How to Sell Your SEO Plan With 5 Slides in 5 Minutes

There are so many benefits to implementing an SEO strategy, yet convincing a company to get on-board can feel like pulling teeth. Oftentimes the biggest challenge is in navigating the company’s complex organizational structure, and selling your case to the person in charge of making decisions. That person varies from company to company, and their resistance can take many forms.

Org Chart

Today’s column will look at five different people offering different common objections to implementing an SEO strategy. For each scenario, I’ll give you ideas for making your pitch in five minutes with five slides. Now, let’s figure out how to break the ice and move things forward toward SEO greatness.

To start, here are five basic tips that apply to all five scenarios:

  1. Commit yourself to learning their frame of reference, and their language. Are they financially-minded? Technical? Show-me-the-money types? Where are they coming from? Nothing else you do will matter unless you figure these things out.
  2. Get them to specifically define their objections. The more well-defined the better, but don’t wear out your welcome asking for more details. You want them willing to listen when you’re ready to tell them your point of view. Listen attentively, and respectfully.
  3. After they have clearly defined their objections, let them know that you would like to pull together some information/data to help them see an alternative point of view. Ask for a second meeting and promise that you will lay it out for them in 15 minutes or less.
  4. Recognize that you have no more than five minutes to make your pitch. It doesn’t matter how long the meeting is scheduled for, you have five minutes to win the day, or not. After that, their minds will already be wandering. That’s why you’re going to do your pitch in five slides.
  5. Don’t meet before you’re ready. Postpone the planned meeting (no more than once) if you aren’t prepared. Your best opportunity is available only once, so don’t blow it.

Those are the basics of what you need to do, but everything needs a bit of context. Let’s take a look at five classic problems and how to address them:

CEO: “So-and-so said it works this way.”

CEOYou could point out that “so-and-so” is an idiot, but since she is one of the CEO’s best friends, that probably isn’t smart. Try out this concept instead:

  1. Show her that Google uses more than 200 ranking factors.
  2. Show her the Moz Ranking Factors Study, and that her friend’s suggestion isn’t on it.
  3. Illustrate the complexity of search.
  4. Gingerly suggest that following advice from someone who isn’t pursuing SEO as a full-time job isn’t a good idea.
  5. Offer to do a demonstration project, or show a published case study, that runs counter to her friend’s advice. Pick something that is an easy win, and make sure you show results.

CFO: “It costs too much.”

CFOCalling him small-minded might be accurate, but it’s unlikely to open up his mind to your new ideas. Try this approach:

  1. Show him the math on how much money your competition is making that your company is not.
  2. Include a chart that shows the very high ROI of SEO. In fact, enterprise marketers rate it as the No. 1 ROI-producing investment.
  3. Add one more chart, this time on the market data on SEO vs. PPC spend. In spite of marketers believing that the ROI of SEO is higher, almost twice as much is spent on PPC. That disparity creates an opportunity to derive a financial advantage over the competition.
  4. Prepare a business case that shows the expected outcome. A concrete plan that shows costs, time frames, and ROI.
  5. Suggest a test project to prove the point. Pick one that will be an easy win for you, even if it’s a small win. Tangible evidence of past success goes a long way!

CMO: “Online is just a fad.”

CMORemember, violence isn’t the answer. Take a deep breath and use a different approach. Maybe this plan will work for you:

  1. Show her that online media spending has passed print spending, and is rapidly closing the gap on TV. There must be a reason that other companies are doing this.
  2. Point out that the ROI is highly measurable online too, much more so than traditional media, and this allows for better measurement of results and tuning of campaigns.
  3. Outline the basic mathematics of why SEO is an efficient one-time expense with ongoing revenue-generating implications. Make sure she understands how very different this is from TV, print, and radio.
  4. As with the CMO, show her the math on how much money your competition is making that your company is not.
  5. To drive this point home, calculate the results that one of your top competitors is getting, and calculate the income differential for them, including an estimate of the dollars that this is allowing that competitor to re-invest into their business. You get graduate-level grades if you further calculate how this drives the cost of goods sold down (or equivalent) due to increasing overall sales volume.

CTO: “It can’t possibly work that way.”

CTOChallenging her technical acumen, and watching her reaction, might provide some amusement value, but it may also prevent you from ever getting anything through development again. So, let’s go at this a different way:

  1. Impress upon her the massive scale of the web. In 2008, Google let us know that the web had reached 1 trillion pages. By November 2012, Matt Cutts told me at Pubcon that Google knew about 100 trillion pages.
  2. Remind her that Google crawls a large percentage of those pages and does a semantic analysis on all the ones that it crawls, and stores that info in a database. She can learn more about Google’s data centers here.
  3. Oh wait, there’s more. Google also keeps a complete link graph for the whole shooting match.
  4. Then it responds to an arbitrary search query from a user anywhere in the world in half a second or less.
  5. So, yes, the technology exists to do many complex things like OCR (optical character recognition) on images, or speech to text, or image recognition, or whatever. However, many technologies exist that Google (and Bing) can’t practically apply simply because they are too computationally expensive at the scale of the web. The bottom line is that some of the seemingly stupid things that search engines do are simply the result of the enormous scale of the task they address.

Director of Marketing: “The competition is doing it.”

Director of MKTYou could point out that doing something because other people were doing it is what led him to many “exploits” in his 20s that he now regrets. But associating bad memories with your effort to get his cooperation might not work out so well. Here is another plan:

  1. The reality is that Google’s spam-fighting tactics are very uneven in their application.
  2. However, the risks are very real.
  3. Even the black hats of yesteryear don’t take those risks anymore.
  4. You’ve got employees and investors. That means you’ve got responsibilities. You don’t want to be the one who wakes up in the morning to find out your SEO plan is now going to cause you to lay off half your staff.
  5. You need to be in the game for the long haul. Slow and steady wins the race.


Remember, you never really have more than five minutes to make “the sale.” No matter how long your meeting is set for, their attention span will not really last more than five. So learn their frame of reference and language.

Talk to people who know the person you are presenting and get their advice on what works. Use simple charts and use five clear, highly visual slides to communicate.

Seriously, if you need 10 minutes to make your point, you will probably fail, so take the time to get all of this right. Once you have done that, and once you show a track record of success, it will get easier every time after that. Good luck!

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