How to Explain SEO to Your Stakeholders

By Olivia Diercks | April 2021

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Most companies, no matter their size, understand that an investment in their website is one that can be easily linked to ROI. After all, projects like new websites and website redesigns are more or less a known quantity, have a clear deliverable, and a set timeframe. So how do you - a nonprofit employee or company marketer - explain SEO in a way that resonates with your stakeholders?

Here is how you can explain SEO to stakeholders in a meaningful way:

 

1. Know and educate your audience.

It is important to take into consideration who your stakeholders are, both as people and as partners in your organization, so you can explain SEO in a way that will matter to them. Are your stakeholders top decision makers, financial officers, in charge of marketing and messaging - or a combination of these? Understanding what their role is in your organization and speaking to how SEO will help them achieve their goals is key. 

Once you've determined who your stakeholders are and how to reach them, it is time to educate.

Explain seo basics: what it is, what it is not, and what it means for your organization

Describing the basics of SEO empowers stakeholders to make a clear decision with all of the information. Ensure that they understand that SEO is not the same as SEM / Paid Advertising, that the main goal is to increase organic traffic and, in turn, rank, clicks, and conversions (you might also need to explain what organic traffic is!). It is also crucial to stress that SEO is a long game. This will set them up with foundational knowledge and clear expectations. 

Take this another step by laying out what SEO means for your organization in a tangible way. While an increase in organic traffic is the high level purpose of SEO tactics, it will resonate more with stakeholders if they understand that SEO helps you connect with and reach your audience directly, by ensuring your content is served up to users who are searching for the products and/or services you offer. This is an extremely powerful business development tool that is worth leveraging!

Avoid Jargon

As you're educating your stakeholders, stay away from industry-speak such as SERPs, toxic backlinks, nofollow links, meta data, etc. These terms have the potential to over complicate your presentation and distract your audience from what they should be focused on - why SEO matters for the organization. Keep it high level!

 

2. Provide examples and data to further explain SEO.

Your stakeholders now have a high level understanding of what SEO is and why it matters, but it's likely they won't take that and run with it. They'll need concrete examples of how your organization stacks up to your competition, pain points that customers might experience as they navigate your site, and evidence of how SEO is proven to benefit organizations like yours. Here are a few steps you can take to provide further value:

First, conduct an SEO Audit.

This will detail all the areas that are working - and those that aren't - within the SEO of your site. There are some free and paid tools that can help provide this information. You can watch this free, on-demand webinar on SEO for Nonprofits to give you ideas of what to include and where to find your data.

provide context for your seo audit.

1. Conduct searches on Google for services your organization offers (in real time), and show how you stack up to the competition. Are they continually earning higher rankings than your organization?  

2. Pull up a site page or two, and allow stakeholders to witness potential pain points users could be experiencing while on your website, such as: slow page speed, difficult navigation, or a site with no clear CTAs or internal linking structure.

explain seo benefits using concrete data.

If you're considering working with an agency, ask for a case study for a successful SEO campaign they have run. It should contain hard facts and numbers that prove how SEO benefitted their client, and allow your stakeholders to envision that tangible success for themselves. If you're trying to secure some time to devote to SEO in-house, or even if you plan to work with an agency, here are some enlightening statistics to share with your stakeholders:

  1. The first five organic search results on the first page of Google account for 67.60% of all the clicks. (Source: IMPACT+)
  2.  72% of marketers say the most powerful SEO tactic was relevant content creation (Sources: MOZ, HubSpot)
  3. 70% of marketers believe SEO is more effective than PPC (Source: IMPACT+)
  4. Conversion rates from search results are 10 times higher than conversion rates from social on desktops, on average. (Sources: MOZ, GoDaddy 2016)
  5. Only 0.78% of Google users click on results displayed on page 2 (Source: IMPACT+)
  6. Link building and in-depth, relevant content are the two most important factors used by Google to rank your website for search results. (IMPACT+)

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3. Outline clear, measurable goals.

One of the toughest sells for SEO is its demand of dedication and patience. In fact, you can stress that many SEO tactics are "free", they just take considerable knowledge, dedication, and time, to garner success. Which is why securing time and resources in-house or through an agency is critical. In order to get the green light, you must explain SEO goals clearly, and set realistic expectations. 

set smart goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Based on where you're at with current SEO efforts, set SMART goals for anticipated increase in organic traffic, leads, conversions, engagement, and rankings. 

show how your users / customers will benefit.

In the case of customer service or mission-driven organizations and nonprofits, it is important to impress upon stakeholders how SEO efforts will positively affect your website visitors, and further your mission as an organization. Tie SEO efforts back to your mission and vision, to remind stakeholders of the value it contributes.

explain how your goals contribute to the bottom line / mission

Walk stakeholders through how SEO affects each stage of your users' journeys. Explain how more traffic to the website, more leads, decreased bounce rates, and other metrics relate to the bottom line or overall mission of your organization.

 

4. Provide an example of what reporting will look like.

Remember that SEO audit we talked about? You can outline those findings using comprehensive but digestible reporting tools - like Google's free tool, Google Data Studio - to illustrate how the data corresponds to the goals you've set, and how you will measure/track those goals on an ongoing basis. Again, if you're looking to work with a particular agency, ask them to provide you with a sample report from whatever reporting tool they use, so stakeholders can clearly see how you will measure the impact of your SEO investment.

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5. Have a sample strategy set - but don't count on presenting it!

Once you've outlined what SEO is, demonstrated why your organization needs to devote time and money to it, and explained what the goals are and how you'll measure them, be ready to illustrate the how. Chances are your stakeholders will be more concerned with the results than anything else - but it's good to be prepared! Either ask your potential agency for a sample strategy they have used for a client in a similar industry as your own, or detail your own plan to mitigate and improve the issues that came out of your SEO audit.


By speaking to stakeholders in a way that resonates with and educates them, backing yourself up with examples and data, outlining SMART goals, and showing how progress will be attained and measured, you can explain SEO in a way that reflects its true value and impact for your organization. 

Topics: Tips and Tricks, Nonprofit Help, Digital Marketing

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