Wanted: A highly-skilled technical mind with the ability to write effective, usable Web content, and has years of experience in modifying Web sites to consistently rank for competitive keywords in Google. This Webmaster/SEO must have experience in domain acquisition, front-end development, usability expertise, analytics measurement and reporting and server maintenance skills. Also, must have years of experience with public relations/press release copywriting and distribution, blogging, RSS feed optimization, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and...
You get the picture.
I recently moderated a session at PubCon in Austin, Texas, about the intersection of SEO and PR. When I surveyed the audience, I found that one person in the room was in PR and most of the others were SEOs. Granted, this was a PubCon event and it's not really known for bringing out the PR people.
However, it made me realize that SEOs are being asked to do an awful lot. And, I honestly don't know how those folks who are the only SEO in-house keep up with this stuff. Companies seem to be demanding a lot from one person. Agencies even have a difficult time rounding up experts in each of these areas.
To me, a person who is technically-minded may not be the best person to handle writing your title tags, editing copy, or writing a press release. But, I'd never consider handling a SEO effort without that technical guy around. Conversely, I wouldn't want my copywriter telling me how to set up our servers.
But, today, many companies are doing just that. They expect their SEO to be a jack-of-all-trades.
I asked Jessica Bowman, a well-known expert in in-house SEO, about this to see what her experience has been.
"Companies now have to be more selective in their needs; understand what they truly need from an in-house SEO," she said. "What makes a successful technical SEO isn't always the same talent as what makes someone successful at PR, copywriting, and marketing strategies.
"When I go into companies to assess what they truly need to hire, oftentimes it's different than what they expected -- because SEO now needs to be intertwined with many different disciplines across the organization. Companies need to make sure that the person has the finesse, position, and rapport to interact with all of these different areas (IT, marketing, copywriting, and PR) and influence changes from the current way of doing things."
What about the SEO who is being asked to be the PR person? Bowman said she doesn't see that happening.
"What I see more of is a PR or marketer or copywriter being asked to be the SEO person," she said. "When this happens, unless you use an agency to tell you what to do, you get minimal results because SEO is its own discipline, and the person assigned to SEO doesn't get it, it's a small percentage of their job, they cannot influence IT and, as a result, SEO sits on the back burner.
"We see a lot of non-SEO job descriptions that say 'and must know SEO,' which isn't going to cut it these days, especially if your competitors are using a professional SEO and/or agency -- and in search engines your competitors can also include sites such as universities, Amazon, Shopzilla, etc., who may want to also rank for your keywords and are doing SEO very well.
So, some companies are trying to make the SEO into a PR person and others are trying to make the PR person into an SEO. To me, you should have a mix of folks to adequately staff for SEO:
- Marketing-minded On-Page Person: This person is a fantastic communicator who "gets" your business and your objectives. They love research, and are able to use their findings from keyword research and competitive analysis to draft a content and marketing strategy. These people will help you to write your revised information architecture for your Web site, addressing any "holes" in your content, should they find that keywords that you should target have no content to optimize for those keywords. They will also be prolific in editing copy, and have years of experience in organic search, or multiple successful SEO projects under their belts (nothing beats experience). Many times, you can find folks in this area who are actually good copywriters.
- Technically-minded SEO Person: This person knows all of the technical pitfalls of a Web site. They probably read the Google patents and have a litany of tools that they use to analyze a Web site. They're very comfortable with code, but may have communication issues.
- Social Media/Link Building Person: This person is all about driving authority for the Web site through link generation. They have built up an extensive network of "friends" and are able to parlay this into solid promotion of blogs and/or other promotions for your company.
- Project Manager: I've written before about SEOs having ADD. Some of the brightest people in this industry can get carried away with analysis paralysis (there's so much to take in). Solid project management is key if you expect any work to get done and any results to be achieved.
Certainly, depending on the size of your efforts, you could hire a much more extensive team (copywriters, Web designers, Web developers, analytics experts, etc.).
But sometimes it makes sense to outsource this to a good SEO agency. You get a full complement of a team with varied expertise for about the cost of a very good in-house employee. But, unlike the in-house SEO expert, they aren't completely dedicated to your business (they have other clients to serve).
If you happen to be a freak of nature who happens to be good at all of this, I'd love to hear from you.