Evangelizing SEO Executives SEO Career

How to Earn SEO Buy-In with a Compelling Narrative

Executives don’t usually understand, prioritize, or value SEO. There are a few reasons why this is:

  • Other channels, such as paid and email marketing, traditionally show a bigger and more immediate impact
  • They assume it takes too long to show results and are unsure what those results are or what they mean
  • They may have outdated misconceptions about SEO that impact their trust in the channel
  • They don’t have professional SEO or technical backgrounds, making it difficult for them to understand and justify investing in organic search

As a practitioner, you know these things aren’t true. One of the most consistent and ever-present struggles for an SEO is to educate and convince stakeholders that what they do matters. Too often only the SEO team understands how vital, impactful, and mission-critical their work is.

Getting stakeholders on your side requires good data, strong storytelling, and balancing confidence with making concessions. You must bridge the gap between the language leadership speaks and the language of SEO, transform long-held assumptions about your work, and deliver your insights with tact, confidence, and empathy.

It’s not easy, but we have a strategic framework to revolutionize your communication with clients and stakeholders. This article will help you outline a presentation that walks leadership through your results and earns their understanding, support, and buy-in.

The secret power of SEO storytelling

Our framework, adapted from the popular “They Say / I Say” format used in academic writing, is your secret weapon when it comes to educating, convincing, and winning support from executive stakeholders. It frames your analysis in a way that acknowledges common beliefs while introducing your contrasting perspective, all backed by data-driven insights. Leadership will come away from your SEO presentations with a better understanding of SEO, its impact on the metrics they care about, and how they can enable your work.

The SEO Narrative Framework graphic, a wheel with 5 steps at equidistant points around the perimeter. Each point aligns with an H2 section in this article.

Your SEO storytelling is just as important as the work you do. After all, if you can’t demonstrate why SEO matters or what its impact is, you’ll lose access to the resources you need to keep your work impactful. And without those resources across engineering, tooling, marketing, and more, the flywheel that drives SEO and business growth will grind to a halt.

In this article, we’ll cover our 5-step storytelling framework and provide audio examples of a presentation talk track that was crafted using this method.

Research & planning

The most compelling SEO stories are rooted in data. Before you can share your narrative with executives, you need to uncover just what your story is using trends and evidence from the data you have.

Gather your data

Head to your analytics tools of choice and collect the data that will inform your presentation. Maybe it’s focused on a particular project, or you’re doing a quarterly review. Whatever the case, you’ll want to define the beginning and the end of your story here:

  • What data are you looking at? Is it robust enough to build a narrative? Botify has 1,000+ metrics that help inform your storytelling, allowing you to select the most impactful data points that serve your presentation.
  • What bookends the timeframe? Was it a focused project you’re reporting on, or is this a scheduled overview?
  • What visuals do your tools provide that may assist in your storytelling? Visuals that tie your data to the metrics and outcomes executives care about — such as conversions and revenue — will strengthen your SEO story.

In Botify Analytics, we have a visualization of the SEO funnel that illustrates the relationship between crawled pages and conversions. This can be a good anchor to begin all your analytics deep dives.

A visualization of the SEO funnel, oriented horizontally with the wide mouth to the left labeled Known Pages and the thin end to the right labeled Convert.

Review the data

Look for insights, patterns, unusual activity, or anything else that should be investigated for your deep dive. Check the data for errors or omissions. Explore anomalies in the data and determine why they exist. What event triggered those anomalies? Does it relate to your story? 

If you’re using Botify, our new Annotations feature helps you keep track of significant events and milestones as they happen, making it easier to build your data story later on.

Form your theories

Determine a few theories. Why are you seeing what you’re seeing? This is a good opportunity to showcase your insight as a seasoned SEO. Your confidence and expertise will be a key factor in winning the hearts, minds, and budget spend of your stakeholders.

Find your analogy

Leadership isn’t interested in learning the ins and outs of SEO, or referencing a dictionary to understand our technical jargon. The best way to catch their attention and show value is with a real-world analogy that marries your work to an example that’s easily understood by any nontechnical audience. 

Give yourself time to be creative. Brainstorm, consult with your team members, or even head to a community forum like Reddit for ideas. Explore different storytelling techniques you can use to make your data come to life. If you aren’t feeling inspired, shelve it until later. Finding your “hook” isn’t easy, but it is worth doing right.

How to build your data-driven SEO narrative in 5 steps

It’s not just the numbers you share or the terminology you use that will make or break your SEO presentation. It’s also the way you deliver it start-to-finish that will shape how executives and stakeholders receive, trust, understand, and engage with your storytelling. Our adapted framework uses strategic delivery of information to make audiences more receptive to scholarly, technical, or otherwise complex knowledge.

Step 1: Set the stage for your presentation

Setting the stage is all about intriguing and engaging your stakeholders while respectfully acknowledging their perspective on SEO.

Share your analogy as an opener

Spend the first few minutes of the presentation on the introductory “hook” that will capture the interest of your executive audience. This is the story, scenario, or image that will pique curiosity and will be referenced again at the end. Your analogy will anchor all the details of your SEO narrative to an intriguing, easily understood example. 

Establish the common ground

Pivot to the topic at hand by making a statement that covers a core belief about SEO. Establishing a sense of common ground will connect with your audience and acknowledge their existing ideas about digital marketing. Whether accurate or not, you’re letting them know that you’re aware of those ideas, building trust for what you’re about to present.

Step 2: Introduce your perspective

Introducing your perspective primes your stakeholders for the presentation to come and establishes yourself as an expert.

Agree with or challenge the common ground

React to what you’ve just stated in some way: introduce controversy, agree and explain why, agree with a challenge, or acknowledge other challenges and obstacles. 

This is your chance to reacknowledge their core belief while taking a strong position on the data, insights, and recommendations you’re about to share. If you choose to disagree, make sure to use tact and empathy. Never demean or belittle the core belief and instead present your alternative ideas with a “we’re in this together” sentiment.

Introduce your perspective and state your theory

Here’s where you’ll clearly state your perspective and theory. The way that you’ve acknowledged their existing beliefs and offered agreement or challenge prepares your audience to receive the rest of the presentation with open-mindedness and curiosity. 

Step 3: Present your data and initial findings

This is the meat of your presentation. The number of slides you add here doesn’t matter — use as few or as many as you need to tell your SEO data story. What’s more important is that at every point, all your data, insights, and recommendations ladder up to the same compelling story.

Present your data

Build trust by sharing your methodology and data analysis. What tools did you use? What did you use them for and how? Be clear and concise as you walk your audience through graphs, visualizations, and other eye-catching imagery that helps you tell your story. 

Share your initial findings & implications

Share your initial findings from the data analysis. What does the data imply? What are the main takeaways? For example, if the data shows a subset of keywords ranking in places 4–10, could that translate into missed clicks to high-converting pages?

Present your findings with a lower degree of certainty that leaves room for the deeper analysis to come. By acknowledging that further analysis is needed, you’re showing that you’ve examined the data thoughtfully, reinforcing trust with your stakeholders.

Overlay additional metrics and your own expertise

Showcase the value you bring to this discussion. Tell your audience how you incorporated additional metrics, tools, industry knowledge, and your own expertise to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the data. If you noticed that your high-purchase-intent keywords were being cannibalized by Google Merchant results, for instance, this is the time to share.

Step 4: Revisit your findings & address objections

Continue to build trust in your SEO story. Your initial findings are now backed with the power of data, and you’ll anticipate (and counter) potential arguments to make your insights iron-clad.

Reinforce your perspective

Build on the power of the additional data, insights, and evidence you just shared to reinforce your earlier findings, this time with more certainty. Share with confidence how your expertise, tools, and analysis further prove your theories.

Present comprehensive recommendations

With the additional context and analysis, authoritatively present your comprehensive findings and discuss the implications. Let your own expertise shine.

Introduce and address objections

Anticipate potential objections or counterarguments to your findings, and address them the same way you addressed the core beliefs earlier. This continues to build trust in your analysis and findings, showing your audience that you’ve looked at the problem from all sides. Reinforce your recommendations with confidence.

Step 5: Reinforce your perspective & close

After you’ve bolstered your findings with evidence, fended off objections, and presented your recommendations, it’s time to tie it all back to your opening “hook” to neatly end your data-driven narrative with a happily-ever-after.

Revisit your opener

Remind your stakeholders of how you opened. That initial image or anecdote, seemingly unrelated, should tie back to the story you just presented and offer up an “A-ha!” moment for your executive audience. They’ll end the presentation feeling engaged, inspired, and informed — and ending on a positive note is always a good thing when speaking to the C-Suite.

Leadership presentation best practices

When presenting to executives, keep their priorities and proficiencies in mind. The most effective C-Suite narratives are:

  • Data-driven: Make sure your insights, results, and recommendations are rooted in data. Numbers provide evidence that can be leveraged to spark curiosity and questions from even the toughest audiences.
  • Customer-focused: Be clear that you’re optimizing for customers and prospects, not “searchers” or “users.” As you describe search habits, patterns, and results, make sure to connect them with real-world customer behavior. Regardless of their SEO proficiency, most executives are customer-obsessed; paint a picture of how customers act online rather than how searchers access your website.
  • Jargon-free: We speak our own language in SEO. From technical terms like “canonicals” and “301 redirects” to industry concepts such as “E-E-A-T” and named algorithm updates, we use words that non-SEOs can’t easily understand. SEO vocabulary isn’t off-limits, but use it strategically. If you’re having trouble, give a test run of your presentation to a non-SEO-proficient team member for feedback.
  • Aligned with strategic objectives: Understand your company’s main KPIs and keep your narrative story in line with overarching goals. If you can directly connect your work to executives’ goals, it’s hard not to be supportive.
  • Value-first: Tie your numbers and results to business value and the metrics executives care about most. “We can drive more traffic if we do X-Y-Z” can become “Doing X-Y-Z can bring more prospects to high-converting product pages and drive an estimated 16% boost in revenue.” If you’re using Botify, our new Business Insights Dashboard simplifies this work by connecting organic search results with the business KPIs that executives love.
List of tips and tricks for executive presentations on SEO that shares the same high-level items as the ordered list above.

With this framework, you’re well-equipped to craft a compelling narrative that will earn stakeholder support for your SEO work. As you continue to build visibility and buy-in for SEO at your organization, send regular reports and updates to stakeholders via a feature like Botify’s CustomReports. And when you’re inevitably asked to show ROI, Botify customers can work with us to calculate their Return on Organic Search Spend (ROSS) to further convince executives of the measurable value of SEO.

Want to learn more? Connect with our team for a Botify demo!

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