SEO From Inception: The Dream is Real

5-flowersIf you’ve worked as an SEO for any length of time, more likely than not, there's been at least one time when you’ve received an email or phone call informing you that a new product, site section, or feature was released recently, and they want to know why it’s not ranking for the primary keywords.

Of course, this is the first you’ve heard of this project, so you have to scramble to find out what the scope of the project is, what architectural mistakes have been made (or in many cases, those which haven’t been made may be the shorter list), and what the expectations are.

Being the professional you are, you quickly jump into a site audit, make recommendations for improvement, and come up with an initial strategy that can at least take care of the low hanging fruit.

Then, just as you’re getting done with that, the next email or phone call rolls in, and the whole frustrating process starts again. Sure, in some organizations, the SEO team sets at least some of the overall product strategy, which ensures their involvement, but that’s not the case in all organizations.

What’s the solution?

Obviously, SEO needs to be a part of the process from the inception of a project through to, and beyond, the implementation phase. The trick is how to get that to actually happen.

Executive Support

With executive support it’s a lot easier to get SEO embedded throughout the process, depending upon the standing of the executive within the company. A high level SEO champion can make the difference between different branches of the organization feeling that they really need to involve you at different stages, and them feeling that it’s an optional step that can be skipped to save time.

Organizational Education

If you want people to understand what the SEO team brings to the table, then the best way is to train people throughout the organization so they can gain a fuller comprehension of the benefits of SEO. In fact, this serves to make your job easier, as it sets you and your team up as the internal experts, and gives others in the organization a base set of knowledge to work from.

The training can also be used to identify team members that could receive more focused training and become SEO advocates within their organization, ensuring that SEO is a constant thought within their department.

Increase the Visibility of SEO

If you want the benefits of SEO to be known throughout the organization, then you have to trumpet SEO successes, whether they’re directly yours, the actions of others in the organization, or just pure good fortune (i.e., a search term that you rank highly for, yet doesn’t get much traffic suddenly becomes hot). If you keep promoting the good story around SEO, then it will become ingrained within the culture.

Consistency

For SEO to be considered a vital step in whatever your production process is, it shouldn’t be perceived as a bottleneck. People should be aware, at each stage of the process, what the expectations and requirements are, and the SEO team should respond within those timelines, or make it known as soon as possible why that won’t be the case.

The End Game

In some organizations, projects aren’t allowed to go live unless they had an SEO signoff that everything that could potentially have been done, had been done. Those organizations are few and far between.

If you can at least get SEO to be more than an afterthought throughout your company, however, then things should be much easier for you, and you should have many more of those successes to trumpet.

About the author

Simon Heseltine is the Director in charge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at AOL Inc. In this role Simon and his team are responsible for organic search and training across all AOL and Huffington Post Media Group properties. He has also visited the UK office on several occasions to consult and train the AOL-UK teams on SEO best practices.

In his previous position as Director of Search at a Washington, D.C., based agency, Simon was responsible for developing and implementing organic search and social media strategies for companies across several industries. He also developed and delivered training programs for clients, including a large U.S. media company, to enable them to best take advantage of the opportunities available to their companies through both organic search and social media.

Simon is a frequent speaker at conferences in the U.S. and UK on topics ranging from SEO to social search to reputation management. He also teaches SEO at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as part of their Digital Media Management program.

Simon has a BA (Hons) from the University of Humberside, and a Masters in IT from Virginia Tech.