A recent 97th Floor survey of SEOs revealed that "not enough leadership support" is the biggest challenge SEOs face in getting projects moving. The second biggest obstacle, "not enough budget", is often a bi-product of leadership support.


Getting leadership buy-in on the long game of SEO can be hard - especially when other channels are more quickly proven.

Use these three tips to win the hearts of leadership and sell your SEO strategy.

1. Find (or Recruit) an SEO Champion

You’ll be a whole person ahead if you have someone in leadership who believes in the massive potential of SEO. Which decision maker seems the most interested in SEO? Who can be a voice for SEO in decision-making meetings?

Identify this stakeholder and then involve them in your SEO work. Consider pitching this executive first, or otherwise involving them in your strategy development. Communicate with them often and be sincere in your efforts to collaborate with them.

This individual’s enthusiasm for SEO, strengthened by their invested time with you in strategy, can make all the difference in prioritizing SEO projects and getting you budget.

2. Show Value in Storytelling

To increase the resources coming towards SEO efforts, you need to create urgency by showing the consequences of neglecting SEO—the opportunity cost.

Tom Capper, Senior Search Scientist at Moz, agrees that "when dealing with larger organizations, it's common practice to spell out and estimate the positive ROI of action. What's less common is to spell out the risks of inaction, but often large, established brands, who have a lot more to lose, find it easier to act on this kind of rationale."

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Low priority SEO may not sink your company, but how can you show leadership the lost potential (read: revenue) of failing to start?

We have found that competitive comparison as quantified by market share is one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the opportunity cost of neglecting SEO—market analysis is one of the most important jobs of top-level leadership.

Sam Oh, VP of Marketing at Ahrefs, says, "One of the best ways for SEOs to show value to top-level leadership is through competitive analysis. It’s best when you can show it visually in graphs and then add context to educate leadership about what’s happening and why. It may be obvious that a competitor’s organic traffic is exploding, but help leadership see what tactics and strategies would be in play and how long it realistically takes to see results like this."

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You may also want to demonstrate the opportunity cost in terms of savings.

Crystal Carter, Head of SEO Communications at Wix, puts it this way, "Leadership cares about revenue, but they also care about savings. Learning your customer’s journey can reveal content that can save the business time and energy. For example, if you learn that customers often contact customer service with the same question, create content that answers that question. This way, your customer service team is addressing real needs instead of sharing basic information.This saves time and energy, while also increasing value for your users."

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3. Set Expectations

SEO is a long game. If you want to minimize the irritating, “are we there yet,” conversations, consider handing leadership a map.

Based on your strategy, identify what immediate wins (or signals) leadership can expect, and how long it will take for SEO efforts to reach the bottom line. Set expectations for reporting frequency and metrics.

Perhaps most important, acknowledge to leadership that SEO is impacted by many things that are not in an SEOs control.

Ancestry’s John Crockett explains, “SEO is measured based on what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. We’re only one part of that. We have to worry about how Google’s going to interpret new initiatives. We also have to worry about what our industry competitors are doing. We have to worry about what our search competitors are doing.”

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It is imperative that you clarify the difference between branded and non-branded keywords. Distinguishing between the two will help you explain variation in traffic that is unrelated to your SEO work. Branded keywords are heavily dependent on external factors like PR, TV and advertising. Non-branded keywords are in the scope of SEO, so try to delineate and report the traffic, keywords and revenue for non-branded keywords.

By keeping goals specific, timelines clear, and confidently pitching SEO as an important strategy supported by your SEO stakeholder champion, you can win leadership favor and a signed check for your great work.