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Making The Jump To In-House SEO
First things first, let’s start with a little background…If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be working as an in-house SEO, I would have laughed in your face and told you to go do something dirty to yourself.
Yet, here I am today, working as an in-house SEO, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the decision to try something that I never thought I would do again: work for someone else.
A little under a year ago, as I was on my way home from a surf trip in Mexico and had just crossed the US border, an email came through my phone. It was from the former CEO of Ask.com, Jim Lanzone. He briefly informed me of his startup, Clicker.com, and that he was in town and wanted to meet for coffee. Great, I thought to myself. Another job offer. Can’t wait.
Even though I had the mentality that I’d never say no to an opportunity without at least hearing it out, and being that I was running a successful lead generation company at the time, I was 99.9% sure it was just something I would simply chalk up as a good networking opp.
I didn’t need a job and I didn’t need money. And I haven’t answered to anyone else (unless you count clients) in 5 years. I loved my lifestyle and was very content on my own. But over the course of the next couple months, Jim slowly changed my mind and presented me with an opportunity that if I didn’t at least try, I’d be an absolute idiot.
It wasn’t the salary that attracted me (it is a start-up after all). It was the chance to join and put my fingerprint on what I felt would be a wild success. To have daily contact with an executive team that can groom me and polish the skills I’ll need to reach the next level in my career; to schmooze with and showcase my talents to an incredible roster of Venture Capitalists and Board of Directors.
Plus, I think Clicker is a brilliant idea and the pot of gold that awaits if I can help it reach its potential won’t be too bad either.
What To Expect As An In-House SEO
What you can expect being in-house is naturally going to vary from company to company. For sake of ease and only writing of what I know, I’m just going to reflect on my own experiences. It’s something I think a lot about, and truth be told, my lifestyle hasn’t been altered all that dramatically.
I suppose this has a lot to do with where you work, but I’m fortunate that Clicker is an accomplishment-based company and not a punch-the-clock one. I still surf (the ocean, not the Web) most days if only for an hour and have enough freedom to stay sane.
I manage my team remotely and only spend a handful of days in the office every month. This setup will likely remain intact, so long as my accomplishments reach and exceed expectations.
The main differences aren’t as noticeable as you might expect, but it is different in a lot of ways.
For one, you now have to take overall direction and answer to someone else. If you’re unlucky, you may have to answer to several people. If you’ve worked for yourself for any length of time, this could really suck.
It’s important that you have a strong respect for your superiors and believe in / want to reach the same end goals as they do. Even so, you’ll still have times when you curse them under your breath.
Secondly, there’s more responsibility and you now have only one project to which you place your complete and total focus. This can be good or bad. If you have ADD like I do, then this can get boring and tedious at times. One nice thing about working with clients is that they’re plural, and working on several projects at a time keeps things fresh.
There are a lot of positives as well. You don’t have to hear that all-too-familiar line of “check’s in the mail” every month. You’re not constantly hustling for new business. There’s no administration work and you have more resources available to you.
You get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You get an SEO-focused team dedicated to executing on your strategy. You gain a new and valuable skillset. And it’s much easier to unplug at the end of the day.Still, it’s harder to take off to Central America at the drop off a hat when you see the swell charts light up. There’s something called vacation time, and it’s only available in small doses.
You can also expect that you’ll all of a sudden be more in demand. It’s like you have a target on your back. I swear, the amount of job offers I have received ever since announcing my arrival at Clicker has increased 10x. This can be a good or bad thing. For me, I’m happy where I’m at and have no plans of leaving.
What You’ll Want To Consider Before Going In-House
Don’t just take the first available gig you see on Craigslist. If you want a successful jump into being in-house, you need to make sure your priorities are in-line with the company you’re joining.
I joined a startup where life is going to differ quite a bit from that of a big corporation. Keep that in mind. And If the stars didn’t align perfectly for me, there was no way I would’ve given up working for myself. Here’s a checklist of sorts that you can use for a guide before making the jump.
If the CEO and the rest of the executive team doesn’t buy into SEO, then just forget about it. Life for you as an in-house SEO will not be very fun if you have to spend all your days trying to sell your ideas and get buy-in from upper management. If SEO isn’t a priority and well respected at the company, look elsewhere.
A firm belief in you
I’ll never forget when our CEO pulled me aside during my first couple weeks and told me I need to be more firm toward our executive team. I told him I felt I needed to prove myself before barking orders to the rest of upper management.
This was new territory for me and I was treading lightly. He then told me, “you’ve already proved yourself and that’s why we hired you.” That was a turning point for me and certainly made me realize and appreciate the value of your expertise being trusted 100%.
Fewest levels possible between you and the CEO
Just because upper management buys into SEO doesn’t mean the entire company does. Sometimes getting things implemented is a pain in the ass. Engineers might not understand your reasoning for changing something or perhaps the CFO doesn’t want to approve the expense you know is necessary for success. The more direct your route to the CEO, the easier you’re going to have getting over these obstacles. It’s awfully nice having the main decision-maker in your corner.
A strong team that suits your management style
Everyone has their own management style. And whether there’s already a team in place or you’ll be hiring a new one, you’ll want that to align with your style of making things happen. I’m very hands-off and don’t like to micro-manage.
I like working with smart, self motivated people who don’t require a lot of hand holding and can learn to fish on their own. I work remotely, so when I don’t hear from the people I manage, I need to trust that they’re doing what needs to be done. My team deserves a lot of credit.
Resources & tools available to successfully do your job
This one is pretty much self explanatory. There’s certain things you need in order to do your job and do it well. Make sure this is all negotiated beforehand and you know exactly what to expect.
Just like you should know what they expect of you, they should know what you expect from them. The last thing you want is get hired and then be denied the things you need to exceed. This will only make you look bad in the end.
While working in-house certainly isn’t for everyone, it does offer a fresh direction that has a lot of positives that you won’t find with client work or managing your own web properties.
I’m not here to try and convince you this is the path to take. But if you’ve been thinking about it and you’re still on the fence, go ahead and give it a try. It might just exceed your expectations.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.