Depending on your company, it might be once a year, some companies do it once a quarter, and I sincerely hope there aren’t any companies that force marketers to do it on a monthly basis. But at some point we all have to justify investment in our channel. This is simultaneously a point of dread as well as a moment of the greatest opportunity – the chance to expand your program effectiveness, either by taking on new areas of focus or simply refining those you already have.
Considering how important this process is to a functioning SEO program, I’m surprised how little we tend to talk about it. Sure, a quick Google search will bring up some articles on the subject, but considering the importance of getting a program funding to run, probably not enough of them, and none will give you the magical formula needed to increase investment within your particular company.
The difficulty is likely the fact that companies internally can be so radically different in how they approach investment in marketing, sales, or any form of investment. Each individual you might talk to will have a story about how they secured their budget, but it will be almost undoubtedly political, personal, riddled with caveats, and rendered impotent with special cases and imperfect information.
Even so – it’s important to talk about, even in general terms. Working at an agency I see these budget discussions happening frequently, and after a while they start to follow a similar pattern. Let’s talk about some common elements needed for success.
First: Understand Who Controls the Budget – Speak Their Language (KPIs)
The first step to successful funding of an SEO program is understanding where the money is actually coming from. With smaller companies this is very straightforward as the company structure will be compact and you’ll know all the people responsible; bigger companies have a more difficult time keeping this clear and time and effort should be spent knowing how your budget is allocated internally, what departments get a cut, and who the decision-makers are.
Once you know who makes the decisions, you can get a sense of what they are looking to accomplish, and how SEO can be a part of their grand design. Their key performance indicators (KPIs) are going to be great indicators of what is important for the company as a whole, and how you can prioritize your SEO initiatives. A brand marketer is going to be interested in share of voice, how to influence the top-of-funnel SERPs to add your brand to the consideration set of prospective buyers. An e-commerce -focused manager is going to care what you can bring to the bottom line. Either way, you have value to bring to the table. Actually, that brings me to my next point…