Imagine quitting your job because no one values you as an in-house SEO or feeling mentally deserted. That was what one reader posted in response to my last column, which discussed “3 Ways to Loop SEO Into an Enterprise Agenda,” mainly through formal or informal process.
“I have quit few jobs due to my effort being wasted and I mentally felt deserted during those periods,” wrote the reader. This really grabbed my attention, as it said a lot about the pain the commenter has been through.
We could also infer that the commenter is both:
- Very confident of their skills and doesn’t suffer from job insecurities that plague many in the corporate world.
- Optimistic that there are better companies out there who value SEOs, so doesn’t accept to go with the flow.
Both are commendable traits.
In any case, the value of an in-house SEO is much higher than what is typically reported in monthly SEO dashboards or quarterly business reviews. The value of an in-house SEO or an in-house SEO consultant can be bucketed into a set of tangible activities (the ones where you can put a direct dollar amount) and intangible activities (the ones that could have indirect value or benefit).
Let’s start with the tangible activities we can put a dollar amount to:
1. SEO Performance Reporting
This in essence is why SEOs get hired in the first place. Optimize sites, get rankings, and bring the dollars in – this is what we do! A competent in-house SEO can work wonders for any site by bringing in standard SEO best practices, inserting SEO into company processes, creating SEO dashboards, and optimizing sites.
As straightforward as this may sound, many teams are unsure about the right SEO metrics – or rather how SEO efforts should be measured. Add to that all the myths and misconceptions surrounding SEO and suddenly you find that there are many ways an in-house SEO can affect change and prove their SEO value.
As a starting step, find out what conversion metric the company uses to measure cost-per-acquisition (CPA), cost-per-order (CPO), cost-per-lead (CPL) or lifetime value of a customer (LTV). Take any of these metrics and integrate that as part of your SEO performance reporting.
By clearly communicating this SEO performance regularly, an in-house SEO can prove their value to the business on an ongoing basis.
2. Power of Small Wins
When you start at a new company, you're trying to understand the company culture and how different players fit in into the overall company puzzle. At the same time, you'll notice that many new projects get thrown at the “SEO guy (or gal)” in the early days.
When you're new, one of the ways to make a difference is getting SEO into the process. This action of trying to get SEO into the process is analogous to changing a culture.
You're trying to change the way people have been used to doing certain things and following a certain set of processes. For you to come and try to bring change, especially in a big project where tens and maybe hundreds are involved, can be very challenging, especially when you're new. As an SEO you may feel dejected as a large grouup may oppose making a change based on one new guy's recommendation.
This is where the power of small win comes into play. Finding a smaller initiative where maybe only few stakeholders are involved can be a great way to make a change.
Pick a smaller project, show your SEO-wares, and affect change. Now, what you have is results and performance data can be very powerful.
Use this as a case study for the bigger projects and you will realize that you aren't only being heard, but taken seriously since now you have performance data and recommendations from stakeholders to back you up.
3. Recruiting – Helping Attract Talent
Hiring is never easy. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to hiring for SEO. Hiring can be a pain in the ass, as Mark Jackson described so eloquently in “My Love-Hate Relationship with SEO.”
Even in this economy, hiring for SEO can get really tough especially if the hiring managers aren't proficient enough in SEO to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is where in-house SEOs can add real value.
In-house SEOs can spot a good resume (that is less of buzzwords and more of results) and recognize talent internally within the company or from the search industry. Many in-housers are also active on the speaking circuit like at the Search Engine Strategies (SES) conferences and as a result can actively help recruit new talent for the company.
Now, smart managers recognize this benefit that a company can gain due to an in-house SEO’s active industry affiliation. This goes without saying that an in-house SEO will not just attract talent that will drive incremental growth to the company but also save on costly and time consuming recruiting process.
Now, let’s look at some of the intangibles where it is tough, if not impossible, to put a dollar amount to the value an in-houser can bring in.
1. Providing Thought Leadership
Thought leadership can be a spark for a bigger idea, and in-house SEOs can provide this spark. Every opportunity an SEO gets in a meeting, in casual conversations while in the hallway, or near the water cooler, SEOs can provide ideas on what is possible with SEO or how the business can achieve their goals with SEO.
The other way of providing thought leadership and adding value is thinking beyond SEO in terms of how the project or campaign will impact the business on a broader level. Companies hire for not just immediate subject level expertise but someone who can think holistically. Sometimes, a simple SEO suggestion can make a huge difference and save the company countless hours otherwise spent in a meeting discussing what to do next.
2. Being the Bridge Between IT and Marketing
Isn’t this a classic love-hate relationship? Marketing and IT relationship is tumultuous where each side has their own set of complaints.
The most common one is where IT would say “Marketing does not understand the technical process and wants everything done fast,” whereas marketers are most likely to say “IT does not understand how time sensitive and critical our marketing campaigns are and they always delay our projects.” This is precisely where in-house SEOs can add value by acting as a bridge.
SEO is part technical and part marketing. As a result SEOs can understand the technicalities of IT as well as time sensitive nature of marketing. IT folks have a respect for SEOs because they know SEOs are technical in nature and can speak their type of technical language.
Again, you can quantify these results in terms of projects not getting IT pushback anymore and, as a result, the time to market is faster. The end result is priceless.
3. Bringing in the Right Type of Outside Expertise
An in-house SEO can help the company bring the right type of outside expertise. This outside expertise can be in the form of a new agency or an outside SEO expert.
Without an in-house SEO a company can go straight to a Forrester report or look up some kind of SEO company rankings and then close their eyes and see where the finger leads them to a company name on the list. OK, maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
An in-house SEO can add real value here because, through industry knowledge, they can uncover some gems. Now, only after six months or a year in the relationship would companies realize this value the in-houser brings in. This is an important value and definitely not to be overlooked just because it doesn’t have an immediate hard dollar amount next to it.
Your SEO worth is much more than what can be measured in dollar amount – not to mention the extra online skills you bring to any company. If you're an in-house SEO like the commenter from my last article, don't get disheartened and quit your job. Instead be the woodpecker and keep pecking on and you will make a difference!
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!