Bringing SEO In House: How To Be Successful!

March 4, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

After a VERY quick break we are back in action.  Speaking we have Jessica Bowman, Laura Lippay, Michael Martin, and Everett Sizemore. There’s no banter as Everett Sizemore hops right in because we’re a little behind.  Okay, fine, a little banter. Fun story: According to a few people, Everett and I were standing next to one another for at least 20 minutes the other day and I had no idea. I’ve never officially met Everett. Hopefully we’ll change that soon.

Okay hopping right in!

How To Succeed As An In House SEO

Just because you bring SEO in-house, doesn’t mean it s going to work. Both situations require the right people, tools and skills.   He says the word of the day is going to be value.

You Are Only What It Costs To Replace You


In-House SEOs can provide added value above and beyond search engine optimization. We get some quotes to help us feel cultured.

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.- Warren Buffet

Extend Your SEO Mindset Beyond The Site


  • Your brand does not exist in a vacuum – seek out what other people are saying about you. You need to be there when people are reading blogs, watching videos, etc. Be everywhere all the time.
  • Sometimes in SEO 1+1=3
  • You have the power to change someone else’s rankings
  • Universal Search is no longer the exception

SEO Link Building and PR Intersect

In-house SEOs can get more out of link building efforts than just links. It used to be that he would some SEOs may pay a blogger 50 bucks to drop a link on their Web site.  That doesn’t happen anymore. You have to find more creative ways to get links. Its turned out to be a good thing. Now instead of just getting the link, you’re getting reviews, testimonials, more eyeballs, etc. He talks about a drawing he did with a green living blog, which helped them get links, increased brand awareness on Twitter, etc.

If an inhouse SEO sees people asking questions on blogs and in reviews, they can walk over to the content department and have them write content. That’s something an agency isn’t going to do.

SEO Social Media Marketing and PR Intersect

Online reputation management grew out of SEO. Now there are entire companies dedicated to this.

Reactive ORM: Getting bad search results off the first page by helping more favorable results outrank them.

Proactive ORM: Monitoring your brand image and catching situations before they get indexed, heavily linked to, or go viral.

SEO, SMM and Market Research Intersect

They do a lot of competitor intelligence. They use that information to help other departments.  If they’re on SpyFu and they find out their competitors are bidding aggressively on a keyword for a product you don’t have, maybe you should consider carrying that product. They also use it for crowd sourcing.

Things to ask:

  • What is selling well for your competitors?
  • What else are your customers trying to buy?
  • What is the next hot thing?

SEO Reports for Other Departments

  • Buyers / Product Development – give a quarterly report
    • Top internal search fails
    • Top PPC & SEO keywords for competitors
    • Keyword research trends
  • Business Development / Executives
    • State of your industry in search
  • Customer Service:
    • Top complaints & compliments from blogs & social media
  • Copywriters and Merchandisers
    • Top questions about products from blogs & social media

Up next is Michael Martin.

What is an In House SEO?

Mike couldn’t find a definition of an In House SEO so he made up his own. Ready for it?

An In House SEO is generally a director responsible for increasing targeted organic search engine traffic to the company’s site(s). The SEO Director needs to affirm the company’s goals from the executive level then, combining SEO knowledge with the company’s capabilities, formulate a plan to  be executed from IT resources and measured for effectiveness. They need to walk the talk & leave the dancing to the agencies. Heh.

How to Succeed As An In House SEO

  • Keep up to date with SEO practices – Mike says to read Outspoken Media.  I suppose he also lists off other blogs , but, well, I like ours the most. And my carpal tunnel is kicking in.
  • Setup an SEO “Jirga” to bounce ideas off
  • Understand company’s online goals
  • Synergy with company’s other online efforts
  • Understand coding – at least HTML. Helps grease the wheels.
  • Define SEO Procedures & Guidelines – especially if you work for a large company. it helps to get everyone on the same page.
  • Know when to Delegate, Automate, or Outsource
  • Create Metrics & Goals

This planning, communicating, documenting, execution, & monitoring is best facilitated by proper project management

The Importance Of Project Management

Project Management is defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. The combined knowledge & skills of both project management & SEO is the foundation of an In House Director’s success. To solidify your understanding of this process PMI provides a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification similar to a CPA in accounting. He thinks its really useful for in house SEOs to help define processes.  However, you don’t need a PMP to at least use available project management tools to assist in your in house SEO efforts.

[Someone in this room is eating an orange and I am going to find them and STEAL IT. I’m starving.]

Project Management Tools

  • BaseCamp – Easy & economical
  • TeamWork – FREE plans & robust
  • Jira – Good self hosted & customizable option
  • Microsoft Project – Overly complicated & unnecessary for SEO

Using tools helps to centralize communication, task management, file sharing, & tracking

Soft Tools Of Project Management

Project management tools facilitate electronic communication but there is a need for soft people skills to properly execute In House SEO.

  • Need buy in from the Executive level & clarity to what the end result they are looking for is
  • Need to align your goals with that of management to get your tasks scheduled in a timely manner
  • Need understanding from those that execute in IT that this will make their job easier down the road & earn their respect by showing knowledge in the coding involved

In the end make sure success is transparent & attributed to all levels as this will further “grease the wheels” to your continued In House SEO success. You need cohesion from the top down.

Next up is Laura Lippay. She’s gonna talk about jobs and salaries. People suddenly perk up.

What do I look for in an SEO Candidate?

  • Personable
  • Patient
  • Inquisitive
  • Influencer

SEOs come in different flavors:

  • Marketing SEOs: Should be able to find opportunity in certain projects and know how to prioritize. They should be able to build link partnerships, balance PPC and SEO, understand how SEO fits into the marketing mix, track performance.
  • Developmental/Engineering SEOs: Should be logical. Should be able to see goals in the details. Be problem solvers. Code savvy.  Keyword savvy if they’re writing Meta tags and Titles and stuff like that.
  • Editorial SEOs: Know how to write for the Web, how to construct link bait, know how to do keyword research, how to link out, to create relationships with other bloggers, etc.
  • Social Media SEOs: Should be likable because they have to drive engagement and get followers, etc. Good multitaskers

What Title Do I Give My SEO Employee?

She shows a list of about a gazillion titles that people in our industry call themselves. No Chief Branding Officer because my job is totally made up. I really just nap all day and pay people to Twitter for me.

Things to consider when creating titles:

  1. Will the position always live where it is?
  2. Will the title still make sense in five years?
  3. Does the title give the flexibility for slight changes in responsibilities over time?
  4. Will the title make sense to others?

What do I Pay My SEO Employee?

She talks about a post SEOmoz wrote in 2006 about how much SEOs should be paid. It looked at geographic factors, experience, influence, etc. In 2009, SEMPO released an In House SEO Survey which showed that salaries had increased.  2009 yearly salaries for individual contributors with 1-3 experiences were getting 40k-80k; VPs were making up to $250k.

When you’re using salary tools, know they’re not always as accurate, but it can help you to see gaps by location.  She mentions using Indeed and Simply Hired. She shows a few comparisons of what Indeed and Simply Hire guestimate that people are making.  It’s hard to blog. And then we’re done. My right hand is burning with the fire of carpal tunnel.

Up next is Jessica Bowman.

SEO isn’t like any other discipline in your company. You can’t compare your role to anyone else’s.  A good SEO sticks their nose in other people’s business.  You have to be in product management, usability, etc.  You need to instill change. When a company decides to do SEO, that’s when change needs to happen. Incorporate SEO into every aspect of the life cycle so that you’re not fixing costly mistakes later down the line.

SEO involvement is intense at the beginning and declines as the project progresses. It’s a lot of freaking work. To help ease it, create an SEO Ambassador to help.

Your SEO Ambassador can represent SEO, make sure SEO requirements are included, acts as QA for SEO in each release, pulls in the SEO team when things are complex, train others on SEO and work with their team to integrate SEO into existing processes, documentation and workflow.

If you get this right… you’ll still fail sometimes. The big problems happen in implementation. You have to talk to people. Do the happy hours. Walk the halls. Go calm people down.

Most companies are spending 90 percent of their time getting to “yes” and dishing out requirements and they think they are done.  Get involved in what’s happening and create a project plan. Write proper, formal documentation.

What can SEO documentation have?

  • Examples of other sites doing this and how they are doing it.
  • Anything you know about the systems, where they get the data from, their limitations, etc.
  • Why you need it, what will happen without it.
  • Mockups/Wireframes
  • Requirements that address everything that could go wrong Imagine you are writing it for a robot or an idiot who will only do exactly what you have written on the paper.

This is a lot of freaking work!

It goes back to your ambassadors. How can you delegate responsibilities and get accountability? You want ambassadors to be proficient enough to do most of the work for you. You need to be able to manage both the trees and the forest.

And we’re out. More running. And maybe some Advil.

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