At the SES Chicago conference last week, Dave Rohrer of Covario and I spoke on the topic of in-house SEO from a Monty Python perspective. While I won’t subject you to a rendition of my theory of how the Dead Parrot sketch is a simile for the in-house prioritization process, I will touch on one aspect from the session, that of four in-house SEO myths and the two solutions.
In-House SEO Myths
1. All You Need is an Executive on Your Side and You are Golden
While it’s true that executive support goes a long way, and that it’s nigh on impossible to get things done without it, it’s not the be all and end all of getting your SEO projects done. You also need buy in every other level, from the developers to the project managers, to the editorial staff. Without buy in from the key stakeholders you can find yourself unable to get your projects prioritized at the appropriate level.
The same is true of the maxim that all you need to do is buy your developers a case of beer every now and again and your life will be full of joy. Without the backing of the key stakeholders it doesn’t matter how happy your relationship is with the dev team. You may not be able to get your work prioritized.
That said, you do want to maintain a good relationship with your dev team, as they can be your eyes and ears, letting you know when a project with potential SEO impact is starting, and maybe needs your attention.
2. SEOs are Always Included in the Process
Every conference I have presented these myths at, I’ve asked for hands to be raised if anyone has ever received an email asking: “we launched a new site or feature last week would you SEO it now?” Invariably a large percentage of hands are raised. So it seems fairly obvious that this is a widespread issue.
3. SEOs are Listened to, and the Advice Acted Upon
Sometimes business priorities don’t have SEO high upon the list, this could be due to certain realities, such as direction/resources, or it could just be down to something as simple as an incorrect perception of the value of SEO
4. SEO is a ‘Once and Done’ Process
This one goes hand in hand with “we need to boost our traffic next week, go SEO the site.” It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the impact of SEO, and the shifting sands of the search engine algorithms.
While the fundamentals stay mostly the same, what is acceptable practice this week, may not be so next week. Your competitors are trying new things, evolving their sites.
If you stand still and don’t implement schemes, or whatever it is that would make sense for your site, you risk falling behind. Then you also have the issue of your own internal teams relaunching sites, adding and subtracting bits from sites, or just generally, occasionally, just messing things up by mistake.
In-House SEO Solutions
For all of the issues raised above, there are really only two solutions, neither of which guarantee success, but will go a long way toward putting you on the right path.
1. Inter-departmental Relationship Building
One of the most important functions of the in-house SEO team is to get as many of the key stakeholders on board as possible, and in many cases to act as a facilitator and get them speaking to each other. By having allies within the various teams you can find yourself informed of projects with SEO impact that have somehow not made their way to you through official channels.
It’s also a great way of finding out what drives the various stakeholders and using that as part of your strategy when pushing for various SEO projects.
2. Customized Training
If you want to get people on board, and you want to clear any incorrect perceptions about what it is that you and your team do, then set up training sessions. These can be brown bag lunchtime sessions, they can be formalized classroom style sessions, or even webinars if need be.
What is important though is that you customize your training to your audience. There is nothing wrong with having a standard deck that you want to use across the various teams, just change some of the screenshots that you have to apply more to them.
For different teams, they’ll care about different issues, so have a developer training, an editorial staff training, a project manager training, etc. The more of what you are saying applies to the role of the audience, the more attentive they will be.
Also, in order for your training to resonate with the audience, try to keep it to a decent length (anything more than 2 hours will both reduce attendance (people still have work to be done) and attention levels as eyes will glaze over).
As an in-house SEO, even when you do everything absolutely right, you won’t always be able to get everything that you want to be done, all you can do then is