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Lessons from The Executive SEO Playbook – Part II

If you just finished part I of this blog post series and are ready for more, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading for part II of my lessons learned from the second half of The Executive SEO Playbook: How to Integrate SEO Company-Wide for Increased Profitability, by Jessica Bowman.

The Power of Buy-In

A broad nod of approval from key executives is simply not enough to start the SEO operations journey. Buy-in is essential to recruit your very own SEO army. Even the smallest army can be extremely effective at minimizing SEO from becoming deprioritized and descoped. To be successful with SEO integration, you will need clear-cut buy-in from the following stakeholders:

  • Executives/C-Suite
  • Middle management/Team leads – the most important level, since they guide the day-to-day operations of non-SEO teams
  • Influencers

If you need a game-plan to prioritize, incentivize, and earn buy-in from your SEO Forward Thinkers, I highly recommend you read my Managing Technical SEO Debt blog post. It outlines the five critical thinking questions you can ask yourself to help develop your action plan.

Battling SEO Integration Kryptonite

The ultimate kryptonite that can stall and deprioritize your SEO integration efforts is project work.
Project work keeps SEO Pacesetters stuck in the 20/80 Chase Mode, spending 80% of the time on fire drills. Until SEO integration is systematized across your organization, operations must be prioritized above reactive project work. Remember, you only have a set period during the Honeymoon-to-Synergy Season transition and speed to integration is important. Keep stakeholders focused by reminding them of the immediate and long-term gains.
I like to simplify things by starting off with this metaphor:
If a website were a car, the organic search channel would serve as the engine. The smoother your engine runs, the longer your car lasts, saving you tons of money and time in the future that you would have had to spend on expensive repairs.


F2R Essentials to Follow

Jessica Bowman has seven guiding principles to follow during the journey to becoming a Force to Reckon With (F2R) organization. These are meant to help you as you move through the Four Seasons of SEO Operations. I won’t reveal all seven essentials (buy her book already), but I will give you three of my favorite integration commandments and my perspective on each.

Essential #1: Socialize Regularly with Non-SEO Teams

Perficient Digital is currently a mostly US-based remote agency so just walking over to someone else’s desk isn’t physically possible. I used to be able to do this years ago, but acquisitions now allow me to work with some of the best from the Midwest, East Coast, the South, and even abroad. Dealing with remote work teams is a massive challenge we haven’t yet mastered, but it’s amazing what Slack and video calls have done for our agency.
With Skype for Business and GoToMeeting, everything was a constant struggle and we finally switched to Slack and Zoom when enough was enough. We traded constantly missing pings (especially from Macs and the mobile app), awful video buffering and kicking each other off double-booked GoToMeetings for hilarious GIFs from Giphy and the infamous “Hummus” Slack Easter egg.


Essential #2: Deliver Clear Requirements in Writing

We use JIRA for almost every client, regardless of it’s an ongoing retainer, full-scale audit, or platform migration project. In Agile, it’s not typical to give so much detail into the “how,” but for SEO, it’s needed so that we avoid vague statements that are open to too much interpretation like “just make it SEO-friendly.”
When I create a new JIRA ticket, I attempt to follow agile guidelines for writing the user story:
As a (Role)
I Want (What)
So That (Why, Benefit)
After the user story is described, I expand it by filling out the additional ticket fields to provide as much detail as possible, especially for technical SEO specifications. Examples, links to deliverables, and different use cases are then added under Implementation Notes, just like in the real-world JIRA ticket example below:

JIRA ticket example for adding canonicals to Magento categories

Figure 1: JIRA ticket example for adding canonicals to Magento categories

Essential #3: Deliver Requirements Consistently

I just ran into this issue where I requested an extra content block component at the bottom of every category listing page and got push-back from the dev team. They didn’t feel the request was necessary because they had just worked on another project with another SEO who didn’t ask for it.
Although we strive for consistency, your SEO army needs to understand that SEO isn’t a checklist or something that can always be replicated. My team and I are starting to compile examples of JIRA tickets specific to each platform so that we can handle these scenarios and ensure consistency, thoroughness, and accuracy through the entire organization.

Part II Key Takeaways

  • Middle management is the most important stakeholder to earn buy-in
  • Project work is the #1 killer of integration and keeps you stuck in Chase Mode of SEO operations
  • Don’t let remote working environments prevent you from building relationships with the non-SEO teams
  • Always deliver consistent SEO requirements in writing and consider developing JIRA ticket writing guidelines

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Renee Girard

Renee Girard is a Senior Organic Search Strategist and SEO Lead with nearly 8 years of agency experience at Perficient Digital out of the Milwaukee office. She leads SEO strategy for SMB to Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 enterprise clients and speaks at local universities and nationwide digital marketing events.

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