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SEO-PRO // Advanced Internet Marketing

Monday, September 15, 2008

In House SEO tips and advice part 2

Continuing from my last post about In House SEO advice. Read on to find out how to deal with SEO issues in a corporate environment.

Repeat problems - certain problems can continue to appear because staff are uninformed or looking for a quick fix. I spotted repeated use of "meta refresh" on a site and this looked like an automated script that needed removing, such was the consistency of the code and placement. Instead I found there to be a step by step redirect process that developers would follow, so I had to change this process and educate staff so they knew why they were doing what they were doing.

SEO champions - I selected staff that would become SEO champions. These would be trained in basic SEO issues and be assigned the task of notifying me when they came across a problem. I could then solve the problem myself with the member of staff there so they could understand the process. This helped to spread my influence better than being just a single SEO in a global multinational. It's a bit like being in charge of an army... One general needs lieutenants and sergeants to help communicate the strategy... even with mobiles/blackberry phones and email, communication in these large companies is best done face to face. Emails are just too easy to ignore! Having these other members of staff on your side makes your job easier to do well.

Projects - You cannot micro manage everything on a site, instead use automated scripts to assign a process for a title tag/meta description. Where dynamic optimisation is not possible, train up an SEO champion for that part of the business. If this is possible, write up a step by step guide to the basics... Writing good titles, good descriptions and good content etc. While the work they do might not be perfect SEO, it might just win a bit more revenue than without this help.

Automate - Establish a link policy, big companies usually work with 3rd parties so look for an opportunity to include a return link to a suitable page as part of the agreement or contract with these 3rd parties.

Focus on the big picture - It gets annoying seeing broken links and duplicated title tags but working on huge sites will always throw up problems and errors. Do work that will improve the bottom line rather than focus on making 5000 perfect title tags (do that if you can though!). Big companies listen where money is concerned, if you double revenue on natural search, they will listen when you say you need development time to fix the broken title tags... Always remember that you are measured on cash and not quality! Once you prove your worth you will earn respect and that much needed development time...

A narrow focus doesn't work is a corporate environment. I am responsible for natural search and I often find broken links on the sites I manage. I could fix them myself, but with a 10 strong team of copyrighters, it will be a full time job. Instead, I found the pre-go live checklist that the copyrighters use to check content before go live, and made sure a best practice link instruction and check was included. SEO on this scale makes it impossible for you to be involved on every individual project so you must look to extend your influence as wide as possible. This is no role for a shy retiring type. Your ideas will conflict with others and compromise is often the result. This will annoy some agency SEOs that more or less have their clients over a barrel (either do as I say or risk inferior results)

Some people will never understand SEO properly because they focus on... Why are we only #2 for "brand search term" ? We need to be at #1! I don't care if our revenue has quadrupled since the start of the year. Some of these you will need to ignore, some you should ignore but will often have to do something. You need to be a bit bloody minded, you don't get anywhere by trying to please everyone, you'll only realise that this is a promise only fools make!

Once you are a proven money generator you can recommend improvements without having to make massive business cases. This is how to succeed as an in house SEO. Focus on project work, by this I mean, establish what problems you want to solve (meta description and title tags on the entire site) and get together a team to do this. Contact your SEO agency if you have one and get them started on Keyword research. Once you have completed this task, you can cross it off the list.

The advantage of working in this way is that you become less focused on the 1 bit of missing description on the "contact us" page and more focused on fixing links on the whole site. If you didn't work in this structured way, you'd be forever working on the CMS fixing links, correcting misspellings and html code. On the sites I work with, this would be a lifetimes work...

Good luck!

Read part 1 In House SEO tips


Saturday, September 06, 2008

In House SEO tips and advice

I've witnessed a few opinions on in house or client side SEOs recently and I've decided to add to this debate with my own experience. I have already blogged about my experiences of dealing with other in house SEO "experts" and I continue to hear of people working in client side SEO jobs with little or no experience in SEO. This is often because large companies that need in house SEOs will often promote from within their existing team. Because of this, in house SEOs can be less experienced.

Many agency SEOs will have an abundance of technical knowledge and expertise. Where they will struggle is with the unique problem of working within large corporate environment.

As I have experience of both agency and client side SEO positions, I thought I would sum up some of the additional skills needed by an in house SEO to succeed in the corporate in house role.
Most sites I worked as an agency were small and accessible. This is usually different client side. I work on sites that I am not permitted access to via FTP and various different teams are responsible for each area on the site. The many groups and stakeholders within a large corporate can make persuading people to listen to you and your ideas difficult. This poses many new problems for an in house SEO used to the agency work process, you need a business case for your new idea to justify it to key staff before you can even think about implementing it!

Influence -you need to be seen and heard. You should be approachable and easy to speak to - this helps staff consult with you and you can build up a rapport with your colleagues. These colleagues can be from all parts of the business so you need to be patient with the ones that don't understand the web. These can often be the most rewarding people to work with because they are happy to be learning something new. This is one of my favourite elements of the job.

Expert - Remember that you need to be the expert, make sure people are aware of this, otherwise you may be seen as a lightweight with no real expertise. The problem with webdesign and SEO is that people tend to think they understand how they work (probably why this industry has plenty of people in work that are far from being actual experts).

Control -You must be in control of your agency or team. What input do they have? Is it technical or strategic?

Networking -Find out who the key stakeholders and decision makers are. This will save you from having numerous meetings with people that cannot benefit you (large companies are filled with people that are obsessed with waste of time meetings)

Stamina - I'm not even joking on this one... You will be put in numerous meetings and while some of these might seem tiring, you might find your key decision makers in here. I was dropped into a "big" meeting with Google and Youtube in my first week and it can be quite a daunting time for the newbie - in front of important colleagues and companies. You don't want to slip up here! Make sure you can concentrate and contribute in these meetings too!

I don't want any grief from agency types proclaiming their superiority either, I've worked agency side too and working client side might seem like a cushy job to some, it is very hard work. It is very rewarding though and working within a team of industry experts allows you to become very knowledgeable in SEO in that specific area.

Some general tips
Always measure the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators - These could be overall traffic, bookings and conversion rates) you can then document your SEO success. Look at the historic performance of existing pages before you improve the functionality on them. You can refer back to your performance improvements and as well as looking good on your CV, they can support your cause and stakeholders will be impressed and willing to listen. Your only problem is that you are responsible for this, so make sure you can access appropriate stats.

Look for shortcuts
Large corporate companies are not always that efficient and trying to get work done with an agency frame of mind won't work. Look for any opportunities to get work done quickly and easily. Is there an offline brochure with text you can adapt for use on the site? Can you train the copyrighter or content team to put content together SEO friendly text with internal links?
Instead of link building in the normal way, what about a linking policy with 3rd party sites or affiliates?

Make use of UGC (User Generated Content), big sites get more offline advertising and more brand searches, make use of the huge traffic benefits by providing users with the facility to add comments or reviews etc. This will then drive more traffic to the site and add to the indexable content as well as providing a valuable function for users.

Social networking buttons can mobilise this UGC without you having to lift a finger! Just moderate the UGC to keep the content quality, this will maximise the potential of the content being mobilised.

Read part 2 In House SEO tips

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