In-House SEO

November 10, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences


Okay, I ran here like a crazy person in need of a power outlet.  Because…I am a crazy person in need of a power outlet. Luckily, I found one. REJOICE!

It’s time to talk in-house SEO with fun people like Chris Hooley, Jessica Bowman, Ash Nallawalla and Alex Bennert. Chris is wearing his The Lisa shirt and it’s super sexy.  Not as sexy as his Boston accent, but still, pretty damn sexy.  Okay, we’re starting. I should stop staring at him.

I take that back. Chris is up first. The stares continue and so does his Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting impression.

Chris starts off talking about how you can determine what your company needs.

Major SEO Task Categories

Link building

  • soliciting links
  • social media
  • buying links
  • repetitive tasks (directory submissions, social media participation/comments, content, distribution, etc.)


  • Press Releases
  • Articles
  • Blogs (both onsite and offsite)
  • Web copy
  • Other (job descriptions, corporate profiles, etc)

Code/Website Development

  • Site structure updates
  • Content publishing
  • Web programming
  • Website and blog generation
  • Landing pages and user flow optimizations

Management: If you have more than 3 people on your team, you’ll probably need some help with things like contracts, reporting, meetings, HR stuff, etc.  “They’ll be running the show when you’re off on the boat, pimping it or whatever.”  Hee, I love Chris Hooley.

Define your common gray areas.  Know what your strengths are and then get people to fill in the holes.

Be honest: Should you stake your claim or politics to get things done?  Did you get your job from your sparkling personality? Politics.  Did you get your job because nobody else is capable of doing it right? STAKE YOUR CLAIM. Always work your angles (Tyra Banks says that too). Only take one what you can handle better than others. There’s nothing wrong with being a little manipulative if your intentions are good.

Evaluate which players your team will need.  Use what you got if you can – outline your needs based on whats in your wheelhouse.  Cost matters. Hire what you can afford, experience isn’t always the key. Be flexible. The hard part may be getting executive buy-in to hire. The hard work is done AFTER you get the talent. Write your own job descriptions if you can.

Finding Talent

Find out how your company distributes job listings. Get involved and take it over.  Use your social Web.  Trust referrals are key. Hiring people is a pain in the butt. You have to read people.  A rush job can result in long term consequences. find Mr. or Mrs Right, not Mr. Right now.  [Isn’t that a Sugarland song?]

Chris only uses resumes to cut out the DEFINITELY NOT candidates. He uses phone interviews to weed out the “maybes”.  Interview more people than you think you need to.  Your interview style should accurately reflect the environment you are bringing people into.  Chris asks people what their power ballad is. If they say Yanni, that person is not a shark. Hee.

Look for people who are moldable.  Most people can pick up SEO. It’s not rocket science. He adds that it’s not “super, super easy” to make sure he doesn’t get pummeled off stage later.     Look for the LIGHTS ON. Smart people are trainable. If the lights are on, they’ll figure things out on their own.

Splitting Up The Work Flow

  • Design your jobs around your talent
  • Delegate responsibilities around your talent
  • Trial by fire – pile it on and see how your people handle it. One of the best ways to see if someone’s going to work out.
  • Leadership- let your strongest people assume extra responsibility. Encourage them.

Schedule work flow

  • Content generation schedules
  • Content distribution schedules
  • Timed link acquisition goals
  • Room for emergencies
  • Getting SEO involved in interdepartmental duties
  • Approval processes
  • Incentives

Managing Up and Down the Chain.

  • Up the chain: Be accountable, have communication, fall under your own sword, talk numbers (not emotions) and assume responsibility.
  • Down the chain: Lead by example. Micromanagement is for worker ants. Build soldiers.  Optimize your talent like you would a keyword bucket. Consistently replace non-performers and reword the strong. [Love it.]

Chris ends things by posting his phone number and asking people to give him a call if they know any cool paahhties. I may have just entered that into my phone for later. #justsayin

Up next is Alex Bennert.

She advises that people maintain regularly scheduled SEO workshop sessions to constantly be training staff.

The first Tuesday of every month, Alex holds a regularly scheduled SEO workshop system.  Even if just one person shows up, she still does the session. The sessions are kept to a 20 minute max.  Use examples that are relevant to your audience. Develop a presentation specific to each department and only tell them what they need to know.

During the SEO for IT session she covers:

  • The use of Google Webmaster Tools and other engine consoles and need for continual monitoring.
  • Sitemaps: Talks about regular sitemaps, video sitemaps, etc.
  • Duplicate content: Parameter swapping, paginating, sorting, crawl allocation, test servers.  Now she talks about the canonical link element.
  • 301 redirects: why are they important
  • Intuitive URL structure
  • Editable SEO page elements – Title tags, meta description, markup. No Meta keywords, excessive code, validation.

She doesn’t talk about things she CAN”T fix. She doesn’t talk about the Wall Street Journal’s URL structure since she knows she can’t touch them. There’s no need to frustrate people.

During the SEO for Content Development, she covers:

  • Title tag, meta descriptions, headers
  • Linking, anchor text, nofollows (she doesn’t talk about this a lot. She doesn’t want them PR hoarding)
  • Writers (features) – keyword research, Google Insight for recurring events
  • Bloggers – QDF, trends, adjacent subjects for competitive terms
  • Journalists (basic headlines, on the fly KW research)
  • Analytics – What’s there, how to use it, alternatives

Ongoing, regular SEO sessions help spread awareness for industry changes. Things like:

  • Support for microformats
  • Parameter masking in GWT
  • Discovery via RSS and Atom feeds
  • New Google news Sitemap format
  • Google Caffeine Update

Don’t try to know everything. She does SEO for news and video. She’s not going to pretend she knows something she hasn’t done. If you haven’t actually done it, then you only need it in theory.

Next up is Ash Nallawalla.

He’s wearing emergency glasses because he broke his on the plane coming from Melbourne.  I think they’re cute.  He’s going to talk about the big company view about SEO.  He agrees with everything Alex said. Thank you and goodnight.

He’s kidding.

Need for in-house SEO?

This is a common dilemma for large Web sites.  Do you hire an external SEO or do you create an internal position?  The six of the Web site matters.  The budget matters. The economy matters.  People don’t realize that SEO is something they need to invest in. They think you can just do it “once in awhile” or that it’s hocus pocus. He didn’t say “hocus pocus”, but I can’t spell the word he used. I’m not going to embarrass myself by trying.  You need to think of the cost of SEO.   Is it cheaper to hire someone or just pay someone one-time to get it set up?  If you don’t have a lot of money, at least invest in SEO because it will give you benefits for the long-term.

You  need to be aware of the politics. As an SEO, you’re bound to upset someone somewhere. Just be aware of it and try and avoid conflict.

He shows a chart to help people determine when you should hire an in-house SEO or hire someone externally.  It’s pretty cool. Sadly, it’s not really bloggable.

He’s found that large companies are really slow to adopt SEO (at least in Australia).

The In-House SEO’s perspective

What skills should the in-house SEO have?

  • Marketing: You need to know the language and be able to speak it fluently
  • On-page SEO – basic Web design implied
  • Off-page SEO – linking
  • Web server knowledge – at least one platform
  • Bonus skills: PHP/MySQL, JavaScript, Java, Graphics

How do you get an in-house position?

Practical experience is better than a piece of paper.  Own a blog, a Web site or have experience in a Web site role.  Have prior SEO agency.  Otherwise, you have to give them on-the-job training.  Create the position if you are already in the company.

How do you KEEP your job?

  • Improve and increase targeted traffic.
  • Align SEO campaigns with marketing and revenue goals. Think conversions – either $$ or actions
  • Avoid politics
  • Educate the marketing group and senior management about SEO (basically everything Alex just advised)

How do you STRENGTHEN your position

Next up is Jessica Bowman.

  • SEO is unlike any other function in your company.
  • SEO is both a highly technical and a highly marketing function.
  • You can’t easily predict SEO like other marketing channels.
  • One conversation with SEO doesn’t cut it.
  • SEO isn’t always high enough in the org chart to get things done.

SEO gets the perception of sticking your nose in everyone’s business because you need to know what everyone else is doing to get things done.

SEO Life Cycle

  • Courtship: Everyone had starry eyes about w hat they want.
  • Honeymoon: Everyone likes what you’re doing and they want to be involved.
  • Reality: This is when things gets complicated.
  • Synergy: Bliss.

Get SEO in the Development Life Cycle

Ready? We’re going to play a visualization game.  Jessica says that the Development Cycle is an inverted pyramid.  Picture that here:

  • Project Inception
  • Requirements Gathering Phase
  • Design Phase
  • Development Phase
  • Final QA Testing
  • Go Live

SEO is a big workload. You need to distribute t he workload to give accountability to other people in the organization.  Create SEO Champions throughout the entire organization. Nurture these relationships. Make it an official role. Make it a coveted role with visibility and fun.  SEO needs to be part of every job and job description.

Small Business Specific:  They say its informal, but it’s not.

There are some formalities, figure out what they are doing.

  • Change management system/log
  • Requirements log
  • Wireframes/page designs

They do have strategic and prioritization discussions.  You want to be part of them.  Put on your detective hat and find this stuff.

And we’re over time and running. Ah. Publish, publish, publish!

Content Strategy
Content Strategy

Would I Recognize Your Blog In A Dark Alley?

on Jul 1 by Lisa Barone

[Caution: This post comes with a slight aftertaste of unicorns and rainbows. And babies.] Matt McGee had a post that…

Social Media
Social Media

Saying You’re Sorry To Save Your Social Media Hide

on Nov 15 by Lisa Barone

Companies used to be banned from admitting error. In the 80s and 90s, admitting you didn’t know something was cause…


How to Choose an SEO Company: Ignore Top SEO Lists

on Feb 22 by Rhea Drysdale

Finding a SEO company can be hard work! The process of hiring a SEO vendor or consultant in a sea…

^Back to Top