When I was a CMO, I hated  talking to vendors about SEO because they made it way too complicated—in some cases, it almost felt like the strategy was to confuse customers to the point they just give up and write a check so they don’t have to talk about it anymore. But now, I find myself on the other side of the conversation, having to discuss SEO to our clients and help them evaluate if it’s worth marketing investment.
The problem is SEO is often labelled as a “technical thing” because it’s simply not understood well enough by the marketing and business leaders who are making investment decisions. Since 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine, we know SEO is no longer a choice, but a necessity for businesses to build their online presence. Otherwise, you risk missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with prospective buyers that are searching for information to solve a problem that you are in the business of solving.
The current economic environment is putting a new level of scrutiny on marketing budgets, and despite SEO being such an imperative, marketing leaders find defending SEO investments to their CEO or CFO to be an uphill battle. That’s because in many cases, CMOs themselves don’t always understand SEO well enough to explain its impact in a tangible way. With increasing pressure on marketing to deliver results on a tight budget, CMOs can’t afford not  to include SEO as part of their marketing plan.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how I would define SEO to the C-suite:
Search engine optimization is the process of making changes to your website to rank higher in Google for certain keywords. As a result, you get more traffic from search and that translates to potentially higher conversions and higher revenue.
When I discuss SEO, I approach it by presenting SEO as a lever that ties in with the marketing plan, instead of a standalone priority. The singular goal of B2B marketing is to generate revenue. Increasing keyword rankings, and therefore increasing web traffic, must be connected to how that additional traffic will bring in additional demand that converts to pipeline and results in new sales. It’s not about higher search rankings, it’s about additional revenue.
3 Mistakes to Avoid When Pitching SEO
Mistake 1: Believing the goal of SEO is to get you to #1!
Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, and it’s going to be increasingly harder (and less predictable) to get that coveted top spot. In fact, a study by Ahrefs revealed that ranking #1 in Google is overrated.
While getting your website to number one was how SEO programs used to work a decade ago, now it’s all about getting prospects who are in a buy cycle to find you and visit your website. It’s not about just getting higher web traffic, it’s about getting traffic from the right individuals who are seeking a solution that you solve. What is more important: being number one for a term that management thinks is relevant, or tripling the amount of new pipeline that comes through your website?
57% of B2B marketers say that SEO generates more leads than any of their other marketing initiatives. (Junto)
Mistake 2: Using too much SEO jargon
Unless you’re talking to another SEO expert, chances are they aren’t going to care about the jargon and the technical aspects of how it works. I’d suggest leaving it out (or keeping it at a minimum) and talking in a language that your audience understands best.
So instead of answering the “what,” focus on the “why.” Your C-suite wants to know why SEO matters, and it’ll be easier to get their buy-in if you’re able to explain SEO’s impact on pipeline and revenue.
Mistake 3: Expecting SEO to fix all of your website problems
“If I just had more web traffic, I would have more sales.” Not always. Yes, SEO can increase web traffic. But increasing web traffic is only half of the equation. What happens when a prospect comes to your website? How often do they convert and request a demo, meeting, or content item? Think about SEO holistically under the umbrella of generating more pipeline and consider it in the context of driving digitally sourced demand.
Couple SEO projects with website user experience projects. Focus as much on getting more traffic to your site as you do in serving up the content and offers that will add value to your visitors. Use your website to help your prospect solve a problem, and leverage that to earn the right to tell the prospect who you are and what you do.
How to Handle the 3 Most Common Pushbacks You’re Going to Hear When Discussing SEO
Prepare for pushbacks from the C-suite when discussing SEO. Here are the most common objections you should expect and how to handle them:
It takes too long to see results
Your marketing program has different programs in it that each provide a different speed to value. Pipeline acceleration initiatives may produce an immediate impact on this quarter’s revenue. SEM/PPC initiatives may produce an immediate impact on this quarter’s new pipeline. SEO programs may have a longer-term orientation, but marketing’s job is to take a longer-term orientation and to launch programs now that are going to be the source of new pipeline in quarters to come. Sales is focused on building pipeline and revenue that closes now, while marketing is focused on getting future quarters of pipeline built for sales so that when those quarters come, there is opportunity for sales to pursue.
When you start site optimization and keyword content building, Google takes time to reflect these changes in the rankings. Think of the effort in doing this work now as the groundwork to build pipeline for quarters down the road—but remember that the reason for doing this is to create pipeline.
Our website traffic and positions will grow naturally anyway
The reality is almost everyone is doing SEO, and if you don’t, your site may rank lower than your competitors’ who do—and while you don’t have to be in the number one spot, prospects searching for a solution still won’t find you as easily if you slip down to other pages. Also keep in mind that Google’s algorithm is frequently updated and other websites may shift positions because they have newer content, or content that speaks to a long-tail question that your buyers are asking. The minute you stop focusing on SEO programs (i.e., content creation initiatives, high domain authority link building with PR, or website technical optimization) is the minute you allow your competitors to start to overtake your position and siphon off your prospects.
For example, a company with year-over-year web traffic growth of 5% could potentially increase that traffic to 10-25% in six months by targeting six keywords for higher ranking on Google. So SEO gives you the boost you need to gain higher web traffic and better-quality leads compared to letting your website grow naturally.
SEO can drive a 14.6% conversion rate. (Crazy Egg)
We have other priorities
SEO is not a standalone thing or a one-off activity. It influences every layer of your marketing plan and complements programs like PPC, social media marketing, and content marketing, amplifying your results even more. Nearly every B2B purchase (and B2C purchase for that matter) will touch an internet search. You want to be visible and found by your prospects whether they are searching for initial information, validating their options, or making a decision. Being absent will reduce the effectiveness of other marketing channels, and lower overall marketing-sourced demand-to-revenue conversion rates.
An important way to justify the ROI of an SEO investment is that it produces responders and leads, and increasing your rankings in Google also accelerates the pipeline that you have.
Conclusion: The 2X Perspective
So the next time you find yourself having a discussion with your CEO or CFO about why SEO is crucial to the marketing plan, put yourself in their shoes and think about what questions are important to them and how you can put their concerns to rest.
Ultimately, SEO should be a foundational consideration for your marketing campaigns, because if you know that your potential customers are searching for specific keywords, you want to make sure that your website turns up in that search. Think of it as an always-on investment that grows alongside your business.
At 2X, we run SEO programs to help our clients achieve greater pipeline impact from search engines, and we do so by growing the website’s organic search and optimizing the user experience to increase conversions. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you get your SEO program up and running or fine-tune your existing SEO strategy for greater revenue impact.