How to inspire content and development teams to go the extra mile for News SEO

I recently gave a presentation at BrightonSEO which was an honour and a privilege – but also  a bit of a personal challenge because I do find public speaking a bit of challenge at the best of times. However, I’ve made so many great contacts at this event that I thought I really should give something back. But what could offer that would possibly be of value to anyone, particularly on a subject so incredibly expansive as SEO? Well, in the end I just thought – I might not be an expect on EVERY aspect of SEO, but I AM an expert of MY OWN EXPERIENCE in SEO. So I thought an honest account was the best way forward…

Actually, presenting at the conference turned out to be perfectly fine – there was a great vibe and everything went smoothly, but as my shared slides contained very few bullet points or presenter notes, I thought I’d publish a post here with the gist of the whole thang. Here goes:

1. A simple SEO story goes a long way
I started my talk by simply saying this – if you can’t easily explain how SEO adds value to your business – then you might as well pack up and go home. It sounds like a ridiculously simple point but with such a complex beast like SEO, I would never underestimate the value of explaining the benefit of investing resources in this area in simple terms. If you CAN’T explain the benefits in, say, one or two lines, then you need to rethink your approach. What is your elevator pitch for SEO?

2.Let’s face it: SEO An’t Easy
No matter what they tell you, SEO, particularly News SEO, is not easy. When I first started learning this discipline I just could not get my head around the fact that there was not one ULTIMATE BIBLE OF SEO that could tell you everything you needed to know. In fact the reality was actually perfectly summarised by a t-shirt they sold at this year’s Brighton SEO emblazoned with the statement ‘It Depends.’ If you ask an SEO: ‘If we do this, will X happen?’ the answer is always going to be probabilistic – the answer will always depend on a number of factors. In-house teams, and those particularly structured around sprint cycles, HATE that line of reasoning.  It sounds a bit like: ‘Well, actually I don’t really know’ when really what you’re trying to say is: ‘If we take these steps then there is a higher probability that we MIGHT get the result we are aiming for.’

But anyway, so we know SEO is complex but life is short, so I talked about two ways to help teams get onside with SEO..

Well, the first is a no brainer and it was about raising the threat of COMPETITION,  or, even better, illustrating to the business the danger of DOING NOTHING. That might be simply illustrating how the organic reach of the competition has grown and linking that to some specific work they carried out.

But the ultimate goal must surely to be to help your business understand that SEO is a process of constant refinement, like a Formula One engine, you JUST HAVE to all agree that optimising is the best way forward if you have any chance of winning the race – and that’s equally about having a shared belief as having actual targets. To demystify it all: as SEOs we are trying to make better user experiences which MUST ultimately be better for long term audience engagement and conversion. Hmm, now that is beginning to sound like an elevator pitch, right? 🙂

4. Getting development teams onside: get your communication right.
The second half of my BrightonSEO talk was really just a very honest account of the mistakes I had made, particularly when trying to get technical SEO recommendations through with development teams. And, again, it so sounds so basic but it’s true: treat email with extreme caution. With a topic as complex as SEO AND without knowing the previous history that the development teams have had with SEO already sets you up to fail if you are communicating via email alone. You need to understand how SEO is perceived in the development team, the levels of understanding, if that team have been ‘burnt’ by SEO in the past i.e. they put a lot of work into optimising an area of the website with very little to show for it – and all of this is just by playing email tennis. You also have to reinforce the fact that SEO is a long-term game of incremental moves which can not be resolved in a couple of sprint cycles. And make sure you also attend and input on those measurement meetings!

3.Spot your SEO Heroes
This point is perhaps more specific to those publishers that don’t have a dedicated SEO team or SEO Editors, SEO journalists etc – and the point is this: from my experience, writers who take a keen interest in SEO tend to get really hooked – after all, it’s a fascinating subject. SO if you are a lone in-house SEO looking to scale up your operation it makes sense to spot these individuals who can help with sharing best practise across the wider team. And what kind of best practise? Well, I think it’s simply showing the articles that drove a spike in traffic, and the planning that went into them. Journalists are busy people, sometimes they don’t need a deep dive into the theory behind it all – but they do need to see a clear method of attack and feel they can reach out for support along the way. Identifying your SEO heroes is a great way of levelling-up your whole team.

So there you have it. At some point I will post the video here, but in the meantime you can view my slides below. See you in the serps!

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Steven Wilson-Beales

Content strategy consultant
I'm Head of Editorial at Global Radio, London looking after a fantastic range of websites including Capital FM, Capital Xtra, Heart, XFM, LBC, Classic FM and Smooth. Find me on and Twitter. Please feel free to email me here.