A lot of our readers fight the good SEO fight in-house. They’re working their butt off, dodging politics and doing everything in their power to make a case for why the company needs to invest more (or at all) in search engine optimization. But despite their efforts, the boss still doesn’t seem to show an interest in SEO.

Why? And what do you do?

How do you make the case for SEO in terms your boss can understand? Below are four reasons your boss doesn’t care about SEO and how you can turn it around.

You haven’t turned the data into a story

As humans, even smart humans, we’re not always good with interpreting data, which is troubling since most SEOs spent their day swimming in it. The trick is to take the raw data you receive from your analytics and transform it into something that is easier to understand. Typically, this involves creating a story around. Note I said a story, not a Power Point.

Use the analytics data that tells you where your users are coming from, which links are getting clicked, where you’re getting unexpected traffic, where people are abandoning and build a story around it by comparing and contrasting the numbers. Don’t show your boss the raw data; show her what the numbers mean. What does that number mean to the business in terms of sales, customer retention, and how you’re SO much better than your competition? That’s what she wants to see. She wants to see the view, not the trail you took to get there.

Rankings are up, but traffic is down

If you’re the boss, I can see how it sounds counter-intuitive. You probably can too. I mean, if you’re paying someone to focus on SEO and they say rankings are up – then why isn’t traffic up? Well, probably because you’ve finally cut out some of that meaningless, non-converting vanity traffic. The traffic you acquired by accidentally ranking for things your business really didn’t want to rank for. Now, instead of getting a lot of lookie-loos you’re getting people with real wallets. Real visitors are up, pretend visitors are down.

Again, go back to that data and compare and contrast the number of visitors you’re receiving with the number (and price points) of conversions you’re seeing. If you’re attracting more of the right audience, your boss should like what the numbers say. It’s all about putting things in the language your boss will understand. More often than not that language is money. Or vanity.

Your boss isn’t educated on SEO’s other benefits

When you’re working for a small in-house team, you’re often responsible for a lot more than “just” the company SEO. You’re wearing all the hats – you’re doing conversion optimization, you’re creating the Facebook page, the landing pages, you’re tweeting, etc – you’re building the brand as a whole. But your boss doesn’t always see that. He’s looking at conversions and while they’re going up, maybe they’re not going up to the degree that he’d expect them to. He’s not sure you’re worth the money he’s paying you.

Maybe it’s time to create a clearer picture of everything else you’re doing. While increased conversions is the SEO benefit all bosses long for, show him everything else you’re providing for the company. Things like:

  • Increased visibility not only in Web search, but in Image Search, Video Search, etc
  • Increased brand authority and perceived value
  • Lower cost of customer acquisition
  • Better brand sentiment
  • Larger percentage of the available market
  • Greater voice in social media & throughout the industry
  • More engaged customer base

All of these elements contribute to the overall health of the brand and will increase sales down the road, if not immediately.

Your boss thinks you’re a warlock

The reason my father tells everyone that I’m a secretary at Google with a slight tone of disgust in his voice is because he doesn’t understand what it is, exactly, that I do. And because he doesn’t understand it, he doesn’t necessarily appreciate it or see its true value. Depending on the state and size of your organization, your boss and my father may have a lot in common (I’m sorry). Your boss doesn’t need to know the dirty details of what you do all day, but he should understand the basic principles. Maybe that means having a sit down with him and explaining to him the rationale for what you’re doing or maybe it means getting better at how you present the information to him. But if your boss doesn’t understand what you’re doing and what search engine optimization really entails, then he’s likely to not really care. And that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

What’s the climate like within your organization? Is everyone onboard with SEO or do you find yourself continually having to justify what it is you do and why it’s so darn important to the business’ bottom line?


About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.


11 thoughts on “4 Reasons Your Boss Doesn’t Care About SEO


  • Don Rhoades on said:

    Thanks for this post, Lisa. I wonder if #4 is as common as I think it is. In some of my experiences, it has been perverted into they *think they know* and can have unrealistic expectations. Bureaucracy and under-informed middle management can contribute to being undervalued, even if the boss values SEO. I have been in situations where the boss may understand, but trad marketing dept folks are scared that I’ll take their lunch and sabotage/undermine or refuse to understand. I’m glad I’ve experienced these situations because now I’m better prepared to get pertinent staff involved earlier on and to inform them how they can help our cause as a whole instead of being fearfully secular. I can certainly improve how I present information in the future.


  • Jerry McCarthy on said:

    Lisa,
    Good post and very relevant. As a matter of fact, the post I’m working on today is a spin off of yours (great minds..). One of the biggest objections we get from potential s.e.o. clients is they already paid someone to do s.e.o. a while back and didn’t see any benefits. And here’s the best part-when we dig deeper in terms of what was done, we can sum it all up in one question; how much a month were you paying? The general answer is either $99 or $150 per/month. Can you say “almost criminal?” The ‘s.e.o.’ (if they can even call themselves that) companies out there pitching these rip off programs make it harder for legitimate companies like Outspoken Media or Premier Pixels. I don’t mind unraveling preconceived notions but as s.e.o. houses, we need to prepare ourselves and our team for this objection going in.
    Of course Lisa, we all strive for the ideal clients (medium or large businesses) but how do you change the shift in thinking from SMBs who don’t understand the concept “you get what you pay for?” We’ve been fairly successful in our ability to explain the difference but it’s important to understand going in that a lot of these businesses have been sold on these half ass programs before, thus leaving a bad taste in their mouth. Thanks Lisa and have a great weekend!


    • Garry on said:

      Boy did you just sum it up. I have to restrain myself when I hear future prospects say ‘I was spending $100 per month and I didn’t see any sales therefore SEO doesn’t work.’

      Another ignorant-boss-moment is when you drive traffic to the corporate website then it’s dismissed because it didn’t lead to any sales and boss won’t authorize a site/graphics/layout upgrade to convert the traffic.

      A favorite of mine is most always from the sales department: “People don’t find our products through the Internet. Our sales come from cold-calls and networking with other people.” Yes, they are convinced that no one uses the internet except to use eBay, Amazon, and watch porn.

      That’s why i left working SEO for Corporatioins. The inevitable-idiot-boss who is in a position of authority and always has ‘sales’ troubles on his hands. Yet comes up with ideas like ‘let’s give everyone branded coffee mugs’ at the monthly sales meeting as their go-to strategy.

      ‘The Office’s” Michael Scott character isn’t too far off.


  • Chris Pantages on said:

    My parents are also clueless about what I do (and they live in the SF Bay Area!) Last time I visited my dad wanted to make sure my job wasn’t to create pop-up ads in his Yahoo email. Of course,a few years back, they also asked my I didn’t create YouTube.


  • Emily on said:

    Seriously, get out of my head. This post hits very close to home for me and pretty much defines all of my frustration lately. :)

    I work in-house at a very small company. I do everything you listed (SEO, social media, content creation, even web design). But I struggle with communicating the value of what I am doing. I’ve been here a year and while searches for our brand name are up something like 500%, the sales haven’t been there to support it. I can sense increasing frustration with my boss, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get the message across.

    Yesterday he asked why a press release about our company that was picked up by a major industry publication was not in the first page of search results for our brand name. *facepalm*

    Anyways, THANK YOU for this. I’m considering actually sending it to my boss. :)


  • Mike Roberts on said:

    “Your boss thinks you’re a warlock”
    I’m changing my job title now. :)
    I’ve heard people refer to SEO as black magic, voodoo, making sacrifices to the gods of Google, and various other esoteric sounding phrases. When I try to explain what I know of SEO to my managers they get sort of glassy-eyed… as though any moment now blood will begin to drip from their nostrils due to some form of cerebral hemorrhage induced by the mystical terms flowing from my mouth. Then they ask me to rank position 1 for keyword X and walk off as though anything meaningful has come from the discussion. Hell, I’ve only being doing this for 4ish months and the people around me seem to believe I have to power to make “Link Juice” flow up walls at command. This may all eventually cause me to have a nervous breakdown but until then I shall soldier on.


  • Cody Ian on said:

    SEO is really important for any business.
    IF your boss truly understand the true value, you wont bring so much more to the company and your boss will see you differently :)


  • Simon Yohe on said:

    Good article…. I think you are missing out on one important aspect…. the fact that our society is based on instant gratification. Proper SEO takes time for it to grow and be successful… a lot of bosses and companies are focused on the “now” and don’t want to invest/spend effort on something that they believe “may or may not” happen. Using your “warlock” reference, I would say that another good analogy would be SEO is “magic beans”.


  • Ioana on said:

    They don’t understand because they don’t want to, it’s as simple as that. This would require listening, making an effort to understand and being open to new ideas. Many just want things to be simple and rosy and coincide with their own ideas. And they will resist anything else.
    I’m not a warlock, I just “optimize keywords” and when I attempt to make a story my e-mails aren’t being read because they’re too long.


  • Jolly on said:

    Thanks for the post Liza. SEO is important in a business and a boss that ignores SEO doesn’t really understand the true value of SEO. Maybe they are not internet savvy and are not familiar with internet marekting, social media, and so on. Nowadays, it is important for a business to have an internet exposure and to present the products and services in the web.


  • Scott Clark on said:

    The crap hits the fan in the following scenario:

    Boss looks at Google. See’s competitor X at #1, his company at #5.
    SEO pushes case for blogging, social content, curated content. Largely based on Google/Bing’s sermons on same.
    Boss points out that competitor X has nothing like that on their site, still rank #1, and is eating his company’s lunch. And their site looks is a Gomomma quick-site that uses comic sans.
    SEO points out that competitor X has lots of links from Great-Biz-Directory.info, a trashy directory, but those links will soon not matter and the competitor X will soon be dropping in the rank. Any day now. Yep. Any time.
    Boss loses interest, types on his Blackberry, reminds employee that performance reviews are coming up.


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