Now that you've landed your job as the in-house SEO leader, what's next?
If your calendar doesn't already have several meet-and-greets set up, I suggest you forward your manager the article Hit the Ground Running with SEO, so that you get the right intro to the right people. The remainder of this article will give you advice for starting onto a path of in-house success during your first days on the job. In-house success is more about the soft skills than the SEO skills you were hired for, particularly during your first weeks on the job.
Figure Out the Personalities and their AuthorityIn your first days, make the effort to learn about the business and the personalities you'll be dealing with. Your big challenge will be to assess people as one of four personalities: an ally, an obstacle, an indifferent or a fair-weathered-ally. The allies will help your cause, obstacles can often be overcome with the right coddling, those that are indifferent could care less about search marketing and whether or not your changes get implemented, and the fair-weathered-ally are those you need to look out for. The fair-weathered-ally will agree with you to your face when all is calm, but the instance they're facing opposition at other ends (such as a tech check with IT engineers), they'll collapse, and the support you thought you had is gone. Nailing these personalities down up front will help you navigate through the politics.
You'll also want to assess the authority of the people you meet. While someone may be an ally and able to give you tips for making the sell, they may not have the authority to give you support when you need it. The most important people are those that are your ally and have authority; because these people can get things prioritized, squeezed into other projects and out the door fastest. As you assess authority levels, remember that a person who has authority with the business/marketing end of things, may not have authority with IT, and vise-versa. Know the difference and build rapport with authorities on both sides and you will gain SEO champions in the most vital areas of the organization.
There is one group that you want to pamper, particularly in the beginning, it's the reporting team. You will want to make an extra special effort with anyone you meet from the reporting team. In these first days, you need them to be your biggest allies. These are the people that will get the data you need for your initial analysis, they can explain the data, how it's calculated and what it means. They can also tell you which metrics are important to each division and/or business sponsor you'll be working with.
Do the Standard Site AssessmentJust like you do with any new SEO project, you'll want do a standard site assessment in your early days on the job. There is one notable difference to keep in mind: you can recommend solutions to things that need fixed, but you MUST also include solutions that are technically feasible in your company's environment. By ensuring that your recommendations include a feasible solution in the list of options, your IT will perceive you as more practical and they will be more open to discussing options. To ensure you have feasible solutions, take the time to learn about the architecture and network, talk to the IT department about things that sites are doing for SEO and gauge their reactions to determine their openness to such solutions.
Ask, but Do Not Recommend.... YetThis last piece of advice is easy to give, but difficult to follow. When meeting with IT during these first days, ask a lot of questions to talk about your recommendations without actually giving away that they are your recommendations. As correct as you might be, and how seemingly simple the changes seem, you will not receive a warm welcome if three days into the job you are suggesting what IT perceives as massive architecture changes, design revisions and things that will increase download times. Even worse, you could loose credibility if you constantly make recommendations that would never be acceptable in their environment.
My recommendation is to meet with IT as you are doing your site assessment to understand the environment, how the back-end systems interact, and how your servers are set-up, and so forth. Discuss the types of things sites are doing for SEO, and as you talk, interpret their openness to each. Make a mental note of who is more open to discussing options, they are a potential ally. Lastly, you will want to understand limitations of the network, architecture and back-end systems so that when you do finally present your findings, you're able to include feasible solutions that the team can implement – giving you credibility in their eyes.
These first days are crucial as people assess your potential for the role, and how easy, or difficult, you are going to be to work with. Now that you're an in-house SEO, you need to realize that your job is less about tactical SEO and more about figuring out how to get stuff done. Master the soft skills and you'll be a success in-house.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!