11 Nov 2008

Being an Effective SEO Within Your Organization

As I’ve Twittered already, I’m giving up my outlet space so that I can actually see the projector and stare at the dreamy speakers. I haven’t discussed this decision with my laptop yet but I’m pretending I’m in charge.

Up this morning we’ve got a panel of total awesome: Jessica Bowman, Scott Polk, Aaron Shear, Tony Adam and Alex Schultz. Lou Ragg is moderating and with both Scott and Tony on the panel, I don’t know which one to make fun of first. Okay, that’s a lie. The answer to that question is always Scott.  Scott loves me.

Tony Adam is up first. He says he’s all about shameless self promotion. Yup.

How do you start being effective?

  • Get an understanding of the people you with and interact with.
  • Find out who the business stakeholders are in your organization.
  • Know what projects are going on and if there is any opportunity to create SEO projects.

It is extremely important to know the company culture. You want to know how the organization moves. Is it quick or is it slow? At Yahoo, they’re slow.  What are the personality types? How do you interact with them? Who can you talk to push your agenda? Be patient and grow a thick skin.

Build Relationships and Partnerships: Create relationship with the right people. Partner horizontally with anyone and everyone. Make friends. Tony says he loves making friends and I almost spit out my water. He’s such a dork. He also says to take people out to dinner. Get drunk with them and have “dates”. [Work dates. Don’t take your coworkers.]

Be Everywhere and Get Integrated: Integrate into Processes: planning and strategy, design and development, QA, go to market. Lead and Review meetings are very important.

Set and Manage Expectations: What do you plan on achieving and can it be quantified? When are you planning on getting it done? Be clear about the expectations. Pick your battles wisely.

Creating SEO Guidelines: Build SEO guidelines into product development. Put them in Content & Copy, User Experience & Design, Engineering, etc.

Reach Out To Everyone: Train the entire organization on SEO. Push your SEO knowledge through internal blogs, internal wikis and newsletters. Set up office hours.

Be Passionate and Evangelize SEO: Be passionate, bring tons of energy and get people excited about SEO. Get SEO into every conversation possible. Find people that will be your Mini SEO Evangelists (do they have to be little people?). Talk about success stories.

Tony Adam is a total dork. That’s all. 🙂

Scott Polk is next. He shows us his last slide and then the screen goes black. We all clap. Hee!

Apparently he’s not really done.

Why Evangelize SEO?

SEO can be effected by your entire organization: By the executive level, copywriting teams, technical people, creative, HTML, etc. SEO requires training. That means education, transparency and feedback.

SEO also requires: beer, relationships and more beer. Eat, drink and be merry with everyone in the company. SEO is so on the outside of the normal product life cycle that you need to get yourself integrated.

Evangelism inhouse is the most important thing you can do. It will make your job a whole lot easier.  And that concludes Scott’s six slides. Nice.

Jessica Bowman is up next.

Jessica says that Tony and Scott are right. Beer and coffee work when trying to get people on board. Is that really today’s takeaway? Get people drunk? I guess it is Pubcon…

When it comes down to being an effective SEO, you really have to constantly investigate how the company works and then act on that knowledge. There’s an intake process that you have to go through.  Every time you turn around, you’ll learn something new — new documentation, a new thing someone created, a new step, an extra meeting, etc.  This is important even for small companies.

Investigation Process

You need to know what’s happening, what are the agendas and what is the development life cycle?

What’s Happening…The Politics: Understand what’s going on in the organization. The stress indicators, pressures, sensitive areas, politics. Look at both the business and the personal. You learn this by asking questions and just listening to what’s going on. This will tell you when to pitch and when not to pitch.

What’s Happening…The Site: Know the changes happening on the site at any given time and what’s coming up.

Learn the Different Agendas: Find out what makes each person tick. What are their agendas and goals? Let people come up with the idea that you were already thinking of. Lead them into the right direction until they said what you wanted them to. You know, like in marriage! 🙂

Learn the Development Life Cycle: What are people doing? How are they doing it? What are they passing across departments? What documents are they creating?  What standards and guidelines are being used? Get your SEO standards into the most current guidelines.

She gives us an example of what the typical development life cycle looks like.

Often, the SEO person isn’t high on the organizational chart.  You want to be managing upward. And one time investigation doesn’t cut it. It once took her two years to figure out the development life cycle.

Please say hi to Alex Schultz. He’s next.

Alignment: What is the number one priority for your organization? At his organization (Facebook), it’s growth. Work out what is the key thing that your organization needs to do and throw out everything else.

Measurability: Most companies don’t appreciate the value of SEO. Make sure everything you do is measurable to show the true value of SEO. That’s what will get you your momentum.

Get Results: Facebook did not believe in Internet marketing when he joined the company. They didn’t invest any money into it.  He showed a few engineers how SEO was aligned to what the company was trying to do. They made a simple change, which got them instant results. It showed the engineers how SEO could be valuable to the organization. It builds credibility and momentum.

Double Down: You’ve got a result. You can now present a big PowerPoint slide and convince them that SEO has value OR you can go out and get the second result and actually use the momentum. If you can’t use your momentum, you need to quit your job. Heh, harsh.

Share: Present your work, put that PowerPoint out there, and prove that the work you’ve done has driven value to your company.

Aaron Shear is going to bring it home, which is good because I have a rumbling tummy. I wonder what’s for lunch? Maybe there are cupcakes? Mmm, frosting.

How To Get Hired

Learn how to sell*: He says he can’t tell you how important it is to be able to sell yourself and your ideas. Have an appropriate experience — an analyst or an accountant doesn’t cut i. If you cannot speak as an authority you wll no get anywhere. Speak as if you know what you are talking about, but do not BS your way through the ranks, any decent exec can spot that.

*[I originally thought he said “spell”, not sell. I’d like to advocate that people also learn how to spell. Thank you.]

Train – Train- Train: Nothing is more important than training. If the supporting office staff does not understand how and why SEO works, it will never be sold up the executive ladder. You should have a “director” level and or higher responsibilities or everyone will just ignore you.

Train Again: You have to keep training people and keep them up to date. Use real life examples and make sure to repeat constantly. He coined little phrases like “I smell SEO” and other not-so-appropriate sayings.

Now You Have Support: Use it to pitch to your execs. Understand your traffic, make sure that you understand the weaknesses of the site and build a strategy around how to rectify issues. Almost every exec is going to turn around and say SEO isn’t free.

How to Get a Budget

Competitive research will almost always uncover some sort of paid strategy. Nothing gets a SEO in more of a tizzy than bringing up what your competitors are doing. Make sure to remind your bosses of this.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

There are great consultants who know specific markets very well. They can help you sell concepts internally. The mocking bird effect also helps. Engineers may blow you off even if you are right.

Work with marketing and PR. They typically have more money to use and it wil never hurt to ask if they can do something to help. Don’t forget to give them credit for it.

Report Like Crazy

Executives love to see numbers. Anything you can send them about how things are moving is a very easy to understand way will hel pour cause. Even if numbers are not promising, at least give them status updates.

And that’s it! Time for lunch and battery charging.

[rubs tummy]