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Teaching Your CMO About SEO – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Not every CMO is a channel expert and SEO is already a nuanced, ever changing channel as it is. When CMOs understand SEO’s complicated nature it helps them become better decision makers with marketing strategies. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton about what SEOs need to understand to help CMOs better understand what’s really happening in SEO.

Summary

  • SEOs should understand and analyze the reports being sent to their CMO and decide how SEO fits into the narrative the reports convey to begin explaining important aspects of SEO strategies.
  • Begin fulfilling SEO KPIs that align with CMOs’ goals to help them understand SEO’s relevance in marketing strategies.
  • Generate consistent KPI reports your CMO can track and document to see detailed information of SEO efforts.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to continue our conversation about how to teach your CMO SEO. Joining us again today is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of services at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data driven decisions. And yesterday Tyson and I talked about some of the KPIs that your CMO needs to think about to evaluate whether an SEO campaign is effective. And today we’re going to discuss how you can teach our CMO, the basic blocking and tackling of SEO. Okay, here’s the rest of my conversation with Tyson Stockton Searchmetrics’ vice president of services.

Ben:                  Tyson, welcome back to how to teach your CMO SEO, on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:             One of my favorite subjects. Thank you, Ben.

Ben:                  We joked about this offline, about how you have to use small words, talk slowly. Those are really the ways that you teach your CMO, how to do SEO. And obviously we’re joking. There are lots of CMOs who are very intelligent and have a great understanding of organic growth. But there’s also a lot of CMOs who are essentially paid decision makers. They’re not channel experts and SEO is a complicated, nuanced and constantly developing channel. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the ways that you’ve seen that are effective for SEOs to talk to their CMOs, if their CMOs don’t really understand organic growth.

Tyson:              Yeah. So this is definitely a common piece. I think a lot of it can come down to just familiarity time. What’s been reported on in the past. But the first point of element that I would say is, do your homework and really try to get your hands on as many reports that are also going to the CMO or any other executive that you’re wanting to make sure that you’re controlling the narrative around SEO too. And I think this is really important as far as just making sure that SEO is good in the company. But this is something that oftentimes can get overlooked. So starting out, whether it’s looking at the paid reports, looking at direct reports from email campaigns, whatever it is, try to get your hands on many things, and then try to understand what consistencies there are.

Tyson:                 A lot of times there’ll be some consistencies across different types of reporting. And you want to hone in on things like the language that’s used, the typical structure of it. And the reason why you’re doing this is you want to create familiarity. They’re just inherently going to be some body of SEO that this executives or the CMOs are going to know. And some that are going to be new to them. So by understanding what the familiar terms are and things like that, you’re able to mirror that in your SEO reports. And then that way, the only new elements or most of the new elements that they’re getting, are the new pieces that you’re wanting to teach them. If you’re giving them a new layout, a new structure, new terminologies, and then trying to introduce things like new KPIs, all of those pieces that are new. So being able to tie to some familiar elements, I think is always really helpful in teaching something, not just to CMOs, it could be anyone really in an organization, but I think that’s one thing that I’ve seen to be very effective in evangelizing SEO.

Ben:                     Yesterday when we were talking about some of the KPIs and you were talking about ranking and crawling and a couple other, just general SEO terms, and my spidey senses went off thinking, “Tyson, you’re talking nerd to a CMO.” Right? That’s the problem, is CMOs generally don’t know the language. And so a lot of what happens with driving organic growth, even on some of the terms that are basic blocking and tackling for SEOs, often are not things that are understood by your CMO. And so I think when you’re trying to communicate with an executive audience, the first thing you need to do is actually recognize who is in your audience. There is a difference between us having a conversation and throwing around terms like crawl bloat and position zero, any basic SEO term that the people listening to this podcast probably understand, but their CMOs don’t speak that language. And so you need to speak their language and understand their KPIs and translate what you’re doing into CMO speak. They are inherently generalists because they have to understand the basics of every channel.

Ben:                    Now, understanding that you have to translate SEO into general marketing and executive speak. What are some of the things that you find SEOs need to teach CMOs, to actually make them understand the basic blocking and tackling of what’s happening?

Tyson:                I think maybe just a couple tactics on how to introduce the new items. Because when we went through the KPI funnels and you’re saying, “Hey crawl efficiency or crawl activities are going to go way over their heads.” It’s nerd speak. Well, one small little tactic is reverse the order then, of your KPIs. So the ones that are more technical or going to be more foreign, are going to be those early stage, early indicators, flip it around. So the first KPIs then that they’re seeing are familiar ones like conversions, traffic, or sessions and work it down the other way. And then another tactic is also, you can choose … Sometimes there’s different things that you can use and you can also pair them next to each other.

Tyson:                So say one of the items that you want to teach your CMO to use is SEO visibility instead of just average rankings. So one tactic that you can use to introduce that is, have some reports and have SEO visibility next to the average ranking, call out the average ranking. And then have the SEO visibility. More than likely you’re going to get questions. It’s “Okay, I get this, but what is this number?” Maybe it wasn’t mentioned, or you briefly went over. And so as they see it a few times and you’re tying it to something that’s already familiar with, “Okay, I get keyword ranking. That makes sense. Okay, that’s how it connects to SEO visibility.” So it’s, again, you’re finding those similarities to it.

Tyson:                I think more pointed to your question of what do you need to teach your CMOs? I think the biggest one is that you need these leading indicators, as well as the lag indicators. A lot of times the focus of the conversation’s just on what is the conversions, what is the traffic? So getting them to understand that SEO is this longer play game, and you need those pieces early on, to see if you’re going down the right track.

Ben:                    I think that’s a really important point. And it even goes into the acronym that talks about the methodology of marketing. We’re talking about SEO, you’re already search engineering. What we’re talking about is the optimization practice. And so understanding and making parallels between what is being essentially crawled as, “Hey, here’s the pieces of content that we’re creating. Here’s what Google is picking up that they can serve to our audience.” So if you’re making a parallel to a performance marketing campaign, your crawl is your pieces of creative. Your rankings is essentially your impressions. How many times are we showing up and how valuable are those impressions? And then you get into the standard metrics that CMOs are used to looking at site traffic, conversions, then you could take it to the rest of the business results.

Ben:                   I think the other thing that is important for SEOs is, you mentioned this, that there are leading indicators and that there are trailing indicators and getting across the timeline it takes and setting expectations for the value of SEO. As you start thinking about the value SEO can have and understanding that it takes a while to get a campaign up and running to actually do the optimizations. And it’s a constant set of optimizations, not just one tweak that’s going to be a seismic landscape shift. Talk to me about how you work with your CMO to help them understand some of the benefits that SEO can have on your brand. And some of the other channels within marketing.

Tyson:                That’s a good one. And I think that’s one, that’s also typically something that takes time. One element of it is for a lot of websites, especially the ones that are definitely clearly guided by online performance, SEO is typically going to be one of the larger channels of bringing users in. You’re talking about ecommerce sites. 60 or 50 percent range of the total revenue and traffic coming in, is coming from organic. That I think is obviously an easier case to make, because I think it’s a little more common not understanding there. For the biggest one I’d say is like showing the magnitude of it. And then also getting into ones where depending on what the attribution type is that the website’s using, you can often times show also how SEO plays into other channels as well. So you have rear front runner is just the revenue and benefit to the bottom line that SEO is having.

Tyson:               And then another supplemental piece of that is, also looking into how many touch points are going to course in ecommerce. A lot of times it’s going to be, “Okay, we got a touch point through a paid ad, and maybe a display ad, organically, direct, a few others, and then eventually they made the conversion.” So you have this immediate impact. And then also you can have this influencing piece as well.

Ben:                  Yeah. I think that there’s two components to think about. One is from a brand awareness perspective. If you have great SEO and you have lots of visibility, you’re serving a lot of ads that even if they aren’t clicked on you’re building the recognition for your brand every time someone searches for something relevant to it, even if you’re not driving a click, people are still reading about the domains, reading essentially what would be a text ad, there is brand value to that.

Ben:                    On the flip side, there are also experiences that Google is surfacing more and more, that are actually presenting content from your brand without driving a click, your zero click, your voice search. So there’s times when people are actually interacting with your brand, where you’re not getting the opportunity to drive a direct click, so you can’t track conversions.

Ben:                    As you’ve worked with lots of enterprise companies, ecommerce services, all sorts of different businesses. When a company embarks on a significant SEO optimization effort, do you have a sense of what type of lift they’re seeing an organic direct and brand? How is SEO impacting some of the other channels that CMOs are in control of? How does it explain the unexplainable?

Tyson:               There’s no denying that kind of bleed over between these different marketing channels. And I think it’s hard to attribute a specific percentage of, “Okay, if you increase this channel, you’re going to have this impact to SEO.” And I think the notion and the understanding of how these pieces play into each other, is absolutely there. And looking into your conversion funnels, as far as how many touch points you had with the customer before they ultimately converted, that’s going to give you the best line of sight into that. It’s going to be so drastic. And I’ve seen so many variations between one organization or one business type and another, that I wouldn’t say that there’s a one size that’s typically if you decrease by 10 percent in here it’s going to be 20 percent over here, that there absolutely is that play off and that collaboration between the different channels.

Ben:                   Yeah, absolutely. And in the same way that when you start a performance marketing campaign and you’re building visibility, if you were to do a display campaign, you’re going to see a lift in organic and direct conversions. The same goes the other way. When you start getting more visibility within SEO, it’s going to improve your brand awareness, which is going to improve your performance marketing efforts as well. Tyson at the end of the day, CMOs are not channel experts. We need to educate them. We need to talk in their language. We need to teach them about the expectations for SEO and how it can have an impact on some of the other channels. Are there any other bits of advice you have for the SEO community for how they should work with their CMO?

Tyson:               Yeah. I think one other seems like a very simple one, but I think sometimes it’s overlooked or there’s reservation to it, is consistency. I’ve seen sometimes SEOs will be hesitant to broadcast out reports in the organization because if things go down, they don’t want to have the line of sight on it. And I think that is in some cases a concern. But having that consistency of reporting is what ultimately helps build the awareness and the understanding, so then you can evolve those KPIs over time. And I think whenever you start with, “Okay, these are my KPIs that I’m going to be using to communicate with the organization.” They don’t necessarily have to be stagnant. Like you could start with a ranking KPI and evolve to an SEO visibility KPI over a couple of months, but it’s more of that consistency of getting these numbers, making sure that they’re aware of how much SEO is contributing to the business bottom line.

Tyson:               So it’s that consistency of making the connection of, “This is how SEO is impacting X part of our business’ bottom line.” And that regardless of being tied to initiative, you’re always going to get the questions of, “Hey, orders are down, what’s going on?” I would rather be in the position of, I’ve been communicating these KPIs. So there’s familiarity already. And then when something either drastically increases and we can take credit for it or drastically decreases, I don’t want to have to be building that education or that foundation knowledge up, and then just be reporting on fire drills. I want to have some consistency in the organization and awareness already built.

Ben:                   I think everybody needs to write these words down, “Performance marketing is like eating candy. Organic growth is like eating your broccoli. Over time it will make you big and strong, but it doesn’t provide the same burst of energy that you’re going to get if you just eat straight sugar.” That to me is the biggest message you need to get across to your CMOs. We’re building a house, we’re not buying the groceries. It’s not immediate satisfaction. It’s something that takes a lot of work over time to continually build up and it’ll get more and more useful the more we put into it.

Ben:                   And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of services.

Ben:                  We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile, in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is Tyson underscore Stockton. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.

Ben:                  Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions, or you can even apply to be a guest on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our show’s handle is Voices of Search, and my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.