The most important function of the primary SEO is ensuring departments across the organization are pulling together strategically. SEO can never be a siloed department – it has multiple inputs/outputs and needs to transcend organizational boundaries. Effectively coordinating multiple departments into a cohesive SEO plan is a managerial nightmare. SEO’s have to deal with differing levels of buy-in, technical understanding, departmental calendars, and stakeholders who may have little or no interest in SEO.
My recommendation? Start at the beginning, with an SEO onboarding training program for every/any new hire. Also remember, there’s no reason you can’t go through SEO onboarding with your existing team if you haven’t done so in the past. I’ll take you through a high level overview of the Avvo SEO Orientation to use a model should you want to create one of your own.
Who To Include?
SEO will touch more departments than you can think of – the obvious suspects include front and back end development, content, and marketing. Less obvious players include PR (or your agency) and Business Development. For Avvo, even the sales and customer service departments field SEO related questions from our customers. Additionally, being more inclusive in training incoming employees communicates that SEO is important to the company as a whole.
Keep onboarding training very high level and cursory – anyone who needs to know something in-depth, like link building tactics or XML sitemap feeds should already have those skills (if not, you have a hiring problem, not an SEO problem). The goal here is to touch on the things beyond an individual’s personal responsibility to communicate the inter-dependencies required for successful campaigns.
I describe SEO as a stool – the three legs being Infrastructure, Content and Links, noting that without nailing all three of these the stool falls down.
1. Infrastructure. Cover URL infrastructure, canonical issues (www. vs. non www.), importance of Title tags, H1’s, meta descriptions as an advertisement on SERP results, and importance of alt text for images and descriptive text for video. Discussion of how to get pages indexed and technical exceptions like “no follow” and “no index”.
2. Content. How to do keyword research, importance of including targeted terms in on page factors. For Avvo, because we deal with local issues, I talk about local signals to a page, like zip codes and area codes. Talk through approaches for keyword targeting and what your page categories are targeted towards. Discuss theory around long tail and identify how aggressively your site plays with the long tail. Identify those short tail terms where you rank, or aspire to rank. Explain duplicate content/supplemental results issues and show examples.
3. Links. Explain value of both internal and external links, and where those links exist on a site. Talk about how all links are not created equal – value of links from subject-relevant domains as well as highly authoritative domains.Explain anchor text. Discuss link building tactics.
Black Hat vs.White Hat
If you have done a good job hiring smart, innovative people, you’ll invariably get people thinking about black hat techniques. You must talk about where your organization sits on the black/hat white hat continuum. Showcase the BMW used cars penalty as an example of what can go wrong. Here, I focus on SEO as a long term investment and caution people that they aren’t as smart as they think they are.
SEO Tools & Resources
Cover SEO resources and tools that you use – make sure your newbies have access to the appropriate log-ins. Depending on the position, this may include proprietary information from your web analytics package or Google Webmaster Tools or internal reporting. You may also use tools like SEOmoz, Majestic or others.
For those who will have access to advanced tools, a thorough hands-on training is imperative. Talk about traffic ranking (and the problem with traffic reporting) from free sites like Compete, Alexa, Quantcast as well as paid data from Hitwise or Nielsen if you have that access. Finally, I recommend most people with any hands on day to day SEO responsibilities download the SearchStatus plug in.
Highlight Past Results & Share Future Goals
End the orientation with an overview of your SEO results to date, covering successes and aspirations. This is a great time to demonstrate SEO based ROI – which invariably outperforms other channels. If you use an SEO reporting dashboard, this is the right time to introduce that as well.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.