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Blueglass LA Session: InHouse SEO

Moderator: Tony Adam


Jessica Bowman, Founder,

Marshall Simmonds, Chief Search Strategist, New York Times Company/, Co-Founder and CEO, Define Search Strategies

Laura Lippay, Director of Technical Marketing, Yahoo! Media

Jessica’s up first!

SEO Efficiency & Accountability

Set up lines of defense incorporate SEO into every day activities.  Push back when SEO isn’t included in deliverables sent to you.

You need a Healthy Organization

SEO crosses many disciplines.   Programming, purchasing, marketing, PR, Legal, Sales, etc…

SEO needs to be part of every team  – brought into projects as though you’re part of the team.  As soon as projects get going, it’s usually the SEO person who falls out of the process first – is pushed out first.

It’s like marriage – it starts with a courtship.  You do training, you’re involved in meetings – you think – this is great…

Behind the scenes, programmers, others are going nuts thinking “I can’t incorporate this!”

Everything is bliss in courtship, everything is great in honeymoon phase.  During this phase, leverage those feelings.  That phase is going to last 6 – 9 months or less.

Then things fall into reality.  If you leverage during the honeymoon, you’ll eventually reach synergy.

Once you get buy-in:

Don’t assume the battle is done.  You’ve only just begun.  The problem is always the lower level people – Project managers, programmers…

You get management buy in, they say “everybody work with the SEO”.   You go talk with everyone, they say – okay.. But then they go to management behind the scenes and tell management why they can’t work with SEO….

Your SEO added to man-hours, are inconsistent with other goals, go against existing programming standards, weren’t technically feasible, added to timeline and cost.

If you’re a small business, it’s keeping everyone in line to your approach to SEO.  Keep everyone in line with best practices.

Integrate SEO and IT

Project Development Pyramid – people think small involvement at the beginning.  It’s really the opposite – SEO needs to be really integrated from the start.

During the project life cycle is usually brought in at the development, QA and live site stage.  It needs to be in at every step.  The costs are really based on it appearing to cost more this way but in reality there’s more cost in lost opportunities by not being integrated sooner.

There’s more pain when it’s not integrated from the beginning.

Hold everyone responsible for SEO.

Distribute SEO duties and create Accountability.  Create SEO champions.  Nurture those relationships – they’re the ones who are going to be your advocate and eventually will do SEO on your behalf.

Before deliverables are accepted, verify it- push back if it’s not.

Training is a small portion of SEO – you really need to be doing mentoring.

Make sure the SEO is involved in company guidelines and standards.  Incorporate them into the organizations overall standards so the organization is held accountable.

Get SEO requirements into deliverables.

Contribute to documentation.

2 or 3 nuggets may be all that need addressing.

SEO can’t be everywhere so everyone needs to contribute to hold everyone else accountable.

People aren’t going to learn SEO in 3 or 4 months so it’s the long-haul.

Bring in an expert trainer or send them to a conference to get them to that honeymoon phase…

WOW That was a crazy-fast presentation – Jessica is a machine-gun of high level in-house SEO information! Go Jessica!

Next up is Laura!

Check out – A day in the life of a successful in-house SEO

How Data, Beer, and Monroe’s Motivated Sequence got Me Everywhere…

Tales of an ex-Yahoo In-house SEO

(Laura recently joined Vanessa Fox at Nine By Blue & Jane and Robot)

Obstacle #1 – the new, ONLY US SEO in an 11000 person team.  Solved by taking people out for beer and to have fun.

Obstacle #2 – Unique visitors at the property level was the only data I was given.  Solved by learning microstrategy with beef-incentivized help from the MS guy.  Took Excel classes, spent months creating reports.  I spent a lot of time measuring the data.

This is how I got buy-in.

“Here’s this great thing/ opportunity”

“Here’s how you’re not reaching it”.

“This is all solvable.”

“Picture yourself in this place.  I can get you there and here’s how you can help me”.

Google Monroe’s Motivated Sequence to learn more.

She was told “we want 100% SEO across 10 of the biggest properties in 2 months” (hahahaha OMG that’s sad!)

She solved this by being realistic up front, not just being a “yes” person.

Educate the masses. If you’re the only SEO or a small team, educate people – where to find tools, resources.  Give them everything possible that they can do as much as possible without having to come to you, if they can.

A lot of our training conferences had beer, pizza. We always sent out lots of information in between conferences.

Implementation was a problem. We weren’t ready for much of it until we had the reports and data.

After 2 years I was moved to Marketing, got a team, and promoted into a more appropriate position.

Obstacle – how to prioritize working with so many properties? Solved by saying – IS there an opportunity, does the property want to work with us?  Is it a priority for execs?

Problems integrating – people are busy – if we couldn’t get in the door, we moved on but I reported that to management, with data about the missed opportunity.

Obstacle – little to no results.  Some people didn’t implement everything.  Some competitive verticals might mean this work might not be enough (Setting realistic expectations up front sets the stage for that reality).

Make sure to document and report gaps where SEO fell off roadmaps.

Obstacle – Implementation – it’s still beer, ping pong, fun – create relationships.  Integrate SEO checks into the QA process.

We created a dashboard for the PM level and one for executive level.  Showing performance, provides points of accountability.

Next Up is Marshall

When I’m talking with upper management – I want to hear “Yes, I understand the expectations” and “Good job”  That’s all I want to hear from them.

The Directing teams- directly underneath senior management is where the work really gets done – they’re responsible for resources, budgets, issuing bonuses…

If you have a site over 10,000 pages, think of your site as enterprise.

80% of all our success has been through the tech team.  Without their buy-in, all the content resources are useless.

High Priority

Sitemaps, 301s, Template SEO (titles, captions, linking) Rel=canonical, Rewriting URLs, How much it will make/cost/traffic potential.

If you’re like me, you make it up because the real number doesn’t matter – they just need to hear a number that will get their buy-in.

Low Priority

Page Load Time, Link Flow, Video SEO, Duplicate Content, CMS Overhaul, W3C Compliance, Education (if you’re already dealing with a 10,000 page site)

Get Their Attention

Show real world examples in Google.  He said to implement 301 redirects, they implemented 302 redirects.  So he showed them the plunge in referrals.

  • Education
  • Sitemaps
  • SEO school
  • Title Tags and Headlines
  • Images
  • URL rewrites
  • Tracking
  • CMS
  • Meta Description

These were the top priority.  There’s a lot missing from that list but we were focused on getting the most wins at the highest level in a big company.

For Editors:

High Priority
Titles, Reach and understanding, Top two keywords, Copying and pasting, WYSIWYG, Repetition.

Low Priority

  • Best Practices
  • Headlines
  • Wikis
  • Keyword Research

Again – limited ability to get your goals met, so focus on the most important.

By showing editors where you missed previous opportunities to reach your audience, it hits their ego – and by showing them how to optimize in these ways, you play into their ego.


We can’t do it all ourselves.  Webmaster Central helps in some ways but it’s not completely accurate and you can’t rely on it with a site this large.  You’ll have to supplement with other tools.

If you use WebTrends or Omniture, supplement that with Google Analytics – each is less than perfect but combined, you get better information.

Header Checker:



Build your own tool if you’re not getting the information you need.


Q- Can you talk about credibility when things go wrong?

Laura – If there’s any way, even if it’s in a sit-down with your boss – where you can show these gaps – where things fall off, make sure you show them.

Marshall – use reports as a carrot or a stick – they should show who’s doing well and who’s not – the reports should go to everyone.

Jessica – Some things happen you can’t account for – like May Day update.  Ongoing communication to constantly highlight your positives and show when the process falls, where the ball fell.

Tony – If you know something bad is going to happen, or there’s going to be a drop-off, warn everyone – so they don’t freak out when it happens.

Jessica – let them know the risks when you’re doing things.

Q – Please clarify your statement about editors and keywords – are we assuming they’re going to check keywords?

Marshall – we like to give editors, journalists, producers, tools to find out what’s possible but I don’t want them to get mired in that rabbit hole.  I want them to determine real quick – I don’t want to add process to the content creation process – they don’t want to hear there’s more to have to do…

It is front-loaded – it may take a week or a month up front in getting them oriented, but it shouldn’t be addressed too much after that.

Jessica – when the keywords aren’t going to change that much, the SEOs do the research up front – so the writers don’t have to do that down the road when they’re writing new content.

Q – Is there any one thing you can think of as an in house SEO to think of when considering other platforms – social, mobile…

Jessica – are they going to have the budget or time to write for all these platforms – do we need to focus on that if they aren’t?

Laura – Are we going to go there?  If not, we’re not going to focus on addressing that. Is it link-worthy?  If not, we don’t focus on that.

Marshall – I’ll echo Laura – is it linkable?  We can’t just throw content up there if we have it.  If it’s not linkable, its’ not going to grow.

Q – What are your recruiting tactics for in-house SEO?

Marshall – it’s very hard in this economy with contractors making what they do – it’s a very hot commodity – the SEMPO board is good.  And it’s not to say you can’t have a contractor if you need to fill a position right now.

Jessica – we saw the same thing – having someone have to come into the office every day, these hours… Get creative…  Give someone the feeling of being a contractor – working from where they want, their hours… That’s stressful but it can help…

Tony – SEOMoz’s Job board is good for that…

Brent – Conferences, local meet-ups are another good spot to find people who might be a good fit or know someone who is…


AND THAT’S IT PEOPLE- THE LAST SESSION I’M LIVEBLOGGING!  If you found my efforts worthy, please let me know.  If not, uh let me know that as well!

Category Careers
Alan Bleiweiss Forensic SEO Consultant at Alan Bleiweiss Consulting

Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites from medium scale to world class enterprise. He ...

Blueglass LA Session: InHouse SEO

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