Just wanted to share that for the umpteenth time in my career, my direct experience is once again confirming that diplomacy trumps technical skill when it comes ensuring long-term SEO success.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting that any palooka off the street can succeed at SEO. Having at least a decent understanding of the fundamental underpinnings of natural search are still a prerequisite. However, more often than not, it’s the ability to collaborate with both internal and external stakeholders that makes the difference between mediocrity and rock start status.
Moreover, this key skill is required at all three core facets of SEO:
- Technical SEO
- Link Building (and yes, I’m lumping “SEO friendly” social content marketing in this bucket)
At the technical level, diplomacy can be the difference between getting your page, site, and server-level recommendations implemented quickly versus waiting weeks if not months (maybe even years in some extreme cases) for the dev/IT team to “get around to that SEO stuff.” It can also be the difference between getting looped in at the most preliminary stages of a major site redesign or CMS migration versus finding out about these initiatives midstream (or worse yet, after they’ve already been completed!).
As far as analytics is concerned, the value of diplomacy is inversely correlated with the size of the company involved. With smaller companies the SEO can often have direct control over analytics implementation as well as direct access to analysis via Google Analytics. At larger organizations, that precious SEO data can be a lot hard to access, particularly if said company is using more complicated analytics platforms like Omniture or Coremetrics. And when this is indeed the case, diplomacy can be the difference between getting direct access and setting up the necessary SEO-centric reporting dimensions versus performing SEO with a blindfold on.
I left link building for last because in my experience, it is where diplomacy is absolutely critical, particularly when dealing with enterprise-caliber brands. For starters, diplomacy is one of the skills that facilitates effective link building outreach. You have to get along with bloggers and webmasters in order to build the relationships that lead to inbound links.
But that’s 101 stuff.
The real heavy lifting occurs in terms of building the diplomatic ties that facilitate the kind of large-scale, authoritative link building activities that not only lead to an unassailable SEO advantage but can also set the stage for success in parallel channels like social media and public relations. But building these stakeholder ties is often fraught with all sorts of communication hurdles and bureaucratic red tape. It can require getting face time with and approval from:
- the social media team
- the PR team
- the brand marketing team
- the copy/content team
- the merchant team (if you work for a retail brand)
- the dev/IT team
- the legal team
- the tax liability team
- the finance team
- the executive team