In-House Dreaming- Ideal SEO in 40 Hours a Week
I’ve always been an agency SEO (as opposed to an in-house SEO, unless you count my own side projects for friends), but before I was an agency SEO I was a middle school teacher. Teaching is a job where you really do work 24 hours a day, even if they aren’t in the classroom, a good teacher is constantly looking for “teachable moments”- real-life situations that can be used to illustrate concepts taught in class. (Think “I’m sitting here watching MythBusters and they just exploded something real nice- wonder how I can get my kids’ attention with that?”) Good teachers also constantly think about their students, as their success drives the teacher’s value. It’s the same with SEO- we think about our clients all the time and are constantly evaluating how we can apply our latest piece of knowledge to help them be more visible and therefore more successful. As an SEO, I pretty much work 24 hours a day, too (though the 6 AM white-knuckle drives to work on black ice I experienced as a middle school teacher back in Michigan’s harsh, harsh winters are largely a thing of the past)- I’m always on social media, always keeping up with my RSS feed, Twittering and Liking and +1ing and commenting away to keep myself relevant.
The first thing I do in the morning is check my social networks and work email, and during the day one of my 2 work monitors is dedicated to G+, Reader, Facebook and Twitter (not to the point of distraction, mind you, but it does get tough sometimes). Many a time have I come home from a bad day at work and…done more work to get myself out of the funk. Many is the time I’ve sat down to play a video game and three hours later find myself deep in keyword research for a new client. There’s no such thing as a 40-hour-week in the digital marketing world, but I did have a chance recently to think about how I would spend my SEO time if I had just one client. Beyond trying to integrate myself “horizontally”- meaning, to get the organization to think of SEO as something that needs to be baked in to every project and decision, rather than SEO as a project to be initiated, worked, completed and marked off on a checklist- how would I fill the time?
We all know there’s no such thing as a site that’s been fully “SEO’ed”. Even if the directory structure is pristine, every title and description are unique, every image alt tag is perfectly optimized, every page has 1,000+ words of absolutely original, scintillating content, the client’s Klout score is through the roof, the site loads in a half second flat, and there are hundreds of thousands of relevant, anchor-text appropriate inbound links there’s always plenty more to do. For the sake of this exercise, here is how I would spend a 40 hour work week as an in-house SEO (hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?) for a well-established, well-ranking site. Some of you might say “what the hell do they need SEO for if they’re doing so well already? Well, there’s always plenty of time for:
Link Building– 8 hours a week. I would spend this time looking for quality links from relevant sources, and communicating personally via email, Twitter and phone with potential link candidates. The goal when link building shouldn’t be to say “I am going to find the cheapest 1,000 links I can during the time that I have”. It should be to find a few really good quality links. If you ask me, an 8 hour day of link building that results in 3 or 4 very high quality- meaning PR 4 or above- links is a productive day and a good use of time. It might not be tangible to someone on the outside, but building a relationship is what gets you links, not buying in bulk or blasting out a form email to tens of thousands of people you’ve never met. Think about it- do YOU ever read those crappy emails?
Meetings with IT, Sales, and Marketing– 8 hours a week. No one likes being in meetings, I don’t at least, I feel that people’s strong creative visions can get shouted down by the groupthink mentality and that good ideas can get lost in a sea of conformity. However, for SEO to successfully take off within an enterprise, clients have to stop thinking of SEO as something you do once, and then it’s done. SEO needs to be integrated horizontally across the enterprise; and ultimately SEO should have a seat at the table any time a new initiative is undertaken. This cuts down on the “we’re almost ready to launch this new subdomain, can we have the SEO guys take a look at it?” fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants atmosphere that bafflingly exists in many large organizations. To be frank, some of the larger organizations I’ve worked with are absolute train wrecks, where none of the departments talk to each other and there’s no rhyme or reason or plan to their digital marketing initiatives, every department works in a seeming vacuum. An in-house SEO needs to make themselves a part of every single conversation about anything related to digital marketing- the Twitter background image, what subdomain to use for the new promotion, how the monthly email newsletter should be written or how to construct that press release about a new product offering. SEO has a place in the discussion about every single one of these seemingly disparate elements if true digital marketing success is the goal. Also baked into this 8 hours a week is time to review new initiatives for SEO compliance.
Community Management– 8 hours a week. This is a big category and there’s no way to spend only 8 hours a week on it, unless you turn off your computer and your brain every night when you leave the office and live in a vacuum until you get back to work the next day. Community management entails a lot of things- creating and curating content, monitoring Twitter and Facebook for community sentiment and responding to all kinds of feedback, moderating blog and or forum posts, and generally making sure you put the best foot forward for the company. In fact, community management is basically a full-time job but if you go to a CEO and tell him you want to pay someone $60k/yr to be on Twitter all day you’ll probably get a look like you just grew a third ear in the middle of your forehead. Besides, in the interest of bringing social media signals closer to SEO, I’d prefer to have control over community interaction anyway. It’s just easier to monitor and respond to trends if you don’t have to get it through someone else’s filter.
Blogging- 8 hours a week. I think it’s important to blog, the spiders love it, readers love it, it’s a great way to showcase things happening at a company without having to be in a totally formal or rigid style, it can be a chance to reach out, personalize, have fun- a blog can be used for whatever the organization wants and it’s great for SEO. I think 4 hours apiece for 2 blogs a week is a reasonable amount of time to spend. This should give enough time to think of something compelling (it’s not always easy to think of something interesting to write about- trust me), research the topic and find some supporting citations, write the content, find some good images to make it compelling, SEO optimize it with links, titles, tags, and categories, edit and publish. 4 hours sounds like a lot of time for what might end up only being a 4 or 5 hundred word blog post but it’s quality that’s important when it comes to blogging, not quantity.
Analytics and Reporting– 8 hours a week. Various divisions need various reports, but I would spend plenty of time tying the SEO and social media and other digital marketing initiatives to the various Analytics we have available. Ideally, I’d have a manager smart enough to realize that rankings do not equal SEO, and also the freedom to let the site collect data for a few months while taking action. Lots of time spent on reporting ensures a good analysis of the data and also makes sure that your position when you propose new initiatives is solid.
So, any in-house SEO’s out there want to tell me I’m crazy? Sound off!