerPoint that they can provide you with proper marketing services. I’ve seen hundreds of dreams crushed on the expectations set by a nice sales presentation. Any group you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with should be cut after this.
Now that you’ve made it to your third round of choices, you’ll want to watch what they produce for you very closely. Don’t accept an agency that does not give you full visibility into what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how often I see shoddy work being done, and the business owner would have been able to identify that work as being shoddy, but because they weren’t aware it was being done, they had no way of stopping it.
Because of this you’ll want to make sure that the group you’re working with is willing to show you everything they’re doing and will actually take the time to explain and train you on what they’re doing. After all, an informed client is the best kind of client.
And if you follow these steps, you’ll be assured that you’ve probably weeded out all of the snake oil salespeople and you’ll be working with a reputable agency. Now, this doesn’t guarantee that you will get great results. As I mentioned above, sometimes SEO isn’t a solution for all industries and sometimes marketing campaigns don’t result in massive successes. But those are the chances you should be willing to take. If you know you’re working with the right group that does things the right way, then you’re in it together. And the engagement should feel like a partnership, rather then a vendor relationship.
So, as you’re out there trying to spend your marketing dollars wisely, watch for those shady characters that are touting the magical properties of their services. Odds are, there’s a lot of snake oil in their pitch.