Advice for the Newbie In-House SEO

SMS Text

Congratulations! You’re hired…

It’s a huge step in your SEO career to be hired for an in-house SEO department.

Now it’s time to plan your in-house SEO strategy carefully, so you can secure your position and give your company what they’re looking for: tangible results from your SEO expertise.

What your average workday will look like will depend on several factors:

  • Are you a one-person team, or are you part of a team?
  • Do you work for an average-sized company or a big brand?

If you are a one-person team you will likely find yourself with a huge workload as you struggle to get results that will be noticed in the shortest time possible. Unfortunately for many businesses SEO still has to ‘prove’ itself.  If you’re part of a team your workload will be lighter, but possibly not any easier.

It’s a fact that for most companies SEO has to prove itself in order to earn the right to stay. Sadly, too many half-baked SEOs who mistake what they do for Blackhat have created enough doubt and double standards that we are still not considered as important as we should be in many circles.

For now we’ll assume that you’re a one-person team and that you’re working for the average business.

Let’s take a quick look at all the tasks that will fall to you:

  • Keyword research: do this properly. Monitor where your pages stand for all presently used keywords and keep a record, together with your record of all new keywords you introduce
  • Competitive analysis: you need to know exactly who you’re up against and what kind of steps you need to take to get ahead of them in search
  • Correcting canonicalization: make sure that as far as Google is concerned, there is only one version of each page of your company website.
  • Correcting site structure (excellent article on the subject by Dave Snyder)
  • Creating an internal linking structure
  • Creating an incoming-links strategy
  • Optimizing HTML
  • Make sure you use a good meta-description tag for each page plus a carefully crafted page title (must be different for each page of your site)
  • Checking site navigation
  • Arranging for appropriate quality content that matches chosen keywords for each page
  • Scanning for any issues that might be perceived as black hat by the search engines (such as inadvertent hidden text and so on)
  • Monitoring pagerank and pagerank flow

Your Initial In-House SEO Strategy…

The best thing you can do off the bat is make friends with the people in the IT or web development department, and if there are in-house copywriters  get to know them too. The structure will differ from company to company, but basically you need to be on very good terms with anyone who will have anything to do with your end of the job.  Your task will be so much easier if they are your friends instead of enemies. This is especially so if, as is normally the case, you will need to ask for changes to be made in what they do.

If you build enough bridges you may even be able to delegate some of your huge workload to them.

After making friends and influencing people, the next most important thing is to get your web tracking applications in place, assuming they aren’t already there. In order to prove your own worth you need to be able to prove where the company was in terms of search engine estimation, and where it is going as a result of your expertise.

In all likelihood you will be responsible for the social media strategy as well as SEO. What you do in this regard is especially important if your company has any reputation management issues.

For a quick rundown on why you need a social media strategy, I can’t do better than refer to this excellent post on Mashable

When General Motors put together their social media strategy, they had some specific objectives they wanted to accomplish. Christopher Barger, director of global social media at General Motors, outlined the following:

A. Become more responsive to people/consumer audiences

B. Incorporate audience/consumer feedback into your organization more quickly and effectively than has happened traditionally

C. Make your brand a little more “human” to the outside world, and show people the smarts, personality and passion of the people behind your logo

D. Increase awareness of the strength of your current product lineup, and provide perspective/accurate information about your company

You’ll be asking ‘isn’t this for the PR people or a social media person?’ Technically speaking, yes it is. But a good social media strategy is simply one of the finest things you can do to get your SEO strategy showing gains in the shortest time–if you do it right.  The points outlined above should give you ammo for when someone above you asks ‘whaddya think you’re doing…’

Patricia Skinner is an SEO consultant, social media coach & reputation management expert. She is also community leader at the nascent SEO Self Regulation Community. She can be reached any time through her SEO website. Why not follow her on Twitter & her LinkedIn profile.

Patricia Skinner
Patricia Skinner is co-founder and Search and Social Director at Mideast SEO, and spends her days doing what she loves best; cooking up winning strategies for business branding, social media marketing and organic search. Her original blog, Wellwrittenwords is also sporadically maintained. Find her on Twitter: ISpeakSEO and LinkedIn
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Patricia, this is a very well written article. While I run my own company, I often work with agencies, and in that scenario, the challenges you describe are quite real as well.

    Same goes for my largest clients – several hands in the baking dish at once, and the bigger the organization, the more I need to prove myself. The ability to build trust and bridges becomes invaluable. So when it comes to an in-house SEO, that’s got to be even more of a factor.

    • Patricia Skinner

      Thank you Alan: I think that having to prove yourself will be part of the SEO deal for a little while to come. Sigh. What amazes me is that so many companies throw millions at traditional ways of strengthening their brand (such as TV ads) without so much as measuring their results. Sigh.

      • Alan Bleiweiss

        That’s a valid point of annoyance Patricia. As long as ad agencies continue to be run by 20th century thinkers, they’ll continue to drive the old, now out-dated model, supported by the conglomerate 20th century media giants.

        But hope is on the horizon. Like how Pepsi abandoned their upcoming Super Bowl advertising in favor of web initiatives, replete with a new dedicated web site that helps promote change in the community. They’re grasping the concept of how to better engage the market.

      • wmeseo

        One problem is that those companies coming out of the woodworks tend to hire anyone with a list of SEO experience without any quality control (not sure how that would work anyway). This generally leads to a lackluster online marketing campaign and a negative opinion of value of SEO services.

    • site

      Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues.
      It was truly informative. Your site is very helpful. Many thanks
      for sharing!

  • Kevin Spence

    Timely article — I just started an in-house SEO position today for an established brand. There’s a lot of good information in there to take to heart.

    • Patricia Skinner

      Wish you all the best Kevin: it’s sad, but building bridges and proving ourselves are more important than just about anything else we do. The good news is that once you’ve proved what you can do you’ll be treated with awe. 🙂

  • Tulsa SEO

    Hey Patricia,

    Thank you for this article. I’m finding all the links excellent resources of things I’ve never really learned in depth.

    I learned SEO 3 years ago and have done pretty well w/o learning everything I needed to. Now-a-days my little basic skill are not working! 🙁

    But thanks to you have know where to start my home work.

    Arvell Craig

  • Tim Plummer

    Excellent article – I started an in-house SEO position just yesterday. I have a plan layed out but it was not quite as complete as I would like it to be. After reading this article. I now have the pieces I was missing. This is a well established brand and has thousands of SEOable pages. I’m a little overwhelmed but I just need to stay calm and work through it. Thank you

  • Allan Duncan

    Very good advice Patricia. Being a one-person team myself is really giving me a huge workload.

    Looking forward for to go live.

  • AndyC

    Wow lots to think about, this is really helpful.

  • Mark McCulloch

    Great blog that you have here, I am very happy that I have found your blog today from Technorati.

    This is a great article I am always looking for more information on SEO.


    Mark McCulloch

  • Nate Moller


    What a great article! Very step by step and structured. I have a meeting today with a potential client I’ll be doing SEO and SMM work for and plan to incorporate many of these “steps” in to my proposal.

    It’s great to be friends with people like you that share such quality content!


    Nate Moller

  • Patricia Skinner

    Wow, thanks guys. I’m really honored. Glad you found it useful: hopefully you’ll find coming articles on in-house SEO just as useful. I look forward to writing them now. 🙂

  • Alan Rothstein

    Once you get SEO credibility within the organization make sure you have periodic SEO 101 trainings. Also make sure other departments within the organization help each other out when they keep SEO in mind while they perform their everyday work.

  • Dana Lookadoo

    AWESOME post, Patricia! Your breakdown is SPOT ON! You’re delivered an ideal blueprint.

    The only thing I’d add is teach and train co-workers and others on the team or in the company. If SEO and social are not part of the company culture, then efforts will be frustrating and not as effective. Deliverables will be determined without an understanding for the amount of time involved to do it right, leading to frustration. Think you just developed the outline for a training manual!

  • Patricia Skinner

    Thank you Dana: training give me an idea for a future post though….

  • Link Building

    Great post, Patricia, I’m a first time reader but I’ll be coming back after reading it!

    Im not sure how I feel about in house being a ‘huge step’ but the post has many great links which I will definitely bookmark.

    I agree though, its sad how much SEO has to prove itself, compared with traditional advertising that has no real metrics, but gets a pass from the management

  • Oliver Feakins

    its sad that SEO have to prove themselves against sometimes unrealistic expectations set my misinformed business owners. The New SEO manager would also have to set expectations as well. Great article.

  • Helpfulguy

    This is such an awesome post! Hope you could provide more!
    This will be a useful port to those who were just started things out, and also to those who have been in this field but need to know more basic information.

  • Arrow SEO

    Great advice! Even better if you could have the detailed versions of the tasks e.g Optimizing HTML. Thanks!

  • Justin Toth

    Thanks for this article, it gave me a good place to start in my SEO learnings. I’m a web developer first and foremost but want to be able to up the rankings of the sites I build through SEO so am just getting my feet wet with this stuff unlike you seasoned veterans. 🙂 Any other articles that are must-reads for someone just starting out? Also, there is no budget for SEO with any of my clients so it comes down to what I can do to the site itself (a titles, img alts, etc…)

  • computer support Miami

    A great article for people just like me – written in a simple way and about the things that are quite new to us. I've learned a lot, thank you!