Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on some incredible projects with some extremely talented people. Whenever I was about to launch a new initiative, I found it was helpful to look at the various challenges and obstacles to success (in order to minimize them as much as possible). When dealing with online marketing projects, there are several variables that can inhibit your progress, including technology, process, and people. All three categories of obstacles can throw a wrench into effectively completing tasks, which can then lead to missed deadlines and a slower path to success. That said, there are also times that a path has been cleared and you can execute very quickly. And in online marketing, efficient execution is critical. I’m a firm believer that you can build the best strategy in the world, but unless you can execute at a rapid pace (while maintaining high quality), you’re dead in the water. The outstanding strategy you created won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.
The Strategy to Execution Gap™ (SEG) and SEO
About 4 years ago, I created a metric to demonstrate how delays and obstacles can impact online marketing initiatives. The metric is called the Strategy to Execution Gap™, or SEG. The SEG is a metric that can help you identify how effective your team is for a given initiative or set of initiatives. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you already know I am analytics nut. I love using data to back what I recommend (and I’m a big believer that opinion gets you nowhere while data is hard to ignore). This is part of the reason that the SEG can be so valuable.
The SEG provides a percentage, which can show you how effectively your team is executing projects. The lower the number, the more efficient your team is. The higher the number, and your team is not executing at an effective level. It can be used for any online marketing initiative, but I’ll focus on SEO for this post. The Strategy to Execution Gap™ fits SEO very well, since there are typically a number of projects that need to be completed during an engagement (and each usually has a weighted priority). I’ve written extensively about SEO technical audits and remediation plans in the past, and they help build an SEO roadmap, or the series of projects that need to be completed during the year. For example, in SEO it’s extremely important that technical barriers are removed before you move into projects like content optimization. A tangible example would be if you have a massive canonicalization problem or a serious domain strategy issue. If you do, then you better tackle those projects first before you simply optimize content on the site. If the search engines cannot effectively crawl and index your content, you can forget about content optimization… Also, SEO takes time before you see success. Typically, you need to build up SEO power over time before you see a big change in rankings and organic search traffic. Even if you fix all of the technical problems on your site, you still need to tackle several additional projects like content optimization, linkbuilding, etc. That’s why efficient execution is critically important. A delay in completing projects can impact months of SEO performance.
Based on what I’ve explained above, the Strategy to Execution Gap™ is a perfect fit for SEO initiatives. Presenting the metric before you get started and then giving periodic updates on a team’s SEG percentage can get key stakeholders involved and on-board with what you are trying to accomplish. And, they might even help you out by removing obstacles from your SEO path. More about that soon.
The Strategy to Execution Gap (SEG) Formula
When you map out a series of projects as part of your SEO roadmap, they become the foundation for your Strategy to Execution Gap™. Based on those projects, and the priority you give each project, you can explain to your team how the SEG will be calculated (and what the score means to their success). Below, I’ll first present the formula and then present an example so you can see how it works.
The Strategy to Execution Gap = (Sum of Weighted Projects – Sum of Weighted Projects Completed / Sum of Weighted Projects) * 100
Some notes about the SEG formula:
- Each project should be weighted from 0-10 and will be based on your analysis of the current situation.
- You can use all of the projects that are part of your roadmap, or just a subset for a given time period. i.e. You can do this quarterly, semi-annually, or for the entire year.
- The SEG will end up being a percentage. The lower your percentage, the better the score (meaning the gap to execution is low). A higher percentage means your team is not executing at a high level (or there is a larger gap between strategy and execution).
Let’s say you had the following projects to complete (the weighted priority score is next to each project). I’ll keep the example simple, but keep in mind that might have several more projects to tackle as part of an actual SEO roadmap.
Domain Strategy 8
Fix Canonicalization Problems 8
Refine Internal Linking Structure 6
XML Sitemaps 5
Keyword Research 4
Content Optimization 4
Video SEO 3
Total Weighted Sum: 45
Let’s say you are a few months into the initiative and three items have been completed (domain strategy, internal linking structure, and keyword research). At your next meeting, you want to give the team an update on how things are progressing. The SEG for this project so far is 60%, meaning there is a relatively high strategy to execution gap (which is not great). The formula looks like this: (45-18/45) * 100 = 60%
At this point, you could discuss the various obstacles to execution to see why your SEG isn’t better. Depending on the size of your team and the number of departments involved, you might be surprised to hear some of the obstacles popping up.
To show you how the SEG can be impacted (especially by the weighting involved), let’s say your team completed two additional projects during this time period. For example, maybe canonicalization and xml sitemaps were taken care of (both with relatively high weighted scores). If that was the case, your SEG drops to 31% (almost in half) showing a lower strategy to execution gap (which is good). I find the SEG is a great metric for quickly showing an efficiency percentage, while also sparking conversation about potential obstacles involved.
How to Close the Gap (Decreasing the SEG)
Let’s face it, execution in online marketing is everything. Decreasing your SEG can have a massive impact on the success of your initiative (which can have an impact on targeted traffic, conversion, and revenue). So, how do you close the gap? As explained earlier, there are a number of obstacles that can inhibit your SEO projects, including technology, developers, egos, other initiatives, designers, branding, executives, legal, PR, etc. My recommendation is to meet with key stakeholders before your initiative begins. Explain what you are trying to accomplish and its potential impact on the bottom line. Take everyone through the SEG and tie percentages to success (and revenue). If everyone understands the big picture, you might be able to clear more paths, which can lower your SEG, and increase your chance of success. Whether this approach will be successful for you depends on a number of factors, including the details of the specific initiative, the people involved, and culture of the organization. One thing I’ve learned over the past 15 years is that data and metrics always help make a case. Opinions and finger pointing rarely work. The SEG can be one more metric that can help your cause.
Your Next Steps with the Strategy to Execution Gap™ (SEG)
The good news is that you can get moving with the SEG right now. Whether you’re just starting an initiative or if you’re in the middle of one now, start to think about the specific tasks involved. Then weight each project and explain the SEG to your team. After everyone on your team understands how the SEG works, then expand your communication to key stakeholders. As projects are completed, you can start to include the Strategy to Execution Gap™ in your presentations and progress reports. Make the SEG a quick visual that represents how effective your team is. Remember, using data and not opinion might end up winning over more people.
And who knows, maybe after the SEG has been used a few times to track efficiency, others in your organization might adopt the metric for their own initiatives. Wouldn’t it be great if you were the person that introduced and sparked the SEG metric throughout your organization? Just make sure you reference this post after you’re famous. :)