In House: I’m Responsible for SEO, now what?

February 12, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

All week long Danny Sullivan has been talking about the growth of inhouse SEOs at SMX West. Now we get a session just for them. I hope they’re paying attention.

Jessica Bowman will be moderating ragamuffins Eric Lander, Laura Lippay, and Anthony Long.  That means we have a Yahoo, an AOL, and an Eric? Who else is wondering how Eric Lander got on this panel? You know you’re thinking it. I kid, I kid.


Anthony is up first.

Cranking up SEO fast with Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

1. Create a sense of urgency: At the state, outline opportunities, potential obstacles and plan of action. Meet with large group of stakeholders. Emphasize your project’s importance by blocking significant discussion time.

Transform key decision makers and executives into advocates: Paint a realistic picture of what’s achievable, what’s required and the expected ROI.

2. Form Strong Alliances: Build a broad coalition of essential stakeholders – business and financial managers, project management, developers, product managers, UI and visual designers, marketing managers, content creators, etc.

3. Create a Vision and Strategy: Outline major improvements that will yield big results. Tackle high impact items first to build credibility and trust.

4. Communicate the vision and strategy: Repeat, reiterate and reemphasize the vision and strategy. Keep progress updates top of mind for everyone. Constantly update executives and key decision makers.

5. Empower others and remove obstacles: Deputize others to carry out tasks and convey information to their teams. Identify resistors and work with deputies to resolve tensions. Recognize and reward people who get it right. Get assistance from superiors and executives as needed.

6.Generate short term wins: Try to make a big impact within your first month. Ensure its a sure-fire project that has low failure potential and high upside. (I recommend those types of projects all the time. Low expectations, FTW!) Keep it inexpensive. Reward and recognize all those who contribute to the success.

7. Consolidate improvements: Make your achievements part of the process going forward. Hold a retrospective to discuss and capture what worked.

8.Institutionalize changes within corporate culture: Demonstrate value, then link your improvements to organization success. Constantly keep improvements visible. Maintain support of company leaders.

Laura is up next. She says good morning to the party people. We all groan. Not at her. At the fact it’s morning.

1. Get Dirty: You get in there and you have to start somewhere.

You have to get in it. Execs need to believe in you. Create accountability. If no one is accountable for implementing, how do you get people to implement? Set up a working system – publishing tools, reporting, analytics, training, process, etc.

Buy beer. It works every time.

Once you have all that together, implement.

2. Prioritize: Where is your biggest need? Where are the resources? What are the company priorities?

Build your search traffic strategy.

  • Define your space: Who is your audience, what is your target topics? Create a KW portfolio. Use keyword research tools to build your keyword portfolio based on your target topics.
  • Define your Research: Determine your actual keyword portfolio. Do competitive research. Why are people talking about your competitors online? What is their product doing to create the buzz? Once you know what they’re searching for, you can create specific topics.
  • Define your Strategy: Create specific, beyond-the-basics strategies for outranking your competitors. Prioritize strategies. Define goals.  Anyone can get the basics from anywhere. Your company hired you for specifics. These should be based on building something that will get you more links, bookmarks, etc.
  • Road show: Shows results to stakeholders. Let people know what you expect to see from this implementation. Be as specific as possible, but aim low. Measure against goals. Take in a roadshow and let people know what you did. Broadcast your message to everyone that you can.

Eric is up to talk about synergy and getting people on board. Mmm, buzz words.

Eric mentions the SEO life cycle. You get into your role, everyone’s geared up, and then there’s reluctance in the organization. People don’t buy in to what you’re trying to do. There aren’t enough resources. The honeymoon is over.

Examine your environment: All organizations are different. Research education levels. You can’t have the same conversation with the Meta tag guy and the guy who’s talking about optimizing link campaigns.  They’re different. Identify your “clients”. Fight for resources. Ask what determines “success”. Find early adopters and allies. Who’s responsible for site deliverables? The design team? IT? Who’s producing what and how can you get involved?

Teams, Communication & More: If you’re in a startup environment you need to get people involved ASAP. Lead confidently. Listen caringly. (A cookie for anyone who can explain in the comments how to “listen caringly”.) Mentor the motivated. Adapt processess and rewards. Retain passionate people. Train everyone with a thumbprint.

Learn to Love Analytics: Put analytics to work ASAP. Audit sites immediately. You have to benchmark where things are. Use the analytic data to your advantage.  Learn the reporting systems. Automate vital reports. Actionable tasks and alerts. Review what the executives review so you can upsell them on other stuff (money, tools, people, etc). Track everything.

Omniture Examples: Use “Bookmarks and Alerts”. Create triggers (% of traffic/leads, if levels drop/exceed). Watch for over-dependence of search. Alert others for outside reaction.

Reselling the Value of Search: Appeal to decision makers and solidify your existence. Avoid power struggles. Develop new KPIs. Re-educate executives. Increase efficiency and productivity. Show resource to return rations. Find your SEO champions.

Use Transparency for Traction: Dear fear the unknown. Change challenges into opportunities. Schedule regular site reviews. Work with outside agencies. Eliminate any traces of ego. Be open with staff.

Reducing Growing Pains: Growth happens quickly. Create best practice guides and standards & guidelines. Have on boarding processes, training and tutorials, etc. Maintain an online reference center. Eliminate distractions. Protect your productivity. Scale for success.

Jessica is going to give a quick presentation.

Everyone wants to know about SEO. You do all your training.  You educate everyone. Then you start working together. You’re thinking everything is going great. This is about month 3-6.  What you don’t realize is that your developers and your programmings are pulling their hair out. Next thing you know, you have project managers down your throat.

You’re asking yourself what happened?

Inhouse SEO Program Life Cycle

  • Courtship Phase
  • Honeymoon Phase
  • Reality: This is where most companies live. It can last 2 years. You need to lift it up into Synergy.
  • Collaboration Phase
  • Synergy

To get to synergy, leverage the honeymoon phase. Meet all the right people. Push the big stuff. Building relationships and rappart. Identify good champions and make them SEO raving fans.

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