One of the toughest challenges for an in-house SEO, especially in a large organisation, is keeping a company wide awareness of existing SEO campaigns and communicating the need to respect SEO requirements throughout the web development, product and content lifecycle. Occasionally, we even struggle to convince cynical business owners to get started in digital marketing.
I noted a comment made by an (ex) employee of American Airlines about the sheer complexity and number of stakeholders making changes to the website while reading this post on Econsultancy:
The group running AA.com consists of at least 200 people spread out amongst many different groups, including, for example, QA, product planning, business analysis, code development, site operations, project planning, and user experience. We have a lot of people touching the site, and a lot more with their own vested interests in how the site presents its content and functionality…
Though the comments in the post were related to User Experience (UX) and not SEO, the frustration felt by our (now sacked) employee can be found shared by SEOs and Search Marketers alike.
Talking from the perspective of an in-house SEO team manager sharing some of the frustrations above, I thought back to a model I created for a conference last month. It’s called “The In-House Agency Cycle”, and it’s designed to help SEO Managers form an agency-like process of establishing, communicating and maintaining the SEO process inside large organisations.
The In-House SEO Agency Cycle
Our model is designed to assist in-house SEO teams understand the process of marketing, pitching and delivering SEO solutions inside a large organisation. Often, in-house SEO’s haven’t been exposed to the same commercially driven, SEO sales environment that agency SEO’s frequently are, but those sales skills can be extremely effective in an in-house situation, too.
The Five Stage Cycle
I first jotted this idea down after visiting a really large organisation whose major problem was promoting an internal SEO Department once it was structured and built. There was some uncertainty about how the SEO department would get established and create work for itself, so I began to think of the department much like a startup SEO agency.
Here’s a run through of the five stages behind the cycle:
1) Communication and Awareness
Making your potential customers aware of you and getting credibility is an important first step. Consider holding briefings with section leaders, hosting breakfast meetings, running mini-seminars or putting workshops in the company calendar. Aim to demystify, share and inspire. I offered a suggestion of creating a case study for general internal distribution to wet the appetites of hesitant business area representatives.
Make yourself easily accessible and offer a potential statement of work to any serious enquiry, just like an agency would with a new client. At this point, you really need to think of company departments as your soon-to-be customer and an important lead. Follow up calls and emails to get the go ahead are a must.
As soon as you have a client on board, it’s time to get to work. Form your strategic plan where necessary and make a start on the SEO review and keyword research needed to make the right recommendations.
With the SEO review packaged up and delivered, and the keyword research presentation sent, ensure you’re able to deliver up the reporting necessary for your client to see the benefits of your work over time.
The all important monthly follow up, with further recommendations and ranking reports completes our cycle. Good ongoing customer service is the name of the game. Give a good service with real results and you’ll have a happy client.
Rinse and Repeat
With an established mechanism for you to market your SEO team’s abilities, you’ll have no problem influencing those hard to reach areas of the organisation. As more and more departments become your customer, the value of your SEO efforts will be felt, and with any luck you’ll be in a much better position to have some of the frustrations of a more typical SEO team resolved.