SMX East 2011: In-House SEO Operations — How to Get Things Done

This session is all about SEO operations in house. Jessica Bowman of is our moderator.


Laura Callow: @lauracallow
Simon Heseltine: @simonheseltine
Erika Mamber: @erikamamber
Ulli Muenker

AOL goldfish goodies from Simon

Jessica asks how many in the audience are in-house marketers and how many are in agencies? Simon throws goodies at the in-house marketers.

Erika Mamber says that SEO in her org, Demand Media, is considered every step of the way. These tactics need to be part of the daily routine. The payoff is people outside the SEO team understanding and taking responsibility for SEO.

Building buzz and cultivating mindshare will be the two points she covers.

Building Buzz

We love to talk about our industry. Be the filter when sharing with your org. Add newshound to your job description. When there’s relevant SEO news, add your spin that shows relevance and tailors it for their priorities. This part is key. If individuals don’t care about SEO, the org won’t. It’s also important to make it actionable.

breaking news example

Your site is the best news source:

  • New tactics
  • Monthly reports
  • Impacts from search engine rankings

Cultivating Mindshare

The best way to do this is with face-t- face daily interactions. Be physically present. You don’t have to sit with who you report up to. Have each SEO sitting with the team they work with most. You also want to be intellectually present. As an informed resource, people will seek out your opinion.

Share the SEO why behind the what, because understanding builds a sense of ownership. When you impart knowledge, you gain evangelists.

You know its working when the questions you’re asked get harder. It’s not going to happen over night, and you’ll have to put in a lot of time. But an army of SEOs throughout the org is the end result.

Ulli Muenker is next. She works for Business Week and Bloomberg. She’ll be talking about what to do as in-house SEO on a daily basis, especially if you’re the only SEO.

common issues slide

  1. Incentives: forecast the impact of SEO Translate the impact of SEO iniatives into revenues Mention competitors that implemented the same initiative Estimate rough figures resulting in rev increase.
  2. Structure and workflow: get involved early on SEO involved in product ideation and planning Integrate 10-20% of tech project time to SEO.


  • Regularly check with product managers and designers regarding new product ideas.
  • Give product managers examples of successful early involvement.
  • Get yourself invited for new product meetings.
  • Create case studies of missed opportunities. Put the results in dollars.

Process: Checklists and Documentation

  • Introduce best practices, checklists early on to avoid repeating mistakes.


internal networking: build alliances

Training and Motivation

  • Create multipliers Invest time in regular training Get SEO integrated into other departments’ performance metrics identify multipliers who can incorporate SEO into work Customize training to 10 to 12 people max.

Outsourcing: Free up Your Time

  • Outsource standalone projects, wireframes, code review, copywriting, training, link building.
  • Cons: dependent on individuals, occasionally limited access and staff turn over.

Time Management

  • Don’t spend all your time on project management.

spending time on project management

Laura Callow is next. She asks who in the audience is human, and suspiciously few raise their hand …  She says it’s worth noting that SEOs are human, despite the way management may look at us. ;)

key takeaways slide

Educate, elaborate, empower, evangelize = 4 Es

core marketing objectives slide

  • Management is likely to have assigned SEO traffic/deliverables to marketing fuction.
  • Find out what function/dept/manager it is and ask for their plan.
  • Don’t sit in a silo.

Marketing managers must be educated about what SEO can deliver in their objectives. We put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage if we’re not engaged in SEO.

Educate about what drives SEO and give plans (traffic, revenue, lead gen) for every campaign. They want to see what’s going to plan. Showcase your wins. Tell them what you used/needed to get these results in terms of budget and resouces.

Estimate what you might have achieved with X more. Start setting expectations with this delivery to support your case for budget the next fiscal period.

search marketing plan slide

  • Ensure your team works according to an accountable system of delivery.
  • There should also be a driver of SEO requirements, from initiative to delivery.
  • Approver needs to be on your side — person who signs off.
  • Contributor: everyone on the team is a contributor
  • All SEOs need to be informed of, at least, everything happening in marketing.
  • Make a case for everything in the form of a plan on a page.

driving SEO and accountability slide

Simon Heseltine is next. He’ll talk about bringing in vendors. In-house rarely has all the resouces they need to do the job as well as they want.

direction of in-house SEO slide

The trend is toward using specialists and consultants.

When to Bring in a Vendor?

If opportunity is: available resource + cost of vendors, hire vendor. If not, don’t.

Need for Vendors

  • Lack of in-house resources: take over portions or entire project.
  • Lack of knowledge/experience.
  • Short-term projects: vendors can be brought in as needed. The in-house team can work on the “fun” projects.

If you do bring in a vendor, scope out the project fully. Make sure you’ll receive what you’ll expect and that you’ll pay what you expect.

What to look for:

  • Vendors with experience in your indstyr or similar industry Talk to industry peers Attend conferences, industry events Make sure your philosophies are the same.
  • Ask: who will do the work? Do they subcontract? What’s the frequency of contact?

Jessica wants to share tips for hiring before we close. Top Grading by Brad Smart includes a three-hour interview that she uses.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

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

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