Over the last week and a half, I gave talks at Searchfest in Portland and MNSearch in Minneapolis about technical SEO. I pulled one over on both audiences though, as the real meat of the talks was about getting buy-in for making technical changes on your website (what I called technical SEO debt.
I defined technical SEO debt as:
A metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor or evolving architecture or SEO problems/dependencies within a website.
Both talks started with the statement that many sites need to quit focusing on linkbuilding and fix the technical debt that they owe on their websites. You see, every executive is busy and has their hands in multiple pots, so for any of the departments under them they need something to hang their hat on – rankings, traffic, revenue, whatever. For a lot of marketing managers or CMOs, who have only a very rudimentary understanding of SEO, that will be links, so they push for more links as that is what they understand. They think links will get them the money that they want, but we all know that is not true.
If links are all that mattered for SEO, then the sites in positions 6-8 in the below chart should rank at the top -
But they don’t. Link analysis would reveal this when analyzing the top 10 results of any SERP -
Technical debt runs rampant across the Internet, partially because of this insane focus on linkbuilding. Linkbuilding is sexy and important, I get it. But in the shift from page-centric to site-centric focuses by Google in the past couple years (favoring strong websites), technical SEO has become more and more important, yet it is still largely ignored. I even joked at Searchfest that I was glad that no linkbuilding session was occurring during my technical SEO session alongside Justin Briggs because no one would have attended our session.
Achieving Buy-In for Technical Changes
You have probably had someone, either a boss or client, say to you, “We need to know the ROI before we will allocate budget for this.” When you are working on the enterprise scale, we are not usually talking small budgets either, but rather at least in the 10s of thousands of dollars, and sometimes even higher than that.
Step 1: Potential Revenue Modeling
The first step to achieving buy-in for changes to dig into the technical debt on our sites is to model the potential ROI. This means:
* Identifying the keywords
* Identifying the debt and changes that should be made
* Identify the cost of making changes (effort needed to make the change times the developer hourly rate)
* Average conversion rate for that type of page
* Average amount of revenue per conversion
Once you have all of this, the model is:
Step 2: Pitch a Test
In these cases, I recommend pitching a test big enought to give statistically significant results (at least 30 data points), which will require only a portion of the budget needed to make changes across the site. This way, you can measure the results and pitch a more accurate revenue amount once all of the changes have been made.
An example that I gave was of a client where we added internal links and saw a good increase in rankings:
Then, based off that test, we were able to get buy-in to make more changes. We changed keyword targeting and saw another good jump:
ReModel and Repitch
Once your test has had time to process and the pages have all been recrawled, measure the results. Then, you can pitch to complete the rest of the changes, the remainder after the test, using:
1. Updated revenue per conversion
2. Updated conversion rate based on page type
3. Updated cost to fix (hours times developer hourly rate)
Here’s the model in case you missed it:
What are you waiting for? Start pitching and start making money!