After you hire an in-house SEO, it’s time to set your SEO up for a positive start. Below is a list of things you need to do to make the most of your SEO’s first days in-house. This article does not specify which department the SEO is located under, i.e. marketing or IT, but the interaction between departments is often interchangable.
Upon Arrival of your In-house SEO
- Before your SEO meets with anyone, outline the lay of the land for them. Spend the time to pull out the org chart and explain the organization and the personalities involved. Talk to your SEO about challenges departments are facing at this moment and big battles they’ve been facing within the organization. This will allow your SEO to look for ways that search can become an ally/asset to these other departments (which can make these departments a champion for SEO initiatives in the future).
- Prep your SEO on office politics. If there are internal politics, talk about them with your SEO, so that they know the minefields that lie ahead. If there is a department that doesn’t like your department, let them know. Lastly, if there are inter-departmental feuds, bring them up so that your SEO knows when not to reference certain conversations.
Break Your SEO In Gently
- Let people know your SEO is coming. The goal is to get your in-house SEO started on the best possible foot. Some companies (or certain departments in a company) give much respect to outside consultants, so tout their background if they worked at an agency. However, be wary of touting the SEO if the culture will snub such an intro.
- Book meet-and-greets. Have the new employee meet with various departments in the company to gain their perspective on search engine marketing and how search fits into their department’s goals and objectives. Departments to consider: marketing, public relations, product management, sales, usability, IT managers. These meetings should focus on getting to know each other for future interactions, and not to discuss SEO changes.
- Arrange for your SEO to sit in on sales calls and visit brick-and-mortar locations. This allows the SEO to learn more about the customer, what they want, and how customers reference your products. These interactions give the new employee necessary exposure to business lingo, and gets the SEOs' mental wheels spinning on how to improve the site to both boost rankings and meet customer needs and expectations.
- Arrange to get meeting time and man hours from your web analytics department. Your new SEO will need immediate access to reports, so they can reviewed during an initial assessment of the site. This is critical to understanding where you are at today, and to identify new opportunities for boosting your traffic. Within a week, your SEO should be ready to start requesting reports, and each report will lead to questions and they may need to delve deeper into the data. Arranging direct access to the analytics expert will give your SEO someone who can give the right explanations, offer insight into the variety of data available, offer direction on how to interpret the data and can give insight into who is concerned about which metrics.
- Arrange two special meetings with you, your SEO and the CTO. The first meeting is the first or second week on the job; the second is 3 months later. I find that CTOs and upper management are very supportive of SEO and making the site search engine friendly. The challenges tend to lie with the lower level managers and engineers that manage the day-to-day activities and standards for your network. The initial chat should uncover how IT has been prepped to incorporate SEO needs. The initial chat is also useful for strategic name-dropping and quoting in the months ahead.
The second chat can help remedy any overarching challenges you are facing. Often, the biggest challenge is making SEO changes a priority, and the CTO may have the means to get SEO changes incorporated into other projects or squeezed in during project down-time. Other times, the challenges revolve around standards and network limitations. The CTO will be able to reinforce to the right people, the need to develop a search engine friendly solution and encourage the exploration of new approaches. Use this time to eliminate obstacles and open doorways.
- Go to lunch with you, your SEO and the IT manager your SEO will work with most. Make the lunch very casual and informal, focusing relationship building and finding common ground for future conversations (golf, kids, hobbies, etc.). If the conversation does lead to “shop talk”, get the IT manager to discuss their challenges and frustrations. Ask about current workload and projects they’re working on. SEO is NOT likely to be high on the priority list, so you want your SEO to know what else is going on.
The key challenge is to not dive into things you need to change for SEO now, instead, focus on building rapport so that you have a better chance of getting what you want in the future. The goal is for the IT manager and your SEO to build a foundation for a positive relationship. If by some chance, you don’t have the rapport with the IT manager to do this yourself, invite someone else in the organization that can help build the bridge and put the IT manager at ease to open up socially.
Make a move on these action items and you’ll have an in-house SEO that has connections with the right people throughout the organization to reach out for advice, council and support when they need it most.