Before starting my position at Groupon, I interviewed for director and senior manager positions in SEO with REI and Amazon.
I noticed that there appears to be a shift in requirements for SEO positions.
Companies are realizing that to be successful at SEO, doesn’t mean just being good at the technical stuff or at identifying opportunities for growth.
Now, these companies know that they need people who can communicate to executives effectively as well as with a mix of teams (technical, creative, some that know SEO and some that have no clue), all in the same room at the same time.
In addition, companies are looking for more deeper-level analytical and technical abilities with expectations of understanding SQL, large data sets, and issues that arise from dynamically built sites such as:
- Duplicate content.
- Thin content.
- Products or content coming and going.
During my time as the SEO manager at Nordstrom, I identified the same pattern and restructured my team to fit within these requirements.
Here are the four pillars of SEO within an enterprise organization.
1. SEO Mitigation: Error Management & Technical SEO
I use the word “mitigation” as I have found that a good percentage of an SEO’s time in larger organizations is spent identifying issues after a project has been launched.
For instance, having to go back to the engineering teams and request that bugs be filed to make the necessary corrections.
If only the issues had been identified before the launch, then the company could have saved time, effort and money.
The SEO responsible for mitigation works with the engineering teams as well as project and product managers during the indoctrination of a project and remains involved.
Education is also key as those involved understand the nuances of SEO enough to either ask questions before making decisions or make the decisions themselves, saving the company the time and effort in the long term.
2. SEO Analysis/Reporting: Calculating Assumptions & Reporting on Successes
Every company needs to understand how much SEO plays a part in traffic and revenue.
When it comes to reporting, there are complexities to SEO that other channels don’t have.
Google does not provide referring keywords to a site from organic search like they do for paid search.
Understanding that organic traffic from Google is x percent of all search traffic and result in $x revenue, pulling clicks from Google Search Console from specific keywords, and then calculating the percentage of all clicks to get the estimated revenue for that keyword will allow companies to have better insight into:
- How their SEO is performing.
- Which efforts are working.
- Where there might be opportunities.
An SEO who can make these calculations and report on the performance to key stakeholders is an important part of the larger SEO piece.
3. SEO Project Management: Determining Growth & Managing Projects for SEO
While making corrections and reporting on the successes of the work on SEO is important, so is growth.
Identifying upward trends in searches and gaps that might be present on current or past efforts for SEO is imperative to the success of a good enterprise SEO team.
A project manager is tasked with initiatives identified on a larger scaled that impact a large portion of the website, including:
- Overhauling design and content on a set of pages.
- Driving initiatives for an internal linking plan that affects many aspects of the site.
The project manager in SEO would focus all their time and energy getting teams to commit to delivery dates and keep it all organized throughout multiple teams.
In the end, resulting in revenue growth from SEO.
4. Relationship Building: Championing SEO to Stakeholders & Other Teams
The final piece to the SEO enterprise puzzle is the ability to build and engage in relationships across the organization.
I usually recommend that the SEO team begin with the first three aforementioned, and follow through with the relationship building team member later.
The alternative is to encourage the relationship building from the SEO team’s manager or director, or instill this into each team member as they engage with others in the organization.
Build relationships in engineering, creative, legal and public relations, among others. SEO touches every aspect of the organization and will, at some point, require support from one or more of these teams.
Having a good solid relationship with the members of those teams will get buy-in for SEO initiatives faster with more efficiency, ultimately leading to the overall growth of SEO and the company at large.
While interviewing at REI, we spoke of several positions opening up on different teams within the organization.
The interesting part about these positions is that rather than placing SEO in marketing with the paid search, social media and email teams, these positions were as program managers.
The roles are defined by the core strengths every enterprise SEO should have. These include:
- Communicating effectively across channels and teams.
- Evangelizing SEO through education and documentation.
- Working with teams to prioritize SEO initiatives.
- Reporting for SEO to key stakeholders and identifying opportunities.
- Managing vendors (tools, agencies, consultants, etc).
- Staying up-to-date with the latest in SEO trends.
In a sense, these roles were covering the four pillars in one role as an individual contributor.
As the person in the role becomes successful, teams will then be built out to support each strength. In the end, this will develop a strong team and presence for SEO that would drive the success of the business.
Ultimately, I decided to accept a role at Groupon. The company has a strong handle on SEO, covering each aspect that is required in clearly defined roles. This is what works for Groupon and allows the team to develop roles around the four pillars.
It seems that some companies have SEO roles and teams that are moving away from marketing and splitting up to SME roles, or IC roles sitting on engineering, content/creative, reporting, and marketing then coming together to communicate from time to time.
Lastly, being able to report revenue, prioritize projects and communicate that up through the chain.
This is all such a big shift in the recent years of how corporate is structuring and visualizing for SEO which is beneficial for the company and the industry as a whole.