How to Build a Terrific In-House SEO Team

What skill sets are you looking for when drafting your in-house SEO all-star team? What does it take to plug in a SEO department to an already moving marketing machine?  As the new kid in town, how can you make sure the department’s voice is properly amplified, respected and heeded? The session Bringing SEO In-House: Pros and Cons on day 2 of SESNY 2010 will answer these questions and, I have a feeling, a heck of a lot more.

Moderating the session is Jessica Bowman, SEO Strategist and in-house SEO Expert, The distinguished panelists are as follows:

Matthew J. Brown, accompanied by Director of Search Strategy, New York Times Company
Joe Laratro
, SEO Professor, University of San Francisco/ Bisk
Prashant Puri, Head of Global SEO,
William (Bill) Scully, Chairperson, SEMPO In-house Comm. & Director E-Marketing, Siemens Water Technologies Corp.

Joe Laratro is on deck first to discuss building an in-house SEO team. First off, you have to determine if it make sense to employ a one-person show or will it require a full-on team? Do you have a small or large site? How many moving parts? You must determine the needs and resources of your organization and what model best fits.

Once this is defined what skills should you look for in building this arm of the company? Joe lists the skill set for each option he views mandatory when at this stage.

Option 1 – The One Person Show – Required skills
– Link building
– Social media
– Html
– Analytics
– Communication (You’re going to read this one over and over)
– Self managed and fast paced

Bonus skills
– Design

If you want to build a team, start at the top and go for a team leader.

Option 2 – The Team – Required Skills
– Project management
– Online marketing experience
– Communication
– Reporting/analytics

Bonus skills

Content writer
– Creative at the drop of a dime.

Link builder – able to engage directories, good at reporting/analytics and research
PPC manager – Excel, analytics, Adwords Editor, Yahoo desktop, 
Adcenter desktop

So now that you know WHO you want, HOW do you get them?

Recruiting sources
Networking, local IMAs, AMAs, DMAs, SEMPO chapters
– LinkedIn network
– Craigslist
– Professional recruiters (Aquent, Onward)

 – Education options and professional development certifications
– Bruce Clay
– University of San Francisco
– Market motive
– Full Sail University
– The DMA
– Hire consultants to train internal teams

The advantage here is that training can be developed as a clinic on the specific areas your team has to focus on every day.

SEO team Communication and Retention
– Communication is CRUCIAL
– Promote interaction between the marketing and technical department. Joe sees quite a bit of failure here, where companies don’t achieve full integration between these two departments.
– Open lines of communication and efforts to understand each others objectives are key here.
– Track all work for reporting and postmortem (bugzilla)

Retention – How do you keep them on board?
– Vest key employees (bonuses, stock options, etc.)
– Invest in ongoing training and industry participation
– Some companies are apprehensive about sending their employees to conferences in fear they will get scooped up by competitors. Bottom Line: If your employees are happy, poaching is not an issue.

Take Aways
– Choose an SEO department path
– Build the right team starting from the top
– Invest in the education of your team
– Communicate – Set realistic goals, have structured reporting, promote marketing and technical harmony
– Retain – If the crew keeps the register ringing, be sure to keep them happy.

Next to the podium is Bill Skully. He’ll focus on the life of an in-house SEO.

Bill views the real value of in-house as the deep understanding of what it is you’re selling. He’ll examine the life of an in-house SEO on a day-to-day, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

Daily – Professional SEM investments
– Listening to SEO and online marketing podcasts
– Read SEO newsletter and blogs
– Check twitter account SEO

Daily – Business
– Keep a log of tests and changes
– Update your conclusions from past performance and learn from mistakes.
– Check analytics – Identify spikes in traffic, goals and keyword traffic

Bottom line: you need to understand and focus on what’s working

Weekly – Business
– Analyze web logs and reports
– Note key campaign traffic changes
– Make sure things aren’t broken (again!)
– SEO check-up (turn and cough please)

Weekly – Outreach program
– Conduct weekly staff/meetings
– Conduct one on ones
An outreach program really assists in maintaining open and healthy lines of communication.

Attend IT/Web Department Meetings
The SEO department should be part of the dialogue for each of the following in order to remind the web department of any SEO implications that may follow:
– Application changes
– Structure changes
– New project scopes

Monthly – Professional SEO Investments
– Attend a webex
– Search Marketing Expo

Monthly – Business
Audit site/templates
– Check and ensure that all no follows are still in place
– Custom 404 page still working
– Redirects are 301s and go to proper pages

Monthly – Outreach Program
Distribute SEO reports to management
– Create and send reports to internal customers
– Plan new content projects for link building
– Check your Google webmaster account
– Schedule monthly calls with internal customers
– Find one new internal potential customer
– Bottom line: communicate!

Yearly – Business
Hold individual product/market team FY strategy sessions
– Campaigns/projects
– Budgets/goals
– Timing/responsibilities
– New product launches
Put together your 1 and 3 year SEO strategy plan
Put together and build support for your yearly budget
Review department staffing, service and training needs

Things to consider

Who do you have to convince?
– Who holds the purse strings?
– Who is faced with the burden of planning and maintaining the program?
– Who else are stakeholders (it, operations, etc.)?
– SEO staff should be accountable for managing to goals
– Do you have enough time to do the SEO busy work

To go along with Bill’s last comment, Bowman shares her belief that an in-house SEO department spends 80% of their time selling SEO and only 20% actually doing SEO.

Next up is Prashant Puri. He’ll touch on acquiring advocates for your program.

First is the idea of accountability. Who’s responsible for SEO revenue?
There is really 3 parts of managing a fully functioning accountable SEO department: educating, emphasizing and evangelizing.

Organize brown bag events around SEO factors
– Great starting point: SEOmoz ranking factors article
– Bucket each ranking factors by cross-functional teams

Grow trust and credibility within the organization.
Set-up a search insights group/unit

Keep executives up to date with the various changes in the field of search.
– Example. The Yahoo and Bing partnership and the potential implications – Communicate to the higher ups what this means.

Show past improvements as examples of great collaboration between teams.

Show past mistakes as examples of what not to do.

Become the marketing manager for SEO within your organization.
Discuss successful SEO projects/implementations and group collaborations
The goal is to have the product teams asking before they begin implementing, “did we ask the SEO guys yet?”

Last to take the stage is Matthew Brown. He’ll be covering ways to avoid in-house pitfalls. The communication goal for the SEO department is to teach them the part of SEO they need to know and no more.  5 minutes a day to get the job done right.

At the end of the day its how much referral traffic you’ve sent and how much of that traffic converted.

Need to make sure all your online efforts align with overall marketing efforts

3 Things to Remember – Tracking, Training and Communication

You should be the one to flag problems on the site thereby avoiding SEO disaster. As mentioned before, the SEO team should be the point of communication and needs to know about these projects before they are initiated.

Teach and provide resources -  they don’t need to be the eyes and ears they need to know how to do their job in a way that jives with SEO

Over communicate on how Google works and why things happen the way they do. Give them the tools they need to be mindful of SEO while doing their job.
– Site audits
– Prioritized lists
– Content creation process
-  Technical

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