SEO concept illustration
Image: Shutterstock

“SEO is free traffic, right?” “Why do you need more budget towards SEO if the traffic coming from search is free?”

Many SEOs will undoubtedly have encountered comments and misconceptions like these from colleagues that they work with. Of course, anyone who works in search optimisation will know that it’s not that simple – not just because the best things in life are never free, but because optimising for search takes work and concerted effort and yes, investment.

So, how can SEOs dispel myths like these and demonstrate the value of the work they carry out, especially in an enterprise SEO context? In a recent webinar in partnership with Econsultancy, ‘5 Common Pitfalls of Enterprise SEO (And How to Avoid Them)’, Markus Klöschen, Solutions Architect at Conductor, explained how to communicate the value of SEO to other teams across the business in order to get their buy-in, win budget, and prove outcomes.

Speaking the right language

It is often a source of frustration for SEOs that various teams across the business don’t understand the value and importance of optimising for search, making it more difficult to get SEO onto the agenda or get buy-in for SEO projects. However, Klöschen pointed out that this situation is understandable. “People that have worked 20 years at a company, doing some stand-up sales work, sending people to the customers – they’re not aware of what search is, and why organic search is that important,” he said.

So, how can SEOs remedy this situation? Klöschen highlighted the importance of speaking the language that colleagues from different teams speak, by using KPIs that they will understand. For the CEO, instead of talking about ranking for keywords, this might mean conveying SEO in terms of market share: ‘We get X amount of the potential traffic to this topic area’. This presents the same information – but reframed in a way that is likely to make more of an impact.

“Use keywords that they use when they are talking to competitive CEOs – when they are talking to their friends in the business world,” Klöschen advised.

A CMO, in turn, might be interested in customer acquisition costs, or return on investment – essentially, “How much do I get for the money that I invest?” Klöschen noted that using these figures can be a real boon for SEO, which typically doesn’t require a huge amount of budget (although of course, it does still require some budget).

A category manager will typically be most interested in hearing about sales and conversions, and so SEOs should reframe things again when talking to them. Klöschen emphasised that in enterprise SEO, it’s crucial to spend time communicating with various teams and learning about their projects and priorities – that way, you can learn what their goals are and contribute to them, and get help with your own goals in turn.

He also recommended creating highly individualised KPI reports to send to every stakeholder. “Don’t send them the information that everybody gets – just the things that they are interested in. And please, try to automate things.”

Another important point to bear in mind for enterprise SEO is also to use a single source of truth across the company for KPI reporting – even if there are local solutions or local agencies available. “We all know that there are tons of SEO tools out there,” said Klöschen. “The thing is, every one of them does their calculations a bit differently – or they don’t crawl the same keyword at the same time. So, you can’t compare them.

“[Teams] can work with their SEO tool of choice – but for the reporting, keep to a single source of truth.”

“Be bold” – and use performance KPIs

The other language that SEOs should speak is the language of performance. Klöschen pointed out that paid search typically gets allocated a much larger budget than organic search – even when the percentage of traffic from organic is higher. Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO and Head of Organic Research at Amsive, tweeted an observation from an SEO conference that, “PPC often gets 10x the budget or more than SEO for the same client”, something which is “common among SEO teams around the world”.

However, Klöschen explained that SEOs can use performance KPIs to draw a comparison between the effectiveness of organic search and the effectiveness of PPC. “Go ahead and say, ‘Yes, I am responsible for sustainable organic traffic that’s twice as high as paid search, and I just need 10% of their monthly budget’ – or whatever you think is important,” he said.

Additionally, “If you have the chance to calculate – or estimate – your customer acquisition costs in SEO, these tend to be way lower than colleagues from paid [search]. So, just use this to communicate with your managers and your CEO to get the budget that you really need.”

In a Q&A that followed the presentation, Klöschen was asked whether he considers SEO to be a performance marketing channel. “It totally depends on the way you do your business, but SEO – for me – is not a channel,” he said. “It’s the work that you do to be able to receive organic search traffic.

“It’s not a performance marketing channel, but I tend to use some KPIs from that world to identify and basically have the chance to get budget, awareness, and so on. … I try to give an idea about the future of my work – to tell them, ‘Look, I can’t forecast like we do in paid … but I can say, ‘Well, based on the last X months, we had a growth of X, and when we spend X amount of money, we will increase this by X percent.”

He also elaborated further on how customer acquisition costs can be calculated for SEO: although the calculations will be again less precise than PPC, it is possible to present an estimate. “Typically, what we do in SEO is we create sustainable traffic, right? We create things that will bring us traffic over time, and you can’t predict [exactly] how much money we spend for this particular person,” Klöschen explained.

“What I typically do is use the standard SEO budget to calculate how much traffic we got for this budget. And that’s the same thing that paid media is doing – they use the money they spend in Google Ads, for example, plus maybe the money spent with their agency [to calculate acquisition costs].

“Why should we not do this ourselves? Why are we shy about telling people, ‘The people that I get to the website just cost 10% of the budget that we use for paid media.’

“The problem is that SEOs tend not to want to compare ourselves with others,” Klöschen added. “But we typically have the cheaper ‘channel’ – [so] please use it. Be bold.”

Get more insights on enterprise SEO from Markus Klöschen by watching the sponsored webinar on demand.