Avoiding Three Common SEO Gremlins

You’d think at this stage of the search marketing game, best practices for Search Engine Optimization would be foregone conclusions and everyone would be on board regarding the importance of executing on search initiatives. Well, unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Mom always told me if you can’t be good at something; don’t bother doing it at all. Ok, so maybe Mom didn’t pass that little gem on to me, but in our struggles do the right thing, make the client happy and accomplish objectives sometimes we fall short.

And sometimes, just sometimes, there are well-intentioned, overzealous or inflated egos in the room when you are trying to move an initiative forward. Moving an SEO initiative (or any marketing initiative) along can be a daunting task in and of itself without gremlins, so here’s a look at the top three and what do with them.

1. The Matt Cutts Speed Dialer

In a decade or so of search marketing, this guy has derailed more meetings than any other. He’s a junior marketing guy installed at the agency who recently attended his first search marketing conference. He charged the stage to meet the Google guy. He may even have the word “strategy” in his title. He hasn’t yet realized the word “strategy” is just another way for an agency to get young people to do things cheaply, but that’s another rant.

No less than a month ago, I was sitting in an agency pitch and this guy actually claimed to have Mr. Cutts’ ear any time he felt the need to contact him. While Matt does a great job (considering his star status in the propeller head community) getting back to people, I’m not sure anyone should be making a claim like the one I heard. It had been a while since someone tried to sell me that doozy, but this little gremlin is to be avoided at all costs.

In short, do you really want to hire someone that purports to spend so much time with the spam czars? This person may also claim to have an audience with President Obama, The Pope and Eddie Vedder. Run away.

2. The CMO Derailer

I love this guy. Somebody really smart once said a CMO is trying to outrun a bullet fired from the CEO’s office from the day he’s hired. The struggle to maintain a positive perception of the work is arguably the most difficult for the Chief Marketing Officer. All too often, this effort manifests itself as a panic-induced meeting or process interruption. He’ll walk into a meeting to demand why everyone is spending so much time on this effort.

A good SEO execution requires designers, content strategists, marketing, e-business and marketing communications folks. Any time a senior manager sees that many people in one room or dedicated to what may be perceived as a line-item effort, said manager wants to know everyone’s time is well spent.

The best way to handle the derailer gremlin is to give him the short version of why everyone is involved in the effort and how it will make him appear God-like when the effort begins to show signs of success. This explanation is almost always best left to a good agency or internal client advocate. You must never exhibit doubt or fear — remember CMOs and dogs can smell fear and once you’ve lost the derailer’s confidence, it is very difficult to get it back.

3. The Brand Guy

Ah the brand guy. The brand guy is making more and more appearances in marketing departments as brands struggle to understand massive amounts of information coming their way.

The brand guy is a genius; just ask him. He twists and layers third-party data to form the perfect customer profile. He loves to talk about how he’s shaping the world with just the right combination of data points and gut feelings. Of course the perfect profile is never quite finished and his next big project will only require a wholesale re-shaping of your search marketing efforts.

Ironically, it’s often the brand guy calling SEO a bunch of mumbo jumbo (in an expression of his own inadequacies), so you have to handle him with kid gloves.

While it is important to understand your customer and apply that knowledge to almost all aspects of marketing and communications efforts, I’ve seen these gremlins get lost in the weeds too often to count. It’s important to know when to accept input and when to understand that information overload is actually hurting your efforts by sending the initiative off in bizarre directions like learning how to “target tweens with SEO’d-up pages.”

The brand guy is effectively managed by allowing him to contribute his information and waiting for his short attention span to reset itself. Usually, about 30 minutes into a meeting, you’ll see him start to shuffle in his chair. Shortly thereafter, he’ll have to excuse himself to go do something really important.

If he doesn’t leave on his own or insists on sending you off on a tangent, ask a question about layering in Prizm Clusters into Experian data to build a better roadmap. If that doesn’t work, start talking to the IT people in the room about load capacity and he’ll be out the door faster than you can say analysis paralysis.

In the end, it’s hard enough to keep your initiatives moving forward without the nudnik gremlin factor. Of course, there are plenty of other folks that want to send you sideways but learning how to deal with unusual personalities and incorporating their agendas into yours will help you unlock the long term success badge of search marketing.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Column


About The Author: is CEO of Motivity Marketing. Motivity ‘s focus is helping companies in the world of connected marketing move forward with greater impact and return than they may ever have thought possible. Kevin takes an active role in guiding the day-to-day strategic execution of client initiatives.

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  • http://twitter.com/rebecca_morrow Rebecca Morrow

    Imagine working for a company full of “brand fixers” and being the only SEO. Painful. 

  • Anonymous

    Funny, because its true.

  • Anonymous

    Oi, I’ve come from a brand background and moved into digital marketing because the research base is more accurate. I think both professions can co-exist. As the task of search is to forfill a brand promise of delivering the most targeted and relevent content towards the audience’ needs.

  • http://twitter.com/SFBaySEO Ross Taylor

    I’ve met that brand gremlin, and you described him to a tee, Kevin!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennifer.dunphy Jennifer Dunphy Rząsa

    Great read. I’ve dealt with them all, however, the CMO Derailer is the usual suspect in the majority of my meetings. 

  • Ken Howard

    I really like the Matt Cutts Speed Dialer scenario. I can see that happening in some other marketing circles too. Maybe someone has Mark Zuckerberg on speed dial too to help with Facebook Ads.

  • Anonymous

    SEO is often hard to sell, in a pitch or during a project. We can’t promise ’1.000.000 impressions and 1.000 clicks in week 40-44′, or a clear customer profile. That lack of transparancy can make non-SEO savvy employees in a project nervous and feel the need to ‘gain control’.

    That’s why, as an SEO expert, it pais to continuously advocate the SEO benefits of volume, free traffic and high quality of the visitors.

  • http://twitter.com/andrew_goodman Andrew Goodman

    A classic. And an excellent use of the word ‘czar’.

  • http://twitter.com/NickStamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    “a CMO is trying to outrun a bullet fired from the CEO’s office from the day he’s hired.”

    Great quote, but very true. In all my years as an SEO consultant, it seems like the CMOs are the ones in constant rotation. Each one has to prove himself almost immediately, which doesn’t lend itself well to the long term game that is SEO.


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