Bit of a disclaimer before you read too far and get angry with the lack of “real” SEO tips –
This post is more about getting SEO done rather than pure SEO. The point being (as the title of this post implies) that even if you are an SEO rockstar, it doesn’t mean you are good at getting shit done.
This probably applies even more if your job title has the word “consultant” in it. Yep, mine has it! I bet that loads of SEO Consultants read loads of great SEO blogs, follow loads of great SEO people on Twitter, go to loads of great conferences. Does it mean they can do SEO? Nope.
Does the client care that you do all this stuff? Nope.
Does the client care about the work you do for them and what their ROI is? Yes!
Relating this back to real life
Back in May this year I joined Distilled. I was super excited about going to a company that not only specialised in SEO, but were one of the leading UK companies. I was super excited about how much more I could learn about SEO. I couldn’t wait to get inside Distilled and learn all the “secrets”, oh and before you ask, I can’t tell you!
Looking back over the last seven months, I have learnt LOADS. But to be honest, although I’ve learnt loads of SEO stuff, the more valuable stuff I’ve learnt has been more focused on getting shit done.
Before I joined Distilled, I worked for Pin Digital where I was in the enviable position of being in total control of client websites. If I wanted some development changes (within reason) I could usually get them done. It was just a case of walking next door to the developers and asking nicely.
I didn’t appreciate how valuable this was. We were also in the fortunate position of working with companies who were big enough to understand the value of SEO, but not so big that they did their own SEO. So we took pretty much 100% control over work and it was our job to get stuff done. This isn’t that difficult in SME companies where you have control of the development side of the site too.
What I Learnt (sometimes the hard way) at Distilled –
SEO means nothing unless it gets done
A few months after starting, I was fortunate enough to take part in some in-house training sessions. Will blogged about one of them here, the other was with a super smart person on the subject of influencing change and basically getting shit done. The latter was probably the single most important thing I’ve learnt since starting at Distilled.
It changed just about everything about the way I did stuff.
I realised that being able to look at a client’s website and make SEO recommendations wasn’t enough to make a difference to their business. Providing reports and strategy documents wasn’t enough to make a difference to their business. Swapping emails with clients wasn’t enough to make a difference to their business.
Influencing Change and Getting Shit Done makes a difference to their business
To do this is not easy. I’m by no means perfect at it. It essentially comes down to a few key things –
1 – Know your client – you can’t do this over email
We’re all geeks, we don’t like using the phone. But it is by far the best way (short of meeting in person) of getting to know your clients. I was far too used to just swapping emails with clients and feeling like that was enough. Instead of this, I tried to concentrate on proper contact with clients over the phone and even working from their offices or sitting in on their internal meetings.
I was naive as to the power of just being around in a clients office. I was amazed when a client told me that just me being present at one of their planning meetings was enough to help the SEO tasks get done. I hadn’t even said anything!
Just working at a clients office – even if you’re doing other client work – is incredibly valuable because you are there for the client if they need you. You also overhear their regular day-to-day workings and get to know their methology and how they work. Again, very valuable information that will help you when it comes to getting shit done.
2 – Know who matters at your client company – who makes decisions and who pays your invoice
I don’t mean just know who the CFO is! You’ll usually have a person who is your main point of contact, but in some cases they’ll always have someone to report to. It could be their manager, the board of directors or the owner of the company. Either way, find out who it is and what you need to do in order to get them on board with your SEO efforts.
If you have a point of contact who does report to someone else – make them look good in front of their boss. Take them out for lunch, get to know them and what makes them tick.
3 – Take ownership of the problems
This is paramount to any project. Its easy to take ownership of the solutions, thats the fun bit right? Coming up with creative solutions and implementing them. But what happens when you hit a problem? I’m yet to work on any SEO project that hasn’t hit problems along the way in some form or another. When problems arise, take ownership of them and solve them. Don’t file the email away or leave it for someone else to deal with. Do it yourself.
4 – Don’t think that delivering a document is the job done
As consultants, many of us are used to delivering strategy documents which are essentially reports. It probably contains problems that need to be solved and may include some solutions to these problems.
This isn’t doing your job.
Sorry, sounds harsh but its true. Most good SEOs can deliver a document that is a comprehensive technical site audit – how many of them make sure it gets done? How many deliver it in a format that can be given straight to a developer to be implemented?
Not as many.
I’ll be honest – I’ve learnt this the hard way. It was one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt so far and it is now always in the back of my mind when I deliver anything to a client.
When you deliver something to a client, its your job to deliver change which gets done and gets them results. Thats it.
Seriously, thats it.
If you don’t influence change or make stuff happen, you’ve failed.
As I said, I’m by no means perfect and I’m learning all the time. Part of the reason for writing this post was to give a reminder to myself how important this stuff is so I can refer back to it. I also wanted to share some insight into why I think just being good at SEO isn’t enough and you shouldn’t rest on your laurels thinking thats it.