In-House SEO Operations: How Things Get Done – SMX West 2011

Today is going fast at SMX. Gone are the days of luxury when I had an hour break between sessions. They mean business today because the last session wraps up at 3:30 p.m. PT. This session, we’re told, will be less about SEO tactics and tools, and more about the integral workings of in-house SEO from idea to launch. Stretching fingers; let’s do it.

SMX West logo

Moderator: Jessica Bowman, Founder,


Robin Aguilar, Principal SEO Analyst, AOL
Jeremiah Andrick, Online Customer Acquisition Manager, Logitech
Jessica Bowman, CEO,
Jason Nazar, CEO,

First up is Jeremiah Andrick. He says he’s going to be quick.

Good ideas come from many places, the question is, are you looking for them? When he first went to Logitech, he audited the company, not the site. Audit your team; get others on your side. Learn to identify stakeholders and personalities. You have to learn how to get people on your side.

SMX West 2011: In-House SEO Session

When you come on, create a folder for people, track things about your team, what their birthdays are, what their favorite beers are. Who are the parties that are going to get in the way of what you want to do?

The natural-born leader is a myth. Just being a boss doesn’t make you a leader. Lead without authority; take responsibility and set measurable goals. The average person doesn’t want accountability. Engage others and sell your vision to anyone who will listen. Pick your projects that will add the most value.

If you work remotely, spend some time with the people you need when it makes sense.

If your job is about making the inevitable happen, “they” don’t need you. You’re there to drive things. Become an evangelist.

Project management is not a dirty word. It doesn’t have to include Gantt chart or even a calendar. He loves Google Docs because it can track activities, you can enter notes and collaborate with people all over the world.

One final note: Making Things Happen – it’s a book and he highly recommends it.

Next, we have Robin Aguilar. She is going to talk process.

Your idea + data = success.

  • What does your site need? What are your competitors doing? Align with their keywords or jump ahead, do a gap analysis.
  • Ask how much you can get and how much it will cost.
  • Get buy-in from the top down. Get to know your executive decision-makers.
  • Talk to the designers on user experience and SEO [Side note: check out Pixelsilk for SEO- friendly CMS].
  • Journalist vs. SEO: Your copywriters need to understand the importance of SEO if they are caught up on AP Style.

Bring your ideas to life.

  • Set up teams for success. Provide tools. Walk them through the process.
  • Get and stay organized.
  • If design is help up, mock it up yourself.
  • Find projects you can do yourself.
  • Choose vendors as needed and have constant communication.

How did your idea do?

  • Traffic from search engines. Reasons for traffic increase and decrease.
  • Keywords driving traffic.
  • How did it perform against projections?
  • Praise and give thanks enough.

Inspire others to SEO.

  • Keep SEO desire burning throughout the year. Training, meetings, conferences [Yaay, I agree!], SEO council, etc.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • Spread too thin
  • Not speaking up
  • Not communicating wins and losses. OK to toot your own horn and accept mistakes. Spread love to the people who helped as well.

Finally, we have Jason Nazar. He is chipper. He asks us how we are. Two people said something back. He is making fun of our fervor for being here.

He just asked how many people are in-house SEOs – looks like the majority of people in here.

He’s a funny guy – he just told everyone to just say something if they want, to just yell it out. Then he made a funny noise, and said that’s what you shouldn’t do if you have something to say. Kinda sounded like Tweak from South Park’s signature grunt.

[OK, my tangent is over.]

Formula for long-tail SEO:

  • Site architecture + pieces of content + in-links.

SEO is a team culture, not a job description. It’s not an SEO person or SEO team. Those companies fail – F-A-I-L [Yes, he just spelled it] at SEO. It’s every single person in the process – everyone is responsible.

Tool Box:

  • WordTracker keyword tool (has a sick API)
  • Google Analytics
  • Webmaster Tools

Key Metrics:

  • Number of indexed pages
  • Pages indexed/day
  • Percent pages ranking in top 100 results
  • Pages/terms on first=page results
  • Position of top 20 percent of keywords
  • Pages indexed/total pages
  • Number of in-links/pages indexed

[That was a fun panel. Lots of energy.]

Jessica Bowman is going to “put a bow” on the presentation.

She says you have to establish processes. Make it a routine. Make it easy for everyone. Don’t be afraid to give structure and document the processes. She talks about “aids” not checklists because they are not always definitive. This is important for repeatable models.

Integrate SEO with existing processes. Find out how things flow in the organization. Beef up your technical skills – you have to have them to know SEO. You have to be able to talk to IT. If you don’t have those, work with a consultant who can fill that gap for you.

Become a master at writing requirements. This is so important. Integrate SEO to existing standards, set up accountability so that you’re leveraging all the roles within the organization.


The Q&A moderator literally sprinted to get the mic to an audience member, then he took a bow … that was impressive. Everyone laughs.

Q: Are there any best practices?
A: Jeremiah says it’s unique to your business and culture. It’s about changing your corporate culture, too.
A: Jason has a template they use to go through as a baseline to start. Each page of content is its own business line. So, there’s not one template, but you can customize it for your own business.
A: Jessica says seomoz has some decent resources, but you might need to be a member.

No one else has questions, so Jason says “Why are you guys all in here?” Then, we get someone who speaks up.

Q: What happens when you put out content that isn’t getting indexed and you want to drop it, what should you do?
A: Jason says if it’s an original piece of content that didn’t get indexed, try to figure out why. Could be something off. Play with your site map. But, if at the end of the day, it’s still not being indexed, take it down and create a new URL for it. If it’s not a good piece of content, just drop it altogether.

Q: I work for a multinational firm and our parent company wants to consolidate. The parent site does not rank, ours does. Do you have suggestions for switch over?
A: Robin says set up a transition plan. Identify the URLs that need to be transitioned and 301 redirect them. Do not full-scale 301 redirect an entire site. Maintain for six months, check your data and take down rewrite rules for those that aren’t driving traffic. Repeat.

P.S. Bruce Clay, Inc. has an insightful video interview with Jessica Bowman at the BlueGlass LA 2010 conference. Check it out!

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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2 Replies to “In-House SEO Operations: How Things Get Done – SMX West 2011”

Jessica Lee

Hi, Alex — you are so welcome! Thank you for reading and taking the time to tell us it was helpful!

Jessica, thanks a lot for sharing. This is super useful for ppl like me who couldn’t attend. Awesome notes on Q&A! Thanks again!


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