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