Today’s in-house spotlight is on Laura Forbes with The Christian Science Monitor. She has an interesting challenge before her – to single handedly encourage a 100 year old publication to change the way they write. SEO only makes up 50% of Laura’s job, which intensifies the challenge when you’re facing a company that must find the balance between SEO and 100 years of editorial practices.
Laura’s advice for illustrating the potential of SEO: Use search marketing to improve the metrics important to stakeholders. When you do that, they’ll be interested in SEO and will have an incentive to effect change.
The Biggest Take-Away: Knowing when to push for SEO hardest is vital, and Laura has an interesting way of knowing when – she watches for KPIs slide. Since no manager wants to see their numbers go down, Laura immediately knows that once KPIs start to slide it is a great time to make the case for SEO.
On to the interview….
Jessica: SEO isn’t your sole responsibility, how did you first get SEO on your plate, and how are you getting it to become a large portion of your role.
Laura: SEO really came to my attention about a year ago. However, prior to that, The Christian Science Monitor had made a commitment to improving web performance. SEO is a priority for our organization—finding the way to make it happen while preserving editorial integrity—that’s the real challenge. About a year ago we were running a special 11-part series written by one of our reporters who had been kidnapped in Iraq. We knew this was compelling content, and we wanted to help reach as many readers as possible. So we needed to make sure that the search engines found it. That was when we first got our organization to agree that we needed to start paying attention to SEO. Now, to gain support for SEO internally, and to help make it a larger part of my job, I’m really working with our web analytics tool to make sure that we can test and document our minor SEO successes in the hopes of creating the opportunity and support for larger ones.
Jessica: When we last spoke it sounded as though, in terms of man hours, you actually have more than one person doing SEO, it’s just that it is dispersed throughout the organization. How are you building out your team, when it only comprises about 50% of your job? How have you divvied up the SEO duties?
Laura: We do have the duties spread among a number of people, and it is our strategy to drive SEO awareness into the entire organization, editorial and publishing. Right now, we are still moving towards structuring our entire Marketing department to foster success on the Web. Part of this includes determining how to structure an SEO team and how that team relates to a web analytics team. In the meantime, we’re attempting to bring more structure to SEO, to educate the organization, and create the foundation, so that as the team grows, it does so in an organized fashion. We frequently will publish internal SEO guidelines for our editorial team and our web producers/developers, and we’re tying analytics more closely to SEO so that we make sure we can document and capture what we’re doing right, and optimize what needs a little help. What has been helpful is the formation of a unified management team. In the initial stages of this new focus on the Web, our organization created a Chief Web Officer position (Robin Antonick) and a 4 person sponsorship team that includes the Publisher, Editor, Chief Information Officer and Chief Web Officer. This team manages the transition from print to web. From there, the organization has invested in sending people to conferences such as SES and to training for web analytics and SEO. This foundation of awareness and structure really helps as we move forward.